Tag Archives: Metal tenons

A Creative Pipe Maker’s Anonymous Attempt at a Cool, Dry Smoke

This is another interesting piece of pipe history. I seem to have trouble passing up odd and creative pipe making attempts. I have no idea who designed or made this one or what the patent information is as there is absolutely no stamping or identification on the pipe itself. I remember seeing one on EBay awhile ago but somehow missed keeping the information. If anyone has any information on it please leave a comment in response to this post.

The pipe itself was in rough shape when I got it. The stem is chewed up badly and I have not taken the time to rework the stem. It is the dreaded nylon stem so it always leaves me cold in wanting to work on it. It is probably the most unforgiving stem material there is in my opinion. You can sand and sand it and it does not seem to change the damage. The heat gun and boiling water do not seem to lift the dents and tooth marks at all. What is there seems to be permanent. The bowl was badly caked – in fact so badly caked that it had a split in the side of the bowl. The finish is strange – best I can say about it almost little worm trails in the briar. The stem was stuck in the shank. I thought at first it was a screw tenon it was so tight. Under the stem was the flat base with what looked like an adjustment screw of some kind. It was also stuck tightly.

I reamed the bowl and found that the draught hole was in the bottom of the bowl – like a calabash. I opened that with a dental pick and cleaned it out. I packed the bowl with cotton bolls and filled it with isopropyl alcohol. I use 99% as it has little water content and seems to work well in drawing out the oils and tars. It took quite a bit of alcohol as it filled the reservoir below the bowl. I put a pipe cleaner in the stem and laid it aside overnight. My hope was that the alcohol would not only draw out the tars and oils but loosen the adjusting screw on the bottom of the shank as well as the stem.

In the morning I removed the cotton bolls. They were almost black with the tars and oils that they drew out. The stem was actually loose – that happens so little that I was surprised when I turned on it and it came out. I was expecting a screw tenon and found that it was not at all. It was an aluminum tenon made to hold a Medico style paper filter. The one in the tenon was almost black with grime and now it was soggy as well. I am still trying to figure out the airflow on this pipe. I also was able to turn the adjusting screw under the stem and it came out as well. I expected that it would adjust the airflow somehow (kind of like a Kirsten). But it was not an adjusting screw at all; instead it was a stinger like apparatus with a long twisted blade on it. Now the airflow was becoming clearer. The smoker pulled the air through the bowl down through the air hole in the bottom of the bowl. Once there it entered the chamber that ran the length of the shank and bowl and contained the twisted stinger. That apparatus would pick up the liquids and oils of the tobacco. The smoke would go up through a hole in the top of the chamber and enter the shank where the paper filter would trap the remaining debris of the smoke (and in my opinion whatever flavour still remained) before delivering it out the slot at the end of the stem.

I cleaned out the chamber and the shank by filling them with isopropyl and plugging the holes and shaking the fluid for several minutes. I would unplug and dump the dirty alcohol down the drain. I repeated this until the fluid came out clear. Then I cleaned the chamber and shank with a shank brush and bristle and ordinary pipe cleaners and more isopropyl alcohol until they came out clean and fresh. The stinger soaked in alcohol and I scrubbed it with 0000 steel wool until it shone. The stem needed a lot of cleaning though it was more dirt and grime that came out rather than tars. I was able to polish the tenon inside and out and clean up the stem. The dents and tooth marks I left alone. One day I will have to work them over and see if I can remove them. But not that day!

I scrubbed the outside of the bowl with a bristle tooth brush and Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove all of the grime from the bowl surface. I cleaned out the crack in the bowl with my dental pick. I then wiped it down with acetone and restained it with a medium brown aniline stain, flamed it and then buffed it with Tripoli and White Diamond. Once it was polished and clean I coated it with several coats of carnauba wax and then buffed it with a clean flannel buff.

