Tag Archives: repairing a cracked shank

Repairing a broken shank and crooked alignment on a Joh’s Churchwarden


Blog by Steve Laug

I received an email a few weeks ago from a fellow in Vancouver named Chris, asking if I would have a look at a cracked shank on his Joh’s churchwarden. He figured that it was not repairable but wanted to know if I would cut back the broken shank and refit the stem. I asked him to send me some photos of the damaged shank so I could see it myself. He sent me two photos of the pipe – one from the left side and the other from the top. The photos showed some extensive damage to the shank. There were cracks on the top, the bottom, the right and the left side of the shank. There was a large chunk of briar missing on the left side of the shank. It also appeared to me that the diameter of the stem was smaller than the diameter of the shank and that the stem sat toward the left side of the shank.Chris brought the pipe by my office for me to have a look at. We sat in my office and he went over the pipe with me. It was a nice looking pipe with two rusticated panels on the left side of the bowl and the rest of the bowl and rim were smooth. The pipe was in good shape other than the broken shank. The rim had some darkening and oils on the back side. The stem was in excellent condition with no tooth marks at all on either side. We made the decision to work on it and see what I could do repairing the damage. I took photos of the pipe when I brought it home from work and put it on the work table.I took close up photos of the cracked and broken shank. You can see the extensive damage and the difference in the diameter of the shank and the stem. I used a microdrill bit on the Dremel and drilled pin holes at the end of each crack to stop the cracks from spreading further.I used a combination of super glue and briar dust applied in layers to build up area where there was a missing chunk of briar in the left side of the shank. I built it up until the missing chunk was replaced with the mixture. It was not pretty but it was better than it was when I started the process.I sanded the repair with a sanding drum on my Dremel. The sanding drum smoothed out the repair on the exterior of the shank. The next series of three photos show the repaired area of the shank. I used a needle file to smooth out the inside of the mortise and to begin to return it to round. I would do more work on that once I had pressure fit a nickel band on the shank. I heated the nickel band with a Bic lighter to expand it and pressed it onto the shank of the pipe until the edge of the band and the edge of the shank end were even.I remembered that I had not filled in the pinholes that I had drilled. I used clear super glue and a tooth pick to put a bead of glue on top of each pin hole. When the glue had dried I sanded the shank repairs smooth with 220 grit sandpaper until they were blended into the surface of the briar.I polished the sanded areas of the briar and the dirty top of the bowl with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads. I wiped the shank down with a damp cotton pad to remove the dust. I used a medium brown stain pen to touch up the sanded areas around the shank. The medium brown blended perfectly with the existing stain. I polished the bowl and shank with 3200-12000 grit micromesh sanding pads and wiped it down with a damp cotton pad to remove the sanding dust on the surface after each pad. Before I took photos of the polished stummel after using the 12000 grit pad, I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and buffed the pipe on the buffer with a clean buffing pad to give it a shine. The polished pipe is shown in the photos below. I took close up photos of the shank repair and band to show the look of the repaired shank. If you look closely you can see the repaired cracks and the tiny pinholes but the pipe looks very good with the new nickel band and blended stain. I reshaped the mortise with needle files and built up the left side of the tenon with clear super glue to move the stem toward the centre of the shank. Once I had finished the alignment was far better than when I started and the stem looks more centred in the shank. I used a tooth pick and super glue to fill in the gap between the band and the right side of the shank. You can see from the photo that the shank was not round but more oval and slanted to the left. With the band and the repair the shank is round and the mortise end looks far better.I buffed the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel and gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax to protect it. I used a very light touch on the rusticated portions of the left side of the bowl. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise a shine and hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe is well proportioned with the following dimensions Length: 10 inches, Height: 2 inches, Bowl diameter: 1 ¾ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ inches. The finished pipe is shown in the photos that follow. I think Chris will be happy to see one of his favourite pipes returned to his rotation looking better than when he left it with. Chris if you read this – tell us what you think. Enjoy. Thanks for looking.

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Giving New Life to a KBB Yello Bole Imperial 3068C


Blog by Mike Rochford

In the last two weeks, I have been corresponding with Mike about a pipe he had. He wrote and sent photos of it and asked if I thought it was repairable. Those of you who have been reading the blog for a while know that I rarely put a pipe in the bin to burn. We wrote back and forth as he did the work and he sent photos along the way. I asked if he would mind doing a blog on the refurb job he did. He sent me the following. Without further introduction, I will let Mike tell you about himself and then share his work with us. Welcome Mike.

First a bit about me. I am a retired FBI Special Agent of 30 years. My grandfather had a wood pattern shop in downtown Chicago. I always enjoyed woodworking projects, but never had much time for complicated projects. This project was pretty easy as long as I did not hurry each step. Patience and your guidance helped me a lot. I am now pretty confident that I can handle another project if one comes along. – Mike

My brother Tim bought me a very worn out KBB YELLO Bole Imperial 3068C pipe. He knew I loved its look. But its issues were many: gaping hole in bowl, rotting wood on ferrule, bite marks on stem, and a slight tool mark on the crowned our area of the stem below the Yellow circle.

I was prepared to throw the pipe out or just relegate it to a shelf. But I found Steve Laug on rebornpipes. He advised me step by step how to restore and make my pipe smokeable again.

