Blog by Henry Ramirez

In an earlier blog submission I created what I named a FrankenStem bit replacement on a chewed up Dunhill Shell bent. In heating the stem in the oven to straighten and re-bend it I inadvertently caused the stem/shank union to open (iatrogenic). I thought that if I could just sand down the high spot that everything would fit tight again. I wanted to be precise in my actions so I coated the tenon with a disclosing solution. I mated the pieces together and, quite frankly, am lucky I didn’t split the shank. The thickness of the powder was enough to cause quite a tight fit. It did show me where it was hanging up but I was terrified to push my luck. Dunhill’s engineering and quality control are such that I knew everything should fit without additional removal of material. Upshallfan had mentioned his use of a heat gun to bend stems and I figured I’d try the same but on the tenon. I heated the tenon until I could SMELL the vulcanite and then quickly inserted it into the shank and tweaked it with psi vs the shank’s mortise. After holding it for a minute, I removed it and ran it under cold water to set the shape. As you can see, even under magnification the fit is closed. It makes me wonder about other previously owned pipes that had this issue when I received them. I tried resurfacing the mortise and resurfacing the tenon with inadequate results. They were old pipe shop basket pipes so I don’t know if they ever fit together properly but I didn’t have that dilemma here. I was also pleased to note that my sense of smell is a powerful ally, not only when cooking but heating stems! Regards, Henry


5 thoughts on “FANCY FIX AVERTED!

  1. Robert M. Boughton

    That’s the shortest, sweetest description of brilliant micro-surgery I’ve ever read. Great work! I once botched a GBD prestige restoration, although the result LOOKED beautiful, because I didn’t know the shank had been banded because it was repaired by some old-timer who used what I learned was called the bias method of grafting a precise piece of briar from one shank to another! So seamless was the work that I could not spot it. I only mention this because at first I thought that was where you were headed, but your mending was perhaps more complex. I’m astounded.

    1. Henry Ramirez

      Thanks Robert, my next posting will de-mystify SAFELY heating the vulcanite to proper working temperature. Do you have any info on this bias graft technique? regards, Henry

      1. Robert M. Boughton

        I only just noticed your reply and hope you get this at such late date. Although I came to the conclusion on my own that someone with great skill had performed some sort of radical graft on the pipe, I did not know it was called the bias method until Al commented at the same time I made my leap of logic. See for a re-blog of the fiasco with Al’s full comment. I spoke to Chuck Richards about it, and his reaction was to scowl and say, “Yes, I’ve heard of it, but why would anyone need to use that now?” I take it he meant advances in banding techniques, which in this case would have required an over-sized band that would have obscured still more of the already faded nomenclature. If you know how to contact Al or can get his info from Steve, Al might know more about it. My email is if you want to email me directly, and I’ll see what I can dig up!

  2. Henry Ramirez

    Precisely! I remember being told by old timer’s (my age group now also) that a loose stem will tighten up when smoked due to the heat. I worried that if I over expanded the tenon that I wouldn’t be able to fully seat it. I also was going to try heating the stem already seated in the shank in the oven as a unit if this didn’t work. This time I was lucky, and I know that the enemy of good is better, so I’m walking away a winner. Thanks for your comments, regards, Henry

  3. upshallfan

    Good work! I use a tapered pin punch to slightly move the warmed tenon, then dunking it in cold water to “set” the memory of the material (some guess work is involved). Your way is slightly more risky, but yielded a definite result. Knowing when to stop applying heat is a good skill to acquire! Scorched vulcanite is every harder to shine.


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