Category Archives: Examples of Refurbished Pipes

In this section of the blog you will find before and after pictures of pipes that I have reworked. In each of them I give a summary of the work done to them. There are tips on working with different materials in these posts as well. For instance I have posted two horn stem pipes that I did work on the horn stems to removed tooth damage.

Restoring a Pipe Carved by an American Living Legend – “J.M. Boswell”

Blog by Paresh Deshpande

I shall be honest with you; I love vintage English made pipes! I love vintage British bikes and own a couple; I love vintage British fountain pens and have a decent collection of the same. It is something about the simplicity yet unique British craftsmanship, robustness and reliability factor of British made products that I find most appealing. However, after having worked on a number of pipes made by various pipe carvers from USA like Tracy Mincer, Custom-Bilts, Kaywoodies, John Bessai etc, I realize that American pipe carvers are artistic, technologically inventive and the pipes they made are robust, life lasting with a nice feel and heft and of very high quality. Am I gravitating towards American pipes? May be……. The next pipe on my work table is a 22 years old and completely handmade freehand full bent billiard made by an iconic pipe maker from Pennsylvania, USA. Yes, I am working on a pipe made by J M Boswell from the year 1996.

This is a large sized full bent billiard freehand pipe with a nice heft and hand feel. The shape of the pipe is unique in that the proportionate shank has a sudden taper towards the shank end and this size is carried forward on to the saddle of the stem, tapering a bit along the stem before flaring out at the stem end. Wow!!!! That was one hell of a description which has left me exhausted and brain drained!!!! The stamping on the left side of the shank was clear and readable. It read “Boswell” in script signature over “96 USA”. The pipe was made in 1996.The saddle stem bears no stampings.I was keen to know more about J M Boswell the carver, his pipe making techniques and philosophy. I searched and sure enough, Mr. Steve has worked on a Boswell before!!! As is his habit, he has thoroughly researched this carver and has included valuable information in his write up. Therefore, instead of reinventing the wheel, here is the link to this write up for detailed information; ( Do give it a read.

Is there not a single brand that this gentleman has not worked on before??? Is there never going to be an opportunity for me to research and contribute one pipe make on rebornpipes??? Well, I have just started on my journey as against his decades of dedicated hard work and as Robert Frost wrote in his poem “……..and miles to go before I sleep”. The quest for excellence and contribution continues!

