Tag Archives: Bite Throughs

Dr Grabow Restoration and Stem Repair

Blog by Greg Wolford

I picked up this Dr Grabow Freehand at an antique mall about a month ago when I got the Wally Frank that is visible in the photos, too. It was scratched to heck on all the smooth briar and the stem was chewed completely through. But I went ahead and bought it for three reasons:

– I’ve  never had a freehand
– I have been wanting to restore a stem with a hole or, in this case, a lot of damage
– I got a pretty decent price
So, I picked it up.Greg1




Greg5 I decided to deal with the bowl first, by stripping it with acetone and soaking it overnight in an alcohol bath; I also put the stem in a OxiClean soak at this time.  After removing the bowl from the alcohol bath I then used a brass bristle brush to get all the tar and gunk out of the rusticated top grooves. Then I sanded it to remove all the scratches from the smooth briar and take the old stain off the high points using 400 grit wet/dry sandpaper.Then I used some water based black leather dye on it, getting into the recesses well and wiping of the smooth portions as I went; I wanted to keep that darker contrast in the grooves. After I had it covered to my liking I dried it with the heat gun. Next I went back to 400 grit to take down the high points and smooth areas to remove the small amount of black color from the water based dye. When that looked good to my eye I polished it with 600 grit, wiped it down with 91% isopropyl alcohol on a cotton pad to remove any left over dust and dirt.  I heated it with the heat gun again to make sure the briar was good and dry. When it was nice and warm I applied Fiebing’s dark brown spirit-based leather dye, diluted 2:1 with 91% alcohol and flamed it in; I did this twice. The color was a bit too dark now so I wiped the pipe down, taking care to not soak my cotton pad too heavily or get into the recesses too much, with alcohol until it looked right to me. I then set it aside.Greg6

Greg7 When I soaked the bowl in the alcohol bath I also left the stem in a OxiClean soak overnight. I had removed and washed it well before starting on the bowl so it was ready now to work on.Greg8 I decided to shorten and reshape the stem instead of replacing it or trying to fix the gaping holes. I used a coping saw to cut off the end, saving as much of the stem as I could. The bottom hole had also cracked so it required removing quite a lot of the stem to get most of the crack out. The next step was to grease a pipe cleaner with petroleum jelly and insert it into the stem. I then dripped some Super Glue into the crack and let it set up while I worked on something else.

When I came back to it, the glue was hardened and I was ready to move on to the next step: making a new button. I began this process by scoring a line along the top and bottom of the stem where I wanted the button with a cutoff wheel on my Dremel. After I had the new button laid out, I then started to shape it with various needle files. I began shaping from the button back, forming it into shape with the rest of the stem. This took considerable time to get it even and “natural” looking. When I was satisfied I then began to shape the end of the button.Greg9

Greg10 I shaped the bit with needle files, too, again using several to get the shape right. The first step for this was getting the angle to look right on the top; this didn’t take as long as I expected. I then began to form the bottom of the bit, trying to match the shape of the top as close as I could; this took more time and effort than I’d expected.

Making a new drought hole was something new to me. And was not without its challenges either. I used my needle files, again, to start shaping the new hole, making it a bit taller as well as wider than the hole that was left in the cut off stem. I took the extra time to fan the drought hole, too, partly because I wanted to and partly to see if I could do it. This ended up being some of the most time-consuming and tedious work of the entire project: I needed to make sure I didn’t go too thin in any direction but I wanted the hole to really funnel out well. I am pleased with the results and the way it smokes and would say it was worth the extra time and effort to accomplish it.Greg11

Greg12 After all the shaping I wiped the stem well with alcohol to clean it off for a test fit – to my mouth. The test failed; the bit was too long and too steep. So back to the files I went. I filed, tested, filed, tested a few times until it felt comfortable in my mouth and looked good to me. Now time to get it shiny again.

