Blog by Steve Laug
I received a call from a local pipeman who said he had broken the stem off of his favourite pocket pipe. He had been given my name by a local pipe shop. He stopped by and dropped off a small bag with the parts of his pipe in it. He had dropped the pipe down the stairs and it had bounced down to the bottom in two pieces. He was able to remove the broken tenon but the damage was done. The pipe was stamped Birks and next to that it was stamped “Lollo” over Savinelli over Italy. The pipe was actually in really good shape. The bowl was clean and the briar had some nice grain all around the sides, top and bottom. The rim was clean and there was a very light cake inside. The broken tenon had a stinger in the tenon that he wanted to preserve. The stem was oxidized and showed some tooth chatter on both sides near the button. I told him I would have a look at the pipe and decide whether to replace the tenon or the stem. He was fine either way as long as the pipe was the same when he picked it up. I put the parts of the pipe on my work table and took photos of the pipe before I started working on it. I went through my box of tenons and found one that was the proper size for the mortise. I use threaded replacement tenons on stems like this. I used a Dremel and sanding drum to smooth out the rough edges of the broken tenon left on the stem. I used a sharp knife to bevel the edge of the airway in the end of the stem. Beveling it keeps the drill bit centred when I drill out the airway for the threaded end of the tenon.I chucked a drill bit the same diameter as the threaded end of the replacement tenon. The photo below shows the tenon on the end of the drill bit. I lined it up before drilling it so that the stem was straight and the airway would not be curved. I drilled the airway to the same depth as the threaded end of the tenon. Once the airway was straight I used tap to cut threads in the airway in the stem so that I could turn the new tenon in place. I put a drop of glue on the threads of the tenon and quickly turned it into the stem until it sat flush against the face of the stem. I pushed the stinger into the tenon end and aligned it so that the slot in it was facing the top of the stem. I checked the alignment on the new tenon and all was straight and ready.The oxidation on the stem really showed up under the bright light of the flash. I polished the vulcanite stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding it with 3200-4000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I buffed the stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I brought it back to the table and sanded it with the final three 6000-12000 grit pads. After the final pad I gave it a final coat of oil and set it aside to dry. I put the stem back on the bowl and gently worked the pipe over on the buffing wheel using Blue Diamond to polish the bowl and shank. I used a gentle touch on the pipe when I was buffing to polish the bowl. I buffed the stem with a harder touch to raise the gloss on the rubber. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It looks better than it did in the beginning. It is the first little Savinelli “Lollo” I have worked on. It is well made and a beautiful piece of briar. The dimensions of the pipe are: Length: 4 inches, Height: 1 1/2 inches, Diameter of the bowl: 1 1/4 inches, Diameter of the bowl: 3/4 inches. I will be calling the pipeman who dropped it off for repair. I think he will enjoy his pipe!