Tag Archives: PIMO tenon turners

Can a Cracked Bowl be Repaired? – Taking a Lesson from Gan Barber’s Work

Blog by Steve Laug

Many of you have read the piece that Gan wrote on “All the King’s Horses and All the King’s Men – A Peterson Adventure” https://rebornpipes.wordpress.com/2012/10/03/all-the-kings-horses-and-all-the-kings-men-a-petersen-adventure-gan-barber/ In it he described the process of reconstructing a Peterson that was in pieces. It arrived with cracks and he put the pieces back together. Since interacting with Gan on that pipe and rereading his article I have wanted to try my hand at repairing a cracked bowl. Finally I picked one up in an EBay lot that I purchased. It was an L. J. Perretti Smooth Bent Billiard. It was in rough shape and needed a stem. I figured I would practice some of the magic Gan used on the Peterson pipe he wrote about on this one.

This Perretti had some deep cracks that ran through the bowl from outside to the inside. Once I had reamed the extremely thick cake out of the bowl I could see that the cracks went all the way through the briar. There were deep gouged areas on the inner walls of the bowl directly behind the cracks. The wood was not charred so it was not a true burnout. I think that a combination of too thick a cake and possible flaws in the briar made these cracks appear. Interestingly the cracks follow the grain all the way through the pipe. I shined a light through the cracks and I could see light on the opposite wall of the pipe bowl. There were two large cracks on the left side and one running with the grain on the front of the bowl. The one on the front was not as open and it did not go all the way through the briar. The ones on the left side were quite open and cavernous.

The first series of seven photos shows the state of the bowl when I began the experiment. I figured I had nothing to lose on this one. If it fell apart or did not work out it was not a great loss at all, but it would fun giving it a try. I wanted to try out some of the methods that Gan used in his reconstruction of the Pete on this one and see what I could do with it.








After reaming thick cake back to the bare wood I sanded the exterior with 240 grit sandpaper to clean off the finish and get a better look at the nature and depth of the cracks. I wanted to be able to more clearly see how far across the bowl they stretched and if the cracks followed the grain. I had already seen the state of the inside bowl walls. The left side interior showed damage from the crack extending into the bowl. The front side was less damaged. It had some very minor cracks on the inside walls. I blew air through the shank into the bowl and plugged the top of the bowl to see where the air came through the walls. The only one that really allowed airflow was the larger crack on the left side toward the front of the bowl. The next three photos show the sanded bowl. I left sanding dust in the cracks to highlight their depth and the extent of damage.


I decided to put the bowl in the alcohol bath. I wanted to soften the remaining cake in the cracks and crevices inside the bowl and also soften the grime within the cracks. I had no idea what would happen to the bowl as it soaked. I almost expected it to come out of the bath in several pieces. I got busy with work and other demands and ended up leaving it in the bath for over 24 hours. When I finally removed it and let it dry for several days I figured that the drying would probably make the cracks worse.

When I removed the bowl from the bath it was not in pieces but the cracks did open a bit wider on the side of the bowl. The finish and grime was gone and I could clearly see what I had to do if I was going to repair this bowl. The end of the shank had also been damage and chipped so I decided to band it to give me a smooth edge for the new stem I was going to turn for it. I used a nickel band, heated it with the heat gun and pressure fit it on the shank of the pipe. The one bonus in the process was that the grain on this pipe was actually quite nice. The next three photos show the dried and banded bowl and shank. There was still a lot of sanding that would need to be done to prepare the bowl for the repairs and even more sanding once those were done.


I selected a stem that had the same diameter as the shank and turned the tenon on the Pimo Tenon Tool. I finished the fit by hand with a little help from the sanding drum on the Dremel. Once I had a good fit I set up the heat gun and heated the stem to bend it to match the bend of the bowl and bring the tip even with the top of the bowl. The next three photos show the heating and bending process as well as the finished look of the pipe with its new stem.


After I restemmed the pipe I did some more sanding on the bowl. I wanted a clean surface to work with when I did the patches on the cracks. I also cleaned out the inside of the bowl with sandpaper and a dental pick. I wanted to clean out the interior cracks in the bowl as well as the exterior ones. Each would use a different kind of patch but each needed a clean surface to work with. The next five photos show the cleaned exterior of the pipe and two photos of the interior. Still more work needed to be done to clean them up before I patched them.




