Tag Archives: Crafting a Churchwarden a throwaway bowl

Fashioning a Churchwarden from a Blasted French Dr. Geo Deposée Bowl


Blog by Dal Stanton

This is the second commissioning project for the pipe man, clam man, Jon, from South Florida.  His first commissioning (see: A Striking Savinelli Fiammata 2 Briar Calabash for a Clam Man Pipe Man) turned out to be a diamond in the rough!  He had commissioned this pipe not from the usual perusal of my online ‘Help Me!’ baskets in the For “Pipe Dreamers” Only! collection, but he had visited us here in Sofia, Bulgaria, along with a team of folks from his church.  During this visit, Jon went through the boxes and baskets of the inventory and found the Savinelli Fiammata and pulled him aside to commission.  During this visit, Jon also saw my personal collection of Churchwardens and offered to give one of them a new home!  In the end, Jon also commissioned a CW project which also benefits the Daughters of Bulgaria, our work here in Bulgaria working among women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  This was also important to Jon, who as a father, had brought his daughter with him to Bulgaria.  My goal in fashioning Churchwardens from bowls that were either orphaned or in their current states had little hope of being put in service again.  I liken it to Santa’s mythical island of misfit toys.  Repurposed bowls mounted on CW stems can rise from ash heap, as it were, to live and serve again.  I sent Jon a picture of different bowls to see which would speak to him as his new Churchwarden.  He had told me he preferred a bent shank – here were the candidates with differing characteristics.Our emailing back and forth between South Florida and Bulgaria to identify the bowl speaking Jon’s name, resulted in the French Blasted Dr. Geo Deposée, the second pipe pictured above.  I acquired the Dr. Geo during one of our summer vacations on a pipe picking expedition to the Bulgarian coastal city of Burgas on the Black Sea.  I found the ‘Burgas Lot of 9’, at a secondhand shop on the main walking street.  The Dr. Geo is at the end of the line of 7 pipes pictured below which were part of the haul – 2 others were added to these that were eventually posted in the For “Pipe Dreamers” Only! collection from which pipe men and women can choose and commission.The Dr. Geo I acquired I called a Prince shape.  I knew nothing about a Dr. Geo line, but what attracted me to the pipe was the blasted bowl – it was tired and dull, but had potential, though the pipe itself was unimpressive and attracted no attention when it had its time in the Dreamers collection.With the bowl now on my worktable to transform into a Churchwarden, I found some information online about the origins of Dr. Geo Deposée.  Pipephil.eu’s panel gave some information confirming that it was of French origins from the Gichard & Cie Company.Pipedia adds some additional information in its list of French made brands.  It lists that Dr. Geo was produced in the 1940s from Guichard & Cie, and later sold by M. Marmet Regge, with Ebonite stems.  Interesting to me is that my guess is that The Dr. Geo I’m looking at was from the later, M. Marment Regge ownership with the specific reference to the use of Ebonite stems.  I have another Dr. Geo in my Dreamers inventory from another Lot I purchased from France, it has a horn stem, which most likely places it in the earlier dating when rubber was in short supply during WW2.  The listing for Marmet in Pipedia, called M. Marmet-Regge, also sold the Dr. Geo brand which were produced in Saint-Claude. The meaning of the French, “Deposée”, attached to Dr. Geo is a bit cryptic, at least to one who is relegated to Google Translate to make sense of the meaning.  The direct primary English translation provided is “deposited” which is a past tense rendering.  Looking at other definitions provided by Google Translate, the possible meaning could be tied to the idea that “Dr. Geo” attests to or is behind the goodness of this pipe brand like Dr. Grabow!  It seemed like I was grasping at straws until I see the ‘info link’ on the Dr. Geo panel provided by the Pipephil.  The link goes to a French site called  ‘Ces pipes pas comme les autres’ (These pipes like no other) to a May 2006 listing selling ‘Two Doctors’ pipes with information about each.  A ‘Dr. Geo’ is described as one of the doctors with the possible clue pointing to a rational for the sub-name of ‘Deposée’:

Many pipe brands have earned the doctoral title. This makes smokers smile during these times of heightened hunting.

During the post-war years this title was more a guarantee of seriousness or of a search for perfection rather than the sign of a healthy practice. We did not allow ourselves to be disturbed by medical considerations. Everyone knew that smoking was not very healthy and took responsibility. But that has changed a lot today with the new globalized MacCarthyism.

José Manuel Lopes (1) counts seventeen brands of pipes that bear the famous title! I would like to introduce you to an 18th: Dr Arthur recognizable by his “A” circled on the pipe. No further information on this doctor there Maybe you thought I was going to present you with a leather-wrapped pipe, stamped with the most famous of these doctors? It would be bad to know me. But fear not: in this section you will not escape the famous Franco-English doctor whom I have already mentioned in the section of Cavalier pipes.

The pipes of Dr Géo – French brand of Gichard & Cie which is no longer produced – do not have an exceptional notoriety but sufficient to be cited here and there.

(1) José Manuel Lopes (President of Pipe Club of Portugal), Pipes, Artisans and Trademarks. Quimera Editores, 2005

