Tag Archives: Repairing bakelie stems with super glue

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


Chuck’s Gift Pipes Part 2 – an Old Diamond Shank WDC Pot with a Bakelite Stem

The second pipe in the gift from Chuck (desertpipe on Smokers Forums) was an old WDC with a Bakelite or Redmanol Stem. It is a beautiful translucent red stem. The band has gold filigree like scrolling on each of the four sides of the diamond shank band. The bowl was clean but in need of a light reaming. The finish was broken but did not seem to hide any obvious fills in the dark colour. The stem was over turned almost a quarter turn (pictures 1-3 below). The tenon was a bone tenon screw mount into a thread shank (picture 4 below). The stem also had two tooth marks one on the top that was not too deep and one on the underside that was deep (pictures 5-7). The button was missing an edge on the right side. It was almost like a piece of the button had been sliced off and it was a smooth angle (picture 8). The stem had some kind of buildup on it near the shank junction. At first it looked like chips or flake on the surface of the stem but upon inspection it was just buildup. The orific button was central and the curvature of the button face was nicely done. This one showed some promise. I was going to need to figure out how to correct the over turn on the stem. ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

I took the pipe apart and reamed the bowl carefully. It was lightly caked but I wanted to smooth out the surface of the walls to get a clean start to the building of a new cake. I personally prefer removing the old cake so that I can build a good hard cake of my own making rather than live with the ghosts of the old one. The next two pictures show the Pipnet reamer that I prefer using on these old pipes as it is very controllable and easily handled. Image

I used finger nail polish remover (acetone) to remove the finish from the bowl. I wanted to have fresh wood to work on with the new stain and finish. I wiped it down with the cotton pads that are visible in the pictures below. I find that these are perfect for wetting with the acetone and rubbing off the finish. Once I had wiped it down and the finish was gone sanded the bowl down and also topped the bowl just a bit. The edge of the bowl had been rounded quite a bit and the rim was not clean. I sanded it carefully to remove the scratches and the dents as well as to level the edges and give the surface a more crisp sharp edge. I also sanded the inner edge to smooth out some of the out of round portions of the bowl. I was careful in the sanding and the wiping down with acetone to not remove the gold paint that had been put in the stamping of the triangle and WDC logo on the shank. Pictures 1-2 below show the bowl after sanding and wiping down with acetone. Picture 3 shows the top of the bowl and rim after the slight topping and sanding. Picture 4 shows the nice graining on the diamond shank and the “keel” on the underside of the bowl. ImageImageImageImage

Once I had the bowl clean I decided to work on the bite marks on the stem. Picture 1 shows the bite mark on the top of the stem. It was not too deep so I was able to raise it a bit with boiling water and then I sanded out the remaining tooth mark. Picture 2 shows the underside of the stem with the bite mark. It is on the low part of the stem near the button. It is a bit hard to see in the picture but it was significantly deeper than the one on the top of the stem. The heat lifted it a bit and I was able to sand it but it still was present and too much sanding would have changed the curvature of the stem. ImageImage

The button, seen in the first picture below, is missing a portion on the top right (or lower left in picture 1 below). It does not have the graceful curve of the other side but is actually a slice or a flat spot on the button that tapers into the stem with no edge. The second picture shows the first layer of the fill I added with super glue. I wanted to build up the missing portion by layering superglue until it was repaired and then shape it with sandpaper and files. ImageImage

While the superglue patch cured a bit I decided to work on the over turned stem. To correct that overturn I would need to loosen the bone tenon in the stem. In the past I have heated the tenon and then turned the stem like I have done on the metal tenons on Kaywoodie pipes. This one was a totally different fix. In picture 1 below I filled a cup with water and boiled it in the microwave for 3 minutes. Once I removed it from the microwave I placed the stem in the bowl – tenon down in the boiling water. I repeated this until I was able to loosen the tenon. Picture 2 shows the tenon loose and free of the stem. The threading on the portion in the stem is finely threaded. I tried different methods to align the stem. Picture three and four show the tenon screwed into the shank to different levels. I then would twist the stem on until it was tight. No matter how many times I did this and no matter how many turns I could not get it to align properly with the shank. It was always either a ½ turn or a full turn off. I wrapper the tenon with cotton thread and reinserted it to lift the tenon a bit from the stem. The results were categorically them same – overturned or under-turned no matter how many ways I tried it. I was mystified on how to do it so I set it aside and went to bed for the night. ImageImageImageImage

