Tag Archives: gluing a new tenon in place

Restemming and Restoring a Tiny KBB Rocky Briar 1540B Salesman’s Pipe

Blog by Steve Laug

In the box of pipes my brother sent me was a beat up leather pipe and tobacco pouch. I pushed it aside and cleaned up the rest of the pipes in that particular part of the box. The other evening I was doing a bit of sorting and I took out the pouch and looked it over. It had a large tear on the bottom edge. The zipper was worn and hard to work and the leather was brittle. I almost tossed it in the bin but felt something inside of the pouch. I looked at the inside of the underside of the pouch and there was nothing there. I open the broken zipper on the top of the pipe and inside was a very small – tiny if you will – pipe. The tenon was broken and the stem and bowl sat in the pouch.  I took it out of the pouch to have a look. KBB1It was a KBB that was stamped Rocky Briar. Why it bore that stamp I have no idea as it is a smooth briar. There is no rustication or and carving on the bowl at all – just very smooth. Underneath the KBB in a cloverleaf stamp and the Rocky Briar on the left side of the shank it read Reg. Pat. No. 298978. On the right side of the shank it reads 1540B which it was the shape number. All of that seems very normal but did I say that this pipe is tiny? It is only 4 ¾ inches long, 1 1/8 inches tall. The diameter of the bowl is 5/8 inches and the chamber is 7/16 inches in diameter. All is proportional and well laid out. It makes me wonder if it was not a salesman’s pipe.KBB2The tenon was snapped in the shank but no damage had been done to the shank itself. Really the pipe looked quite good other than the broken tenon.KBB3Obviously the pipe had been smoked and quite often. There was a fairly thick soft cake in the bowl and the rim top had a coating of tars and oils. The back left side of the rim had a burn mark on it that was quite large.KBB4I took a photo of the pipe before I began to work on it. The finish was very shiny – like it had been given a coat of varnish. The rim was obviously rough as you can see from the photos but the rest of the pipe looked good. The stem had tooth chatter on the top and the bottom of the stem near the button. The logo on the shank was a clearly stamped circle within a circle. The broken tenon would need to be pulled and if possible the stem given a new tenon.KBB5I used a drywall screw to pull the broken tenon. I screwed it into the broken tenon in the shank and wiggled it free. Before I pulled it out of the shank I took the following photos.KBB5a KBB5bI pulled the piece of tenon out of the shank and reamed the bowl with the only reamer that would fit in the tiny opening – a Savinelli Pipe Knife. I scraped back the cake to bare briar.KBB6The burned area on the top of the bowl made it necessary to top the bowl on the topping board using 220 grit sandpaper.KBB7I scrubbed off the briar with acetone on a cotton pad. I wanted to clean off the sanded rim and the shiny coat on the bowl so that it would be easier to stain the bowl and rim to match.KBB8I used the Dremel and sanding drum to flatten the face on the stem and then set up my cordless drill to drill out the end of the stem. I hand twisted the stem onto the drill bit. I started with a bit slightly larger than the airway in the stem and worked my way up until I had opened up the airway large enough to hold the tenon in place.KBB9I decided rather than trying to turn a small tenon that would fit in the shank I would clean up and use the existing broken tenon. Fortunately on these old pipes the tenon was quite long. I glued the broken tenon piece into the newly drilled opening in the stem with black super glue. I filled in around the tenon piece with the super glue using a dental pick and a piece of paper clip. I smoothed out the glue and aligned the tenon in the shank and set the stem aside to let the glue cure. Once it hardened, I sanded the new tenon with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the excess glue and make the fit in the shank smoother.KBB10I put the stem in the shank and sanded the shank and stem to make the transition smooth. Once I had the stem fit adjusted I sanded the shank and stem with a 1500 grit micromesh sanding pad to remove the scratches.KBB12 KBB13I wet sanded the stem with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads. I rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil. I dry sanded it with 3200-4000 grit pads and gave it a second coat of oil. I finished sanding it with 6000-12000 grit pads and gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil. I set the stem aside to dry.KBB15 KBB16 KBB17I gave the bowl a first coat of Medium Brown Stain with a staining pen to serve as an undercoat. KBB18I realize that for many of us who read about pipe restoration the measurements of this pipe really do not give a clear picture of the true size of the pipe. To give more of a sense of perspective to the diminutive size of the pipe I decided to take two photos of the tiny bowl with a regular sized Comoy’s long shank billiard. The first photo shows the pipe above the larger one. The second photo shows the bowl fitting inside of the regular sized bowl. Hopefully that helps give you a clear idea of the tiny nature of the pipe.KBB19I gave the bowl a second coat of stain using a Danish Oil Cherry stain. I wanted a bit of contrast to the brown and also to enhance the reds in the briar.KBB20 KBB21I rubbed the bowl down with a soft cotton cloth to spread the stain coat out and rub it into the briar. The next photos show the look of the pipe after a quick hand buff.KBB22I buffed the bowl with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel to polish it. I gave the bowl several coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth.KBB23KBB24I gave the bowl and stem another coat of carnauba wax and lightly buffed it with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed the entire pipe with a microfibre cloth. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It came out really nicely. Looking at the pipe is hard to tell from the photos the tininess of the pipe as all is proportional. The seashell in the photo is the same one that I use in all of the final photos and with this pipe it seems quite large. Thanks for looking.KBB26 KBB27 KBB28 KBB29 KBB30 KBB31 KBB32 KBB33