I finished up the pipe and put it back together. I added a pipe softee bit to cover the bites and dents on the stem and make it more comfortable in the mouth. I packed a bowl of nice Virginia in it to try it out. I decided to leave out the paper filter and just smoke it as it was. It was an interesting and cool smoke though it pretty much removed the flavour of the Virginias that I chose to smoke. This one will sit in the cupboard as a memorabilia item but will not enter the rotation.


Here are the pictures of the process of repair. I patched it with black super glue and built up the angle of the stem to give a clean flow. I filled the dents and bite throughs on both sides of the stem. I sanded and sanded with 240 grit sandpaper and micromesh 1500 through 12,000 grit. Then gave it a coat of Obsidian Oil and finally several coats of wax. The last four photos show the final product.

Dr. Grabow Colour – Damaged and Reborn

Blog by Steve Laug

I have had this old Dr. Grabow Coloured pipe for a long time. It had damage to the colour coat and to the rim. I kept putting off doing anything with it as I could see no way of repairing the colour coat. It had the nylon stem as well with the Medico filter system. It was a screw mount tenon. The stem was covered with tooth marks and I just did not want to do anything with it… until yesterday.

Yesterday morning I took the pipe out of the box of pipes for repair and wiped it down with some acetone to see if I could clean up the bowl. At this point it was my plan to find some of the same coloured paint and respray the paint on the bowl to fix the spots where it was scratched off. I put the pipe bowl in my pocket and took a trip to Walmart to see if I could match the yellow colour of the paint. I went through about 6 or 7 different yellow colours and none matched. I stuck it back in my pocket and headed home. By this point I had decided to strip the bowl back to the wood and see what was under the paint. I had always heard that the bowls used in these pipes were pretty devoid of grain and had many fills so I figured what did I have to lose on stripping the paint.

I dropped the bowl in the alcohol bath for several hours while I was working on other things around the house. My hope was to loosen the paint coat not dissolve it into the water. Isopropyl should not dissolve the paint but it would certainly soften the paint and penetrate under the paint coat through the scratch marks in the surface. After I removed the bowl from the bath I used a sanding pad with medium grit and rubbed it across the painted surface and the paint began to peel back very easily. The next series of three photos show the effect of the paint coming off with a very light sanding.

I continued to sand the paint coat until it was gone. The next series of four photos show the bowl after the sanding. The paint coat is gone; all that remains is the light coating of yellow haze that will come off with a quick acetone wash. Once the paint was gone I was left with a pretty bland block of briar. There were fills around the front of the bowl and the sides. The shank, right side had a large fill that extended most of the length of the shank. The rim was in great shape with no dents of burns. The inner bevel on the rim was in great shape. I reamed the bowl to clean up the inside and the softened cake. It came out smooth and fresh. I cleaned the shank to remove and of the remaining tars and oils.

Once I had the internals cleaned up I washed the bowl down with a cotton pad and acetone. This removed the remnants of the yellow paint. It is amazing to me to see the amount of yellow colouration that came off with the acetone. The wood had quite a bit of yellow pigment on the surface of the bowl. I washed it down until the pads remained white. I sanded the tooth chatter and marks on the nylon stem (did I ever tell you how much I hate these nylon stems?? No? Well they are truly a pain). I was able to get the majority of the tooth marks out with emery cloth and then 240 grit sandpaper. I attached the stem to the bowl to have a look at what I had to work with  and where I should go with the finish work.

The fills seemed pretty disguised in the light colour of the briar so I decided to do a bit of an experiment. With a pipe of this calibre what do you have to lose? I stained it with a black aniline stain, flamed it and stained it a second time. My hope was that the fills would be hidden well by the stain coat. At first glance they seemed to remain hidden under the stain. I took the pipe to the buffer once it was dry and buffed the bowl with Tripoli to give it a shine and polish. As I did that the fills really stood out. The matte finish of the black hid them but the shine made them stand out. In the second photo below you can see the round fills on the front of the bowl. The one on the shank also stood out a bit.