I began with a fine/medium grit sanding sponge. It worked very well to get in and around the bit to smooth it a bit more and to take out the file marks. I then began wet sanding with grits 220/320/400. At this point I applied some Novus 2 plastic polish. The Novus line come in three grades: 3 – the most course, 2 – the second, and 1 – the final polish. I began using this product on my motorcycle windshield a few years ago and loved it. I have numbers 1 & 2 but have yet to try 3.

After using the Novus, I began with the micro mesh, wet sanding with grits 1500/1800/2400/3200/4000 (I’m not looking at the numbers but I believe that was the correct grit numbers. I applied the Novus 2 again and then polished with micro mesh 6000/8000/12000. Now it was off to the buffer with pipe and stem.

I buffed the pipe several times around with Tripoli to get the color just where I liked it. I then moved onto the white diamond for both the pipe and stem. I took a little extra time on the stem to make sure I fine tuned the button a little more, testing it every so often. After buffing the pipe and stem with white diamond I changed to a metal buffing wheel with blue rouge to polish the metal tenon on the stem; I hate a nicely polished stem that hasn’t has the metal (if there is any) not polished, too.Greg13


Greg15 Several coats of carnauba wax was then applied to both pipe and stem. I did the final buffing with my “mushroom” on my cordless drill. I like the control I have with it and also the fact it’ll reach almost anyplace with little effort. The final touch was to polish the rustication with a soft toothbrush to make sure I didn’t have any wax residue left.Greg16 There were, and still are, some fills in the pipe but I wasn’t particularly concerned with them. Several are on the shank and it would have been “dicey” to try to fix them without ruining the nomenclature. There was one fill on the side that fell out, presumably from the softening of the putty in the alcohol bath. I missed that one until after I had already started smoking it.  If I’d seen it earlier in the process I would have fixed that one but now it’s there for the duration.Greg17 (I couldn’t get a good focused shot of the finished button.)

Stem Repair Just for the Practice

Blog by Steve Laug

Sometimes I just repair a stem because it is there and I can get the practice working with it. Such was the case with the pipe below. It is a very low end pipe with a nylon stem and a metal tenon that holds a paper filter. The bowl of the pipe was rusticated and definitely not a favourite shape or style of mine. This one would not be a pipe I kept or would be tempted to add to the collection. It was solely a pipe that would provide me an opportunity to work on the tooth dents, the bite through holes on the top and the bottom of the stem near the button as pictured in the two photos below. A decision had to be made whether to fill the hole with super glue or to cut of the bitten through end of the stem and reshape a new button. The dents and holes were very big and the stem was truly a mess.
I used heat from a heat gun and boiling water to raise the tooth dents in the stem and then sanded it to provide a smooth surface in front of the button. I wanted to minimize the amount of the stem that I would have to cut off should I choose that method.


I used heat from a heat gun and boiling water to raise the tooth dents in the stem and then sanded it to provide a smooth surface in front of the button. I wanted to minimize the amount of the stem that I would have to cut off should I choose that method.


Once I had leveled the stem out, I again studied the bite through areas. It was clear to me that I was going to cut off the stem and reshape the button. I used a Dremel to cut back the button and the damaged area of the stem. The next three photos show the result of the cut back. I did not have to remove nearly as much as I originally thought I would as the heat had raise many of the tooth marks in the stem. I sanded the stem to smooth out the flow and slope of the stem and remove the remaining tooth damage. Even though the photos are a bit out of focus you can see the work that was done on the stems. If I had doubted that the stem was made of nylon it became very clear as I sanded it. The grey hue of the material can be seen in the photos below.