The listing shows a picture of each Doctor cited with dimensions and a pricing.  I find interesting the dismissive gesture for the listing for the Dr. Geo: “…no longer produced – do not have an exceptional notoriety but sufficient to be cited here and there”.  My hope is to change the demeanor of the Dr. Geo Blasted Prince bowl on my worktable transforming him into a Churchwarden. Churchwardens as a classic pipe shape are unique among pipes.  Bill Burney’s description of Churchwardens on his great Pipedia shapes page, describes why they are unique among pipes:Working on my Man Cave 10th floor balcony, I take a few more pictures to get a closer look at the Doctor Geo Prince bowl, which is essentially an Apple shape without the Prince stem – hmmm, an exception to the CW stem principle? The blasted finish is nice – the smooth 3-D picture of the bowl’s grain structure is nice. The finish on the stummel appears to be a very dark brown.  There are minuscule red flecks visible through the cloudiness of the old finish.  At this point, my thinking is to refresh the finish seeking to apply the ‘Dunhill’ finish that I learned from fellow-restorer and rebornpipes contributor, Paresh.  First, after applying all the paces in cleaning the stummel, I’ll assess the condition of the stummel and how to proceed.  Following this, fashioning the CW stem will come.  To start, the Dr. Geo chamber is moderately caked. To address this, I employ the Pipnet Reaming Kit using only the smallest of the 4 blade heads available in the kit.  I follow by scraping the chamber walls with the Savinelli Fitsall Tool and complete the carbon cake removal by sanding the chamber walls with 240 grade paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen. After wiping the chamber with a cotton pad to remove the carbon dust, an inspection reveals a healthy chamber.Transitioning to cleaning the exterior surface, using undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap, I go to work using a cotton pad and a bristled toothbrush. The brass bristled brush also works on the rim.Next, I take the bowl to the kitchen sink to continue the cleaning with shank brushes and anti-oil liquid dishwashing soap to clean the internal mortise and airway.  After giving the bowl a thorough rinsing with warm water, I transfer it back to the worktable.Through the cleaning, the finish has started to come off.  This is an indicator that a fresh start is needed. The finish is old and unstable.I decide to remove the old finish to get to the fresh briar beneath.  Isopropyl 95% is the first agent I try scrubbing the blasted finish with a cotton pad.  It is not effective.Transition next to using acetone is much more effect.  The cotton pad is evidence of the old stain which appears black and purple.  I decide to put the entire stummel into an acetone soak to fully remove the finish.  I leave it in the soak for a few hours. After a couple hours the jar containing the stummel soaking in acetone is clouded with leeched finish.  After taking the stummel out, I use a cotton pad to continue rubbing the finish off as well as employing a little steel wool. The light spots that appeared first are areas that were filled, at least partially, with wood putty which have weakened due to the cleaning.  I use a sharp dental probe to test the fills and they are solid. With the rough texture of the blasted surface, these areas will not be visible after applying new dye to the stummel. Before doing more work on the stummel, I switch the focus to fashioning the CW stem.  The first thing I do is to bring out the electronic caliper and measure the diameter of the mortise which gives me the target size of the tenon that needs to be shaped. This measurement is 7.81mm.  I add about 40mm to this to form my ‘fat target’ – the size I’ll cut the tenon and then follow by sanding to form a customized fit to the mortise.  The fat target is about 8.20mm. Next, with the drill bit provided by the PIMO Tenon Turning Tool, I predrill the airway to accommodate the guide pin of the TTT. Next, after mounting the PIMO tool on the hand drill, I do a test cut on the raw tenon of the precast CW stem and measure it – 8.01mm on the button. Whoops – that is 20mm less than I was aiming for as the ‘fat target’ but I decide to cut the tenon at this size and then sand.  This gives less margin of error, but I’m not too concerned. Keeping the same adjustment of the PIMO tool, I continue the test cutting to form a I have made several Churchwardens and one of the mistakes I have learned is to cut the tenon all the way through the precast uneven molding to create a true stem facing.  Not to do this will leave what appears to be shouldering over the edge of the stem facing.  The picture below shows a sharp 45-degree angle which is the goal.Next, using 240 sanding paper, I sand the newly cut tenon to bring it closer to the target mortise size – 7.81mm.  The rough end of the precast tenon is flattened and smoothed using the flat needle file.After a short time of sanding and fitting, the tenon seats into the mortise.Looking closer, there is a small gapping on the right side which I can close during the fine-tuning sanding.What is also the case is that there is a small overhang of the shank over the seated stem.  This will need to be sanded so that the transition between stummel and stem is smooth.I use masking tape to protect the nomenclature as well as to give a sanding boundary around the shank.I start the sanding on the shank/stem transition.  What is helpful shown in the picture below is that it shows what the ‘low-spot’ is in the pre-cast stem in the darker area passed over by the sanding indicating where sanding continues to be needed. As often is the case with the pre-cast CW stems I purchase, the shank facing along the casting seam has a dimple.  This is a pain because these dimples simply mean more sanding required at those points.Progression with the dimple – I don’t want to take off more than needed.  Note, the darkened area has disappeared on the stem indicating that the sanding paper is making seamless contact between shank and stem.With the shank/stem transition sanding completed, I move to sanding the entire pre-cast CW stem.  To start, I use a coarse 120 grade paper to do the initial sanding.  The casting seams along both sides of the stem need to be erased.  The following picture again shows the differences in the surface of the pre-cast stem.  The pre-cast stem has ripples – unevenness, even though it is new.  The dark stretch below shows a ‘valley’ in the rippling that means I sand more there to bring the edges of the valley flush with the valley floor.  The following pictures show the progression in the 120 sanding.With the CW stem smoothed after the 120 grade sanding, I switch to fine-tuning the button.  As with the stem, the button is rough. The bit needs filing to flatten it and to bring more definition to the button edges.  The slot facing on these CW stems is curved and the upper button extends out a bit more than the lower. This helps in identifying the up/down orientation of the stem.  The pictures show the progression with upper and lower bit.  Upper first:Lower :After the main filing is completed, 240 grade paper is employed to fine-tune the bit and button as well as to sand the entire stem after the 120 sanding.  Upper and lower first: Next, to continue the smoothing, 600 grade paper is used to wet sand the entire stem.  This is followed by applying 000 grade steel wool.A closeup of the button area shows the nice progression!Next, the full regimen of 9 micromesh pads is applied from 1500 to 12000. Between each set of 3 pads, Obsidian Oil is applied to condition and protect the vulcanite from future oxidation.  I only show one orbital view and a couple closeups of the finished process focusing on the upper and lower bit. With the CW stem’s sanding completed, its time to bend the stem.  The general principle I follow in stem bending is that the mouthpiece at the end of the stem, should be generally on the same horizontal plane as the rim.  It’s helpful for me to draw templates to visualize the finished stem.Where the original stem template starts with and estimation of where the bend should take place.I use the hot air gun to focus the heat on the lower side of the stem first – the thicker part.  I want it to become supple before heating the upper, thinner area of the stem which heats faster and wants to be the first place the bend begins.  I want the bend to start in the thicker part of the stem then followed by the thinner.As the stem warms over the hot air gun, I gently coax the bend as the stem softens.  After bending to a point that looks good, I bring the stem to the template holding it there for some minutes for the orientation to take hold.  I then take the stem to the kitchen sink and run cool water over it to solidify the bend.  The first try works well.  I like the look and feel of the pipe in my hand.With the stem sanding and bending completed, focus is again transitioned to the Dr. Geo blasted bowl.  Before moving to the staining process, the stummel needs some preparatory work.  One of the things I really like about working with a combination of blasted and smooth briar surfaces is the contrast that this produces.  I love to see both presentations of the grain – the smooth 2-D viewpoint as well as the rough, blasted 3-D viewpoint of the grain.  This bowl provides an opportunity for the striking contrasting. The rim is angled in a beveled slope from the external rim’s edge downward toward the chamber to the internal rim’s edge.  This rim, I believe, will look great after it is sanded to bring out the smooth briar contrast.The other sanding will bring out smooth grain over the nomenclature panel on the left shank flank as well as the newly sanded area transitioning to the stem.  To begin, 240 grade paper is used on these smooth briar patches followed by dry sanding with 600 grade paper. The full regimen of 9 micromesh pads, from 1500 to 12000, is applied to the smooth briar patches next.I’m loving what I’m seeing!  That grain contrast is great.  In the second picture, the rough area from the old fill is still visible and looks shaky, but it should disappear as it blends with the surrounding briar after the staining process.The staining process is next.  I assemble my desktop staining module with all the component parts.  I recently used the method I learned from my fellow restorer from India, Paresh, of creating the rich Dunhill look.  With this bowl being originally darker, I thought that this approach would be good.  It starts with an undercoat of Fiebing’s Dark Brown Leather Dye that is followed with the washing with red dye. After wiping the bowl with a cotton pad wetted with alcohol to clean it, I warm it with the hot air gun to open the briar helping it to be more receptive to the dye which is applied using a folded over pipe cleaner.  Using the pipe cleaner, I paint sections of the bowl with the Dark Brown Dye and then immediately ‘flame’ it with a lit candle.  This combusts the aniline dye burning away the alcohol leaving the dye pigment embedded in the briar.  After applying the dye, the stummel is set aside for several hours – through the night, for the dye to ‘rest’ and settle in.  This helps the dye to take hold in the briar.The next morning, it’s time to ‘unwrap’ the flamed stummel.  To do this, a felt cloth buffing pad is mounted onto the Dremel set at the slowest speed, and Tripoli compound is applied to help remove the crusted shell exposing the dyed briar beneath.After the Tripoli compound removes the flamed crust, I wipe the bowl to rid it of the compound dust.  When this is completed, I apply a wash of red overcoat to the briar surface and lightly wipe it with a cotton cloth.  I apply and wipe until I’m satisfied with the hue.  I like what I see.  The rich red tones give a depth to the blasted finish.Next, since it’s easier to handle the stem and stummel separately, after mounting a cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel set at about 40% full power, Blue Diamond compound is applied to the long Churchwarden stem and Dr. Geo bowl.  One more step to guard against dye leeching.  Often, bowls that have been newly stained, dye will come off on the steward’s hand the first times the bowl is heated up and put into service. To emulate this, I heat the bowl with the hot air gun and then wipe it with a cotton cloth to pick up leeched dye.  Hopefully, this will keep the bowl from leeching later!I complete the fashioning of the Dr. Geo Churchwarden by giving the reunited stem and bowl a vigorous hand buffing bringing out the shine.  I’m very pleased with the results of the ‘Dunhill’ approach to finishing the bowl that I learned from Paresh.  The Dr. Geo Prince bowl serves well mounted on a long, flowing Churchwarden stem. The contrasting with the smooth and blasted briar surfaces also work very nicely. This was Jon’s second commissioned pipe and he will have the first opportunity to claim this French Dr. Geo Churchwarden from The Pipe Steward Store benefitting the Daughters of Bulgaria – women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Thanks for joining me!

