Daily Archives: September 4, 2017

Repairing a Cracked Shank and a Chipped Stem on a Dr. Plumb Bulldog


Blog by Steve Laug

I received a short email from a reader of the blog about a Dr. Plumb Bulldog that he had that needed a bit of work. He wanted to know if I would be willing to work on it for him. He said that there were some issues with the pipe that he wanted me to try my hand at repairing. He said that the shank had a crack, the stem had a broken stinger end lodged in the airway and the button was broken off on the underside of the stem. I wrote back and asked him to send me some photos of the pipe so I could see what he was speaking about regarding the pipe. He sent the first photo to give me an idea of the overall look of the pipe. Looking at it I have to say that it is a classic GBD shaped bent Bulldog and it had nice grain. He sent a photo of the crack at the bowl/shank junction and noted that he had glued it but was not happy with the way it looked. The photo only shows the crack on the left side of the stem but it was also on the right side. He wanted me to clean it up and stabilize it so that it would not crack any further. That should not be too much of an issue.He sent along a photo of the rim top showed that the outer edge of the bowl had some small nicks in it that needed to be cleaned up. The surface of the beveled rim had some lava overflow and was darkened in several places around the top and the inner edge of the bowl. It was hard to tell for certain from the photos but there was probably some wear on the top and inner edges. The next photo he included showed the stem. Not only was it oxidized with a nice greenish brown colour but there was the “little issue” shown on the underside of the stem. There was a large chunk of vulcanite missing from the button and extended down into the surface of the stem. It appeared to be broken off and I wonder if had not happened when attempting to drill out the broken stinger. I am not sure but I have seen that kind of damage done with a drill bit on other stems in the past. The other possibility is less likely but could have happened, while inserting a thick pipe cleaner the button had cracked and come off.The final two photos pin point the second issue that he was having with the pipe. The metal stinger threaded into the tenon that comes on all Dr. Plumb pipes had been broken off with the threaded portion of it stuck in the tenon and extending part of the way up the stem. His photos included a tenon end shot and a photo of the broken stinger by itself. You can see the ragged edge of the end that would have sat flush against the end of the tenon.Once I saw the photos, I wrote back and told him to send the pipe up to Canada and I would see what I could do with the issues on the pipe. He packed it up and sent it off to me. It did not take too long for it to arrive here in Vancouver. I unpacked it from the mailing envelope it came in and had a look at it. It was even a better looking little Bulldog in person. There were a few small fills on the shank. The largest of the fills was on the right side of the shank right at the junction of the stem and bowl. The crack went through and around the fill. The pipe was stamped faintly on the left side of the shank with the script Dr. Plumb over Perfect Pipe and on the right side it was faintly stamped Made in England and the shape number 134. The stamping was only readable under a bright light. The shank was dirty and the airway in the bowl was tarry and dirty from the buildup around the stinger apparatus. The airway in the stem was dirty and partially blocked by the broken stinger. I took photos of the pipe when I received it so I would have a base to show the progress once I had finished. The third photo shows the damaged stem and I have circled the missing chunk of vulcanite in red. I took a close up photo of the rim top to show the darkening to the rim and the debris that was built up on the top. There was some damage to the inner edge of the rim that would need to be smoothed out.I took some photos of the stem to show the oxidation and the damaged area on the underside at the button.I made a wedge out of cardboard and cellophane tape and pushed it into the slot in the button to provide a base for the repair. I mixed charcoal powder with black super glue and built up the missing chunk. I removed the wedge and slid a greased pipe cleaner into the slot and built up the area on the end of the button. I filled in the deep tooth marks on the top side of the stem with the mixture. I filed the repair on the underside of the stem with a rasp and a file to begin to shape the button edge and blend the repair into the surface of the stem. I shaped the button with the files as well to begin to shape it in a classic football shape to match the top half of the stem. The photos show the progress of the shaping. Once I had the levels on the surface correct I wiped the stem down and could see the tiny air bubbles in the repair. I filled them in with clear super glue and let them cure. Once the repairs had cured I used needle files to reshape the button and slot in the end of the stem. There were a few more air bubbles that showed up as I reshaped the button. Once they dried I sanded repaired spots. I used the files to cut the sharp edge of the button. When the spots dried I sanded the surface of the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the repaired areas and blend them into the rest of the stem. I set the stem aside for awhile and worked on the bowl. I wiped down the area around the crack in the shank and drilled small microdrill bit holes in the end of each of them. I fount that on the right side there was a third trail of crack so I drilled it as well. I filled in the drill holes with clear super glue. I layered in the glue to a bubble and let it dry. Once the glue had dried I sanded the length of each crack in the shank and the repaired holes as well until they were smooth. I sanded the beveled rim top to smooth out the damage and clean up the surface. I worked over the inner edge with sandpaper to smooth out the damaged areas.I used a dark brown stain pen to touch up the repaired and sanded areas on the shank and on the beveled rim top. I cleaned out the inside of the shank and mortise with cotton swabs, pipe cleaners and alcohol until the shank was clean and all of the oils and tars were removed.I stained the bowl and shank with a dark brown aniline stain. I flamed the stain to set it in the briar and repeated the process until the coverage around the bowl was even. I wiped down the briar with alcohol on cotton pads to make it more transparent. After wiping it down the grain shone through the stain coat. I think that once it is polished it would be a beautiful finish for this Dr. Plumb. Polishing the stem was a harder prospect and took more work than the bowl. The sanding and polishing process repeatedly revealed new air bubbles in the newly built up underside of the stem and button. I sanded and added drops of clear super glue to take care of each air bubble. It was tedious but it paid off. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and wiping down the stem after each pad with Obsidian Oil. I checked for new air bubbles and then went on to dry sand it with 3200-4000 grit pads. I gave it a coat of oil after each one and then finished polishing it with 6000-12000 grit pads. I repeated the oil after each pad and after the 12000 grit pad I set the stem aside to dry. I put the stem back on the bowl and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond. I kept a light touch in buffing the underside of the stem and button as I did not want to do any harm to the repair. I buffed the repairs on the shank normally and the rest of the pipe the same way. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine in the briar and vulcanite. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe is almost ready to go back to the pipe man who sent it to me. It will go out later this week after I do a last minute check up on the entire pipe. I want it to go back to him in good condition. Thanks for walking with me through this repair and restoration project.

