Tag Archives: repairing a damaged tenon

New Life for a Barling’s Garnet Grain Oval Shank 9001 Bent Billiard

Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the work table was purchased on Ebay in 2017 and came to us from Latgale, Latvia. The pipe is smooth, nicely grained Bent Billiard pipe with an oval shank and an acrylic, saddle stem. The pipe is stamped on left side of the shank and reads Garnet Grain. On the right side of the shank it is stamped England. On the underside of the shank it is stamped with the shape number 9001. The stem has the Barling Cross logo on the top of the saddle. There was a lot of grime and dust ground into the smooth finish. The bowl had been reamed before we bought and to be honest if had been smoked at all it had maybe had a half a bowl run through it. The inside and outside edges of the crowned rim top looked to be in excellent condition other than the grit and grime of the years. The acrylic stem was in excellent condition with minor scratches but no tooth marks. Jeff took some photos of the pipe before he started his cleanup work.   He took a photo of the rim top, bowl and stem to give a clear picture of the condition of the pipe. The condition of the rim top and edges is very visible. The photos of the stem show that other than the light scratches in the acrylic it was in excellent condition. He took a photo of the heel of the bowl to give a clear picture of the condition of the pipe and the grain that was shining through. He took photos of the stamping on the sides of the shank. It is clear and readable as noted above.  He removed the stem from the shank and revealed several issues. The first is that the stem and tenon is drilled for a filter. The second issues is that there is a large piece of acrylic missing on the top side of the tenon.  I turned to Pipephil’s site (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-barling.html) to see if I could find a listing that had the same or similar stamping on the pipe. The stamping is similar to the one I am working on other than the shape number. The pipe that I am working on has the shape number 9001 on the underside shank. Garnet Grain and on the right side England. I am pretty sure that the one I have is significantly newer and does not have the Barling stamp on the shank and merely reads England. It does have the Barling cross on the stem top.Pipedia gives a great history of the brand (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Barling) that is well worth reading. I am pretty sure that it is newer but I have no way of proving that for certain but that is my guess. Now it was time to work on the pipe itself.

This one has a back story that is a bit embarrassing. This morning on Facetime, Jeff and I sorted through some bowls that we had in Idaho and here in Vancouver. Between us we had around 50-70 stemless bowls. The majority of them were here in Vancouver. My box had 50+ bowls that I have accumulated over the years. Going through them with Jeff, I was not sure why I had kept most of them. They really were worthless and in varying degrees of disrepair. Some of them had broken shanks and others had cracked bowls and shanks. We pitched the majority of them (which is very hard for us to do if you have known us for very long!). Here is where the story gets dicey for us! We had pitched this bowl into the garbage. It had a large shank and was without a stem. Later in the morning I was going through my assortment of stems trying to find stems for the bowls that we had kept. In the bottom of one of the bags I came across an oval Barling stem that was made for a filter and had a chip out of the tenon. I wrote Jeff and asked if he had any photos of a Barling Garnet Grain with a stem. He immediately sent me the above photos that linked the stem I had found with the bowl. I took the bowl out of the trash and tried the stem on it. They fit together perfectly. I  was a bit embarrassed and was totally unclear how the parts had been separated. With that background I decided to work on it.

Jeff had cleaned up the pipe with his usual penchant for thoroughness. He reamed the pipe with a PipNet pipe reamer and removed the rest of it with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife.  He scrubbed the bowl with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap with a tooth brush. He rinsed it under running warm water to remove the soap and grime. He cleaned out the inside of the shank and the airway in the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He soaked the stem in Before & After Deoxidizer and rinsed it off with warm water. I took photos of the pipe once I received it. The stamping on the right and left topside of the shank is clear and readable and reads as noted above.  I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads and wiped down the bowl after each sanding pad.  I rubbed the bowl and shank down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the bowl sides and shank with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I let the balm sit for 15 minutes and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The Balm did its magic and the grain stood out.   I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I started by rebuilding the chipped and damaged tenon. I greased a pencil with Vaseline and inserted it in the tenon. I mixed a batch of charcoal powder and black super glue to great a paste.  I applied the paste to the chipped tenon using a dental spatula to fill in the damaged area. I sprayed the repair with an accelerator and once it was cured I used a rasp to remove the excess repair. I reshaped the tenon on the outside with a Dremel and sanding drum and on the inside with a small round needle file. I also created an adapter to convert the stem from a filter stem to a regular stem. It was removable so that it could still be smoked with a filter.Once the reshaping was complete on the tenon I inserted the adapter in place and smooth out the tenon repair to make the tenon round once more.  The acrylic stem was in great condition so I did not need to polish it with micromesh pads. I did a quick buff on the Blue Diamond wheel and the shine came alive. I touched up the Barling Cross logo on the stem with Liquid Paper and worked it into the stamping. I buffed it off with a cotton pad. The product brought the stamping that remained to clear readability. This beautifully grained Barling’s Garnet Grain 9001 Bent Oval Shank Bent Billiard is a great looking pipe now that it has been restored. The briar is clean and really came alive. The rich reddish brown coloured stain gave the grain a sense of depth with the polishing and waxing. The grain really popped. I put the acrylic stem back on the bowl and carefully buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel using a light touch on the briar. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished Barling’s Bent Oval Shank Bent Billiard is a beauty and feels great in the hand and looks very good. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 53grams/1.90oz.Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. There are many more to come!


