Blog by Steve Laug
On the weekend I went pipe hunting to refill my box of pipes for refurbishing. I found some nice ones to add to the box. The first one that I took on was odd looking when I picked it up. The stem on it was an aftermarket replacement that proportionally was all wrong. The addition of the stem made the pipe over seven inches long. The stem was also a twin bore which was not standard on GBD line pipes. The stamping on the bottom of the shank is Conquest in script followed by Digby over London Made. That is followed by London England and the shape number 9519. Digby is a GBD second line. It has the same blast as a GBD Prehistoric which lends one more question mark to what makes a pipe a second. In checking the GBD shape numbers there is no shape #9519 listed on the GBD shape site. http://www.perardua.net/pipes/GBDshape.html
The blast on the bowl was quite nice while the shank was rusticated. The person who added the new stem to the pipe changed the shank to fit the new stem rather than the other way around. In doing so they sanded the shank and removed the blast/rustication on the end of the shank. They also tapered both sides and top and bottom to meet the new stem. While both of these “errors” in fitting a stem are a pain to deal with they are not irreparable. It just means that any new stem must follow the new lines of the pipe and that the rustication pattern needs to be repaired as well. The bowl itself was thickly caked and the rim dirty and with a slight buildup of tars. The finish was spotty and the reddish brown stain was worn.
I went through my can of stems to find one that would properly fit a GBD style Canadian with an oval shank and found several. I chose the acrylic one in the photo below and used the PIMO Tenon Turning tool to reduce the diameter of the tenon. I also used the Dremel and sanding drum and hand sanding to further fit the tenon to the shank.
With the tenon fitting well, the overall diameter of the stem needed to be reduced to fit the shank diameter. It was just slightly bigger so the work on it would not be difficult. The excess is visible in the four photos below. Note also the smoothing of the shank that had been done in the previous repair.
I used a Dremel with a sanding drum to remove the excess acrylic material and bring the stem into line with the shank. I took care to not nick the shank even though I later planned to rework the rustication on it.
With the fit roughed in I took it back to the work table to hand sand the stem and make fit seamless. To begin the process I used 220 grit sandpaper to do the hand work. On the right side bottom of the shank I noted that the oval was slightly out of round with the stem removed and gave the new tapered stem a bulge in that area. I sanded the shank and the stem together at that point to correct the previous damage.
With the fit nearly finished on the stem I reamed the bowl of the pipe with a PipNet reaming set. I began with the smallest cutting head and then ended with the proper sized head for the bowl. I cut the cake back to bare wood.
I worked some more on the stem shank junction with a fine grit sanding sponge to remove the scratches in the briar and the stem. I was more concerned with the briar as I wanted to give it a coat of stain.
Staining would be a complicated process of using a variety of stains to match the original stain colour on the prehistoric. For the first stain colour I used an oxblood aniline stain. I would use other stains later in the process to get the colour I was aiming for.
As I put the newly fitted stem in place so that I could lay it down to dry the tenon snapped on the new stem. As I examined it I could see the many small fractures in the acrylic. This is one of the frustrations of pipe repair. You get a pipe on its way to the finish line only to have something like this happen and have to begin again. I took another stem out of my can of stems. I once again had to go through the process of turning the tenon, using the Dremel and sanding drum and finally hand sanding to fit the tenon in the shank. I also had to trim back the diameter of the new stem to match the shank with the Dremel. One good thing is that doing it the second time everything is set up to do it again more quickly the second time.
Once I had a good fit on the stem it was time to re-rusticate the shank using an etching head on the Dremel. In the next two photos the cutting tool is visible and the rustication of the shank is completed. I did both sides of the shank and the top to match the pattern on the upper portion of the shank. On the underside I brought the pattern around the flattened oval stamping area of the shank and matched the pattern around that area.
I stained the newly rusticated shank area with the oxblood stain. The stained rustication is visible in the next four photos. I am pleased with the match on the pattern of the rustication on the shank that I was able to achieve with the tool.
I still needed to use several more colours of stain to achieve a match to the bowl. I used aniline black and an aniline dark brown stain to approximate the mix of stains to blend the repaired portion with the remainder of the pipe. I would still need to do a top coat of oxblood to truly blend in the repair.
I sanded the stem with the usual regimen of micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanded with 3200-12,000 grit pads.
I gave the shank a final coat of the oxblood stain and lightly buffed the shank with White Diamond to blend the wear of the older portion with the new rustication. I rubbed down the stem with Obsidian Oil and then buffed the stem with White Diamond as well. Once the buffing was done I gave the stem multiple coats of carnauba on the wheel and then buffed it with a soft flannel buff. I rubbed in Halcyon II wax on the bowl and shank and then lightly buffed the bowl with a soft flannel buff. The “new” Digby Canadian is now ready for its inaugural smoke. It is shown below in the final four photos.