Replacing a Broken Tenon & Restoring an Old Italian Bulldog


Blog by Steve Laug

I am just about finished cleaning up and restoring the pipes my brother and I picked up on our Virtual Pipe Hunt in Montana. The next pipe that I brought to my work table was from that hunt. I think I may have two or three left two work on but this is one that I have picked up and put back several times since they arrived in Vancouver. As I mentioned in my last blog I have written several blogs about that hunt as it was one of those once it a life time finds. It contained a lot of late 1890s and early 1900 era pipes. These included C.P.F., W.D.C. and some no name pipes from the same era. Again if you are interested in reading about any of the restorations, a quick search on the blog for “Virtual Pipe Hunt” will give you the links to a blog about the hunt and to other pipes that were included. This particular little Bulldog shaped pipe had something about it that caught my eye. It combined some interesting grain (birdseye, swirled and cross grain) on the bowl and a diamond shaped taper stem with an orific button. The finish was worn and the stem was glued onto the shank. At this point in the process the stem would not move as the glue held it tightly in place. The top of the shank was stamped ITALIAN BRIAR in block print and no other stamping on the pipe on either side. The stem had a red dot on the left top side of the diamond. There were tooth marks and the stem was really dirty with an overflow of glue that was on both sides. My brother took photos of the pipe before he started the cleanup process.The next two photos show the pipe from the top side and the underside of the pipe. The topside shows the wear and tear to the finish. There were a lot of scratches and nicks in the briar and a cake in the bowl with lava overflow on the rim top. The underside of the bowl showed the nicks and scratches that went down both sides and the bottom of the bowl and shank. He took some photos of the rim top and bowl. Both photos show the thick cake in the bowl and a thick lava coat on the rim top. It is hard to know if there was any damage to the inner edge of the bowl or on the top surface of the rim.The close up of the underside of the bowl and shank shows the glue buildup in the gap between the shank and the stem.The stem looked like it was in rough shape. There were some peeling flakes on the surface of the stem. They could either be glue or damage to the stem.I was really surprised that my brother was able to get the stem off the shank. It turned out that the broken tenon was glued in the shank and a piece of inner tube was glued into the broken tenon. About an inch of the tube extended beyond the shank and the stem fit on the tube. The glue was painted onto the end of the shank and the end of the stem and the two parts were held together until the glue set. Jeff used some acetone to eat through the glue in the gap between the stem and the shank and was able to pry the pieces apart.The next photos show the damaged stem. It looked like the repair had also included painting the surface of the stem with glue. The glue had bubbled, cracked and peeled leaving behind a messy chipped finish. The orific button on the rounded stem end was in good shape. It appeared that the glue mixture had protected the stem from a lot of tooth marks and chatter. Jeff did his usual thorough cleanup of the pipe. I am coming to expect nothing less when he sends me pipes that have gone through his cleaning process. He reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer, scraped the bowl and the rim top with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife to clear off the lava build up. He cleaned out the internals in the airway in the shank as much as possible with the broken glued in tenon in the way. He used alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He cleaned out the airway in the stem with alcohol and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the exterior of the briar and the stem with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove all of the grime on the briar and the hardened, chipped glue on the finish of the stem. He rinsed the parts under running water and dried it with a soft cloth. He soaked the stem in OxyClean to clean off the glue on the surface. When the pipe arrived in Vancouver it looked different than it did when we picked it up in Montana. I forgot to take photos of the pipe before I started on it because I was excited to pull the broken tenon from the shank. You can see the clean bowl and stem in the photos.

