Tag Archives: Henry Ramirez article

Dent Steaming a 1932 PATENT DUNHILL T197 Billiard with a VERNON STEM


Blog by Henry Ramirez

Saw this mousey looking pipe with a clicker stem on EBay.  Nobody seemed to want it so I took it home to practice my dent steaming.  The stem attaches with a loud click and some research told me it was named after Vernon Dunhill, who was responsible for the fitment’s design.  It was designed  to allow the stem to be separated from the bowl even when the pipe was hot from recent smoking.  It had the earlier square tip tube rather than the later angled tip. The stem had a funky downward cant before the button and it strongly resembled my Kaywoodie Allbriars.  Boy they nailed that briar stain to the oxidized Cumberland stem color! The bowl rim was dented/chipped and the surface scratched. The stem and the button were in fine shape so the usual soak in Oxyclean to remove the smegma followed by a trip to the oven to allow the stem to straighten itself.The metal tube is removable from the keeper which is part of the stem.  I have seen examples of the opposite where the keeper is integral to the shank.  These pipes seem to have been mostly billiard Cumberlands but some exceptions exist.  Both the tube and the keeper were polished with fine brass wool.  I did reface the tube with a carborundum disk.The shank stampings were crisp but there seemed to be personalized script on the bottom long polished off.The dent on the bowl’s rim was the major distracting feature.  I didn’t want to top the bowl and the briar dust/CA mixtures never seemed seamless to me.  So I tried to fatten up the cellulose fibers with hot steam using my hand held steamer.  This worked somewhat and had the advantage of pin pointing the area to be steamed. Not satisfied, I decided to fall back on the hot iron on a wet kitchen towel technique.  This did a better job, I think because it affected a larger area.  The problem then became one of restaining this larger area to match the rest of the pipe.

Restaining the pipe became somewhat of a chase your tail love’s labor, trying light brown, medium brown and the finally dark brown in various concentrations followed by isopropyl alcohol on a gauze sponge scrubbings.

So, I think I’m going to someday re-stain the whole pipe dark brown to try to better match the Cumberland stem while learning to love the residual dent on the rim.  The only home run here was the straightening of the stem to its original straight shape.  Thanks for looking, regards, Henry.

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Stem Button TIME SAVER on a 1940’s Dunhill LB


Blog by Henry Ramirez

I was ghosting through Ebay listings looking for a cracked shank to experiment with when this old classic appeared.  The auction was won for a song because in addition to a cracked shank, the year stamping had been buffed off the shank. The usual whole lotta cake and dented stem story.I started with the stem, which was really in great shape.  I have come to love the stumpy profile of the patent LB’s with their constricted contour button.  An Oxyclean bath was followed by an isopropyl alcohol scrubbing with a shank brush and pipe cleaners. I wanted to use heat to raise the bite marks as much as possible to not only decrease my work load but to minimize the inclusion of foreign filler. To this end I also wanted to learn the proper temperature needed to reproduce my results consistently.

Using a heat gun, I took my time and warmed up the vulcanite until my nose told me it was getting close to burning.  If that happens the surface becomes a porous charred stinky mess!  I quickly used a laser temperature gun to obtain a surface reading of 275 degrees F.  Amazing how quickly the surface cooled off once the heat was removed.I was not impressed by the amount of rebound and it looked like filling and filing was in my future.

Having nothing to lose, I pressed my wife’s oven into service, knowing that I could set the temperature substantially higher than previous attempts without fear of ruination. I set the oven temperature at 265 degrees F to have a 10 degree safety zone and watched as the whole stem “stretched out”.  This was more like it! The dents were now depressions that needed the light to shine just so to be seen.  Little CA and polishing was needed.

I should mention that these values are for older Dunhill vulcanite only.  The composition of vulcanite has changed over the years, according to some posts I’ve read, and I’ve noticed it in the depth of polish ability.Now it was the time to clean and evaluate the briar. While I ream the mortise and bowl I am wishing that I had Steve’s magical Savinelli Pipe knife. Boy, those things are rarer than hen’s teeth and this old cake is super hard. That is followed by total immersion in an isopropyl bath with various scrub brushes stripping the briar. I couldn’t save the original finish because the shank crack needed to be clean and open as much as possible for the bonding. One of the perks of the alcohol bath is that after the bowl dries out, if there is any residual cake stuck to the chamber walls, it shrivels up and is easily removed.The shank crack was now very evident but the year stamping was not.Getting back to the stem, I wanted to know if the alcohol retort was worth the hassle.  I had been as meticulous as possible with the pipe cleaners and cold alcohol.  The color of the used alcohol in the distillation flask tells the story, close but no banana! I could now address the cracked shank.  I had previously repaired such a problem using a micro-screw and bonded dental composite resin.  I was concerned that threading the screw into old dry briar could start micro-fractures and crazing.

This time I elected to drill a channel spanning the crack and passively bond a post fabricated from longitudinal glass fibers encompassed in a strong composite resin matrix.  This would also provide some flex in the repair to accommodate the dimensional changes that briar goes through because of temperature changes during smoking.

At this time I also drilled a post hole at the end of the crack to prevent further spidering.  Because the crack was significantly wide I made sure to introduce my resin with a size 06 endodontic file.  I had planned to use a C clamp to close the gap but I chickened out when finger pressure did nothing.  Not sure how to make briar temporarily more flexible….

After filling the post hole and cementing the fiber post with dual cure composite resin, I trimmed off the post and blacked out the white resin with black CA.

Before beginning to start the staining process I wanted to open the pores of the cellulose to not only gain greater absorption of the dye but also improve the briar’s capacity to absorb tars for a sweeter smoke.  I had noticed such a phenomenon with the Missouri Meerschaum corn cob pipes.

I found that this particular wheel had already been invented by the folks who refinish wooden decks.  I tracked down some relatively non-toxic materials which did the job and whose run off wouldn’t hurt plants.

Sodium percarbonate does the cleaning and oxalic acid removes the smear layer, thus opening up the wood’s pores.  Looking around online for a source I realized that I already had both chemicals in the laundry room!  Oxyclean is the percarbonate and states on the container that it’s great for wood decks, siding and lawn furniture.  Bar Keeper’s Friend has oxalic acid as its active ingredient and states on the container that it works on teak wood.Indeed after scrubbing with both and rinsing with water, I noticed that the chamber’s surface looked and felt less dense.Now it was time to stain the briar with Oxblood diluted 50% with isopropyl alcohol in two coats, both flamed with the micro-torch.I was lucky that the original black stain in the depths of the blast remained.An overlay stain of light brown was applied in 2 coats.After a rub down with an old t-shirt to remove any xs dye, I applied 2 coats of Halcyon wax.  A quick buff on the lathe and then a hand strapping with a shoe bristle brush brought the shine up.  I want to mention that my wife gifted me her silver brush which is narrow and has long soft bristles which easily accesses the crotch of the pipe without fear of collision. This has proved most useful on bent pipes.Another very helpful tip came from a pipe maker’s blog about dead-faced files to add crispness to the button area.  They are the dead faced nut seating file by Stewart MacDonald, a luthier’s supply house and the pillar files which have the dead side on the edge from OttoFrei, a clock makers source.Well I’m now satisfied with the pipe but not finished. They say we abandon these projects because we reach a point where better becomes an enemy of good. Boy that was fun and I hope to share more adventures with these fabulous old pipes!  Regards, Henry

 

1967 DUNHILL 197 SHELL BRIAR Clean-up


Blog by Henry Ramirez

When surfing Ebay I noticed a very well smoked Shell billiard whose stem had lost its White Dot. It looked like it could be cleaned up to present an elegant addition to my collection. I anxiously awaited its arrival and immediately dunked the stem in an Oxyclean bath for a nite.