Replacing a tenon in a stem with a minimum of tools

Last evening I was looking at the lone pipe bowl in my refurbishing box and decided I wanted to do something with it. I wasn’t sure if I would refinish it or rusticate it with the new tool Chris sent me. Either way though, it needed a new stem. I went through my can of stems and found that I did not have any that would fit the shank without a lot of work. I did have one with a broken tenon that was the right diameter for this pipe. I looked at it for a while and then found a Delrin tenon that I had on the work table. The tenon was the right size for the shank! The stem was the right diameter for the shank. Now all I had to do was wed the two of them and I would have my new stem.

I have drilled out broken stems in the past and inserted a new tenon. I have used a tap and then screwed in a threaded tenon that I purchased from Pipe Makers Emporium. Either way it was work that I did by hand. By hand means that I do not have a drill press, I do not have a vise to hold the stem. I have my two hands and a cordless drill. This takes steady and slow work to keep all the angles straight and get things properly aligned. It is one of those processes that will either work really well or not at all. There is no in between. You cannot redrill a crooked hole to straighten it out without making it too large to fit the piece. So really the fact of the matter is that it all comes down to whether I can drill the stem out straight!

To begin the process I needed to square up the end of the stem and remove the broken pieces of the tenon that still remained. The end needed to be flat and even for the drilling. I sanded down the end of the stem flush using a sanding board (like the one used when topping a bowl). In the photo below you can see that the end of the stem has a divot out of it due to the breakage. I did not worry too much about that as the drilling would take most of that area out of the equation. I only worked on flattening out the rest of the stem. When finished I pressed it against the end of the shank to see if it was a flush fit or if there were any high spots. The fit was perfect. Now it was ready for drilling.
I took out my cordless drill and found that the battery was dead. I put the battery on the charger and sat thinking for a bit about how to best drill out the stem. I measured the diameter of the new tenon and found that it was 15/16 inches. To make sure I did not crack the stem or break it in the process I would drill it out in stages. I would mark the depth on each drill bit I used with a piece of tape so that I would not over drill or under drill the depth of the hole. I used the tenon as the measure for this. The tenon I had came with a slight lip on it so I would need to countersink the end of the stem once the hole was drilled in order to accommodate the lip.

I decided to try something different this time and not wait for the battery to charge. I stood the drill on my desk, inserted the drill bit and hand turned the stem onto the drill bit. I started with the 11/64 inch bit which was slightly larger than the airway in the stem. I turned the stem onto the stationary bit to the depth that I had marked on the drill bit. I lined up the stem and the angles making sure the line was straight and the hole stayed centered throughout the process. I worked my way through 7 bit sizes up to the 17/64 inch bit. Each time I turned the stem onto the bit in increments and cleaned out the hole with a dental pick. I continued to turn it on and off the bit until the drilling was smooth before moving onto the next sized bit.




I found that when I got to the larger sized bits from 19/64, 5/16, 21/64 inches it was hard to turn them on by hand. I could get them started but they quickly bound up on the bit and I could not turn them further. I turned them back and forth but it was not working well. I put the battery back on the drill and drilled the stem using a very slow speed. It worked well. When I had finished drilling it with the 5/16 inch bit the tenon pressure fit very nicely in the hole. There was not enough room for epoxy to be applied and still fit in the hole, so I drilled it with the 21/64 bit to give it the amount of room for the epoxy. To countersink the end of the stem I used a slightly larger drill bit and then a sharp knife to bevel the inner edge to accept the ridge on the tenon.


In the morning the tenon was firmly in place and dry. I cleaned the face with a dental pick and removed the excess epoxy from the stem. I pushed the stem into the shank of the pipe to see the fit. This was the final test. Did things align properly? Did I get the angle square and straight? Would there be a gap in the stem and shank joint? In case you are wondering I have had all of those issues in the past and had to do a lot of adjustments to get a clean fit. But this time things worked well. The fit was perfect and the alignment was absolutely correct. The pipe now had a new stem and it was time to make a decision on what to do with the finish of the bowl. That will be another story however. The photo below shows the fit of the stem and the shank. I am very pleased with the fit.
I sanded the stem and the shank to get a smooth transition between the stem and shank. I wanted the fit to be seamless so it took some sanding with 220 grit sandpaper followed by a sanding sponge to fine tune the fit. Here is the pipe as it stands now. Later today I will rework the bowl and finish the entire stem. But for the purpose of this post the tenon replacement and fit of the stem to the shank is complete.