The stummel surface boasts of beautiful straight grains on the right side and most of the front while the left side has lovely swirls of grain interspersed with bird’s eye. The bottom of the shank has unique hand carved rustication which taper towards the right side and extends in a thin and straight line towards the rim on the right side. Lovely bird’s eye can be seen on the top of the shank surface with straight grains on either side of the shank.  The stummel is covered in oils, tars and grime from the overflowing lava. The crevices in the rustication are filled with dirt, dust and grime. The briar is dull and lifeless and has taken on a layer of aged patina, through which one can make out the beautiful grains all round. This one should clean up nicely. This pipe has seen heavy use and the chamber has a nice thick consistent layer of cake, about the size of dime, as is recommended. The cake has been regularly reamed to maintain correct thickness. This seems to be a well cared for pipe. The condition of the inner walls of the chamber can be ascertained only after the cake has been removed completely and taken down to bare briar. The bowl feels robust and solid to the touch from the outside. However, the mortise does show signs of accumulated dried oils, tars and remnants of ash, greatly restricting the air flow. This issue should be a breeze to address.The rim top is covered in a thick overflow of lava from the chamber. This is the only part of the stummel which appears to be neglected. The condition of the inner edge and rim top can be commented upon only once the rim has been cleaned. However, I have a feeling from looking at the appearance, that the right side of the inner edge in 3 o’clock direction may be charred from frequent lighting. Well, we’ll see about it later. Thankfully, the outer edge is pristine and shows no signs of damage!!The vulcanite stem is without any bite marks or tooth chatter. The upper and lower lip does show one bite mark each. The stem was apparently used with a rubber bit as can be seen from the calcification marks on the stem (Come on!! One does not have to be a Sherlock Holmes for this deduction!!). The saddle stem is heavily oxidized. The tenon is covered in dried oils and tars and so is the airway. The air flow through the stem is laborious to say the least. The fit of the stem in to the mortise is very loose, which will loosen further after the mortise and tenon have been cleaned. These issues will need to be addressed.THE PROCESS
I started this project by reaming the chamber, starting with size 2 head of PipNet reamer and moving on to size 3 head. I used a 220 grit sand paper, pinched between my thumb and forefinger, to sand the inner walls of the chamber. Once I had reached the bare briar, I wiped the chamber with a cotton pad dipped in isopropyl alcohol. This removed all the residual carbon dust and also rid the chamber of all ghost smells. Using a sharp knife, I gently scraped the rim top to remove the lava overflow. I followed up the reaming by cleaning the mortise and air way using hard bristled and regular pipe cleaners, q-tips dipped in alcohol. The mortise and the draught hole was chock-a- block with all the dried tars, oils and gunk that I had to use my fabricated spatula and the drill bit from the Kleen Reem pipe reamer!!!! I gave a final clean with shank brushes dipped in alcohol and dried the mortise with a rolled paper napkin. The shank internals and the draught hole is now nice and clean with an open and full draw.I cleaned out the internals of the stem using hard bristled and regular pipe cleaners dipped in alcohol. I scraped the dried oils and tars from the tenon with the sharp edge of my fabricated dental spatula.Now, it was the turn of the stummel to get cleaned up. Using a hard bristled tooth brush dipped in undiluted Murphy’s oil soap, I very deliberately scrubbed the stummel, cleaning the surface thoroughly. Special attention was paid to scrub out all the dirt and dust from the crevices in the rustication on the bottom of the shank and right side of the bowl. I cleaned the rim too. The stummel and rim top was dried using paper napkins and soft cotton cloth. I was not happy with the way the rim top had cleaned up. There were darkened areas on the rim top, which kept drawing my attention, as well as very light, almost negligible damage to the outer edge in the form of dents. For the sake of my own satisfaction, I decided to address these blemishes. I topped the rim top on a 220 grit sand paper. I was careful to avoid excessive topping and frequently checked the progress. It was at this stage that I realized that the left inner edge has a slight char in 8 o’clock direction. And all this while I had anticipated this damage to be on the right!! So much for playing Sherlock Holmes!! I address the issues to the inner and outer edge by creating a slight bevel using a 220 grit sand paper pinched between my thumb and forefinger. It’s looking good now, I say, save for a black spot on the left side!!! I wanted to highlight the grains seen and further blend all the repairs carried out to the stummel. To achieve this aim, I sand down the stummel and rim top using micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000 grit pads. The stummel now has a deep shine with grains popping out with magnificent contrast. Though this part of restoration is the second most time consuming and laborious, the end results are also the most satisfying. The play of grains, the contrast and the smooth surface are well worth the efforts. I rub a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration Balm” in to briar and let it rest for a few minutes. I took some extra efforts to work the balm in to the hand carved rustications on the bottom of the bowl. The balm almost immediately works its magic and the briar now has a nice vibrant appearance. I further buff it with a horse hair shoe brush. With the stummel nice and clean and attractive, I worked the stem. I sharpened the lip edges using a needle file and sand the entire stem with 220 followed by 400 and 800 grit sand paper. This helps to reduce the sanding marks left behind by the more abrasive 220 grit paper. By mere sanding itself, the minor tooth marks seen on both stem surfaces were addressed completely. To bring a deep shine to the vulcanite stem, I went through the complete set of micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem with alcohol after each pad and rubbed it down with Extra Virgin Olive oil. The internals of the stem was cleaned out using alcohol and pipe cleaners. The pictures of the process and final results are shown below. To finish, I re-attach the stem with the stummel. I mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel on to my local machine which is similar to a Dremel.  I set the speed at about half of the full power and applied White Diamond compound to the entire pipe. I wiped/ buffed the pipe with a soft cotton cloth to clear it of any leftover compound dust. I then mounted another cotton cloth wheel on to the polishing machine and applied several coats of carnauba wax. I finished the restoration by giving the entire pipe a rigorous hand buffing using a microfiber cloth to raise the shine further. The completed pipe, with the dark brown hues of the stummel contrasting with the shiny black stem, looks lovely, fresh and vibrant; the photographs speak for themselves. The beauty, size and shape of this pipe make it one of my favorites and will find a place of pride in my modest collection. If only the pipe could tell the story of its journey till date…………… Cheers!! PS: The last functional aspect which I addressed at this stage was the protection of the walls of the chamber against the possibility of a developing serious heat fissures. I mix activated charcoal and yogurt to a consistency which allows for an easy and even spread and evenly apply it on the inner walls and set it aside to dry out naturally. This coating helps in protecting the wall surface and assists in quicker formation of a cake.

