Tag Archives: pressure fitting a band on a shank

Is New Life Possible for this Rough Old Custom-Bilt Billiard?

Blog by Steve Laug

Sometimes when we are caught up in the Adrenalin of a pipe hunt often sympathy for an old pipe surpasses logic. That was certainly the case with this tired and damaged old Custom-Bilt Billiard. We just picked it up and said it was going with us. Later in looking at it I wondered what we had done. The thick cake in the bowl and the fact that the pipe was filthy were not huge problems for us so ignore those. Here are just a few of the issues with the pipe. There appeared to be serious burn damage to the rim top and inner edge of the bowl. The stem was an obvious replacement which is not a problem but it appeared to be crooked. Was the issue the stem or the shank? Taking it out of the shank it was clear that the issue was both. The stem was too large and the tenon was off centre. However it was also clear that the shank had been hacked off at an angle and was not straight. There were chips of briar missing on the shank end. Fortunately it appeared that the mortise was straight and still functional. Those were just the issues I saw without spending a lot of time looking. But there was still some charm in the old pipe that made me want to try. Jeff took the pipe home with him to do his work on it. He took the following photos of the pipe before he started his cleanup. Jeff took photos of the damage to the rim top. You can see the damage on the inner edge of the bowl where there is some serious burn damage. There is also damage on the rim top itself. The rustication is filled in with lava and it is hard to see the extent of the damage.He took photo of the rustication around the sides and heel of the bowl to show both the damage and the grime ground into the bowl sides. He took a photo of the stamping on the shank side showing the Custom-Bilt stamp. It is readable but fainter toward the bottom of the stamp. The second photo below shows the fit of the stem to the shank and it is clear how it is both larger and off in terms of the fit.The next photos show the condition of the stem. I am not too concerned with it because it will need to be replaced.I turned to Pipephil (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-c8.html) to get a quick view of the brand once again. I knew that I was working with one of the older pipes and   probably made by Tracy Mincer himself. He stopped making the Custom-Bilt pipes in the early 1950s. The screen capture I included below shows a brief history of the brand.I turned to Pipedia (https://pipedia.org/wiki/File:CustomBilt_Stamp1.jpg) for a quick read. The majority of the information there was two book reviews of the Custom-Bilt Story by Bill Unger. The one line I culled was the following: “Tracy Mincer started the original Custom-Bilt pipes it appears in 1934”.

I did a screen capture of the stamping that matched the stamping on the pipe that I am working on.What I learned from that is that the stamp was used by Tracy Mincer in Indianapolis in the US from 1938-1946 and possibly in Chicago before 1938 as well. So now I had a possible date for this pipe. It was an old timer and it was well worth working on.

Armed with that information I turned to work on the pipe itself. Jeff had done a great job cleaning up the pipe as usual. He reamed the pipe with a PipNet reamer and cut back the cake back to the bare briar. He cleaned up the walls with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed the interior of the bowl and shank with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol to remove the tars and oils. He scrubbed the exterior of the pipe with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove the grime from the finish. Jeff cleaned up this stem even though it would probably be replaced. He scrubbed the inside of the stem with alcohol and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the exterior with Soft Scrub and then soaked it in Before & After Deoxidizer. He washed it off with warm water to remove the deoxidizer. The pipe looked far better. I took photos of the pipe when I received it before I started working on it. You can see the misfit stem. I took a photo of the rim top to show how well it cleaned up and the damage on the front and rim top. I also took a series of photos to show the angles of the misfit stem. You can see that the fit is at an angle. The shank end is also not straight. I went through my collection of stems and found one that was the right profile and right length. I found a perfect stem that even had a turned tenon that would just need adjustment. I took some pictures of the shank end to show the cut angle of the shank. It is just slightly off not a huge amount but when a stem was against the shank it was obvious. The right side was longer than the left and the top was longer than the bottom.I used the topping board to lightly sand the shank end but it was not to be without removing more of the shank end than I wanted. The chips out of the shank end made it necessary to sand deeper. I decided to use a thin brass band that also capped the end of the shank. I coated the shank end with some all-purpose glue and pressed the band in place. I put the new stem on the shank and adjusted the band to take care of any deviation in the face of the shank. I removed the stem and set the bowl aside to let the glue cure. Once the glue on the band had cured I put the new stem in place in the shank to show the fit to the shank end. There is a lot of material to remove from the diameter of the stem at this point but the fit is perfect. I used my Dremel and sanding drum to carefully remove the excess material. I always start this process with the stem in place on the shank. I get it as close as possible to the shank size as I can without nicking the band. Once I have it close I remove the stem and finish it without the shank. The photo below is one I sent to Jeff to show him the progress. It shows the stem after the rough fitting. Lots of work still to do but you can see that it is coming along well.Now the shaping work began in earnest. I used folded 220 grit sandpaper to sand the stem and remove the scratching left behind by the Dremel and sanding drum. I also adjusted the fit to the shank by repeatedly taking photos of the fit. I have included some of those below so you can see the progress.I continued to sand the stem until all of the sanding marks from the drum were gone and the stem was smooth. I started the polishing of the stem with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. The photos below show the stem at this point.I set the stem aside at this point and rubbed some Before & After  Restoration Balm into the surface of the briar. I worked it into the nooks and crannies of the briar with my fingertips and a horse hair shoe brush. The product works to clean, enliven and preserve the briar. I let it sit for 10 minutes while I worked on the stem. After the time passed I buffed it with a cotton cloth to deepen the shine. The briar came alive with the balm. When I am doing a restemming job I like to put it on the bowl and get a look at the pipe all along the way. There is something satisfying in watching the new pipe take shape. I was pleased with how the pipe was looking. I liked the flow of the stem and new shank band. It definitely was a step up from where I started. All that remains now is to finish polishing the stem and then buffing the pipe and waxing it. I was definitely getting there! I removed the stem from the bowl and set the bowl aside. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I used Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to further polish the stem. This early Tracy Mincer made Custom-Bilt billiard was an absolute disaster when we found it. I cleaned up the shank, banded it to smooth it out and made a new stem. It is a great looking pipe. The brown stain on the mixed grain shining through the rustication is quite nice. The finish on the pipe is in excellent condition and the contrasting stains work well to give some contrast to the finish of the pipe. The polished black vulcanite taper stem adds to the mix. With the grime, debris and burn marks minimized from the finish the bowl it is really is eye-catching. The thin gold coloured band looks really nice on the shank. I put the stem back on the bowl and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel, carefully avoiding the stamping on the shank. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel and followed that by buffing the entire pipe with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished chunky, rustic Bulldog is quite nice and feels great in the hand. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. I can only tell you that like the other pipes I am working that it is much prettier in person than the photos capture. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¾ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over another interesting pipe. This rustic Mincer Custom-Bilt Billiard will be going on the rebornpipes store shortly. Keep an eye on the American Pipe Makers section of the store. If you want to add it to your collection send me an email or a message! Thanks for your time.