The next series of photos show the pipe after a buff with Tripoli and White Diamond. The fills on the front now appeared to be a pinkish/red colour under the black coat. The one on the shank also looked pinkish/red. In the second photo below you can see where I restained the fill area on the shank. It was a large fill shaped almost like a moustache. Once it was dry I buffed it again with a light touch. The fills were just too obvious and ugly in my opinion. I even tried giving the pipe a top coat of dark brown stain to see if that would hide them. It did not. So I set the pipe down and went to supper. While I was eating I thought about the possibility of rusticating the bowl and giving the pipe a whole new look.

I took out my modified Philips screwdriver that I use for rustication and went to work on it. The screwdriver has the x pattern and a point. I used my Dremel to cut out the point and create four points with the remaining tip. It has a handle which I pad with a thick cotton cloth so that I can push it into the wood and minimize the discomfort on my palm from pressing. 

In the picture above you can see the work of rustication. The picture below shows the red coloured fills on the front of the bowl that made the decision to rusticate pretty easy for me.

I worked my way around the bowl as is seen in the next series of photos. I worked the front and then the bottom of the bowl and worked my way up each side of the bowl. In this case I decided that I wanted to see what the pipe would look like with a rusticated bowl and a smooth shank so I left the shank untouched with the rustication until I had finished the bowl.

The next three photos show the rusticated bowl and smooth shank look of the pipe. It just did not work for me. I did not like the look. As an aside – one of the great things with the rustication tool I use is the ability to use it in tight spaces and leave the surrounding surface untouched. By the way you will also note the photos that I left the rim smooth as well. 

The next two photos show the putty fills that were used. They seemed to have been white putty that was chalky when I scratched into it during the rustication process. You can see the location and the size of the fills in these photos. I am glad that I decided to rusticate this bowl.

I wrapped the shank and stem junction with a cellophane tape in multiple layers and extended onto the shank a quarter inch. I wanted to make a smooth band that would not be rusticated and match the smooth rim that I was leaving. The tape gave me an edge so that I would feel that as I twisted the tool in rusticating the shank. I also would give an edge to put the teeth of the tool against when I twisted it into the wood of the shank. The next series of photos show the rusticated shank. On the first one you can see the size of the fill on the right side of the shank. It also was the same white putty. As I hit it with the rusticator it left a white chalky residue. You can also see the intent of the band on the shank and the rim of the bowl being left smooth and what that would look like in contrast with the rough finish.

When I had finished the rustication I removed the tape guard and then sanded the band to get it smooth and to bring out the grain with dark undercoat.

Once that was complete I stained the pipe with a black aniline stain. I applied it heavily and then flamed it. The flaming sets the stain deep in the grooves and recesses of the rustication. I gave the rim and the band a coat of black as well. Once it was on I rubbed it off with a soft cloth to get the effect that is visible in the pictures below.

Once the stain was dry I worked on the smooth areas of the bowl – the rim and the band – with micromesh pads from 1500-6000 to polish them and smooth them out. I also worked on the nylon stem. It was a pain. The material scratches no matter what you do to it. And as I learned a long time ago it does not work to buff it as it has a very low melting point. So I sanded it with increasing grits of wet dry sandpaper – 400 to 600 grit and water and then sanded it with wet micromesh pads from 1500-12,000 to remove the scratching. I polished it on the buffer with blue polishing compound and a verrrrry light touch to give it a shine. I had waxed the smooth surfaces and the stem with carnauba and then wiped the pipe down with a cloth impregnated with Briar Wipe. Here is the finished pipe. I think the experiment worked!

