Tag Archives: pipe restemming

Giving a Second Chance to a Throw Away Bowl


Blog by Steve Laug

This morning I was looking through my boxes of pipes to restore to find what I wanted to do next. I went through several options and finally settled on a bowl that I brought back from Idaho. It was a Custombilt style bowl that we were ready to pitch in the trash because it was in rough condition. Someone had cut off the shank with a saw – a real hack job that left the shank end rough and the surface not flat. The bowl had a thick cake in it and an overflow of lava on the rim top. The inside and outside edges were dirty but it was unclear if there was damage. There was no stamping on the shank or underside. The finish was shot and there was a lot of dirt and grime in the grooves of the finish. There was also some shiny coat on the smooth portions of the bowl that made wonder if it had been varnished at some time in its life. It was an unbelievable mess. But it was enough of a challenge that I wanted to take it on. Here are some photos of the bowl when I started. I went through my cans of stems and found one that fit the mortise. I would need to work on the face of the shank itself to make it round again but it showed a lot of promise. The stem was lightly oxidized and the bend was too much but otherwise I liked the look of the saddle stem.I put the stem on the bowl and took a few photos of the pipe. To me it showed a lot of promise. It would take a bit of work to get the fit just right but the pipe had a lot of potential.I heated the stem with a heat gun to straighten out the bend. Once the vulcanite had become flexible I took the majority of the bend out so that the angle of the stem matched the angle of the top of the bowl. I took photos of it at this point in the process. I am happy with the progress. I set the stem aside and turned my attention to the bowl. I reamed it back to bare briar with a PipNet pipe reaming set. Once the bowl was smooth I cleaned up the reaming on the walls and scraped the rim top with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. I topped the bowl on a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the damage and smooth out the surface of the rim. There was a lot of damage to the rim top and the topping took care of the damage to the rim top. I scrubbed the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush under running water. I rinsed off the grime and took the following photos of the bowl. I cleaned out the internals on the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem with 99% isopropyl alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. I worked until the shank and mortise was clean and smelled new.There were still some shiny spots on the shank and smooth portions of the bowl. I wiped them down with acetone on a cotton pad. I used the Dremel and sanding drum and 220 grit sandpaper to reshape the shank. I rounded it to match the diameter of the stem and also faced the shank end on the topping board. I was moving through this restoration while I was talking with my brother and totally forgot to take photos of this part of the process. I smoothed out the sanded and reshaped shank and stem with micromesh sanding pads – wetsanding with 1500-6000 grit pads. I sanded the top of the bowl at the same time to smooth out the scratches.

Once I had finished shaping the shank I decided to continue my ongoing experiment with the Briar Cleaner on this pipe. I scrubbed it with the product from Mark Hoover of Before & After Products. He says that the briar cleaner has the capacity of absorbing grime and dirt from the surface of briar. I rubbed the bowl down with it to see how it would work in this setting. (Just a note: In speaking to Mark he noted that the product is completely safe to use. The main product is even FDA approved edible.) I rubbed it onto the bowl and rim top with my finger tips and worked it into the remaining sanding grit on the bowl. I let it sit on the pipe for about 5 minutes before I rinsed it under warm running water to remove the residue. I hand dried it with a microfiber cloth. I was pleasantly surprised by how clean the surface on the bowl looked when I was finished. The various surfaces of the carved briar just begged for a variety of stains to give the pipe some real dimensionality. I heated the briar and gave it the first coat of stain – a Tan Fiebings. This tan has some red tints in the dried and fired coat. I applied the stain with a dauber and then flamed it with a Bic lighter to set it in the grain. I repeated the process until the coverage was what I wanted. I buffed the bowl with a clean microfiber cloth and gave the bowl a light shine. All of this was preliminary for the next stain coat. I put the stem on the bowl and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. The buffing really brought the reds to the surface of the briar. It helped me to make the next decision regarding the contrast stain. I touched up the rim top with a Mahogany stain pen to smooth out the finish. I then stain the entire bowl with the contrast stain coat using Watco’s Danish Oil with a Cherry stain. I rubbed it on with a soft cloth and let it sit for a while before buffing it off with a soft cloth. I gave the bowl several coats of Conservator’s Wax and buffed it with a horsehair shoe brush. I also buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to polishing the stem. I worked it over with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads. I buffed it on the buffing wheel with Red Tripoli to further remove the oxidation on the surface. I reworked it with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded it with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each pad with Obsidian Oil. I finished polishing it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it apart. With both parts of the pipe finished I put the pipe back together again and I polished the bowl and the stem with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. The rich finish and the interesting grain on this briar came alive with the buffing. The finish on the briar works well with the polished black vulcanite stem. The finished pipe looks almost like it came out of the factory like this. It is a well-proportioned, nicely grained shape that I would call Bent Apple. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 5 ¾ inches, Height: 1 ½ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ½ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. This throw away, cut off bowl met a stem from another place and the pipe that came out is a beauty. The condition of the bowl showed that it was a great smoker so this new edition should also be one! I am not sure who made the bowl originally but from the looks of the finish it could very well be a Custombilt. I am not sure I will ever know with certainty but it has the look. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me.

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A Nightmare Restoration of an Oldenkott Munchen Huber Filter Pipe


Blog by Steve Laug

I have had this old pipe kicking around in my box for refurbishing for a long time now. I have picked it up numerous times and put it back as I just had no desire to do anything with it. That changed yesterday. I took it out and looked at it to think about what needed to be done to it. The stem was a mess – it had shattered when the guy who owned it tried to take it off. He sent me these photos of the pipe. It was green which did nothing for me and there was nothing about it that called my name. It was an Oldenkott pipe – a brand that I had worked on before but not a shape that I was interested in. The stem was broken and the pipe was a mess. After seeing the photos below, I had declined purchasing it as it really was not interesting to me. But even my declining it did not matter much – He had mailed it as part of a group of pipes that Jeff and I had purchased from him them.The pipes had been sent to Jeff and in the box was this one. Jeff opened the box and showed me this pipe and really it was in even worse shape than I imagined. The pipe came with the stem pretty well stuck in the shank and a small plastic bag with stem pieces was rubber banded to the tenon. Jeff chucked it in the freezer and the stem came off easily enough. It was a mess and it was a filter pipe! The bowl had a thick in it and a thick lava overflow on the rim top. It was hard to know the condition of the inner edge of the rim because of this. The bowl had a lot of bright green fills around the sides and heel. The stem was a disaster – broken off and shattered at the same time. It was definitely one for the garbage. He took photos of the pipe before he started working on it so I could see what he was dealing with. He took a photo of the rim top and bowl to try to capture the mess of both. The thick cake in the bowl and the overflow of lava are both visible. The cake was thick and hard and the lava overflow was a thick band around the bowl. One consolation is that considering the mess it was in, this must have been a great smoking pipe.The next photos show the side and bottom of the bowl and give a clear picture condition of the green stain. It was spotty and worn. The fills in the bowl were very green spots, like painters green tape and stood out like a sore thumb to me. They were just ugly and almost obscured the interesting grain around the bowl for me. Hopefully you get a feel for why I just kept putting it back in the restoration “to do” box.Jeff took photos of the stamping to capture the clarity of it even under the grime. The Oldenkott name is stamped on the left side of the shank. On the underside it is stamped Huber over Munchen. Jeff took photos of the stem to show the shattered condition. It really was not redeemable even by such a stalwart stem rebuilder as Paresh Deshpande! It was also a 9mm filter stem and to me that also was another strike against it. It was useless in my opinion. I knew I was dealing with a German pipe from previous ones that I had worked on. I had been told that the brand was the German equivalent of Dunhill pipes in England. This one certainly did not make a case for that assumption. I turned first to Pipephil to see if I could get a brief review (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-oldenkott.html). The site gave various lines that had been made by the factory before its closure in 1992.

I went on to Pipedia knowing that there would be some more detailed information and I was correct in that assumption (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Oldenkott). I quote in full from that article.