Repairing a cracked shank on an older Brigham 117 Patent Rhodesian

Blog by Steve Laug

Not long ago I received a message on the blog from a pipeman in Alberta regarding an older Brigham pipe that he had that was in great shape and had a long hairline crack in the shank from the bottom of the left side up through the stamping into the middle of “i” in Brigham. It caused the stem to be loose and he was worried about it continuing to crack across the rest of the shank. I was pretty certain it could be fixed but would need to be banded. The pipe is stamped Brigham over Can. Pat. 372982 on the left side of the shank and shape number 117 on the flattened underside of the shank near the bowl/shank junction. He sent me the following three photos to show the position of the crack in the shank. He circled them in red to make them clear. He took photos of the side of the shank against a green and a black background to make the crack very visible. He also sent an end shot to show the crack from that vantage point. Almost incidentally he also did made the patent number also visible in his photos. I wrote Charles Lemon of Dadspipes as he is my go to source for all things Brigham and asked him about the pipe. He said that the patent stamp dates it between 1938-1955. Based on it being a one dot and a smooth finish, he said it was probably closer to 38 than 55. He also said that the shape 17 (or in this case 117) is what Brigham called a round Bulldog. I took photos of the pipe when I took it out of the box. It was well restored and very clean. The finish was in great shape. The stamping was very clear with a little wear at the middle of the Brigham stamp. The single brass dot on the stem side was clear. The vulcanite stem looked very clean and polished. There was a little rounding to the side of the stem at the stem/shank union but it was really pretty clean. There were some small tooth dents in the stem but the stem looked good. The rim top was clean and the entire pipe was clean and ready to smoke. I took photos of the bowl/rim top and the stem to show the condition it was in when it arrived. It really looks good. You can see the damaged areas on the inside edge of the rim and the marks on the stem but it still is very nice. I took two photos to show the crack as it appeared without a lens. The first shows the end of the shank. It is on the lower left side of the photo. The second shows it on the side of the shank. I circled them in red to highlight the location.Looking it over in a bright light with a lens I knew that I would need to drill a small hole at the end of the crack. The hard thing was that the end of the crack was in the letter “i” on Brigham. I would also need to band the shank to keep it from splitting and fortify the shank when the stem was inserted. I took a band that was the right diameter for the shank out of my box of bands.I used the end of a small screw, pressed into the end of the crack to mark the pilot hole for the drill. I inserted a tiny microdrill bit in the chuck of my Dremel and set the speed to 5. I started the drill and slowly drilled the hole in the middle of the letter to stop the crack from spreading further.I used the tip of a dental pick to place a small drop of Krazy Glue (CA) in the hole I had drilled in the shank. It was a tiny hole so it did not take too much glue to fill in the hole. I put a tiny drop of glue on the crack that was going to be covered by the band and pressed it together to bind the crack and seal it.I used a very small sanding stick to spot sand the repair on the shank. I was able to smooth out the repair without damaging the surrounding letters on the stamping. I put a little all-purpose glue on the surface of the shank that would be covered by the band and pressed the band in place. I pressed it far enough onto the shank to provide the strengthening of the shank but did not cover up any of the stamping on the side of the shank. I used the Dremel and sanding drum to sand the excess length of the band back until it extended just beyond the end of the shank. I topped the band edge with the topping board to smooth it out. I used micromesh sanding pads to smooth out the sharp edge of the band and to polish the band. I took a photo of the shank end and repair after the band had been pressed in place. The crack on the shank end is invisible now. The crack on the shank side and up into the Brigham stamp is pressed tightly together making it less visible.The repair was finished. The stem now fit snug in the shank. The new band on the shank looked really good and dressed up the pipe. I polished the pipe on the buffing wheel using Blue Diamond to remove scratches on the bowl, shank, band and stem. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and 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 finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It looks better than it did in the beginning. The pipe is finished and I will be sending it back to Alberta a little later this week. I am hoping the pipeman there enjoys it. Thanks for looking.