Renewed Brigham One Dot

Blog by Steve Laug

This old Brigham One Dot was on the shelf at a Movie Studio Clearance Store – they sell old set items and materials from movies and television shows. Over the years I have found quite a few nice old pipes there for sale at a low price. I paid $12 for this one. From the photos below you can see its condition clearly. The stem was very oxidized and worse at the button end. I think that it probably had a rubber bit protector on it and it was cut off or fell of when they put it up for sale. The rustication was still crisp and sharp. The stain had faded from the top to about mid bowl and would need to be restained. The rim was tarred but not dented or damaged. The inside of the bowl was caked with an uneven cake that smelled of sweet aromatics.


I reamed the bowl and cleaned the shank and inside of the stem with pipe cleaners and cotton swabs and alcohol. I scrubbed down the exterior of the bowl and rim with Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the grime and the tars on the rim. I have used oil soap for a long time now on the surface of pipes and found that it works best undiluted. I rub it on and rub it off. On the rim I use a soft bristle tooth brush to scrub the tars off. On this pipe since I was restaining it anyway I did not care about losing a bit of the stain or finish in the process. I finished cleaning the rim with an 1800 grit micromesh pad. I then restained it to match the colour of the smooth patch on the underside. I gave it a quick light buff with White Diamond to polish the stain.

I had put the stem in a bath of Oxyclean and hot water and let it soak while I was working on the bowl. I removed it and wiped it down and resoaked it. After the second soak I sanded it with 400 and 600 grit wet dry sandpaper and then 1500-6000 grit micromesh pads to polish it. The Brighams have an aluminum shank that holds the hard rock maple filter tube. The filter tube was shot so I used a new one. The aluminum was tarry so it needed cleaning and a polish with 0000 steel wool. (The Brigham system is pictured in the graphic below.)


When the aluminum was clean and polished I put the pipe back together took it to the buffer and gave the stem a buff with Tripoli to take off the remnant of oxidization. Then I used some White Diamond on it to give it a clean polish. I finished buffing the whole pipe lightly with carnauba wax. The finished pipe is pictured below.


Rebirth of a WDC Milano Dublin

This old WDC Milano was a challenge that I wanted to take on and see how it would turn out. In the pictures below you can see the state of the pipe when I received it. The stem was deeply darkened in the button area as well as scratched and marked with tooth chatter on the first inch of the stem. The bowl was badly caked – much of the cake had broken away in chunks and what remained was soft and crumbling. It also appeared to have been reamed with a pocket knife and had nicks and cuts around the inner edge of the rim and the resulting effect left the bowl way out of round. The finish was damaged and parts of the stain had rubbed away and what was left was underneath layers of black grime. The sides of the bowl and the bottom side of the shank both showed signs of having been laid in an ashtray and burned with a cigarette. The burn on the bowl side was not deep and would be easily addressed but the one on the shank was pretty deep. I would have to take out as much as possible without changing the integrity of the shape. That gives you a pretty clear assessment of the damages facing me as I decided to work on this old pipe.


I reamed and cleaned the bowl back to the bare wood in order to remove the crumbling and cracked soft cake in the bowl. My thinking was that a good clean surface would encourage the build-up of a proper cake. With a sharp knife I worked on the inner rim. I worked to get it evened out with the knife and then turned to a folded 1 inch piece of 240 grit sandpaper to smooth out the roughness of the inner rim and to bring it back as close as possible to being round. The roughness of the rim required topping to even it out as well. I used my normal procedure of sandpaper anchored on a solid flat hard surface and turning the bowl clockwise or counter clockwise into the sandpaper – exercising caution to keep the bowl flat on the surface and vertical in order to keep the rim flat and not slanted. To remove the burn mark on the bowl and on the shank took a little time. On the bowl side it was not deep so it only needed to be sanded to remove the damage. But on the shank I scraped until I got to hard wood and then sanded. Once I had solid briar under the burn I put the bowl in an alcohol bath to remove the grime and the remaining finish. I left it overnight to soak and turned my attention to the stem.