Reworking a Chewed Savinelli Alligator Stem

I picked up this Savinelli Alligator from a life-long friend some time back, along with a meerschaum pipe. They both needed a good cleaning but they also needed major stem repair. My friend is a clencher, an understatement, to be sure, and had bitten through both stems. When I saw the pipes I asked him if an alligator had been smoking the Alligator! I have lost the “before” pictures on this one so I’ll have to describe the condition it was presented to me in.

I’ve found that pipes with green stain don’t seem to fair very well; all of them loose their color in my experience. This Alligator was no exception; it was a grimy natural color with only a hint of green in the rustication. The bowl was heavily caked with a crumbly vanilla cake and an overflow of lava on the rim. I did the normal clean up routine on it to get it ready for cosmetic work and stem repair.

The stem, as the photos show, had a sizable chunk missing. I had a few options that I considered. I thought about replacing the stem but that would mean sacrificing the original. It also was not an easy task to find a green lucite swirl that matched and was the right dimensions. I thought about trying to rebuild the end of the stem. I even ordered some epoxy pigment to color-match the repair. But it would be a huge repair and I wasn’t sure it would hold up.

After weighing my options I decided to cut off the damaged end, saving as much length as possible and cutting a new button. I used a Dremel cutoff wheel at 15k RMP to remove the end. I used a combination of files to thin and reshape the stem, cutting a new button in the process.

Once the button and stem were shaped to my satisfaction I began sanding and polishing it with wet/dry paper (220-grit) and the full range of micro mesh. I then polished the stem with Meguir’s ScratchX 2.0. The stem looked good; time for the stummel.

I cleaned the stummel with alcohol on a cotton pad to remove the left over grime and oils. Then I applied a couple of coats of Fiebimg’s green leather dye, making sure I had a nice even coat. I buffed the pipe with white diamond to remove the extra dye and set up the shine on the wood and stem. I then gave the pipe several coats of carnauba wax and a hand buff with a micro fiber cloth.

The Alligator still has some battle scars but my buddy can smoke it once again. Our local university’s colors are green and white, the reason he bought a green pipe. I’m happy to say his Marshall University Pipe will ready for service come Homecoming game day.

Why You Need to Disassemble a Pipe

It’s been a while since I’ve been able to do much restoration work but I did have this short video I cobbled together with an article and thought I’d share it here; I know this is something many of the regular readers here will identify with and have come in contact with. And for new folks that may be searching for information I figured they would find it here easier than where it was first posted. 

Why You Need to Disassemble a Pipe – Tobacco University (Reblogged from Smoking Jacket Magazine.)

I know some folks aren’t big on regular, routine maintenance/cleaning of their pipes; I get a little lax at times, too. But for the best performance, enjoyment, and taste from you pipe it is very necessary to have a routine and actually do it. Being one who enjoys and has restored many old estate pipes […]

Briar, cleaning, featured, stuck stem, pipe, pipe smoking, maintenance

Undressing a Stanwell Black Diamond

Blog by Greg Wolford

A few days ago I received a Stanwell Black Diamond shape 185 in the mail, gifted to me from an Instagram friend. It was a pipe he’d bought as an estate and hadn’t touched. When it arrived it was a “dress black” pipe, covered with a matte black opaque finish that needed some TLC: the rim was a bit uneven from being bumped or tapped out, the finish was “thin” in a few spots, with the briar peeking through, and needed to be cleaned internally. I thought I was going to do a quick clean up and smoke it but the story developed into something more soon. So I didn’t plan on all that I ended up doing and didn’t take photos. I even forgot to take a before picture so I’m using a “stock” picture of this model.

I cleaned the bowl, stem and shank first. This pipe had almost no cake and was not very dirty at all; it took only half dozen or so pipe cleaners to get it done. As I said before, I thought this was be a really fast job when I saw how little use the pipe had had. But it, of course, didn’t turn out quite so simple.

I wiped the stummel down with alcohol to clean off the surface and prepare it for a treatment with a new idea I had: colored wax. Some time back, Steve had mentioned to me about a product that Hobby Lobby carried that was a rub on/rub off wax that comes in different colors and might be good to highlight stem or shank nomenclature. I picked up a tube of black and have tried it once or twice with less than great results. But I thought it might be just the thing to touch up the black finish on this pipe and shine it up, too. The alcohol removed a little of the black coat but not too much as I cleaned it so I knew the finish was removable at this pint, in case the idea didn’t work. After the briar dried I rubbed the ebony wax onto the pipe, let it haze and buffed it off by hand. I did about three coats of the wax and wasn’t really thrilled with the pipe, even though the color “took”.

