Tag Archives: repairing a burn out

Mission Impossible: Operation Long Shot

This is an old Brigham that Charles and I did together and it was almost Mission Impossible. Wanted to post on both blogs.


The door opened and a man walked into the bar, pausing briefly in the doorway to allow his eyes to adapt to the dim light inside. The place was what optimists would euphemistically call a dive. The establishment was empty except for a few drunks and a large, bored-looking man behind the counter wiping glasses with a rag that was presumably once white but was now an indeterminate shade of grey.

The man walked through the room, turned in at a doorway marked “Gents” and scanned the room – two stalls, a urinal and a grimy sink – before spotting what he sought. Moving across the room, he fed a handful of coins into a coin-operated machine advertising cheap cologne. There was a rattle and then a small rectangular device dropped into a waiting hand. The man pushed his thumb against a small pad on the otherwise blank rectangle. A laser washed briefly…

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Repairing a Burned Through Bowl

Blog by Steve Laug

There are many times I take on the challenge of repairing a pipe totally for the learning experience. When I begin working on it there is nothing of redeeming value in the pipe itself. It is not beautiful or worthy of keeping. Rather it provides a unique learning opportunity for me to work on a skill in my refurbishing hobby. The pipe below is exactly that kind of pipe. Mark Domigues sent it to me along with other bowls when I was working on the shank repair on his old Peterson pipe. It is a no name pipe with a rustication pattern that I did find particularly attractive. In fact I put off working on it as it just did not appeal to me. I can’t tell you how many times I picked the bowl up and carried it to the recycle bin (a bin I used for briar parts) and then carried it back to the “to be refurbished” box.



Finally, Monday the challenge called me. I took the bowl out of my box and looked it over. As I looked at it, the shape kind of grew on me. It is a brandy glass shape and the shank actually has a flare to it as well. The rustication is a bit striated but as I cleaned up the exterior it is a lot like tree bark. The stain is a contrast stain – a black undercoat in the grooves and a brown top coat. It was worn but could be salvaged. The shank stem junction was also worn but a band would clean up that part of the pipe. The interior bowl sides were clean and solid. The rim was in good shape. But the glaring problem is visible in the photo below – a large, ½ inch diameter burnout on the flat bottom of the pipe. The surrounding briar was solid. The burnout was very focused. The burn did not extend into the rest of the bottom of the pipe. In fact the wood around the edges of the hole was clean and solid. There was none of the darkening around edges of the burnout or on the bottom of the bowl. It looked like it might be a great candidate for practicing a repair. I have done one other repair on a burn out which involved inserting a briar plug and this looked like it was another candidate for that repair. The difference in this one was the solidness of the briar around the hole.

As I worked up the chutzpah to tackle this repair I decided to work on the shank. I sanded the shank smooth in preparation for the band. I like to have a smooth surface under the band rather than a rusticated pattern. I find it gives a good smooth fit to the band. I sanded out the rustication to the width of a nickel band. Once it was sanded smooth, I heated a band over a heat gun and then pressed it into place. I liked the finished look of the band.






I am sure that you can tell at this point that I am procrastinating in addressing the main issue of the bowl with all of the other random work on the pipe but that went on a little longer. I found a stem in my stem box that fit the shank quite well. The mortise had originally had a screw in fitment so it was threaded. The threads were well worn so I decided to use a regular style push stem. I sanded the tenon to get a good tight fit on the stem and then sanded the stem to get a good fit against the shank and band. The slight bend in the stem looked good but it was a bit crooked so I would address that issue later. The finished look of the stem and band with the bowl was quite nice…maybe there was something redeemable about the bowl after all.


I have a few pieces of scrap briar that I have scavenged from pipe maker friends that I had put away for this kind of repair. So I found one that had enough briar left that I could carve it into a plug for the bottom of the bowl. I trimmed it with a hack saw to reduce the size of the plug.

In the first photo below you can see what the hole looked like after I had cleaned it up with a pick and Everclear. I had also reamed the inside of the bowl to remove all of the cake from the sides and the bottom of the bowl. The second photo shows the hole after I had drilled it out. I used a cordless drill with a ½ inch drill bit to round out the damage area and remove any further damage around the burnout. I chose the ½ inch bit as that was the diameter of the hole at the widest part of the hole.


I shaped the briar plug with a Dremel and sanding drum. The next series of photos show the progress of the shaping. I took the rough briar from a wedge to a circular plug and then shortened it to a round plug. I shaped a cap on the plug to the inner diameter of the bowl. Also originally I envisioned pushing the plug through from the inside of the bowl and then cutting off the portion that extended beyond the bottom of the bowl. I would then redrill the airway to finish the repair.