Giving New Life and Stem Alignment to a Made in London England Diplomat

Blog by Dal Stanton

When I put this pipe in the For “Pipe Dreamers” Only! online collection, I identified it as a Squat Apple. It came to me from the lot my son helped me to procure from an antique shop in St. Louis.  When Andy chose this as his next pipe after commissioning the probable Preben Holm Danish Freehand which I just finished restoring (See: Recommissioning a Mysterious Freehand, Made in Denmark – Preben Holm?) I fished it out of the ‘Help Me!’ basket and put it on the table and the ‘Squat Apple’ sort of fit, but not quite.  Volcano?  No, too rounded.  Here are the pictures of the ‘Squat Apple’ that got Andy’s attention. The only markings are found on the lower side of the oval shank, MADE IN LONDON [over] ENGLAND.  Below the COM is what I assume is a shape number, ‘140’.   Not a lot to go on to determine origins.The ‘Squat Apple’ wasn’t sitting well with me so I looked at Bill Burney’s great Pipe Shapes Chart on Pipedia and found the shape classification that worked better – Diplomat.  Interestingly, my ‘Squat Apple’ designation was used by Bill Burney to describe the Diplomat.  I clipped the panel to show the description of the Diplomat:The English Diplomat now on my worktable is not a bad looking pipe but has a few issues.  The Diplomat’s chamber has a thick layer of cake and the lava flow on the rim is thick – it needs some cleaning as well as the stummel.The after section of the rim reveals the darkening of the briar that has been scorched through the lighting practices of the former steward.As the following three pictures show, the stummel is darkened from grime and oils on the surface.  You can see some very nice grain lurking beneath.  There are also dings and scratches on the stummel from normal wear. The acrylic stem is attractive, but I’m guessing that it’s a replacement stem.  My first observation looked like the stem simply didn’t fit with a wobble and gaps showing between the shank and stem facings.  When I removed the stem the acrylic tenon was stuck in the mortise and not attached to the tenon.  It didn’t take much to dislodge the rogue tenon but after inserting it into the tenon and trying the fit again, the wobble and looseness is evident and if I’m able to reattach the acrylic tenon and keep the stem facing flush with the shank facing before the CA glue sets, it should do well.I then noticed the darkened airway through the translucent acrylic.  As I suspected, after inserting a pipe cleaner into the airway from the shank side, I discover that there is blockage in the stem. In the picture below, I’ve placed my fingers roughly where the inserted pipe cleaner stops and the blockage begins.  This can be a pain!  The following picture with the slot view shows blockage very near to the opening.I decide to try to ‘bull’ through the blockage with a pipe cleaner and to my surprise, the pipe cleaner was able to break through and not a lot of gunk came out.  Good to go.Before moving toward re-attaching the tenon to the acrylic stem, I’ll first do the cleaning.  I’m trying a ‘Soft-Scrub-like’ product we have here in Bulgaria called Cif brand to try to clean the darkened internal airway.  The label describes micro-crystals and a bleach component as the active agents.  I’m using Jeff Laug’s recommendations from his blog (Got a filthy estate pipe that you need to clean?).Holding the translucent acrylic stem up to the light provides a good Xray of the airway and how it’s darkened.  We’ll see how much the cleaning removes the internal buildup and lightens the airway. I go to work with the Cif product and start by using bristled pipe cleaners dipped in Cif to begin breaking up the tars and oils that have crusted inside the airway. At first there was no noticeable progress except for the darker discoloration of the pipe cleaners which meant something was happening.  I add after the pipe cleaners shank brushes.  I transferred the shank brushes, Cif and stem to the kitchen sink where using hot water, I continued the cleaning with the Cif and brushes.  At this point, progress was evident.  A combination of the brushes and cleaner AND the hot water helps break down the crud.Back to the worktable, the follow-up light Xray shows the results.  Nice!  I move on.I put the stem aside and move to the stummel cleaning before I start on the repairs to the stem and tenon.  Not only do I prefer working on cleaned pipes, but often the cleaning process can change the mortise environment because we are working with wood.  Cleaning often loosens tenon fittings.  So, before moving to more permanent repairs, it’s a good principle to get the cleaning done first.  Looking again at the chamber, the cake is moving from moderate to thick cake.  Using the Pipnet Reaming Kit I start with the smallest blade head and end up using 3 of the 4 blade heads available in the Kit. The Savinelli Fitsall Tool works well to follow by doing fine-tune scraping of the chamber walls.  I complete the cleaning by wrapping 240 grade paper around a Sharpie Pen which provides the leverage as I sand the chamber to remove the final vestiges of carbon cake to expose fresher briar to have a clean start. After wiping the chamber with a cotton pad wetted with alcohol to clean the carbon dust, I take a picture as I examine the chamber walls for heating damage.  All looks great. Moving now to the external cleaning of the stummel, I employ undiluted Murphy’s Oil soap on a cotton pad to scrub the surface and rim covered by lava flow.  In the immediate picture below, the sharp-edged pocketknife is helpful to remove the caked crusting.  