Tag Archives: Banding a cracked shank

Resurrecting a Butz Choquin Commander 1028 Rhodesian

Blog by Steve Laug

This is the third pipe that I a working on for the pipe smoker who stopped by my house last week and dropped off his pipes for repair. This one is a Butz Choquin Rhodesian. It is stamped Butz Choquin over Commander on the left side of the shank and under that it is stamped Filtre Extra. On the right side, the shape number 1028 is stamped. It was another one that had a replacement stem that is a tight fit in the shank. The owner was pretty sure that the replacement stem is what cracked the shank in two places and that certainly could be true. The stem was oxidized and had tooth marks on both sides just in front of the button. The briar is in rough shape. The rim had a coating of lava that overflow from the bowl and had a lot of nicks and dings from where the pipe had been knocked against a hard surface to remove the dottle. The bowl had a thick crumbly cake that was uneven. There were burn marks around the outer edges of the rim. The double ring had been nicked and some of the band around the top of the bowl was broken. The shank had two cracks on it – one on the right side that extended half way along the shank and one on the top left that was about a ¼ inch long. The finish was gone and the stamping had been over buffed somewhere along the way so it was hard to read. I took a close up photo of the rim and bowl to show the damage and overflow onto the rim. The nicks and roughness are visible in the bowl. It appears that the bowl had been over reamed somewhere along the way and there was a gap between the bottom of the bowl and the entrance of the airway into the bowl. The second photo below shows the crack in the shank on the right side. It was quite long and rough to touch.The next photos show the condition of the replacement stem. You can see the oxidation and tooth marks on both sides and on the button top itself.I took some close up photos of the cracked shank. I circled both cracked areas in red. (I apologize for the blurry second photo. I should have checked the pic before I move on but did not. The crack is still visible.)I drilled a small hole with a microdrill bit at the terminus of both cracks to stop the crack from expanding further. (Again they are circle in red in the photos below.)I pressed briar dust into the cracks and put super glue on top of the dust to fill in the crack and the drilled hole. I sanded the fills until they were blended into the shank.I put the band onto the end of the shank and heated it with a heat gun to expand it. Once it was hot, I pressed it down against a board that I use for this purpose. Make sure to hold the shank straight up and down to keep the band moving up the shank evenly.Once the band was in place on the shank and the end was even with the end of the shank I let is cool. As the band cooled, the cracks were held tightly together and from the end of the shank were visible only if you knew where to look. I took photos of the newly banded shank to show the look of the pipe with the band. I lightly topped the bowl on the topping board with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the rim damage and burn marks.I reamed the bowl with the PipeNet reamer and the Savinelli Fitsall Reamer to take the cake back to the bare walls. I sanded the bowl with sandpaper to smooth it out. I scrubbed the rim and airway in the shank and the stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. There was still work to do but it was getting there. I sanded the oxidation and build up on the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove it and the tooth marks. Those that could not be sanded out I filled with black super glue.I cleaned out the grooves around the bowl with a thin blade and wiped it down with alcohol. I sanded the rim cap and the ring to smooth out the damage and give me a clear picture of what I needed to do to repair these areas. The two photos below show the damaged areas.I filled in the missing spots on the ring with super glue and briar dust. I used a sharp knife to clean out the rings from the excess glue and fill. I used a piece of sandpaper to sand the edges on the centre ring. I was able to fill in the majority of the damage though there were still some spots on the ring that showed damage.As I cleaned and sanded the rim cap with micromesh sanding  pads I noticed one more small crack on the left side of the bowl from the edge of the rim down the side of the bowl. It was not all the way through the bowl into the inside of the bowl but it was there. I used a microdrill bit on the Dremel to drill small holes at the end of the top edge and also on the hook of the bottom edge of the crack. I filled in the holes and the crack with super glue and briar dust. I sanded the spots once the glue had dried. I smoothed out the repair to blend it into the rest of the briar.I stained the bowl with dark brown aniline stain and flamed it with a lighter to set it in the grain. I repeated the process until I was happy with the coverage on the briar. The stain blended the repairs on the shank and the bowl with the rest of the briar. They are still visible if you know where to look but really look like small black spots in the briar.I hand buffed the bowl with a microfibre cloth and took the following photos to show the state of things at this point in the process. I am pretty happy with the finish at this point. I opened the slot in the button with needle files – both a flat oval and thicker oval to make it easier to pass a pipe cleaner through to the bowl. Once it was clearly opened I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the file marks in the slot.I turned my attention to the surface of the stem. The oxidation was deep and it took some work to get it out. I worked on the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the surface oxidation. It removed much of the oxidation but there was still work to be done. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads. The photo below shows that there was still some oxidation to work on. I buffed it with red Tripoli to further remove the oxidation. I was happy with it once it was buffed. I dry sanded it with 3200-4000 grit pads. The second photo shows the stem after that buffing. The oxidation was finally conquered. I rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil. I polished it with the last three grits of micromesh – 6000-12000 grit pads and rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil. I set it aside to let the oil dry.I buffed the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel to polish out the last of the scratches. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax with the wax wheel. I buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine and with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The third pipe is finished for the pipe smoker who dropped them by for me to restore. This one had a few challenges but I think they were met and the pipe looks better than when I began. Thanks for looking.

Banding and Restoring a Radford Ravel Rhodesian

Blog by Steve Laug

I am working on the second pipe I chose to work on in the lot of nine pipes I am restoring for the pipe smoker who dropped by a box of pipes that badly needed attention. This one was stamped Radford Ravel and had a mixed finish of smooth top and sandblasted shank and bottom part of the bowl. It is a Rhodesian and the cap is smooth and the rest is sandblast. It was finished in a dark brown stain. The finish was very dirty and there were quite a few sandpits and nicks in the smooth portion of the bowl cap. The shank was crack on the lower right side and extended from the shank end up the shank about a ¼ inch. The stem was a replacement and had a brass washer on the tenon and glued against the shank. When the new stem was made the maker put a space on the tenon to add colour to the stem. I figure that the new stem is what cracked the shank. When I received the pipe the stem did not fit tightly. There were tooth marks, tooth chatter and a lot of oxidation on the stem. There was also a bead of glue around the washer on the tenon.