First, I completely cleaned out the inside of bowl down to the briar in order to relieve pressure on the crack in the bowl. Then I used a 1/32 drill bit to drill out the bottom of the crack.  I stripped and cleaned the outside of the pipe and combined briar dust with super glue and filled in the crack on the outside of the bowl. I was surprised that the chemical reaction caused a flash fire on my first try. But I worked through that. The paste dries very fast so I had to apply it to the crack quickly, using a Popsicle stick.  I then let it set. Then I applied JBWeld for wood to the cracked area inside of the bowl. I put a pipe cleaner inside the opening to ensure no weld found its way into the airway blocking up my smoking end of the bowl. I let that dry and set it aside for the evening. Then I used 500 grit sand paper on the outside and inside of my bowl. Once I was satisfied, I applied Aniline dye stain to the outside of the bowl and painted the inside of my bowl with a charcoal powder/ sour cream paste.Next, I worked on the cracked and damaged shank end using the 1/32nd inch bit on the end of the cracks in wood and my super glue briar dust paste to fix the damaged areas. Sanding it after it set.I then used the charcoal powder and super glue paste to patch up the bite marks on my stem, using a pipe cleaner with Vaseline on it to ensure it did not super glue my stem closed. I used some 800 grit sand paper to buff the entire stem clean of oxidation and to clean off excess super glue charcoal powder once it dried. I also used the 800 grit sand paper to clean up the tool marks on my stem below the Yellow circle. I did not have any obsidian oil, so I used some sesame seed oil on my stem to slick it up. I also super glued the silver metal ferrule on the end of the shank as it was much too loose. I then resanded and repasted the inside of my pipe bowl.

I sent before and after pictures to Steve. I am very pleased and thankful to Steve Laug for guiding me through this process. My pipe is truly “Reborn!” Thanks!

Stem Button TIME SAVER on a 1940’s Dunhill LB


Blog by Henry Ramirez

I was ghosting through Ebay listings looking for a cracked shank to experiment with when this old classic appeared.  The auction was won for a song because in addition to a cracked shank, the year stamping had been buffed off the shank. The usual whole lotta cake and dented stem story.I started with the stem, which was really in great shape.  I have come to love the stumpy profile of the patent LB’s with their constricted contour button.  An Oxyclean bath was followed by an isopropyl alcohol scrubbing with a shank brush and pipe cleaners. I wanted to use heat to raise the bite marks as much as possible to not only decrease my work load but to minimize the inclusion of foreign filler. To this end I also wanted to learn the proper temperature needed to reproduce my results consistently.

Using a heat gun, I took my time and warmed up the vulcanite until my nose told me it was getting close to burning.  If that happens the surface becomes a porous charred stinky mess!  I quickly used a laser temperature gun to obtain a surface reading of 275 degrees F.  Amazing how quickly the surface cooled off once the heat was removed.I was not impressed by the amount of rebound and it looked like filling and filing was in my future.

Having nothing to lose, I pressed my wife’s oven into service, knowing that I could set the temperature substantially higher than previous attempts without fear of ruination. I set the oven temperature at 265 degrees F to have a 10 degree safety zone and watched as the whole stem “stretched out”.  This was more like it! The dents were now depressions that needed the light to shine just so to be seen.  Little CA and polishing was needed.

I should mention that these values are for older Dunhill vulcanite only.  The composition of vulcanite has changed over the years, according to some posts I’ve read, and I’ve noticed it in the depth of polish ability.Now it was the time to clean and evaluate the briar. While I ream the mortise and bowl I am wishing that I had Steve’s magical Savinelli Pipe knife. Boy, those things are rarer than hen’s teeth and this old cake is super hard. That is followed by total immersion in an isopropyl bath with various scrub brushes stripping the briar. I couldn’t save the original finish because the shank crack needed to be clean and open as much as possible for the bonding. One of the perks of the alcohol bath is that after the bowl dries out, if there is any residual cake stuck to the chamber walls, it shrivels up and is easily removed.The shank crack was now very evident but the year stamping was not.Getting back to the stem, I wanted to know if the alcohol retort was worth the hassle.  I had been as meticulous as possible with the pipe cleaners and cold alcohol.  The color of the used alcohol in the distillation flask tells the story, close but no banana! I could now address the cracked shank.  I had previously repaired such a problem using a micro-screw and bonded dental composite resin.  I was concerned that threading the screw into old dry briar could start micro-fractures and crazing.

This time I elected to drill a channel spanning the crack and passively bond a post fabricated from longitudinal glass fibers encompassed in a strong composite resin matrix.  This would also provide some flex in the repair to accommodate the dimensional changes that briar goes through because of temperature changes during smoking.

At this time I also drilled a post hole at the end of the crack to prevent further spidering.  Because the crack was significantly wide I made sure to introduce my resin with a size 06 endodontic file.  I had planned to use a C clamp to close the gap but I chickened out when finger pressure did nothing.  Not sure how to make briar temporarily more flexible….

After filling the post hole and cementing the fiber post with dual cure composite resin, I trimmed off the post and blacked out the white resin with black CA.

Before beginning to start the staining process I wanted to open the pores of the cellulose to not only gain greater absorption of the dye but also improve the briar’s capacity to absorb tars for a sweeter smoke.  I had noticed such a phenomenon with the Missouri Meerschaum corn cob pipes.

I found that this particular wheel had already been invented by the folks who refinish wooden decks.  I tracked down some relatively non-toxic materials which did the job and whose run off wouldn’t hurt plants.

