Tag Archives: article by Henry Ramirez

Dent Steaming a 1932 PATENT DUNHILL T197 Billiard with a VERNON STEM


Blog by Henry Ramirez

Saw this mousey looking pipe with a clicker stem on EBay.  Nobody seemed to want it so I took it home to practice my dent steaming.  The stem attaches with a loud click and some research told me it was named after Vernon Dunhill, who was responsible for the fitment’s design.  It was designed  to allow the stem to be separated from the bowl even when the pipe was hot from recent smoking.  It had the earlier square tip tube rather than the later angled tip. The stem had a funky downward cant before the button and it strongly resembled my Kaywoodie Allbriars.  Boy they nailed that briar stain to the oxidized Cumberland stem color! The bowl rim was dented/chipped and the surface scratched. The stem and the button were in fine shape so the usual soak in Oxyclean to remove the smegma followed by a trip to the oven to allow the stem to straighten itself.The metal tube is removable from the keeper which is part of the stem.  I have seen examples of the opposite where the keeper is integral to the shank.  These pipes seem to have been mostly billiard Cumberlands but some exceptions exist.  Both the tube and the keeper were polished with fine brass wool.  I did reface the tube with a carborundum disk.The shank stampings were crisp but there seemed to be personalized script on the bottom long polished off.The dent on the bowl’s rim was the major distracting feature.  I didn’t want to top the bowl and the briar dust/CA mixtures never seemed seamless to me.  So I tried to fatten up the cellulose fibers with hot steam using my hand held steamer.  This worked somewhat and had the advantage of pin pointing the area to be steamed. Not satisfied, I decided to fall back on the hot iron on a wet kitchen towel technique.  This did a better job, I think because it affected a larger area.  The problem then became one of restaining this larger area to match the rest of the pipe.

Restaining the pipe became somewhat of a chase your tail love’s labor, trying light brown, medium brown and the finally dark brown in various concentrations followed by isopropyl alcohol on a gauze sponge scrubbings.

So, I think I’m going to someday re-stain the whole pipe dark brown to try to better match the Cumberland stem while learning to love the residual dent on the rim.  The only home run here was the straightening of the stem to its original straight shape.  Thanks for looking, regards, Henry.

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Stem Button TIME SAVER on a 1940’s Dunhill LB


Blog by Henry Ramirez

I was ghosting through Ebay listings looking for a cracked shank to experiment with when this old classic appeared.  The auction was won for a song because in addition to a cracked shank, the year stamping had been buffed off the shank. The usual whole lotta cake and dented stem story.I started with the stem, which was really in great shape.  I have come to love the stumpy profile of the patent LB’s with their constricted contour button.  An Oxyclean bath was followed by an isopropyl alcohol scrubbing with a shank brush and pipe cleaners. I wanted to use heat to raise the bite marks as much as possible to not only decrease my work load but to minimize the inclusion of foreign filler. To this end I also wanted to learn the proper temperature needed to reproduce my results consistently.

Using a heat gun, I took my time and warmed up the vulcanite until my nose told me it was getting close to burning.  If that happens the surface becomes a porous charred stinky mess!  I quickly used a laser temperature gun to obtain a surface reading of 275 degrees F.  Amazing how quickly the surface cooled off once the heat was removed.I was not impressed by the amount of rebound and it looked like filling and filing was in my future.

Having nothing to lose, I pressed my wife’s oven into service, knowing that I could set the temperature substantially higher than previous attempts without fear of ruination. I set the oven temperature at 265 degrees F to have a 10 degree safety zone and watched as the whole stem “stretched out”.  This was more like it! The dents were now depressions that needed the light to shine just so to be seen.  Little CA and polishing was needed.

