Tag Archives: removing an old finish

Restoring a GBD New Standard 4/271 London Made Straight Bulldog


Blog by Steve Laug

When I was at the antique mall in Edmonton a few weeks ago I found this GBD straight bulldog. It is stamped GBD in an oval over New Standard on the left side of the shank and 4/271 London Made on the right side of the shank. The stem had the brass GBD roundel on the side of the saddle. The pipe was badly cake with a thick carbon build up. The rim had build up and was also damaged. There was darkening, whether burn or tar build up flowing down the crown of the bowl at the top all the way around the rim. The finish was worn and there was a black ink stain on the left side of the bowl down low toward the bottom. It looked like a hot spot when I first saw the pipe so I almost left it in the shop. I examined it under a bright light and could see that it was not a burn but a spot of what looked like India Ink. The stem was oxidized and there was tooth chatter on the top near the button and a tooth mark on the underside along with the chatter there. The button is different from most of my other GBD’s in that it is concave rather than convex. It is shaped like this “(“ looking at it from above.
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The photo below shows the stain on the bowl. I used a flash to highlight the nature of the stain. It was not solid but rather slightly opaque so that the grain could be seen through it. I thought it was worth a try to see if I could remove the ink from the briar.
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I reamed the bowl back to bare briar with a PipNet reamer starting with the smallest head and working up to the next head that fit the bowl.
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I dropped the bowl in an alcohol bath to soak for several hours and dropped the stem in a bath of Oxyclean.
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I left the stem in the Oxyclean while I worked on the bowl. I removed it from the bath and dried it off with a piece of cloth.
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I wiped it down with acetone on cotton pads to remove the finish that remained and scrubbed the ink stain. I sanded the bowl with a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge to finish removing the finish and also the ink stain. I lightly topped the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the damage to the outer edge of the rim.
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I used a piece of folded 220 grit sandpaper to work on the beveled inner edge of the rim. I wanted to repair the burn damage and take away the ridge left behind by the light topping of the bowl.
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I sanded the bowl where the stain was and with sanding and scrubbing with isopropyl alcohol I was able to remove the ink stain from the briar. The photo below shows the area that had previously been stained.
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I wiped the bowl down with isopropyl alcohol a final time to remove the sanding dust and grit from the twin rings on the bowl.
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I cleaned out the shank of the pipe with isopropyl and cotton swabs and when it was clean I took out the stem and dried it off. I cleaned out the inside of the stem with pipe cleaners and alcohol. I scrubbed the stem with Mequiar’s Scratch X2.0. I rubbed it onto the stem surface with my finger and scrubbed it off with cotton pads. The photos below show the stem after one application of the polish after about 2 hours of soaking in Oxyclean.
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I continued to scrub down the stem with the Meguair’s until the oxidation was gone. I sanded the areas where there was tooth chatter with 220 grit sandpaper and then with a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge. I put the stem on the pipe and took the photos below. I could not believe how easily the oxidation had come off the stem. There was still more polishing to do but the overall effect of the Oxyclean and the Meguiar’s was amazing to me
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Though there was still oxidation to work on I decided to stain the bowl. I used a dark brown aniline stain. I applied it, flamed it and repeated the process until the coverage was even.
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I wiped the bowl down with isopropyl to thin the stain down and make it more transparent. I repeated the wash until the stain was the colour I was aiming for. Then I scrubbed the stem some more with the Meguiar’s and was able to get the rest of the oxidation of the stem.
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I buffed the pipe with White Diamond – both bowl and stem being careful around the stamping so as not to damage it. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil and then gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax to protect and shine. I buffed it a final time with a soft flannel buffing wheel. The finished pipe is pictured below. The colour on the green background appears redder than the pipe actually is. The wax and buffing did bring out the red highlights in the briar. It is more brown than red but the contrast is quite nice. The grain is visible through the stain. I am pleased with the finished look to the pipe. It is cleaned and restored and ready for the next chapter of the trust with me.
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Dr. Plumb Bulldog Restoration


My daughter’s boyfriend found this neat little Dr. Plumb bulldog at a New Orleans shop and sent it to me for restoration. I thought Dr. Plumb had a connection to GBD and I believe they are now owned by the Cadogan group. The stem was in terrific shape, save for a heavy coat of oxidation. The top of the bowl was scorched and it had some dents and scratches.