Sodium percarbonate does the cleaning and oxalic acid removes the smear layer, thus opening up the wood’s pores.  Looking around online for a source I realized that I already had both chemicals in the laundry room!  Oxyclean is the percarbonate and states on the container that it’s great for wood decks, siding and lawn furniture.  Bar Keeper’s Friend has oxalic acid as its active ingredient and states on the container that it works on teak wood.Indeed after scrubbing with both and rinsing with water, I noticed that the chamber’s surface looked and felt less dense.Now it was time to stain the briar with Oxblood diluted 50% with isopropyl alcohol in two coats, both flamed with the micro-torch.I was lucky that the original black stain in the depths of the blast remained.An overlay stain of light brown was applied in 2 coats.After a rub down with an old t-shirt to remove any xs dye, I applied 2 coats of Halcyon wax.  A quick buff on the lathe and then a hand strapping with a shoe bristle brush brought the shine up.  I want to mention that my wife gifted me her silver brush which is narrow and has long soft bristles which easily accesses the crotch of the pipe without fear of collision. This has proved most useful on bent pipes.Another very helpful tip came from a pipe maker’s blog about dead-faced files to add crispness to the button area.  They are the dead faced nut seating file by Stewart MacDonald, a luthier’s supply house and the pillar files which have the dead side on the edge from OttoFrei, a clock makers source.Well I’m now satisfied with the pipe but not finished. They say we abandon these projects because we reach a point where better becomes an enemy of good. Boy that was fun and I hope to share more adventures with these fabulous old pipes!  Regards, Henry

 

Cracked Shank Repair on a Dunhill CK12 Author


Blog by Henry Ramirez

Henry and I have been emailing back and forth on all things pipe repair and I have to say I enjoy each missive he sends me. He is a creative guy who is using his dentistry expertise to work on pipes. The kind of repairs he does and the equipment he has both built and gathered is unique and certainly adds some new ideas to the hopper for refurbishers like me. I don’t want to bore you with all kinds of introduction on Henry. I will let his restoration of this old Dunhill speak for itself. Welcome and thank you for your contribution Henry. – Steve Laug, rebornpipes

I’d seen this old pipe bought and sold several times on Ebay, each time gussied up a little more but still tap dancing around the issue of the split shank repair band. Being the sucker that I am for gnarly old patent Shell Dunhill’s, I decided that this was the perfect opportunity to see what was under the band and possibly date this old codger.

Using 10x’s loupes with a parallel headlight source, I sectioned the band to find, to my lucky surprise, NO CEMENT! Just popped off, pretty as you please with no clean-up necessary. I used a fine carborundum wheel to initially trough the metal and then finished with a sharp new #2 carbide round but in an electric lab hand piece by Kavo. The Kavo or less expensive Medidenta hand pieces are ergonomic and very smooth running when compared with dremels. I would not try such a procedure for fear of scaring the briar without a hand piece I fully trusted.The newly exposed underside of the shank was faintly stamped with an incomplete patent number starting with 116(989/17) which would place this pipe from 1925-1934. No closure here since the date stamp was completely sanded off when the band was fitted.I was also pleased with the stem’s sizing to the shank. Still there was enough of a suggestion of the shell finish to complement the rest of the pipe.The 8mm stem orifice leads me to think this was a filtered pipe.The usual chamber cake removal (different pipe). I also use drill bits by hand to router out the mortise to bowl.When I want to conserve the original briar’s finish, I plug the bowl with a cork after stretching a latex or nitrile glove over the rest of the pipe. I then snip the tip of one of the fingers and poke the shank through the finger and out the hole. I tie off the glove and scrub the mortise and shank submerged in a Tupperware container filled with 91% isopropyl alcohol or vodka. Black muck floats out with every agitation of the shank brush.Drilling the micro-pin channel across the fissure. Once threaded into place, the pin shears off and the driver/carrier is removed. Of course I want the pin in the center of the thickest part of the shank through which the crack runs.The X-ray below shows not only the pin but also some of the composite plug. The composite plug was done at the end of the crack to prevent propagation.Pin hole back filled with black CA. Also spread some for aesthetic purposes on the composite plug. The stem was then buffed with four of pumice, Tim West’s green & red abrasive bars, White Diamond, Bendix plastic polish, Paragon wax and then a clean wheel and micro fiber towel. The bowl rim was gently micro-etched (Danville sand blaster) and polished with a Robinson bristle wheel brush. Luckily, the pipe was dark in general and the wax darkened the rim so that it blended. I flamed the wax to melt it into the rustications and buffed using a shoe polish brush supported by the bench pin. I ozonated the pipe for a night to remove any ghosting.Hope I don’t bore you with my Magnificent Obsession of resurrecting old pipes with the tools at hand. BTW, the light spot on the shank is an artifact of my flash. I’m going to deep six my crummy point and shoot and use my iPhone camera now that my MacBook can again see it as a drive. If you’re having the same problem, download Sierra operating sys from Apple for free.

Yours faithfully, Henry.

A difficult trust: Gift of a Grandfather – A BBB Double Star Made in England


Blog by Dal Stanton

When I study the venerable pipe on my work table, it is not a glamorous display of briar and silver bands.  Some might call it a basket pipe.  The two stars imprinted on the shank were an indication of a working man’s pipe – not high quality, but among those pipes accessible to normal, if not common, people who work, live, love and as is the case with us all, die.  This unremarkable Apple shaped, BBB [diamond over] Double Star, MADE IN ENGLAND [over] 152, is remarkable because of the story it represents.   I enjoy restoring ‘estate’ pipes because they were left to others and these pipes carry with them stories and memories of loved ones who once befriended and valued them.  Greg heard from my son, Josiah, who are college buddies, that Josiah’s old man (my words not theirs!) restored ‘old’ pipes.   This ‘old’ pipe came to Greg from his grandfather through his mother.  Josiah’s email came to me asking what I could do with these pictures from Greg. My understanding is that Greg was a bit reluctant at first to send his pipe off to Bulgaria to be restored, but after Josiah directed him to some of the restorations I’ve done, he felt he could trust me with the heirloom that had come to him.  Knowing that this pipe was from his grandfather I asked that Greg send me information about his grandfather so that I not only could place the pipe better in history, but Greg’s grandfather as well.  This is the letter he sent me:

Hi Mr. Stanton,

Thank you so much for agreeing to restore my grandfather’s pipe. I am sorry for the delay in getting you the below information, but it’s been a crazy couple of weeks.

