Tag Archives: rebuilding the button

Rebirth of a No Name Bakelite Pipe with Bakelite Stem

This pipe came to me from Chuck Richards (Desertpipe) in a box he sent me. It is the first of three old timers that he sent for me to work with. It is a common interest that we share – this love of the old timers and restoring them to some of their former glory. The first four photos below show the pipe as it was when it arrived to my work table. There is no stamping on the pipe at all. The gold band is stamped 14K Gold Filled. The stem has no logos or stampings. The underside of the bowl and the Bakelite base has no information stamped on it either. It is much like some of the WDC or William Demuth pipes that I have from the same era. The pipe itself was in pretty decent shape. The bowl was very clean. The rim was undamaged and the finish on the bowl was quite nice. The double grooves around the bowl were filled with grit and the surface had a few pits in it. The Bakelite bowl base and shank were in good shape. There seems to have been a metal decorative rim that went around the base between the bowl and base that was missing. The 14K gold filled band was in place but was on backwards so that the stamping of the gold was upside down. The stem was very oxidized and had been filed to give a steeper angle on the taper to the button. The filing had gone too deep and the airway next to the button was exposed. At first examination it appeared that the stem was too hard a material to be vulcanite and the filing marks did not look like they were on vulcanite. My initial guess was that the stem was also Bakelite.



I removed the bowl from the base and reamed and cleaned it. I reamed it with a PipNet reamer back to a very thin cake. I cleaned out the airway at the bottom of the bowl. I used a dental pick to clean out the dual lines around the bowl top. I cleaned out the reservoir in the bottom of the base with cotton swabs and Everclear. I cleaned out the shank with bristle and fluffy pipe cleaners and Everclear as well. I removed the band from the shank by heating it gently. The glue softened and I was able to remove it and turn it around. I tapped the band with a small furniture hammer to flatten out the edges and squared the edges. I reglued it with wood glue. When this work was done I set the bowl and shank aside and went to work on the stem.
The stem took significant work. Somehow my camera failed (maybe the photographer did) and I was unable to get any good photos of the stem work. I built up the filed area against the button with clear superglue (Photos 1 -2). I layered on lightly, let it dry, relayered it and repeated until the thickness was sufficient enough for the airway to be protected. I also built up the button. It looked to me that a previous repair had been done and a new button had been cut in the stem. I repaired the shape and the thickness of the button. It was an old style bone tenon that was mounted in the shank so I cleaned that up and cleaned the inside the stem. The hole in the button was the old style orific or “o” opening. The rebuilding of the button and stem took the majority of time in working on this old stem. Once it was dry and had cured overnight I worked on the oxidation. I did not want to use anything that could possible harm the Bakelite so I kept the alcohol to a minimum and only on the inside the airway and was careful not let it touch the outside. For the outside I used 240 grit sandpaper to smooth out the newly repaired slope on the stem and to sand out the file marks that remained from the previous repair. I also sanded the corners on the stem to give it a more rounded look in keeping with the era it was made. The 240 grit sandpaper easily removed the oxidation. Photos 3 – 4, though of poor quality, give an idea of how the stem looked after patching with the superglue and sanding with the 240 grit sandpaper. The oxidation was pretty well removed. The button is shaped and the patch on the stem in front of the button is visible. There is still a lot of sanding to do at this point. From the 240 grit I went on to sand with 320 grit and also a fine grit sanding sponge to further blend the patch and to remove the oxidation.



I put the stem back on the pipe and worked on the fit against the band. When I reversed the band the stem was too large on the right side and extended beyond the width of the band. To repair that I had to take of material at the bottom edge of the top right side and the upper edge of the bottom right side of the diamond to reduce the angle of the diamond on that side. By reducing these two points on the stem I was able to bring the sharp edge to the same width as the shank and band. It balanced the look of the stem. I used the 240 and 320 grit sandpaper for doing this part of the stem work. I continued to use the sanding sponge to blend the patches on the top and bottom of the slope to the button. The next series of eight photos show the progress on the stem. The patch is clearly visible in the photos of the top side. The one on the bottom was not as big and it blended in more easily.