Banding a Dunhill CK 12 Patent Era Author

Blog by Steve Laug

Henry Ramirez and I emailed back and forth over the past year about pipe repair. He had repaired a cracked shank on a Dunhill CK Patent Era Author that I found quite compelling. It was a pipe that I wanted to add to my collection. The deep sandblast and the unique repair that Henry had done on the shank lent something special to it. He had drilled and pinned it using some of the tricks he had used in his dental practice. He has written up the repair to the pipe on the following blog: https://rebornpipes.com/2017/06/01/cracked-shank-repair-on-a-dunhill-ck12-author/. He wrote in the blog that the underside of the shank was faintly stamped with Dunhill Shell over an incomplete patent number starting with 116(989/17) which would place this pipe from 1925-1934. The pipe had been fitted with a gold-plated or at least gold coloured band to hold the cracked shank together. Henry kept the band but decided to leave it off the pipe. Henry took the photos below to show the finished pipe. It is a beauty. Henry and I corresponded and I made him an offer for the pipe. We dickered back and forth and he surprised me recently by giving it to me. He sent it to me with the old split band included. I am pretty certain that the band was not original to the pipe and was added in an earlier repair. I spoke with several jewelers to see if I could find someone to solder the band and repair it. None of them were willing to take a risk with the thin metal. I ordered several gold bands from Vermont Freehand to see if I could find a replacement band but none of them were large enough to fit. I was looking for a thinner band to fit the shank and still leave the briar exposed as much as possible. I found a thinner band in my box of bands that looked like it might work. It was hammered silver and had a brass cross (gold coloured) on the top of the band. I slipped it on the shank to see what it would look like and took the following photo.I liked the look of the new band so I heated it and pressed it onto the end of the shank. I pressed it down on a hard board until it was even with the end of the shank. I scrubbed the surface of the briar with Before & After Restoration Balm to clean off the surface of the briar to preserve and deep cleanse the crevices and high spots of the rugged patent era sandblast. I applied it to the briar with my finger and rubbed it into the briar. I scrubbed it with a tooth brush to get it deep in the grooves. I buffed the bowl with a soft cloth and then buffed it with a shoe brush to raise a shine. The next two photos show the end of the shank with the band pressed on the shank until the edge was flat against the shank end.I put the stem back on the shank and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I used a light touch on the sandblast bowl. The finish came alive with the Balm and I gave the pipe several coats of Conservator’s Wax and buffed it with the shoe brush. I gave the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine and then hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth. I buffed the band on the shank with a silver polishing cloth to raise the shine and polish it. The hammered finish on the band and the brass cross on the top of the band works really well with the old sandblast. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The new band looks good on the pipe and gives it a classic look with a personal touch of class. Thanks for looking.

A Humpty Dumpty Cross Canada Project – Could this Poor Richards Select Square Shank Billiard 9489 ever be whole again?

Blog by Steve Laug and Charles Lemon

My brother sent me a box of pipes and bowls that he had picked up. In it was an old square shank billiard that had seen far better days. The bowl sported a thick cake and was cracked 2/3rds of the way down the bowl on the front and another crack on the back of the bowl that went across the bowl to the left side. The finish was rough but there was some nice grain. Its stem was chewed up and was broken and smelly. I threw the unredeemable stem away. The bowl went into the parts box to be cannibalized for repairs. It was interesting that the pipe was stamped Poor Richard’s over Select over Bozeman, Montana on the left side of the shank. I grew up in Idaho and spent a lot of time in my early years in Bozeman. My youngest brother went to school there and my second brother was married there. Lots of family ties. It was stamped London England over 9489 on the right side. The 9489 stamp told me that it was a GBD product. Something about it intrigued me. I wondered if it might not be a candidate for a second collaboration with Charles Lemon of Dadspipes. It would be another test to our theory that just about any pipe can be restored and reused. I wrote to him and sent him some photos to see if he was game for taking it on. This project would provide some unique challenges to us both or it may end up as kindling.Dick1 Dick2 Dick3 Dick4I took a photo of the bowl from the top looking into it. The cake is unbelievable even to me with all the pipes I have worked on. This stuff was as hard as concrete and seemed impervious to the reamers in my kit. No wonder the bowl was cracked on the front and the back sides.Dick5 I dropped the bowl in an alcohol bath to soak and while it soaked I decided to see what I could find out about the connection of the pipe to Bozeman. I did a Google search for Poor Richard’s and found that the pipe shop is still open. It is located in downtown Bozeman. I read through their website and gleaned the following photo and history. http://poorrichardsbozeman.com/about-poor-richards/Dick6From its beginnings in 1962 as the Ellen News at 17 West Main Street, owners Dick Wike and Hal McDowell wanted to achieve a modern-looking newsstand in the building which had formerly been home to Cuttings Newsstand, Lawton’s News and the Stag Pipe Shop. After the partnership dissolved the following year, Wike went on to expand the line of pipes and tobaccos offered, as well as the variety of paperback books, magazines and newspapers offered. A theatre expansion project in 1968 necessitated a move a few doors down, and a name change in the process. On September 9, 1968, Poor Richard’s opened at its current location at 33 West Main Street. Successive owners Richard Fish, sisters Nicole and Glenn Close, Sarah and Dan Cole, and Kate Wiggins added their personal stamp to the offerings.