Very little is known about the company. According to the albums the company was founded in 1760 in Amsterdam as Hermann Oldenkott, and in 1819, a subsidiary in Ahaus (Germany). There were likely other factories as well, as in 1838 August Kersten from Rees (Germany) bought the factories from Heinric Oldenkott in Elten (Germany) and Weesp (Holland), although it is not clear whether these were part of the of the original Oldenkott company. The German company increased rapidly and became one of the largest German tobacco companies. In 1929 the factories from Hermann Oldenkott in Ahaus and Neuss (Germany) were bought by the German Oldenkott company. The German company produced pipes starting in 1932. In 1972 the German company was bought by the Dutch company Niemeijer. Tobacco production ceased in 1974 and only pipes were made afterward. In 1987 the German pipe company was bought by the Kersten family again, but closed in 1992.

The pipes were machine made and in general of mediocre quality. The most important pipes of Oldenkott were the so called “Porsche” design pipe. The bowl was turned like the motor block of a racing car and was lacquered with a silver-grey color. Today these special pipes are very rare and expensive.

In spite of the apparent quality of both Oldenkott and VAUEN pipes, they are known as good smokers.

The site also quotes from the book “Pipes, Artisans and Trademarks, by José Manuel Lopes’ –“Oldenkott is an early 20th century German brand by Henry Oldenkott. His factory in Hallen closed in April 1982, with some of the workder moving to VAUEN. Oldenkott made ipes with and without filters. It was in this company that Porsche pipes were produced.”

Armed with that information I turned to address the pipe itself. Jeff had cleaned up the pipe before sending it to me. He reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and cleaned it up with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed the exterior with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to clean off the grime off the finish and the heavy overflow of lava on the rim top. He cleaned up the internals of the shank, mortise and stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol to remove all of the oils and tars in the pipe. He cleaned up the stem so that it did not stink and soil the other clean pipes he sent me. When it arrived here in Vancouver it was a clean pipe and I knew what I had to work with. I took photos of it before I started my part of the restoration. I took a close up photo of the bow and rim to capture the burn damage on the right side inner edge of the bowl. I also took photos of the shattered stem to show the extent of the damage.I took a photo of the left side and the underside of the shank to show the stamping on the pipe. It read as noted above. After the cleanup it was still readable.I decided to address the broken stem first. I went through my can of stems and found a suitable saddle stem that was roughly the same length as the broken one. It had a different saddle arrangement but to be honest I like the new one better. It was a new cast stem that I had picked up from a fellow who was selling out his father’s refurbishing supplies. I measured the diameter of the tenon on the broken stem and set the PIMO Tenon Turning Tool to crank out a tenon on the new stem that would match. I turned it carefully and once I took it off the tool and measured both were identical in diameter – BUT (and this part is very irritating to me) the new tenon though identical and in size was loose in the mortise!!!I filed out the nubs left behind from the tool and the new stem was now functional. I would need to expand the tenon to get a good snug fit but it was done. I gave the tenon a coat of clear fingernail polish to snug up the fit in the mortise. I set it aside to dry. While the stem was drying I decided to work on the damage to the inner edge of the bowl on the right side. I topped it on a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper and removed as much of the damaged area as possible.I knew that I needed to deal with the uneven green stain coat on the bowl so that I could smooth it out. I also needed to deal with the fills in the bowl. I wiped it down with acetone on a cotton pad to evenly remove the stain. I picked out the largest fill on the right side of bowl with a dental pick. Under the bright green top coat the fill was bright white putty. Once I picked it out wiped it down with alcohol. I filled in the hole with briar dust and clear super glue to replace the fill. I put the stem on the shank and worked on the fit against the shank. I used a wood fill to reduce the diameter on the stem giving it a bit of a conical shape to match the flow of the shank. I also worked on the shank diameter because like everything else that is a bit of a deficit on this pipe the shank was not perfectly round and the stem had to be hand fit to the shank. I sanded the shank and stem with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out and shape the shank and stem union. I also sanded the repaired fill on the right side of the bowl to blend it into the surface. The stem was looking pretty good as was the new fill. I wiped the bowl down with a damp cloth to have a look at it at this point. I removed the stem and worked on polishing the bowl with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads. I wiped the bowl down after each pad. I decided to only use these three grits because I had decided to experiment with staining this pipe GREEN once again. (I have to tell you this was an experiment and in many ways a failed one. But I get ahead of the story!). Here is where the restoration took a horrible turn for me. I should have left well enough alone but I wanted to tryout the Kelly Green stain that I had picked up earlier for some Peterson’s St. Patrick’s Day pipes that I have not dealt with yet. I figured this would be a good place to learn about the idiosyncrasies of green stain. I heated the briar and stained and flamed the pipe to set the stain in the wood. I looked at it and just shook my head. The stain set really well. I wasn’t sure how the fills received it and was a bit worried when I saw them shining through the dark green stain. I set the bowl aside to let the stain cure. Once the stain was dry I moved to my next “normal” step which is to wipe the bowl down with alcohol on cotton pads to make it more transparent and make the grain stand out more. Here is where my next issue rose – I wiped it down with four pads and alcohol and kept repeating the wipe down and it did not become more transparent. All that happened was that the fills turned white. I touched them up with green but there was no remedy to the issue. I like the pipe better before I stained it green. Now what was I going to do to make it LESS GREEN? At this point the experiment was a failure in my opinion. The GREEN NOT ONLY SET IN THE GRAIN BUT IN THE WHOLE PIECE OF BRIAR. I have to admit that at this point it crossed my mind that I probably could have thinned the stain a lot and made a green wash but after thought is too late. I buffed the pipe with Red Tripoli to try to remove it from the briar but it really had little effect. I was getting pretty frustrated and know from experience it is time to change things up a bit before I make things worse!

So I decided to address the stem for a while instead of the bowl. I put the stem on the shank and heated it with my heat gun until it was soft. I bent it to match the angles of the bottom of the bowl and set the bend with cool water. It was a good diversion from the GREEN bowl.I took the stem off and went back to work on the bowl. I wiped it down with acetone to try to reduce the green stain and while it partially worked it still was too green to my liking. I sanded the bowl and shank with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads to further reduce it. I still was not happy with the results. The green was just not to my liking. It needed to go. I restained the bowl with Tan stain and flamed and repeated the process until the coverage was good. I set it aside to cure and went to lunch with a friend. After lunch I buffed the bowl with Red Tripoli to unveil with the bowl looked like at this point. The tan stain had worked together with the Green stain to create a colour that I really liked. I buffed it with Blue Diamond to further polish it. I like the way the bowl looked at this point. I still needed to polish it and wax it but I wanted to finish the stem as well. I wet sanded it with 1500-12000 grit micromesh sanding pads to polish it. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each pad. I finished polishing it with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. In looking at the photos above you can see a few nicks in the tenon. I filled them in with clear super glue to smooth them out and set the stem aside to dry. I sanded them smooth with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads. I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil and again let it dry.  With the parts finished it was time to polish up this nightmarish experiment that took me far longer than it rightly should have taken. I learned a ton in terms of Green stain – such as using it as a wash instead of as it comes in the bottle. I learned that it sinks deep into all of the grain not just the softer parts. I found that it is very hard to remove once it is once it is on the briar. Learning all of that I was finally glad that it was time to finish this pipe. I put the stem and bowl back together and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I polished the briar and the minute scratches still in the vulcanite of the stem until there was a rich shine. This Oldenkott turned out better than I expected and has some nice grain showing through. The finish really highlights the grain and hides the fills on a proportionally well carved pipe. Once I buffed the pipe the briar came alive and the mixture of grain popped with polishing. The black vulcanite replacement stem had a rich glow. The finished pipe is a beautiful grained bent Apple. The dimensions are Length: 5 1/4 inches, Height: 1 3/4 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/4 inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. Thanks for walking through the long, experimental restoration with me as it was a learning experience for me.