I continued to reduce the diameter of the plug until it was the same size as the hole in the bowl. The inside bowl bottom was hard to match with the cap of the plug. I continued to shape it until it was cup shaped. It seemed no matter how I shaped it however, it would not fit in the bowl bottom as the burnout was not centered in the bowl bottom. It was toward the front of the bowl bottom. I finally decided to use a different tact. I would forgo inserting it from the inside and go the other direction. I would insert it from the outside in. I measured the thickness of the bowl bottom (which was actually in good shape other than the burned portion). I then shortened the plug until it was relatively flush with the bottom of the airway. I coated the plug with superglue gel which gives me a bit more time before it sets and pushed it into the drilled hole. I pressed it against the table top to get the plug in place solidly.


Once the glue set I sanded away the excess briar with a Dremel to match the surface of the bowl. I was not worried about the rustication as I would duplicate that after I finished working the plug into place. The next two photos show the plug and the bowl surface are smooth and the plug is tightly in place.


The next photo shows the interior of the bowl. The plug is even with the entrance of the airway. There is difference in bowl depth around the left edge. I plan to give the bottom of the bowl a thick coating of pipe mud to both protect the new plug and to even out the slight trough on the left front edge of the plug.

I rusticated the bottom of the bowl with the Dremel to match the tree bark look of the rustication on the bowl (Photo 1 below). I stained it with a dark brown aniline stain and then also gave the bottom of the bowl a second coat with black stain to emulate the effect of the stain coat on the rest of the bowl (Photos 2 and 3 below).



I stained the rest of the bowl with the dark brown stain to freshen it up and blend in the stain on the bottom of the bowl. I buffed it with red Tripoli and White Diamond to raise a shine and then gave it several coats of carnauba wax on the buffer. The finished exterior is visible in the first close up below and the following four photos of the pipe.





With the repair finished on the exterior of the pipe I worked on the stem. I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper and then with a medium grit sanding sponge to clean up the oxidation and scratches on the vulcanite. I heated the stem with a heat gun to straighten it and then rebent it over a rolling-pin to give it a slight bend. I set the bend under cool water and then gave the stem a quick buff with Tripoli before taking it back to the work table to further sand the stem.


I continued to sand the stem with micromesh sanding pads from 1500-12,000 grit to bring a shine to the vulcanite. I wet sanded with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanded with 3200-12,000 grit sanding pads. When I finished sanding with the pads I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil and let it dry then buffed it with White Diamond and gave it multiple coats of carnauba wax.







With the externals repaired and finished it was time to make up some pipe mud to coat the bottom of the bowl and give a protective coat over the bowl plug. I sacrificed a nice little Cohiba Cuban cigar for the purpose of making the mud of the ash. When the cigar was finished I had a nice bowl of clean ash.

I mixed the ash with a small amount of water to make a paste. I inserted a pipe cleaner into the airway and then applied it to the bottom of the bowl, tamping it into the crevices around the plug and building up the bowl bottom. As the pipe mud dried I added additional layers of mud to the bottom of the bowl and around the lower sides of the bowl. The next series of three photos show the progressive build up of the mud in the bottom of the bowl.



When the mud had dried to touch I buffed the pipe a final time with White Diamond and then gave the entire pipe several coats of carnauba wax to protect and give it a shine. I then used a clean flannel buff for the final buffing. The restored pipe is pictured below. I will let the pipe mud cure and harden for a few days before loading up the pipe and smoking the inaugural bowl.




Repairing an Over-Reamed Bowl in a GBD Collector Century

Blog by Steve Laug

I picked up this older GBD bent apple with a Perspex stem on EBay for a reasonable price, at least in my opinion it was reasonable. On the left side it is stamped: Collector in script over GBD in an oval over Century. On the right side it is stamped: London England over the shape number 9633. The Collector line is the middle line between the Conquest and the Colossal. These three lines were termed GBD plus sized pipes. The dimensions on this one are length: 5 ½ inches, height: 1 ¾ inches, outer diameter: 1 ¼ inches, chamber diameter: 1 inch. The bowl exterior is chunky and wide and the bowl is larger than normal sized GBD`s.