For the exterior cracks I decided to use a patch mix of briar dust and superglue. I cleaned the cracks out with my dental pick and some Everclear. Once they were clean I packed them with briar dust, tamping it into the cracks with both the flat head of a tamper and also the tip of the dental pick. Once they were filled the first time I dripped the superglue into the cracks. The glue binds the dust and the surrounding briar and also compacts the briar dust. I then retamped in some more briar dust and repeated the process until it was filled. The next six photos show the process of filling the cracks around the bowl.





Once all the cracks were filled I sanded the bowl with 240 grit sandpaper to remove the excess material on the surface of the bowl. You will note the scratches in the surface of the briar. These would be removed in the successive sanding that still would be done to the bowl. The cracks are filled and the surface hard. The briar dust and superglue form a good bond with the crack and when dry are dark black in colour. They are hard to the touch even with the dental pick. The next four photos show the bowl after sanding. The surface is smooth to the touch.



The scratches on the bowl have been minimized with the fine grit sanding sponge pictured above. I continued to sand until the marks were gone using 320 grit sandpaper. Once I had the bowl to that point I wiped it down with Everclear on a cotton pad. The three photos below show the bowl after the wash.


I continued to sand the bowl with micromesh sanding pads from 1500-12,000 grit to smooth out the surface of the bowl. The micromesh left the surface ready to be stained. The cracks are still visible in terms of the black lines but the cavernous gaps are filled and repaired.


I decided to stain the bowl with a rich oxblood aniline paste stain. I applied it to the bowl, flamed it and applied it a second time and flamed it. Once it was dry I wiped it off and hand buffed the surface. My purpose was not to hide the flaws but to minimize the glaring nature of the repairs. The next six photos show the staining and rubbed down bowl. I was not happy with the coverage but I buffed it quickly with White Diamond to see what I had to work with. The final photos in the series of six show the buffed and polished look of the bowl.





I decided to give the bowl a second staining of a dark brown aniline colour. This was a mix of dark brown and alcohol 1:1. I applied it and flamed it. I repeated the process to darken the colour of the bowl. The four photos below show the result of the application of the brown stain.



After the stain had dried it was time to address the inside of the bowl. I sanded it out quickly with a Dremel with a sanding drum attachment. I was careful not to change the shape of the bowl but to merely remove any carbon cake that still remained. I wiped the inside down with Everclear and then flamed it to dry out the surface of any moisture. I then mixed a batch of JB Weld. This would be the first step in doing the interior repairs. I packed it into the cracks on the inside of the bowl using the spoon end of the pipe nail. I continue to pack it into the bowl cracks until they were smooth. The four photos below show the mix and the patch in the bowl. It has a drying time of 6 hours to dry to touch and 24 hours to cure.



While the bowl was drying I worked on the new stem. I sanded down the castings on the side of the stem and polished it with micromesh sanding pads. I used 1500-12,000 grit micromesh pads on the stem. I pictured three photos below to show the process.


The next series of eight photos show the patch after it had dried. I also reapplied the JB Weld after the initial 12 hours so that it filled in the places where it had shrunk as it dried. The patch dried a fine grey coloured. I sanded it down until it was only in the cracks themselves and not in the clean briar. I wanted to give the briar as much absorption area as possible as the JB Weld does not absorb moisture at all. It dries to a neutral, hard metallic material that has no taste.







Once the JB Weld was cleaned up and reduced to only filling the cracks it was time for the second step of the bowl interior renewal. I mixed a batch of bowl coating composed of activated charcoal powder and sour cream. I stirred the batch until it was a consistent blue/black grey colour. I applied it to the entire bowl from top to bottom with a folded pipe cleaner. Once it dries it is a solid black colour and neutral in taste. It gives the bowl an additional layer of protection until the cake builds up. The next three photos show the mix and the application in the bowl.


With that done, both the inside and the outside cracks are repaired and the pipe is back in service. I gave the entire pipe a final buff with White Diamond and then applied multiple coats of carnauba wax for protection. The final photos below give you an idea of how the pipe looks today. It is still curing from the bowl coating but I will load it and smoke it once that has cured. The finish of the two stains worked well to blend in the repairs but not hide them. The surface is smooth and the open cracks have been repaired. Now the ongoing test begins. Will the patches hold up or will the new heat from the fired tobacco open them a second time? Time will tell but it is worth the experiment in my opinion.