The next morning I pulled it out of the bath and wiped off the smegma for my first real look at the stem. The divots reminded me of a deflated balloon. Just what I was hoping for! Off to the buffer I went to buff off the sulfur discoloration with a wet rag wheel and pumice. Knowing what I know now, I should have popped this baby in the oven to raise the dents but instead I got to cleaning the stem’s airway and tenon. I bonded some shade A2 dental composite in the hole for the White Spot and was dismayed that it refracted the surrounding black vulcanite. Note to self, next time place a layer of opaque before the bulk fill. Luckily, when researching the earlier White Spots I came across examples of dots so dark they were black. I had made a silicone impression of a new pipe’s stem and used that as a mold to create a refurbishment of the button. What a mess! Next time I’ll mix the charcoal in with the composite resin rather than CA. I ended up recreating the button the way Steve has posted here on Reborn Pipes. OK, so now it’s the bowl’s turn. My armamentarium and procedure is pretty routine for cake and gunk removal. The rim’s blast was scorched but luckily, the rest of the pipe’s blast was vestigial. This was an opportunity to try out emulating a blast through rustication. Plus, since the pipe was stained rather darkly, it would help hide a myriad of sins. When polishing the chamber I noticed some alligatoring of the briar. Today I would probably schmeer some JB Weld into the cracks but what I did was a coating of Structural Sour Cream and charcoal. I played around with the button’s internals, polished with the usual green, red and white compounds (thanks Tim West), threw on some wax and called it a day! Thanks for looking, regards, Henry

FANCY FIX AVERTED!


Blog by Henry Ramirez

In an earlier blog submission I created what I named a FrankenStem bit replacement on a chewed up Dunhill Shell bent. In heating the stem in the oven to straighten and re-bend it I inadvertently caused the stem/shank union to open (iatrogenic). I thought that if I could just sand down the high spot that everything would fit tight again. I wanted to be precise in my actions so I coated the tenon with a disclosing solution. I mated the pieces together and, quite frankly, am lucky I didn’t split the shank. The thickness of the powder was enough to cause quite a tight fit. It did show me where it was hanging up but I was terrified to push my luck. Dunhill’s engineering and quality control are such that I knew everything should fit without additional removal of material. Upshallfan had mentioned his use of a heat gun to bend stems and I figured I’d try the same but on the tenon. I heated the tenon until I could SMELL the vulcanite and then quickly inserted it into the shank and tweaked it with psi vs the shank’s mortise. After holding it for a minute, I removed it and ran it under cold water to set the shape. As you can see, even under magnification the fit is closed. It makes me wonder about other previously owned pipes that had this issue when I received them. I tried resurfacing the mortise and resurfacing the tenon with inadequate results. They were old pipe shop basket pipes so I don’t know if they ever fit together properly but I didn’t have that dilemma here. I was also pleased to note that my sense of smell is a powerful ally, not only when cooking but heating stems! Regards, Henry

Dunhill 1949 Patent 120 FrankenStem


Blog by Henry Ramirez

Cruising Ebay for a pipe to play with I came across a Shell bent which, as stated in the listing, had the stem bit completely chewed off. I’d been trying a mold technique to reconstruct the stem button with limited success, very limited. Anyway, this pipe’s stem had been chewed to the point where no pipe cleaner could negotiate the airway and tobacco dottle was packed in tight. Here is a photo of the listing.Dang me, the previous owner had a heck of an oral fixation!  This stem was exactly what I was looking for.While the stem soaked in the Oxyclean bath, I evaluated the briar. The cake in the chamber was so thick you could shake a stick at it but after removal proved to be the protection connection because the inner bowl was pristine. I don’t know what it is about old tobaccos but the cake is dry and pumice-like with a delightfully transporting aroma to another time. The bowl’s rim was likewise protected by the lava of cake and tar. When I use my augers and drill bits, it’s either by holding the bit by hand or using an electric drill to hold the spade bit and turning the pipe itself. I’m listening for the crunching sound of cake being cleaved rather than the squeaky sound of metal on briar. Full rotations are usually not possible until the very end.