Restoring & Restemming an 1851 Ben Wade Silver Clad Cutty


Blog by Steve Laug

Over the past months in preparation for our trip to visit Paresh and his family in Pune, India we talked about what pipes we would work on while visiting. We had the notion that it would be the first ‘International’ gathering of Pipe Restorers. After all Dal Stanton was coming from Bulgaria, Jeff from US, Paresh and Abha and family from India and I was coming from Canada. It was going to be a grand time of restoring and sharing our tips and processes. I brought along a potential stem for either a meerschaum that Paresh had inherited from his Grandfather or from an early Ben Wade Fancy cutty. In the course of our time there Paresh and I looked over the stem I brought with me and tried it on the meerschaum and the Ben Wade. We chose not to use the stem on the meerschaum and it was too large in diameter for the Ben Wade. We decided that I would bring it home and see what I had in my can of stems.

I took photos of the bowl prior to my cleanup and restemming. The pipe came to me with a bone tenon in the mortise. In the process of cleaning the pipe and working to remove the tenon it cracked off in the shank leaving a broken tenon stuck in the shank. Since it was a threaded tenon removing it would be a matter of drilling out the broken portion of the tenon. Other than that the briar was dirty and the varnish finish was spotty. The silver leaves around the rim top and shank end were also tarnished and dirty. There were some dents in the rim top. The shank would have to wait for checking until I removed the broken tenon. The silver shank cap had a series of hallmarks on the top left of the cap. There were three running from the left of the photo to the end of the shank on the right. The first hallmark is a passant lion in a cartouche which signifies that the band is silver and that it was crafted by a British silversmith. The second hallmark was a shield shaped cartouche with three towers in it – two on the wider part of the shield and one below toward the point. This hallmark identifies the city in England where the silver was crafted – in this case Newcastle. The third hallmark was a square cartouche with the capital letter “M” in the box. The “M” is a date letter that will give me the year of the making of the pipe.I turned to a website that I use for dating English silver hallmarks. It is a British Hallmark site that gives the information necessary to interpret the hallmarks on silver items made in Britain (https://www.925-1000.com/dlNewcastle.html). On a chart from silver made in Newcastle from 1702-1884 I found what I was looking for. I have included the chart below with the date letter circled in red.Armed with that information, it was time to start working on the pipe itself. I started by reaming the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer using the first two cutting heads to take the cake back bare briar. I followed that by cleaning up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. I sanded the walls of the bowl with a piece of dowel wrapped with 220 grit sandpaper. I sanded the inner edge of the rim with a folded piece of worn 220 grit sandpaper to clean off the silver edge of the cap folded into the bowl. I wanted the walls bare of cake so that I could check the walls for heat fissures or cracking. I cleaned out the inside of the shank and mortise with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol until the swabs came out clean. I was quite surprised that the pipe was as clean as it was given its age and the condition of the cake in the bowl.I wiped down the bowl with acetone on cotton pads to clean off the varnish on the outside of the bowl. I scrubbed it until the finish was natural briar and the grain began to come to the surface of the bowl. I cleaned the tarnish on the silver rim top cap and the shank end cap with a tarnish remover and silver polish. I removed darkening in the carved leaves and flowers on the silver. I scrubbed the silver with a cotton pad to remove the tarnish. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into finish of the briar with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The Restoration Balm really makes the grain stands out beautifully.  I buffed the bowl with a microfiber cloth to raise a shine on the bowl and the silver. I took photos of the pipe bowl as it stood at this point in the restoration process. It is a beautiful pipe with an elegance that speaks of the years in which it was manufactured.  I set the stem aside and worked on the stem that I had chosen for a replacement. The amber colour and the flow of the colour in the stem make it a great candidate for an amber look alike replacement stem. Once the airway was drilled the diameter of the replacement tenon I used a tap to cut new threads in the airway of the stem to receive new tenon. I threaded the new tenon into the tapped airway in the stem and took photos at this point in the process. I glued the tenon in the stem with clear super glue and let the glue set. Once it had cured I sanded the stem surface with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the new stem. I followed that by sanding the stem with 400 grit sandpaper to smooth out the scratches in the surface of the stem. I turned the stem onto the shank to get a feel for what the pipe would look like when it was completed. The following photos show the look of the finished pipe. I still need to polish the stem with micromesh sanding pads and buff it to raise the shine. But I like the way the pipe is beginning to look.  I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wetsanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each pad. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine and gave it a final coat and set it aside to dry.  I carefully buffed the pipe bowl with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. I lightly buffed the stem with Blue Diamond to raise a shine. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a clean buffing wheel to raise the shine. I polished the silver rim top cap and the band with a jeweler’s cloth once more, then hand buffed the entire pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. This 168+ year old restemmed and restored Ben Wade Cutty is really a beautiful pipe. The grain really stands out with a combination of birdseye, cross grain and swirls surrounding the bowl give it a rich look. The rich contrasting brown stains makes the grain stand out against the silver adornments. It is a proportionally well carved pipe. The polished black acrylic stem had a rich glow. The finished pipe is a beautiful straight Cutty that feels good in the hand and the mouth. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/4 inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. This pipe will be going back to Paresh in Pune, India very soon. I am excited to hear what he thinks of this beauty. Thanks for walking through the restoration and restemming with me as it was a pleasure to work on.

Restoring and Restemming a Savinelli Capri 915


Blog by Lee Neville

Over the past few months I have been continuing my correspondence with Lee via email. He picked up a couple of pipes for me at a local antique shop in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and sent them to me. We have fired emails back and forth on restoration questions and issues. He also included Charles Lemon of Dad’s Pipes in the conversations and we had a great time. Earlier this week he sent Charles and me an email about a restoration of another pipe that he restemmed. Charles and I spoke with him of the style and size of stem to use. He did a great job on the restemming and the description of the work so I asked him if I could post it on rebornpipes. He was glad to have me do so. Thanks Lee for your work and this second write up. It is great to have you on rebornpipes as a contributor once again! – Steve

Thought I would share my pipe rehabilitation effort of a Savinelli Capri 915.  It showed up in the Winnipeg Ebay lot as a dirty stummel with a snapped-off stem tenon wedged into its shank. Alas, the original stem was not included in the lot.

This is a “Birks” pipe – Henry Birks & Sons, or what it’s now known by these days – “Maison Birks”, is a Montreal-based jewellery/glassware/fine leather goods/timepieces/ silver & gold flatware / object d’art firm in business here in Canada since the late 1800s.  It appears Birks would commission pipes from manufacturers and stamp them with their house name and offer them for sale during special promotions – Christmas, Father’s Day etc.  This Savinelli is the first of two “Birks” pipes I’ve got on my bench to restore.The plan is to clean this stummel up to the natural briar,  treat it to a wax protective finish and fit a replacement stem.  This will be fun as I just received the PIMO stem tenon cutter tool which will make short work of fitting a properly sized tenon on a replacement stem blank.

Stummel clean up
The bowl was in good shape. The rim showed minor discolouration from lighting.  The rim was not obscured by any lava. The previous owner was not a dottle-knocker – luckily no dents or chips on the bowl rim.  I reamed the bowl out with my newly arrived Pipnet set – I started with the smallest head, applying light twisting force and allowing the tool to make its way into the bowl.  This was repeated by the following two larger reaming heads to remove existing cake close to briar.  This was followed by twists with a dowel covered with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the remaining cake, then more twists with 320 / 400 grits to finish the bowl interior smooth. There are no cracks or burnouts in the bowl. The shank cleaned up with a few runs of alcohol-soaked pipe cleaners and q-tips.

I attacked the stummel with a soft toothbrush and Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the rim discolouration and surface dirt/grease. The accumulated grunge lifted right off after two scrubbing sessions.  I was delighted to see the proprietary sandblasting/rustication is scarcely worn – the deep relief is quite attractive.

The stummel was then covered with masking tape. I clamped the padded stummel in my dremel vise and using a drill bit sized just over the ID of the snapped off stem tenon, ran it in a smidge gently, then reversed the drill and the tenon remnant came out with the drill bit.  This revealed a very fine crack in the mortise end of the stummel.  Using thin CA glue, I lightly dabbed the crack, watching it wick into the crack, then sprayed accelerant to instantly set the glue.  I lightly sanded the mortise face and mortise with 1000 grit paper to ensure any glue squeeze-out was removed before attempting to fit replacement stem

Fitting a new stem
I viewed the Savinelli web site to glean pipe proportions (stummel to stem) as well as canvassing yourselves for your thoughts on replacement stem length. I also found a high-definition image of a Capri 915 online.  Applying some ‘Edmonton Windage’, I ordered an oval tapered stem blank in a 2.25″ length from Vermont Freehand Pipes.

The stem blank on arrival was a bit wider than the stummel shank, so there was some filing and final sanding required to match the stem to the shank profile.

I mounted the replacement stem into the vise and drilled the stem draught hole to accept the guide rod of the PIMO stem tenon cutting tool.  I then mounted the PIMO stem tenon cutting tool and gently took a succession of cuts to arrive with a couple of thou of tenon final size.  I used a strip of 320 grit sandpaper to work the circumference of the tenon to a snug fit into the stummel mortise.  I used a variety of tools to flatten the stem tenon face so it would meet up with stummel mortise surface properly – needle files, sandpaper, a few licks with a very small chisel – all under a magnifier lens working the stem mating surface – testing fit/working it/test fit/working it until I got the proper fit.

Rough file work was then required to narrow the stem.  This took about an hour.  I then worked in the round with a file to shape the circumference of the stem to match the stummel profile. Last steps were using 220 sandpaper to work the circumference down as close to the final dimension. I followed that with 400 and 600 grit sandpaper.  I was now a scant hairs-width proud on the stem.  I then replaced the masking tape covering the stummel shank with clear scotch tape and brought the stem into line with the shank profile with 1500 and 1800 micro mesh pads.I filed the stem button into shape and from that point on, it was just applying a succession of micro mesh pads to 12000 to polish the replacement stem. Here is the clean stummel and new stem before finishing.Finishing the Pipe 
I treated the stummel to a coat of Howards Feed and Wax (beeswax, carnauba and citrus oils), let it sit for 30 minutes, then wiped off the excess, followed with a thin coating of carnauba wax over the whole pipe and a rub in with a polishing brush.  Using a cotton buff on my Dremel at 4000 rpm, I ran the buff over the entire pipe to bring out the shine. This pipe cleaned up very nicely and is a joy to hold.  I had fun fitting a new stem that is in proportion to the stummel and I think it’s a close resemblance to the stem originally fitted to the pipe.

Thank you Charles and Steve for your help on stem selection.

Onward and upwards!

Lee 

Restemming a London Made Pencil Shank Crosby


Blog by Steve Laug

Sometimes restoring pipes can be very frustrating. This evening I was working on an estate Dunhill Tanshell Zulu and the tenon broke off in the shank. I don’t know if it was cracked but I do know that I did very little and the stem was in one hand and the bowl in the other. It is at times like that when a repair person feels like packing it in and doing something else. But that is really not optional so I turned to do something else… still pipe repair related but still something different. I have a box of pipes that my brother sent me recently and in that was a very nice looking long, pencil shank billiard bowl without a stem. I had a cracked shank but otherwise it was a pretty piece of briar and it needed some TLC – a band and a new stem. It seemed like just the thing to take my mind off the frustrating Dunhill. I wrote Jeff about it and he sent me the following photos of what it looked like before he cleaned it. It was a frustrating piece for him even in the clean up. The stem was with it but the tenon had snapped off in the shank. In removing the tenon from the shank the pencil shank had snapped. Maybe I was moving from one frustration to another! The first photos is the parts grave yard – a snapped shank, a chunk of briar, a broken tenon and a broken stem…oh my.Jeff took a couple of photos of the snapped shank and the piece of briar that had come off. At least it was a very clean break. After cleaning the pipe Jeff glued the piece of briar back on the shank and when it arrived it was tight.The bowl and rim were in awful condition. There was a thick lava coat on the rim top and a thick cake in the bowl. There was tobacco debris in the cake and the lava on the rim it was a mess. It was obviously a great smoking pipe and someone’s favourite – though it always surprises me how far some pipemen and women let their pipes go.Even the exterior of the bowl was a mess with spots of grime and tar on the outside of the bowl as can be seen in the following photos. There were nicks and dents in the bowl but beside all that it was a beautiful piece of briar.Jeff took a photo of the only stamping on the pipe – London Made was stamped on the right side of the shank.He had done a great job cleaning up the pipe. When I took it out of the box it did not look much like the pipe pictured above. The bowl had been reamed and cleaned (Jeff followed his usual regimen of reaming and cleaning). The exterior had been scrubbed and the internals were spotless. The piece of briar had been glued in place and the repair was solid. The broken stem/tenon was gone. It was a clean and beautifully grained stummel when brought it to the worktable and took the following photos. I took a photo of the bowl and rim to capture the condition of the pipe before I started my part of the restoration work. The rim was clean but there was some nicks and dents in the top. The inner and outer edge were in excellent condition and there was darkening toward the back side of the rim top.The shank had a crack in it but had been glued. It would need to be banded. The photo is a little blurry but I have circle the crack in red so that you can identify it.I went through my can of straight stems and found two that had possibilities as well as taking out a band that would fit the shank. I took a couple of photos of my options at this point. I decided to go with the tapered stem as I liked the look of the pipe with that stem.I decided to band the shank first. I rubbed some all-purpose white glue on the shank end and pressed band onto the shank. I cleaned off the excess glue with a damp cloth. The glue would dry and bind the pieces together and hold the band onto the shank end. Once the glue had cured I would fit a new stem. I took some photos of the newly banded shank to show the progress at this point. While the glue on the band was curing I use a needle file to reduce the diameter of the tenon. I had measured previously so I knew what I needed to remove. I sanded it with a piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the tenon.I fit the stem to the shank and took a few photos to show what the pipe would look like with the new stem. The diameter of the stem at the shank was a little off so it would need to be sanded to reduce it to fit and there were a few tooth marks and some chatter on the stem but otherwise it was looking good. I sanded the rim top with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to remove the damage and to minimize the darkening. I polished the rim and the bowl with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the rim down with a damp cloth after each pad. The photos show the progress. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the briar with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The following photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process. The bowl and the rim top look very good with the beautiful grain popping around the rim and sides of the bowl. With the bowl finished I set it aside and turned my attention to the stem. I sanded the stem and button surface with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the tooth marks and chatter on the surface of the stem and the button. The stem surface looks better at that point. I forgot to take photos of the process of removing the excess material on the diameter of the stem so that the fit against the band and shank looked better. Once that was done then I started the polishing of the surface with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with a damp cloth after each pad. I further polished it with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. I wiped it down with a coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. With both parts of the pipe finished I put it back together. I carefully polished the bowl and the stem with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. I carefully worked around the band so I would not get the polishing from the band get on the shank. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. The beautiful natural finish and the grain came alive with the buffing. The rich finish on the briar works well with the polished nickel band and new black vulcanite stem. The finished pipe is very light weight and looks quite stunning with its slender shank and stem. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 6 1/2 inches, Height: 1 3/4 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/4 inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. This one will be going onto the rebornpipes online store soon. It is a nice one for sure and one that will fit well into someone’s collection. Thanks for walking through the restoration and restemming with me on this thin, pencil shank Crosby billiard. It should be a great smoker!

Crafting a Churchwarden for a Lord of the Ring’s Enthusiast


Blog by Dal Stanton

After restoring 3 pipes which Tina chose to gift special men in her life, the final request was to fashion a Churchwarden for her oldest son Thomas, who is a Lord of the Rings “groupie” and of course, he wants a ‘Gandalf Pipe’ to aid in blowing inspired smoke rings!  Tina’s son has been married for a few years and apparently, he and his wife have a Lord of the Rings movie binge at least once a year!

In my research on the Churchwarden shape, as the story goes, there were men back in the days when they didn’t lock churches at night, who were employed as ‘wardens’ of the church – whose responsibility was to guard the premises.  To be faithful to their charge, they were not allowed to leave the walls of the church.  That created an unusual dilemma between guarding the holy confines and the desire to enjoy one’s evening smoke.  The moral dilemma was creatively solved by a stem.  The length of the stem enabled the church wardens to tend to their evening bowls as they stood vigilantly inside the church walls while the stems extended through the windows…so the story goes (see Pipedia’s article).  Of course, everyone knows that Churchwardens were prevalent in Middle Earth as Gandalf spun up fireworks and smoke rings!

I found a bowl that I put aside quite some time ago that

Courtesy of Gonzalo Kenny https://lotr.fandom.com/wiki/Balrogs

I believed would serve well as a repurposed stummel to be mounted as a Churchwarden.  I know that there are strict Warden purists out there who question the validity of repurposing a bowl for use in fashioning a Churchwarden.  Yet, I appeal to Bill Burney’s description of the Churchwarden in his excellent Pipe Shapes Chart published in Pipedia where he says: “Interestingly, all the other styles of pipe are identified by the shape of their bowls, but the churchwarden is identified by its long stem.  The stem can be bent or straight, but it is always very long – 9” to 18” long.”.  There may be ‘true born’ Churchwardens and there are also those Churchwardens who are adopted into the ranks through the promotion of a discarded and forgotten stummel surviving from another lifetime where they served among other mere mortal pipes that they used to be.  For a common bowl to be remounted onto a Warden stem and to experience that metamorphosis is perhaps like when Gandalf transformed through fire in his mortal combat with Balrog – transforming from The Grey to The White….  Perhaps, only Gandalf knows for sure!  The bowl and stem I chose for this transformation are now on my table.The pre-molded Warden Stem comes from my main supplier, Tim West at http://www.jhlowe.com/bits.htm.  The stummel has ‘Real Briar’ stamped on the side of the shank, but what I like a lot is the 1/2 bent shank.  This will yield a very nice sweeping bend in the Warden stem.  The bowl’s size is not too large – perfect for a Churchwarden. Looking closely at the stummel, I see potential grain underneath the dark, marred surface.  The rim has lava flow but has an attractive inwardly slanted rim.  The chamber has light cake.  I take some pictures of the stummel in its current condition. Before I start working on fashioning the new preformed stem, I clean the stummel.  I start by reaming the chamber using the Pipnet Reaming kit.  I only use the smallest of the blade heads and then transition to the Savinelli Fitsall Tool to fine tune the scraping and cleaning.  Then I sand the chamber using a piece of 240 grade sanding paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen.  Finally, after wetting a cotton pad with alcohol, I wipe the chamber cleaning it from the carbon dust.  I inspect the chamber after finishing and all looks good. Next, turning to the external surface, I take a few more pictures to show the nasty layer of grime over this stummel!  I use Murphy’s Oil Soap undiluted on a cotton pad and begin the scrubbing process.  I also utilize a brass wire brush to clean the rim. The results are good, but the reality is revealed by the cleaning!  The reality of the condition of the stummel is the reason it was in the box with other lonely stummels having given their all and discarded!  The finish is shot and the rim in mangled. Restoring this stummel to fashion a Churchwarden will be a noble endeavor! Next, I turn to cleaning the internals.  Using cotton buds and pipe cleaners wetted with isopropyl 95%, I go to work.  The internals are nasty.  I also utilize and small dental spatula to scrape the mortise walls.  There was a lot of resistance, but the buds started lightening until I was satisfied that the largest part of the cleaning was accomplished.  I’m not too concerned at this point because I’ve already made the decision to put the stummel in a soak of acetone to totally remove all the old finish which will also take care of residual internal tars and oils. The next morning, I fish the bowl out of the acetone bath.  Some of the finish was removed during the soak, but with the use of 0 grade steel wool, I’m able to dispatch the old finish easily after the night’s soak softened the old finish.  The pictures show the raw briar that allows me to start over. With the stummel cleaning process completed, I turn now to fashioning the preformed Churchwarden stem.  I use an electronic caliper to measure the diameter of the mortise to mark the target sizing of the tenon of the preformed stem that will eventually be seated.  The mortise measurement is 7.38mm in diameter.  Using Charles Lemon’s (of Dad’sPipes) methodology, I add 50mm to this exact measurement to give me my ‘fat’ target.  The ‘fat’ target is what I will aim for when bringing the tenon down to size using the PIMO Tenon Turning Tool.  The ‘fat’ target is 7.88mm.  From this point, I will sand the tenon by hand which gradually and patiently custom fits the mortise. The first thing needed is to pre-drill the tenon airway with the drill bit provided by the PIMO tool.  This enlarges the airway slightly enabling the insertion of the PIMO tool guide pin.  I mount the drill bit to the hand drill and drill out the airway.Next, the PIMO Tenon Turning Tool is mounted on the hand drill and I cut a small test sizing to measure to give me the distance between the test cut and the ‘Fat’ target.  After cutting the test, I measure it with the caliper and record 8.72mm and subtract the ‘Fat’ target, 7.88mm leaving .84mm to remove using the PIMO tool. Using the Allen wrench provided with the PIMO tool, I close the gap of the cutting arm and cut again.  The measurement of the next cut after closing the gap of the carbide cutter arm took off more than I wanted – the measurement is 7.47mm – beyond the 7.88 fat target.  This is why you only to partial cuts at the beginning!I enlarge the gap of the cutter arm a small amount and cut again.  The next measurement is 7.75mm – much better, just falling under the 7.88mm fat target.With this measurement reached, I cut the entire tenon down to the 7.75mm width.  I take the cut to the stem shank facing so a nice straight edge is created, and a ‘shoulder’ is not left from the rough preformed stem.I begin the sanding process by wrapping the tenon with 240 grade paper and rotating the stem and applying pressure strategically with my finger and thumb. I smooth and shorten the tenon a little so that it looks better and doesn’t butt into a ridge that I detect in the mortise which would block the full insertion of the tenon.  I use a flat needle file to do this.The process is slow with a lot of tests and sands… But in time the tenon seats very nicely in the mortise.  Nice!With the tenon snuggly seated in the mortise, the work is far from finished!  The picture shows the offset of the stem and the lip of briar hanging over the stem.  No stem fits automatically!The preformed Warden stem also is not straight but bows to the left through the reach of the stem.  I’ll work on this when I bend the stem later.Using 240 grade paper I begin the process of sanding the junction of the stem and shank.  My goal is to have a seamless transition from shank to stem with no overhanging ridges.  The other issue I see is that both the shank and stem have high spots that need to be sanded down and blended into a uniform flow.  What I want to avoid is the bloomers or stuff-pants look – where the shank balloons out when the sanding has not tapered the flow of the shank from the stem width as it transitions into the shank. It takes time, but in time the ridges have been removed and the tapering through the shank to the bowl looks good. I continue sanding the entire stem with 240 grade paper.  The precast stem is full of ridges and the casting seam down both sides – all of which needs to be sanded away and smoothed.  I also use the flat needle file to form and shape the new button.  I want to retain the curved button slot.  It looks classy! After sanding out the main issues with the new precast Warden stem, I transition to wet sanding using 600 grade paper.  With the bowl and stem united, I sand not only the stem including the shaped button, but also the junction of stem and shank to continue to smooth and blend the tapered transition.  After completing the wet sanding with 600 grade, I use 000 grade steel wool to sand in the same way.  The distance pictures with a Warden stem are always too far away to see detail, but a close-up shows some progress.With the main fabricating and sanding completed with the Churchwarden’s stem, the next step is to bend it.  The 1/2 bent shank of the stummel provides a wonderful trajectory for the bend and sweep of the stem – which emulates more directly Gandalf’s style of Warden.  My goal is to bend the stem so that the final orientation of the bit is generally on a parallel orientation with the plane of the stummel rim which is what is suggested by the ruler in the picture. I remarked earlier that the stem is also a little catawampus to the left as you look down the shaft toward the bowl.  Interestingly, I set up a renewed picture to show this looking down the shaft and my second look at this isn’t as pronounced as it appeared to me before.  The sanding and shank tapering may have mitigated this to some degree. Bending the stem is usually by trial and error to get it right, but the good thing is that the vulcanite stem is very forgiving!  To be on the safe side, though I don’t really believe it to be necessary, I put a pipe cleaner into the end of the stem to protect the airway integrity.I use the hot air gun to warm the vulcanite.  As it’s warming, I gently apply pressure to the bend as the rubber compound becomes supple.  When the stem becomes pliable enough and the bend reaches what appears to be at the right place as I eyeball it, I transfer the pipe to a chopping board where I can use the flat surface and the overhang for the bowl and button expansion at both ends, I press down to straighten the shaft orientation as I hold the bend.  This works very well. The first time around, I decide I need a bit more bend, so I reheat, bend further and then hold the stem firmly against the chopping board until the vulcanite sufficiently cools so that I don’t lose the bend.  To make sure the bend holds I run cool tap water on the stem to seal the bend.I like the results!  The bend is perfect and will present a true Gandalf experience for the new steward of the Churchwarden taking shape.Before I put the newly bent Warden aside to turn to the stummel, I apply paraffin oil to vitalize the vulcanite.Turning now to what was a ‘throwaway’ stummel, I like the grain that made an appearance after the cleaning.  It’s in there!  It just needs some TLC to restore it to the condition that allowed for more beauty to come through.  The briar surface is in surprisingly good condition. There are a few dents and nicks to be expected. There’s a more significant heel bruise where it appears the bowl was thumped on a hard surface.The rim has an attractive inwardly sloping cant which will serve to my advantage in dealing with the residual burn marks and the right side (top in the first picture) of the rim.  The outer edge of the rim is also chewed up a bit. Starting with the rim, I begin by using a coarse 120 grade paper to clean and remove the scorched wood and the dents on the edge.  I follow this with 240 grade paper sanding the canted rim surface.  I’m hopeful this will remove the blemishes but also serve to freshen the rim canted pitch and lines.  I then fine tune with 600 grade paper. The results are great.  The transformation is more than hoped for!  The rim is actually very attractive and some grain peeking out.I do the same with the heel bruise.  I dispatch the blemish quickly with 240 grade paper followed by 600 grade paper.Continuing the sanding, I now sand the entire stummel using sanding sponges.  I start with a coarse sponge, followed by a medium grade then finish with the light grade sanding sponge.  The briar grain is showing up!Following the sanding sponges, I apply the full regimen of 9 micromesh pads.  First, I wet sand using pads 1500 to 2400 then dry sand with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  For a ‘throwaway stummel’ this piece of briar is looking very nice. Throughout the micromesh process, I knew I was approaching a decision point.  The natural briar came out way more than I had thought possible when I began with this stummel.  I can remain with the natural briar or apply a dye.  I decide to apply Fiebing’s Saddle Tan Pro Dye to the stummel not for the purpose of covering blemishes but to bring out the briar grain more which is still somewhat subdued as I look at it.  I assemble my desktop dying components.  After I wipe the stummel with alcohol to clean the surface, I insert two folded pipe cleaners into the shank to serve as a handle.I then heat the briar stummel with an air gun.  As the briar heats, this expands the grain enabling the grain to be more receptive to the dye when it’s applied.Using a folded pipe cleaner, I paint the bowl with the aniline based dye in sections and flame each section as I go.  I use the lit candle to combust the painted section of wet dye and it immediately combusts the alcohol in the dye leaving the pigment to set in the heated wood.  I eventually apply the Saddle Tan dye to the entire stummel and repeat the painting and flaming process again to assure full coverage.  I then put the dyed and flamed stummel on the cork to rest through the night. With the dyed bowl resting I take the Churchwarden stem through the full micromesh regimen.  I wet sand using pads 1500 to 2400 and then dry sand with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  Between each set of 3 pads I apply a healthy coat of Obsidian Oil to the stem to vitalize the vulcanite.  The newly polished vulcanite pops!  I take one concluding picture instead of the usual 3 because the picture shows no detail because of the size of the stem!The next morning, I’m ready to unwrap the flamed bowl.  After mounting a felt cloth buffing wheel on the Dremel, I set the speed to the lowest possible to reduce the heating factor.  I then apply Tripoli compound to the bowl to remove the flamed crust to reveal the briar beneath. With the assistance of my wife, she takes a few pictures to show the initial removal of the flamed crust.  It takes me a good bit of time to slowly and methodically go through this ‘plowing’ and polishing process.  I remove dye blotches to make sure what is revealed is the minutia of the grain texture.  Not pictured is after I complete the process with the felt wheel (pictured below) I change to a cotton cloth buffing wheel and increase the speed of the Dremel to 40 % of full speed and again go over the entire stummel with Tripoli compound.  I do this first, to reach into the crook of the shank that is too tight for the felt wheel to reach.  Also, I like the further fine tuning of the Tripoli compounds polishing of the briar surface.  The grain sharpens even more providing the contrasts between the harder and softer woods of the briar.I then wipe the bowl with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95% to blend the dyed finish.  The wipe of alcohol evens out the finish and blends it.  Wiping with alcohol will also lighten the finish if I continue to wipe, but I like the tone of the hue where it is so I only to a light wipe for blending purposes.I switch to another cotton cloth buffing wheel, keep the speed on the Dremel and 40% and apply Blue Diamond compound to the stem and stummel.  I don’t join the two because it is easier to work with each individually.  After completing the application of the compound, I wipe both stem and stummel with a felt cloth to remove the compound dust left behind.Finally, I reunite the Warden stem with the repurposed stummel and apply a few coats of carnauba wax to the Churchwarden.  When finished, I give the pipe a vigorous hand buffing with a microfiber cloth to bring out the shine.