Fashioning a Second Churchwarden, “Made in England” for a Special Christmas Gift


Blog by Dal Stanton

I completed the first Christmas CW project by repurposing an Italian Permofilter rusticated bowl and mounting it on a Warden stem.  It is to be a gift for my son, Josiah, who came to Bulgaria from St. Louis to celebrate Christmas in Sofia, Bulgaria, with Mom and Dad!  Josiah’s Churchwarden came out well!Our daughter, Johanna, also has come to Bulgaria for Christmas.  She and her husband, Niko, arrived first and so my work fashioning a CW as a Christmas gift for Niko is a bit clandestine trying to keep it a secret until Christmas Day!  Niko hasn’t been easy to figure out for a pipe gift!  I was first going to give him a sculpted Meerschaum because I knew he had one before – a cheaper one that disintegrated in his hand while smoking it.  Yet, after he arrived, he saw that I was working on a Churchwarden for ‘someone’ who had commissioned one (actually, it was Josiah’s Churchwarden that I had commissioned myself!) and he wanted a Churchwarden, which was also on his priority list to add to his collection.  When I fished around regarding which he would rather have – trying not to spill the beans that I was gifting him a pipe, he said that a Churchwarden was higher on the list.  So, the Sculpted Meerschaum goes back into the inventory benefiting the Daughters of Bulgaria – our work helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited!The bowl I’m repurposing is from an unbranded petite bent Billiard that is marked only with the nomenclature, ‘Made in England’ on the left shank side and a shape number on the right, ‘950’.  I acquired this pipe in the ‘Lot of 66’ and it has been waiting for someone to commission him in the For “Pipe Dreamers” Only! collection. It is an attractive pipe and the grain shows much potential.  I did a quick search of the main shape number charts of English pipe names such as BBB and GBD but found no reference to a shape 950 that helped me with identifying the origins of this pipe.Now with the stummel on the worktable to transform it into a Churchwarden, I take more pictures to take a closer look.  The chamber has light to moderate cake build up and the lava flow over the rim is thick.  The rim width is also imbalanced with a thinning of the rim on the front left.  Undoubtedly, the point where the former steward drew down the flame to light the blend.The rim also has its share of nicks, cuts and chips.  The stummel also has several dents and pits here and there which need addressing.  As expected, the grime is thick on the darkened stummel.  Yet, the grain underneath shows great potential. The grain is primarily vertically oriented around the stummel. The stummel has the feel of having some age.  By the shape and looks of it, I would guess that it is from the 1960s or earlier.  The plan is to transform the petite bent Billiard into a Churchwarden by mounting it to a precast Warden stem that measures 8 5/8 inches in length.  I acquire Warden stems from Tim West at www.jhlowe.comI begin this CW Christmas project for Niko with the cleaning of the stummel.  First, after spreading paper towel to aid in cleaning, I use the Pipnet Reaming Kit to address the cake build up in the chamber.  I again take a close-up picture of the chamber showing the light cake build up to mark the start.  I use only the smallest of the 4 blade heads available in the Pipnet Kit.  Transitioning to the Savinelli Fitsall Tool, I scrape the chamber walls further and follow by sanding the chamber wall with 240 grade paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen.  The left-over carbon dust is then removed with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95% and after an inspection of the walls, I find no problems with heating. Moving now to the cleaning of the external surface, the surface is scrubbed using a cotton pad wetted with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap.A brass wire brush is also helpful in scrubbing the rim top addressing the lava caked on it.  I also utilize my Winchester pocketknife to scrape the rim.  To rinse the soap, the stummel is transferred to the kitchen sink where the stummel is rinsed with warm water.  Using different sized shank brushes with anti-oil dish soap, the mortise and airway are cleaned. Finally, after rinsing and back at the worktable, a picture records the results of the cleaning.  The old worn finish is all but gone revealing the briar beneath. The scratches and imperfections are very evident mingling with the distinctive grain patterns. Next, using cotton buds and pipe cleaners wetted with isopropyl 95%, cleaning the internals is addressed. As the picture below shows in stark visual imagery, the internals were a bear to clean!  Using a small dental spoon, I also excavate a lot of tars and oils scraped off the mortise walls.  From what I am able to see and feel down the mortise with the probe, the internal design has a trap and the angled airway is drilled over the top of the trap angling toward the draft hole entering the chamber.  The trap has done the job of collecting the gunk, but the steward did not seem to know that frequent cleaning of the trap would keep this guy in better shape!  Finally, after many expended pipe cleaners and buds, they began to emerge lighter. Later, the internal cleaning will continue with an alcohol and kosher salt soak further to clean and refresh the internals.Now looking at the stummel, I know that the shank will be undergoing a good amount of sanding to shape the shank during the stem fitting process.  Therefore, the restoration work that I now do on the stummel external surface will not progress beyond the shank sanding at this point.  I start at the top looking at the rim’s condition.  It’s in bad shape with nicks and chips around the rim’s edge and the scorching damage resulting in the thinning on the left front quadrant.  I use the topping board to begin addressing these issues. With 240 paper on top of the chopping board that serves as the topping board, I rotate the inverted stummel several times on the board. After a few rotations, I stop to look. With this first picture, the contours of the rim thinning are clearer.  I continue to rotate on the topping board.These next pictures show the progression of the topping a step at a time. I stop with the 240 topping even though edge damage remains.  I will rectify this with beveling instead of removing more rim real estate.  I switch the paper to 600 grade and smooth the rim top further with this finer grade sanding paper.  After several rotations on the board, I’m satisfied with the topping board results.  Nice looking bird’s eye grains are peeking through the rim surface.Addressing the edge problems, 120 grade paper is used first to cut an outer edge bevel to remove the remaining cuts and chips on the edge.  Following the 120 paper 240 grade paper is used to smooth out the bevel.Again to freshen the rim lines after the beveling, I do a very quick topping again with 240 and 600 grade paper.I finish the rim repair by sanding the bevel on the outside and inside rim edges with 600 grade paper.  It looks good.  I move on.Continuing now to address the stummel proper, I will do what I can to spare the remnant nomenclature on the shank sides as I sand out the problems on the stummel.  I use sanding sponges to address the cuts and dents on the stummel surface.  First, using a coarse sponge to sand, I follow with a medium grade and a light grade sponge.  Wow!  This block of briar is impressive with vertical flame grain running around the bowl and as you would expect, bird’s eye grain populating both the heel and rim.  Very nice.  I’ve progressed all I can now with the stummel until the stem sizing and placement is completed.  The first step in this process is to size and fit the Warden precast stem’s tenon into the mortise.  As with the first Churchwarden gift project for my son, Josiah, Niko’s Churchwarden Made in England bowl’s mortise is measured to establish the ideal target measurement for the tenon.  This measurement is 8.61mm. 40mm is added to this ‘target size’ to establish the ‘fat size’ target.  This is a conservative sizing of the rough tenon in order to patiently and more slowly sand the tenon to the target size.  This allows for customizing the tenon as well as avoiding the danger of cutting too much with the Pimo Tenon Turning Tool.  The ‘fat size’ is right at 9mm.Next, to establish a starting measurement sizing of the rough tenon of the precast Warden stem, the PIMO tool is used. To do this, the first step is to drill the airway with a drill bit provided by the PIMO kit to allow the PIMO tool’s guide pin to fit the airway. After mounting the drill bit on the hand drill, the airway is easily enlarged with the bit.  Next, after mounting the PIMO tool on the hand drill, using the Allen wrenches provided by the PIMO kit, I adjust the carbide cutter arm to be just a bit smaller than the rough tenon size.  This is simply to cut a uniform starting measurement size. I accomplish the initial cut and take a measurement of 9.46.  The difference between this measurement and the fat target of 9mm is .46mm. Again, I adjust the carbide cutter arm to close this gap.  After adjusting, I do a test cut by only cutting a little of the tenon and then measure.    The reason for doing the initial test cut is that if you over cut and the tenon is too small… well, you have a very loose fit!  My test cut was too much – 7.63mm! The target size, actual mortise measurement is 8.61mm.    After widening the cutting arm, I make another test cut and measure – 8.93mm.  This is good enough for achieving the fat target. I complete the tenon cut at 8.93mm.  I take the cut all the way to the stem facing – making sure that there is a square cut and no shouldering on the stem facing.Transitioning now to sanding, I first use a coarse 120 grade paper to do the heavy lifting.  As I sand, I test periodically to see the progress of the tenon’s entry movement into the mortise.  I grip the paper around the tenon and then with my other hand rotate the stem to create the sanding movement.  This keeps the tenon round as well. The pictures show the progress. When the tenon is close to fitting, I switch to 240 grade paper.  The stem finally seats into the mortise.When I eyeballed the shank size and the stem next to it, I knew that the shank was a bit larger than the stem and I would need to sand the shank some to taper the shank toward the stem size.  When the stem was seated, I saw how much of an overhang there was – it’s not a little.This angle however, revealed another issue that I did not foresee. On the lower shank, just below the stem is the hollow caused by the angled drilling of the airway.  I take a close-up of this cavity and then remove the stem to show the inverted mortise and drilling. Oh my. This creates some challenges. As if to add insult to injury, I discover another issue.  The tenon has a slight rock or wiggle when it’s fully engaged.  What this means is that the front of the tenon was sanded down too much and is not in contact with the mortise wall.  The tenon closer to the stem facing is making contact.  When I pivot the stem vertically, it rocks a little.  Not good. I decide to address the lose tenon first and think about the rest. To expand the tenon, I use a drill bit to insert into the airway.  I choose a drill bit which is the next size larger than what will fit into the airway.  I then use a Bic lighter to heat the tenon to warm the vulcanite.  When the vulcanite is warm enough, it softens and then I push the bit in the airway which expands the tenon.  After heating and inserting the bit, I take it to the kitchen sink and run cold water on the tenon to set the expanded vulcanite.  With the aid of a pair of pliers, the bit is retracted and again the tenon is inserted into the mortise.  The procedure worked well – the tenon tightened and there is now no rocking.  Moving on. After giving some thought to the conundrum of the shank and Warden stem placement, I recognize that I will not be able to save the bowl’s scant nomenclature.  To taper the shank in a balanced way, will require the sanding to start further up the shank.  I also decide that I will fill the drilling channel with briar dust putty to remove the hollow and make this area solid.  Finally, I decide to fit the shank with a band to mask the hollow as well as to give the emerging Churchwarden an added bit of class. First, to fill the drilling channel, I mix a small amount of briar dust and thick CA glue.  I use a plastic disk as a mixing pallet and to help with cleanup I put scotch tape down to mix on.  After putting a small amount of briar dust on the pallet, thick CA glue is placed next to it.  Using a toothpick, the briar dust is pulled into the CA glue and is mixed with the toothpick.  When the mixture thickens, I use the toothpick to trowel the putty into the drilling channel in the mortise.  I then set the stummel aside allowing the putty to cure through the night – lights out!The next morning, the putty has cured, and I go to work filing the fill to match the curvature of the mortise. A half-circle tapered needle file does the job well. The next pictures show the patch material now filling the hollow of the airway drilling and as well the necessary sanding to remove the excess overhang of the shank facing over the stem. To begin the sanding to remove the excess over the stem facing and to taper the shank, a coarse 120 grade paper makes the work more efficient.  The sanding includes the entire shank to provide a more gradual tapering toward the stem.  Without this, a ‘stuffed pants’ appearance is left.  The stem remains engaged in the mortise throughout the sanding process.After a good bit of sanding, the alignment is looking good.  As usual, on the sides where the precast stem seams are, the sanding is more directed.  The pictures show the alignment at this point using 120 grade paper alone.  The tapering of the shank looks good. I mark the upper side of the stem with a piece of scotch tape so that I later refit the stem with the correct orientation.  The next thing I want to see it how a band or shank cap will work.  Some months ago, the word went out about a pipe man on French eBay selling bags with a variety of copper rings, bands, caps, and spacers at a very decent price.  I don’t know who started the rumor – Steve, Paresh, Victor?, but several of us were able to order a supply for our work desks. The package containing the supply had a card, Pipe Estate at www.pipes-estate.com.  