Before:

I reamed the bowl with both my Castleford and Senor reamers. Someone in the pipes past had reamed it a little out of round, but it wasn’t too bad. I removed some of the dents with a knife heated by a flame and a wet towel. Most of the major ones popped back out nicely. The bowl has some fills, but they are hidden well by the factory finish. In order to remove the scorched top, it would have required a restain. I was afraid with the numerous fills, it would look better with the factory finish. “Character” as they say. I buffed the bowl with some Tripoli, White diamond and with a final buff using Carnuba. The stamping is very legible.

The stem was soaked in an Oxyclean solution overnight to soften the brown coating. Unfortunately, the stem logo proved very problematic. I could not get the oxidation off this part of the stem without removing the logo. The owner opted for me to leave the logo and brown patch.

Here is the finished product.

The pipe sure looks like it would be a good smoking piece and I hope the young man enjoys it for many years.

Keyser Hygienic Patent Pipe


Blog by Steve Laug

Over the past year I have been picking up these Keyser Hygienic pipes on EBay. This one makes the third one I have picked up at a reasonable price. They are made in England and sold exclusively in South Africa. The word is that they were designed to be virtually indestructible for farmer pipe smokers in SA. All versions of the pipe have the same stem – one size fits all. They seem to be made of nylon and rubber or some combination. They are tough and take tooth wear very well. Two of the three I picked up are older and both had the original stems on them. They had tooth chatter and minor dents. Steaming would not raise the dents at all. I had to deal with them with sandpaper and micromesh sanding pads.

The photo below came from the web and pictures a cutaway picture of the pipe and the unique condensing chamber that makes up the patented portion of the pipe. The shank has an aluminum condensing chamber with a tube in the centre that lines up with the tube inside the stem. It is pointing downward so air swirls around in the chamber formed by the military bit stem and the shank. Moisture is trapped and the smoke is cool and dry without loss of flavour.

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The pipe I am working on this time is a pot shaped sand blasted pipe. The aluminum was oxidized and dull the blast was dirty and the crevices filled with dirt and grime. The stem was in pretty clean shape other than the tooth chatter near the button. The rim of the bowl was tarred and caked. The cake was uneven and tapering in the bowl – almost as if the bowl was only half filled and smoked that way the majority of the time. The upper portion of the bowl had a very thin layer of cake and the lower portion a thick uneven cake. The condenser in both the stem and the shank were filled with a dark brown tar and the airway was constricted in the shank and clogged in the stem. The photo below shows the condition of the bowl and the stem and highlight where the work would be needed to clean up the exterior of this pipe.

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I reamed the bowl back to bare briar and scrubbed the blast surface with a brass tire brush to clean out the crevices. I also used a soft bristle tooth brush to finish cleaning the surface off. Once that was done I put the bowl in the alcohol bath to soak while I worked on the stem. The next two photos below show the stem after I used 240 grit sandpaper to remove the tooth marks and slight dents. I then used micromesh pads from 1500-6000 grit to polish the stem and work out the scratches. I have learned the hard way that you cannot buff these stems on the buffer as a little bit of surface heat from the buffing pads melts and distorts the surface. So these stems are totally buffed and polished by hand.

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The next two photos show the stem after it has been sanded up to the 3200 grit micromesh pad. The stem is beginning to get a shine and the scratches are disappearing with the sanding. From this point I went on the sand the stem through the remaining micromesh grits and when finished I gave it a coating of Obsidian Oil to penetrate the surface and give it a deep polish. Once that dried I buffed it by hand with some carnauba wax in paste form that I purchased from Walker Briar Works.ImageImage

From the next series of photos you can see that I interrupted my work on the stem to remove the bowl from the alcohol bath. I did that because I was curious to see how it was cleaning up. You will notice in these photos the brownish grey sludge in the grooves of the blast. I used the tooth brush once again to scrub the surface with Isopropyl from the alcohol bath. Once the grime was removed I washed the bowl down with clean Isopropyl and dried it off.

