Reworking a Lucite Stem for a Meerschaum Apple


Blog by Steve Laug

Last week I had lunch with a friend I had not seen for quite some time. Over lunch he showed me a pipe that he wanted me to do some modifications on for him. It was a Pipe of the Year for 2012 from an online Pipe Forum that we both belonged to – PSU (Pipe Smokers Unlimited). The pipe was made by Altinok in Turkey for the club. It came in a red leatherette covered case with white “satin” lining. The case was made to hold the bowl and both a Churchwarden and a regular stem. It also came with a tamper. My friend has had it since 2012 and finds that though the pipe smokes very well the regular stem was extremely uncomfortable. The button was very thick, the edges very sharp, and the stem ahead of the button was thick and the taper was too abrupt to be comfortable in his mouth. This is exactly the opposite of the Churchwarden stem which had a thin, comfortable button and a longer taper from the button forward. I brought it home from work and took the following photos before I started my work on the pipe. I took the stem off the bowl and took a photo of the stem shape. I circled the areas in red that I was going to work on with the reshaping request. The second photo shows the thickness of the tape on the stem from the side (I circled the area in red). The third photo shows the thickness of the button and the very abrupt angle on the top and bottom surfaces of the button.  The edge of the button was very sharp on the lips and tongue.I removed much of the thickness with my Dremel and sanding drum followed by 220 grit sandpaper. The first photo shows the new profile to the stem. It is much more comfortable and the taper is gentler. The second photo shows the reshaped button. I thinned it down in terms of thickness from top to bottom. I changed the angle of the taper so that it is more of a flat profile looking at it from the end. I polished the vulcanite with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper.The next two photos show how I used the 220 sandpaper to spread out the taper and make it less abrupt. I polished it with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper.Once I had reduced the thickness of the stem, the button and gave it a better taper I polished it with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded it with 1500-12000 grit pads and wiped it off with a cloth after each pad. The Lucite took on a real shine with each successive buffing pad. I put the stem back on the bowl so I could more easily buff it on the buffing wheel. I polished the stem with Blue Diamond to raise the shine and gave it multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the stem with a clean buffing pad to finish the polishing. My friend did not want me to worry about the bowl so I did nothing to it. I took photos of the finished pipe. The dimensions on the pipe are – Length: 5 ¾ inches, Height: 1 ¾ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. Now it is ready to go back to my friend. I am hoping he enjoys the new shape of the stem and that it smokes comfortably for him. Thanks for reading.

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