I have been waiting for an opportunity to utilize this addition to my inventory.After dumping the multitude of copper fitments on my worktable, it was fun taking a closer look at all the available sizes and shapes.  But the question always is, will there be one in all these that will work??As if I were holding the Holy Grail, I found a few that looked hopeful, but one was perfect.  A copper shank cap that fit the shank perfectly and reaches over the end of the shank to provide a spacer.  Perfect!Remounting the stem, I oohed and awed at the beauty and wonder of this addition to the creation of this Churchwarden going to Niko for Christmas!  There was a sacrifice in having to sand away the ‘Made in England’ marking on the shank which bums me out in a huge way, but I’m pleased with the shank tapering and the contribution of the copper shank cap to the ensemble. The rest of the Warden stem is awaiting sanding, but for the time, I continue sanding to smooth and finish the stummel.  Following the coarse 120 paper that did the main work on the tapering, 240 and 600 grade papers continue the process of smoothing the shank surface. Next, I put the stummel aside and continue sanding the remainder of the Warden stem with 120 sanding paper. I also use a flat needle file to shape the raw, precast button. Following the filing and 120 grade paper, 240 grade continues the smoothing process by erasing the scratches left behind by the coarser filing and sanding. Following the 240 paper, wet sanding with 600 grade paper erases the scratches of the 240 sanding and then applying 000 grade steel wool completes this phase of the sanding process.  One picture of the entire stem is taken followed by closeups of the upper and lower bit. The full regiment of micromesh pads is applied next by wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400 then dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  Between each set of 3 pads, Obsidian Oil is applied to vitalize the vulcanite stem.  Again, I take one picture of the entire stem from the orbital shot and two closeups of the upper and lower bit after the final 3 micromesh pads.With the micromesh process completed, it is time to bend the Warden stem.  I like to draw a template of a bend so that I’m not simply eyeballing the process.  The general goal is to have the mouthpiece of the Warden stem on a parallel trajectory with the plane of the rim.  On the diagram below, I draw a horizontal line representing the plane of the rim.  I also rough sketch the current disposition of the unbent stem.  Then I rough in a bend starting about 1/3 the distance from the shank and complete the sketch parallel with the rim plane.  This is the guide template.The hot air gun focuses on the area about 1/3 up the stem for the first bend attempt.  I bend the fat part of the stem first to have a more even and sweeping bend as it takes longer for the fat part to become supple than the thin part.  As the stem is rotated over the hot air, gentle pressure is applied and when the stem starts to bend, I know it’s reaching the state of shaping.  As the bottom third becomes supple, I move the heating up the stem a bit now to warm the middle.  All the while rotating back and forth and around.After the stem heats enough using the hot air gun, I place the pipe on the template and hold it in place until it holds its position.  I’ve found that even though it takes longer this way, I’ve lost the shape I want if I transition the pipe to the kitchen to run the stem under cool water to quicken the cooling.  The first attempt is good.  There’s a nice flowing bend but the final trajectory is a little wide.The second attempt is very close to what I want, but it’s still a hair wide.One more time heating does the trick.  This time I take the stem to the sink and run it under cool water to cool the vulcanite and hold the bend that has been created.With the Warden stem completed until the final polishing phases, I turn again to the stummel.  Using the full regiment of micromesh pads, with pads 1500 to 2400 I wet sand, followed by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  The bowl’s grain emerges through the process and I like what I’m seeing.  The bowl is fully wrapped with a vertical flame grain with bird’s eye grain populating the heel and rim – as you would expect being the cross-view perspective of the flame grain. With the hour growing late, I continue the internal cleaning and refreshing process using a kosher salt and alcohol soak. The first step is to fashion a ‘wick’ from pulling and stretching a cotton ball.  The wick serves to draw tars and oils out from the mortise cavity. Using a stiff wire, the wick is guided down the mortise. Then the bowl is filled with kosher salt which doesn’t leave an aftertaste as the iodized version.  The stummel is then placed in an egg carton for stability.Using a large eyedropper, isopropyl 95% fills the bowl until it surfaces over the salt.  After a few minutes the alcohol is absorbed, and I top off the alcohol one more time and set the stummel aside to soak through the night.The next morning, the soiling of the salt and wick evidences the processes active through the night.  The tars and oils were drawn from the internal briar surface.  I toss the expended salt and wipe the bowl with a paper towel.  I also blow through the mortise to loosen and remove any remaining salt crystals.To make sure all is cleaned, one cotton bud and one pipe cleaner dipped in isopropyl 95% were all that was needed to verify the results of the internal cleaning – cleaned!  I move on.Next, using Before & After Restoration Balm, the external briar is freshened and enlivened.  Mark Hoover’s Restoration Balm (www.ibepen.com) works very well to bring out the natural hues and to deepen them.  I place some of the Balm on my fingers and work it into the briar surface.  Afterwards, I place it the stummel aside for about 20 minutes to allow the Balm to do its thing.  Then the excess Balm is wiped/buffed off with a micromesh cloth.  The results are as hoped – a beautiful piece of briar is now more beautiful. Before moving on to the fine polishing and waxing phase, the copper shank cap/band needs to be attached to the shank. I test fit the cap over the shank and insert the stem.  The fit still looks good.  Next, with great caution, I place a drop of thick CA glue on the end of a toothpick and this apply the glue to the inside of the ring/cap.  Using the end of the toothpick, I run the glue around the entire underside and then slip it over the shank and press it into place.  I do this without excess glue seeping out from around the edges – relief!  I do not reengage the stem for a few minutes to allow the CA glue to cure – I don’t risk getting glue on the stem! On the home stretch!  With a cotton cloth buffing wheel mounted to the Dremel with the speed set at about 40% full power, I apply Blue Diamond compound to the stem and stummel avoiding the copper band.  When completed, I use a felt cloth to buff the pipe to remove compound dust before applying the wax.  Next, changing to another cotton cloth buffing wheel maintaining the same speed, carnauba wax is applied as well to the stem and stummel followed by a rigorous hand buffing with a microfiber cloth to raise the shine.