There was something about the brand on the pipe that rang a bell for me. I have a tin of their Sunday’s Fantasy Tobacco in my cellar and I wondered if they might have made pipes as well.

I did a bit of digging and found the picture on the left that showed some of the tobaccos made by the company and also a great figurine with the name Thomas Radford mild premium pipe tobacco on the base. On Pipedia I found that Radford’s Private Label Pipes were crafted by Chacom for the Pöschl Tabak GmbH & Co. in Germany. This information was from “Pipes, Artisans and Trademarks”, by José Manuel Lopes. The pipes were mass produced with ebonite and acrylic stems and were introduced by Butz-Choquin, Chacom, and Nording. On the stem there is generally an embossed logo that was a stylized R. The pipes were made to use 9mm filters and are moderately priced and very attractive. The following three links were the sources I used for this information.




I also looked on another website and got a little more information on the brand. The Radford’s pipe appears in 6 models in 3 variations 1x time a year in autumn. The so called Radford’s Depot contains a minimum of 1 dozen pipes of the actual running collection. Connected to the depot is a listing of the depot holder in Radford’s News.

This particular brand RADFORD’S SERIE RAVEL was a series of 6 elegant models within Radford’s Collection. They are made from good briar wood, sandblast, black/brown with a polished head’s border in dark-red shade. Very nice rich-in-contrast ring at the shaft’s finish. Mouthpiece from Acryl for 9 mm filter. http://cigar.supersmokers.biz/radfords/

With all of this information I now knew that the pipe was originally made for a 9mm filter. The mortise was drilled deep in the shank to contain the 9mm filter. The replacement stem was a regular push stem without a filter tenon. I took some photos of the pipe before I started working on it. The finish was in really rough shape. You can see the glue and sticky material on the stem near the shank band. I took a photo of the inside of the shank to show the thick tars that had built up on the walls of the shank. The space in the mortise between the end of the tenon and the extra depth for the end of the original filters was filled with tar and oils. It was thick and sticky.I took a close up photo of the bowl to show the thick cake that lined the walls of the tapered bowl. The photo also shows the damage to the front of the bowl where the pipe had been tapped out against a hard surface. The second photo below shows the crack on the right underside of the shank. It appeared to me from the smooth area and the look of the stain that someone had tried to glue the crack and do a repair but it was not done well.The next two photos show the damage to the stem. The calcium build up on the button end of the stem, the oxidation and glue that is globbed on the stem to hold the washer in place on the tenon and the deep tooth marks on both sides near the button show in the photos.I scrubbed down the surface of the bowl with acetone on cotton pads to remove the damaged finish and the grime and oils in the grooves and crevices of the sandblast. I wanted the surface clean so that I could drill a hole to stop the crack before binding it together with glue and a nickel band on the shank. I drilled two pin holes at the end of the shank with a microdrill bit on a Dremel. The first one was slightly short of the end of the crack so I had to drill a second one.I heated the band to make the fit easier on the shank. I painted the shank end with some slow drying super glue and pressed the band in place against the topping board.I scrubbed the bowl with alcohol on a cotton pad to remove that last of the dust. I took pictures of the bowl with the new bling addition. I reamed the bowl with the PipNet reamer to take back the cake to the bare walls of the bowl. I finished the reaming using a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife to scrape the inside of the bowl smooth. I rolled some 180 grit sandpaper around the end of my finger and sanded the walls of the bowl smooth.To remove the damage to the top of the bowl and to clean up the rough front edge of the bowl cap I lightly topped it on a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper.With the bowl exterior cleaned and the damaged rim top repaired I worked on the inside of the mortise and the airway from the mortise end into the bowl. I used the drill bit that is in the handle of the KleenReem pipe reamer to ream out the airway into the bowl. I turned the bit into the bowl using the knurled end to press it through. I cleaned off the drill bit and used the dental spatula to scrape the walls of the mortise all the way to the end where the airway entered the bowl. The amount of grit and oils that came out with the scraping was phenomenal.I wiped the bowl cap down with alcohol and filled in the sandpits around the outer walls of the cap with clear super glue.I cleaned out the shank and mortise once again with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners until I had removed all of the loose debris left in the shank.I sanded the repaired patches on the cap with 220 grit sandpaper until the repairs were blended into the surface of the briar. I used a black Sharpie Pen to darken the spots and then wiped the bowl and cap down with alcohol to blend in the black. I scraped the area around the washer and the tenon with a sharp knife and funneled the end of the tenon to facilitate better airflow in the stem. I cleaned out the airway in the stem with pipe cleaners, alcohol and cotton swabs.I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to clean up the stem surface and wiped the tooth marks down with alcohol. I filled in the tooth marks with black super glue and set the stem aside to let the glue cure.I stuffed a cotton ball into the bowl and rolled a cotton pad into the shank. I set the pipe in an ice cube tray and used an ear syringe to fill the bowl with alcohol and let it sit during the day. I left it sitting all day while I worked on the slot in the stem. At the end of the day the cotton had yellowed the cotton and the alcohol had pulled out tar and oil from the bowl walls.I used needle files to open up the slot in the button. I used a flat, flattened oval and regular oval file to open the slot. I folded a piece of sandpaper and sanded out the inside of the newly opened slot. After sanding it the slot was open enough to easily take a pipe cleaner. By this time the alcohol/cotton ball soak in the bowl was finished. I pulled the cotton balls out of the bowl and the pad out of the shank and threw them away. I cleaned out the shank and airway once again with cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. Once it was clean I stained the bowl with dark brown aniline stain cut 50/50 with alcohol. I flamed the stain to set it in the grain. I repeated the process until the coverage was what I was looking for.I rubbed bowl down with olive oil on a cloth and hand buffed the bowl with a rough cotton cloth. I took some photos of the new look of this old Radford Ravel pipe. The bowl is starting to look really good and shows some promise. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads to remove the scratches and raise a shine on the vulcanite. I removed the brass washer on the stem and polished it with sandpaper. I reglued it onto the tenon with super glue. I wet sanded the stem with 1500-2400 grit pads and rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil. There were still scratches and also some oxidation. I repeated the sanding with those pads and then moved on to dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed it down with the oil after each set of three pads. After the final pad I gave it a final coat of the oil and set it aside to dry. I buffed the stem with Red Tripoli to try to remove the remaining oxidation and then buffed the entire pipe and stem with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. I polished the metal band with a jeweler’s polishing cloth. I gave the stem and bowl multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise a shine. I hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine on the briar. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It has come a long way from the way it looked when I received it to work on. I really like the looks and the shape of the pipe. I have now finished two of pipes that the pipe smoker dropped off for me to restore before he left on holiday. I look forward to seeing what he thinks of his pipes.