The bumpy rim was irritating to me and I knew it would continue to be a distraction. Although I was worried about what lay under the opaque finish, I decided to top the bowl and go from there. The newly smooth rim pleased me and I couldn’t help but wonder what was under that black coat. So I began to sand the black away to see.

The coating was fairly thick and took some time to remove. I sanded with 220 grit paper until the black was mostly gone. It was a pleasant surprise that no fills were under that coat. In fact, the grain was pretty nice. So I moved on to 400 grit paper and then buffed the briar with tripoli to see how it looked; it was nice and the black would make a great contrast stain. I wiped the pipe down with alcohol again to remove the wax and dust and started sanding with 600 grit paper. After I was happy with the smooth surface of the pipe I removed the tape I’d applied earlier to the stamping to protect it and began to work gently around the black patches under the tape to make as little damage as possible to the nomenclature but break up the black.

I mixed up some Fiebing’s dark brown leather dye with isopropyl alcohol in a 1:3 ratio. I applied and flamed the stain several times to get a nice, even coat. Then I wiped the bowl down with alcohol wetted pads until I removed enough due to see the grain well. I moved to the buffer where I buffed with tripoli and white diamond before laying the stummel aside to deal with the stem.

The stem on this pipe is acrylic and was in good shape; there were no major scratches or tooth dents so I polished it with plastic polish and then reassembled the pipe. Then the entire pipe got several coats of carnauba wax and buffed to a shine on a clean flannel buff and then a bit more by hand with a microfiber cloth.

I’m really pleased with the “undress” pipe. And I’m relieved that the briar under the “coat” was as nice as it is. This large, heavy pipe will now have a spot on my rack, to be used and enjoyed, something that it hasn’t had much of in its life. IMG_0986.PNG


An Old Meerschaum Bowl Restemmed and Reborn

Blog by Greg Wolford

Over the past couple of months I’ve been moving my workshop upstairs to an empty bedroom. With winter’s quick approach, I wanted to be ready for the bone-stiffening cold so I could do more restorations this year. All but the buffer had been moved into its new home and was close to being tidily organized when my plan went south; our son was moving back home and would need my new space back for his room!

It was a rather quick transition so all of my supplies were hastily packed up and moved back to the basement garage. In my rush, I didn’t think to make notes on boxes or anything else to help me sort through it later, I only packed quickly and securely and moved it all out. I felt like I got evicted! (Please note, that is not what happened to my son.) So finding any of the half-dozen projects I had in the works is now a daunting challenge; our garage serves as a catch-all of sorts, with our laundry area, my workshop, my wife’s “over flow” from her antique booth, and all of my son’s extras now piled in there.

The other day I did manage to find an old meerschaum bowl that I’d began to work on. It came to me in a lot I had gotten a couple of months ago I think, along with another bowl and aOld Meer couple of pipes (this is the only before photo I have).  In fact, this bowl was the main reason I got the lot; it looked old and interesting to me.

After doing a little research and getting some comments from friends on Instagram and Facebook I think it may be an Austrian meerschaum; I originally thought it was African. If I am correct, this pipe, well, bowl, is probably over 100 years old. It originally had a wooden shank extension which is now long gone. At first I thought of trying to make some sort of extension to replace it but soon decided that was more than I was willing to risk/attempt on this bowl.

(I forgot to take photos along the way; sorry folks.)

There was a think but soft and crumbly cake in the bowl and lots of oily build up in the shank. I gently reamed the cake back to very close to the meerschaum walls with my Castleford reamer, followed by an old round-ended, dull knife that I use for this purpose. Then I used some 400 grit wet/dry paper to get the last of the cake out and leave a nice, smooth bowl.

For the shank I stared with the poker-end of a Czech-tool, opening up the airway very gently. Then I moved to pipe cleaners that were dampened with isopropyl alcohol. Then I used alcohol dampened and dry cotton swabs to clean the shank. Do note the term dampened here; you do not want to get the meerschaum too wet. It took some time and many cleaners and cotton swabs to get the shank clean; there were also bits of meerschaum that were loose or came loose in the cleaning process that had to be removed. I also wiped out the bowl with several dampened cotton swabs after cleaning the shank. I also wiped off the outside of the bowl with alcohol dampened cotton balls; other than the rim, the exterior was quite clean. Then I let the pipe rest, to dry, overnight.