Today, Poor Richard’s offers its customers a wide variety of merchandise:
• Local Montana and regional books, including Falcon Guides
• Local, regional and national newspapers, including the Wall Street Journal and the Sunday New York Times
• Over 500 magazines and periodicals
• A large selection of fine cigars, including Padron, Arturo Fuente, Partagas, Macanudo, Punch, Romeo y Julieta, Oliva, and more…
• Pipes, including Peterson, Savinelli, Federico Rovera and more…
• Fine tobaccos and accessories

Knowing the background to a pipe is always interesting to me and adds another dimension to the restoration. It was time to stop reading however, and address the issues of the cake and a new stem. I soaked the bowl in an alcohol bath for over three days hoping to soften it. It did not work. It was impervious to the cutting blades on the PipNet and the KleenReem reamers. They would not even dent the hard carbon. I chipped at it with a pen knife and was able to clean off the rim and scrape a bit of the cake around the bowl edge. I tried the reamer again with no success. Knowing that Charles would work on the bowl and that was the hardest part, I did not want to send him the bowl with the cake intact. I put the sanding drum on the Dremel and attacked the bowl. It was slow going but after working at it for over 30 minutes I was able to get about half way down the bowl. I used a sharp knife to open the bottom half of the bowl more and then the Dremel once more to take it to the bottom. I have never fought a cake this hard before. I wrapped the cutting head on the PipNet reamer with sandpaper and worked on the inside of the bowl. I used a folded piece of sandpaper to clean up the inner edge of the bowl. There is still a lot to be done but at least Charles has a bit of a “clean” slate to begin with. You can see the crack from the top of the bowl on both the front and the back. The one on the front goes down over half way on the front side. The one on the back descends half way down and turns toward the left for about a half an inch.Dick7With the bowl cleaned I want to rough fit the stem before I sent it to Charles. I turned the tenon and made a snug fit of the square shank replacement stem. Fitting a new stem to these old timers is always a pain because none of the angles are actually square and the sides are of different sizes. Thus the stem has to be custom fit. I used the Dremel and sanding drum to take down a lot of the excess vulcanite and then followed up with a flat file to make the transition from the shank to the stem smooth and even.Dick8Once the fit was close I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to bring the angles in line with the shank and to smooth out the file marks. It took a lot of sanding and it is still not finished at this point. I would finish sanding and fitting it after Charles had repaired the bowl.Dick9 Dick10 Dick11 Dick12The bowl and shank had a white scum on the briar and in the stamping. It was hard to remove. I lightly sanded it and then scrubbed the bowl down with acetone on cotton pads to remove it and the remaining finish on the bowl. The pipe has some nice grain and once it cleaned up and repaired it will be interesting to see.Dick13 Dick14 Dick15 Dick16With the bowl cleaned up I was ready to send the reamed and cleaned stummel to Charles for the bowl repair work on the pipe this time. Once Charles had it in hand he would carry on with the repairs….

Time passed slowly for me as the pipe travelled from British Columbia to Ontario. Charles sent me a message on Skype saying that the pipe had arrived and he was ready to start the work on it. I turn over this part of the narrative to him.

(Charles picks up the narrative now.)

The cracked stummel arrived from Steve today. I was keen to get my first close-up look at it – Steve had sent me pictures of course, but nothing beats a hands-on examination. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of clean-up work Steve had already done. I knew he had reamed it (at great effort), but he’d also done a nice job removing the dirt and grime on the outside of the bowl. Apart from a small amount of rim tar, I could concentrate immediately on the major issue of the crack repairs. I shot these pics to show the state of the stummel when I received it.Dick17 Dick18 Dick19There were two major cracked areas at the front and back of the bowl. Both cut all the way through the chamber walls, all but slicing the bowl in half lengthwise. The front crack looked like a clean break running from the rim down the face of the bowl to the bottom of the tobacco chamber. The rear crack wasn’t as straightforward. Instead of a single linear crack, the damage at the rear started at the rim, dropped down to roughly the centre of the bowl, and took a sharp left as it sought out an old fill – a natural weak spot in the briar. From the fill the crack had “spidered”, with thinner cracks running up, down and across the bowl. Yikes! Its times like this that I marvel at the sheer power of neglected cake to inexorably break a pipe bowl into pieces. Pipers take heed – ream your bowls!

I’ve worked on cracked bowls before, but the majority that have come across my work table have been tight cracks that don’t penetrate the chamber walls. These cracks, by contrast, could be visibly moved by squeezing and releasing the bowl in my hand. Without some way to lock the briar in position, this bowl would have to be retired.

While I worked on a plan to knit Humpty Dumpty back together again, I took steps to ensure that the existing spider cracks did not run further into the briar. I fitted a micro drill bit to my electric hand drill and popped a tiny hole at the end of each fissure in the wood, careful not to drill through to the tobacco chamber. These “end cap” holes would stop the cracks in their tracks, though there were quite a few of them around the back of the bowl.Dick20 Dick21Glue alone would not provide sufficient holding power to keep the cracks tight and immobile. I would need to add physical reinforcement of some kind to ensure that the bowl stayed in one piece after being placed back in service. I had never used the procedure before, but I decided that I’d have to try to pin the cracks. I dug about in my supplies and found a length of 1.2mm brass rod I thought would do the trick, and matched it up to a micro drill bit from my tool kit. I would have to drill pin shafts across the crack, through the curved walls of the bowl, without drilling into the chamber. I muttered a short prayer to the Pipe Gods, and then sank the first shaft just below the rim across the rear crack.

This close-up pic shows the flat angle at which I drilled, and the brass rod in position. I marked the rod length and then cut it a bit shorter so that when fully seated in the shaft, the outer end of the rod would be below the outer surface of the briar. I roughed up the brass pin with 220-grit sandpaper to give the glue more gripping surface, and then ran a drop of CA glue into the shaft before pushing the pin home.Dick22Sharp-eyed readers will also have noticed that the second shaft had been drilled when I took the pic above. Note the angle of this shaft relative to the first one – it’s not even close to parallel. This is deliberate. Each pin was drilled at an opposing angle to its neighbours. This way any movement of the briar as it heats and cools will be blocked by one or more pins. If the pins were parallel, pressure in the wrong direction could push the crack open again.