Once the stem surface was smooth and the remaining dents were minimized it was time to take out the needle files and begin to cut the new button on the stem. I used a square bladed needle file to do the initial cuts in the button. I am always concerned to make a clean straight edge on the button so I find that a square blade with no taper or tip makes that task simple. I then clean it up with a flat bladed file and smooth out the transition between the button and the slope of the stem. The other files in the pictures below are used to shape the button and to define its final form. The three photos below show the files and the progress in cutting the new button. You can also see that the small dents that remained are disappearing in the shaping of the button. Care must be taken not to cut the edge too deeply and recreate the hole in the stem again. In this case I had enough meat on the stem to allow me to cut a well defined button.

Once I had the button cut and defined I put the stem on the pipe to continue the process of refining the line of the stem and smoothing out the transition to the button. I wanted to taper the button toward the lip rather than leave it flat so you can see that in the profile picture below. The stem is just about finished by the time these photos were taken and only needed the final sanding to bring the stem to completion.

The stem was then sanded with 400 and 600 grit wet dry sandpaper to remove the deep scratches and then followed that with micromesh sanding pads from 1500-12000 grit. The finished stem is picture below both in profile and from a top view. The new button is comfortable and the slot is open and passes a pipe cleaner easily.

The pipe provided a great opportunity to work on a stem restoration and the recreation of a button and it has since found a new home in the rack of a happy pipe smoker who needed some pipes for working outside and in the yard. This is a perfect yard pipe and should continue to deliver a great smoke to him as long as he chooses to keep it.

Refurb on the London Made

I finished up the refurb on a London Made billiard. It is a big pipe 7 1/2 inches long. This one was by far the worst one in the lot of three large pipes that I had in my box to refurbish. The rim was in very rough shape with burn marks on the right hand side and dents and scuffs from banging out the dottle. The bowl was heavily caked and the stem and shank were virtually plugged with tars.

I reamed the bowl and cleaned the shank with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and a shank brush and isopropyl alcohol. Then I gave the bowl an alcohol bath over night. The next morning I took it out of the bath, dried it off with a soft cloth. Once it was dry I sanded the bowl with micromesh sanding pads (1500-6000 grit) until it was smooth. I wiped it down with a cotton pad and some isopropyl to clean off the sanding dust and any remaining oils from my hands. I restained it with an oxblood aniline stain thinned with isopropyl alcohol.

I went to work on the stem after that. The stem was in bad shape. There was a very deep cut mark on the top of the stem about a 1/4 inch from the button. There was also a bite through hole on the underside of the stem. I cleaned and sanded the stem until it was black once again. I left the area around the button, on top and bottom, a bit rough and then filled the cut on the top with krazy glue. I greased and inserted a pipe cleaner in the slot and then filled the hole with krazy glue. Once the glue was completely dry I sanded the two fills I made with sand paper – 400, 600 grit, and then micromesh sanding pads from 1800-6000 grit. (I have read of concern by different folks on how the super/krazy glue can melt or cause damage on vulcanite. I have now been using this process for several years and never had a problem. I have used it on both vulcanite and Lucite. In the past weeks I have also used it on a nylon stem without any probems.)

I took the pipe to my buffer and finished the refurbishing with a buff of White Diamond to polish the finish on the bowl and the stem. I gave the entirety several coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a clean flannel buff to give it a shine.

Here are the pics of the finished pipe (once again I forgot to take pictures of the pipe before I worked on it). Thanks for looking. ImageImageImageImageImage

A Creative Pipe Maker’s Anonymous Attempt at a Cool, Dry Smoke

This is another interesting piece of pipe history. I seem to have trouble passing up odd and creative pipe making attempts. I have no idea who designed or made this one or what the patent information is as there is absolutely no stamping or identification on the pipe itself. I remember seeing one on EBay awhile ago but somehow missed keeping the information. If anyone has any information on it please leave a comment in response to this post.

The pipe itself was in rough shape when I got it. The stem is chewed up badly and I have not taken the time to rework the stem. It is the dreaded nylon stem so it always leaves me cold in wanting to work on it. It is probably the most unforgiving stem material there is in my opinion. You can sand and sand it and it does not seem to change the damage. The heat gun and boiling water do not seem to lift the dents and tooth marks at all. What is there seems to be permanent. The bowl was badly caked – in fact so badly caked that it had a split in the side of the bowl. The finish is strange – best I can say about it almost little worm trails in the briar. The stem was stuck in the shank. I thought at first it was a screw tenon it was so tight. Under the stem was the flat base with what looked like an adjustment screw of some kind. It was also stuck tightly.

I reamed the bowl and found that the draught hole was in the bottom of the bowl – like a calabash. I opened that with a dental pick and cleaned it out. I packed the bowl with cotton bolls and filled it with isopropyl alcohol. I use 99% as it has little water content and seems to work well in drawing out the oils and tars. It took quite a bit of alcohol as it filled the reservoir below the bowl. I put a pipe cleaner in the stem and laid it aside overnight. My hope was that the alcohol would not only draw out the tars and oils but loosen the adjusting screw on the bottom of the shank as well as the stem.

In the morning I removed the cotton bolls. They were almost black with the tars and oils that they drew out. The stem was actually loose – that happens so little that I was surprised when I turned on it and it came out. I was expecting a screw tenon and found that it was not at all. It was an aluminum tenon made to hold a Medico style paper filter. The one in the tenon was almost black with grime and now it was soggy as well. I am still trying to figure out the airflow on this pipe. I also was able to turn the adjusting screw under the stem and it came out as well. I expected that it would adjust the airflow somehow (kind of like a Kirsten). But it was not an adjusting screw at all; instead it was a stinger like apparatus with a long twisted blade on it. Now the airflow was becoming clearer. The smoker pulled the air through the bowl down through the air hole in the bottom of the bowl. Once there it entered the chamber that ran the length of the shank and bowl and contained the twisted stinger. That apparatus would pick up the liquids and oils of the tobacco. The smoke would go up through a hole in the top of the chamber and enter the shank where the paper filter would trap the remaining debris of the smoke (and in my opinion whatever flavour still remained) before delivering it out the slot at the end of the stem.

I cleaned out the chamber and the shank by filling them with isopropyl and plugging the holes and shaking the fluid for several minutes. I would unplug and dump the dirty alcohol down the drain. I repeated this until the fluid came out clear. Then I cleaned the chamber and shank with a shank brush and bristle and ordinary pipe cleaners and more isopropyl alcohol until they came out clean and fresh. The stinger soaked in alcohol and I scrubbed it with 0000 steel wool until it shone. The stem needed a lot of cleaning though it was more dirt and grime that came out rather than tars. I was able to polish the tenon inside and out and clean up the stem. The dents and tooth marks I left alone. One day I will have to work them over and see if I can remove them. But not that day!

I scrubbed the outside of the bowl with a bristle tooth brush and Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove all of the grime from the bowl surface. I cleaned out the crack in the bowl with my dental pick. I then wiped it down with acetone and restained it with a medium brown aniline stain, flamed it and then buffed it with Tripoli and White Diamond. Once it was polished and clean I coated it with several coats of carnauba wax and then buffed it with a clean flannel buff.

I finished up the pipe and put it back together. I added a pipe softee bit to cover the bites and dents on the stem and make it more comfortable in the mouth. I packed a bowl of nice Virginia in it to try it out. I decided to leave out the paper filter and just smoke it as it was. It was an interesting and cool smoke though it pretty much removed the flavour of the Virginias that I chose to smoke. This one will sit in the cupboard as a memorabilia item but will not enter the rotation.


Here are the pictures of the process of repair. I patched it with black super glue and built up the angle of the stem to give a clean flow. I filled the dents and bite throughs on both sides of the stem. I sanded and sanded with 240 grit sandpaper and micromesh 1500 through 12,000 grit. Then gave it a coat of Obsidian Oil and finally several coats of wax. The last four photos show the final product.