The next morning I examined the shank and found it to be a little rough inside. There was also a small divot in the bottom of the “lip” where the extension was and the new tenon would enter. I took the same dull reaming knife and scraped the mortise very gently to smooth it out; this took only a couple of passes and removed very little material but made a bug difference. I put a drop of amber superglue in the divot and sprayed it lightly with glue accelerator (I used a cloth to cover the pipe from over-spray) and then let it cure for a little while as I piddled with other things in the garage. I repeated this a second time and the result was a nice hard, smooth mortise entrance. Now it was time to decide on a stem.

Since the extension was gone, the mortise was very large, which would limit my stem options. I looked through my stems and found two candidates that had tenons large enough to work: a fancy vulcanite one and a long, round tapered acrylic one. It was a pretty easy choice when I put them up to the pipe to compare: acrylic wins by a long shot! The amber/bronze color of the stem just looked “right” with this bowl to my eye so now it was time to fit it.

I used my PME tenon turning tool to slowly reduce the size of the tenon.I noticed as I was cleaning the shank that the mortise narrowed a bit, probably from material loss both previously and current, closer to the bowl. So, as I test fit the tenon and found it stopping at the point of the narrowing I began to turn the tenon only about halfway up the total length. By doing this in small increments I was able to tell when the tenon was almost a perfect fit, which is when I switched to 320 grit paper and sanded the tapered tenon smooth and to a very nice fit.

The new stem was in nice condition, without a lot of drawer-dings, so it didn’t require much polishing: a little sanding with 220 and 400 grits, some plastic polish and a buff (lightly) with Tripoli and white diamond. I then used a heat gun to soften the stem and put the bend in it that I wanted and was pleased with. One more round of plastic polish and then everything got a coat of Halcyon II wax.Old Meer (1) Old Meer (2)Old Meer (3) Old Meer (4)

I’d love to tell you how wonderful the old ‘meer smokes but I can’t. You see, my son, the source of my “eviction”, saw the bowl on my work table and fell in love with it, before it was even cleaned up. So, after I got it all finished I took it straight to him to “see what he thought”; he really went nuts over it all reborn! As you have probably guessed by now, the old ‘meer now has a new home in his pipe rack, his first meerschaum pipe, which I hope and expect will serve him well with many good smokes for many years to come.

The Doctor Gets a New Coat- A Dr Grabow Omega Reborn

Blog by Greg Wolford

Of late I’ve been admiring system-type pipes. Having never had one I placed a bid on a lot of four old pipes – two I had little interest in – two of which were Dr Grabow Omegas, a smooth and a rusticated. Here are a few photos from the seller; I forgot (again) to take before and even some along-the-way shots.



I stared on them both with the normal scrubbing the outside with acetone on cotton balls to remove their finishes. Then I reamed them back to bare wood. The smooth pipe was heavily caked but the rusticated one wasn’t at all, barely smoked really. However, you can’t tell in the above picture, the rusticated one had some heavy damage to the inner rim. I began by topping the bowl to even it it some but it would take a lot of briar removal to attempt to get out the chunks missing from the inner rim. So I took the second largest head on my Castleford reamer, too big for the bowl, and started a “bevel” on the inner rim, which I then worked with needle files and sandpaper to smooth out. I couldn’t take out all the damage but made it much less noticeable and would be even better after I stained it and it was later smoked. Next I got out my hand drill and re-drilled both bowls with a 5/32″ bit to improve the draw. I did the same thing with the tenon ends of the stems and then funneled them out. At this point I dropped both bowls in an alcohol bath overnight.

I cleaned out the stems with alcohol and pipe cleaners until they came out white. These stems are not vulcanite but a nylon-type material, ABS plastic I believe, and are not my favorite to work on. The smooth bowled pipe had a good stem the rusticated one’s stem was chewed pretty badly. I decided to use some of the adhesive accelerator and black super glue to raise up some the bites marks; I left the “roughness” of the chew marks on, thinking the glue would adhere better. I alternated polishing the “good” stem and building up the patch on the chewed up P-lip style one. Once the “rough” stem was built up to my satisfaction I used a needle file and some 320 wet/dry paper to smooth off the roughness from the chewing the previous pipeman had done. Then I polished the stem with plastic polish and was happy with the “decent” look I ended up with; I felt it just wasn’t worth the time and effort to try to get this plastic stem any closer to “new” than it was now.