This morning when I got up I had an idea on how to tackle the overturn. In the middle of the night I woke with a thought – what if I turned the stem back and forth a bit and see what happened. I remembered the concept of self adjusting emergency brakes on a car. On one of my old cars I would put the car in reverse and pull the emergency brake on and off until it was adjusted. I adapted that with the stem. I turned it forward and backward a few times and sure enough after a few turns the stem was aligned properly! I could not believe it! I don’t know what I would have done had I not had that flash of memory in the middle of the night. Picture 1 below shows the aligned stem and the sanded smooth bowl ready to be stained. Image

I restained the bowl with an oxblood stain applied with a cotton swab. I was careful about putting too much stain on the gold stamping of the WDC in the Triangle. I wanted to retain that feature. Once the stain was applied I flamed it with a match and then rubbed the surface with a piece of flannel to remove the excess stain and allow the grain to show through. I then took it to the buffer and buffed it with White Diamond to bring back a good shine. I coated it with several coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a flannel buff to polish it. The four pictures below show the final look of the bowl after the stain and the wax. Picture 3 shows the nice grain on the “keel’ of the pipe. I love the cross grain on this old beauty. Picture 4 shows the polished rim and top after buffing. The edges are now crisp and much more defined than in the original photos of the pipe. ImageImageImageImage

The next pictures show the work I did on the button to build up the worn part. Picture 1 shows the state of the patch after the first layer of super glue. Picture 2 shows the second layer of super glue. The button is starting to come back to the original shape and match the other side. Picture three shows the superglue patch to the deeper tooth mark on the underside of the stem. I had heated and sanded the spot but it did not rise any further so I filled the remaining tooth mark with clear super glue. I have found that the clear superglue works very well on Bakelite and on horn stems. Once sanded and blended in with micromesh it is virtually invisible. Picture 4 shows the stem from an end view. On the right top you can see the damage to the button. You can also see that the super glue is building up the area to match the left top. After this photo I added several more layers of super glue. ImageImageImageImage

The next picture shows the continued build up of the button with the super glue. The first picture shows that the curve of the button is coming back to match the left side of the button. My goal was to build up the button on the right side to a point where it was actually a bit overfilled and slightly larger than the curve on the left and then sand it until it matched. Image

Picture 1 below shows the recut button. I used needle files to cut the edge of the button to a clean sharp edge differentiating it from the smooth curve of the stem. I also sanded the stem and the edge of the button with fine grit emery cloth to make the transition between the button and the stem very clear. Picture 2 below shows the button from the end after I have begun to shape the right edge to match the left edge. The angles and shape are like a North American football. ImageImage

From this point on the shaping progressed to 1500 grit micromesh as I wanted to fine tune the shaping and smooth the transitions and angles of the button. The first picture shows the edge is clean and sharp. The brown spots at the top of the photo are the remnants of sanding dust after using the micromesh pads. Picture 2 shows that the shape is curved and the match of left and right is virtually perfect. ImageImage

The next series of photos show the button after sanding with the 1800 grit micromesh pad. Pictures 1 and 2 show the stem in profile. The button is distinct and clear in the pictures. Picture 1 is of the left side – the unrepaired side of the stem. You can see the sharp edges of the cut between the stem and the button. Picture 2 is the right side in profile – the repaired side. Again the sharp edge of the cut between stem and button are clear. The slope of the button matches the left side as well. The stem repair on this one is done. All that remains is to polish it with the remaining grits of micromesh. Picture 3 shows the stem from the top. You can see the new edge of the button and the nice straight edge from left to right. The surface is smooth and once the remaining sanding is done it will look as good as new. Pictures 4 and 5 show the button from the end. You can see the nice curves of the “football” on each end and the gentle curve to the middle of the button over the orifice airway. ImageImageImageImageImage

I worked on the stem and button with micromesh pads from 1500-12,000 grit and water to shape and polish the button and the stem. One of the beauties of the Redmanol stem is the rich ruby glow to the stem when the light reflects off of it. That glow is hard to capture in photos but it is what I was aiming for in the polishing of this stem. Picture 1 and 2 show the finished button on the pipe stem. It is a perfect match on the left and the right. The super glue patch and build up blended in perfectly and even in hand is not visible. I love the way it blends with this Redmanol/Bakelite stems. ImageImage

The next series of photos (pictures 1-4) show the finished pipe. It has had many coats of carnauba by this point and is back to its original lustre. The oxblood stain brings the deep richness of the bowl back to the surface and it looks like it must have in much better days. Pictures 5 and 6 show one last look at the stem. The button is smooth and the transition between the stem and the button is crisp and clean. The “football” shape of the button is restored and the pipe is ready to smoke. ImageImageImageImageImageImage

Thank you once again Chuck for giving me the opportunity of restoring this pair of old timers to life again. It has been a pleasure and each was a challenge in its own way as I worked to bring them back to life again. I look forward to firing up a bowl in each of them in the course of the weekend ahead.