The two pictures below are the ones that were used on the listing on EBay. The stem is dirty but whole and intact. The bowl rim is badly caked and the bowl itself looks to be caked and maybe a bit over reamed but it is hard to tell. The finish on the pipe was pretty much gone as can be seen in the two photos. There were some dark marks on the bowl front and the sides were faded in colour. Nonetheless it looked like it was worth a bid in my opinion. I asked a few questions of the seller and was answered cordially but with little helpful information regarding the state of the bowl. So I would just have to see it when it arrived. ImageImage

When it came, it was both in better shape and worse shape than the photos in the listing showed. The finish was dirty and really not in too bad a shape other than worn spots. The rim was caked and dirty but was not dented and damaged. The bowl had indeed been over-reamed. In fact it looked to have the beginnings of a burnout – or at least a hot spot on the bottom of the bowl. The stem was dirty but had no bite marks and minimal tooth chatter. Looking at the bottom of the bowl I notice what appeared to be a dark spot and maybe even the beginnings of a hole. This was not a good sign. I had repaired that old Dunhill with a briar plug not long before this so I knew it could be repaired but I wanted to be sure of what I was dealing with. I took the bowl and stem apart and carefully reamed the sides of the bowl to clean out the remaining grit. The top was cleaned with Murphy’s Oil Soap undiluted and scrubbed with a tooth brush. I did not worry about the finish as I was going to restain and refinish it when I was done. I set the stem aside for a bit while I worked on the bowl. Once it was clean I put it in an alcohol bath to soak and remove the remaining finish and grime. ImageImageImage

I removed the bowl from the alcohol bath and wiped it down to dry it off. I turned it over and the three pictures below show what I saw. From the outside the bowl looked like it was beginning to burnout. There was a darkening on the surface and what appeared to be a small crack in the briar. From the inside the over-reaming can be seen clearly. The bottom of the bowl was below the airway and the remaining briar was very thin.


I sanded the bottom of the bowl to see how deep the discolouration went into the briar and was pleasantly surprised. The photo below shows what the spot looked like after sanding. I then used a dental pick to pick at the crack in the surface and see how thin it was and how deep the crack went. The briar was still hard and did not break away with the dental pick. That was another good sign. I cleaned the surface with isopropyl alcohol and dried it off. I used some small drops of super glue to fill the crack and then sanded the surface again to smooth the patch of the glue. I did not plan on selling this pipe as it is a shape I enjoy so all of my work was for my own use at this point.  Image

The picture below shows the bowl after some more sanding and a light coat of medium brown stain. I restained the entire bowl and buffed it to see if the repair would be less obvious. You can see from the photo below that it is a bit darker and would require a few more coats of the brown stain to make it recede into the background.


I fired up a good cigar and made some pipe mud of the ash and water and began to rebuild the bottom of the bowl. I layered on several coats of the mud allowing it to dry to the touch between coats. My goal was to build up the bottom of the bowl to the bottom of the air way. The pipe mud is fairly thick but it actually worked quite well. In the photo below you can see the bottom of the bowl. I also used it to fill in some of the cracks in the cake on the sides of the bowl. I wanted to protect this pipe from further damage to the bowl.


Once that was finished and dry I restained the pipe with two more coats of the medium brown aniline stain. I flamed the stain between coats to set it. Once it was dry I buffed the bowl with Tripoli to make the grain show and lighten the stain. The next series of four photos show the finished look of the bowl. The photo showing the bottom of the bowl shows that I was able to blend in the darkened area with each successive coat of stain. It is still present but it does not pop out at you when you look at it. In the photos you will also notice a pipe cleaner inserted in the stem. I used lemon juice to soak the stain in the Perspex as well as some hand cleaner with grit in it. The stain is stubborn to remove so I left the pipe cleaner soaked in the products in the stem overnight several times in an effort to remove the stain. You can see from the photos that it is lighter than when it arrived but it is still present. (NOTE: do not use alcohol in cleaning Perspex stems as it causes the stems to craze – multitudes of tiny cracks appear throughout the material.) ImageImageImageImage

The last series of photos shows the pipe as it is today. The refurbishment on it was about 2 or more years ago. I have smoked it in my rotation and it smokes very cool. The pipe mud has held up well and is incredibly hard now. The finish has darkened a bit and taken on a patina that I like. The save on this pipe worked incredibly well. One day if the need arises I can put a briar plug in the bottom of the bowl but so far it has not been necessary. ImageImageImageImage

Plugging a burnout

Blog by Steve Laug

I picked up an old Dunhill Root Briar off eBay that I knew would have to have a lot of work done to make it smokeable once again. It was obvious that it would need a plug as it was burned out. Many probably would not have bid on it but I got it for cheap and thought it would be worth learning how to do a briar plug to repair it. With not a huge amount invested in it I figured it was worth the education I would get doing a repair. I often will buy pipes on eBay that are rejects for the sole purpose of learning a new skill in the repair department.

