Tag Archives: repairing a Bakelite stem with amber super glue

Pipe Hunting in the Portabello Market, London – Found a PNB Pipe

Blog by Steve Laug

Over the years I had heard and read about the Portobello Road Market – the world’s largest antique market with over 1,000 dealers selling every kind of antique and collectible. On past trips to England I had not been able to take the time to go have a look. On the current trip it looked like I would have time and to top it off we had rented an Air BNB apartment within walking distance of the market. I looked up information about the market so I could be prepared. I want to know what to expect when I went walked to it on the weekend. But I have to tell you, all the preparation I did was not enough to prepare me for what the reality would be like once I turned the corner in the Nottinghill neighbourhood and came out on Portabello Road. The next two photos give you a bit of a feel for what I saw on that Saturday morning. The streets were crowded with people of every size, shape and ethnicity. There were booths lining both sides of the street. There were shops with a variety of wares to sell. I wandered up and down the street of the market looking at the booths and shops along sidewalks and street. As mentioned above, the market is known for its antique sellers and shops so I was hoping to find a few pipes in the windows and shop cases. I walked through several of the antique shops (really like our Canadian antique malls) looking quickly at the cases to identify the ones I would come back to and spend more time at. In one particular shop there was a small corner booth by the door that had display cases around the front and side of the spot. The cases were full or pipes and cheroot holders carved out of meerschaum. There were many old carved meerschaum pipes with shapes of animals and faces. There were some briar pipes as well with different stems – varying from amber to horn to rubber. This was a booth where I needed to take some time to go through the pipes.In the next two photos you can get a bit of an idea of how the pipes were displayed in the cases. They were really a jumble and it would take time to go through them. You can see meerschaum pipes with and without cases and stems. You can see oddly shaped bog oak pipes with amber stems and old pipes with metal shank and bowl caps. There were long pipes and shot pipes and many in between. The prices were surprisingly high so it would be a matter of narrowing the field down to one or two that I would add to my bag.I moved from the side case to the front of the booth to look through some of the pipes displayed there. These too were a jumble and mixed through displays of figurines, crucifixes and antique cutlery. There were even books on collectible meerschaums on display on top of the cases.I finally narrowed down the pipes I was interested in to the one below. It was a large billiard that was in fairly good condition. There was a light cake in the bowl, the rim top had some lava and the stem had tooth marks. The stem had a piece of paper wrapped around the threaded bone tenon to give it enough bite to hold onto the threads in the mortise. The pipe was stamped on the left side of the shank with the letters PNB or PBN in a circle with a star on the right and left, outside of the circle. It also had a thin oxidized brass/gold band on the shank end that would clean up nicely. The stem looked to be Bakelite or Amberoid and had some light tooth marks on the top and underside near the button. I took the photos below when I returned to the apartment after the shopping adventure. The next photo shows the stamping on the left side of the shank. I cannot find any information on the brand either as PNB or PBN. I posted the logo on the Gentlemen’s Pipe Smoking Society on Facebook and Mike Hagley had a suggestion that was a possibility. He said the pipe looks like a Belgian made pipe, so he suggested that PNB stands for Pipier Nationale Belgique. Another friend on the same GPSS group Neville van Niekerk from Germany wrote that the pipe was a Bernstein pipe from Vienna, Austria. He went on to say that they were originally Meerschaum pipe makers until the Turks decided that Meerschaum could not be exported in blocks any more. Thank you both for your suggestions.I wrapped the pipe in bubble wrap and put it in my suitcase until I returned to Vancouver three weeks later. I was looking forward to