My mother inherited the pipe from my grandfather when he passed away in 1998. I saw it in the china cabinet one day and asked her if I could have it, since I had taken up pipe smoking. She kindly agreed. She doesn’t really know when my grandfather got the pipe, but she said he must have bought it in Hong Kong.

My grandfather was from Hong Kong, and only emigrated to the United States in the 1980s. He was a malaria inspector for the Hong Kong government for his entire working career. He must have gotten the pipe at the latest in the late 1940s or early 1950s, as my mother remembers him having it when she was a child. He never smoked the pipe when I knew him, but from its condition, I assume it was well used at an earlier period in his life.

Having graduated from the University of Georgia Law School in Athens, Georgia, passed his bars and currently serves as a law clerk to a federal magistrate judge in Augusta, Georgia, AND as a young married man, I can understand why Greg “took up” smoking pipes!  Pipes are wonderful companions for blooming attorneys!  His letter concluded with an agreement to the cost of the restoration would benefit our work with the Daughters of Bulgaria!  Thank you, Greg!

The information Greg received from his mother was invaluable for placing this BBB in time and space.  Pipedia’s article about BBB is helpful.  BBB in the mid-1800s originally stood for “Blumfeld’s Best Briars”, but after the death of Blumfeld, the Adolph Frankau Company took over the company and BBB gradually became “Britain’s Best Briars”.

The “BBB Two Star” rating also is referenced in the same article in a discussion of quality descriptors for BBB pipes:

In the Thirties, the top-of-the-range one becomes “BBB Best Make” with alternatives like “Super Stopping” and “Ultonia Thule”. The BBB Carlton, sold with the detail with 8/6 in 1938, is equipped with a system complicated out of metal, system which equipped the BBB London Dry too. Blue Peter was not estampillées BBB but BBB Ultonia, and the BBB Two Star (* *) become the bottom-of-the-range one. 

When Greg’s pipe arrived in Bulgaria, thanks to a visitor’s willingness to carry it across the Atlantic and European continent, I unwrapped it and put it on my work desk and took these pictures to fill in the gaps. At PipePhil.eu an example of the BBB Two Star marking is pictured along with the stinger/tube style extending into the chamber as Greg’s grandfather’s BBB does ( as seen above).In Pipes Magazine, I found a thread discussing the dating of the BBB Two Star.  One threader’s opinion, ‘jguss’ corroborates Greg’s mother’s recollections:

My guess is that the Two Star line started at the end of WWII; the first mention I’ve found so far is dated 1945, which at least gives a tpq (that is, an approximate dating). I know the line lasted at least into the early sixties.

It is not too difficult to speculate about the provenance of Greg’s pipe.  During WW2, briar became a scarce commodity throughout Europe and pipe manufacturing companies made do with what they could acquire.  Two Star BBBs would be lower end but more than likely during this time, a very close second when rations were short.  Added to this backdrop is the origin of our story in Hong Kong.  Hong Kong, a British holding since 1841 (see LINK), lost control of Hong Kong during WW2 to Japan in 1941 during the Battle of Hong Kong.  Undoubtedly, Greg’s grandfather would have experienced this first hand.  When Japan unconditionally surrendered in 1945, the British regained control of Hong Kong, but to counter Chinese pressures to control Hong Kong, reforms were introduced that broadened and increased the stake of local inhabitants of Hong Kong:

Sir Mark Young, upon his return as Governor in early May 1946, pursued political reform known as the “Young Plan“, believing that, to counter the Chinese government’s determination to recover Hong Kong, it was necessary to give local inhabitants a greater stake in the territory by widening the political franchise to include them.[19] (Link)

During the years following the Second World War, the same article describes unprecedented economic development which resulted in the economic powerhouse that Hong Kong became.  This period would have been while Greg’s grandfather was working as a malaria inspector for the government of Hong Kong and during which he acquired this BBB Two Star.  The smaller Apple shape would have served him well as he performed his inspection duties but given the ‘stem forensics’ pictured above, he probably chewed on it a bit as well while he worked!

With a greater sense of the story that this BBB Two Star tells, from England, to Hong Kong, to America, and now to Bulgaria, I’m anxious to restore this precious family gift from Greg’s grandfather.  At Greg’s request, he’s hoping for a pipe that is as good as new and ready for a new lifetime of service.  Yet, with all restorations, undoubtedly there will be some marks and blemishes remaining – these an ongoing testament to the memory of those who those who went before.

