Blog by Lee Neville
Over the past few months I have been continuing my correspondence with Lee via email. He picked up a couple of pipes for me at a local antique shop in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and sent them to me. We have fired emails back and forth on restoration questions and issues. He also included Charles Lemon of Dad’s Pipes in the conversations and we had a great time. Earlier this week he sent Charles and me an email about a restoration of another pipe that he restemmed. Charles and I spoke with him of the style and size of stem to use. He did a great job on the restemming and the description of the work so I asked him if I could post it on rebornpipes. He was glad to have me do so. Thanks Lee for your work and this second write up. It is great to have you on rebornpipes as a contributor once again! – Steve
Thought I would share my pipe rehabilitation effort of a Savinelli Capri 915. It showed up in the Winnipeg Ebay lot as a dirty stummel with a snapped-off stem tenon wedged into its shank. Alas, the original stem was not included in the lot.
This is a “Birks” pipe – Henry Birks & Sons, or what it’s now known by these days – “Maison Birks”, is a Montreal-based jewellery/glassware/fine leather goods/timepieces/ silver & gold flatware / object d’art firm in business here in Canada since the late 1800s. It appears Birks would commission pipes from manufacturers and stamp them with their house name and offer them for sale during special promotions – Christmas, Father’s Day etc. This Savinelli is the first of two “Birks” pipes I’ve got on my bench to restore.The plan is to clean this stummel up to the natural briar, treat it to a wax protective finish and fit a replacement stem. This will be fun as I just received the PIMO stem tenon cutter tool which will make short work of fitting a properly sized tenon on a replacement stem blank.
Stummel clean up
The bowl was in good shape. The rim showed minor discolouration from lighting. The rim was not obscured by any lava. The previous owner was not a dottle-knocker – luckily no dents or chips on the bowl rim. I reamed the bowl out with my newly arrived Pipnet set – I started with the smallest head, applying light twisting force and allowing the tool to make its way into the bowl. This was repeated by the following two larger reaming heads to remove existing cake close to briar. This was followed by twists with a dowel covered with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the remaining cake, then more twists with 320 / 400 grits to finish the bowl interior smooth. There are no cracks or burnouts in the bowl. The shank cleaned up with a few runs of alcohol-soaked pipe cleaners and q-tips.
I attacked the stummel with a soft toothbrush and Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the rim discolouration and surface dirt/grease. The accumulated grunge lifted right off after two scrubbing sessions. I was delighted to see the proprietary sandblasting/rustication is scarcely worn – the deep relief is quite attractive.
The stummel was then covered with masking tape. I clamped the padded stummel in my dremel vise and using a drill bit sized just over the ID of the snapped off stem tenon, ran it in a smidge gently, then reversed the drill and the tenon remnant came out with the drill bit. This revealed a very fine crack in the mortise end of the stummel. Using thin CA glue, I lightly dabbed the crack, watching it wick into the crack, then sprayed accelerant to instantly set the glue. I lightly sanded the mortise face and mortise with 1000 grit paper to ensure any glue squeeze-out was removed before attempting to fit replacement stem
Fitting a new stem
I viewed the Savinelli web site to glean pipe proportions (stummel to stem) as well as canvassing yourselves for your thoughts on replacement stem length. I also found a high-definition image of a Capri 915 online. Applying some ‘Edmonton Windage’, I ordered an oval tapered stem blank in a 2.25″ length from Vermont Freehand Pipes.
The stem blank on arrival was a bit wider than the stummel shank, so there was some filing and final sanding required to match the stem to the shank profile.
I mounted the replacement stem into the vise and drilled the stem draught hole to accept the guide rod of the PIMO stem tenon cutting tool. I then mounted the PIMO stem tenon cutting tool and gently took a succession of cuts to arrive with a couple of thou of tenon final size. I used a strip of 320 grit sandpaper to work the circumference of the tenon to a snug fit into the stummel mortise. I used a variety of tools to flatten the stem tenon face so it would meet up with stummel mortise surface properly – needle files, sandpaper, a few licks with a very small chisel – all under a magnifier lens working the stem mating surface – testing fit/working it/test fit/working it until I got the proper fit.
Rough file work was then required to narrow the stem. This took about an hour. I then worked in the round with a file to shape the circumference of the stem to match the stummel profile. Last steps were using 220 sandpaper to work the circumference down as close to the final dimension. I followed that with 400 and 600 grit sandpaper. I was now a scant hairs-width proud on the stem. I then replaced the masking tape covering the stummel shank with clear scotch tape and brought the stem into line with the shank profile with 1500 and 1800 micro mesh pads.I filed the stem button into shape and from that point on, it was just applying a succession of micro mesh pads to 12000 to polish the replacement stem. Here is the clean stummel and new stem before finishing.Finishing the Pipe
I treated the stummel to a coat of Howards Feed and Wax (beeswax, carnauba and citrus oils), let it sit for 30 minutes, then wiped off the excess, followed with a thin coating of carnauba wax over the whole pipe and a rub in with a polishing brush. Using a cotton buff on my Dremel at 4000 rpm, I ran the buff over the entire pipe to bring out the shine. This pipe cleaned up very nicely and is a joy to hold. I had fun fitting a new stem that is in proportion to the stummel and I think it’s a close resemblance to the stem originally fitted to the pipe.
Thank you Charles and Steve for your help on stem selection.
Onward and upwards!