In all I installed ten brass pins – four in front and six in back – and sank seven end cap holes (all but one of these in the back). I had expected the pinning to be both nerve wracking and time consuming, but after the first couple of pins I caught my stride and set the stummel aside to let the glue cure a short 30 minutes later. The Pipe Gods must have approved of the work as I didn’t drill through the chamber wall once. Whew! I snapped these pictures of the bowl after the pinning. The red lines show the direction of the pin shafts. You can see how the pins work to stitch the crack shut. The front repair doesn’t look too bad, but the rear of the bowl looks like it was attacked by termites!Dick23 Dick24The proof of any repair is in the pudding, so to speak. I won’t be on hand to witness the first firing of this pipe after the work is done, but I can happily report that I can no longer make the cracks move no matter how hard I squeeze the bowl. That’s a very good sign, as it shows that the bowl is acting as a single piece of briar instead of several bits of loosely connected wood.

With the bowl structurally sound again, it was time to sort out the damage inflicted on the stummel by some maniac with a drill. I patched over all 17 (!!) holes with CA and briar dust and let the CA cure before filing and sanding the fills flush with the surface of the briar. This is a process I’ve done many times on many different pipes, so I figured this would be the easy part of the repair. Ironically, the fills took up more of my time, energy and patience than the pinning as I had to revisit several of the fills more than once to ensure a smooth finish. I also realized that a few of the pins were left slightly too long – the brass kept shining through two of the fills – which necessitated extra work to get everything in order before staining. Eventually, though, perseverance paid off.Dick25 Dick26 Dick27 Dick28I topped the bowl gently at this point to remove the excess CA glue and remove a few tiny dings. I then prepped the stummel for stain by sanding with 1500 – 2400 grit Micromesh sanding pads.Dick29 Dick30 Dick31With the crazy number of fills in the briar, I knew I’d have to go with a darker finish than I’d usually select. I started with a coat of Fiebing’s Black water-based leather dye to bring out the grain as much as I could. I let the colour dry and then wiped off the excess with 0000 steel wool and a bit of fresh water. This left the grain stained black while the rest of the wood remained lighter. I then made a wash of Fiebing’s Dark Brown dye diluted about 50%. I washed the colour over the briar repeatedly until I got close to the amount of coverage I was looking for. I let the dye dry so I could assess how well the fills were hidden. Still fairly prominent. A few scribbles with a medium stain marker helped push the fills to the background without obliterating the grain altogether.Dick32I left the stummel overnight at this point. I wasn’t sure that I was done with the stain, but I was getting tired and didn’t want to mess up the work with a bad decision or a shaky hand. The next morning, however, the stain seemed to have settled into its intended depth and coverage. The fills were reasonably subdued by the stain, so I took the stummel to the bench and gave it a light buffing with White Diamond compound followed by Carnauba wax. I’ve got to buy a lotto ticket this week – if the Lotto Gods smile on me even half as much as the Pipe Gods did here, I’ll be retiring early. The fills and cracks have disappeared almost completely, though the stain is translucent enough to allow the grain to shine through. Even the cracks across the rim are hard to find. What a relief after the hours of filling and sanding! The repairs are still visible under strong light, but the stummel certainly passes the casual inspection test.Dick33 Dick34 Dick35 Dick36Before sending the stummel back to Steve, I filled and further stabilized the repair from the interior of the bowl by pressing JB Weld into the cracks. There was also a spot on the front chamber wall that looked suspiciously like the beginnings of a burnout that I filled in the same way. I let the JB cure and then sanded out the excess epoxy. This produced nice smooth chamber walls with JB Weld left only in the repaired areas. JB doesn’t “breathe” like wood as it heats and cools, so I wanted only the required amount of it left in the bowl.Dick37 Dick38 Dick39 Dick40I finished off the repair with a bowl coating of activated charcoal powder and maple syrup. This coating is largely cosmetic in this case, used to hide the JB, but it will provide an extra layer of protection for the repairs as well as a consistent surface upon which to build a new (and hopefully well-trimmed) layer of cake. Dick41 Dick42(Steve picks up the narrative again.)

Charles had sent the package Express Post and it did not take long to get it back. When I got home from a short business trip I went to the post office to pick it up. I carried the box home excited to see what Charles had done with the mess that I had sent him. It is one thing to see the photos and follow the process but truly a different story when you hold it in hand.

When I opened the box I was not prepared for the beautifully restored bowl that was carefully wrapped inside. Charles had done a masterful job on the bowl repair. The cracks were virtually invisible. The measles of the end caps were basically small specks and hardly visible at all. It was amazing! Charles had accomplished a bit of a miracle in my book. This one was a pipe I wondered if we would be burning rather than loading up. But the bowl was perfect.

Now it was back in my hands to finish the stem that I had previously roughly fit to the shank before sending the bowl off to him. I also needed to address the small dent that went all around the end of the shank. It looked like there had been a band of some sort on the shank for adornment as the shank was the one thing on the pipe that was not cracked. I would have to address that later in the process.