The first order of approach is with the stinger.  When the pipe arrived, the stinger was already separated from the stem.  The stinger extends from the stem through the mortise into the chamber itself through a metal tube air draft hole.  Using a pair of plyers, I wrap a piece of cloth around the end to pull gently to dislodge the stinger from the mortise.  I can see in the mortise that there appears to be a metal sheath that the stinger is lodged in – at least, that is what it appears to be.  The stinger is not budging and I do not want to break the stinger off.  To try to loosen things up, I pour some isopropyl 95% in the chamber to allow it to soak into the draft hole.  Hopefully, in time, this will loosen the stinger. The alcohol soak did not work.  In fact, a few weeks have transpired since writing the words above.  This stinger has given me quite the challenge.  In the back of my mind constantly, is the concern that I not leverage too much pressure pulling on the stinger.  I’m concerned about damaging the shank.  After soaking the internals for some time with alcohol, I pulled with plyers hoping to break the grip.  I also attempt heating the stummel with a heat gun in hope of dislodging the stinger.  I also heat the protruding part of the stinger with a candle, hoping that this would break the bond.  It did not.   I also was concerned about the candle flame close to the briar while trying to heat the stinger.  I craft a tinfoil shield, but this was not successful.  Unfortunately, I singed the end of the shank and had to remove the damage by ‘topping’ the shank end, which leads to a bit of work lining up the stem and shank later.  As you might expect, the protruding end of the stinger did not hold up under the pressure and eventually broke off. After the stinger protrusion broke off, and after a second email to Steve for input, I’m at the point of using a drill bit in another attempt to remove the bonded stinger.  Starting with a very small bit, I hand turn the bit to allow the drill to find the center of the stinger and gradually, remove the stinger introducing the next larger drill bit.  The end of the broken stinger begins at about 1/4-inch-deep into the mortise.  Unfortunately, this method is not working either because the drill bit will not bite into the metal and remain straight.  At the end of the stinger slot that I’m boring into with the drill bit, my efforts are flummoxed by the stinger’s design.  It has a slanted metal airflow deflector that causes the drill bit to veer off mark.  After breaking the end of the drill bit in the slot (ugh!), and digging it out with needle nose pliers, I sit and begin to think I was facing failure.  Nothing was working.  I’m introducing more problems to the restoration as I try unsuccessfully to solve the stuck stinger problem.  I can’t move forward and I’m stuck and begin to compose an apology letter to Greg in my mind.  UNTIL, on a fancy, I insert a small flat head screw driver into the slot at the end of the broken stinger 1/4-inch-deep in the mortise and I twist it gently counter-clockwise, and it snaps.  Suddenly, it was loose and I easily extract the ‘middle’ of Grandpa’s old stinger – I’m sure he was the last one to see this artifact!  I see daylight through the mortise and I’m hoping that it might also be a metaphoric ‘light at the end of the tunnel’!  I’ve not forgotten that the other end of the stinger remains lodged in the draft hole tube at the foot of the chamber.  Thankfully, a larger drill bit was the perfect size and it reaches into the mortise and hand turning the bit, it clears the rest of the stinger shrapnel.  Finally!  Oh my….  I’ll be saving the stinger debris for Greg.  This BBB will continue without difficulty stingerless.  The pictures show the results. In the interest of full disclosure, these words are coming weeks after.  Why the hiatus?  Life’s normal twists and turns, work, some wonderful travel to Crete for an organizational conference, to Athens (not in Georgia) for a consultation on the Eastern Orthodox Church, AND my growing frustration with Greg’s grandfather’s pipe’s restoration as more complications arrived!  I’ll try to catch you up to the present:

With the stinger removed, I was anxious to continue the restoration with a ‘normal’ pattern – the stem goes into the Oxi-Clean bath to deal with the oxidation in the stem.  After some hours, the stem is removed from the bath and I wet sand with 600 grade sanding paper removing the raised oxidation followed by 0000 steel wool. To clean and protect the BBB stamping on the stem, I use a non-abrasive Mr. Clean ‘Magic Eraser’ sponge.  The pictures show the progress.The next step is to re-seat the tenon into the mortise.  After the arduous process of removing the stinger, and after singing the shank end with a candle flame, and after ‘topping’ the shank to remove the damaged briar, the tenon and mortise needed to be re-wedded with the new realities.  The tenon was too large for full insertion into the shank.  Using a combination of reducing the tenon size with sanding paper and steel wool, sanding and filing the throat of the mortise, and using a rounded needle file to cut a new internal mortise openning bevel to accommodate the broader tenon base, I patiently, slowly, methodically worked to re-seat the tenon in the mortise which included working and then testing the new fit – GENTLY!  I suppose the fact that I said to myself, ‘Dal, careful, don’t crack the shank’, at least a 1000 times only made the sinking feeling more intense when I heard the sickening sound during what proved to be my last, ‘gentle testing’ of the tenon inserted into the mortise.  The hairline crack is pictured below that I took only a day ago – I couldn’t bear to take it then, when it happened.  I was sickened and put Greg’s pipe aside.  I needed some time to work through my own sense of failure of the trust given me to restore this family heirloom.  Now, after several weeks, I’ve regrouped and have taken up Greg’s pipe again.  The travels that I described above during this time in some ways felt more like Jonah running from Nineveh not wanting to face the scene of his calling and his sense of failure!  Though, my trip did prove beneficial – I sold some of my finished pipes to colleagues to benefit and raise the awareness of the Daughters of Bulgaria that The Pipe Steward supports.  I’ve included my Nineveh travels below for you who may not be familiar with ‘my world’, the Balkans – Sofia to Crete to Athens and back. Before moving forward, I needed to repair the cracked shank.  With the help of a magnifying glass, I locate the terminus of the crack and mark it by creating an indentation with a sharp dental probe.  The arrow to the left below marks this.  Using the Dremel tool, I mount a 1mm sized bit and drill a hole at that point – but not going through!  This hole acts like a controlled back-fire to stop the progress of a forest fire.  This will not allow the crack to continue creeping.  With the use of a toothpick, I spot-drop Hot Stuff CA Instant Glue in the hole and along the line of the crack which I expanded microscopically by partially inserting the tenon into the mortise.  This allows the CA glue better penetration to seal the crack.  I remove the stem immediately after the application of CA.  With the CA glue still wet, I apply briar dust to/in the hole and along the crack to encourage better blending.  The pictures show the progress. After some hours allowing the CA glue to cure on the shank repair, using a round grinding stone bit mounted on the Dremel, I reestablish an adequate and uniform internal bevel on the end of the shank to accommodate the base of the tenon when it is fully inserted into the mortise.  My theory is this is what caused the crack – lack of a sufficient internal bevel giving room for the slightly enlarged tenon as it merges with the stem proper.  With the Dremel engaged at the slowest setting, I’m careful to apply minimal pressure as I rotate the ball a bit to make sure it’s centered.  It looks good – the pictures show the progress.Due to a lapse of sorts and the intensity of my focus on re-seating the stem again without re-cracking the shank, I failed (or perhaps, had little desire) to take any pictures.  The short of it is, the stem and stummel have been reunited after some difficult times.  Also, not pictured are some of the basic steps: reaming the fire chamber of carbon cake buildup, cleaning the internals of the stummel and stem with cotton swabs and pipe cleaners wetted with isopropyl 95%, and cleaning the externals of the stummel with Murphy’s Soap.  Again, picking up the trail, pictured below is the micromesh pad process with the stem.  Using pads 1500 to 2400, I wet sand the stem, followed by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and then 6000 to 12000.  I follow each cycle with an application of Obsidian Oil to revitalize the vulcanite.  The stummel surface shows quite a bit of pitting in the first picture shown again below.  The rim also shows nicks. On the larger pits shown below on the heel of the stummel, I spot-fill with a toothpick using CA glue and shorten the curing time by using an accelerator spray on the fills.  After filing and sanding the fills to the briar surface, using a progression of 3 sanding sponges from coarse, medium to light, I work out most the remaining pitting over the stummel surface.  Using 600 grit paper on the chopping block, I also give a light topping to the rim to remove nicks and create fresh lines for the rim.  Following the topping, I introduce an internal bevel to the rim, first using a coarse 120 paper rolled tightly, then with 240 and 600.  The internal rim bevel to me, always adds a touch of class but also helps create softer lines which enhances this Apples shape.  The pictures show the unhindered progress! I now take micromesh pads 1500 to 2400 and wet sand the stummel followed by dry sanding with micromesh pads 3200 to 4000 and then 6000 to 12000 taking a picture after each set to mark the progress.  I am careful to guard the BBB nomenclature on the shank sides.  As I move through these cycles, I realize that I have been so wrapped up in the technical aspects of this restoration for Greg, that I failed to see the beauty of this diminutive Apple shape.  The grain that emerges from Grandpa’s old timer is truly beautiful. Flame grain and swirls, with a few bird’s eyes accenting the whole – totally eye-catching for a Two Star sub-mark BBB I would say! To see the big picture to help determine the next steps, I reunite stem and stummel and stand back and take a good look.  This BBB Made in England is looking real good – in spite of everything!  I can see by the way the BBB Apple naturally sits on the surface, leaning slightly like a listing ship, but remaining upright, provides some clues regarding the significant pitting on the heel of the stummel – just off center. Greg’s grandfather undoubtedly and conveniently placed his pipe on a table or counter surface, or perhaps on a nearby crate, as he made his rounds as a malaria inspector for the province of Hong Kong.  The original BBB coloring leaned toward the favored darker hues of English pipe makers and client proclivities. I decide not to go that dark, but to stain the stummel using a light brown base with a touch of dark brown to tint it down that track a bit.  This will make for better blending, especially for the darker briar around the nomenclature on the shank.  Using Fiebing’s Light Brown Leather Dye as the base, I add a touch of Fiebing’s Dark Brown.  Using a folded pipe cleaner in the shank as a handle, I begin by warming the stummel with a hot air gun to expand the briar making it more receptive to the dye.  After heated, I apply the dye mixture to the stummel generously aiming for total coverage.  I then fire the wet stummel with a lit candle igniting the aniline dye, burning off the alcohol and setting the pigment in the grain.  After a few minutes, I repeat the process concluding with firing the stummel.  I put the stummel aside to rest for several hours.  The pictures show the staining process – yes, you can see my blue fingers – I’ve started wearing latex gloves when I’m staining. After some hours, I’m looking forward to ‘unwrapping’ the fired stummel to reveal the stained briar beneath.  Using a felt buffing wheel mounted on the Dremel, set at the slowest speed, I use Tripoli compound to remove the initial layer.  Moving in a methodical, rotating pattern, I work my way around the stummel not apply a great deal of down-pressure on the wheel, but allowing the RPMs of the felt wheel and the compound to do the work. After removing the crusted layer with Tripoli, I wipe the surface with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95%.  I do this not so much to lighten the finish, but to blend and even out the stain over the surface.  Following this, I mount a cotton cloth wheel on the Dremel, increase the speed slightly, and apply Blue Diamond – a slightly less abrasive compound.  After both compounds, I use a clean towel to hand buff the stummel to remove excess compound dust before applying the wax.  Pictures show the progress. Reattaching the stem and stummel, I apply several coats of carnauba wax to both.  Using a cotton cloth wheel, I set the speed of the Dremel to 2 with 5 being the fastest, I apply the carnauba and I like what I see.  With the carnauba wax applied, I mount a clean cotton cloth buffing wheel on the Dremel and again buff the stummel and stem.  Finally, I apply a rigorous hand buff using a micromesh cloth to raise the shine more.

This BBB Double Star Apple has come a long way from England to Hong Kong to the US to Bulgaria, and now it’s ready to return to its new steward.  This restoration was a bit bumpy, but then, so is life.  I’m glad to help give this pipe a new lifetime and I hope Greg not only enjoys it, but that it provides a special connection with his past.  I’m sure Grandpa would be proud.  Thanks for joining me!