Wow!  The grain on this stummel catches the eye with the flame grain circling the bowl.  This bowl works well as a Churchwarden.  The size is perfect, and the shank pitch puts the long flowing Warden stem at a nice trajectory.  The addition of the copper band/shank cap is classy and works very well to transition the bowl and the stem.  I believe my son-in-law, Niko, will enjoy this Churchwarden which will be wrapped and waiting for him under the tree!  Thanks for joining me!

Crafting a Churchwarden for a Lord of the Ring’s Enthusiast


Blog by Dal Stanton

After restoring 3 pipes which Tina chose to gift special men in her life, the final request was to fashion a Churchwarden for her oldest son Thomas, who is a Lord of the Rings “groupie” and of course, he wants a ‘Gandalf Pipe’ to aid in blowing inspired smoke rings!  Tina’s son has been married for a few years and apparently, he and his wife have a Lord of the Rings movie binge at least once a year!

In my research on the Churchwarden shape, as the story goes, there were men back in the days when they didn’t lock churches at night, who were employed as ‘wardens’ of the church – whose responsibility was to guard the premises.  To be faithful to their charge, they were not allowed to leave the walls of the church.  That created an unusual dilemma between guarding the holy confines and the desire to enjoy one’s evening smoke.  The moral dilemma was creatively solved by a stem.  The length of the stem enabled the church wardens to tend to their evening bowls as they stood vigilantly inside the church walls while the stems extended through the windows…so the story goes (see Pipedia’s article).  Of course, everyone knows that Churchwardens were prevalent in Middle Earth as Gandalf spun up fireworks and smoke rings!