First I worked on the stem. I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper to bring the surface of each side of the square stem to the same height as the shank.Dick43 Dick44 Dick45 Dick46The fit was good and once the band was in place would look even. I wet sanded the stem with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads and rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil. I dry sanded with 3200-4000 grit pads and then gave it another coat of oil. I finished sanding it with 6000-12000 grit pads and gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil. I let the oil dry.Dick47 Dick48 Dick49I buffed the stem with Blue Diamond on the wheel and then inserted it in the shank. Things lined up nicely but there was an indentation around the top, bottom and sides of the shank where it appeared there had been a band of some sort. The photo below shows the worst of the indentations.Dick50I went through my box of bands which are almost all round. That is not a problem as it is easy to square up a round band. But as Charles said above, the Pipe Gods were smiling on me and I found that I had one square band and it was exactly the size and depth I needed to fit the shank, cover the indentations and cover the stamping on the sides. I pressed the band in place. The band is worn and battered but it adds a bit of flair to the pipe.Dick51 Dick52 Dick53 Dick54 Dick55To clean up the dents and wear on the band I used a tiny upholstery hammer to tap out many of the dents and wrinkles on it. I also used it to flatten the end of the shank and smooth it out. I heated the band with a lighter to warm the metal and then tapped it until it was as smooth as I could get it. The photos below show the pipe at this point in the process. The new stem fits well and the band sets of the pipe very nicely in my opinion. It smooths out the transition between the shank and the stem.Dick56 Dick57 Dick58 Dick59However, I was not happy with the still battered appearance and some of the rounded edges on the corners of the band. I took the band off the shank and used a flat blade screw driver to square up the angles and to flatten the band from the inside. I was able to remove more of the dents and wrinkles. I put some all purpose glue on the shank and pressed the band back in place. I took the following photos. Thanks for looking.Dick60 Dick61 Dick62 Dick63 Dick64Charles, this was a fun project to work on together. I look forward to firing up this old timer.  The proof is indeed in the pudding as you said above. That will be the real test of the new life of this pipe repair. I am also thinking of contacting the Poor Richard’s Pipe Shop in Bozeman, Montana with a bit of a story of the resurrection of this pipe and its cross Canada journey from Vancouver to Kitchener and back again. Let’s keep our eyes open for another joint project… there still may be another pipe out there that stymies us… until then keep up the good work my friend. IT is always a pleasure to work together. I think you said it best in one of our back and forth interchanges – if we lived closer together we would be in trouble. Take care.

Giving a no name Poker a new stem and a new look

Blog by Steve Laug

Over the past six or seven months I have picked this pipe up and looked it over at the small antique shop I visit regularly. Every time I put it back down and leave it there. There was really nothing redeeming about the shape with its one thin side and the odd shank that was not quite round. The stem was just plain ugly and unfinished. It was as if the maker or owner just turned a blank to fit the mortise and flared it backwards to avoid having to deal with a smooth fit to the shank as it was everything but flat and round. The sides of the stem still showed file marks and the diameter was markedly different than that of the shank. All in all it was one that I could do without that is for sure.

Then this past weekend I was in the shop again. I picked it up and looked at it once more. I don’t know if my mood was different or I was on the adrenaline high of finding the old Zeus at the shop before or what but this time I saw some possibilities in the pipe. I paid the $8 cash and the pipe was mine. Now what would I do with it?

When I got home I took some photos and weighed my options over Saturday evening and Sunday. I thought about making a freehand style stem for the pipe and ditching the old one. I thought about cleaning up and reshaping the old stem. I thought about facing off the shank end and giving it a more classic look. I took the stem off and looked at the shape of the shank, the shape of the shank end and tried to visualize it with a classic look. As you can guess by this point if you know my likes I went for the classic look.Poker1



Poker4 I took a couple of close-up photos of the rim and the shank end to give an idea of how the bowl and shank were not round or close to it. The first photo of the dirty rim of the bowl shows the odd shape it was in. The right side of the bowl wrapping about half way around both the back and the front had a nice thick, even width while the left side tapered in from the thickness and roundness of the right, back and front to a thinner width. Besides that it also seemed to be a bit oval on the back and front but after measuring it I could see that it was an illusion. The second photo shows the shank end. It is a bit hard to see but the shank end was crowned and rounded over but inconsistently. The shank itself had the same problem as the bowl – it too was not round but was thicker on the left side than on the right; just the opposite of the bowl. This little pipe was going to be a challenge to make look correct.Poker5

Poker6 I decided to face the end of the shank and remove the uneven crown and to flatten it to fit a flush stem. I used the topping board and carefully pressed the end of the shank into the sandpaper. I had to make sure that I held it straight vertically while sanding so that I did not slant the end of the shank and make things worse.Poker7 I worked it against the 220 grit sandpaper until it was smooth and the crown was gone. I then used a medium grit sanding block to make sure the shank end was flat and even.Poker8 I had an old Georg Jensen stem that fit on the right side of the shank perfectly. The left side and the bottom and top on that same side were off. I tried a saddle stem I had as well. No matter which stem I use the shape of the shank made a perfect fit impossible. The good news was that the flush stem fit snugly in the mortise and flat against the end of the shank. Now I would need to make adjustments to the shank diameter without losing the nice sandblast finish.Poker9 I went through my bands and found one that would fit both the shank and the stem once it was in place. I used my Dremel and sanding drum to take down and round out the shank end so that the band would sit properly. I wanted to make the adjustments to the shank before the band so that once it was in place the stem would fit without adjusting the roundness of the stem to match the out of round shank. It took some work to round out the shank but the Dremel made short work of the process.Poker10 I was able to put the band loosely on the shank to get an idea of the overall look of the pipe with the band. It appeared to me that it would work well.Poker11

Poker12 I decided to heat the band with a lighter rather than set my heat gun to do the simple heat up of the band. Once I heated it I pressed it into place on the shank. The metal expanded slightly with the heat and by pressing the shank end against a flat surface I was able to push the band into place.Poker13



Poker16One problem was solved. The shank was now round at the end and the stem would fit tightly against the shank and the band made the match perfect.Poker17



Poker20 I used a dark brown stain pen and a black permanent marker to touch up the raw briar in front of the band and blend it into the colour of the bowl and shank.Poker21



Poker24 Once I had the stained matched, it was time to clean the sandblast finish. I used Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to scrub the bowl and shank. I did it after the stain touch up as I figured that the scrub would help blend the stains together.Poker25 I rinsed the bowl with fresh water avoiding getting it into the shank and the bowl. I dried it off and brought it back to the work table. I cleaned out the shank and the used stem with a few pipe cleaners and alcohol. The pictures below show the pipe at this point in the process.Poker26 The stem needed some work to clean up the scratches and wear around the button. I wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads and dry sanded it with 3200-12,000 grit pads. I rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil and then buffed it with Blue Diamond Plastic Polish on the buffing wheel. I gave it a quick coat of carnauba and took it back to the work table.Poker27