After removing the scratches and oxidation with the sandpaper I sanded with the fine grit sanding sponge and then progressed through the various grits of micromesh sanding pads from 1500-12,000 to smooth and polish the stem. As I worked on it my initial conjecture about the material being Bakelite was confirmed. The next four photos are a sample of the work of the micromesh sanding pads on the stem. The pad in the photos is 3600 grit. I also used the micromesh on the bowl and the Bakelite base and shank to remove some of the surface scratches.



I gave the pipe a very light buff on the buffer with White Diamond. I had learned on previous occasions that the speed of the buffing pad can produce heat that can actually damage the Bakelite and cause fibres from the pad to embed in the stem. A very light touch is necessary if you are going to buff these stems. I wanted to give them a quick light buff to remove any remaining scratches and give it a quick sheen. I buffed the base and bowl at the same time as well. The final series of four photos show the finished pipe. I applied a coating of carnauba wax to the pipe by hand. I buffed it lightly with a soft flannel cloth to bring up a shine and finished buffing with a soft shoe brush. The finished pipe speaks for itself. It is a testimony to the life that resides in these old timers. It is a life that will certainly extend beyond mine! As mentioned above, I share a love for these older pipes with Chuck that seems to extend to their restoration and re-entry into the purposes for which they were made. What do you think Chuck? How does the final pipe look to you?




Stem Repair and a Makeover on a BBB Bulldog

Blog by Steve Laug

When I saw this old Bulldog on EBay I could not pass it up. It had several things about it that I enjoy – it was a BBB pipe, it was older, and it looked like a challenge as the stem was badly chewed but still retained the shape. In the first three pictures below you can see the overall state of the pipe. The bowl was badly tarred and the finish was ruined, both from the tars and from what appeared to be some water marks. The rim looked to be in bad shape – much buildup of tars and carbon. But as I inspected it I found that there were no dents in the rim. The grain on the pipe showed some promise. The stem fit well and had the stepped down tenon that is on the older BBB’s. The brass logo in the diamond was still pretty clear, a bit worn but still very distinguishable. The button was non-existent and was badly dented by teeth. There was one small bite through on the underside of the stem and the rest were large deep dents. The stem was badly oxidized and in places had a white lime like substance on it. ImageImageImage

I began the clean up by reaming the bowl and then giving it a thorough scrub with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a soft bristle tooth brush. This one took a lot of scrubbing to remove the grime from the rim and the edges of the slop on the bulldog. I also cleaned out the grooves around the bowl with a dental pick. Once the bowl was cleaned I did the inside of the shank and the stem. This took many pipe cleaners and cotton swabs with alcohol as well as a shank brush to scrub it out. I then greased a pipe cleaner with Vaseline and inserted it in the stem and flattened it in the slot so that the whole slot was filled. Once that was done I was ready to start rebuilding the button and the stem surface. ImageImage

The next two photos show what remains of the button and the deep channels gnawed in the underside (first photo) the top of the stem (second photo). I heated the stem with my heat gun to raise the dents as much as possible but truly they were cut and deep so the heat did very little to remedy the situation. ImageImage

With the pipe cleaner and Vaseline inserted in the slot I used super glue to build up the bite marks. The first photo below shows the underside of the stem (remember the bite through and the deep groove in the picture above). I layered in the super glue until the hole and the groove were filled and the button also built up. I rebuilt the top edge as well with the superglue and repaired the button on that edge as well. It was not nearly as damaged as the underside so it took less work to rebuild it with the glue. Image

The next photo shows the patch on the underside once it was dry and I had sanded it with 240 grit sandpaper to remove the ridges and the excess of the super glue. Image

I continued sanding the surface on the underside of the stem and recut the button with my needle files. The photo below shows the underside of the stem after the work is basically finished cutting the button and smoothing the surface of the stem. Image

With the top of the stem I also sanded it with 240 grit sandpaper and worked through the 400 and 600 wet dry sandpaper and water to smooth the surface and rebuild the button. I used the needle files to cut the lip on the button and sharpen the profile in the same manner as the underside photos above. Somehow the photos I took of the top side of the stem did not turn out so they are not included in the article. Suffice it to say that the work was the same on both the top side and the underside of the stem.