Refurbishing and Restemming an Irwin’s Canadian

One of the six pipes I picked up in Washington was a Canadian bowl sans stem that is stamped IRWIN’S over London Made on the top of the shank and London England over 1451 on the underside of the shank. It had a tenon still stuck in the shank and the bowl top was rough from beating it out on an ashtray or something. Irwin’s is a GBD line (seconds??? Though this one has no fills or flaws to suggest that). The grain is quite nice and the contrast staining was also well done. It always makes me wonder what makes a pipe move from the first line to a second line. You can see from the series of photos below that the bowl was dirty on the sides and the top was damaged quite severely. There were no cracks in the shank or the bowl so that was a bonus. The bowl was unevenly caked and pretty dirty as well.


I reamed and cleaned the bowl and then used a screw to pull the broken tenon from the shank. Once I had that removed I cleaned out the shank with pipe cleaners and Everclear. Once the shank was clean I took a stem blank from my jar of stems and turned the tenon with the Pimo Tenon Turner until it was a close fit. Then I hand sanded the tenon until it was a good snug fit. I used the Dremel to take off the excess vulcanite and make a smooth transition between the stem and the shank. I then sanded the stem with medium grit Emery cloth to smooth out the surface of the scratches left behind by the Dremel sanding drum. From there I proceeded to use 220 grit sandpaper and also 340 grit sandpaper to further sand out the scratches. I wiped down the bowl with acetone to remove the dirt and grime and remnants of the top coat of stain. I wanted to prepare the surface for a new stain of diluted dark brown aniline. I also topped the bowl to remove the damage to the surface and clean up the edges of the bowl. The next two photos show the pipe with the stem fitting and the bowl cleaned and topped. It was ready for the staining once I sanded the rim top smooth with the micromesh sanding pads.


I diluted some dark brown aniline stain 3-1 with isopropyl alcohol and stained the bowl and rim. I flamed the stain and then restained it and flamed it again. I stained the rim two more times to darken the surface to match the bowl. I took it to the buffer and buffed the entirety with Tripoli and White Diamond. The four photos that follow show the pipe after staining. It was still too dark in my opinion to highlight the contrast of grains in the pipe so I took it back to my work table to deal with that.


I wiped the bowl down with acetone to remove some of the stain and lighten the overall look of the pipe. It had to be wiped down several times to get the look I was after. The next series of photos show the bowl after repeated washings. I used a cotton pad soaked with acetone and scrubbed the surface to get the desired look. Once it was done I again took it to the buffer and buffed it with White Diamond.


The stem still needed a lot of work to get it to the place of shiny newness. I continued to work on the stem with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12,000 grit. The first three pads 1500-2400 I wet sanded the stem. The other 6 pads I dry sanded. After sanding with the pads through 4000 I used the Maguiar’s Scratch X 2.0 a second time and finished with the 6000, 8000 and 12000 grit sanding pads. I finished the polishing with a coat of Obsidian Oil and then buffed it with White Diamond a final time. I gave the entire pipe several coats of carnauba wax and buffed the pipe with a soft flannel buff. The next four photos show the finished pipe.



Fitting a pipe with a new stem – photo essay

Blog by Steve Laug

I picked up this pipe bowl – a Pete 207 – an early Peterson from the late 40s. It was in need of a stem. I have a couple of cans of stems that are precast blanks. They need to have the tenons turned to make them fit correctly.


I have a PIMO tenon turning tool like the one pictured in the diagram below. I have to drill the stems to fit the guide pin as they are generally very small. Once that is done with a bit on my cordless drill I then put it on the tenon tool and adjust the carbide cutter to the diameter tenon I want to cut. I always start large and work my way down. I have found that trying to cut too much off at once causes the tenon to chip or break. So I start large and work my way down until it fits the mortise. I found this YouTube link that gives a video presentation of the process so I have included that as well for your information http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drKxzteEEPk A quick look at the video will show you the process I use in turning the tenons. I generally turn the tenon until it is close to fitting and then finish the fit by hand. I have found it is better to proceed by hand from that point so as I don’t take off too much of the vulcanite and have a loose fit on the tenon. I will show that process from the point the tenon has been fit in this pictorial essay.