Wow!  When I think of where this throwaway stummel was at the beginning of the process and what I see now, it is truly amazing. This Churchwarden’s 1/2 bent shank provides the perfect trajectory for the stem’s gentle, flowing bend to project a pipe that is truly Gandalf worthy!  The grain of the bowl is varied from a vertical flame, a knot with outwardly flowing concentric circles and some bird’s eye thrown in for good measure!  This Churchwarden is certified for Middle Earth distribution for Tina’s son, Thomas.  Tina commissioned  this Churchwarden project along with 3 other restorations (to learn more about commissioning pipes see: For “Pipe Dreamers” Only! ) and each will be boxed and heading to Birmingham, Alabama, USA, from Bulgaria.  All these pipes benefit our efforts here in Bulgaria working with women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited – the Daughters of Bulgaria.  Thank you, Tina!, and thank you for joining me!

 

The Decline of Restoring Old Pipes, Part 4/4: Fixing a Meerschaum Shank Everyone Thought Was Beyond Repair


Blog by Robert M. Boughton
https://www.roadrunnerpipes2k.com/
https://www.facebook.com/roadrunnerpipes/
Copyright © Reborn Pipes and the author except as noted

 To him that will, ways are not wanting.
— George Herbert, in Jacula Prudentusm or Outlandish Proverbs, Sentences, &c. (posthumous, 1651). 

RECAP
Part 1 hypothesized that the discontinuation, illegality and dwindling or total unavailability of vital materials, used in antique and other very old pipes, will lead to a serious crisis in restoring these heirlooms and otherwise prized implements of contemplation to their original conditions.  My main theme was the need for those of us in the business – having considerable, moderate or little experience under our belts – to learn how to overcome these difficulties that will become more acute all too soon.  In hindsight, I should have emphasized better the need for those who now have the know-how to use their own perhaps self-discovered and unique (read proprietary) heroic measures to cooperate in sharing them with the rest of us.

Part 2 described the first of three such repairs I have completed, its example being a Colossus Pipe Factory (CPF) Best Make turned lion’s head meerschaum with a gold band and genuine cherry red amber stem that needed reconnecting with a new bone screw tenon.  Five years after I began searching for the one part, I was compelled to send the otherwise restored CPF to a specialized repair service that may have been the only place capable at the time to affect the rehabilitation – for lack of a proper bone tenon or anyone to whom I could turn for instruction on how to repair damage to the inner shank.  Now I know the necessary work was relatively minor.

Part 3, taking the form of a fable, told of the misadventures of the Restorer during his two-year quest to cleanse of all evils a Kaufman Brothers & Bondy Blueline Bakelite dated by its owner to 1911 and entrusted to the Restorer’s care for a simple cleaning and restoring.  The ensuing calamities must be read to be believed.

