Tag Archives: repairing a damaged stem

A Challenging Makeover for a GBD New Standard 9242 Rhodesian


Blog by Steve Laug

I finished the restoration work on Mark’s uncle’s pipes and a few of his own and sent them back to him in late January of this year. I wrote a blog on each of the restorations. They were a fun batch of pipes to restore for him. He sent me another package a few weeks ago that had just three pipes in it – A GBD Classic Straight Bulldog, a GBD 9242 Rhodesian (one of my holy grail pipes) and a long Churchwarden pipe. Each pipe had a different set of issues that would provide a variety of challenges. The Bulldog was in excellent condition other than the first ½ inch of the stem missing in chunks. The Churchwarden had a broken tenon stuck in the shank. By far the worst of the lot was the 9242 pipe. When I saw it in the bag I was excited. When I took it out of the bag I was saddened at the condition of the pipe. The bowl was dirty and there was some lava and rim darkening on the top. There were a few nicks in the edges of the bowl. The finish was dirty but the grain on the pipe was really nice. If I had stopped my observation at this point I would have been quite happy.

But to stop there would not begin to tell the story of the abuse carried out on this pipe. Someone (I cannot call them other than a hacker) had taken upon themselves to do a stem repair for a broken tenon and in doing so almost destroyed an otherwise nice looking stem. I think that it had a broken tenon so the hacker had pulled out the broken tenon from the shank. He had drilled out the end of the stem – so far so good right. If he had quit then it would have been good. But he did not. He found a piece of steel tubing and drilled out the mortise to fit it – but did so at an angle and hacked up the inside of the mortise. The stem itself was not only drilled but had been opened up even more to accommodate the tube. In fitting it in the stem he had cracked the stem on one side. Fortunately it appeared that it did not go all the way through. He then slopped glue – an amber looking goop, all around the sides of the scored tube and shoved it into the airway on the stem. It was not even close to straight. Then he smeared some of the same glue on top of the crack, wiped it off a bit and called it good. This poor pipe really was in awful condition.

When I wrote Mark to give him my assessment I laid out the issues on this pipe I think he must have laughed. He knew that once I saw it, because it was a shape that is on my hunt list, I would be hooked and have to try to fix it. He as much as said so in his email back to me. Sooo… here we go on that restoration project. The photos show the look of the pipe when it arrived in all of its tattered splendour. Note the beautiful grain on the bowl. It was a beautiful looking piece of briar. Note the stem damage and obvious angle of the stem in the shank. Note the repaired split in the stem. Note the tooth marks on the stem on both the top and underside on and in front of the button. This was a project for certain and I figured I could not really make things worse… but then again who knows. I took a close up photo of the rim top to show the general condition of the pipe. You can see the nicks in the briar rim top and on the inner edge. You can also see the fit of the stem to the shank as well as the tooth marks and damage to the stem from the “repair” that had been done to the stem.I took the stem off the bowl to show the metal tubular tenon on the stem end. It looks to me that the drilling out of the stem and the moving the tenon around in the stem caused the damage in the stem surface.I took photos of the end of the stem showing the tenon and the drilled out mortise in the shank. You can see the damage to both. The metal tenon is not totally round and it is heavily scored and damaged. The fit in the stem is crooked so there is no way to align the stem and the shank.I smoothed out the light damage on the rim top with 220 grit sandpaper and then with 1500-4000 grit micromesh sanding pads. I rubbed the bowl down with Before & After Restoration Balm to deep clean the briar and the smooth rim. The product works to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I hand rubbed it with my fingers and wiped it off with a soft cloth and buffed it with a shoe brush to polish it. The briar really began to have a rich shine. I took some photos of the bowl at this point to mark the progress in the restoration. I set the bowl aside and worked on the stem. I used a cotton swab to dribble acetone around the stem/tenon joint. I repeated that process for several weeks on a daily basis. I wanted to dissolve the epoxy that held the metal tenon in place in the stem. While it sat I filled in the damaged areas on the stem surface and the deep tooth marks in the top and underside of the stem at the button with black super glue and set the stem aside to dry. Once the glue had cured I sanded the repairs smooth with 220 grit sandpaper and blended them into the surface of the stem. There were still some small spots that needed work but overall it was starting to look better. I dribbled acetone into the area around the metal tenon every morning and evening after work. I was pretty certain that after a matter of time the epoxy would give way and I would be able to remove the tenon. I wiggled it daily with a pair of pliers to loosen it. This afternoon it finally came loose and I was able to remove it from the stem.With the metal tenon removed from the stem I was able to clean out the airway in the stem and the drilled out area of the stem. I used pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol to clean out the debris and tobacco oils.The replacement tenon was a little larger than the mortise and needed to be sanded down. I used a Dremel and sanding drum to reduce the diameter of the tenon. I also carefully sanded the face of the stem to smooth out the damage there, Once I had the fit correct in the shank I worked on anchoring it in the drilled out stem. I coated the threaded tenon with some thick gel glue and inserted it in the hole in the stem. I lined things up with a pipe cleaner in the airway and set the stem aside to dry. While the glue on the new tenon cured I cleaned up the inside of the mortise. I hand turned a drill bit that was the same size as the tenon slowly into the mortise to clean up the jagged drilling on the inside of the mortise. I turned it into the mortise to smooth out the misdrilling that had been done to fit the metal tenon. Once I was finished I sanded it lightly and then put the stem in the shank to have a look. The fit was pretty good at this point. Once the tenon had cured I worked on the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil after each micromesh pad. After I finished with the 12000 grit pad I gave it another coat of oil. I polished the stem down with Before & After Pipe Polish – Fine and Extra Fine. I finished by giving it one more coat of Obsidian Oil and put it aside. I put the stem back on the bowl and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave it several coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise a shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The repair on the right side of the stem is still visible and I will need to work on that a little bit more but the overall look and fit of the stem is far better than when I began on this project. It won’t take too much more work before it is ready to head back to Mark for his smoking pleasure. This is one of those pipes that suffered much at the hands of someone trying to repair something and actually making it worse. I think it is better than it was… thanks for looking.