Below is a stem blank that I picked up online from Pipe Makers Emporium. I have several coffee cans full of different sizes of blanks. I sort through them to find one that is close to the outside diameter of the shank. I find that it is not too difficult to get the two to match with a lot of sanding and fine work.


Below is a picture of the bowl prepped and ready for the new stem. I cleaned the top and polished the silver band as I want nothing in the way of a tight fit for the stem. You will also notice in the photo that the tenon is partially turned for a fit. I stopped at this point to show the process. The large portion still remaining on the tenon shows the first turn of the tool to take off the first portion of vulcanite. I keep the tool turning so that the carbide blade removes the face of the stem as well so that the seat will be straight and flush at the union of stem and shank. I find that when I do this at the beginning of the turn it give a good clean finish. The step down in the tenon shows the next portion removed. I have adjusted the tool to take off that portion. After this photo I finished turning the tenon.


The PIMO tenon tool took a bit of work for me to figure out the adjustments as I purchased the tool second hand without the instructions. The fellow I bought it from gave me some quick lessons on how to adjust it. He even threw in the hex keys!! So needless to say, I learned by trial and error how to adjust the cutting head and keep it straight for a straight cylinder cut on the tenon. Since then I have it has been pointed out to me that Kurt Huhn of Pipe Makers Forums has noted the tricks I learned the hard way.


I will try to capture the trick in my own words, combining what I have learned the hard way with Kurt’s recommendations. The first step in the process is to adjust the cutting head. Start by removing small portions at a time. To deep a cut makes the cutter wobble and give an uneven tenon. To adjust the cutting head insert the adjustment hex key (larger hex screw on the tool) and the lock key (smaller hex screw) into their set screws. Do not turn them, just insert them. Push in lightly on the adjusting key and pull up slightly. Loosen the lock key a quarter or half turn. While maintaining the up and in pressure on the adjusting key turn it in increments of a half turn (think half hour on a clock). With steady pressure on it by pulling it up, the arm with the carbide cutting head is not loose and wiggling as it is adjusted. If it is loose while adjusting it, you will get non-cylindrical tenons regardless of the number of turns from zero. Do not let go of the adjusting key, tighten the lock key while the pressure remains on the adjusting key. Pull the adjusting key straight out, being careful not to turn or press down on it. Trim the stem and repeat as you need to get a good tight fit on the tenon.

The next sequence of photos shows the tenon finished and the fit clean and tight. I hold it up to the light to make sure that there is no light showing between the stem and shank. Also note the Dremel with the sanding drum in the photo. I use that to bring the outside diameter of the stem to a close match to the shank. I run the Dremel at the middle speed to allow me more control of the tip as I take off material. If I run it too fast I find that it takes off too much. Too slow and it leaves a chunky beat up finish that takes a lot of sanding to smooth out. As can be seen from the photos there is not much material that needs to be removed for a smooth fit.


In the photos above I have used the Dremel and removed material to the point that the stem and the shank are almost level. I did it in stages with the stem on the shank and rotating the pipe to keep the perspective round and even. Once I got it to the stage above I move to my table and continue the rest of the work by hand. Sand paper in a variety of grades starting with 180 allows me to work the remainder of the material off and to get the scratches and grooves from the Dremel worked out of the stem.

Each of the next seven photos shows the progress of the stem toward the finished product with the different sand papers. Once I have removed the majority of scratches and grooves left by the Dremel with the 180 grit (pictures 1 &2) I move on to using 220 grit and 240 grit to take down more material. Care must be exercised to not scratch the band or the shank. The idea is to leave the shank exactly like it was without scratches or marks (pictures 3,4,5).

Pictures 6, 7 & 8 show the stem after using 1600 grit wet dry sandpaper. Each sanding step removes more material and evens the flow of the stem to shank. It also removes scratches and prepares the stem for the finish sanding.


The last four pictures show the pipe after sanding with micromesh pads – 1800, 2400 and 4000 grit. Generally each of the pads progressively polishes the stem. Any places that still show scratches send the stem back to the 600 wet dry sanding or even further depending on the depth of the scratches. When the polish is clean and smooth I take the stems to my buffer and buff with white diamond that raises a deep reflective finish on the stems.