INTRODUCTION
I became involved with this small old meerschaum smooth bent billiard by the most unusual circumstances of any restoration I’ve made so far.  My pipe club meetings take place the third Thursday of every month in a back room of the local Moose Club Lodge, where the Ladies of the Moose are gracious enough to cook a special dinner for us at a low price that just covers their expenses, not counting the tips we’re more than happy to contribute.

Before dinner was served at the December meeting, one of the ladies, Sherry, happened to buy two of my pipes.  One was the best I had, a beautiful Ben Wade by Preben Holm Danish freehand, and the other a vintage Dr. Grabow easy bent natural billiard.  Sherry didn’t know much about pipes but liked those two, which I let her have at the 15% club discount minus the usual $8.00 shipping fee.  She mentioned finding at a yard sale a little pipe, in a leather case, she described as very dirty but white underneath with a broken stem.  She thought it might be antique.  I told her it was probably meerschaum, explained what that meant, and  encouraged her to bring it with her the night of the next meeting so we could all have a look and see what might be done.

Before dinner was served at the January meeting, Sherry handed me the little brown case.  There’s something mysterious about such objects, teasing the beholder to approach and open them and reveal the secrets hidden within.  Nothing we’ve been taught by fables, folklore and outright superstition entreating us not to meddle with common-looking doodads, unless we’re prepared to face the unknown but likely negative consequences, is powerful enough to stay our hands.  “Aladdin and the Magic Lamp,” which was not added until 1704 to the original Arabic tales from the 8th-14th centuries, comes to mind.  The tale of the powers of the Magic Lamp, during more than three hundred years of oral and other popular re-telling, has been altered from its actual story in which all ends well to a warning to be careful what we wish lest we get what we ask for.  But in this event, the contents pf the brown case appeared benign. The top felt lining of the open box identified the meerschaum billiard as a First Quality, but whether that was an old brand name or the importer I have not been able to determine.  Sherry’s main concern, of course, was if her $8 yard sale find could be fixed so she could smoke it.  Seeing the severe damage to the inner shank, my hopes were not high.  I observed the stem that was with the meerschaum was too short and also smaller in diameter than the shank and suspected its use as a replacement of the original may have caused or worsened the harm. Still, with wishful thinking, I thought the gutted, ragged shank of the little pipe (only 5” long) might be mended with Plaster of Paris or some sort of putty.  I was sitting next to Don Gillmore, the artisan pipe maker whose business is called DW Pipes, and he nixed those ideas.  Any new stem and tenon, Don said, would not support the billiard’s weight with the sort of shank repair I proposed.  We passed it around the table, and that was the general opinion.  For such a small pipe, it was rather heavy, and at least part of me had to go along with everyone else’s verdict.

Sherry also wondered how old the First Quality pipe was.  The group conclusion was that it dated to between the turn of the 20th century and the 1930s.  Everyone agreed the stem was Bakelite, but in a later experiment that ended with shocking results I proved that was erroneous.  More about that later.

And so I had to tell Sherry, choosing my words with special care, that her pipe was very old but there was nothing we could do to attach a new stem.  Still I thought there might be some way to accomplish the feat.  I kept that to myself, however, instead offering to clean up the pipe and make it look nice, at least, at no charge.  I could see the well-masked disappointment on her face and had to bite my tongue to hold back my seemingly irrational hope so as not to risk another let-down.  For the meantime, Sherry let me take the pipe for cleaning.

George Herbert’s proverb, later reiterated as “Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” is the prefect prelude to this blog.  Everyone else present at the January meeting of my local pipe club reached the same conclusion, that the restoration was impossible given the severe damage and known methods of repair I proposed that were intended for small jobs of meerschaum patchwork,  I even consulted our host, Steve, in a short exchange of emails in which I suggested more and more creative (meaning desperate) approaches   I should have accepted the wholly sensible belief that the smooth little billiard was past fixing when I received Steve’s emphatic consensus that any such approach would not support the inherent torque between the stem and shank.  In fact, for a moment I did give up hope   

I’m afraid my mind was already ensnared by what my dad always called a steel trap, however, and I had to find a means of escape even if it required sending the pipe to miracle workers such as the folks at Norwoods Pipe Repair, who had bailed me out several times already.  I was growing tired of such surrender, but with that end in mind, I sent Norwood the younger photos clarifying the damage and text adding every possible material of the main parts to be used, in the preferred order.  As always with that fine business, I had a positive response the same night.  Assured the job could be done, I prepared a realistic estimate of the amount Sherry would pay, with parts, labor, shipping there and back and the 11% tax included, and forwarded the good news to Sherry.

But you see, another aspect of Herbert’s collection I like is the comparison of the modern sense of the word outlandish in the book’s subtitle being “freakishly or grotesquely strange or odd” compared to the now archaic meaning, from the Old English utlendisc, as foreign or not native.  I also appreciate the translation of the main title, from Latin, referring to careful darts.

Remembering the antique CPF turned lion’s head meerschaum pipe I sent to Norwoods to have the original amber stem reattached with a new bone screw tenon, I took a closer look at the shank as it appeared before and after the wonderful work that was accomplished.  An outlandish notion in both senses of the word began to form in my mind.Notwithstanding my good faith communication with Norwoods, I knew I could accomplish the task myself.  Because of the way the CPF’s previous shank threading was filled with some permanent solution, sinking the new bone tenon within it, all I needed was a practicable guess as to the solidifying substances used.

Thinking it might present somewhat of a difficulty to Don, I drove to his house and showed him the CPF.  After examining the shank for a few seconds, Don suggested epoxy mixed with powdered wood.  He half-filled a plastic 35mm film tube with the latter – more than I’d need for far more meerschaum repairs than I could make in quite a while – and said the epoxy was up to me.  Of more importance to me was his change of opinion regarding my ability to accomplish the task.

I cut in half my previous estimate of Sherry’s cost to fix her meerschaum pipe and sent her a new email asking if I could proceed with the work, guaranteeing the price.  It was the only time I’ve bid on a job, and my goal being less to make money than to demonstrate how this kind of meerschaum repair could be performed by almost any restorer (not to downplay my experience more than is appropriate), I decided to undercut the competition with assertive style.  Her reply was that if I was confident I could do the work, get on with it.

With the pipe already cleaned by then, I had reluctantly concluded an amber bit was not viable at the time because of general unavailability of any color without sending the pipe to someone else to do the work.  I only had to acquire a Bakelite stem of an appropriate length and color (as close as possible to the orange of the poor replacement shown above, based on Sherry’s wish) and a selection of bone tenons and Teflon push-pull sets from which to choose when I decided the type I would use.

JH Lowe turned out to be the single supply store I found with all of the above but sold the push-pull sets in 12-packs.  I would only need one, and thinking I’d save on my expenses, I ordered a three-pack from Royal Meerschaum.Also, the JH Lowe bit page did not mention available colors, and the closest length was 3”, the standard.  For the pipe to fit its case as it had when first made, the bit needed to be 2½”.  On a tip from a friend, I called Tim West of JH Lowe and asked if he had any orange or even yellow Bakelite bits of the right length that were pre-bent.  Every source I had found, online and friends, stressed that Bakelite could not be bent.

CORRECTION TO PART 1: In the first blog of this series, I noted that hand-crafted old pipes, including the stems, were made to the exact and often eccentric specifications of the maker, and therefore one of the problems “for purposes of restoring old stems made of Bakelite…[is that] any necessary replacement can be reworked in only one way: fitting an over-sized stem of an otherwise suitable candidate to a shank by serious sanding or other such methods.  Any other alteration, such as bending or threading, is strictly impossible.”  When Tim repeated that Bakelite bits were pre-fashioned for individual pipes, I told him I was aware of that obstacle and it was, indeed, the cause of my greatest difficulty – finding one already bent.  Without a bent Bakelite stem, I added, I could not complete the project at hand.  With a little reluctance, Tim then insisted that although it is “tricky at low temperatures, Bakelite can be bent.”  He assured me he has succeeded in bending Bakelite “a little but not much.”    