Restoring a Semi-Churchwarden Pipe

Blog by Steve Laug

When I picked up the lot of pipes from my brother Jeff there was a small churchwarden, just seven inches in length among the assorted pipes. It was a dark sandblasted bowl with an undertone of dark brown and an overstain of medium brown. The bowl was in excellent shape and the rim was very clean. It was stamped on the underside of the shank with the words SEMI over CHURCHWARDEN over Italy. The shank was thinner on the top than on the bottom side. As I examined it I could see a small hairline crack on the right top side of the shank. The finish was perfect with no tars or build up on the rim and no cake in the bowl. The stem was oxidized to an ugly brown and the one side that looked like it had a ‘–‘ logo on the left side. The problem was that the side of the stem had been flattened in that area and if it was a logo it made the stem out of round. There was some tooth chatter on the top and the bottom of the stem at the button but there were not any deep tooth marks that I had to deal with. The way the pipe was made with the flat bottom made it a sitter.CW1I took some photos of the pipe when I brought it to the work table. These give a pretty clear picture of the condition of the pipe when I started cleaning it up. The shank needed to be repaired and the stem cleaned up and made round on the flat side.CW2 CW3I took a close-up photo of the rim to show the state of the inner and the outer edge of bowl. The sandblast finish was clean and the blast on the rim was well done. I also took some photos of both sides of the stem at the button to show the tooth chatter and the lack of deep dents or tooth marks. The fourth photo shows the stamping on the smooth bottom of the shank.CW4 CW5 CW6I cleaned out the inside of the mortise and the airway to the bowl and in the stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol.CW7I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the surface oxidation and begin the process of cleaning it off.CW8I cleaned the flat surface on the left side of the stem and then began to build up the smooth area to bring the stem back to round. I sprayed it with an accelerator and then gave it a second coat of glue.CW9I put the stem in the shank and sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out and blend in the patch to the rest of the stem. I worked on it with the sandpaper until the surface was smooth to touch and blended well with the rest of the vulcanite.CW10Once it was smooth and round I wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads and wiped it down with Obsidian Oil. I dry sanded it with 3200-4000 grit pads and gave it another coat of oil. CW11 CW12I went through my assortment of bands to find one that was the correct diameter for the cracked shank. I measured it and then found the correct one. I heated it with a lighter and then pressed it into place on the shank of the pipe.CW13 CW14 CW15I took a close-up photo of the shank end to show the crack at the top of the photo under my finger. I have circled cracked area in red.CW16I finished sanding the stem with 6000-12000 grit micromesh pads and gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil. I set it aside to dry.CW17I polished the band with a jeweler’s polishing cloth and then buffed the pipe and stem with Blue Diamond on the buffer. I gave the bowl and stem several coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. Thanks for looking. This one will show up on the rebornpipes store soon. Send me a pm or a message if you are interested in owning it.CW18 CW19 CW20 CW21 CW22 CW23 CW24

Repairing and Restoring a KBB Yello-Bole 2070B Cutty

Blog by Steve Laug

I was contacted by Robb, a reader of the blog about working on an old Yello-Bole Cutty that he had picked up. He said it was in decent shape but had a cracked shank that someone had already done a repair on. They had glued the shank with wood glue but when the stem was inserted it cracked again. He wanted the shank reglued and banded. We talked about different options for repairing the pipe and the costs of doing it. Finally, in an email he offered to trade me the pipe in exchange for one that I had for sale on the blog – a Kaywoodie Signature Bulldog. The deal was done and the pipe was now mine.

As with many of the pipes I repair and restore I want to learn as much about them as I can. I did some work on the internet trying to find the shape number of the pipe and information on the stamping. After a pretty fruitless search I wrote to Troy Wilburn of the Baccypipes Blog to get some information on dating the pipe. Troy has become my go to guy when I want to learn information on this particular brand of American pipes. He wrote back quickly with a reply which I summarize below. In it he walked me through the meaning of the stamping and how that helped with the dating of the pipe. His quick first answer stated that the pipe was made between 1933-1936. Here is the main portion of what he wrote to me:

“I’ll break down the stamping and numbers for you. Starting with the left side of the shank the pipe is stamped with KBB in a clover leaf and next to that it says Yello-Bole. Underneath it is stamped Honey Cured Briar. Yello-Bole pipes that come from 1933-1936 bore the stamp Honey Cured Briar. On the right side of the shank it is stamped 2070B. The meaning of the numbers breaks down as follows. The number 20 tells us that the stem is black vulcanite with a push tenon made between 1932-1940s. The next two numbers, 70 gives the shape – a long Belgian and that it was made between 1928/9 and 1935. They made a regular 70 (it’s just called Belgian), a large Belgian 70B, and a long Dublin Belgian 70B.”