You can see the progress being made as the blade is carefully scraping the rim top without cutting into the wood.  After the knife edge, the brass bristled brush cleans the rim further without damaging the wood.After working on the rim and stummel surface, I take the stummel to the kitchen sink using hot water and clean the internals using shank brushes and anti-oil dish soap liquid.  After thoroughly rinsing the stummel with water, back on the worktable a picture records the present cleaning state.Again, focusing on the internals, now using cotton buds and pipe cleaners wetted with isopropyl 95%, cleaning continues.  Also employed is a dental spoon to scrape the mortise walls – which produces very little.  A shank brush wetted with isopropyl 95% is used saving on pipe cleaners.  When the pipe cleaners and buds start emerging lighter and cleaner, I call this phase completed to be continued later using a kosher salt and alcohol soak.Now looking again at the tenon repair of the acrylic stem.  The tenon that was part of the Diplomat was not attached and since it’s not, fitting it to see how it will work is not easy – it shifts and moves.  The first two pictures below show the result when I insert the tenon tightly into the stem cavity to test it out.  The first picture is from the top perspective.  Notice that the stem is offset to the right (top of the picture) so that the stem is overhanging on the top and the shank is overhanging the bottom of the picture.Now looking at the underside of the fit, the offset is augmented by the gapping that is evident.Not only do the pictures reveal the seating difficulties of the tenon, but the drilling through the tenon for the airway is not centered.  This has potential challenges on at least two fronts.  First, it potentially creates a hang-up lip as pipe cleaners are pushed through.  This is not huge as usually simply twisting the pipe cleaner in the airway solves this hindrance.  Secondly, is that if the tenon needs to be expanded, I will not use the heating method to expand it.  The reason for this is that the offset drilling has created a very thin wall of acrylic which will probably split if expansion is attempted.  The alternative will be to simply paint the exterior of the tenon with acrylic clear polish or CA glue.  This builds out the tenon circumference.As I was fiddling with the tenon trying to figure out the best approach, another issue surfaced.  On a hunch, the question came to mind, ‘Is the acrylic stem facing flat?’  I took out the chopping board that serves as a topping board and I placed the stem facing flat against it.  I discover that there is a dance in it – a microscopic rocking.  Just to be on the safe side for comparison, I also place the shank facing down on the board and find that its rock solid. You can see from the second picture the culprit looks to be around the airway – old glue protruding.  I decide to address this straight away by placing 240 grade paper on the board and ‘top’ the stem facing to flatten it – carefully!  Instead of rotating like I would if it were a stummel being topped, I drag laterally along the paper.  After a few ‘drags’ on the topping board, another test on the flat chopping board is much better.  The stem facing is now flush with no rocking.I again do a test fitting with the unglued tenon in place, reengage the stem to bring the facings flush.  To see if a pipe cleaner would snag on the tenon, I insert one through without problem.If I can glue the tenon and achieve this much, I’ll be satisfied.  Sanding can address the overhangs where the shank and stem do not line up.A lot of time has elapsed thinking and testing, now it’s time for action!  I use BSI Extra Thick Maxi-Cure CA glue.  Using a piece of 240 grade sanding paper, I sand the part of the tenon that will be inserted into the mortise.  I want it round and smooth. After cleaning the area with alcohol, I place a small amount of glue around the circumference of the tenon just above where the tenon will be inserted into the mortise.  In this way I hope to avoid glue getting into the airway on the end of the tenon. Yet, I don’t put a lot of glue on it to avoid CA glue being forced out the top onto the stem facing.  After placing the glue, I insert the glued part of the tenon partially into the stem cavity and then insert the mortise side of the tenon into the mortise and engage the parts.  In this way, while the glue is still pliable, the tenon gives way to the flush orientation of the shank and stem facings. After doing this, I leave the pipe for several minutes allowing the CA glue to cure and hopefully hold the tenon in place! I’m hopeful for a solid and snug seating. I decide to move forward with working on the acrylic stems button.  The top button lip has been compressed on the left side and the lower lip has also been chewed.  The tooth compressions on both upper and lower sides need filling. I use regular CA glue combined with an accelerator.  Starting on the topside and apply CA to the problem areas – also on the lip to build it.  I do the same for the lower bit and button lip.  With each application of CA glue, I use the accelerator to hold the patch in place and cure the glue more rapidly. I next use a flat needle file to file the CA glue patches over the tooth compressions down to the stem surface on both the upper and lower bit.  I file and shape the button repair as well.To remove the scratches left by the file, 240 grade paper is used on the bit and button but also on the whole stem.Focusing the sanding on the junction now, I sand out the edges that were hanging over the shank and stem facings.  