Poker29 I gave the bowl and stem a light buff and rubbed the bowl down with a light coat of olive oil. When it dried, I hand buffed the bowl with a shoe brush to raise the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the pictures below. I think I achieved what I set out to do when I started this project. I took a pretty ugly poker with a misfit stem and with work transformed it into a more classic poker look. What do you think? Thanks for looking and giving your opinion on the new look.Poker30






Taking the idea that several readers gave regarding the straight stem I bent it this morning. I heated it with the heat gun and then gave it a gentle 1/8 bend. Here are the photos.Bent1




Reworking a Medico Apple – A Save this Pipe Project of My Own!

The last pipe in my box of pipes to refurbish was a Medico Apple that was stamped Medico over Imported Briar on the underside of the shank. It was a well-worn sandblast bowl that had dark stain marks on the front and back of the bowl. It appeared to be a dark blue India ink type of staining. The grooves in the blast were worn down almost smooth and what was left was dirty with light brown grime that raised the surface of the grooves smooth. The top of the bowl was damaged and worn from being struck against a surface to empty the bowl. The inside of the bowl was badly caked and crumbling when I received and I cleaned and dumped out the carbon and shreds of tobacco before throwing it in the box. The stem had been bitten through on both the top and the bottom sides next to the button. The nylon stem was in rough shape with many deep tooth dents around the holes. At one point I had taken the stem out thinking I would work on it and sanded down the tooth chatter and some of the lighter marks. I had heated the stem to raise them and gotten quite a few of them out-of-the-way. The holes in the stem left me questioning whether I even wanted to work on this poor worn pipe.



After reading Greg’s post about saving a pipe – the Medico VFQ I was moved to go and have a look at the last pipe in the box. I have four days off starting today and it is a rainy cool day in Vancouver. It is a perfect day for working on pipes so I took the pipe to the worktable. I knew all of the flaws that awaited me but the bones of the pipe, the briar was still sound. The damage truly was cosmetic. The stem was another question. But I figured it was worth the effort. I cleaned the surface of the nylon stem and wiped it down with alcohol. I folded a piece of cardboard and coated it with Vaseline before sticking it in the airway to provide a backing for the black super glue patches that I was going to use for the holes.

The super glue had become quite viscous which actually worked for me. It was not the thin liquid it had been when I purchase it several years ago. I shook it well and then applied it to the holes on the stem. I always do the patching in layers. I start quite wide around the edges of the hole and work toward the centre to close off the hole. I decided to work on both sides of the repair at the same time so I put the glue in both holes. I set the stem aside for the repair to cure before adding more layers of glue.

I scrubbed the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the grime. I used a tooth brush to get into the remaining grooves in the briar. I used the soap undiluted as I find it is less liquid and works better on rounded surfaces as a gel. I wiped off the soap with cotton pads, rinsed the bowl with warm water and dried it off. The next four photos show the bowl after this cleaning. The sandblast was basically worn away and I needed to make a decision on what to do with the finish on this bowl.



The worn finish and the ink stains on the front and back of the bowl made the decision pretty easy for me. To clean and restain the pipe would still leave it worn and the ink stains visible. I decided I would rusticate the bowl with the rusticator I had received from Chris. I wanted the finish to look slightly different from the previous pipe that I rusticated so I had some ideas on what to do once I had rusticated the finish.





Once the bowl was rusticated I scrubbed the rough surface with a brass tire brush to knock of the edges. I carefully rusticated the rim and used the tool to round the edges on the outer rim to hide some of the obvious damage that had been present before. Once finished I stained it with a dark brown aniline stain. I had left the underside of the shank smooth and a portion of the shank next to the stem shank junction. I stained the bowl, flamed it, stained it and flamed it again until the coverage of the stain was even all over the briar.



I buffed the bowl with red Tripoli to further smooth out the high spots on the rustication and give a little contrast to the stain. I used the brass brush a second time on the surface. It still was not quite what I was aiming for but I laid it aside for a while to look at it and think about the options. It was while I was doing that I thought I would see if I had a new stem that would work. It gave me a second option to try should the repair or patches not work well.


I did not have a round taper or saddle stem in my can of stems that was the right diameter for the shank but I did have quite a few square stems that could be modified to fit the shank diameter. I found one that had the tenon already turned for a previous pipe I was working on and put it on the pipe to have a look. I could see some potential in the stem and the look of the wide blade saddle stem. It would certainly be worth a try. If it turned out well and the patch on the other stem worked then I would have several options to work with. The tenon on the square stem was too long but that could easily be adjusted for a tight fit against the shank. I did the adjustment with a Dremel and sanding drum.

With the stem in place against the shank I could see the very evident taper of the shank on the topside and the underside. It was significantly narrower than the rest of the shank. I wondered if the smooth briar at the shank/stem junction was not from a previous refitting of a stem. I looked over the stem I was patching and saw that it actually bore the F stamping on the top rather than the M stamp that I had expected. I had not paid attention to that before but combined with the shape of the shank I was relatively certain that the stem was a replacement and the damage to the shank was caused by a sanding the shank to more readily match the smaller diameter of the replacement stem. That made the stem choice easy – I would refit a new stem to the shank. I would use a nickel band to level the shank out and make the taper of the shank more even. This would also make fitting the new stem quite easy. I set up a heat gun, heated the nickel band and pressed it into place on the shank. The silver actually looked good against the rustication of the bowl.