I took some photos of the pipe with the stem in the shank to highlight the issues that I saw with the pipe. Not only was the shank cracked but the tenon was also cracked and set at an angle to the stem making alignment in the shank impossible. The dimensions of the pipe to give some perspective to the photos are: Length – 8 inches, bowl height – 2inches, outer bowl diameter – 1 ¼ inches, inner bowl diameter – ¾ inches. You can see that it is a large pipe. The finish was crackled and dirty – almost opaque to the point that the grain was hidden. The rim had a lava buildup and the bowl had a thin, uneven cake that covered it top to bottom. The stem was oxidized and yellow. The stinger was glued in place in the tenon with the broken tenon anchored firmly to the metal insert on the stinger. It was also glued in sideways instead of upright.YB1 YB2 YB3I took a close up photo of the tenon and stinger repair that had been done to show the cracked and glue pieces of the tenon on the stinger. You can see in the photo where pieces of the tenon had broken free when I removed the stem from the pipe.YB4The crack in the shank arced from one side of the pipe to the other forming a closed crack. The chunk of briar had been glued in place by what appeared to be wood glue. The repair was not strong enough to protect the shank when the angled tenon was inserted in the mortise. Each time the stem was inserted the crack opened wide. Because it had a start and an end point there was no threat in the crack spreading upward along the shank. I had two options for repairing this. I could either insert a tube inside the shank thus internally banding the pieces in place or I could use a band on the exterior to the same effect. As I worked on the i decided to band the shank rather than do an internal repair. The thinness of the tenon with the stinger in place would make it impractical to reduce the size of the tenon further to fit in the inner tube repair.YB5I removed the stinger from the stem and broke away the pieces of the rubber tenon from the metal insert. The stinger was exceptionally long and once I replaced the tenon I would make a decision what to do with it.YB6I have an assortment of threaded replacement tenons that I use to repair broken tenons. I went through my container and found one that was a good fit in the shank.YB7I used the Dremel and sanding drum to flatten out the broken pieces of the old tenon on the end of the stem. I used the topping board to square up the end. I set up a cordless drill and a drill bit approximately the size of the threaded portion of the new tenon. I turned the stem onto the drill bit and slowly opened the airway to fit the new tenon. Once I had the airway open and deep enough to accommodate the threaded end I used a tap to cut threads into the inside of the stem. YB8I turned the new tenon into the threaded airway in the stem to check the fit. When it was correct I gave the threads a coat of slow drying black super glue and turned the tenon into the stem until it was tight against the face of the stem.YB9 YB10I set the stem aside to let the glue cure and began to work on the crack in the shank. It did not matter which way I chose to repair the shank I needed to clean up the previous repair and remove the dried wood glue. I needed a clean surface to reglue with super glue. Once I had the surface clean I pried open the crack and used a dental pick to push clear super glue into the crack. Once the glue was in place I clamped the shank until the glue set.YB11I sanded the glued shank with 180 grit sandpaper to remove the finish and the over flow of glue from the repair. I wanted to make the surface smooth so that I could either band it externally or do it internally and then refinish the shank.YB12 YB13The next two photos show the gold/yellow colour of the paint in the stamping of the shank on both sides. Once I stripped the bowl of the varnish coat this would disappear and I would need to recreate it.YB14I cleaned out the inside of the shank and the mortise with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs. It was dirty but cleaned up easily. I repeated the same process on the airway in the stem. It too was easy to clean. I reamed out the bowl with the Savinelli Pipe Knife to take the cake back. Underneath the light cake I found that they original Yello-Bole coating was still in place.YB15Once the glue on the shank had cured overnight I carefully put the stem in the shank to check the alignment of the stem and shank. I took the following photos of the pipe at this point in the process.YB16 YB17I wiped the bowl down with acetone on cotton pads to remove the varnish coat that was crackling. It took some scrubbing but the finish came off quite easily and left the colour in the briar.YB18I was careful to not wipe around the repaired shank as the acetone will dissolve super glue and I would be back to square one. I sanded the bowl with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads to further remove the finish.YB19I wiped the bowl down with a light coat of olive oil to see what the grain looked like.YB20 YB21I cleaned the shank and used European Gold Rub N’ Buff to restore the gold in the stamping. I really like how Yello-Bole and some of the older American pipes utilized the gold leaf in the stamping to make it highly readable.YB22I scrubbed the stem with Meguiar’s Scratch X2.0 to remove the majority of the oxidation and polish the stem. The residue of the oxidation is shown on the cotton pad under the stem.YB23I sanded the remaining oxidation with 220 grit sandpaper to remove it from the surface of the stem. There were some small tooth marks on the top and bottom sides of the stem as well that I sanded out with the sandpaper.YB24I wetsanded the stem with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads and gave the stem a coat of Obsidian Oil. I dry sanded with 3200-4000 grit pads and gave it another coat of oil. I finished sanding with 6000-12000 grit pads and gave it a final rubdown with Obsidian Oil.YB25 YB26I drilled out the tenon to the diameter of the stinger apparatus that had originally come with the old tenon. I made it large enough that the stinger was removable in order that the pipe could be smoked with or without the stinger.YB27The band that Charles shipped me came on Friday and it was a good fit on the shank. I coated the shank with some white glue and pressed the band onto the shank. I wiped away the excess glue with a damp cotton pad.YB28 YB29I used a dark brown stain pen to touch up the area around the shank repair that extended beyond the band. The colour worked well with the brown/red colour of the stain on the rest of the shank.YB30I buffed the area around the band with White Diamond on the wheel to blend in the stain colour with the rest of the pipe. I buffed the entire pipe with Blue Diamond, being careful to avoid the nickel band. I have found that when I buff the band at the same time as the rest of the pipe the black from the nickel on the buffing pad is transferred to the shank and stem. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil and gave the stem and bowl multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad and then with a microfibre cloth to deepen and raise the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. I really like the way it turned out and I am sure glad that I was able to work a trade with Robb for the pipe.YB31 YB32 YB33 YB34 YB35 YB36 YB37 YB38I took some final photos of the pipe. The first photo shows the stinger next to the bowl and stem go give an idea of the size of the stinger and the second photo shows the stinger in place in the stem. Thanks for looking. YB39 YB40

