Blog by Steve Laug
Yesterday a fellow pipe smoker called to say he was in front of my house and had a pipe that he had dropped while on a walk and needed a replacement tenon. He put the pipe in my mail box and I picked it up and while he was on the front side walk I chatted with him from the front porch – very much observing social distancing. The pipe was a beautiful Stanwell RP Freehand. Sure enough the tenon was stuck in the shank and snapper off just ahead of the fancy turned ball on the stem. Tenon replacements on these freehand styles are some of the easiest to do. It means that the stem end is flattened and drilled out to accommodate a new tenon. He also pointed out some road rash on the left side of the bowl where the pipe had bounced off the sidewalk. While I am not taking on new work what could I say to a previous customer standing at my gate asking for help. Of course I took the pipe in and today decided to address the broken tenon. I took pictures of the pipe to show its condition before I started. I took some photos of the shank end to show the snapped tenon in the shank and the broken end on the stem. I tried to pull the tenon with some simple tricks and it was stuck in the shank. It would not budge no matter how I tried. I put the bowl in the freezer for 10 minutes to see if a change in temperature would loosen the tenon.I took the bowl out of the freezer and screwed a drywall screw into the airway in the tenon. It did not take much effort at all to wiggle it and pull out the broken tenon. I kept the piece of tenon so that I could match the replace tenon to the diameter of the broken tenon.Before moving on to make the new tenon I decided to address the road rash on the side of the bowl. I have circled it in red in the first photo below. For this application I used a wet cloth and heated the blade of a butter knife over the flame of my gas stove. I put the wet cloth over the damaged spot and when the knife became hot I touched it to the wet cloth. The heat generated steam from the wet cloth and began to lift the damaged spot. I knew that it would not come up totally as it was a rough area but I knew that I could improve the look. The second photo shows the area on the bowl side after the steam application. I enclosed the repaired damage with a red circle.The damage looked much better after the steaming, not perfect but better! I stained the upper portion of the bowl with an Oak stain pen to blend it into the rest of the surrounding briar. Once it was polished it would blend in very well.I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the briar with my fingertips. The product works to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I let the balm sit for about ten minutes and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. I find that it also helps to blend a newly stained area into the rest of the bowl. The photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to replacing the tenon. I had a threaded tenon that I had started turning down to size for another pipe that would work perfectly. It is shown in the photo below next to the broken chunk of the original tenon. I would need to use a Dremel and sanding drum to finish turning the tenon portion down to match the diameter of the broken one. I would also need to reduce the diameter of the threaded tenon end because of the size of the end of the stem.I set the tenon aside and flattened the jagged portion of the broken tenon on the stem with the Dremel and sanding drum. Once it was flat I began the process of drilling out the airway to receive the new tenon. I always start with a drill bit slightly larger than the existing airway so that I do not chip of damage the stem. I don’t want create more work! I worked my way up to a ¼ inch drill bit as it was the largest one that I could get away with drilling into the stem end without damaging the external surface.I reduced the diameter of the portion of the tenon that fit in the shank and the portion that would be anchored in the stem using a Dremel and sanding drum to rough fit it. I straightened out the edges of the insert portion with a rasp and squared up the edge so that it would seat in the stem. Once I had a good fit in the stem and the shank I used slow setting super glue to anchor the new tenon in the stem. I coated the edges of the tenon and then set it in place and aligned it so that it was straight.Once the glue had cured I cleaned up the surface of the tenon so that it was not scratched with sandpaper and so that it fit well in the shank. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped down the stem after each pad with a damp cloth. I polished the fancy turnings on the stem and area around the new tenon with Before & After Pipe Polish (both Fine and Extra Fine) using a cotton swab to get into the grooves and angles. When I was finished I rubbed the entire stem down with the polish and buffed it with a microfibre cloth. With that the pipe is complete. I buffed it on the buffing wheel with Blue Diamond Polish and gave the entire pipe several coats of carnauba wax on the wheel. I buffed it with a clean buffing wheel and then hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe is now ready to go back to the pipe man who dropped it off Friday afternoon. I look forward to hearing what he thinks of his repaired pipe when he picks it up. Thanks for walking with me through this restoration. Cheers.