Tag Archives: removing stain

Reborn Kaywoodie Super Grain Long Shank Billiard


I have grown in my love of the older Kaywoodies. The ones I have worked on are made of some great briar and have classic English shapes. The stems are comfortable and well engineered. The finishes are usually above average and they smoke great – even with the four-hole stingers! I picked this one up on a recent trip to the US. My wife and I were on our 37th Anniversary trip and we always visit antique shops and malls as well travel. This one was one of about 8 that I picked up on that trip. The briar under the grime was quite nice and the pipe showed some promise.

The bowl was in good condition and still round. No one had gone made with a knife or a reamer and ruined the bowl shape. The finish was shot and there were dark places on the wood from ground in dirt and grime. The stem was oxidized and there was some rippling along the stem for the first inch back from the button. I am still wondering if the stem had been trimmed and a new button cut on it. There are some conflicting signs regarding that. The slot is the typical KW slot in the button and the stem is meaty around the button. The taper looks right so I am not sure. The bowl had some caking but oilier tar rather than carbon cake – it reeked of cherry tobacco! The rim was damaged on the front from tapping out the dottle. This one would need some TLC and work to bring it back. ImageImageImageImage

I reamed the bowl and cleaned out the tars and oils that were in it. I also put it in the alcohol bath to soak for a half an hour while I worked on the stem. When I took it out of the bath I dried it off and then wiped down the bowl with acetone to remove the remaining stain and finish that the bath did not remove. I really like the way the acetone removes the finish and leaves the pipe clean and ready to stain. You can see in the four pictures below the shiny spots and dark spots on the briar where I needed to concentrate the work to remove the finish and grime with the acetone. ImageImageImageImage

The damage to the front of the bowl and rim required that the bowl be topped. I removed about 7mm from the height of the bowl to remedy the damage to the front. If I had not done that the bowl looked out of round. The damage made the front rim seem thin. It was not as the curve of the damage accounted for the apparent thinness. I topped it as pictured below using medium grit emery cloth to remove the damage and then following that up with 240 grit sandpaper and finally sanding with a fine grit sanding pad to remove the scratches left behind. ImageImage

When I finished the work on the rim I wiped the bowl down one last time with the acetone to clean off the dust and grime of the sanding and prepped the bowl for staining. In the photos below you can see the state of the bowl as it stood ready for staining. The grain is very nice. The grime was removed and the dark spots lightened. The rim was back to a clean and sharp state and ready to stain. The darkened spots on the right side of the bowl influenced the choice of stain used on the bowl.

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I chose to use a medium brown aniline stain to give some coverage to the dark spots but still allow the grain to come through. I applied the stain with the dauber and then flamed it to set the stain in the briar. Then I repeated the staining and flaming a second time. Once it was done I wanted to remove a bit of the opacity of the stain so I used some acetone on a cotton pad and wiped the pipe down until it had the saturation that I was looking for. In the next series of four photos below you can see the colour and the saturation levels. At this point I had not buffed the pipe or polished it on the buffer. In the third photo you will note that the stem was under turned and would not line up straight with the shank. ImageImageImageImage

To correct the under turned stem I heated the stinger apparatus with my heat gun – avoiding heating the vulcanite. I wanted to soften the glue in the stem holding the stinger in place so that I could readjust the turn on the stem. Once the glue is heated and softened I screw the stem back in place and twist the stem in the shank until it aligns. I have to repeat it often to check on the softening of the glue. Once it is aligned I cool the stem and shank with running water and then dry quickly so as not to cause oxidation or damage to the finish. ImageImageImage

I continued to sand the stem to remove the oxidation and waves in the surface near the button using various grits of sandpaper. I started the process with medium grit emery cloth to level out the waves and remove tooth marks. Then I used 240 grit sandpaper to smooth out the scratches left by the emery cloth and level the stem. I followed that up with 400 and 600 grit wet dry sandpaper to smooth it more and remove more of the scratches. I finished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12,000 grit to bring the stem to a shine. I coated it with Obsidian Oil and let it sit, repeated the application and wiped it down. I then gave the whole pipe a buff with White Diamond and then several coats of carnauba wax for protection and shine. ImageImageImageImage

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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You Just Found a Pair of Dad’s Old Pipes?