I first cover the nomenclature with masking tape to protect it. The sanding moves around the circumference of the junction and I like the way the stem and shank now are in alignment and the union is flush.Next, I wet sand the entire stem with 600 grade sanding paper and follow with applying 000 steel wool. I’m on a roll with the stem, which I normally like to get out of the way so I can work on the stummel!  Next, I apply the full battery of 9 micromesh pads to the acrylic stem.  First, I wet sand using pads 1500 to 2400 and follow by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  Even though I don’t believe it makes a difference but seems to enrich the acrylic surface.  I love the pop of the stem – almost luminescent. After reuniting stem and Diplomat stummel, I get a sense of where things are.  I’m liking what I see!  While the stem was probably not the original, I like the combination and thinking now about how to finish the bowl to take advantage of the striking hues of the acrylic stem. At this point, if the micromesh process brings out the grain well and there is no nuanced lightening of the wood on the shank where the major sanding was, I’ll leave it in the natural briar state.  If there is indication that the shank sanding stands out, I’ll apply a stain.  The briar patterns are very nice – time to bring it out!Next, to freshen the rim and to remove the darkened old finish, I take the stummel to the topping board.Not much is needed – only a cosmetic topping.  With the stummel inverted on 240 grade paper, I give the stummel a few rotations to clean things up.Then switching to 600 grade paper, the stummel is rotated several more times.With the rim refreshed, sanding sponges will address the tired finish on the bowl and the normal nick and dents.  I see no major issues to address on the stummel surface – no fills.With the ‘Made in London, England’ covered by masking tape to protect it, I make sure that the sanding sponges address the shank area well.  I want to blend the lightened area that was sanded.  Using a coarse sanding sponge to do the initial heavy sanding, it removes the minor nicks and old tired finish.  After using the coarse sponge, I remove the masking tape covering the nomenclature for the application of the medium and light graded sponges.  The sponges are not rough enough to impact the nomenclature which is healthy.To fine tune further, the full set of micromesh pads are applied by first wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400.  Following this, dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000 bring out the grain which is beautiful. On a roll, and very enthused by the richness of the honey brown hue emerging and the detailed grain, I apply Mark Hoover’s product (www.ibepen.com), Before & After Restoration Balm which does a great job teasing out the deeper natural hues of the briar.  With some Balm on my fingers, I work it into the briar well and then set it aside for about 20 minutes for the Balm to be absorbed by the wood.  I then wipe off the excess with a cotton cloth dedicated to this and then buff the stummel with microfiber cloth.The day is coming to its close and I continue the internal cleaning using a kosher salt and alcohol soak.  This further cleans as well as freshens the bowl for the new steward.  I first fashion a ‘wick’ by stretching and twisting a cotton ball which is then inserted into the mortise and airway with the help of a stiff wire.  This wick helps to draw out the tars and oils from the internal chamber walls.I then fill the chamber with kosher salt which does not leave an aftertaste and place the bowl in an egg carton for stability.Using an eyedropper, isopropyl 95% fills the chamber until it surfaces over the salt.  After a few minutes the alcohol is absorbed, and the alcohol is topped off.  I let the soak work on the cleaning through the night.The next morning the salt and wick are soiled revealing the added cleaning of the chamber and mortise.  After dumping the expended salt and wiping the chamber with paper towel, I blow through the mortise to loosen and remove salt crystals remaining.To make sure all is clean, I follow with some pipe cleaners and cotton buds.  This is a good step in the cleaning process because the dirty pipe cleaners revealed that the airway was still in need of more cleaning.  After more pipe cleaners wetted with isopropyl 95%, the pipe cleaners were emerging cleaner and lighter.  I declare after a time, ‘Clean!’ and I move on.After reuniting the stem and stummel and mounting a cotton cloth buffing wheel on the Dremel, setting the speed at about 40%, the fine abrasive Blue Diamond is applied to the entire pipe.  After completing this, I use a felt cloth to buff the pipe to remove compound dust in preparation for applying the wax.Finally, after changing to another cotton cloth buffing wheel, carnauba wax is applied to the pipe and I after this, I give the pipe a hand buffing using a microfiber cloth to raise the shine.The grain on this Made in London England Diplomat is superb.  I’m extremely pleased with the repair to the acrylic stem.  It is now beautifully seated in the mortise, straight balanced and snugly secure.  The waves in the acrylic pop and the Diplomat shape, with the broad heal, makes for a very nice feel in the palm.  Andy from Maryland commissioned this English Diplomat and will have the first opportunity to acquire him in The Pipe Steward Store.  This pipe benefits the Daughters of Bulgaria.  Thanks for joining me!

