Tag Archives: repairing an overturned stem

A WDC Bakelite/Briar Pipe like none I have seen before

Blog by Steve Laug

When my brother sent me this pipe I have to say I was surprised and enamored with it. I have cleaned up a lot of WDC pipes over the years and have come to really like them. There is something about them that always gets my attention. The workmanship is generally well done. The materials used are good quality. The briar always tends to have some flaws and is never perfect. But there is something about the brand that I like. Well this pipe is an oddity to me. It is a shape that is similar to some of the CPF pipes I have cleaned up and the combination of briar, brass and Bakelite it really nicely done. The first difference is that this one has a flat rectangular shank and saddle stem. The Bakelite base is rounded and flows into the flattened shank and stem. The stem is also Bakelite or Redmanol as the case may be. It is a rich reddish colour that is translucent and the light really plays with. The second difference is that in a lot of this style pipe the threaded connector and bottom of the bowl is metal. On this one it is white porcelain. When the bowl is removed the threaded connector is also porcelain – a single porcelain unit from the cupped bottom of the bowl to the connector. Those two differences intrigued me.WDC1There is a brass spacer between the base and the briar bowl and at some time in its life the spacer had been reversed and the sharper edges scarred the bowl. The Bakelite is actually notched to receive the sharp turned down edges of the spacer. The bowl had lots of dents and scars – character marks that I wish could talk and tell the story of the travels of this old pipe. The brass rim had long since come loose and was easily removed but for some reason never disappeared as it clung to the rim of the pipe. In the next photo you can see the rim top and the porcelain bottom of the bowl… it almost looks like the old milk glass that my grandmother collected.WDC2After looking at the two pictures above that came from my brother I was looking forward to seeing the pipe in person. When it arrived and I finally took it out to work on it was all that I had expected. The stem was over clocked so that would need to be addressed but I lined things up and took the next set of photos to show what the pipe looked like after my brother did an amazing job cleaning it. (It is great to have him work with me – it really speeds up the process on the restoration. He reams and cleans the pipes and does the dirty work of reaming and removing the debris of the years.) I looked it over to see if there were identifying marks. What I thought was brass may all be what is stamped on the right side of the band – 14K Gold Plated. The left side of the band bears the inverted WDC triangle logo.WDC3 WDC4I took a close up photo of the rim top to show the dents, scratches and scars on the surface. The photo also shows the porcelain cup in the bottom of the bowl. It has three round air holes for directing the smoke into the bottom chamber and into the stem.WDC5I dismantled the pipe to show the many parts that went into its construction. The photo below shows the broken down pipe.WDC6The next photos show the over clocked stem. (I had removed the loose band at this point in the process.) Once the base was screwed onto the stem it was grossly overturned. The metal tenon was set in the stem so it would need to be heated to be able to repair this.WDC7I heated the metal tenon with a lighter and once the glue softened I was able to align the stem and shank very easily. Underneath the band the number 43 had been scratched into the Bakelite shank. I am not sure if that is the shape number or if it is the “autograph” of the assembler of the pipe. Either way it is something that remained hidden for many years. WDC8I set the base aside and worked on the bowl. I removed the rim cap and cleaned off the glue that remained behind on the top of the bowl. It was rough and I was thinking that it was reason that the cap was no longer smooth. I scrubbed out the glue residue in the inside of the rim cap as well with alcohol and cotton swabs. I used a flat blade screw driver to smooth out the interior flat surface of the cap. I wiped down the bowl with acetone to remove the remnants of the finish and then glued the rim cap back in place with an all-purpose glue. I polish the rim with some micromesh and metal polish. I decided to leave some of the dents and dings as to me it gave the pipe character.WDC9 WDC10I cleaned the surface of the Bakelite base and sanded the whole base with micromesh sanding pads from 1500-12000 grit. I rubbed the base down with Obsidian Oil several times throughout the process to give the micromesh some bite as I polished the base. WDC11WDC12I gave the internals a quick clean with alcohol and cotton swabs to remove any of the sanding dust that might have found its way into the bowl base and shank. I also cleaned the airway in the stem at the same time with alcohol and pipe cleaners.WDC13I roughened the area on the base that would be underneath the band to give the glue something to bind to. I used an all-purpose glue and applied it sparingly to the shank. I had previously polished the band with metal polish to remove any tarnish and give it a shine. I pressed it in place and laid the base aside for the glue to set.WDC14I cleaned the inside of the space plate with alcohol and cotton swabs to remove the debris of the years. The spacer appeared not to have been glued in place so I left it that way. I polished it with micromesh sanding pads 1500-4000 grit until it gleamed. I laid it aside until I was ready to put the pipe back together.WDC15I turned my attention to the stem. There were some light tooth marks on the underside of the stem near the button. I sanded these out with 220 grit sandpaper. I wet sanded the stem with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads. I wiped the stem down with a damp cotton pad and dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I gave the stem a final wipe down with the damp pad.WDC16 WDC17 WDC18With the stem finished and the glued band dried I put the base and stem back together. I would still need to buff the entirety with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel.WDC19WDC20I used a medium brown stain pen to stain the bowl. I heated the briar and then applied the stain with the pen. I repeated the staining until the coverage was smooth and even.WDC21I gave the bowl several coats of Conservator’s Wax and hand buffed it to raise the shine with a microfibre cloth.WDC22WDC23With all the parts finished I took a final photo of the bowl and the base before putting it back together.WDC24I buffed the completed pipe with Blue Diamond to polish out some of the scratches in the base and the stem. I was not able to remove all of them so I left a few behind to tell the story. I gave the pipe several coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. I am really pleased with the finished pipe and how it looks. Thanks for looking.WDC25 WDC26 WDC27 Wdc28 WDC29 WDC30 WDC31 WDC32