Tag Archives: Der Alternative Wood pipes

Replacing the stem on a Der Unique Alternative Wood Pipe

Blog by Steve Laug

I have been corresponding with Paresh for some time now and have repaired and restored two of his pipes and sent him others as well. We carry on conversation via WhatsApp on the internet and discuss the various pipes he is purchasing as well as ones that he has inherited from his grandfather. This is the second pipe he sent me from India to work on. It took a long time to arrive. When it did it appeared as shown in the photos below. It was stamped with what looks like the word Der on the left side of the shank. There is no other stamping on the pipe. The mortise is lined with a brass tube. The wood is either fruitwood or some other hardwood. The stem is plastic and has a brass spacer on the end of the tenon. When Paresh was cleaning the pipe a pipe cleaner was stuck in the airway in the stem. The tenon was quite small and thin and had a slight bend in it. I heated it with a heat gun to soften the stem – nothing happened no how long I heated it. The stem was hard and immovable. I decided it had to go. It was hard and very small in diameter. To me it would have been very uncomfortable in the mouth. Paresh says the pipe smokes very well. I took a close up photos of the rim top and the stem. The bowl is quite small with a diameter of 5/8 inches. The airway is well drilled and comes out the bottom of the bowl. The plastic stem is shown in the second and third photos. It was in decent condition with little or no bite marks or chatter. The only thing wrong with it was the broken pipe cleaner in the airway of the stem.I went through my can of stems and found one with a tenon that was the right diameter and that would work sitting against the shank. It was a saddle stem so it was slightly different from the taper that had been there. It also had a flat blade portion of the stem and was wider than the original. It was more comfortable than the previous stem.I sanded the scratches and marks out of the surface of the stem. They were on the saddle portion and the blade. I used 220 grit sandpaper and worked over until the surface was smooth. The tenon still had scratches that needed to be worked out but the fit was very snug.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads. When sanding Lucite it is important to wash the pads repeatedly to remove the fine sanding dust that otherwise clogs the pads. I wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit pads and wiped it down with Obsidian Oil. I used a heat gun to put the same bend in the stem as was in the original one. I dry sanded with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each pad with Obsidian Oil. I polished the stem with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – Fine and Extra Fine to remove the tiny scratches in the surface of the rubber. I gave it a final coat of oil and set it aside to dry. I set the new stem aside and scrubbed the bowl with Before & After Restoration Balm to clean and enliven the wood. I rubbed it into the wood with my fingers and let is it sit for a few minutes. I wiped it off with a cloth and buffed it lightly with a shoe brush. With the new stem reshaped and polished I put it back on the pipe and buffed the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond to polish out any remaining scratches. I gave the bowl and the stem several coats of carnauba wax and buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. This is the sixth pipe I have worked over for Paresh. Once I finish the last one of the pipes I will pack them up and send them to India. I look forward to hearing what he thinks once he has them in hand. Thanks for walking through the restoration of this alternative wood pipe. It was straight forward and simple but interesting nonetheless.