The next morning I took the bowls out of their soak and let them dry an hour or so. I wanted to make this “typical” rusticated Omega look less typical so I started sanding in it; the rustication was plenty deep enough to remove some briar on the smooth part without worry of loosing the rustication’s definition. I did tape off the stamping to retain that as much as possible before starting.

Taking off the old deep red top coat would give me a great opportunity to create a kind of unique contrast on this pipe I thought so after sanding the bowl and band with 220 and 320 grits I used a black sharpie to color in all the rustication and also the rim and new inner bevel. Then I used 400 grit to sand off the bowl again, to remove the over-marks of black, and the band. Then I applied a coat of a lighter red, which is actually a stain marker I got in a set at The Dollar Tree and is marked “medium brown”. I let the stain cure for a bit and then highlighted the nomenclature with white acrylic paint, for an extra “pop”.




While the paint cured I have the stem a final polish with plastic polish just to brighten and shine it a little more. I was tempted to try to make the bit nicer but the back of my mind kept telling me it wasn’t worth the headache so I finally decided to leave it.

I have the bowl one last coat of stain and let it dry for about 15 minutes; these bargain-markers dry real fast, even if the colors aren’t what I thought they’d be. Then I applied a good coat of Halcyon II wax to the pipe and stem and buffed it by hand.

The end product is, in my eye, a pretty neat and definitely different from most other Omega product, even with the “boogered” stem.







Repairing an Over-Reamed Corn Cob Pipe

Blog by Greg Wolford

About three weeks ago I was contacted by fellow PSU member, and sometimes-contributor here, Astrid after she had an accident reaming a nice old corn cob pipe. Cob Pipe Pic.1

She had remembered reading about some work my grandson and I had done to a few of my cobs and was curious if I might be able to fix the chunk that had accidentally been removed when she was reaming her “Corn Dog”.  As you can see, it really is a nice old pipe, with a super (in my opinion) Bakelite stem; I was really looking forward to getting it in hand after seeing it.

As luck would have it, I have done several repairs of this type to different corn cob pipes, as well as using the general technique for everything from raising to bottom of bowls to repairing cracked bowls. So, I told her I would be happy to doctor the old cob up for her and she sent it out to me a few days later.

When the pipe arrived I had no idea of exactly what the extent of the damage was so I was anxious to see what the box from Canada held! I was pleasantly surprised to find a couple of old pipes to tinker with (and keep) as well as a generous gift of tobacco. At the bottom of the box I finally found the old pipe, and was happy to see it was just about what I’d hoped it would be: Nothing too difficult! Here are a few photos of the rim damage:Old Cob (1)_edited-1Old Cob (2)_edited-1Old Cob (3)_edited-1Old Cob (4)_edited-1

You can see the “chip” was reasonably large, but it didn’t go through the bowl – a very good thing. I started my using a dental pick to lightly scrap the damaged area to remove any loose material; there was very little, most likely because Astrid had already cleaned the pipe very well.

The next step was to mix up a patch for the damaged area. Old Cob (5)_edited-1For this project I used a new tube of fireplace mortar/sealer; my old tube had turned into stone on me. I mention this because I have found that the different brands behave differently when dry: some are impervious to moisture, while others are not. I have found that mixing in a little cigar ash (other fine ash will work too) makes the patch solid but allows for moisture and to go through to the briar (or cob in this case) and disperse better. I also mix in a little powdered activated carbon; I use the capsules now, instead of the messy process of grinding it up myself. The activated carbon does two things: it filters out any potential taste in the first few smokes that the mortar/ash patch might have and it makes it much darker, thus blending in better. The addition of these to components also makes the patch set much faster so you need to have some water on-hand to mix it right; you are looking for a dough-like consistency, wetter for longer working time. After mixing the “putty” up I began applying it with an old pipe tool’s spoon end, working it in to make a nice, Old Cob (6)_edited-1even surface, except for the top, where I left a small gap to blend in later. You can see the still wet patch in this photo, after I had smoothed it out; I used a flashlight to make the repair area easier to photograph. I then took a small amount of powdered carbon and sprinkled it onto the patch to make it blacker and less noticeable. I then set the pipe aside until morning to allow the repair to cure.

The next day it had hardened into a night patch. But, as it sometimes does, the patch had shrunken. I mixed up a little pipe mud and applied it over the patch to make it more flush inside. You can see the result of the second patch in this photo.Old Cob (8)_edited-1 You can also see here the “dip” I left in the rim; I did this to blend in the rim with wood putty.