Restemming and restoring an oval shank billiard with issues

Blog by Steve Laug

I was gifted an oval shank billiard with a broken tenon and no stem by a fellow pipe refurbisher. He knows I like a challenge so he thought that maybe this would be a fun one for me to fiddle with. I looked at it when I unpacked it and spent more time looking at it over the weekend. When I first picked it up I put it in the bin of pipe to be refurbished and pretty much figured it would be one of those that I picked up when I had nothing else to work on. I have a few of those sitting in the bottom of the box. On Sunday I was going through the box trying to decide which pipe I would work on next and picked it up. There was something about it that drew me to work on it next. I can’t tell you what that was; I have no words to describe it. I know though that those of you who refurbish pipes know the feeling and the call of certain pipes. This was one of those. So it came to my work table.

Now that I had made a decision to work on it I took time to look it over and assess it. That is what I always do when I work on a pipe. I look it over and list out what needs to be addressed if I am to bring this pipe back to life. I like to enter into the work with a clear idea of what needs to be done. Doing this keeps me from finding those issues that surprise you in the process – at least most of the time it does. There will always be exceptions to the rule. For this pipe it was pretty straight forward.
Here is a list of the issues:

1. The finish was very rough and the darkening of the briar around the middle of the bowl was worrisome. It was hard to tell if it was potential burnout starting to happen – thus darkening the briar or if it was dirt and grime. I was pretty sure it was just soiled and stained but could not tell for sure until I had reamed the bowl.

2. There were scratches and dents all over the surface of the bowl.

3. There was one large fill on the right side of the bowl, mid-bowl that would need some work. I would either need to pick it out and refill it or repair it.

4. There was a burn mark on the underside of the shank mid-shank.

5. There appeared to be a small crack on the bottom of the shank at the place the stem and shank meet. It extends inward about a quarter inch. It was hard to see as it was hidden in the dings on the bottom of the shank from when the pipe had been dropped and the stem broken.

6. The bowl had a thick cake in it to the point that the tip of my little finger was about all that would fit in the bowl.

7. The rim had nicks and damage to the surface as well as a lava overflow from the cake in the bowl.

8. The stamping was virtually nonexistent. All that remained was a faint stamp on the left top side of the shank near the end – it read Made in London. It would definitely disappear if I banded the pipe to deal with the crack.

9. The airway in the shank and mortise was dirty and clogged. I could push air through it but barely when I blew through the end of the shank.

10. There was a broken tenon stuck in the shank. Generally these are pretty straight forward so I was not too worried about removing it.

11. There was no stem to work from as a model and the oval shank would make matching it a challenge.

Here is what the pipe looked like when I brought it to the work table.Bill1




Bill5 I started the cleanup by pulling the broken tenon. I used the normal drywall screw and had the tools handy. In this case I threaded the screw in gently and was able to pull the tenon out by hand very easily.Bill6

Bill7 I turned to my can of stems for a potential stem. I actually had one that was a decent fit. The tenon was perfect and the fit against the shank end was ideal. The diameter of the stem on the bottom of the oval was too big and would need to be sanded to a correct fit. It happened to be the only oval stem I had at the moment and it was a twin bore bite proof stem. I was careful in fitting the stem because of the small crack in the shank.Bill8



Bill11 I used the Dremel and sanding drum to take off the excess rubber on the bottom of the stem.Bill12 This may be a funny thing to say but as I examined the stem after I fit it to the shank I noticed it had a small hole near the button. When I turned it over to check it out then I noticed that I was dealing with a bite proof stem – a stem with two airholes coming out of the button from the single airway in the stem. Picture the letter Y and you have a good picture of the stem.Bill13 I inserted a greased pipe cleaner in the airway on left airhole and then repaired the hole in the underside of the stem. I used black super glue to fill it and built it up to give a good base. When it dried I sanded it smooth with 220 grit sandpaper to blend it into the surface of the stem.Bill14

Bill15 Reaming the bowl took some effort and several different reamers. I used the PipNet reamer to start and then worked on the bowl with a KLEENREEM reamer. I finished by using a pen knife to clean out the last remnant of carbon in the bowl. I cleaned out the airway in the shank and the stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol.Bill16

Bill17 I topped the bowl on my sanding board and lightly sanded the cracked area and damage on the bottom of the shank end.Bill18

Bill19 I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper and then with a medium sanding sponge to smooth out the scratches. I wiped the bowl down with acetone on cotton pads to remove the grime and the remaining finish. The new stem fit really well and I only wished that the shank did not have the small crack that mad banding a necessity.Bill20



Bill23 I cleaned the area around the fill on the right side and repaired it with super glue. I sanded it smooth and then sanded the bowl with a medium grit sanding sponge.Bill24 I heated the briar with a heat gun and then applied a coat of cherry stain to it. The stain took well and sat deeply in the grain of the bowl.Bill25


Bill27 With the stain in place the crack on the underside of the shank was very visible. It was mid shank and extended about ¼ inch. At this point I had to decide how to address this crack. I could do a shank insert and do an internal repair or I could band it. In looking over the shank I realized that the tenon was already quite thin and I would be hard pressed to make it smaller to fit inside of a shank insert. I would need to band the pipe.Bill28 I had a round band that would fit once I flattened it. I opened the crack with a dental pick and filled it with glue to repair the crack and then pressed the band into place on the shank.Bill30


Bill32 I lightly sanded the tenon as the band made the fit in the shank too tight. I put the stem in place and took the next photo to get an idea of the new look.Bill33 I set the bowl aside and worked on the stem. I sanded it with micromesh sanding pads. I did my usual routine with the micromesh pads – wet sanding with the 1500-2400 grit and dry sanding with the rest of the pads up to 12000 grit. I used Obsidian Oil as usual.Bill34