I used the Dremel and large sanding drum to take off the square edges of the new stem. I worked on it until it was round. I started by taking off all the corners and creating an octagon first and then continuing to round out the stem until it was the same shape as the shank. The bottom of the shank on the pipe was flattened so the pipe would sit upright on its own so I left the bottom side of the stem slightly flattened as well. I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper and medium and fine grit sanding sponges to get the fit against the bowl and band perfect. I also sanded the rustication on the bowl to soften the high spots and flatten them out. I wiped the bowl down with alcohol after I had sanded. The next series of four photos show the sanded bowl and stem. The rustication is getting closer to the look that I was after when I started.



I continued to sand the stem with the fine grit sanding sponge and also the bowl. I once more wiped the bowl down with a soft cloth and alcohol to remove the dust. Each step in the process is flattening out the rustication slightly more and bringing a shine to the newly rounded stem.



I sanded the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12,000 grit pads.


I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil and when it had dried I buffed the bowl and the stem with White Diamond. I sanded the bowl with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads to further flatten he high points of the rustication and then buffed the bowl a final time with White Diamond. I gave the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed with a soft flannel buff between the coats of wax. I wiped the bowl down lightly with a coat of olive oil. The finished pipe is shown below. It has come a long way from the worn and tired looking old Medico with the bite throughs in the stem. The rustication came out the way I wanted it to with the high spots showing a lighter brown and the valleys in the rustication holding the dark brown stain. It is finished and ready for an inaugural smoke – if not by me at least by someone who will take it home to their rack.

Oh, and for those who wondered about the “original” stem that I was patching earlier in this post, I am continuing to work on the repairs. Both sides have had two layers of super glue and the holes are sealed. There are still more layers to go as the glue shrinks as it cures. It will be used on some other pipe in the future I am sure but for now once the patch is finished it will go back to the stem can to be used on another pipe.




New Life for a Wally Frank Super Delicious Billiard

Blog by Steve Laug

I have become familiar with many of the Wally Frank lines of pipes but this was one I had not heard of before. It almost sounds like something to eat rather than smoke. It is stamped Wally Frank Ltd on the left side of the shank and on the right Super Delicious – interesting stamping indeed. The pipe was one of the bowls that I had in my box needing to be restemmed. It also had a cracked shank that was present before I matched a stem to it. Often a shank will crack like this if a tenon that is oversized is forced into the shank. That obviously had happened to this old pipe sometime in its life. I found a stem that fit the shank and inserted it enough to show the crack in the shank for the first photo below. The crack approximately ½ inch long and was in a portion of the shank where it was thinner than the other side. One of the challenges in restemming these older pipes is the fact that the shank is very often out of round and the stem has to be shaped to match it accordingly. The bowl has some nice grain on it and was well worth restoring. The remaining three photos in the first group of four show the grain and shape of the pipe. Note that rim was not only darkened but was worn on the front edge of the outer rim.



I reamed out the bowl and removed the cake that was present only in the top half of the bowl. It seemed that the lower portion of the bowl was not even broken in. The top of the bowl needed to be topped to even out the flat top of the bowl. The way the angle was after the tars and grime were removed was d a slight slant toward the front of the bowl and the front edge was rounded from tapping out the bowl repeatedly on a hard surface. I used the board and sandpaper to top the bowl and even out the top. I also made certain that the bowl was held against the board to even out the angle and make the top smooth and flat. The first photo below shows how out of round the shank is in proportion to the mortise. Notice the difference in thickness all around the shank diameter. The crack in the shank is at about 3 o’clock on the shank. The next two photos show the bowl after it has been topped and is even with no slant toward the back or front of the bowl.


After I had topped the bowl and evened things out I wiped the entirety of the bowl down with acetone on a soft cotton pad to remove the grime and the remaining finish on the bowl. It came off almost black when I was finished cleaning it. I then needed to band the crack shank. I opened it with the stem and then dripped a bit of superglue in the crack before pressure fitting the band in place. The first photo below shows the shape of the shank and makes the thin area very clear. This would require quite a bit of shaping to make the stem fit the shank correctly. The next two photos show the banded stem and how it fits on the shank. I kind of like the look of the band against the natural colour of the briar.


The next two photos below show the stem shape after I had removed much of the material at the top left corner of the picture. The stem is round at this point but the tenon is no longer in the center of the stem. It is proportionately toward the top left of the picture and on the top bottom when it is in place in the shank.

At this point in the process I restained the bowl with a dark brown aniline stain that I thinned with isopropyl alcohol so that it would match the colour of the bowl. My goal was to match the rim that I had topped and was raw briar to the natural patina of the bowl and shank. I mixed the stain until it was the colour I was aiming for and then stained the entire bowl with multiple applications of the stain to the rim. I flamed the stain and reapplied it to the rim, flamed it again and then took the pipe to the buffer. I buffed the bowl and stem with Tripoli and White Diamond. Once I was done with that I buffed the bowl and shank with multiple coats of carnauba wax to bring depth to the shine and also to blend the rim and bowl together.

I then worked on the oxidation of the stem. I had shaped it to fit the shank with my Dremel and when it fit well I sanded the stem from front to button with 280 grit sandpaper and then 400 and 600 grit wet dry sandpaper to remove the oxidation and scratch marks from the Dremel. Once it was smooth I progressed through the micromesh sanding pads from 1500-12,000 grit. In between 4000 and 6000 grits I polished the stem with Maguiar’s Scratch X 2.0 and then finished sanding with the micromesh. I finished the stem with a coat of Obsidian Oil and then multiple coats of carnauba wax to give it shine. The next series of four photos show the finished pipe. It is shined and ready to smoke.