The next series of three photos shows the pipe when it was completed. The bowl was restained with a medium brown aniline stain and flamed to set it. Then it was buffed with Tripoli and White Diamond to polish it. The stem was cleaned with Oxyclean and sanded with 400, 660 and 1200 wet dry sandpaper and water. I left the area around the stem logo as I did not want to damage the metal logo. The work done on this stem was done before I “found out” about micromesh sanding pads. I will have to rework the stem when I take this pipe out the next tim and clean it up around the logo with the micromesh pads. They are perfect for the angles of the logo and it should be much simpler to clean up. Notice the top of the stem in the third photo and the profile of the button on the first two photos. The stem is fully functional and smokes absolutely great. The button is comfortable in the mouth and the bites and dents are not visible. ImageImageImage

Refurb on a Two Point Billiard – Gnawed Stem

This is the second Two Point pipe that I had in my box to be refurbished. It obviously was owned by the same pipe man as the little Lovat as evidenced by the matching bite marks. The pipe had an uneven cake in the bowl making the bowl conical even though it was U-shaped in reality under the cake. The rim was dirty and tarred but not damaged with dents or knock marks. The finish was spotty and uneven so the bowl would need to be stripped and restained for good coverage. The biggest problem can be seen in the first two pictures below: the stem was very badly chewed. In the first picture it can be seen that the top of the stem had several deep bite marks and the button was eliminated on the left side. It was more of an upward slope to the tip than the sharp angular edge that was originally there. The round cap of the top of the p-lip button was smoothed out and no longer crowned. In the second picture you can see that the bottom tooth marks and bite throughs had been repaired with what appeared to be epoxy that was fairly caked on the stem tip to the point that the lip line and the button were gone. What remained was a working stem that had no beauty to my eye.


The third and fourth photos show the profile of the button and it can be seen to have been virtually eliminated with the slope of the epoxy on the bottom edge and the chewed top edge. You can also see the state of the finish on the pipe. The spottiness and grime that covered the outside of the bowl are visible. Obviously this was a good smoking pipe that the previous owner cobbed a repair on so that he could continue to enjoy smoking it.


The next two photos are enlarged to show the state of the stems. The first one shows the top of the stem and you can see the two large dents (interestingly they are in the same place as those on the other Two Point pipe).You can also see the wearing away of the edge of the button to a slope. The crown is also flattened. The second shows the underside of the stem and the remaining two dents – one next to the button on the bottom half of the stem and the second inward from that dent. You can also clearly see the epoxy patch that fills the bite through and the button. The usual line that separates the button on the p-lip from the stem is gone. To repair these two surfaces the dents need to be raised and the holes filled to the point where it is possible to cut a new button on the top and the bottom. The crown will need to be built up a bit and the epoxy patch hidden or blended into the black of the stem.


I decided to work on the top side of the stem first and heated the surface of the vulcanite to lift the dents as much as possible. Once that was finished I filled what remained of the two dents with black super glue (see the first photo below). The dent next to the button I over filled so that I could have room to recut the edge of the button. When the glue had dried I sanded it back with 240 grit sandpaper to even the surface. I also recut the button edge to give it more of a sharp distinction. The sanded top surface can be seen in the second photo below.



On the underside of the stem I decided to recut the button and the line with needle files before I refilled the dents and the epoxy patch. I sanded off the extra epoxy to get the surface smooth and level with the surface of the stem. I used 240 grit sand paper to bring the surface down and the needle files to cut the edge on both sides of the line. You can now see that line in the picture below and there is a definite break between the bottom of the p-lip and the stem. It is a duplicate of the button on the Two Point Lovat.


Once I had that recut the button area I filled the surface of the stem with black super glue as seen in the picture below. I propped it with a pen to keep the surface level as I did not want the super glue to run and pool. I also built up the epoxy patch on the edge of the button as well. Once the glue was dry I sanded the surface and did a bit of work with the needle files to redefine the edges. The second picture below shows the sanded stem with a smooth surface.



I finished sanding the stem with 400 and 600 grit sandpaper and water and then moved through the micromesh pads from 1500-6000 grit. The trick was to build a black coating on the epoxy patch. This took repeated coats of the black super glue. Once that was complete then the stem could be polished by hand until I finished with the bowl refinishing.