As I was waiting on the pipe mud to dry, I took a damp cotton swab and cleaned off the rim of the pipe to make sure there was nothing to keep the next patch layer from sticking and to lighten the bit of residue on the rim already. I then applied some Elmer’s Natural Wood Putty to the rim. Again, this is something you want a little water on-hand to work with and smooth the repair as you go.Old Cob (9)_edited-1 I used both a cotton swab and my finger to apply the wood putty, shaping it as I went, but applying a little extra in case it shrank.Old Cob (10)_edited-1 After I was happy with the wood putty patch I used some of the pipe mud and charcoal powder to mute the brightness of the rim repair. This would ultimately be sanded and stained so I didn’t spend too much time or effort on this step, only on making sure the inside or outside of the bowl didn’t have an excess on them.

The weather was rainy and humid during the time that I worked on this pipe so extra drying time was required on each step/patch. At this point I set the pipe aside for a couple of days to be assured that everything was well dried and cured before I moved onto the final shaping and stain blending.

When I came back to the pipe I checked to make certain the repairs were all well cured, and they were: very solid feeling all the way around. Now it was time to shape the rim; I wanted to get the top nice and even but didn’t want to take away the character of the rim so I opted to lightly top the bowl with 400 grit wet/dry paper, checking often. Old Cob (13)_edited-1After I was satisfied with the rim being level, I used the same sandpaper to touch up the edges just a bit. Looking well-shaped to my eye, I broke out the stain markers I so often rely on, choosing the lightest color I had for staining and blending the rim.

All in all, I think this was a successful repair job that came out quite well. I am sure that after a few gentle smokes that the rim will take on an even more “natural” and blended look. And best of all, I think this old corn cob pipe will provide many more years of good service to Astrid – and maybe even to someone else down the road!Old Cob (11)_edited-1 Old Cob (12)_edited-1


One Just for Fun: A New Frankenpipe – Combining a Few Parts to Craft a Rustic Pipe

In the box of gift bowls that came to me were a few that I could fiddle with and see what I could come up with. There were no stems for these items so it was a blank slate to work on. The first of these was an old rustic bowl. As I looked at it I could see some possibilities for this old bowl. The bowl had a decent cake on the walls and there were no cracks in the piece of wood. It was like an old branch of cherrywood. The bark had been peeled and the top roughly carved. The bottom of the bowl was rounded. Internally the bowl bottom was flat and sound. The airway entered the bowl precisely on the bottom. There was a drilled airway on the side of the bowl that looked like it probably had a long stick for a shank and stem – possibly a reed stem.

I did not have a reed stem or a wooden shank to insert in the bowl but I did have an old vulcanite long stem that would work. The tenon had been tapered down and it had a slight saddle that gave it a unique look.
I sanded the taper and reduced the diameter of the end of the stem/tenon. I sanded it until it fit snug in the hole in the bowl. I sanded it with 150 and 220 sandpaper to shape the stem and clean up the fit. I sanded it with a medium and a fine grit sandpaper to remove the scratches left behind by the sandpaper.
I have a briar shank piece left over from other work I had done and for a short time considered inserting that between the bowl and the stem. I laid it out to see what it would look like and did not like the look so I set it aside for a later project.
I turned the stem directly into the bowl and checked on the fit. The short tenon end on the stem was the precise depth of the hole in the side of the bowl. That made the fit perfect.
I decided to glue in the stem with wood glue rather than leaving it a pressure fit stem. I decided the look would be similar to a mini-church warden cob and the fixed stem would work well with this particular bowl. I put the glue on the tenon and pressed it into place. I wiped up the spill over and wiped it down with a cotton pad to clean the briar and vulcanite surfaces.
I sanded the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12,000 grit pads. The look of the pipe was quite acceptable.

I gave the bowl a thin coat of medium brown aniline stain, flamed it and buffed it. The finished pipe is shown below. Now I need to get a straw hat and use it as a yard pipe. It should work well as a pipe that will not leave any worry when I am working in the garden or mowing the lawn. It will be a good pipe to smoke while sitting and reading on my front porch.




Reparing a Cumberland Stem on a Kaywoodie Regent Bulldog 98B

Blog by Greg Wolford

I’ve been hoping to add a Kaywoodie Regent to my collection for some time now. A month or so ago we were out-of-town on vacation when I happened upon one in an antique store. There were actually several pipes in this vendor’s case, most of which I wasn’t interested in. Other than the Regent, there were also two other Kaywoodies I was interested in: a Relief Grain and an extra long Canadian. They all looked to have pretty good bones in the dark little store so I made them mine.

