Tag Archives: repairing and over reamed bowl

Repairing an Over-Reamed Corn Cob Pipe

Blog by Greg Wolford

About three weeks ago I was contacted by fellow PSU member, and sometimes-contributor here, Astrid after she had an accident reaming a nice old corn cob pipe. Cob Pipe Pic.1

She had remembered reading about some work my grandson and I had done to a few of my cobs and was curious if I might be able to fix the chunk that had accidentally been removed when she was reaming her “Corn Dog”.  As you can see, it really is a nice old pipe, with a super (in my opinion) Bakelite stem; I was really looking forward to getting it in hand after seeing it.

As luck would have it, I have done several repairs of this type to different corn cob pipes, as well as using the general technique for everything from raising to bottom of bowls to repairing cracked bowls. So, I told her I would be happy to doctor the old cob up for her and she sent it out to me a few days later.

When the pipe arrived I had no idea of exactly what the extent of the damage was so I was anxious to see what the box from Canada held! I was pleasantly surprised to find a couple of old pipes to tinker with (and keep) as well as a generous gift of tobacco. At the bottom of the box I finally found the old pipe, and was happy to see it was just about what I’d hoped it would be: Nothing too difficult! Here are a few photos of the rim damage:Old Cob (1)_edited-1Old Cob (2)_edited-1Old Cob (3)_edited-1Old Cob (4)_edited-1

You can see the “chip” was reasonably large, but it didn’t go through the bowl – a very good thing. I started my using a dental pick to lightly scrap the damaged area to remove any loose material; there was very little, most likely because Astrid had already cleaned the pipe very well.

The next step was to mix up a patch for the damaged area. Old Cob (5)_edited-1For this project I used a new tube of fireplace mortar/sealer; my old tube had turned into stone on me. I mention this because I have found that the different brands behave differently when dry: some are impervious to moisture, while others are not. I have found that mixing in a little cigar ash (other fine ash will work too) makes the patch solid but allows for moisture and to go through to the briar (or cob in this case) and disperse better. I also mix in a little powdered activated carbon; I use the capsules now, instead of the messy process of grinding it up myself. The activated carbon does two things: it filters out any potential taste in the first few smokes that the mortar/ash patch might have and it makes it much darker, thus blending in better. The addition of these to components also makes the patch set much faster so you need to have some water on-hand to mix it right; you are looking for a dough-like consistency, wetter for longer working time. After mixing the “putty” up I began applying it with an old pipe tool’s spoon end, working it in to make a nice, Old Cob (6)_edited-1even surface, except for the top, where I left a small gap to blend in later. You can see the still wet patch in this photo, after I had smoothed it out; I used a flashlight to make the repair area easier to photograph. I then took a small amount of powdered carbon and sprinkled it onto the patch to make it blacker and less noticeable. I then set the pipe aside until morning to allow the repair to cure.

The next day it had hardened into a night patch. But, as it sometimes does, the patch had shrunken. I mixed up a little pipe mud and applied it over the patch to make it more flush inside. You can see the result of the second patch in this photo.Old Cob (8)_edited-1 You can also see here the “dip” I left in the rim; I did this to blend in the rim with wood putty.

As I was waiting on the pipe mud to dry, I took a damp cotton swab and cleaned off the rim of the pipe to make sure there was nothing to keep the next patch layer from sticking and to lighten the bit of residue on the rim already. I then applied some Elmer’s Natural Wood Putty to the rim. Again, this is something you want a little water on-hand to work with and smooth the repair as you go.Old Cob (9)_edited-1 I used both a cotton swab and my finger to apply the wood putty, shaping it as I went, but applying a little extra in case it shrank.Old Cob (10)_edited-1 After I was happy with the wood putty patch I used some of the pipe mud and charcoal powder to mute the brightness of the rim repair. This would ultimately be sanded and stained so I didn’t spend too much time or effort on this step, only on making sure the inside or outside of the bowl didn’t have an excess on them.

The weather was rainy and humid during the time that I worked on this pipe so extra drying time was required on each step/patch. At this point I set the pipe aside for a couple of days to be assured that everything was well dried and cured before I moved onto the final shaping and stain blending.

When I came back to the pipe I checked to make certain the repairs were all well cured, and they were: very solid feeling all the way around. Now it was time to shape the rim; I wanted to get the top nice and even but didn’t want to take away the character of the rim so I opted to lightly top the bowl with 400 grit wet/dry paper, checking often. Old Cob (13)_edited-1After I was satisfied with the rim being level, I used the same sandpaper to touch up the edges just a bit. Looking well-shaped to my eye, I broke out the stain markers I so often rely on, choosing the lightest color I had for staining and blending the rim.