While I had been working on the stem the bowl had been soaking in the alcohol bath. Before dropping it in the bath I had wiped it down with a soft cloth and acetone (fingernail polish remover works very well) to remove the finish and the grime. It was time for it to be removed from the bath so that I could work on it. The three pictures below show the bowl after it has dried off from the alcohol bath. It now needed to be sanded with micromesh to remove any surface scratches and the rim needed to be thoroughly wiped down in preparation for the staining. I sanded and then wiped it down with a soft alcohol soaked cloth and set up the staining area.


The next four photos show the restained bowl. I used a medium brown aniline based stain (Fiebings Leather Dye) to stain the pipe. Once it was stained I flamed it and buffed it to polish the briar and make the grain stand out. The patterns of birdseye and swirls is quite unique. This is a clean piece of briar – no fills and no problem areas.


I then put the stem on the pipe and buffed the entirety with White Diamond and carnauba wax to bring it back to a shine. The final four photos show the finished pipe. Pay attention to the stem and button areas as they are now very distinct in the profiles and the build-up on the top and bottom give it back its original shape.


Rebuilding a chewed and dented stem with super glue

I just finished reworking this old stem from an Imperial Two Point Made in London Lovat. The stem was very unique in that it is a p-lip design though slotted in the airway. I have a second one that I am working on that has the same stem so I believe this is one of the hallmarks of the Two Point. That being the case I decided to restore the stem rather than cut a new one. You can see the state of the vulcanite from the three pictures below. The first picture is of the top of the stem. There were three major tooth dents in the surface of the stem, two chunks out of the edge of the button and a piece missing out of the edge of the lip of the slot. The second picture is of the underside of the stem. There you can see one major dent from teeth and also several smaller dents. There is also a dent in the edge of the lip of the pipe that has moved the straight line with a dip in it. The third picture shows the slot in the end of the stem, it is a bit out of focus but you can see the missing piece at the left side of the top edge.


I used my heat gun set on low to lift the dents as much as possible before working on the stem with sandpaper and superglue patches. I cleaned the surfaces of both the top and bottom of the stem after heating and then sanded them with 240 grit sandpaper to remove oxidation and anything that would prohibit the glue from sticking. In the first photo below you can see the two patches on the dents that remained after heating on the underside of the stem and the work that has been done straightening the line. I decided to work on the underside first as it needed a bit less repair. Once the glue was dry I turned the stem over and patched the top side. In the second photo below you can see the super glue patches on the surface of the stem, the two dents on the edge of the button to build up the edge. Once it was dry I planned on using needle files on both top and bottom to sharpen the edge of the button to a crisp restored look.


The next two photos show the top and bottom surfaces of the stem after sanding with 240 grit sandpaper to bring the glue patches flush with the surface and using the needle files to sharpen the edges of the patched button.


The next picture (I apologize for the blurriness but I think it still is clear enough to see the point I am making) shows the work that was needed to rebuild the lip of the button on the topside where the chip was. I carefully layered in black superglue making sure not to close off the airway. I used a greased pipe cleaner folded in half in the airway of the slot to provide a base to build on. Once the base was buildt I stood the stem on end and gradually layered in super glue to build up the top edge of the slot. The goal was to return it to a smooth rounded crown with a clean straight slot for the airway.


The next two pictures show the build up area on the end of the button. It is a shiny black spot in the photo at the bottom right edge of the button. Each one shows a bit more of the build up to give an idea of the process. I would have to recut the edge of the button on the top side when the build up was complete.


When I had the surface filled to satisfaction I recut the edge of the button with the needle files and also sanded the surface with 240 grit sandpaper and 400 and 600 grit wet dry and water to smooth out the fill. I then proceeded to use my normal list of micromesh pads from 1500-6000 grit to finish the stem. I put the stem back on the pipe and buffed it with White Diamond. I took it back to the work desk and gave it a coat of Obsidian Oil, wiped it off when dry and gave the stem a final coat of carnauba wax. The pictures below show the finished stem. The first one shows the topside and the rebuilt crown of the button. The glare and shadows on the picture do not allow you to see clearly the recut edge but it is straight and clean. The second picture shows the underside of the stem and the crisp straight edge of the button. The final picture is an end shot to show the slot and the curve and flow of the crown of the button.


Overall I am pleased with the repair and now have a renewed pipe.