Bill36 I buffed the nickel band with a jeweller’s cloth and buffed the pipe on the wheel with Blue Diamond polish. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed it on a clean flannel buffing wheel and then by hand with a microfibre cloth to raise the shine. The finished pipe is shown below. I think that taking the time to recondition and restore this pipe paid off with a beautiful oval shank billiard. Thanks for looking.Bill37







Midterm Exam #4: Re-Refurbishing an Unknown Bulldog

Blog by Anthony Cook

It’s time for the fourth and final midterm exam! This one is an “unknown” bent bulldog that I picked up from eBay. I snagged it because I liked the shape and it was cheap. What I didn’t know at the time, but became immediately apparent when the pipe arrived, was that the end of the shank had been shattered into at least three pieces and glued back together. There was no stamping on the pipe, but I don’t think that was always the case. It was likely sacrificed during the shank repair. The repair is fairly obvious in my photos below, but I assure you that it was not nearly so in the seller’s. The right combination of lighting and angles can cover up a multitude of sins, folks. Caveat emptor.

The exposed cracks weren’t the worst part of the story though. The repair did as much damage to the pipe as the crack did. An alarming amount of material had been taken off while sanding out the excess glue. It’s difficult to see in the photos, because from any one angle everything looked correct. However, if you held the pipe in hand and rolled it around you would notice that no two faces on the shank were equal. The shank was no longer a diamond shape; it was a trapezium. The repairman hadn’t paid much attention to keeping the surfaces level either. So, there was a subtle undulation to the line of the shank as it went from thick to thin and back again several times along its length. There was also very little effort made to blend the repaired area into the rest of the pipe, and several shallow “steps” were visible where the two surfaces met. There was at least an attempt to match up the stem to the shank, but that only gave the stem the same odd angles and even they didn’t quite match up to the ones on the shank. All in all, it was a bit of a travesty. Here are a few photos taken just after it arrived.Anthony1


Anthony3 That was all far more than my tender, noobie hands could handle at the time. So, I cleaned the internals of the pipe and put it away for later, but not before adding a bit of bend to the stem that it seemed to have lost over time.
I’ve finished up work on all the rest of the pipes in that first batch. So, this week it was time to put a collar on that dog and turn in my final midterm.

I started (or restarted I should say) by dropping the stummel into an alcohol bath for a couple of hours to soften any coating that might be on the pipe. I had quite a surprise when I removed it later on. It looked fine when it was fresh from the bath, but a hazy, white glaze began to form on the surface as it dried. I hadn’t seen anything like this before and I’ll admit to a brief moment of panic. I assumed that this was probably the result of some type of coating reacting to the alcohol. So, I wiped the stummel down with acetone taking extra care around the shank repair, since acetone will break down superglue. That did the trick and the stummel cleaned up nicely.Anthony4 I set up the retort to see if I could remove any more tar buildup from the pipe. I flushed the shank about 10 times with boiling alcohol before allowing the pipe to cool. I noticed that the vial appeared to be losing a lot of liquid during the retort. The cotton wasn’t discolored. So, it wasn’t gassing out through the bowl. It really had me scratching my head until I saw a spot of moisture on the shank when I was removing the retort. For some reason, it wasn’t sealing well at the mortise and I’d need to look into that before I went much further.Anthony5 I gave the pipe a post-retort scrub of the stem and shank, and then inspected the crack repair for gaps. The surface of the glue joints looked airtight, but I noticed that the glue hadn’t penetrated very deep. The joints left shallow fissures inside the mortise and along the shank face. I used a small pushpin to place a little super-thin CA glue directly into the fissures, and then used a toothpick to apply a thin layer of the CA around the end of the mortise to create a seal inside as well as out.

When the glue was dry, I sanded out the interior patches with sanding needles and a piece of 400-grit sandpaper wrapped around a small dowel. I refaced the shank on my topping surface in a manner similar to how I would top a bowl (pressing lightly into the paper and using a circular motion). The following pictures show the patches when fresh and after they had been sanded out. You can also get some idea of the irregularities in the shank by comparing the differences in the face angles and wall thickness around the mortise.Anthony6 After that, I reattached the stem and ran a retort through it again to test for leaks. The outside of the stem and shank stayed dry as a bone through the whole process. So, I began addressing the pipe’s cosmetic issues.

I lightly topped the bowl and chamfered the inner rim to remove the scratches and dings. Then, I steamed a few dents out of the finish by pressing a screwdriver that had been heated over a tea candle into a wet cloth placed over the dents. Finally, I used CA glue and briar dust to patch a few, small gouges and missing fills and sanded them out with 220-grit and 320-grit sandpaper.Anthony7 While I worked on the stummel, the stem had been soaking in an Oxyclean bath. I removed it and scrubbed it down with a Magic Eraser to remove any oxidation. I used black CA glue to fill the tooth dents on the top and bottom of the stem. Once that had dried I sanded it down with 220-grit paper.Anthony8 The stem button needed to be rebuilt since it was worn and dented. I wrapped several layers of clear tape around the stem just below the button to create a form to make a crisp edge and also inserted a Vaseline smeared wedge of cardboard into the slot to seal it. Then, I applied thick, black CA glue in several layers to the end of the stem to begin building the new button. It wasn’t a pretty thing to look at when I removed the tape, but the edge was sharp and there was enough material to work with. I trimmed away the glue artifacts created by the tape molding with an X-Acto blade and rough-shaped the new button with 220-grit paper.Anthony9 Once the button started taking shape, it was time to do something about the other end of the stem and also the deformity of the shank. This was the part of the exam that I had not been looking forward to. Up to this point, everything had been the equivalent to multiple-choice or fill-in-the-blank questions. There were a couple of challenges, but nothing too rough. The next part was more like the essay section.

