Blog by Steve Laug
I receive a phone call referral from a customer of City Cigar here in Vancouver. I was at work so I gave him a quick call and after a bit of dance trying to connect we talked. He had a Stanwell pipe with what he called “a broken stem”. He had dropped the pipe and it had snapped. I fully expected a broken tenon as usual on this kind of repair. But I would see when it arrived what it needed. He dropped the pipe off at my place leaving it in the mailbox and when I came home I took it out of the box. I could see why he called it a broken stem as the normal Stanwell shank extension and stem appeared to be a single unit. This was not something I had seen on a Danish Made Diplomat but I took some time to check it out. The stem was firmly stuck in the shank extension so I coaxed it out carefully and it came free. This changed the repair a little for me. Instead of a new tenon in the stem I needed to pull the broken tube that held the shank extension to the shank and then drill out the extension and at a replacement tube. I took a few photos of the pipe in pieces to show what I was dealing with. The fourth photo shows the snapped tube in the shank. I tried to pull out the tenon in my usual way – a screw in the airway and wiggling it but it was stuck. I painted the edged of the mortise with acetone to break loose whatever was causing it to stick but it did not work. I finally resorted to drilling it out. I put the bit in place in my cordless drill and turned the stummel onto the bit by hand to carefully remove the tenon. I changed bits often until I was using one almost the size of the airway and finally had removed the stuck tenon.I drilled out the end of the shank extension as well. This was a touchier job as there was a thin section between the end of the extension and the mortise. I did not want to break through into the mortise so I drilled it very slowly. I went through my piece of vulcanite and Delrin tubing and found one that was the right fit. I used the topping board to square off the ends of the tube and then glued it in place in the shank extension first with super glue.When the tube had set in the shank extension it was time to glue it in place in the shank. I usually use a two part epoxy but did not have any in the shop. The stores were closed so I decided to mix a batch of JB Weld which would work just as well. I mixed the two parts together with a tooth pick and painted it on the face of the shank and the extension. I also painted it on around the tenon end so that all surfaces were covered with a coat of the epoxy mix.I lined the parts up and pressed the shank extension into place on the shank. The glue sets pretty quickly but I had enough time to make sure the alignment was correct on the underside of the shank. I wiped off the excess glue with a damp cloth and once the glue set I took a few photos of the repaired shank. I set it aside to let the glue cure overnight. Once it sets and cures the connection should be very strong. I polished the joint of the repair with 6000-12000 grit micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding it to raise a clean shine. I wiped the shank and extension down with a damp cloth after each pad to remove the sanding debris. After the final sanding pad I hand buffed it with a cotton cloth to raise a shine. Here are some photos of the pipe at this point in the process. I really have come to appreciate Mark Hoover’s Before & After Restoration Balm for its restorative properties with dry briar. I use it on virtually every pipe that I work on. I worked it into finish of the briar with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it as I usually do at this point in the process. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The Restoration Balm really makes the grain stands out beautifully. I finished polishing the bowl and set it aside and turned my attention to the stem. There was quite a bit of tooth chatter on the top and underside ahead of the button. Though in talking to the client I did not mention cleaning up the stem to me it is just part of the process. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wetsanding it with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each pad and gave it a final coat and the 12000 grit pad and set it aside to dry. I put the stem and bowl back together and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I polished the briar and the stem until there was a rich shine. This Danish Made Stanwell Diplomat 63M has a classic shape and a rich finish that highlights the amazing grain on a proportionally well carved pipe. Once I buffed the pipe the grain just popped. The black stem had a rich glow. The finished pipe is actually quite stunning. It is a beautifully grained Freehand with a military style stem that fits well in the hand and sits right in the mouth. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 5 1/2 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 3/4 inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. I will be giving the owner a call to let him know it is ready for pickup. Thanks for walking through the repair on the shank extension with me as it was a pleasure to work on.