Blog by Steve Laug

They are both in very rough shape and need help but you want to keep them anyway. There is dried out old tobacco in both and the finish is about shot. The rims and sides of the bowls are both covered with dark grime and the mouth piece, or stem, is covered with bite marks and hard white lime like crust. The rest of the family tells you they are not worth saving and should just be thrown out but something inside you rebels against that. You still have memories of your father smoking those pipes and the associated feelings and smells still linger for you. It is hard to let go of these pieces of history. Something inside you wants to restore them but you just don’t know where to start. If this sounds like your situation, then you have come to the right place.

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You have already begun the first step in the process of refurbishing and that is to respect what you hold in your hands. These pipes are a piece of family history that can be passed down through future generations and when cleaned up and maintained, will last longer than any one of you. If they could speak to future generations can you imagine the stories they would tell? But if you listen to the wood, the old tobacco in the bowl, the dents and dings and the smells that still linger in it you will hear it speak. It will tell you what your Dad smoked. It will tell you how much he loved that old pipe and it still held the half smoked bowl of the last tobacco he smoked in it. It will tell you in the decimated finish where his fingers curved around the bowl. As you remember, you will know the stories that give meaning to dents – one from the fishing trip you took, one from the dash on the car when he laid it down and it hit the gear shift before bouncing off to the floor. All those bits and pieces add to the myth that surrounds story of a family. Be sure to take some photos of the old timers before you go to work on it. You will be amazed at the transformation that still respects the history of your Dad’s pipes.

The first step in the process is to do what I call field dressing of the pipe. It starts by laying out some newspaper on a table top where you can work on the pipe. Sit down with the pipe and begin to clean it. Use a small screw driver, ice pick or a dental pick, if you have one, to clean out the remnants of tobacco in the bowl. Put it to the side on the paper. You can purchase a pipe reamer on eBay for reaming the bowl or you can carefully use a knife with a rounded end to scrape out the old carbon. If you use a knife be sure to proceed slowly and carefully to ensure that bowl stays round. Scrape slowly, bit by bit, until you have a thin even cake all around the bowl. Once that is done you can wrap a piece of dowel with some sandpaper and use it to sand the bowl back to smooth. Use a paper towel or a soft cloth and some Isopropyl alcohol to wipe down the surface of the bowl and remove the dirt and oils of the past. This should also help to soften the remaining finish on the bowl. This cleaning will go deeper as we progress through the process but start with a cleaning of the outer surfaces of the bowl and the stem of each pipe. I have learned that it is always more pleasant to work with a clean pipe than one that is oily and tarred.

The stem needs to be separated from the shank. This may sound like an easy thing to do, but sometimes with the amount of tars and use the pipe has seen, the stem will be stuck in the shank. Put the pipe in the freezer. You don’t need to bag it or tag it, just sneak it in when the family is not paying attention and leave it there for an hour or so, long enough to sip a coffee and relax a bit. The different materials in the stem and bowl of the pipe make them contract at different rates and I have found that when I remove it from the freezer the stem is easily removed. If it is still stuck then put it back for another cup of coffee.

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Once the stem is removed I fill a jar with Isopropyl alcohol and place the pipe bowls in it and let them soak for awhile. The length of time depends on the depth of the grime. I put the lid on the jar and give it a bit of a shake to churn the alcohol through the pipe. I leave it and turn my attention to the stem.