After a lot of thought, I finally decided that there just wasn’t enough material left around the stem to square everything back up. So, I thought I’d try some trickery of my own. If I couldn’t make everything right, maybe I could use a little more finesse and subtlety than the original repairman did to make it at least look “righter”. If ya can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

I used 220-grit sandpaper to start carefully nudging the edges of the shank and stem saddle this way and that to give them an appearance of alignment. All the while I paid special attention to keep the faces as level and even as I could. There was very little technical skill involved. I was basically just freehanding. Once I had corrected the lines as much as I could, I began blending the reworked areas into the rest of the pipe with 320-grit. The photo below shows the progress somewhere early in the reshaping phase. Honestly, I was at this for a while and kind of lost myself in the middle of it. So, I didn’t get many photos.Anthony10 When I was as satisfied as I was likely to be with the shape of the shank and saddle, I went back to work on the rest of the stem to finish it up. I continued shaping the button with 320-grit and 400-grit paper. Then, I smoothed the entire surface by lightly sanding with 600-grit and 1200-grit paper. Finally, I polished the stem with micro-mesh pads 1500-12000.Anthony11 The stem work was wrapped up. So, it was time to do the same for the stummel. The off-kilter shape of the shank made it difficult to find a band that would fit well. It took three attempts before I found one that would work. I used a method for shaping a round band for the diamond shank similar to what Steve has previously written about here, but it took quite a bit of reworking to get it to conform to the now strange dimensions of the shank. I’m still not quite happy with how it fits, but I’m not sure what I could have done differently.Anthony12 There was nothing left to do at that point but to address the finish of the stummel. I wanted the final color to be close to the original but a little darker to help hide the bit of crack repair that was still visible. I heated the stummel over the heat gun to open the grain and then applied Fiebing’s black dye to the stummel. I then sanded down the surface with 400-grit paper to remove the remaining scratches and most of the black stain, except for what had set in the grain and recesses of the rings. Next, I applied a mahogany stain before sanding with 600-grit and 1200-grit paper. I took the stummel to the buffer and gave it a quick Tripoli buff, and then applied a final stain of British Tan.

The stummel was polished with micro-mesh pads starting with 3600-grit and working through to 12000-grit. I then buffed the entire pipe with white diamond compound and gave it several coats of carnauba wax to finish it up.

I leaned back in my chair and checked the clock on the wall. There were only minutes to go and most of the other seats were already empty. I had to admit that this was really as good as it was going to get. So, with a sigh, I stood up from my chair, gathered my exam materials, and delivered them to the desk at the front of the room…Anthony13




Some remarks on dealing with cracks and splits in briar pipes – by Jacek A. Rochacki, Bydgoszcz, PL, 2014

This morning I received the following email and article from Jacek A. Rochaki from Poland. I have included Jacek’s email in full as he gives a great introduction to himself. He comments on his English and does not need to as it is very good. Thank you Jacek for a wonderful article on repairing cracks in briar pipes.

My name is Jacek A. Rochacki – Jacek for Friends. I am a retired sculptor, silver and goldsmith, conservator, also author of texts on history, theory and practice of applied art in metal and applied art in general plus on conservation; my second professional “incarnation” is historian of applied art. I have been also teaching these subjects in Denmark and in my native Poland.

My imperfect command of English has prevented me from writing much, but my sincere wish to help in repair/restoration of pipes and thus saving them has prompted me to write some remarks with hope, that you will kindly forgive my eventual linguistic mistakes. Let me say that this text in much shorter form has been already published in English-speaking pipe-internet, unfortunately it somehow disappeared so after revision I decided to make the second edition. I should also say that it should be rather written in past tense, not in present tense, as I am not anymore active in my studio.

With kindest regards, Jacek in Poland

Jacek A. Rochacki
Skype: jarochacki

Cracks and/or splits in the stem and in the bowl of briar pipes are often repairable; let me indicate step by step how I have been dealing with such problems. Let me begin by dealing with cracks in the bowl.

1. On the very end of the crack/split the tiny hole should be drilled by a drill of, say, 0.5-0.6 mm in diameter. But kindly keep in mind that this hole should not go through the wall of the bowl just should be drilled deep enough to serve as “stopper” preventing the crack/split to continue. This is an old technique known to woodworkers and restorers/conservators knowledgeable in techniques, tools, workshop of applied art objects. In case of the bowl (or shank) of briar pipe it is not necessary to use the drilling machine but you can twist the drill bit with your fingers.

2. Delicate but thorough cleaning of the crack/split in order to remove any sort of dirt, especially to degrease the crack/split itself and the adjoining/neighboring area. I often use “pure” alcohol, say, 98-99%. Then the cleaned bowl should dry for a period of, say, two-three days.

3. When the crack/split and the adjoining area of the briar is clean and dry, I simply use the properly chosen glue. Some sources recommend the cyano-acrylic glue, possibly in the consistency of gel rather, then in very liquid form. I was told that so called Super Glue should do the job, but I use a two part epoxy resin with a hardener, which meets two conditions: it is heat-resistant, and it creates a “flexible” joint. This is important because during thermal operations (pipe smoking) the briar “works” – gets larger and smaller according to the change of temperature.

The two part epoxy resin which I use, according to the representative of the manufacturer of this glue will be “working” – getting larger and smaller when “exposed” to change of temperatures in a way similar to briar. This very glue – as I’ve been informed – is heat resistant up to 200 C/392 F. Unfortunately I was given the epoxy as a gift in two small samples and not the original jars, so I can’t give more precise information. All I know is that the manufacturer is Chester Molecular Company. So when I have the glue ready, I apply it into the crack/split as deeply as possible; the experienced restorer, “clever with his hands” may even try with utmost possible care to split the crack a little wider in order to let the glue penetrate as deeply as possible. Here I do not have to mention, that it is an extremely risky operation, because the widening of the split may cause the bowl to break! When the glue is applied, you have to press the glued bowl in order to let the glue do its job. I often place the glued bowl (wrapped in some soft textile, leather or felt in order to prevent damage of the surface) in a vice jaws and carefully apply the force; a simpler method would be just to use thread wrapped tightly several times around the glued briar. I let it sit for rather long time to dry thoroughly – details should be provided by the glue manufacturer.