All in all, I think this was a successful repair job that came out quite well. I am sure that after a few gentle smokes that the rim will take on an even more “natural” and blended look. And best of all, I think this old corn cob pipe will provide many more years of good service to Astrid – and maybe even to someone else down the road!Old Cob (11)_edited-1 Old Cob (12)_edited-1


The Pleasure of Playing with the Mud

One of my simple pleasures in an otherwise busy life is to refurbish pipes that I pick up on eBay and in different junk and thrift shops I frequent on my travels. As I refurbish and restore old pipes I enjoy a sense of fulfillment from not only bringing an old pipe back to life but in improving its smoke-ability. One of the tricks I have learned (I am sure I got it somewhere online) is that of raising the bottom of the bowl in a pipe that has been drilled too high. It is done with a concoction called pipe mud and given a bit of curing time can dry to a very hard surface that imparts no residual taste to my favourite tobaccos smoked in the “newly” reconditioned pipe.

Last weekend I had to mix up a batch of pipe mud to raise the floor on a pipe I was refurbishing. When I need to mix a batch of pipe mud it is a pleasure because it gives me an excuse to smoke a good cigar. Some of you don’t need an excuse to do so, but I do! My wife hates the smell of them and gives me grief over smoking them. She relegates me to the porch, which in the summer is a great place to relax and enjoy the parade of life that goes by on the sidewalk and street in front of my home. In the winter that is an altogether different matter as it is cold and damp here in Vancouver. So this excuse is a good one and works well for me. I look her straight in the eye and say, “I need to smoke it to make a batch of mud for my pipe”. Now, she likes the pipe (“likes” may be too strong a word to use but let’s just say she indulges me). So you can see the excuse works well.

I opened my humidor and looked through the cigars I have until one caught my fancy. This process is also part of the pleasure for me as I only smoke cigars that I like and none of the nasty ones that are so cheap here – Poms and Colts and the like. All of my cigars are Cubans (a perk of living in Canada and not having an embargo in place) so it is a process of finding one that I will be able to enjoy in the time I can stand being out in the cold on the porch. I picked out a nice little Romeo y Julietta and got out my punch, punched the end of the cigar and took an ash tray in which to collect the precious ash. I bundled up in my big coat, scarf and a toque (stocking cap for the non-Canadians among us) and went out on the front porch. I rolled the cigar under my nose and enjoyed the grassy smell of good tobacco. I double checked the punched hole in the end of the cigar to make sure it was perfect! Then I fired it up with my lighter. I rolled it as I lit it and drew the smoke into my mouth. I rolled it around to get the full taste of the tobacco. It had been awhile since I had a good cigar but this one quickly made me forget the damp cold of a rainy Wet Coast day in Vancouver. A good R&J cigar is a thing of wonder to me… the many dimensions to the flavour and the fullness of the taste that they deliver are excellent.

Throughout the smoke I collected the ash in my ashtray. I always make a bit of a game out of smoking my cigar and try to see how long I can keep the ash on the front before it falls off. I keep the ashtray in my lap just in case. I learned that from way to many ashes falling down the front of my coat or sweater. Besides I wanted to keep these ashes for their deeper and more “profound” purpose!

I sat and enjoyed a good cigar and the quiet afternoon with the steady drip of the rain and swish of cars going by on the street in front of the house. Too quickly the cigar was at its end and the time was over. What a great afternoon smoke and a restful break. Once the cigar was finished I use the remaining butt as food for my Rhododendrons. I crush it, break it up and sprinkle it on around the base with the remnants of coffee grounds that my Rhodies love. I carried the ash tray into the house and hung up my coat and scarf. The toque went back to its place in the secretary by the door. I kicked off my shoes and scooted into my slippers and carried the ash tray to my basement desk and work table.

I have a small cup of water at the desk and an ear syringe that gives me more control over the amount of water I add to the ashes. I want to add just enough to make a paste. I give it a few drops to start with and stir it up with a folded pipe cleaner. I continue to add water to the mixture until I get it to be the consistency that I want. One convenience of the mix is that if I add to much water I can leave it and the water will evaporate.

While the mix is sitting I prepare the pipe for the work. I remove the stem and insert a fluffy pipe cleaner into the shank with the end just extending into the bowl. I do not want to clog the airway with the mud when I put it in. This keeps that from happening. I folded a pipe cleaner in half to use as a brush to apply the mud to the bowl of the pipe. I usually put it into the bottom of the chamber and use a pipe nail to tamp it solidly in place. I fill the bottom until it is at the level I want. Tamping it down assures that I don’t get much shrinkage in the ash mixture as it dries out. I also apply the mud to the walls of the pipe where I see any cracks in the cake and around the air hole to make for a good clean entry way.

Once the mud has been applied the pipe goes into a stand to sit for two days. I want the mud to dry solidly and cure well. Once that is done I carefully load a bowl with a favourite tobacco and smoke it letting the heat do a final cure on the mud. When I am emptying the pipe I am careful. Generally I have found that after several smokes the mud is very solid and I can smoke it and clean the pipe as usual.

Hopefully by this point in this piece you can appreciate the pleasure of playing with pipe mud. I will talk with you later, right now I am going to go have a look on eBay and see if I can find a few more pipes to refurbish. In the lot of them I am sure that there will be at least one that needs a good application of pipe mud. Then I can enjoy another good cigar.