A No-Account, Son-of-a-Gun, Sorry Excuse for a Bent Billiard

Guest Blog by Robert M. Boughton
Member, North American Society of Pipe Collectors
Photos © the Author

“Pipes are like dogs: the smokin‘ man’s best friend. Why, you can cuss at ’em, shout out loud about the state of the world to ’em, carry on all you like ’til yer blue in the face an‘ sore in the jaw about how great the whole place would be if only you was in charge, heck, even put ’em out of mind and ignore ’em altogether…for a while. In fact, a perfectly good, loyal pipe, same as an old coonhound, will even put up with a might mess of outright scandalous behavior an‘ never even consider turnin‘ on you – say, like as if the dog was to chomp off yer ignorant head or the pipe up an‘ went to dumpin‘ hot, burnin‘ ash in yer lap all on its own…But Heaven help the man that treats either his pipe or dog like garbage to be thrown in the dumpster or a bug to be stomped on. He’ll end up with a companion called Cujo if it doesn’t find a better master in time to escape. The pipe or the dog, that is.”
― The Author, in “Musings of a Mind Bored Silly by a Roommate with ADHD Who Just Doesn’t Know the Meaning of Silence Is Bliss,” today

My friend, Phil, he’s a heck of a nice guy. He’s a real big fella – six-three, 280 pounds or right there in the ballpark – and one of the smartest dudes you could ever meet. Now by smart I’m not implicating he’s got some big old stuffy nansy-pansy degree from any of your fancy-schmancy Poison Ivy Universities, with a capital U, back east somewheres, or anyplace else, for all that matters. What would he need with some piece of paper, outside of hangin it one of his walls? Now that’s the day I’d like to see! And if he was the type to frame up a piece of paper all marked with gibberish scrawling like the tests I used to get back from my teachers when I was just a young buck, where do you suppose he’d hang it? I’ll tell you, I will! Right in the throne room, direct across from where he’d be sitting to ponder what the heck good it does him, and other earth-shaking notions and such.

