Finally Getting to Finish a Churchwarden Stem for a Chimera Bowl that Alex gave me.

Blog by Steve Laug

Over a year ago Alex gave me a second bowl by Tedd Weitzman that needed a stem. I recall that when he passed it to me that he said that Tedd had given the bowl to him to finish some time. It was one of Tedd’s early pipes and one that he had never finished. Now the bowl had made its way with Alex from Atlanta, Georgia to Vancouver, BC he moved here. As we spoke about it over the past months Alex thought that maybe it would make a good churchwarden. I figured that it would but I did not have a stem that would work for that at the moment so it went in the box of pipes that I have to work on for Alex.

Sunday evening I took the bowl out of the bowl and had a look at it. I turned it over in my hands several times and studied it. It is an interesting bowl and not a shape that I have a ready name for. Alex has said that it was made around the same time as the Chimera pipe that I had worked on for him previously ( Tedd Weitzman commented on the previous pipe and remembered it well. The Blowfish pipe that I wrote about in the above blog was stamped Chimera while this one bore no stamping. It was an unmarked bowl so I was going with Alex’s memory about it. The way that the pipe was designed it worked as a sitter without a stem. Hopefully it would do the same with the new stem I was going to fashion for it. There was some rim darkening on the back side of the rim top and a small nick on the front edge. The mortise was drilled in the peak of the shank end that was almost a tortoise shell shape. Describing it is a bit of a challenge but this might work. If you can imagine a tortoise of turtle shell – the mortise came out where the head and neck would have extended. There was some damage around the thin edges of the shank end and some wear there as well. Here are some photos of the bowl. Tedd and I had another common friend besides Alex – John Offerdahl. I could not immediately get a hold of Alex this morning so I sent a quick message to John. For the life of me I could not remember Tedd’s name or the brand of the pipe that I had done previously. When it was finished Alex had me send it to John who passed it back to Tedd… the circle closes. John responded promptly this morning that the pipe was definitely on that was made by Tedd. It was made during the time that he and Tedd had made pipes under the Chimera name around 2010.

I remembered that the Chimera was a creature from Greek mythology that was often depicted as a creature that was a hybrid. It often was shown as having the head of a lion and a got and a snake’s head at the end of the tail. Throughout time it has been used to mean any fictional creature composed of multiple different animals. Knowing John’s love of literature I was pretty sure that this is what was in his mind when he came up with the brand name for the pipes.

One of the reasons for me taking the pipe out of the box on Sunday evening was that I had received a stem that my brother Jeff had picked up at an auction on Friday. It was an older KBB stem probably from a Yello-Bole. The threads on the screw in tenon were worn and thus the tenon was really not usable. There was a worn and damaged propeller logo on the stem top that was off centre. I think that the stem was a replacement and that the logo was an afterthought. Here is what the stem looked like after I had wiped off the sticky spots and spilled glue that was on the surface. There were some tooth marks and chatter on the button end and the airway and slot were filled with debris and tars. The curve of the stem was perfect and the straight button end worked far better for me than a flared or fishtail end.I heated the metal tenon with the flame of a lighter and softened the glue holding it in the stem. I unscrewed it from the stem with a pair of pliers and wiped down the end of the stem. I faced the stem end on a topping board to make it smooth and square and used my Dremel and sanding drum to give the end a slight taper so that it would fit in the mortise of the bowl. I took a few photos of the stem in place – very roughly with more work to do but you can see the direction I was heading with this one. Yesterday I took my wife and two of my daughters down to Bellingham, Washington to do a bit of shopping with their Christmas money. The mall is great because it has a large circular waiting area that is comfortable and well lit so I planned ahead for my wait. I took the stem and bowl with me along with several folded pieces of 220 grit sandpaper. The girls had a great time shopping and I had a nice coffee and worked on the fit of the stem to the shank. We both had a great day. In the photos that follow you can see the conical shape of the tenon end of the shank. It fits snugly in the shank. This morning I worked on polishing out the remaining oxidation with 220 grit and 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. I like the overall look of the stem. I took photos of the stem after sanding it.I rubbed the stem down with Denicare Mouthpiece Polish. I have a few tins of this laying around so I am trying to use them up. I have found it is a great pre-polish for my use as it shows me areas that I need to work on with the micromesh sanding pads.  I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped it down after each pad with a damp cloth to remove the sanding dust. I polished it further with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. I finished by rubbing the stem down with some “No Oxy Oil” to protect the vulcanite. I am experimenting with the product from Briarville and tracking how it works so I can write a review of it. I cleaned up the darkening on the back side of the rim top and the nick on the front edge with 220 grit and 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. I also worked over the areas around the mortise that had nicks and damaged spots with the sandpaper. I was able to smooth them out using the same papers. I polished the rim top and shank end with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads and wiping it down with a damp cloth after each pad. I restained the sanded areas with an Oak stain pen to blend it into the rest of the finish.I rubbed the bowl and rim down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the briar with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed the pipe with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. I really like watching the Balm do its magic and bring the briar alive. This interestingly shaped Chimera Bowl has some really beautiful grain all around the bowl and shank. The grain really is quite stunning. The bowl while uniquely shaped is very symmetrical. The placement of the mortise at the peak of the shank would have made fitting a stem difficult. I can see why it was left stemless and unmarked. I decided to go with a military style mount that would fit well without changing the shape of the shank end. The long, bent Churchwarden vulcanite stem is high quality and shined up well. I buffed the bowl and the stem with Blue Diamond polish to raise the shine on the briar and the vulcanite. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the entire 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. The dimensions of the pipe are: Length: 11 inches, Height: 2 ¾ inches, Outside Diameter: 1 ½ inches, Diameter of the chamber: ¾ inch. This uniquely shaped briar bowl and long stem work together to make a Churchwarden that feels great in the hand. Its length makes it a perfect pipe for sitting and reading a good book or watching a movie. It is light in weight which also adds to the charm. It was a pleasant one to work on and a definite change of pace from Bob Kerr’s estate. Thanks for walking through the restoration and restemming of this pipe with me.

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