Tag Archives: article by Joe Mansueto

Repairing a broken Peterson stem


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.pete1I drilled some small holes into each face to create ‘roots’ for the patch material…pete2Once 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…pete3Back 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.pete4After 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:

  1. ‘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.
  2. 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! pete-jpgScrub clean the 2 faces being joined…I used the 91% iso and a toothbrush…and let it dry well.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Dried again…filed it down with multiple needle files.
  6. Wet sand (360, 500, 800, 1000).
  7. 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.

Using Charcoal & Cyanoacrylate glue to do a Stem Repair on a Dr. Grabow Starfire Churchwarden


Blog by Joe Mansueto -“JoeMan” (Dr. Grabow Collectors Forum)

Joe sent me the following email and an attached link for the article that follows. He has done some excellent work and I have followed it on Pipe Smokers Forums and also on the Dr. Grabow Collectors Forum. It is a pleasure to be able to post his work here on rebornpipes. Welcome and thank you Joe.

“Steve – I’ve looked in on your blog a number of times. Thanks for posting some really good information, and featuring the work of other guys in the field. One of the things I learned here which I had not done before was the use of Plaster of Paris to mend cracked / broken meer-lined bowls. That was helpful…and I think that was one of your own posts. I’d been looking for a better solution…thanks.”

“I’m not looking to get published so much as I’m happy to help other guys with refurb processes. I learned a LOT of things from others who’ve been at it for many years more than I, and have also developed a few of my own techniques…as I’m sure most of us have! Cleaning out gunk…refitting a stem…rusticating….topping a bowl…staining…refinishing…de-oxidizing stems…repairing chips…etc…these are all things I do on a regular basis. Recently, I took my hand to making pipes, and made 2 of them during a stay-home vacation…came out pretty good! But, I see myself primarily as a refurb guy…I really enjoy making an old broken-down relic of a pipe gleam again. If I were to count, I suppose I’ve refurbished most of a thousand pipes over the last 4 years. No…I don’t have 1,000 pipes…most have gone to others by way of sale, trade or gift. I suppose I do have 200 pipes in my collection however.”

“One of the things that most refurb guys seem to struggle with most is chewed / eaten stems. Those nasty tooth indentations…or worse yet…missing chunks from the button. I’ve heard of guys using super-glue, heat, JB Weld, vulcanite dust & glue, and other mad-scientist approaches. There are many good approaches to repairing a stem. The most effective approach I’ve personally found is Cyanoacrylate and activated charcoal. Ed James (AKA Ozark Southpaw online) is just about the best talent I’ve seen in all-things pipes. He too learned from others over many years, but what an innovator this gentleman is. I visited his shop when I was on the road over 2 years ago, and I’ve learned a lot from him. One of his own experiments a few years ago was mixing CA with activated charcoal and comparing the result with other repairs. It was a great discovery, and at the time he did it and shared it on the forum, I’d not seen anyone else doing it that way. I’m not saying it’s the ‘best method’…because you know how some pipe guys can get into struggles over their method being best…but I’ve personally not seen anything more successful. Ed James has not done too many of these CA/charcoal repairs himself…but once he discovered, tested and shared it, I took it and ran with it. Do with this info as you please or nothing at all…but here is one example of the process…”

“At the time of that Starfire churchwarden refurb, I had done a couple hundred stem repairs. Since the time of that refurb, I’ve surely done a couple hundred more, and have tweaked my own process here and there. I’ve done some of these repairs on pipes for myself, but more for pipes which I’ve then sold, as well as others who bring them to me. This one served as a good example, since it was one of the worst cases that I documented. Most of those I’ve done, I’ve not documented at all.” – Joe Mansueto “JoeMan” (Dr. Grabow Collectors Forum)

Here is Joe’s blog:

Just recently got this pipe from Sam (DG forum name SamCoffeeMan – hasn’t been here in a while) along with the Grabow Unique. When I expressed interest in it…Sam said that he’d “cut off 1/2” of the stem, and file out a new button. I said…nnnooooo…leave it original and I’ll fix it.

I am sure the stem is original to the pipe. The stem is identical to the stem on my Linkman Grabow 6033, it is perfectly registered, and the wire carving is that of an ‘early’ Starfire, as you’ll see below. That said, this was surely among the last of the churchwardens to leave the Grabow factory.
Joe1 The previous owner should have had a sandwich instead of smoking this pipe…Joe2

Joe3 This can be fixed!

Bleach soak first, then an isopropyl alcohol scrub of the surgery site to assure the CA will stick best.

The form I used is 2 thicknesses of cereal box cardboard, cut to the shape of the tapered slot opening, wrapped in shiny packing tape. Since both sides of the button were nearly identically eaten, there was nothing to keep the form properly seated. So, I taped the form to a pipe cleaner and pulled it into place as tight as I could, then centered it top to bottom…if that makes sense.Joe4 CA mixed with activated charcoal, applied in multiple layers…Joe6

Joe7 Using a needle file to shape between layers…Joe7 Just about done shaping, ready for multiple-stage wet sanding…Joe8 Buffing…done.Joe9

Joe10 Some of you will know which shape number this medium billiard would be. Bowl height is nearly 1 3/4″, ID is 3/4. Overall length is 11 3/4″.Joe11 This is an older Starfire for sure. It’s got the very deep wire carving which is continuous over the entire pipe as I believe Tom pointed out about Belvedere.Joe12

Joe13 This was originally posted on The Dr. Grabows Collectors Forum. Here is the link: http://drgrabows.myfreeforum.org/sutra87253.php#87253