Blog by Steve Laug
While I am not taking on new work as a general rule I am still doing repairs for a couple of the local pipe and cigar shops. That works well as it trickles in slowly and folks do not see to be in too much of a hurry to get the pipes back. It has made for some interesting repairs ranging from stems for cobs to replacement tenons for higher end pipes. I never know when they will come but they do come. I received a series of emails from a fellow referred to me by the local shop asking about a replacement stem/repair for his pipe. I asked for pictures of the pipe and a description of what he wanted done. He sent me a few photos of the condition of the pipe. I have included them below for you to see and assess what is needed. If you assessed that it called for a new stem you were absolutely correct. The stem on the pipe was broken off from both directions. It was missing almost a ¼ inch of the stem length and the entirety of the button. It is obviously a Medico pipe with a filter – in this case a charcoal one. The last of his photos shows the bowl side and the stamping on the shank. It reads Medico [over] Varsity [over] Select Briar [over] Italy. The finish on the bowl looks pretty good – shiny with its thick varnish coat. I have no idea what the bowl and rim top look like at this point but I knew it needed a stem and that he wanted a filter stem. I told him to stop by and drop off his pipe as I probably had a stem that would work on it in my collection of stems. He was pretty pumped.
This afternoon a fellow dropped off the pipe and we talked for a bit about it. I would clean it and restore it for him. He liked the shiny coat so I would leave that intact depending on what was under the thick lava coat on the rim top. I would ream and refurbish the pipe for him. I had my mandate and he left the pipe with me. I took some photos of the pipe to show what it looked like when I received it. What do you think of it? It has a great apple shape and looks very Italian to me which the stamping confirms. I took a picture of the rim top to give you an idea of the thickness of the cake and the lava buildup on the rim top. While the rest of the pipe is shiny this is a mess. I captured the stem surface as well to show the damage to the stem. It is a definite stem replacement.I tried to capture the stamping on the shank side. It reads as noted above and there is a V logo on the side of the stem. The new stem will not have the logo.I took a photo of the pipe with the stem removed to get a sense of the proportions and look of it. I actually quite like the shape.I went through my can of stems to see what I could find that would fit the shank. I had several Medico stems but I chose this relatively new looking stem that fit quite well and had the same diameter as the old one and had the aluminum spacer. I fit the stem on the bowl and took photos of the look of the pipe with the new stem. It worked perfectly. I took the stem off the bowl and set it aside. I reamed the bowl with a Pipnet pipe reamer and took the cake back to bare walls. I cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. I sanded the bowl walls with 220 grit sandpaper wrapped around a dowel. The walls were in good condition. I cleaned out the internals of the mortise/shank/ and airway in the shank and stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and isopropyl alcohol. I have several boxes of Dr. Grabow and Medico Filters. I pulled out a new charcoal filter made by Grabow to replace the one that was in the old stem.I rubbed the bowl down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the briar with my finger tips. It works to clean, enliven and preserve the briar. I let it sit on the pipe for 10 minutes and then buffed it off with a clean cloth. The bowl has a rich look to it now and the rim top is clean. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the new stem. It was in great condition so it just needed to be polished. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped it down after each sanding pad with Obsidian Oil. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine and wiped it down with Obsidian Oil one more time. I am glad to finish this Italian Made Medico Varsity Apple. I put the pipe back together and buffed it with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I hand buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. It is fun to see what the polished bowl looks like with beautiful mixed grain all around it. The polished grain on the pipe looks great with the black taper stem. This smooth Medico Varsity Apple is great looking and the pipe feels great in my hand. It is light and well balanced. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 1 ½ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 39 grams/1.38 ounces. It turned out to be a beautiful pipe. I have called the pipeman who owns it and he will be picking it up on the weekend. Thanks for your time reading this blog and as Paresh says each time – Stay Safe.