When  I got them back to where we were staying I eagerly opened them up to see what I had. I found that they were a lot dirtier and caked up than I thought. I also now got a really good look at the damage to the Regent’s stem; this was going to take some trail and error I knew.

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When I got home I took some better photos, showing the damage to the stem. There were deep teeth marks on the top and bottom of the stem and the edge of the side where the clover logo is was almost gone completely. This was going to take a lot of time and some research to get it even close to decent again I now realized.

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My first step was to try some experiments on a Medico VFQ. Although I ended up with a good looking and smoking pipe, the experiments were somewhat in vain: the stems on the VFQ turned out to be nylon. So I now turned to some fellow restorers on the PSU Forum for hints. tips and ideas – and they really came through with many ideas and several new articles posted by Joyal. Some of the best advice for this project come from JoeMan: the idea of using activated charcoal powder with Gorilla brand super glue.

This project took days to complete do to all the patching a rebuilding of the stem. So, I didn’t do a great job documenting it all with photos and because of the extended time frame of the project I may miss a step or two in this article; I apologize in advance for these things.

The fist thing I did (after thoroughly cleaning the stem with pipe cleaners and alcohol) was try to  raise the dents as much as I could with heat from a candle; there was little success here.

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Now I began the filling and shaping process. This took many forms and layers: I used clear super glue, both “regular” and gel, mixing in some of the StewMac black glue at times, and also Gorilla brand super glue both with and without charcoal powder mixed into it. one of the challenges was to add strength and black-color in some places while not covering up too much of the red in the Cumberland stem. Another challenge was to build up that chewed up side so the end of the stem would have the proper shape again.

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The StewMac glue was too thin and took so long to dry that it wasn’t much help to me on this project. The Gorilla glue, both “plain” and with the charcoal powder mixed in, was a big help; it is thicker and dries quite fast, especially when the powder is mixed in.

Another thing that added time was the way I went about this repair. There were multiple layers needed, as well as different thicknesses, so I would apply a patch, let it cure, and then shape it as I needed, and then start the whole process over again. I did this many times to get an acceptable result. This photo is after almost all of the layering and shaping was done:

IMG_9730I used needle files and a vulcrylic file for most of the shaping. I also used 220 grit sandpaper. After I had the final shape I was happy with I wet sanded with 320/400/600 and then micro mesh through 12000 grit; after 600 and every few grits thereafter I also polished the stem with Meguiar’s Scratch X2.0,which helps me see if I’ve missed anything along the way. The next four images are before micro mesh and after:



As you can see, this stem came out pretty nicely and is more than useable now. Then lines came out well, to my eye, and the rebuilding and patching blended rather nicely.

I didn’t do a lot to the stummel; the nomenclature is readable but very weak. There are some small “pocket” marks but I think they give the pipe an air of character so I basically left the stummel as I found it, sans, the thick cake, mess of tars and oils in the shank, and the buildup on the rim. The rim did require a very light topping and a round or two with the medium touch up marker to give it a head start on matching the patina on this rest of the wood. I only very lightly buffed the pipe with white diamond and carnauba wax and ending with a soft clean buff and hand polish with a micro fabric cloth.

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I just noticed there is a bit of wax residue that I missed in the photos. Oh well, that’s easy enough to take care of after while ….

I’m very happy with how this project came out. It will soon find its way, I think, onto my rack where I can hopefully enjoy it for many years – unless my wife learns of its collectors appeal and potential value, then I might be in trouble!

You Complete Me- Finishing Touch on the Medico VFQ

Blog by Greg Wolford

Last week I wrote about restoring an old Medico VFQ (if you missed it the article is here. I mentioned that Steve was sending me a better stem – and boy did he!

It arrived Saturday and I spent a little time polishing it with micromesh 1500-12000 over the weekend. As you can see, it was almost pristine when it arrived.




Today I touched up the stem’s stamping with white paint to make it pop and then, after the paint cured, I gave it a light buff with white diamond and then a few coats of wax to finish it off. And I must say it really does complete the project.


As you can see, there’s a big difference in the stems. I also found they seem to be made of some different material; the original left a black looking sanding dust and the new one a white-looking dust, more like acrylic. Anyway, here’s the real completed project.





Again, thanks, Steve, for providing me with such a nice stem to top off saving this old pipe with. And, in case you’re wondering, I’ve had the chance to run a few bowls through her and she smokes great for me!