Out Damn Spots – a C.P.F. Cromwell Double Vertical Stem Bent Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

Like other older C.P.F. pipes this one has some real charm. It is on the petite side of things – 4 ½ inches long and 1 ½ inches tall. It is not a bad piece of briar, a mix of grains. The silver collar on the shank is stamped with faux hallmarks and the C.P.F. in an oval logo. It is probably silver or at least plated but I am not sure. The stem is the unusual part of the mix. It has two silver plated spigot tenons that fit into openings in the silver collar. The twin stems merge into one single airway. Looking at it I could not wait to examine it and see what it looked like with the stem removed and what the mortise looked like. The finish was worn but the pipe looked like it still had some life in it. The left side of the shank is stamped in worn gold leaf C.P.F. in an oval over Cromwell in script. There is no other stamping on the bowl. The stem is also stamped on the left side and reads PURE RUBBER on the top stem and C.P.F. in an oval on the lower stem. This pipe is also from the virtual pipe hunt my brother and I did in Montana. He took photos of the pipe from a variety of angles to show the uniqueness and the condition.I did some digging online and found a WDC Marlborough that had a similar configuration though far more boxy. It did not have the elegance that the C.P.F. does in my opinion. Playing around with the mechanics of the smoke and how it flowed through the stem I examined the dual mortise and the way the stem was laid out. I fed a pipe cleaner through the stem and found that natural flow of the cleaner was from the button through the top of the stem and into the top mortise. I could plug the lower tenon and the air was unobstructed from tenon to button. When I plugged the upper tenon and blew air through it I could feel it against my fingertip and then it made its way out the lower tenon. The airflow seems to have flowed against my finger and back a short distance to an opening between the two stems and out. From that I figured out that the smoker draws smoke through the upper mortise and into the airway on the stem. It flows into the bottom stem and mortise (which is a sump like the Peterson System pipes have) where moisture is collected and the smoke exits up the lower stem and into the button and into the mouth of the smoker. In my online search I found a photo of the Marlborough with the airpath drawn out as I conceived it in my words above. I drew the same kind of pattern on the C.P.F. to show how it appeared from my experiments. Here is the link to the Marlborough;  http://pipesmagazine.com/forums/topic/wdc-marlborough-double-airway. I used the drawing on that link to draw in the airflow on the Cromwell that I have. You can see that in the diagram below.I did some more digging on the internet to see if could find any more information on the brand. I found that C.P.F. did a second dual stem pipe called the Lafayette. Both pipes had military style bits so both were pocket pipes. Was it possible that C.P.F. did a line of pipes in honour or military leaders and these were two of those? You had Cromwell – potentially Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector in England and Jean Lafayette, mercenary during the US Revolutionary War.The finish was very worn and there are a lot of scratches on the briar. I wonder if this little pipe was somebody’s pocket pipe and bumped against coin and whatever else was carried in the pocket of the pipe man who owned it. The bowl was caked and there was a lava overflow onto the rim top. There were some nicks and sandpits on the rim and the bottom of the bowl. My brother took photos of the stem and the mortise of the pipe. It is an unusual set up. The top portion of the twin stems fits in the mortise and the airway into the bowl is high at the bottom of that mortise. The second mortise for the lower portion of the stem is merely a dead space. It appears that the smoke came up the stem and circulated in the lower mortise before being drawn to the mouth of the smoker – perhaps it is a cooling system somewhat like the sump in Peterson System pipes. The twin ends of the stem are covered with a silver end mount and from the looks of the photos the pipe had been sitting for quite a while and cob webs had formed. The stem was oxidized for sure but something about the colour of the stem made me wonder what was happening with it. He did a lot of cleaning and scrubbing on this pipe and in the process we learned some interesting facts about the repair work that had been done on this pipe. The entire stem had been coated with what appeared to be a black paint. It was flaking and bubbling at the button end as can be seen in the photo above. The oxidized stem had some really strange patterns in the oxidation and there seem to be deep staining in spots on both the top and underside surfaces of the stem. On the topside there was a white repair that looked and felt like putty. The black paint had hidden that repair. Jeff had stripped the remaining finish off the dirty bowl, reamed the bowl and cleaned the rim top. The silver band on the shank looked better and the metal tenon ends on the military style tenons looked more brass than silver. He had cleaned out the two mortises and the airway into the bowl and the shank. Note the spotty appearance of the vulcanite stem. I took a close up photo of the rim top to show the condition of the surface and the damage on the right inner edge of the bowl. The bowl was out of round once he had removed the cake and the sandpits in the flat surface stood out.The next two photos I took show the condition of the stem. The stamping on it is very clear – Pure Rubber on the top stem and C.P.F. in an oval on the lower stem. I have not seen this spotty pattern in the oxidation before