Just to be on the safe side, I ordered a 3” straight bit that was dark reddish brown, a 2½” “orange or yellow” bit Tim was sure he had in a back room, whether or not it was bent, and a 12-pack of assorted bone tenons.  Both bits were pre-drilled for the “push” side of the set.  Given Tim’s qualification of the bending process being chancy at low temperatures, I reasoned, if need be I would crank the oven up a little at a time and see if the world’s first synthetic plastic became more malleable.  But Tim came through with all of it, including a 2½” easy bent yellow bit, leaving my experiment for a later date – but not too far in the future, perhaps even as a follow-up to these four blogs. By the way, Tim is experiencing technical difficulties with his website navigation menu.  As a workaround solution, he has made sure that browser searches for JH Lowe pull up direct links to each of his pages.  He apologized for the temporary inconvenience.

RESTORATION
The basic cleaning of Sherry’s pipe was finished the morning of January 18, the day after she left it with me for that reason.  I started with a simple wipe down using a small part of a paper towel and purified water and was amazed by the difference. Meerschaum rims tend to be easier to rid of char than wooden ones, and this was no exception, despite the awful looking burns, using super fine “0000” steel wool.  Exercising great care, I used a reamer to begin clearing the crusty chamber of built up cake, followed by 150-, 320-, 600- and 1000-grit papers.  I also applied the three finest-grit papers to the shank opening to make it smooth.I finished cleaning the outer stummel with a soft tooth brush dipped in purified water.Now, here’s where I had to start making the big decisions, the first of which was to use a modern push-pull set instead of a bone screw tenon for which the pipe was made.  I wanted to use the bone tenon, but that was my ego trying to get the better of me.  The most important factors were the integrity of the bit to shank connection and the pipe’s ultimate lasting use to its owner.  The next two photos show how the push-pull set is designed to be installed and the perfect fit of the push half in the bit.The reality of the situation, however, was that the correct insertion, or receiving, side of the Teflon set was the same diameter as the shank.  In other words, there was no way whatsoever that the right way would work.  Again, I wanted to go with a bone tenon that would have been good for my own use, but that would have meant more work and less strength for the pipe in terms of the higher risk of the actual owner breaking the fragile bone.

Since the latter was all that mattered, I used the easiest and safest improvisation of reversing the order of the push-pull set.  Even this required widening the mortise, and the only tools available to me for the procedure – one each slotted and Phillips head screw driver and a small but sharp pen knife – could best be described as inadvisable.  I proceeded with a mix of confidence and willingness to pay the price of a similar, name brand and definitely antique replacement complete with its own case that I took the precaution of making sure was available to Buy Now on eBay.

Starting with the pen knife, I whittled away the roughest area of the mortise, then inserted the slotted screwdriver with minimal force and very slowly turned the head until there was no resistance.  That left the mortise round and the thickness of the meerschaum even but a tad too small for the short end of the push side to fit snugly.  The Phillips head was wide enough to slide into the mortise with the same minimal force as before, and a couple of slow turns made the hole perfect.  The one good aspect of using the Phillips head was that it roughened the inner wall as the instructions for the upcoming epoxy and powdered wood application suggested.I had to pay Don one more visit to have the bit opening widened to accommodate the push-pull part usually inserted in the shank.  With his big power drill press that could be set to stop at the exact depth required, the task took Don only a few minutes.  I also picked up a band I wanted to put on the pipe, not for repairing a crack but for cosmetic and further support purposes.  Although I wanted to use a sterling band, the only type Don had on hand that fit was a 12½mm nickel one.Back at my own modest home workshop that night, using a file, I scuffed the parts of each push-pull half to be inserted in the bit and shank, as shown below with the shank side.  Then I ran a pipe cleaner through the mortise and draught hole of the stummel and another through the bit’s airway to prevent excess epoxy and shaved wood mix from seeping and setting inside either.  Sliding the Teflon parts over each cleaner so they were just above the connection points, I mixed a small amount of epoxy and powdered wood and applied the mix to the upper halves of the scuffed areas one at a time and pushed each into place when it was ready, knowing the adhesive concoction would spread out over the whole connectors.  The initial bonding took 60 seconds, during which time I moved both cleaners back and forth a fraction to assure they didn’t stick. Nine minutes later, the epoxy mix fully set, I removed the two cleaners that came out with no resistance.  The hardened, even fill of the adhesive solution is clear in the last photo.  I gave the push tenon inside the shank a good tug to test the bonding, and it didn’t budge.  Poking the re-cleaned thin metal shank clearer of my three-piece tool into the opening of the stem’s push-pull half, I angled it to grip the inner side and tugged, again without any movement of the part.

The longest, most difficult labor of the entire restoration still awaited me: matching the 15½mm bit opening to the 12½mm shank.  Most people think of 3mm as a small measurement, but any pipe restorer knows it’s a massive discrepancy. All of this adjustment required 150-grit paper and hours – over a period of days – of patience not to eliminate a fraction of a millimeter too much of the Bakelite after so much effort.  Here it is close to the end of the first stage, before sanding down the left shank to get rid of the chip and make the two halves of the pipe flush. Also still remaining was much of the tapered bulge, especially on the top, but I slowly worked it down before adding the band with a few tiny dabs of Super Glue.  Adding the band showed the sides of the shank that still needed to be evened out, which I did with 220-grit paper and super fine steel wool. After that, there was still one problem I had to address.  The mouthpiece was so wide that the leather case would not snap shut.  That meant an assault on both sides of the mouthpiece with 150-grit paper.  Fortunately, Bakelite, like acrylic, is more forgiving than Vulcanite/Ebonite as far as scratches go, and it was nice and smooth after a full course of micro mesh.  I also buffed the bit with carnauba on my electric wheel. Case closed, so to say.CONCLUSION
Not forgetting the mishap with the short, undersized bit that was used by a previous restorer, I determined it was not Bakelite.  After speaking with Tim at JH Lowe and before I received the needed parts that included a stem of the correct length and already bent, I decided to prepare for the possibility of needing to bend it.  And so I pre-heated the oven to 250° F and placed the old bit inside on a piece of aluminum foil.  Not even 10 minutes later, in the living room, my eyes were watering, and I noticed smoke and a noxious odor.  Rushing to the oven and opening the door, I beheld what can only be described as vampire remains after exposure to sunlight.  Really, nothing was left but a small outline of black soot.  Even the tenon that we all believed to be bone had vanished.  Recovering from the shocking sight, I realized the bit had been the cheapest variety of plastic.

To be sure, Norwoods, with its two generations of experience, would have returned a pipe finished with a perfectly shaped bit, not to mention one made of orange amber and connected with a bone screw tenon in keeping with the ideal of completing such restorations with all of the original materials.  As far as my substitution of a Teflon push-pull tenon set goes, I stand by my decision that was based on the owner’s need for enduring enjoyment of her First Quality meerschaum pipe.  Concerning the slight bulge that remains in the bit, I’ll just say I did the best I could in the time allowed, by hand using paper without even the benefit of an electric sanding wheel.

Still, I will follow up with Sherry and offer to give the bit the finishing touches it could use.  But this restoration was a success in that I learned how to repair a mangled meerschaum shank on my own and now share the experience so that other restorers will have the same ability.  That, after all, was the highest goal of this series.

SOURCES
https://academic.oup.com/res/article-abstract/os-XI/42/139/1538585?redirectedFrom=PDF
https://academic.oup.com/res/article/os-XI/42/139/1538585
https://rebornpipes.com/2018/12/16/the-decline-of-restoring-old-pipes-part-1-4/
https://rebornpipes.com/2019/02/05/the-decline-of-restoring-old-pipes-part-2-4-an-antique-cpf-meerschaum-five-years-finishing/
https://rebornpipes.com/2019/02/21/the-decline-of-restoring-old-pipes-part-3-4-sir-daryl-and-the-golden-blueline-bakelite/
https://www.royalmeerschaumpipes.com/Regular-Stem-Push-Pull-Fittings-p/sft-3.htm
http://www.jhlowe.com/misc-items.htm
http://www.jhlowe.com/bits-bakelite.htm