I put a drill bit in the chuck of my cordless drill and turned the bowl as the bit went into the airway on the broken tenon. I used one that was slightly larger than the airway and worked my way up to the one in the second photo. Some of the tenon crumbled away and the remainder stuck on the drill bit. I pulled it out of the shank and that part of the process was complete. The shank was clear. I used a Dremel and sanding drum to smooth out the broken edges of the tenon on the end of the stem. I smoothed it out until the broken tenon was smooth against the end of the stem. I put a drill bit in the chuck of my cordless drill and turned the stem onto the bit to open the airway for the new threaded Delrin tenon. I increased the size of the bit until it was the same size as the threaded tenon end. I cleaned up the newly drilled airway with a dental burr on the Dremel.I took the stem back to the work table and took pictures of the process of inserting the new tenon in the stem. The photos show the progress. I turned the tenon into the stem and put glue on the final few threads and use a pair of pliers to turn it into the stem until it was seated against the flush end. I put the stem in the shank and took some photos. The alignment is always a little off when the stem is first inserted. In this case the fit against the shank was perfect. The sides on the old stem and shank were just a little bit off. The left and top side aligned almost perfectly but the right and underside of the stem need some minor adjustments to fit properly. I sanded the stem/shank connection with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the transition and make it smooth to touch. I wiped the bowl down with acetone on a cotton pad to remove the remaining finish from the bowl. When I was finished I took photos of the fit and it was looking really good. I topped the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper on a topping board. I topped it until the surface was smooth and the damaged areas were removed. I used a folded piece of sandpaper to smooth out the inner edge of the bowl.I sanded the stem surface to remove the scratches and damage to the flat sides of the diamond and also the flat angle to the button. I wiped the stem down with alcohol on a cotton pad and removed the debris left behind by the sanding. I filled in the tooth marks with clear super glue and when the glue dried I sanded the repairs smooth with 220 grit sandpaper. I put some clear super glue on the tenon to build it up so that the fit in the shank would not be too loose. When the glue dried I sanded the surface of the tenon until it was smooth. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each pad and after the final pad I gave it a final coat of oil. I set it aside to let it dry. I scraped out the inside of the mortise with a pen knife to remove the glue build up on the walls. I cleaned up the bevel with the blade of the knife at the same time to make sure that it did not interfere with the fit of the stem against the shank. I cleaned out the airway and mortise with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol to remove the debris that remained once I pulled the old tenon. It took a few pipe cleaners and swabs but it did not take too long to clean it up. I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit sanding pads.  I worked around the stamping so I would not damage it in the process. I decided to stain the bowl with a medium brown stain pen rather than my regular aniline stain. I covered the sanded rim top, bowl sides and the shank with the stain. I continued to polish the bowl with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped it down after each pad with a damp cotton pad. The briar began to really shine as I worked through the micromesh sanding pads. I put the stem back on the bowl and buffed it with a carnauba wax buffing pad. I gave the stem and bowl multiple coats of wax. I buffed the completed pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfibre cloth to deepen the polish. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It turned out to be a pretty pipe. The black vulcanite stem with the red dot works well with the reddish colour of the briar. The grain stands out well with the colours of the stain. I like the look of finished pipe a lot. This one will probably stay in my own collection. Thanks for following along with me on this refurbishing journey.