Banding and Restoring a Radford Ravel Rhodesian


Blog by Steve Laug

I am working on the second pipe I chose to work on in the lot of nine pipes I am restoring for the pipe smoker who dropped by a box of pipes that badly needed attention. This one was stamped Radford Ravel and had a mixed finish of smooth top and sandblasted shank and bottom part of the bowl. It is a Rhodesian and the cap is smooth and the rest is sandblast. It was finished in a dark brown stain. The finish was very dirty and there were quite a few sandpits and nicks in the smooth portion of the bowl cap. The shank was crack on the lower right side and extended from the shank end up the shank about a ¼ inch. The stem was a replacement and had a brass washer on the tenon and glued against the shank. When the new stem was made the maker put a space on the tenon to add colour to the stem. I figure that the new stem is what cracked the shank. When I received the pipe the stem did not fit tightly. There were tooth marks, tooth chatter and a lot of oxidation on the stem. There was also a bead of glue around the washer on the tenon.

There was something about the brand on the pipe that rang a bell for me. I have a tin of their Sunday’s Fantasy Tobacco in my cellar and I wondered if they might have made pipes as well.

I did a bit of digging and found the picture on the left that showed some of the tobaccos made by the company and also a great figurine with the name Thomas Radford mild premium pipe tobacco on the base. On Pipedia I found that Radford’s Private Label Pipes were crafted by Chacom for the Pöschl Tabak GmbH & Co. in Germany. This information was from “Pipes, Artisans and Trademarks”, by José Manuel Lopes. The pipes were mass produced with ebonite and acrylic stems and were introduced by Butz-Choquin, Chacom, and Nording. On the stem there is generally an embossed logo that was a stylized R. The pipes were made to use 9mm filters and are moderately priced and very attractive. The following three links were the sources I used for this information.

https://pipedia.org/wiki/Radford%27s

http://www.poeschl-tobacco.com/en/products/

http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-r1.html

I also looked on another website and got a little more information on the brand. The Radford’s pipe appears in 6 models in 3 variations 1x time a year in autumn. The so called Radford’s Depot contains a minimum of 1 dozen pipes of the actual running collection. Connected to the depot is a listing of the depot holder in Radford’s News.

This particular brand RADFORD’S SERIE RAVEL was a series of 6 elegant models within Radford’s Collection. They are made from good briar wood, sandblast, black/brown with a polished head’s border in dark-red shade. Very nice rich-in-contrast ring at the shaft’s finish. Mouthpiece from Acryl for 9 mm filter. http://cigar.supersmokers.biz/radfords/

With all of this information I now knew that the pipe was originally made for a 9mm filter. The mortise was drilled deep in the shank to contain the 9mm filter. The replacement stem was a regular push stem without a filter tenon. I took some photos of the pipe before I started working on it. The finish was in really rough shape. You can see the glue and sticky material on the stem near the shank band. I took a photo of the inside of the shank to show the thick tars that had built up on the walls of the shank. The space in the mortise between the end of the tenon and the extra depth for the end of the original filters was filled with tar and oils. It was thick and sticky.I took a close up photo of the bowl to show the thick cake that lined the walls of the tapered bowl. The photo also shows the damage to the front of the bowl where the pipe had been tapped out against a hard surface. The second photo below shows the crack on the right underside of the shank. It appeared to me from the smooth area and the look of the stain that someone had tried to glue the crack and do a repair but it was not done well.The next two photos show the damage to the stem. The calcium build up on the button end of the stem, the oxidation and glue that is globbed on the stem to hold the washer in place on the tenon and the deep tooth marks on both sides near the button show in the photos.I scrubbed down the surface of the bowl with acetone on cotton pads to remove the damaged finish and the grime and oils in the grooves and crevices of the sandblast. I wanted the surface clean so that I could drill a hole to stop the crack before binding it together with glue and a nickel band on the shank. I drilled two pin holes at the end of the shank with a microdrill bit on a Dremel. The first one was slightly short of the end of the crack so I had to drill a second one.I heated the band to make the fit easier on the shank. I painted the shank end with some slow drying super glue and pressed the band in place against the topping board.I scrubbed the bowl with alcohol on a cotton pad to remove that last of the dust. I took pictures of the bowl with the new bling addition. I reamed the bowl with the PipNet reamer to take back the cake to the bare walls of the bowl. I finished the reaming using a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife to scrape the inside of the bowl smooth. I rolled some 180 grit sandpaper around the end of my finger and sanded the walls of the bowl smooth.To remove the damage to the top of the bowl and to clean up the rough front edge of the bowl cap I lightly topped it on a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper.With the bowl exterior cleaned and the damaged rim top repaired I worked on the inside of the mortise and the airway from the mortise end into the bowl. I used the drill bit that is in the handle of the KleenReem pipe reamer to ream out the airway into the bowl. I turned the bit into the bowl using the knurled end to press it through. I cleaned off the drill bit and used the dental spatula to scrape the walls of the mortise all the way to the end where the airway entered the bowl. The amount of grit and oils that came out with the scraping was phenomenal.I wiped the bowl cap down with alcohol and filled in the sandpits around the outer walls of the cap with clear super glue.I cleaned out the shank and mortise once again with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners until I had removed all of the loose debris left in the shank.I sanded the repaired patches on the cap with 220 grit sandpaper until the repairs were blended into the surface of the briar. I used a black Sharpie Pen to darken the spots and then wiped the bowl and cap down with alcohol to blend in the black. I scraped the area around the washer and the tenon with a sharp knife and funneled the end of the tenon to facilitate better airflow in the stem. I cleaned out the airway in the stem with pipe cleaners, alcohol and cotton swabs.I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to clean up the stem surface and wiped the tooth marks down with alcohol. I filled in the tooth marks with black super glue and set the stem aside to let the glue cure.I stuffed a cotton ball into the bowl and rolled a cotton pad into the shank. I set the pipe in an ice cube tray and used an ear syringe to fill the bowl with alcohol and let it sit during the day. I left it sitting all day while I worked on the slot in the stem. At the end of the day the cotton had yellowed the cotton and the alcohol had pulled out tar and oil from the bowl walls.I used needle files to open up the slot in the button. I used a flat, flattened oval and regular oval file to open the slot. I folded a piece of sandpaper and sanded out the inside of the newly opened slot. After sanding it the slot was open enough to easily take a pipe cleaner. By this time the alcohol/cotton ball soak in the bowl was finished. I pulled the cotton balls out of the bowl and the pad out of the shank and threw them away. I cleaned out the shank and airway once again with cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. Once it was clean I stained the bowl with dark brown aniline stain cut 50/50 with alcohol. I flamed the stain to set it in the grain. I repeated the process until the coverage was what I was looking for.I rubbed bowl down with olive oil on a cloth and hand buffed the bowl with a rough cotton cloth. I took some photos of the new look of this old Radford Ravel pipe. The bowl is starting to look really good and shows some promise. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads to remove the scratches and raise a shine on the vulcanite. I removed the brass washer on the stem and polished it with sandpaper. I reglued it onto the tenon with super glue. I wet sanded the stem with 1500-2400 grit pads and rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil. There were still scratches and also some oxidation. I repeated the sanding with those pads and then moved on to dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed it down with the oil after each set of three pads. After the final pad I gave it a final coat of the oil and set it aside to dry. I buffed the stem with Red Tripoli to try to remove the remaining oxidation and then buffed the entire pipe and stem with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. I polished the metal band with a jeweler’s polishing cloth. I gave the stem and bowl multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise a shine. I hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine on the briar. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It has come a long way from the way it looked when I received it to work on. I really like the looks and the shape of the pipe. I have now finished two of pipes that the pipe smoker dropped off for me to restore before he left on holiday. I look forward to seeing what he thinks of his pipes.