I found a bowl that I put aside quite some time ago that

Courtesy of Gonzalo Kenny https://lotr.fandom.com/wiki/Balrogs

I believed would serve well as a repurposed stummel to be mounted as a Churchwarden.  I know that there are strict Warden purists out there who question the validity of repurposing a bowl for use in fashioning a Churchwarden.  Yet, I appeal to Bill Burney’s description of the Churchwarden in his excellent Pipe Shapes Chart published in Pipedia where he says: “Interestingly, all the other styles of pipe are identified by the shape of their bowls, but the churchwarden is identified by its long stem.  The stem can be bent or straight, but it is always very long – 9” to 18” long.”.  There may be ‘true born’ Churchwardens and there are also those Churchwardens who are adopted into the ranks through the promotion of a discarded and forgotten stummel surviving from another lifetime where they served among other mere mortal pipes that they used to be.  For a common bowl to be remounted onto a Warden stem and to experience that metamorphosis is perhaps like when Gandalf transformed through fire in his mortal combat with Balrog – transforming from The Grey to The White….  Perhaps, only Gandalf knows for sure!  The bowl and stem I chose for this transformation are now on my table.The pre-molded Warden Stem comes from my main supplier, Tim West at http://www.jhlowe.com/bits.htm.  The stummel has ‘Real Briar’ stamped on the side of the shank, but what I like a lot is the 1/2 bent shank.  This will yield a very nice sweeping bend in the Warden stem.  The bowl’s size is not too large – perfect for a Churchwarden. Looking closely at the stummel, I see potential grain underneath the dark, marred surface.  The rim has lava flow but has an attractive inwardly slanted rim.  The chamber has light cake.  I take some pictures of the stummel in its current condition. Before I start working on fashioning the new preformed stem, I clean the stummel.  I start by reaming the chamber using the Pipnet Reaming kit.  I only use the smallest of the blade heads and then transition to the Savinelli Fitsall Tool to fine tune the scraping and cleaning.  Then I sand the chamber using a piece of 240 grade sanding paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen.  Finally, after wetting a cotton pad with alcohol, I wipe the chamber cleaning it from the carbon dust.  I inspect the chamber after finishing and all looks good. Next, turning to the external surface, I take a few more pictures to show the nasty layer of grime over this stummel!  I use Murphy’s Oil Soap undiluted on a cotton pad and begin the scrubbing process.  I also utilize a brass wire brush to clean the rim. The results are good, but the reality is revealed by the cleaning!  The reality of the condition of the stummel is the reason it was in the box with other lonely stummels having given their all and discarded!  The finish is shot and the rim in mangled. Restoring this stummel to fashion a Churchwarden will be a noble endeavor! Next, I turn to cleaning the internals.  Using cotton buds and pipe cleaners wetted with isopropyl 95%, I go to work.  The internals are nasty.  I also utilize and small dental spatula to scrape the mortise walls.  There was a lot of resistance, but the buds started lightening until I was satisfied that the largest part of the cleaning was accomplished.  I’m not too concerned at this point because I’ve already made the decision to put the stummel in a soak of acetone to totally remove all the old finish which will also take care of residual internal tars and oils. The next morning, I fish the bowl out of the acetone bath.  Some of the finish was removed during the soak, but with the use of 0 grade steel wool, I’m able to dispatch the old finish easily after the night’s soak softened the old finish.  The pictures show the raw briar that allows me to start over. With the stummel cleaning process completed, I turn now to fashioning the preformed Churchwarden stem.  I use an electronic caliper to measure the diameter of the mortise to mark the target sizing of the tenon of the preformed stem that will eventually be seated.  The mortise measurement is 7.38mm in diameter.  Using Charles Lemon’s (of Dad’sPipes) methodology, I add 50mm to this exact measurement to give me my ‘fat’ target.  The ‘fat’ target is what I will aim for when bringing the tenon down to size using the PIMO Tenon Turning Tool.  The ‘fat’ target is 7.88mm.  From this point, I will sand the tenon by hand which gradually and patiently custom fits the mortise. The first thing needed is to pre-drill the tenon airway with the drill bit provided by the PIMO tool.  This enlarges the airway slightly enabling the insertion of the PIMO tool guide pin.  I mount the drill bit to the hand drill and drill out the airway.Next, the PIMO Tenon Turning Tool is mounted on the hand drill and I cut a small test sizing to measure to give me the distance between the test cut and the ‘Fat’ target.  After cutting the test, I measure it with the caliper and record 8.72mm and subtract the ‘Fat’ target, 7.88mm leaving .84mm to remove using the PIMO tool. Using the Allen wrench provided with the PIMO tool, I close the gap of the cutting arm and cut again.  The measurement of the next cut after closing the gap of the carbide cutter arm took off more than I wanted – the measurement is 7.47mm – beyond the 7.88 fat target.  This is why you only to partial cuts at the beginning!I enlarge the gap of the cutter arm a small amount and cut again.  The next measurement is 7.75mm – much better, just falling under the 7.88mm fat target.With this measurement reached, I cut the entire tenon down to the 7.75mm width.  I take the cut to the stem shank facing so a nice straight edge is created, and a ‘shoulder’ is not left from the rough preformed stem.I begin the sanding process by wrapping the tenon with 240 grade paper and rotating the stem and applying pressure strategically with my finger and thumb. I smooth and shorten the tenon a little so that it looks better and doesn’t butt into a ridge that I detect in the mortise which would block the full insertion of the tenon.  I use a flat needle file to do this.The process is slow with a lot of tests and sands… But in time the tenon seats very nicely in the mortise.  Nice!With the tenon snuggly seated in the mortise, the work is far from finished!  The picture shows the offset of the stem and the lip of briar hanging over the stem.  No stem fits automatically!The preformed Warden stem also is not straight but bows to the left through the reach of the stem.  I’ll work on this when I bend the stem later.Using 240 grade paper I begin the process of sanding the junction of the stem and shank.  My goal is to have a seamless transition from shank to stem with no overhanging ridges.  The other issue I see is that both the shank and stem have high spots that need to be sanded down and blended into a uniform flow.  What I want to avoid is the bloomers or stuff-pants look – where the shank balloons out when the sanding has not tapered the flow of the shank from the stem width as it transitions into the shank. It takes time, but in time the ridges have been removed and the tapering through the shank to the bowl looks good. I continue sanding the entire stem with 240 grade paper.  The precast stem is full of ridges and the casting seam down both sides – all of which needs to be sanded away and smoothed.  I also use the flat needle file to form and shape the new button.  I want to retain the curved button slot.  It looks classy! After sanding out the main issues with the new precast Warden stem, I transition to wet sanding using 600 grade paper.  With the bowl and stem united, I sand not only the stem including the shaped button, but also the junction of stem and shank to continue to smooth and blend the tapered transition.  After completing the wet sanding with 600 grade, I use 000 grade steel wool to sand in the same way.  The distance pictures with a Warden stem are always too far away to see detail, but a close-up shows some progress.With the main fabricating and sanding completed with the Churchwarden’s stem, the next step is to bend it.  The 1/2 bent shank of the stummel provides a wonderful trajectory for the bend and sweep of the stem – which emulates more directly Gandalf’s style of Warden.  