I should mention that these values are for older Dunhill vulcanite only.  The composition of vulcanite has changed over the years, according to some posts I’ve read, and I’ve noticed it in the depth of polish ability.Now it was the time to clean and evaluate the briar. While I ream the mortise and bowl I am wishing that I had Steve’s magical Savinelli Pipe knife. Boy, those things are rarer than hen’s teeth and this old cake is super hard. That is followed by total immersion in an isopropyl bath with various scrub brushes stripping the briar. I couldn’t save the original finish because the shank crack needed to be clean and open as much as possible for the bonding. One of the perks of the alcohol bath is that after the bowl dries out, if there is any residual cake stuck to the chamber walls, it shrivels up and is easily removed.The shank crack was now very evident but the year stamping was not.Getting back to the stem, I wanted to know if the alcohol retort was worth the hassle.  I had been as meticulous as possible with the pipe cleaners and cold alcohol.  The color of the used alcohol in the distillation flask tells the story, close but no banana! I could now address the cracked shank.  I had previously repaired such a problem using a micro-screw and bonded dental composite resin.  I was concerned that threading the screw into old dry briar could start micro-fractures and crazing.

This time I elected to drill a channel spanning the crack and passively bond a post fabricated from longitudinal glass fibers encompassed in a strong composite resin matrix.  This would also provide some flex in the repair to accommodate the dimensional changes that briar goes through because of temperature changes during smoking.

At this time I also drilled a post hole at the end of the crack to prevent further spidering.  Because the crack was significantly wide I made sure to introduce my resin with a size 06 endodontic file.  I had planned to use a C clamp to close the gap but I chickened out when finger pressure did nothing.  Not sure how to make briar temporarily more flexible….

After filling the post hole and cementing the fiber post with dual cure composite resin, I trimmed off the post and blacked out the white resin with black CA.

Before beginning to start the staining process I wanted to open the pores of the cellulose to not only gain greater absorption of the dye but also improve the briar’s capacity to absorb tars for a sweeter smoke.  I had noticed such a phenomenon with the Missouri Meerschaum corn cob pipes.

I found that this particular wheel had already been invented by the folks who refinish wooden decks.  I tracked down some relatively non-toxic materials which did the job and whose run off wouldn’t hurt plants.

Sodium percarbonate does the cleaning and oxalic acid removes the smear layer, thus opening up the wood’s pores.  Looking around online for a source I realized that I already had both chemicals in the laundry room!  Oxyclean is the percarbonate and states on the container that it’s great for wood decks, siding and lawn furniture.  Bar Keeper’s Friend has oxalic acid as its active ingredient and states on the container that it works on teak wood.Indeed after scrubbing with both and rinsing with water, I noticed that the chamber’s surface looked and felt less dense.Now it was time to stain the briar with Oxblood diluted 50% with isopropyl alcohol in two coats, both flamed with the micro-torch.I was lucky that the original black stain in the depths of the blast remained.An overlay stain of light brown was applied in 2 coats.After a rub down with an old t-shirt to remove any xs dye, I applied 2 coats of Halcyon wax.  A quick buff on the lathe and then a hand strapping with a shoe bristle brush brought the shine up.  I want to mention that my wife gifted me her silver brush which is narrow and has long soft bristles which easily accesses the crotch of the pipe without fear of collision. This has proved most useful on bent pipes.Another very helpful tip came from a pipe maker’s blog about dead-faced files to add crispness to the button area.  They are the dead faced nut seating file by Stewart MacDonald, a luthier’s supply house and the pillar files which have the dead side on the edge from OttoFrei, a clock makers source.Well I’m now satisfied with the pipe but not finished. They say we abandon these projects because we reach a point where better becomes an enemy of good. Boy that was fun and I hope to share more adventures with these fabulous old pipes!  Regards, Henry

 

1967 DUNHILL 197 SHELL BRIAR Clean-up


Blog by Henry Ramirez

When surfing Ebay I noticed a very well smoked Shell billiard whose stem had lost its White Dot. It looked like it could be cleaned up to present an elegant addition to my collection. I anxiously awaited its arrival and immediately dunked the stem in an Oxyclean bath for a nite.

The next morning I pulled it out of the bath and wiped off the smegma for my first real look at the stem. The divots reminded me of a deflated balloon. Just what I was hoping for! Off to the buffer I went to buff off the sulfur discoloration with a wet rag wheel and pumice. Knowing what I know now, I should have popped this baby in the oven to raise the dents but instead I got to cleaning the stem’s airway and tenon. I bonded some shade A2 dental composite in the hole for the White Spot and was dismayed that it refracted the surrounding black vulcanite. Note to self, next time place a layer of opaque before the bulk fill. Luckily, when researching the earlier White Spots I came across examples of dots so dark they were black. I had made a silicone impression of a new pipe’s stem and used that as a mold to create a refurbishment of the button. What a mess! Next time I’ll mix the charcoal in with the composite resin rather than CA. I ended up recreating the button the way Steve has posted here on Reborn Pipes. OK, so now it’s the bowl’s turn. My armamentarium and procedure is pretty routine for cake and gunk removal. The rim’s blast was scorched but luckily, the rest of the pipe’s blast was vestigial. This was an opportunity to try out emulating a blast through rustication. Plus, since the pipe was stained rather darkly, it would help hide a myriad of sins. When polishing the chamber I noticed some alligatoring of the briar. Today I would probably schmeer some JB Weld into the cracks but what I did was a coating of Structural Sour Cream and charcoal. I played around with the button’s internals, polished with the usual green, red and white compounds (thanks Tim West), threw on some wax and called it a day! Thanks for looking, regards, Henry

FANCY FIX AVERTED!


Blog by Henry Ramirez

In an earlier blog submission I created what I named a FrankenStem bit replacement on a chewed up Dunhill Shell bent. In heating the stem in the oven to straighten and re-bend it I inadvertently caused the stem/shank union to open (iatrogenic). I thought that if I could just sand down the high spot that everything would fit tight again. I wanted to be precise in my actions so I coated the tenon with a disclosing solution. I mated the pieces together and, quite frankly, am lucky I didn’t split the shank. The thickness of the powder was enough to cause quite a tight fit. It did show me where it was hanging up but I was terrified to push my luck. Dunhill’s engineering and quality control are such that I knew everything should fit without additional removal of material. Upshallfan had mentioned his use of a heat gun to bend stems and I figured I’d try the same but on the tenon. I heated the tenon until I could SMELL the vulcanite and then quickly inserted it into the shank and tweaked it with psi vs the shank’s mortise. After holding it for a minute, I removed it and ran it under cold water to set the shape. As you can see, even under magnification the fit is closed. It makes me wonder about other previously owned pipes that had this issue when I received them. I tried resurfacing the mortise and resurfacing the tenon with inadequate results. They were old pipe shop basket pipes so I don’t know if they ever fit together properly but I didn’t have that dilemma here. I was also pleased to note that my sense of smell is a powerful ally, not only when cooking but heating stems! Regards, Henry

A Bench Pin – For Those Times You Need an Extra Hand


Blog by Henry Ramirez

Henry and I have been corresponding via email for some time now sharing ideas and questions. Henry is a dentist who uses his mad dental skills in restoring and refurbishing pipes. He has the tools of his trade that he has taken to the pipe repair bench and he has done some great work. I wanted him to introduce us to this tool – the like of which I have not seen before but which I want to order – yesterday! Thanks for doing this Henry. I appreciate it.  — Steve Laug

I noticed when on pipe maker’s website blogs that everyone seemed to have a funny appendage attached to their work table which was usually covered with what appeared to be either cloth or leather. With Google’s help, God bless them, I found out it was called a Bench Pin and was a jeweler’s right hand when sawing, filing and buffing.Ebay has quite a few different ones available at all price ranges and it could probably be easily made from some scrap lumber if you’re inclined. Since I have never been able to saw a straight line I elected to purchase a pre-made one which would allow me to attach it to my office desk without marring the surface. Thus I would be able to spend more time, sort of, with my wife who reads in the adjoining room. Sometimes I get so caught up in pipes out in the garage that time flies and the entire afternoon and evening are gone. I have purchased a second unit which I will permanently screw to my garage work table surface. I find that filing the stem’s button contour and buffing the bowls with a shoe brush are greatly improved with the help of the Bench Pin.