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The next series of photos show the dried bowl. The grime is gone and the finish is now down to the stain. Even some of the top coat of stain has been removed and you can see the briar. I laid the bowl aside and finished up the stem as I described it above.

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The aluminum condensing chamber on the shank and the chamber in the stem needed much work. I used cotton swabs that I flattened to clean the area inside the shank around the airway extension and the same in the stem. Once that was clean I polished the oxidized aluminum with the micromesh pads to burnish the aluminum and get the shine back.

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I then restained the bowl with a dark brown stain, knowing that when I buffed it the reddish brown undercoat would shine through on the high spots and the dark would fill the crevices and give the pipe a contrast stain. The next series of three photos show the staining and the way the various grains took the stain. The right side of the bowl has a great ring blast that is fairly deep and craggy. The left side is more of a blast on birdseye. It is an interesting looking blast. The bowl rim came out clean as well and shows an interesting contrast in the light of the flash.

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The final series of four photos show the finished pipe. The entirety has been given a coat of wax. I used Halcyon II on the blast to polish it without leaving the white residue in the grain of the blast when it dried. I buffed it by hand. The stem received another hand applied coat of carnauba wax and a buff by hand. The pipe pictured is clean and ready to smoke.

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I have included pictures below of the other two Keyser pipes that I picked up and refurbished. The top one is an apple with really nice grain. I have been smoking this one and enjoying the dry and cool smoke that it gives. The second is a smaller prince shape that is no longer available. It had some burns on the rim that are still visible but it too smokes very well. One day will rework the rim a bit and minimize the burn marks. Till then I will smoke these Keyser’s and keep an eye for more of them.

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Refurb on a Dr. Plumb Tween Size Prince


Blog by Steve Laug

Off the workbench today is a nice little Dr. Plumb Tween Size Prince (that is what the stamping on this one says). It was pretty rough looking as can be seen from the before shots. I had reamed it before I remembered to take the photos, so the bowl is very clean in the photo below.

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The bowl, in fact, was very dirty with tars and crumbling cake as well as a thick white “gunk”, for lack of a better word, in the bowl and all the way through the shank. I have no idea what it was other than the fact that it had a plastic feel to it. It was stringy and literally all over the inside of the bowl and shank. I had never seen anything like this in the years I have been refurbishing pipes. It came out with the reaming of the bowl and out of the shank with alcohol soaked pipe cleaners and a shank brush. It took some time to clear it out. Many pipe cleaners later it was clean. The state of the bowl when I got it told me that obviously this little guy (5 inches long, group one sized bowl) was a great smoker.

I stuffed the bowl with cotton bolls and filled it with alcohol using an ear syringe.

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I removed the stem and put a cork in the shank so that the alcohol would go all the way into the shank. I wanted to make sure that all of the remnants of white stuff and tars were removed from the bowl before I went further in cleaning it. I left it overnight and the next morning removed the cotton bolls and plug and cleaned out the bowl and stem with pipe cleaners. The bowl smelled fresh and almost new once that final cleaning was done and the alcohol evaporated. The bowl was then dropped in an alcohol bath for a soak. While it was soaking I went to work on the stem.

The stem took quite a bit of work to restore as it was badly oxidized. I had soaked it in Oxyclean while I worked on the bowl so now when I took it out the oxidation had softened. I buffed it with Tripoli, sanded with 240 grit sandpaper, buffed again with Tripoli, sanded with 400 and 600 grit wet dry sandpaper until I was able to get the grit off and then polished with micromesh pads from1500-6000 grit. Each level of micromesh gives the stem a deeper polish and shine to the stem. In buffing a stem by itself, I always avoid the saddle area or the area next to where it joins the shank as it is very easy to over buff this area and make rounded shoulders on the stem and ruin the stem/shank junction. Once that was finished I laid it aside with a coat of Obsidian Oil and turned again to the bowl.