working on the pipe. When I got home I unwrapped the pipe and brought it to my work table. I took some photos of it to chronicle what it looked like before I started. The photos below show the pipe when I started. I took a close up photo of the bowl and the rim to show the cake and the rim darkening. The inner and outer edge of the rim was in good condition. There was some light scratching on the rim top and some darkening all around the inner edge but it would clean up nicely.The stem was in pretty good condition. There was some light tooth chatter on the button surface and a tooth mark on the right side of the top of the button. There was a deep tooth mark on the underside of the stem near the button as well. I took another photo of the stamping on the shank and was able to get a clearer photo.I unscrewed the stem from the shank and the paper wrapping on the tenon came off easily. The band on the shank was also loose so it fell off as well.I wiped the outside of the bowl and shank down with 99% isopropyl alcohol on cotton pads. I wanted to remove any remnants of the finish and also the grime that was ground into the briar on the sides of the bowl and rim. The pipe has some beautiful grain – a mix of birdseye, cross and flame grain. I polished the brass band with micromesh sanding pads to remove the oxidation that had darkened it. The shine returned and it was a nice golden colour that would work really well with the amber coloured stem and virgin briar.With the band removed from the shank a flaw in the briar was revealed on the right side of shank near the shank end. I filled it in with clear super glue and when it dried sanded it smooth with 220 grit sandpaper and would later polish it with micromesh sanding pads to blend it in with the rest of the briar.I reamed the bowl back to bare briar with a PipNet pipe reamer and finished cleaning it up with a Savinelli Fitsall pipe knife.I pressed the band on temporarily so that I could polish it in place while polishing the briar. I wet sanded the briar and band with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads and dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with a damp cotton pad after each pad. Each micromesh pad brought a deeper shine to briar and band. I removed the band and wiped the briar down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I rubbed it into the briar with my fingers, let it sit for about 10 minutes and then buffed it off with a soft cloth. It really brought the grain to life. I buffed it lightly with a shoe brush and a soft cloth. I wiped down the shank end with some alcohol on a cotton pad to clean it off so that I could reglue the band. I used a dental pick to put glue on the shank end and the inside of the band. I pressed it in place and lined it up. I held it until the glue set.Once the glue dried I decided to address the worn threads in the mortise. The threads on the old bone tenon would not hold onto the threads in the mortise. I painted the threads in both with clear fingernail polish and let them dry.Once the glue dried I decided to address the worn threads in the mortise. The threads on the old bone tenon would not hold onto the threads in the mortise. I painted the threads in both with clear fingernail polish and let them dry.When the fingernail polish had dried I worked on the tooth marks on the stem. I sanded the tooth chatter with 220 grit sandpaper and reshaped the button to remove the tooth marks.  I filled in the tooth marks with amber super glue. I purposely overfill the areas so that as the glue dries and shrinks it still fills in the dent. I set the stem aside to let the glue cure.Once the repairs had dried I sanded them smooth with 220 grit sandpaper. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I cleaned up the threads a bit on the old bone tenon and turned it in place into the mortise. It fit snuggly and held tightly in the shank. I buffed the pipe and stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel and then gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax to shine and protect. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine and hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It is quite a large pipe. The dimensions are, Length: 6 ½ inches, Height: 2 inches, Diameter of the bowl: 1 3/8 inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 inches. I am pleased with the way the pipe turned out. Thanks for looking.




