Blog by Steve Laug
This morning I received another call from a customer sent to me by the local pipe shop. The fellow had a pipe that needed to be restemmed. He said he would stop by and drop the pipe off for me to work on. Irene and I were out and about so he left it in the mail box. When Irene brought it down to me in the shop the smell was overwhelmingly strong and filled the room with the overly sweet smell of years of aromatic vanilla smelling tobaccos. It was in a plastic bag and once I opened the bag it was even more pungent. The bowl was filled with a thick cake that took over half the diameter of the bowl. There was tobacco debris stuck on the walls of the bowl. The cake was sticky and tacky with the tars and oils. The exterior of the pipe was cake with sticky substances around all the sides and on the rim top. The rim top had been beat up and was in rough condition with a thick buildup of lava on the top. The finish was in rough condition with a lot of nicks and gouges around the sides of the bowl and shank. It was really a mess. The stem was chewed and split in half at the button forward for about an inch up the stem. Once I removed it the inside of the shank was as smelly as the rest of the pipe. I took photos of the pipe before I began my clean up. I took a photo of the rim top to show condition of the bowl. You can see the damage to the top and the inner and outer edge. You can see the thick cake in the bowl and the thick lava coat on the heavily damaged rim top. It is a very dirty pipe. I also took photos of the stem to show its condition. It has tooth marks and cracks on the top and underside of the stem near the button. You can also see that the stem does not fit tightly against the shank but has gaps on both sides. I took the pipe apart and took photos of the pipe as a whole. It is in rough condition and I think that the stem was a replacement at some point in its life.The pipe stunk so bad and filled the room with the odor to the degree that I decided to clean the bowl before restemming the pipe. I reamed it with a PipNet pipe reamer using three of the four cutting heads. I removed the cake back to bare walls so I could check for damage to the inside of the bowl from heat or otherwise. I scraped the remainder of the cake from the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife and scraped the rim top at the same time. I scrubbed the exterior of the bowl with a tooth brush and undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap. I worked to get the thick grime off the outside of the bowl and shank. I rinsed it with running water and rinsed off the soap and grime. I cleaned out the shank and the airway into the bowl with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and isopropyl alcohol to remove the tars and buildup in the shank. I wanted the shank clean before I fit a new stem.I built up the inside edge of the bowl and the damage to the rim top with super glue and briar dust. I layered the mixture on the rim and rebuilt the inner edge. Once I had it built up I topped the bowl on a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper. Once I topped it smooth I stained the rim top with a Maple Stain Pen. I found a stem that was the same diameter as the ruined stem. I turned it on the PIMO tenon turning tool and my hand drill. I took the excess material off the diameter and the length of the stem to get a snug fit in the shank. I took photos of the fit of the stem to the shank. The fit of the stem to the shank end was the same as the previous one.There was a gap on both sides and it sat firm against the top and bottom. I examined the shank end and saw that it had been damaged and was no longer flat. I decided to square it up with a thin brass band as it would give a flat surface for the stem to face against. I glued and pressed it onto the shank end and set it aside to cure. I used the Dremel and sanding drum to take down the excess diameter of the stem and sanded it smooth with 220 grit sandpaper. Once I had the fit correct I put the stem in place on the pipe and took photos of the fit and look at this point in the process. I filled in the nicks and chips in the finish with briar dust and clear super glue. Once it had cured I sanded them smooth with 220 grit sandpaper. I wiped the bowl down with isopropyl alcohol to remove the finish and the dust on the briar. I restained the bowl and shank with a light brown aniline stain. I flamed it with a lighter and repeated the process several times until I had the coverage that I was looking for.Once the stain had cured I took the pipe off the cork and took photos of the stained look of the bowl and shank with the brass band. I wiped the bowl down with isopropyl alcohol to make the stain more transparent. I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down between pads with a damp cloth. I rubbed the bowl and shank down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the bowl sides and shank with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The Balm did its magic and the grain stood out. I sanded out the scratch marks on stem from the Dremel with 220 grit sandpaper. I started polishing it with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. I polished the vulcanite stem with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I used Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to further the stem. The photo below shows the polished stem. This pipe has come a long way from where it was when I received it to restem. It is not flawless but it looks better. The Vancouver piper who it belongs to has received far more that what he originally wanted – just a new stem. The briar around the bowl is clean and looks better. The rich brown stains gave the grain a sense of depth with the polishing and waxing. The rim top while not perfect is far better. I put the newly fitted vulcanite stem back on the bowl and carefully buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel using a light touch on the briar. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ½ inch, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. The pipeman will be picking it up soon and will be reintroduced to this pipe. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it.