Easy Cleanup of a M&T Bent Horn Bulldog


Aaron Henson – 7/23/16

I have not been very good at documenting my last few restorations. Once I get into a project I tend to get so focused I forget to take pictures, especially if it’s a repair that is technically challenging or that I have not done before. The most recent example of this was an unsmoked M&T bent bulldog with a horn stem.  Even though it had never been used (it still had the factory purple putty bowl coating) it had a few issues to be addressed from its 40+ years of tumbling around in a drawer.M1When I saw the pipe in the case at the antique store the first thing that caught my eye was the horn stem and I knew I wanted it. In all honesty, I wasn’t one hundred percent sure that it was horn until I got it home. A couple of passes with a 2400 micro mesh pad and a sniff test confirmed my suspicions – it’s the same smell as when you use an emery board on a finger nail. M2I started with a little research into the brand.  The only M&T that I could find was the German pipe maker Müllenbach & Thewald.  They made pipes from 1830 until the 1972.  The company still exists but is solely devoted to mineral mining.  You might think this strange but M&T was known originally for clay pipes. In 1860 they branched into making wood pipes.  A short article on M&T can be found on Pipedia.

I began the restoration by performing triage of the issues to be addressed. The bowl was clean but had a dull finish that was marred with some dents and minor scratches. The factory bowl coating was starting to chip and a there were three small fills on the outside of the bowl that needed to be repaired. A close inspection of the shank revealed a small crack where the aluminum tenon inserted (seen in the picture below). I had assumed the narrow band was original to the pipe but perhaps it had been added to reinforce the shank?  I may never know the answer to that.  All in all the bowl was very good condition.M3The stem too was in almost “like new” condition.   A few scratches but the button was well define and, of course, no tooth chatter. The aluminum tenon was a little rough around the edges but the fit to the shank was fine.

I started by applying a thin coat of mineral oil on the stem. This seemed to ‘hydrate’ the horn and give some bite to the micro mesh pads. I worked through the 1500 to 12000 pads stopping to apply oil as the horn dried out. The button was quite large and the edges sharp, a bit more than I like. But I kept it original and only slightly smoothed the corners while polishing. I smoothed up the edges of the tenon and set the stem aside.

The first order of business was the cracked shank. Using a 1/64 drill bit, I drilled a hole at the end of the crack to stop its spread then filled the crack with clear supper glue.  Then I picked out the three putty fills and using a super glue and briar dust mixture, refilled the pits. Once cured I sanded the repair smooth.M4I steamed the dents out of the briar with a clothes iron applied to a wet cloth wrapped around the stummel – keeping away from the stampings and fingers.  I sanded the entire stummel up to the 3200 micro mesh then wipe down with alcohol before I stained.  In this case I tried to match the original color with several coats of different browns aniline dyes.

Before reassembling I decide to remove the factory bowl coat and leave it bare briar. Then I wiped the whole outside of the pipe with mineral oil and set it aside for twelve hours before taking to the buffer.  The oil seems to hydrate the briar and brings out a nice shine when waxed.  I first buff with red diamond, wipe off the residue with a soft cotton cloth then apply three coats of carnauba wax giving the pipe a little rest between each coat.

The bent bulldog is one of my favorite shapes and I love the horn stem.  I’m not sure when I will get around to breaking it in.  It might just stay unsmoked for a while.M5 M6 M7 M8