I removed the bowl from the alcohol bath and dried it off. The bath removed the remnant of finish and all of the oils and grime on the bowl. I used the 3200 and 4000 grit micromesh pads to sand down the bowl, being careful to not damage the stamping. Once it was smooth, I wiped it down with a soft cloth dampened with Isopropyl alcohol to remove the sanding dust and then stained the pipe with a light cherry coloured aniline stain. (I mixed the stain by adding Isopropyl to the oxblood stain until it was basically a light cherry coloured wash.) I flamed it and then put the stem on and buffed both the bowl and stem with White Diamond and finished it with several coats of carnauba wax. Here is the pipe ready to smoke!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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A Barling’s Frustration


I had this old bowl in my box that just looked like a Barlings. I took it out and studied under bright light and a loop. It had the arched Barlings over Make. The other side was stamped EL and Made in England (I believe). It had a serious crack in the shank so I superglued it and banded it. This little pipe became the definition of frustration for me. It was a beautiful and I was incredibly hopeful when I cleaned it up and prepared it for the new stem I had cut for it. The grain was very nice and to find that it was an older Pre-transition Barling’s pipe was exciting. The bowl cleaned up very well. The shank and new band looked great. All that remained was to finish working over the stem for it.

About that time my wife came down to the basement where I was working on it and we decided to go for our Saturday morning walk about. We had planned to take the bus down to an area we like to visit and check out the antique shops. This is something that we both enjoy so I put the little Barling’s my pocket and brought along some sand paper to work on it while sitting and waiting for the bus. We had a good morning, went to the Vancouver Flea Market and even found a couple of older Peterson pipes that I picked up. We decided to have some lunch before going home so we walked over to a nearby Korean BBQ and ordered a nice lunch.

While we were waiting for our lunch I guess the pipe fell out of my pocket. I did not notice until the waiter stepped on something and I heard a crack. Well the long and short of it is when we sat down to lunch it had fallen out of my pocket and when the waiter stepped on it the shank cracked off just ahead of the band. I had a sick feeling as I picked up the pieces of the broken old timer. My visions of a nice older Barling’s Pot shape were pretty much crunched. I put the pieces on the table and looked them over as we continue to wait for the meal and I grumbled about my stupidity in not zipping the coat pocket and also about bringing it with me in the first place.

Once we had finished eating and headed home I had calmed down enough to think about what I would do with the pipe. I took the pieces to the basement work table and turned on a bright overhead light so that I could examine the damages. As I looked at the broken shank I could see that the wood was darkened, almost burned around the crack. It was almost as if the heat in the shank had found a flaw in the briar and followed it outward to the surface. It had not gotten all the way to the surface but was just under the outer layer of the finish. So it appeared that the crack was worse than I had imagined.

That helped me to get over being incredibly frustrated and disappointed in the broken shank. So I spent some time looking it over and decided I could work with it. I decided to turn it into a nose warmer. The saddle stem I had made was too small in diameter to fit so I had to cut another stem. I cut off the ragged edges of the break and used a piece of sandpaper on a solid board to face the shank again. I also drilled out the shank and opened it up enough to accept the new tenon. The tenon is a bit shorter than normal 5/8″ to allow a little difference between the opening in the bowl wall and the mortise. I re-banded the shank for a second time to strengthen the shank after the previous break. I fit the stem to the pipe and sanded and polished it to a shine. Then I buffed and waxed the “new” little pipe. I made it such that I can one day put a church warden stem on the bowl should I desire to do so. For now though it is a nose warmer with a short taper stem. Total length is 4 3/4 inches.

Here are some pictures of the finished pipe. I had pictures of the pipe before and after the break but somehow they were erased so this is all I have left to show. I hope you can imagine what it looked like with the new saddle stem before it broke. But if not, you can see the new version. I am also ordering a churchwarden stem for it so I can fit one of those to it as well. Should look great that way as well.

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