The stain and finish on the briar had that great oxblood highlight color that I love but was tarnished with a river of muck. I decided to try using my micro etcher to preserve the blast on the rim but knowing that I would later have to re-stain. I didn’t want to use Murphy’s Oil Soap because it diminishes the intensity of the stain somewhat.  Regarding the River o” Muck, I tried using my steamer which has a gun for accurate aiming and a boiler which keeps up the psi.  This muck was visible in the blast’s valleys as a white deposit. I fished out the stem from the Oxyclean bath, scrubbed it with blue shop paper towels to remove the slimy coating and polished it with flour of pumice, green, red, white diamond and Bendix on the lathe with individual rag wheels.

When the stem airway is too congested or crimped to allow passage of even a bristle pipe cleaner, I use a base “E” guitar string. It has a stiff central core wire which is later wound with another thicker resilient wire to poke on through.  My intent is not to mechanically open the airway but to remove any remaining tobacco chattel that the steamer couldn’t dislodge.

Next, I want to straighten the stem in my Wife’s oven. Of course I do this when she’s not around and so far she has turned a blind eye towards this practice.  But if there is residual tobacco burnt in her oven, I don’t want to be around to explain! The vulcanite has a memory of its initial pre-bent and pre-chewed state which will allow ease of cleaning and repair. The only bugaboo is that tenon-mortise margin can open. I was fortunate to have that happen because I have an adjustment technique to fix that which I want to try out. Importantly, don’t forget to trace the initial outline of the bent stem on a piece of paper for a reference when re-bending.

The pipe stem is positioned on a sheet of aluminum foil on the middle shelf where it is easy access and can be well illuminated by the oven’s light, I have tried to use an aluminum pie plate but the higher sides obscure my viewing the stem. I set the temperature to 247 degrees using the Bake Convection mode. This oven is electric and if yours is gas, you may want to let it get up to temperature first before placing your stem. Gadzooks!  The tenon on the stem opened like a blunderbuss barrel and the stem won’t fully seat. More fun!

The cross section on either side of the air way seemed meaty enough for some pins and channeling to create a ferrule of composite resin. I made a silicone putty impression of an unsmoked stem which approximated the same size and shape of this pipe. I made sure to capture the airway’s interior.I then plugged the stem’s airway with wax; micro etched the exterior surface and bonded the composite. I’d gotten a black resin colorant online but found that it either accelerated the mix to a very short working time or inhibited the mix to not fully curing. To blacken my next mix I’m going back to activated charcoal. But although this bit is ivory colored, it is very strong and decently shaped so I decided to simply slather it with a coating of black CA.

When I placed the pipe back in the oven to re-bend it, I found that some of the CA had over heated and was bubbled up like road tar. Note to self, keep CA out of the oven. I had seen this happen with an infrared light in a previous experiment but thought the temp was sufficiently lower to prevent a recurrence. Oh well, just more fussin’.

By the way, when re-bending the stem I never seem to be able to wait long enough and go through several attempts before getting it right. If it doesn’t fully bend to the proper contour, you have to wait until it re-straightens itself and then some. If you get greedy you can snap stem in half. I’m looking forward to my next stem bending because I plan to chronicle the ideal temperature using my laser thermometer.Returning to the bowl’s rim, I stained it with a light brown, got the stem to fit better but haven’t yet dialed it in and polished the pipe.I noticed that the preliminary outline of the stem displayed the additional length that the new bit added.Here’s the semi-final result and I wonder if any of these projects are truly ended because to aspire to the superb craftsmanship of these old Dunhill artisans is a journey rather than an endpoint.

 

 

 

Cracked Shank Repair on a Dunhill CK12 Author


Blog by Henry Ramirez

Henry and I have been emailing back and forth on all things pipe repair and I have to say I enjoy each missive he sends me. He is a creative guy who is using his dentistry expertise to work on pipes. The kind of repairs he does and the equipment he has both built and gathered is unique and certainly adds some new ideas to the hopper for refurbishers like me. I don’t want to bore you with all kinds of introduction on Henry. I will let his restoration of this old Dunhill speak for itself. Welcome and thank you for your contribution Henry. – Steve Laug, rebornpipes

I’d seen this old pipe bought and sold several times on Ebay, each time gussied up a little more but still tap dancing around the issue of the split shank repair band. Being the sucker that I am for gnarly old patent Shell Dunhill’s, I decided that this was the perfect opportunity to see what was under the band and possibly date this old codger.