Cleaning and Restoring a Large Meerschaum Calabash Oom Paul

Blog by Steve Laug

I was visiting my family in Idaho and staying with Jeff and his wife when this pipe arrived. We opened the box and took it out and I think both of us were surprised at how big it was. We took it out and turned it over in our hands to examine it. It was a huge meerschaum Oom Paul. The meer seemed to have an interesting colouring pattern coming up from the bottom of the bowl. The surface of the meerschaum was dirty and scratched. The rim top had a strange stepped up section that rose above the top of the rim. It was chipped and no longer round. The bowl had a cake in it and it did not seem to be as deep as the bowl exterior would have led us to believe. It was odd. The area around the raised section of the rim top was dirty and had a thick build up of tars and oils flowing out from the raised portion toward the outer edge of the rim. The stem was in rough condition at the button end but it aligned perfectly with the diamond shank. It was amber coloured Bakelite stem and I believe it was original. There were deep tooth marks and chatter on the stem at the button on both sides. The button itself was misshapen from tooth marks. I took photos of the pipe before I started the cleanup. The out of round portion that extends above the rim surface and the colouration pattern on the sides of the bowl made me wonder what I was dealing with in terms of the mechanics of this pipe. When I inserted my finger in the bowl, it is not as deep as the depth of the outer portion of the pipe. That too made me wonder.I took a close up photo of the rim top to show the condition of the bowl and rim at this point. You can see the rough inner and outer edges of the raised portion of the pipe. There was also scratching in the surface of the lower potion and a ring of darkening around the edge where the raised portion met the lower portion. This made me wonder if I was not dealing with some kind of bowl insert.I took photos of the stem damage on both sides of the stem. The button and the flat portion had a lot of tooth marks and chatter that left a very rough and uneven surface on both sides.I unscrewed the stem from the shank and found that the pipe had a metal tenon in the stem itself. That was a good sign in that it was not stuck in the shank.The next two photos show the cake in the bowl and how I used a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe knife to trim back the cake to bare meerschaum.I used a cotton swab to run a bead of alcohol around the raised portion of the bowl to begin to loosen it. I ran alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs through the mortise and shank of the pipe to clean out the tars. I ran a pipe cleaner into the airway in the bowl and as I pulled it back and forth the raised portion came loose on the pipe cleaner. I removed the inner bowl from the outer and was surprised by how deep the outer bowl was. The inner bowl was quite shallow and had the airway on the back side. In the bottom of the outer bowl there was a ball of cotton or wool that was used as a trap for moisture and a filter. It was brittle and crusty with old tars. It is visible in the third and fourth photo below. I used the Savinelli Fitsall Reaming Knife to ream the outer bowl. I scrubbed the inside and outside of the two bowls with SoftScrub cleanser and a tooth brush. I worked on the rim top with the scrub and tooth brush and was able to remove the tars and oils that were on that surface. Once it was clean I rinsed the pipe under running water. I dried it off with a soft cloth. The photos below show the bowl after the scrubbing and rinsing. The line on the bottom half of the bowl makes sense now. The colouration is all below the bottom of the insert bowl. Everything above the insert shows no colour at this point. The outer edge of the inner bowl was damaged. It almost looked as if someone had tried to remove it with a pair of pliers. The edge was very rough and no longer round. The inside edge and the outside edge was damaged. I used a Dremel and sanding drum to clean up the outer edge of the bowl. I sanded the bowl surface, the edges and the bottom portion of the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper and with 1500-2400 grit sandpaper. The next four photos show the bowl after my cleanup work. There was some darkening on the rim top that I was not able to remove without removing significant amounts of the meerschaum. I worked over the inner edge of the bowl with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. I wanted to clean it up and make it more round again.One the bowl was cleaned up I put it back in the outer bowl and took a picture of how it looked in place in the meerschaum. I could easily put it in place and remove it with the tip of my index finger. The second photo below gives some idea of the size of the inner bowl.I polished the inner bowl with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. Each successive pad brought more of the shine to the surface of the inner bowl. I waxed the bowl edge and rim top with Clapham’s Beeswax and hand buffed it to raise a shine. I cleaned up the damaged portions of the stem with a cotton swab and alcohol to remove any debris in the deep tooth marks. I filled in the tooth marks and rebuilt the button surfaces to make the orific button round like it was originally. I layered on the amber super glue in the marks and on the button until the surfaces were slightly over filled.I put the stem in my ebony drilled block to allow the repair to dry on both sides.When the repair dried I recut the edges of the button on the top and underside of the stem with a needle file. I also smoothed out the surface of the repairs with the file to match the surface of the rest of the stem. I sanded the repaired areas on the stem surface and the button with 180 and 220 grit sandpaper to blend them into the surface of the stem and the button. I wanted the repairs to be as invisible as possible when the stem was examined. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit sanding pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down after each sanding pad with Obsidian Oil. After the final sanding pad I gave it a final rubdown with the oil and set it aside to dry. I cleaned the end of the shank with alcohol and cotton swabs to remove the tars and build up on the shank end.I polished the meerschaum bowl with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down after each pad with a dry felt cloth to polish it further. I have found that the micromesh pads do not remove the patina in the colouring meerschaum. I put the stem back on the bowl and buffed it with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel to raise a shine. I put the inner bowl on the end of my finger and buffed it with Blue Diamond. I buffed the stem, the inner and outer bowl with a clean buffing pad to raise a shine. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfibre cloth to deep the shine. I inserted the inner bowl in the outer bowl and hand buffed it all one final time with the microfibre cloth. It is a big pipe and fills the hand. It is definitely one that should be smoked sitting beside the fire, sipping your favourite beverage and reading a good book. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 inches, Height: 3 inches (with the inner bowl inserted), Outer diameter of the bowl: 1 ¾ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ inches. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. Thanks for joining me in the process.