No, boy! Phil’s smarts are part on account of he was born that way, with a genius IQ is my guess, and the other part from all the books and fancy magazines he reads. Plus old Phil, why, he never watches regular TV; doesn’t even own one, not counting this huge thin flat monster that rightly belongs on a wall like I’ve seen at some of the old-timey stores you can still find at the mall, only he connects it to his computer with nary a cord somehow, and that’s how he likes it. Hooks it up to his little old lap computer right through the air with what he calls Wi-Fi and something else that goes by Blue Teeth or Blue Fairy or whatever. Anyhow, whatever kind of magic it is he does to make all this confounded tech-nol-o-gy happen that bring all of his gadgets, not just the TV monster but his walk-around pocket phone and even this genuine Made in China nineteen-hundred and seventies-era Ghetto Blaster he has, work together – well, it’s something else, and how! Why, it’s like he’s at Carnegie Hall in New York City, or at least that’s what I hear tell. Personally, I went to the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville once when I was a kid, and that was good enough for me.

Now, to get to the meat and potatoes of this little fireside story, my friend Phil, he’s a good man, and he’s also one heck of a carpenter. When it comes to woodwork, why, there aint a thing he doesn’t know about all the woods ever grown, and how to build a custom home, with balloon walls and the works, from the ground up – and up and up – and pretty much all by himself. He’s as comfortable with his tools, from his cat’s paw and level to a pettibone, as he is with his own big mitts. And when it comes to the strength and soundness of the whole enchilada, Phil just pretends to listen to all the back-seat drivers, even if it’s the new owner! And you can bet all the money in your sock old Phil won’t take any guff from some pissant, oil-palmed CCI snagger with his eyes out for left-over parts to pilfer more than finding any real faults with the job. Yessir, Phil knows his stuff, from cripples to “A” Braces, trimmers, bearing walls and joists. But…

Ain’t there always a but? Well, Phil’s but is that for all he knows about wood and carpentry, he doesn’t have a bull pucket of a clue about restoring tobacco pipes, even if it’s a fair shake he could whip one up that would be right-on engineering-wise and even show his own, one-of-a-kind style. He’s even told me a few of his ideas, and they sound pretty clever and original. Only, as far as using a wood that wouldn’t give him rashes or boils or even the Big C, and staining the shapely wonder with something other than a nice, thick, shiny, Chinese-style lacquer that would leave the wood Code Red as far as breathing goes, he’s, well, clueless. And then there’s all the taking care not to forget to tuck it away all safe and sound instead of setting it on his work table with all of his sandpapers and rasps and drill bits and other implements of construction that are, what you might say, not Kosher to keep around a frail work of art, plus dropping it and all around banging the thing every chance he gets.

To put it nice, Phil is pretty dang bullheaded when it comes to thinking he can do, make or fix anything, and what’s more, that he’s better than the experts that are here to do it right. And he wouldn’t budge when I suggested he must have had something to do with the billiard’s condition when I got a gander of it. He held to the story that he had nothing to do with it; never touched it, he said, other than smoking it. So I’m sure you all can use whatever cents you had to rub together when you were born and come up with a notion of how dramatic it was for him to – well, ask ain’t the right word – oh, snap! He intimidated that he could use “some advice” on how to fix this no-name, no country but probably Italian bent billiard. Okay, okay, I’m a nice guy, too, and I knew what he was driving at, so when he said it was one of the first pipes I gave him and I said I made it myself, I didn’t want to be rude, but I almost couldn’t help it. One thing is, I’ve never made a pipe in my life nor said I did, even if I have plans to soon; I even bought a nice square block of walnut with grain that’s the bomb and is big enough for two pipes. I figure I’ll go vertical with both of them, seeing as how once I cut it in half I’ll be all-in one way or the other. Anyways, to get back to what I was saying, the other thing is, I did finish a few pre-formed pipes I got my hands on and even made them look pretty smart, if I say so myself, but this here bent billiard wasn’t one of them, no way, no how.

