Blog by Ryan Thibodeau
I recently purchased two Brigham 4 dot pipes online. One was part of a pipe lot and the second was a stand alone pipe that appealed to me on eBay. The first is a Brigham 413 pot, it is a shape that I’ve become quite fond of. Once I had the pipe in my hand I attempted to turn the stem from the shank without success. The aluminum tenon was seized in the mortise. I figured “how bad could it really be stuck”, well I discovered how stuck it was when I basically fractured and broke the vulcanite stem away from the tenon itself…..ouch! I took a few deep breaths and put the stummel aside as I was going to have to make a new stem for this pipe now.
The second pipe, a 428 Brigham (bent apple I think) came to me with some challenges as well. The button had been broken off by the previous owner and he had simply shaped a new button further down the stem, secondly it appears that he had over reamed the bottom of the bowl and attempted to build it back up with glue and sawdust. I now had two pipes that need new stems, so I paired these two projects together and worked on both at the same time.
If you have never had to replace the tenon on a Brigham stem, the following are the methods I use, I hope you find it informative.
Step 1: Salvage the aluminum tenon
The Brigham filter tenons are basically just held in place by friction inside the stem. The factory would further secure it in place by drilling through the stem into the tenon when they add the brass dots for grading. Only one of the brass pins secures the tenon. The simplest method to remove the tenon is to heat up the stem with a heat gun on the lowest setting. You just need it warm enough to make the rubber soft and the tenon will come out with little effort. If you have no intent on saving the stem (which was the case here), the brass pin will work its way out at this point too. As with all metal, depending on the age of the pipe, these tenons can corrode and decay breaking away in the stem. Don’t fret there is a solution there as well.Step 2: Cut off the tenon and level off the end of the stem.
The next few steps I use with my lathe, but you could use a vice and a hand drill, or ask your spouse to hang on to the end of the stem, but the latter will have you begging for forgiveness for an indefinite amount of time (HA!).
I mount the stem in my jaws and simply use a coping saw to cut off the molded tenon, then I use the PIMO tenon cutter to level off the end of the stem. Here you see me drilling a whole to accommodate for the guide pin for the tenon cutter. All I want to do here is give the stem a nice crisp edge to fit against the shank, I’m not turning another tenon but the tool is handy and suits my purpose here.
Step 3: Drill the stem to fit the tenon as well as the filter.
I use a 13/64 drill bit first to open the airway in the stem, this allows the rock maple filter to fit in the upper airway of the stem. I mark the drill bit so I don’t travel too far up the airway. If you don’t drill out the airway to the right diameter, the first time you smoke the pipe with the filter in, the filter will become part of the stem, so this part is very important.
Next I drill the airway to accommodate the filter tenon that secures into the stem. You will see that the filter tenon has groves to help keep it in place with friction. A 9/32 drill bit works perfect for me to allow for a nice snug fit. Once you’ve completed the drilling process the friction of drilling the stem will make it somewhat pliable, this is the best time to insert the tenon back into the stem. Let the stem air cool and you will now have a replacement stem for your Brigham pipe.