The stem has a steel tenon and insert that is the system in these old Milano pipes. It seems to be some sort of condensing chamber to collect the moisture generated in a smoke. In any case this one was filled with tars inside and coated with them on the outside. I cleaned it out with a shank brush, bristle pipe cleaners and then fluffy ones until they came out clean. The outside of the condenser I scrubbed with 0000 steel wool to polish and remove the grime and tars. The aluminum polished up nicely and the tenon looks like new. The Bakelite stem took a bit more work and creativity. I cleaned the inside of the stem scrubbing it with soft scrub and bristle cleaners. I was able to remove much of the interior stains. I sanded the exterior of the stem to remove the tooth chatter and external discolouration. I sanded it with 400 and 600 grit wet dry sandpaper and then the usual course of micromesh pads from 1500-6000 grit. I finished by buffing the stem with Tripoli, White Diamond and carnauba wax.

I put the stem aside and removed the bowl from the alcohol bath and dried it off. I sanded the bowl with 1500 and 1800 grit micromesh to remove any remaining finish. I also sanded it with 3200 and 4000 grit micromesh to polish the bowl. I restained it with an oxblood stain. I flamed the stain and then took the pipe to the buffer and buffed the pipe and stem with White Diamond and carnauba wax. Below are the pictures of the finished pipe.


Replacing a screw mount stem

I have always wondered how to replace screw mount tenons without drilling out the mortise. I have done that before and it works well but I wanted to try to create a new screw mount stem using the existing tenon. I have learned from repairing overturned stems that you can heat the tenon and adjust its fit so I figured heating it and removing it would work much the same. So for the subject of the experiment I decided to tackle refurbishing an old Whitehall pipe I had here.

The Whitehall had a screw mount stem with a stinger attachment. The stinger was removable leaving about a half inch of tenon that I could work with. The stem had a huge hole on the underside of the stem near the button and was not a candidate for a stem patch. It would work perfect for the plan.

I heated the metal tenon with my heat gun until I could loosen it from the stem. I used a pair of needle nose pliers after wrapping the tenon with a cotton cloth to protect the threads. With a minimal effort of wiggling the tenon it came out very easily. Once it was removed I cleaned it thoroughly with pipe cleaners, alcohol and steel wool.

I then matched the length of the existing tenonless stem with my stem blanks until I had one that was roughly the same length and thickness. I used my Dremel to cut off the precast tenon until it was close to the flat surface of the stem. I then used the flat board with sandpaper attached (like I do when topping a bowl) to sand the surface flush. Care must be exercised to keep the stem vertical or the surface will quickly get an angle. I smooth that surface with wet dry sandpaper 40 and 600 grit and finished it with the micromesh pads.

Once completed smoothing the end of the stem I used a series of drill bits to work my way up to 1/4 inch diameter hole that the tenon insert required. I have learned the hard way that to start with the size I want can often cause the stem to break in my hands. So because of that I progress through the series of bits until it is the correct size. Before gluing the insert in place I screwed it into the shank and put the stem on so that it was correctly aligned. I did not want to have an overturned or under-turned stem when I was finished. I marked the insert with a black marker so that I would know which side was the top and then unscrewed it from the shank. I coated the insert end with some epoxy (like I do when inserting Delrin tenons in to the stem) and pressure fit it into the stem with the mark on the top side of the fitting. It was a perfect fit. The superglue dries quickly so I checked the fit on the stem again to make sure it still aligned. It did!!

I used my Dremel to shape the diameter of the stem until it was a close fit and then finished the fit with sand papers and micromesh. When I had it smooth and shiny I buffed it with Tripoli, White Diamond and finally several coats of carnauba wax. I then used my heat gun to bend the stem to the right angle for this bent pipe. I cooled it under cold water and then polished and buffed it again.

The bowl had been cleaned and scrubbed to remove the grime and build-up of the years with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a soft bristle tooth brush. Once it was clean I gave a light coat of medium brown stain and then waxed it with Halcyon II wax.

Here is the finished pipe: