Blog by Joe Mansueto
Joe Mansueto sent me this link to a helpful tutorial on how he repairs broken stems. I thought it would be helpful to post it after I just posted Dal Stanton’s stem repair piece on the blog today. Here is the original link to the Dr. Grabow Web Forum if you want to have a look at the original post and the responses there. http://drgrabows.myfreeforum.org/ftopic9615-0-asc-0.php. Here is Joe’s article.
A new friend snapped his Pete stem… glued it… dropped it… lost some pieces… This is what it looked like when it arrived for me to work on.I drilled some small holes into each face to create ‘roots’ for the patch material…Once the repair dried I sanded it until it was smooth. The photo below shows the stem after sanding. It came out smooth. A bit of a buff is all that’ needed…Back in service… The next photo shows the finished repair. The pipe was ready to go back to its owner for many more years of service.After completing the repair I received a lot of responses and questions about how it was done and if I would make a tutorial for the above repair. The tools/supplies I used (prior to buffing) include 91% isopropyl, a Dremel (with a scribing bit), activated charcoal, and high-quality CA (cyanoacrylate). I say ‘high-quality’ because I get it from a professional wood-turner… and after using his product… the strength and speed of adhesion seems better than anything else I’ve used.
Here is the step by step process:
- ‘Rough up’ the faces / areas being joined. I used the scribing tool on a Dremel. This provides a rough surface for the patch material to adhere to.
- If you want to use the “roots” process that I’ve used, you simply use a tiny drill bit…or a tiny scribing tool to push some holes into the face…making sure you don’t drill in and back “out” again…lol.
Here is an image showing where I might drill holes. With these ‘roots’…the holes do NOT need to be directly across from the roots being drilled on the face of the other broken piece. If I were inserting some very thin gauge wire into these roots (which would lend even more strength)…you’d have to make sure these holes lined up perfectly across from each other…and that’s a whole ‘nother tutorial! Scrub clean the 2 faces being joined…I used the 91% iso and a toothbrush…and let it dry well.
- I used a pipe cleaner as you can see, to keep the 2 faces lined up. Critical to that detail is covering the pipe cleaner in ‘shiny’ scotch / packing tape…because if the patch material gets to the pipe cleaner (and it will), it won’t stick to the shiny tape. The pipe cleaner not only kept these 2 pieces lined up, but also is essentially what “held them together” in place, while the patch dried.
- The patch material is made from the CA and activated charcoal. I used medium viscosity CA. The mix is “close to” 50/50 between the 2…the consistency is more like molasses than honey…very thick.
- To begin with…I used a sharp ended toothpick to jam the patch down into each root. Then covered both faces…held onto the pipe cleaner at one end…and pushed the broken tip down onto the rest of the stem. I made sure that they were sitting at the correct angle…then I smeared enough of the patch to be sure it was all filled / covered.
- Once hard (I let it sit 30 min), I filed off the excess back down near the surface of the surrounding stem…and had to add a 2nd small patch to a spot where it had caved in just slightly.
- Dried again…filed it down with multiple needle files.
- Wet sand (360, 500, 800, 1000).
- Buffed with Tripoli, followed by white diamond.
It is a bit of work just to save a stem…but it’s been a while, I needed the practice….and I preferred doing this instead of refitting the pipe with an aftermarket stem.