Using 10x’s loupes with a parallel headlight source, I sectioned the band to find, to my lucky surprise, NO CEMENT! Just popped off, pretty as you please with no clean-up necessary. I used a fine carborundum wheel to initially trough the metal and then finished with a sharp new #2 carbide round but in an electric lab hand piece by Kavo. The Kavo or less expensive Medidenta hand pieces are ergonomic and very smooth running when compared with dremels. I would not try such a procedure for fear of scaring the briar without a hand piece I fully trusted.The newly exposed underside of the shank was faintly stamped with an incomplete patent number starting with 116(989/17) which would place this pipe from 1925-1934. No closure here since the date stamp was completely sanded off when the band was fitted.I was also pleased with the stem’s sizing to the shank. Still there was enough of a suggestion of the shell finish to complement the rest of the pipe.The 8mm stem orifice leads me to think this was a filtered pipe.The usual chamber cake removal (different pipe). I also use drill bits by hand to router out the mortise to bowl.When I want to conserve the original briar’s finish, I plug the bowl with a cork after stretching a latex or nitrile glove over the rest of the pipe. I then snip the tip of one of the fingers and poke the shank through the finger and out the hole. I tie off the glove and scrub the mortise and shank submerged in a Tupperware container filled with 91% isopropyl alcohol or vodka. Black muck floats out with every agitation of the shank brush.Drilling the micro-pin channel across the fissure. Once threaded into place, the pin shears off and the driver/carrier is removed. Of course I want the pin in the center of the thickest part of the shank through which the crack runs.The X-ray below shows not only the pin but also some of the composite plug. The composite plug was done at the end of the crack to prevent propagation.Pin hole back filled with black CA. Also spread some for aesthetic purposes on the composite plug. The stem was then buffed with four of pumice, Tim West’s green & red abrasive bars, White Diamond, Bendix plastic polish, Paragon wax and then a clean wheel and micro fiber towel. The bowl rim was gently micro-etched (Danville sand blaster) and polished with a Robinson bristle wheel brush. Luckily, the pipe was dark in general and the wax darkened the rim so that it blended. I flamed the wax to melt it into the rustications and buffed using a shoe polish brush supported by the bench pin. I ozonated the pipe for a night to remove any ghosting.Hope I don’t bore you with my Magnificent Obsession of resurrecting old pipes with the tools at hand. BTW, the light spot on the shank is an artifact of my flash. I’m going to deep six my crummy point and shoot and use my iPhone camera now that my MacBook can again see it as a drive. If you’re having the same problem, download Sierra operating sys from Apple for free.

Yours faithfully, Henry.

A Bench Pin – For Those Times You Need an Extra Hand


Blog by Henry Ramirez

Henry and I have been corresponding via email for some time now sharing ideas and questions. Henry is a dentist who uses his mad dental skills in restoring and refurbishing pipes. He has the tools of his trade that he has taken to the pipe repair bench and he has done some great work. I wanted him to introduce us to this tool – the like of which I have not seen before but which I want to order – yesterday! Thanks for doing this Henry. I appreciate it.  — Steve Laug

I noticed when on pipe maker’s website blogs that everyone seemed to have a funny appendage attached to their work table which was usually covered with what appeared to be either cloth or leather. With Google’s help, God bless them, I found out it was called a Bench Pin and was a jeweler’s right hand when sawing, filing and buffing.Ebay has quite a few different ones available at all price ranges and it could probably be easily made from some scrap lumber if you’re inclined. Since I have never been able to saw a straight line I elected to purchase a pre-made one which would allow me to attach it to my office desk without marring the surface. Thus I would be able to spend more time, sort of, with my wife who reads in the adjoining room. Sometimes I get so caught up in pipes out in the garage that time flies and the entire afternoon and evening are gone. I have purchased a second unit which I will permanently screw to my garage work table surface. I find that filing the stem’s button contour and buffing the bowls with a shoe brush are greatly improved with the help of the Bench Pin.