When the old Dunhill arrived I opened the package for the initial inspection of the pipe. I wanted to have a clear picture of what I would be dealing with in the repair. On the underside of the bowl there was some kind epoxy fill that had been injected into small burnout spot. It had been also daubed on the bowl to provide a layer of “insulation” or something. It was really a mess in terms of the application of the epoxy. No amount of wiping the bowl down with alcohol or acetone would remove the goo from the surface of the pipe. I sanded it until the bottom was back to briar alone and the glue was gone. I then used a dental pick to check the integrity of the bottom of the pipe. I wanted to find out from the outside how far the damage had gone into the briar. If it was charcoal like and soft I would know the extent to which I would have to drill out the bottom of the bowl. I marked the extent of the damage with a permanent marker to show how far the burnout had damaged the briar.

Once I had the outside of the bowl cleaned up and the burn out clearly marked I turned my attention to the inside of the bowl. Once I had cleaned out the grit and grime from the inside of the bowl I found that the previous owner had reamed far too aggressively and compromised the thickness of the bottom of the bowl. It was almost ¼ inch below the bottom of the airway. The bottom of the bowl was in fact very thin. Using my dental pick I probed the bowl bottom to identify the extent of the damage around the burn out hole. It was virtually the same as the outside. With that information in hand I was ready to drill out the spot on the bowl.

I sanded out the inside of the bowl with a dowel and sandpaper to smooth out the hack job on the bottom. I then drilled out the burned out spot from the outside of the bowl with a drill bit slightly larger than the area I had marked with the marker. I was careful to get all the burned wood. Once the hole was open I again tested the soundness of the surrounding briar with my dental pick. I wanted to make sure that the damaged briar was removed. I re-drilled it a second time with a slightly larger bit to remove what remained of the damage. I then cleaned the pipe yet again. I wanted to make sure that the inside of the bowl was reamed and sanded to bare wood and that the bottom of the bowl that remained was free of carbon and dirt. I washed the entirety with isopropyl alcohol and then let it dry out.

I measure the outer diameter of the hole in the bottom and the inner diameter of the bowl. I then cut a piece of briar to those dimensions. The briar plug was shaped like a “T” and was actually significantly bigger than the pin hole that was originally in the bottom of the bowl. I had decided to create a new bottom for the bowl and a plug for the hole I had drilled. I used some wood glue and coated the bowl bottom and the inside of the hole. I then inserted the plug in the top of the bowl and used a rubber mallet and a piece of dowel to drive peg to the bottom of the bowl. The leg of the T extended through the hole in the bottom of the bowl that I drilled out. I had purposely made it longer than the thickness of the bowl so that it would extend below the bottom of the bowl. Once it was in place it not only was glued but in essence was pressure fit. I laid it aside to dry over night before I worked on sanding the leg of the T flush with the bottom of the pipe. The next morning I sanded it flush with the bottom of the bowl. It was a great fit as can be seen from the pictures that are included in this essay.

Once the exterior was smooth and ready to go I turned to the inside of the bowl. The top of the T formed a new thicker bottom for the bowl. I had made it thick enough to provide a new briar bowl. Because of the thickness I had used a spade bit to re-drill the bottom of the chamber and give it a concave feel like the original bowl. I also re-drilled the airway so that it would come out in the bottom of the new bowl. I again used the dowel and sand paper to smooth out the junction between the new surface and the old surface of the chamber walls. I wanted the transition between the two pieces to be smooth.

The final touch for this old timer was a good coating of pipe mud on the walls and on the bowl bottom. The mix I use for the mud is cigar ash and water. Others have used pipe tobacco or a mix of various things but I like cigar ash. The bonus is I get to smoke a good cigar in the process. I mix a good thick paste that I apply with a brush and a pipe nail. I brushed it on and tamped it into place with the brush and the nail. It gave a nice grey ash look to the inside of the bowl. The inside looked as good as new. I left it to dry through the night.

I sanded the rest of the bowl be careful to not damage the stamping. Once it was smooth and the scratches and nicks were gone I stained the outside of the bowl. I gave it a second and third coat with a Mahogany and then a brown stain. Between each coat of stain I flamed the stain by lighting it with a lighter. I find that this sets the stain a bit better than an air dry. I also buffed between coats of stain to make sure the coverage was even. The final coat of stain was applied, wiped off and then buffed with white diamond and then carnuaba.

I let the pipe mud cure for several days before I fired up the pipe. I was curious to see how hot the bottom of the bowl became. Success!! It smoked cool and dry to the bottom with no heat to the hand. The patch worked well. Next time I do a patch I will try to blend the flow of the grain a bit more!

I have been smoking it for a long time now and continue to be pleased with it. The patch is starting to blend in a bit more as it gets a patina. The pipe still smokes dry and cool throughout the bowl.




This week my computer died!!! I was forced to dig out a very old laptop that I have sitting in the basement  so that I could at least have access to the internet. While I was cleaning up the hard drive I found these old photos of the same pipe. The repair may be a bit more visible in these photos if you are interested to have a look.