and I am wondering if in the process of the previous repair the repair guy did not damage the surface of the rubber. Note the putty fill as well. It is quite large.I used a dental pick to remove the putty fill and you can see from the photo below that it was quite large. It covered a large portion of the top and right side of the upper stem. I wiped the surface down with a damp cloth to remove the debris left behind by the putty in preparation for repairing the damage. I greased a pipe cleaner and put it in place in the airway in the stem so that it would not accidentally fill in from leakage of the repair. I mixed a batch of charcoal powder and black super glue putty and filled in the damaged area. I purposely overfilled it on the top to give me room to work. I carefully filled in the right side of the stem so as not to fill in the groove between the two parts of the stem. I put aside the stem so the repair could cure. Once the repair had dried I used a flat file to smooth out the ridges and peaks in the new surface. I sanded the repaired area with 180 and 220 grit sandpaper to further smooth it out and shape it.I wiped the stem down with a damp cloth and checked for air bubbles in the repair and areas that needed to be built up. I applied some more black super glue to the surface of the repair and smoothed it out with a dental spatula to ensure that all of the air bubbles had glue in them. I set the stem aside to dry.While the stem repair was curing I worked on the rim. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to work on the damage to the inner edge of the bowl. It took a bit of work to blend in the damaged areas and smooth them out. I filled in the sandpits with clear super glue. It did not take too long to cure so when it had hardened I sanded it smooth and blended it in with the rest of the rim top. I wiped the bowl down with alcohol on a cotton pad to clean off any debris left behind by my rim work and used some European Gold Rub n’ Buff to touch up the gold in the stamping on the shank. I applied the product and rubbed it into the stamping and wiped off the excess with a cotton pad. The next three photos show the fresh shank. By this time the stem repair had hardened and I sanded the surface with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth things out. I used a folded piece to smooth out the grooves between the upper and lower stems. The stem is looking much better but the reddish spots in vulcanite really looked odd to me. I wondered if I would be able to polish them out of if I was going to be stuck with them in the finished pipe. The finish on the bowl was rough and there were a lot of scratches and worn areas on the sides and bottom. I sanded out the ridges and as many of the deep scratches as possible with 320 grit sandpaper. In the photos below you can still see the scratches but the feel in the hand is much better and the bowl is beginning to look smoother. I sanded these marks smoother with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper and then polished the bowl with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanded with 3200-12000 grit pads. The next sequence of photos show the progress in smoothing and polishing the bowl. The stem still needed a lot of work. I shaped the repaired area and worked the surface over with 220 grit sandpaper to remove as much of the oxidation as I could. While it was definitely looking better the spotty areas were still visible. I still needed to polish the stem with micromesh pads to see how much more of the spotty surface I could clean. I also needed to finish polishing the silver tenon caps. I worked over the surface with 400 grit wet dry sand paper and 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads and still could not remove the stained spots on the rubber. I decided to try something different. I stained those spots of the stem with a black aniline stain to see if that would bring the red spots more in line with the rest of the stem. When the stain dried the spots were definitely better, but they still stood out. Time to go back to the sanding and polishing! I wet sanded it some more with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads. I still had those obnoxious spots present in the rubber. They were deep and it really appeared that I would not get them out. I sanded the stem some more to try to remove more of the damaged areas. It did not seem to matter how much I sanded the spots remained. I decided to try one more trick. I used a black Sharpie Pen to colour in the spotted areas. I let the ink dry. I was hoping that these Permanent Markers would actually be permanent and cover the spots. Once the ink had dried I lightly sanded it with 3200-12000 grit micromesh sanding pads. The black seemed to stay in the spots better than any of the other methods so far. Maybe I had some success but polishing would tell the story. The more I polished most of the coverage remained but there were still remnants of the spot in the vulcanite. I polished the metal tenon caps with micromesh sanding pads and finished polishing them with a jeweler’s cloth to remove any remaining tarnish.I lightly buffed the stem with carnauba wax and buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. I gave the bowl multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise a shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth. I put the parts back together and rebuffed it by hand. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The stem looks far better than when I first started but the spots still show through the polish. The pipe as a whole is a beautiful old piece of history. It does not look too bad for its age – over 125 years old. Thanks for walking through this restoration with me. It was a challenge and it was a pleasure to resurrect this old piece of tobacco history.