So Phil, he hands the thing to me, and from the second he picks it up from the Blitzkrieg debris that his apartment was full of that day, I saw it was totally FUBAR. I mean, it looked like it was all that could be dug from the rubble of some poor Englishman’s former place of commode during the Battle of Britain after a buzz bomb attack where one of those nasty suckers stopped its buzzing and fell out of the night sky right through his roof before it went off. Okay, so maybe I’m exaggerating, but you get the picture. I’ll tell you, the real shocker to me was that Phil had somehow let this happen when he took real good care of all the other pipes I remembered giving him, including a su-weet, smooth Peterson Aran B11 Bent Brandy I fixed up from my collection and gave to him on his birthday or something after he’d developed a real taste for pipe tobacco. I threw in a sleeve, and he’s kept it the same as the day I gave it to him.Phil1 Back to the sad billiard, while I’m turning it in my hands, forced to admire the almost total stripping of the wax I told myself had to be there when and if I actually gave him the once proud pipe, not to mention the unbelievable uniformity of scratches all over it that – I kid you not – looked to me to be the work of a man with a careful if twisted plan, Phil even uses that word, plan, just as I’m thinking it! I would have jumped if the awfulness of the billiard’s deformities hadn’t already made me numb all over, like. Here’s my favorite angle.Phil2 Phil’s going on how he has some plans for it, like re-staining it some special, unknown color and yada-yada-yada, but he’s real quiet like he never gets unless he’s embarrassed and wants to ask a favor, which he doesn’t ever quite get around to doing. Well, I wasn’t born yesterday, and I just keep it in hand until I’m set to leave, and then I ask him all casual, “Hey, Phil, mind if I hold onto this to look it over some more?” And of course he just has to put on like he doesn’t want to, when that was the plan all along, but in the end I walked out the door with the mysterious, thrashed pipe still in my hand.








Phil10 I really like three of the things you’ll notice in the first of those photographs: the peculiar piece of cork used for some reason I won’t go into, the chamber chock-full of some leaf and the little improvised piece of paper on the tenon to make it fit right like it did when he got it (whoever gave it to him in the first place).

First off I scooped out all the stuff in the chamber and peeled away the sticky paper on the tenon. Without the paper, here’s a good general idea of how it looked.Phil11 Now I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t abide with that ghostly remnant of stain, so I set to stripping all of it down to the bone and soaking the bit in an OxiClean bath.Phil12 I took the wood out of the Everclear after a couple of hours and saw it still need some help removing the old stain. I used 500-grit paper and made the bowl and shank a little better.Phil13




Phil17 And back to the stem for a minute. For a number of reasons, it clearly didn’t fit the shank, and so the motive behind the cover-up with paper. The OxiClean didn’t do much other than get rid of a whole lot of dirt and other mess inside and out, but this is a better view of the tenon and how someone had undercut it at the bottom and generally made a mess of the whole try at making it fit right in the shank. I suppose Phil had nothing to do with that, too.Phil18

Phil19 Other than replacing the whole stem, a plan I wasn’t keen on seeing as how it was going to be for free, I figured I could mend it another way. I sanded it all over with 200-grit paper before putting the 400 to it and micro-meshing as far as I could go, from 1500-12000. With that a done deal, I put a liberal amount of Black Super Glue on the tenon, most of it on the undercut part, to make it all even again.Phil20 Meanwhile, back to the bowl and shank. The stripping ferreted out more cover-up: the front of the pipe, no big surprise considering it wasn’t proud enough of the results to put a name to it or even the country it came from, had a nice little weed-like patch of holes that needed wood putty.Phil21

Phil22 Since I had some time on my hands while the putty and Black Super Glue finished drying, I smoked my own pipe for a spell. Actually it was one heck of a long spell. But it came to an end, like everything else in this life.

I smoothed the putty real gentle with the old 12000 micromesh and used a brown indelible marker, then an orange one, to make it look a little more natural. Then I put just a thin coat of regular Super Glue over that. I had to get out of my place anyway, so while it dried I did some errands. Heck, yeah, even I have errands to run.

What with the swamp cooler on full-blast, by the time I got home again the Super Glue was good and hard and ready for a smoothing of its own. This time I needed something a little rougher and settled on 3200 micromesh with a respectful light touch. And I’ll be darned if it didn’t just do the trick! The rest of the wood I went the whole nine yards micro-meshing.

One of the ideas Phil had for doing it himself was to use a “different” color. After thinking on it a while, I came up with a mix of Lincoln Marine Cordovan and Fiebing’s brown boot stains – don’t ask me what was going through my head because I don’t remember. Anyways, it worked nice enough, so I flamed it and let it sit to cool before using the 3200 again to clear off the char.Phil23





Phil28 Alright, now, hold your water! I know it! The front view here shows a need for more attention, which you’ll just have to trust me when I say I gave it because I forgot to snap a shot after. Also I sanded down the shank opening so the stem would meet it better.Phil29 Again, I know it’s not perfect, but this was for free and besides, Phil was starting to breathe down my neck to get it back. Finally I just buffed it up on the wheels with a few waxes.Phil30





Phil is happy with the job I did – and the replacement cork that fit.