The stem will take a bit of work and will take the better part of a couple of hours to get back into shape. I clean the inside of the stem with pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until they come out clean. I dip them in the Isopropyl and run them through to remove all the grimes from inside the stem. Once I have it clean then fill a bowl with some water and put it in the microwave and set it to boil. I dip the end of the stem with the bite marks in the boiling water repeatedly to lift the bite marks a bit. Vulcanite, which is the material the stem is made of is said to have memory and will return to its original state. This method does wonders in lifting the bite marks. When they have raised as much as they are going to dump the water and take the stem back to your table. Using 240 grit sandpaper, remove the brown oxidation and calcified white stuff that are on the stem. Be careful as you sand to not round the sharp edges on the stem at the mouth end (button) or the pipe end (tenon). You want to leave a good tight fit with sharp clean edges when you are finished. You will find that the sandpaper scratches the surface but do not worry about it as the goal at the moment is to return it to a dull black. Once it is clean of the browns use 400 grit and then 600 grit wet dry sandpaper to smooth out the scratches and remove any remaining oxidation.

The stem should be a dull or flat black once you have finished with this step in the process. Now you have a choice to make. There are several steps that can be taken next depending on what choices you make. You can either use repeatedly higher and finer grades of wet dry sandpaper or you can use micromesh sanding pads – I use 1500, 1800, 2400, 3200, 4000 and 6000 grit pads to finish the stem to a gloss. These pads are readily available at woodworking shops or online – just Google Micro-mesh pads. If you use the sandpaper it works well but is a bit more labour intensive. After you have the stem restored to a gloss you can use a bit of olive oil to polish it – wiping it on and then off or you can use some softened beeswax or carnauba wax. I have even used Kiwi Neutral shoe polish which is a carnauba based wax.

I then set the stem aside and retrieve the bowls from the alcohol bath. Before I take them out I use the alcohol in the bath to scrub the bowls using an old tooth brush as it just gets into the cracks and crevices and gets the dirt out of the surface. Once that is done I dry off the pipe with a soft cloth and get to work on the finish. For the rough surfaced ones like the smaller pipe in the picture I will often use the tooth brush repeatedly to remove all the grime on the pipe. With the smooth pipes like the second pipe in the picture I wipe it down with alcohol dampened cloths until it is clean. I then sand the smooth one with either the 400 and 600 grit sand paper or the Micro-mesh pads to smooth out the finish. If the top is rough you will need to decide what to do with it. I have posted on the blog how I repair those issues so have a look on there for the article on topping a pipe bowl.

When both bowls are clean and free of dirt and tars I wash them down with a fresh alcohol cloth and then they are ready to stain. I use Feibings Shoe Dye for the stain and have found that the Medium Brown dye works well and matches most of the stains on these old pipes. Both pipes in the pictures were stained with the same Dye. I use the dauber that comes with the Dye (the dye is available at most shoe repair shops for about $4-$5). I coat the bowl while holding the stem. As the stain will turn your hands brown, wear rubber gloves for the staining. Once it is stained light the stain on fire with a match to set it. You will think I am nuts in suggesting this and think you will catch things on fire but like the alcohol in Baked Alaska it only burns blue for a short while and really sets the stain into the grain of the wood.

Set the pipe aside over night to let it thoroughly dry. The next day use the 600 or higher grit wet dry sandpaper to remove the excess stain on the exterior of the smooth bowl. Wipe it down regularly with a damp cloth to see what it is looking like. With the rough surfaced pipe I use a piece of flannel fabric and buff the surface until it glows. Once both pipes are finished and look acceptable to you give them a good coat of wax or polish. Some folks use Pledge on the bowls and have done so for years without ill effect. This gives them a rich glow. The only thing left to do is join the family heritage by smoking a bowl of your own tobacco in the pipe. When you are done with that smoke, wipe the pipe down with a soft cloth and clean it inside with a pipe cleaner. With a little care the finish that you have done will last until you own grandchildren need to refinish it once again. But take delight in smoking a piece of the family history and adding another generation’s story to the life of this old pipe. Enjoy.

If you have any questions on the process feel free to post a response or question here.

Here are the same pipes after finishing the process I laid out above.

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