Refurb on a Two Point Billiard – Gnawed Stem

This is the second Two Point pipe that I had in my box to be refurbished. It obviously was owned by the same pipe man as the little Lovat as evidenced by the matching bite marks. The pipe had an uneven cake in the bowl making the bowl conical even though it was U-shaped in reality under the cake. The rim was dirty and tarred but not damaged with dents or knock marks. The finish was spotty and uneven so the bowl would need to be stripped and restained for good coverage. The biggest problem can be seen in the first two pictures below: the stem was very badly chewed. In the first picture it can be seen that the top of the stem had several deep bite marks and the button was eliminated on the left side. It was more of an upward slope to the tip than the sharp angular edge that was originally there. The round cap of the top of the p-lip button was smoothed out and no longer crowned. In the second picture you can see that the bottom tooth marks and bite throughs had been repaired with what appeared to be epoxy that was fairly caked on the stem tip to the point that the lip line and the button were gone. What remained was a working stem that had no beauty to my eye.


The third and fourth photos show the profile of the button and it can be seen to have been virtually eliminated with the slope of the epoxy on the bottom edge and the chewed top edge. You can also see the state of the finish on the pipe. The spottiness and grime that covered the outside of the bowl are visible. Obviously this was a good smoking pipe that the previous owner cobbed a repair on so that he could continue to enjoy smoking it.


The next two photos are enlarged to show the state of the stems. The first one shows the top of the stem and you can see the two large dents (interestingly they are in the same place as those on the other Two Point pipe).You can also see the wearing away of the edge of the button to a slope. The crown is also flattened. The second shows the underside of the stem and the remaining two dents – one next to the button on the bottom half of the stem and the second inward from that dent. You can also clearly see the epoxy patch that fills the bite through and the button. The usual line that separates the button on the p-lip from the stem is gone. To repair these two surfaces the dents need to be raised and the holes filled to the point where it is possible to cut a new button on the top and the bottom. The crown will need to be built up a bit and the epoxy patch hidden or blended into the black of the stem.


I decided to work on the top side of the stem first and heated the surface of the vulcanite to lift the dents as much as possible. Once that was finished I filled what remained of the two dents with black super glue (see the first photo below). The dent next to the button I over filled so that I could have room to recut the edge of the button. When the glue had dried I sanded it back with 240 grit sandpaper to even the surface. I also recut the button edge to give it more of a sharp distinction. The sanded top surface can be seen in the second photo below.



On the underside of the stem I decided to recut the button and the line with needle files before I refilled the dents and the epoxy patch. I sanded off the extra epoxy to get the surface smooth and level with the surface of the stem. I used 240 grit sand paper to bring the surface down and the needle files to cut the edge on both sides of the line. You can now see that line in the picture below and there is a definite break between the bottom of the p-lip and the stem. It is a duplicate of the button on the Two Point Lovat.


Once I had that recut the button area I filled the surface of the stem with black super glue as seen in the picture below. I propped it with a pen to keep the surface level as I did not want the super glue to run and pool. I also built up the epoxy patch on the edge of the button as well. Once the glue was dry I sanded the surface and did a bit of work with the needle files to redefine the edges. The second picture below shows the sanded stem with a smooth surface.



I finished sanding the stem with 400 and 600 grit sandpaper and water and then moved through the micromesh pads from 1500-6000 grit. The trick was to build a black coating on the epoxy patch. This took repeated coats of the black super glue. Once that was complete then the stem could be polished by hand until I finished with the bowl refinishing.

While I had been working on the stem the bowl had been soaking in the alcohol bath. Before dropping it in the bath I had wiped it down with a soft cloth and acetone (fingernail polish remover works very well) to remove the finish and the grime. It was time for it to be removed from the bath so that I could work on it. The three pictures below show the bowl after it has dried off from the alcohol bath. It now needed to be sanded with micromesh to remove any surface scratches and the rim needed to be thoroughly wiped down in preparation for the staining. I sanded and then wiped it down with a soft alcohol soaked cloth and set up the staining area.