Gluing stems pressed by “force wrapping” with thread

Gluing stems pressed by “force wrapping” with thread

4. When the glued bowl has dried, there is time to clean the surface. At first I would got rid of eventual “overflow” of the glue from the surface by use of engraving tools, scrapers or even ordinary, but sharp pocket knife. Since I often deal with a sandblasted bowl I would not go for sandpapers, just do the job with sharp tools mentioned above, trying to follow texture/grooves of the sandblasted finish. In case of various Dunhills that came through my hands I didn’t find necessary to improve the color by staining the bowl. I just ordinarily use a professional polishing/buffing machine with polishing textile mops with turning with speed of approximately 2200 – 2800 r.p.m. with use of (gradually):

a. A pre-polish paste/material (like German Menzerna, or other modern equivalent of traditional Tripoli compound).

b. A”white” polishing material (like White Dialux (ed. White Diamond in North America).

c. Carnauba wax/resin, known to the pipe world does the job well.

In many cases it is enough; typing this text I am smoking my Dunhill ES Shell Briar, vintage 1967 which came into my possession with a bowl severely damaged, and since I applied the procedures described above it smokes perfect, with no signs of reappearing cracks that are repaired.

Restoration of crack in a Dunhill ES

Restoration of crack in a Dunhill ES

Restored Dunhill ES

Restored Dunhill ES

But in some cases it would not be amiss to enforce the glued bowl by applying the element of metal – possibly of silver of high quality – a ring. In some cases it would make sense to create not just a top ring/band but whole “cap”, sometimeswith metal “mustaches” that will cover and enforce the fixed cracks.

Top “cap” and stem band

Top “cap” and stem band

Band with LK monogram

Band with LK monogram

Top “cap” with “mustaches”

Top “cap” with “mustaches”

Top “cap” with “mustaches”

Top “cap” with “mustaches”

Continuing the topic of repairing cracks or/and splits: I know about different metal – often silver – elements, used in repair procedures. They are used mainly in order to re-enforce the construction/structure weakened by the crack/split/mechanical damage, and to mask the place that has been damaged as well. This simple sentence/statement should be a topic for longer explanation; let me just say, that “silver” – more precisely: the two component alloy of silver and copper is recommended because of its softness – thus it has a better ability for three dimensional forming – but it is also (unfortunately) a good conductor and “keeper” of heat. So I would keep this in mind, and always take this under consideration, when thinking on using large portions of silver element to be fixed on the surface of the bowl. The wrong distribution of the heat may result in a burned/charred smoking chamber at the place, where the fairly large piece of the “heat keeper”=silver element is permanently fixed on the outside of the bowl. I say this with regard to what I read sometimes on the internet about the usage of metal – maybe silver – fairly large elements in the process of repairing such or similar damages.

I believe that we should pay attention to the kind of silver – silver alloy employed in the repairing process. Remember, that the higher amount of pure silver (or gold) in the alloy, the easier the process of forming will go (of course after proper “softening” which goldsmiths and silversmiths call annealing). So I am a smith, who, for dealing with many cases, instead of using “Sterling Silver”, so common these days which is an alloy of 92.5% of pure silver and 7.5% of copper, will go for “old fashioned” alloy once popular among British top silversmiths, named Britannia Standard and which consists of 95.8% of pure silver. For some purposes I would use even pure silver plate or elements like clasps, because of the absence of copper prevents the “bad” chemical processes which may eventually trigger out, when elements containing copper contact with condensate and make foul taste in a carelessly repaired pipe. The higher amount of pure silver or gold in the alloy, the more such alloy is usable for forming.

I mentioned clasps. I use them often when repairing long cracks/splits in the shank of a pipe, especially at the bottom of Canadian shaped pipes, when the use of “traditional” silver or gold band would cover part of the signature or, because of technical reasons I do not want to go over the whole area of the shank at the repaired area. I want to avoid intrusion into the markings area at all costs as I am an applied art conservator. But sometimes it is impossible to make a repair band with sort of “windows” showing the signature – the whole area or part of it. I put strong accent on this aspect as signatures/markings must never be masked/covered/destroyed, like in restoration of other objects of art. I make my clasps usually of 0.4 mm in diameter pure silver wire and I place them in specially elaborated/carved grooves/”nests”, always keeping their tops at the level of briar surface of the repaired area. Then I usually cover the area repaired in such way with very thin (0.3-0.4 mm) plate of silver, leveled up to the surface of the outer briar area at repaired place.

Cracks reinforced by clasps of pure silver in order to avoid bad chemical reaction with condensate and ready for fixing silver plaquettes or repair ring with “window”

Cracks reinforced by clasps of pure silver in order to avoid bad chemical reaction with condensate and ready for fixing silver plaquettes or repair ring with “window”

Cracks reinforced by clasps of pure silver in order to avoid bad chemical reaction with condensate or ready for repair ring with “window” – before and after fixing silver plaquettes or repair ring

Cracks reinforced by clasps of pure silver in order to avoid bad chemical reaction with condensate or ready for repair ring with “window” – before and after fixing silver plaquettes or repair ring

Silver plaquettes with monograms covering cracks fixed with clasps

Silver plaquettes with monograms covering cracks fixed with clasps

Sometimes I put my signature, and even the stamp REP (repaired) on it as it should be done in professional conservation to mark change in the original object, or just an engraved ornament in order to make such plate looking nice. This we may consider as symbolic homage to great British and not only British tradition of silver craft, where the way of placing the hallmarks, maker’s marks etc. used to be an important part of the aesthetics of the composition of the stamped object. And I go similar way in case of repair band/ring if I deal with split at the end of the shank. I believe that we all are familiar with ornamental silver rings; some of them may be repair rings first of all. (The following photos show some of the ornamental rings that I have crafted and used.)