My goal is to bend the stem so that the final orientation of the bit is generally on a parallel orientation with the plane of the stummel rim which is what is suggested by the ruler in the picture. I remarked earlier that the stem is also a little catawampus to the left as you look down the shaft toward the bowl.  Interestingly, I set up a renewed picture to show this looking down the shaft and my second look at this isn’t as pronounced as it appeared to me before.  The sanding and shank tapering may have mitigated this to some degree. Bending the stem is usually by trial and error to get it right, but the good thing is that the vulcanite stem is very forgiving!  To be on the safe side, though I don’t really believe it to be necessary, I put a pipe cleaner into the end of the stem to protect the airway integrity.I use the hot air gun to warm the vulcanite.  As it’s warming, I gently apply pressure to the bend as the rubber compound becomes supple.  When the stem becomes pliable enough and the bend reaches what appears to be at the right place as I eyeball it, I transfer the pipe to a chopping board where I can use the flat surface and the overhang for the bowl and button expansion at both ends, I press down to straighten the shaft orientation as I hold the bend.  This works very well. The first time around, I decide I need a bit more bend, so I reheat, bend further and then hold the stem firmly against the chopping board until the vulcanite sufficiently cools so that I don’t lose the bend.  To make sure the bend holds I run cool tap water on the stem to seal the bend.I like the results!  The bend is perfect and will present a true Gandalf experience for the new steward of the Churchwarden taking shape.Before I put the newly bent Warden aside to turn to the stummel, I apply paraffin oil to vitalize the vulcanite.Turning now to what was a ‘throwaway’ stummel, I like the grain that made an appearance after the cleaning.  It’s in there!  It just needs some TLC to restore it to the condition that allowed for more beauty to come through.  The briar surface is in surprisingly good condition. There are a few dents and nicks to be expected. There’s a more significant heel bruise where it appears the bowl was thumped on a hard surface.The rim has an attractive inwardly sloping cant which will serve to my advantage in dealing with the residual burn marks and the right side (top in the first picture) of the rim.  The outer edge of the rim is also chewed up a bit. Starting with the rim, I begin by using a coarse 120 grade paper to clean and remove the scorched wood and the dents on the edge.  I follow this with 240 grade paper sanding the canted rim surface.  I’m hopeful this will remove the blemishes but also serve to freshen the rim canted pitch and lines.  I then fine tune with 600 grade paper. The results are great.  The transformation is more than hoped for!  The rim is actually very attractive and some grain peeking out.I do the same with the heel bruise.  I dispatch the blemish quickly with 240 grade paper followed by 600 grade paper.Continuing the sanding, I now sand the entire stummel using sanding sponges.  I start with a coarse sponge, followed by a medium grade then finish with the light grade sanding sponge.  The briar grain is showing up!Following the sanding sponges, I apply the full regimen of 9 micromesh pads.  First, I wet sand using pads 1500 to 2400 then dry sand with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  For a ‘throwaway stummel’ this piece of briar is looking very nice. Throughout the micromesh process, I knew I was approaching a decision point.  The natural briar came out way more than I had thought possible when I began with this stummel.  I can remain with the natural briar or apply a dye.  I decide to apply Fiebing’s Saddle Tan Pro Dye to the stummel not for the purpose of covering blemishes but to bring out the briar grain more which is still somewhat subdued as I look at it.  I assemble my desktop dying components.  After I wipe the stummel with alcohol to clean the surface, I insert two folded pipe cleaners into the shank to serve as a handle.I then heat the briar stummel with an air gun.  As the briar heats, this expands the grain enabling the grain to be more receptive to the dye when it’s applied.Using a folded pipe cleaner, I paint the bowl with the aniline based dye in sections and flame each section as I go.  I use the lit candle to combust the painted section of wet dye and it immediately combusts the alcohol in the dye leaving the pigment to set in the heated wood.  I eventually apply the Saddle Tan dye to the entire stummel and repeat the painting and flaming process again to assure full coverage.  I then put the dyed and flamed stummel on the cork to rest through the night. With the dyed bowl resting I take the Churchwarden stem through the full micromesh regimen.  I wet sand using pads 1500 to 2400 and then dry sand with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  Between each set of 3 pads I apply a healthy coat of Obsidian Oil to the stem to vitalize the vulcanite.  The newly polished vulcanite pops!  I take one concluding picture instead of the usual 3 because the picture shows no detail because of the size of the stem!The next morning, I’m ready to unwrap the flamed bowl.  After mounting a felt cloth buffing wheel on the Dremel, I set the speed to the lowest possible to reduce the heating factor.  I then apply Tripoli compound to the bowl to remove the flamed crust to reveal the briar beneath. With the assistance of my wife, she takes a few pictures to show the initial removal of the flamed crust.  It takes me a good bit of time to slowly and methodically go through this ‘plowing’ and polishing process.  I remove dye blotches to make sure what is revealed is the minutia of the grain texture.  Not pictured is after I complete the process with the felt wheel (pictured below) I change to a cotton cloth buffing wheel and increase the speed of the Dremel to 40 % of full speed and again go over the entire stummel with Tripoli compound.  I do this first, to reach into the crook of the shank that is too tight for the felt wheel to reach.  Also, I like the further fine tuning of the Tripoli compounds polishing of the briar surface.  The grain sharpens even more providing the contrasts between the harder and softer woods of the briar.I then wipe the bowl with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95% to blend the dyed finish.  The wipe of alcohol evens out the finish and blends it.  Wiping with alcohol will also lighten the finish if I continue to wipe, but I like the tone of the hue where it is so I only to a light wipe for blending purposes.I switch to another cotton cloth buffing wheel, keep the speed on the Dremel and 40% and apply Blue Diamond compound to the stem and stummel.  I don’t join the two because it is easier to work with each individually.  After completing the application of the compound, I wipe both stem and stummel with a felt cloth to remove the compound dust left behind.Finally, I reunite the Warden stem with the repurposed stummel and apply a few coats of carnauba wax to the Churchwarden.  When finished, I give the pipe a vigorous hand buffing with a microfiber cloth to bring out the shine.

Wow!  When I think of where this throwaway stummel was at the beginning of the process and what I see now, it is truly amazing. This Churchwarden’s 1/2 bent shank provides the perfect trajectory for the stem’s gentle, flowing bend to project a pipe that is truly Gandalf worthy!  The grain of the bowl is varied from a vertical flame, a knot with outwardly flowing concentric circles and some bird’s eye thrown in for good measure!  This Churchwarden is certified for Middle Earth distribution for Tina’s son, Thomas.  Tina commissioned  this Churchwarden project along with 3 other restorations (to learn more about commissioning pipes see: For “Pipe Dreamers” Only! ) and each will be boxed and heading to Birmingham, Alabama, USA, from Bulgaria.  All these pipes benefit our efforts here in Bulgaria working with women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited – the Daughters of Bulgaria.  Thank you, Tina!, and thank you for joining me!