The next four photos show the restained bowl. I used a medium brown aniline based stain (Fiebings Leather Dye) to stain the pipe. Once it was stained I flamed it and buffed it to polish the briar and make the grain stand out. The patterns of birdseye and swirls is quite unique. This is a clean piece of briar – no fills and no problem areas.


I then put the stem on the pipe and buffed the entirety with White Diamond and carnauba wax to bring it back to a shine. The final four photos show the finished pipe. Pay attention to the stem and button areas as they are now very distinct in the profiles and the build-up on the top and bottom give it back its original shape.


Rebuilding a chewed and dented stem with super glue

I just finished reworking this old stem from an Imperial Two Point Made in London Lovat. The stem was very unique in that it is a p-lip design though slotted in the airway. I have a second one that I am working on that has the same stem so I believe this is one of the hallmarks of the Two Point. That being the case I decided to restore the stem rather than cut a new one. You can see the state of the vulcanite from the three pictures below. The first picture is of the top of the stem. There were three major tooth dents in the surface of the stem, two chunks out of the edge of the button and a piece missing out of the edge of the lip of the slot. The second picture is of the underside of the stem. There you can see one major dent from teeth and also several smaller dents. There is also a dent in the edge of the lip of the pipe that has moved the straight line with a dip in it. The third picture shows the slot in the end of the stem, it is a bit out of focus but you can see the missing piece at the left side of the top edge.


I used my heat gun set on low to lift the dents as much as possible before working on the stem with sandpaper and superglue patches. I cleaned the surfaces of both the top and bottom of the stem after heating and then sanded them with 240 grit sandpaper to remove oxidation and anything that would prohibit the glue from sticking. In the first photo below you can see the two patches on the dents that remained after heating on the underside of the stem and the work that has been done straightening the line. I decided to work on the underside first as it needed a bit less repair. Once the glue was dry I turned the stem over and patched the top side. In the second photo below you can see the super glue patches on the surface of the stem, the two dents on the edge of the button to build up the edge. Once it was dry I planned on using needle files on both top and bottom to sharpen the edge of the button to a crisp restored look.


The next two photos show the top and bottom surfaces of the stem after sanding with 240 grit sandpaper to bring the glue patches flush with the surface and using the needle files to sharpen the edges of the patched button.


The next picture (I apologize for the blurriness but I think it still is clear enough to see the point I am making) shows the work that was needed to rebuild the lip of the button on the topside where the chip was. I carefully layered in black superglue making sure not to close off the airway. I used a greased pipe cleaner folded in half in the airway of the slot to provide a base to build on. Once the base was buildt I stood the stem on end and gradually layered in super glue to build up the top edge of the slot. The goal was to return it to a smooth rounded crown with a clean straight slot for the airway.


The next two pictures show the build up area on the end of the button. It is a shiny black spot in the photo at the bottom right edge of the button. Each one shows a bit more of the build up to give an idea of the process. I would have to recut the edge of the button on the top side when the build up was complete.


When I had the surface filled to satisfaction I recut the edge of the button with the needle files and also sanded the surface with 240 grit sandpaper and 400 and 600 grit wet dry and water to smooth out the fill. I then proceeded to use my normal list of micromesh pads from 1500-6000 grit to finish the stem. I put the stem back on the pipe and buffed it with White Diamond. I took it back to the work desk and gave it a coat of Obsidian Oil, wiped it off when dry and gave the stem a final coat of carnauba wax. The pictures below show the finished stem. The first one shows the topside and the rebuilt crown of the button. The glare and shadows on the picture do not allow you to see clearly the recut edge but it is straight and clean. The second picture shows the underside of the stem and the crisp straight edge of the button. The final picture is an end shot to show the slot and the curve and flow of the crown of the button.


Overall I am pleased with the repair and now have a renewed pipe.