Blog by Steve Laug
Sometimes when I take in pipes for repair and restoration I am pretty stunned by the condition. This one obviously was an old favourite of the pipesmoker who brought it to me with 8 others in need of some TLC. I sat with him in my living room and went over the repair list of what needed to be done to bring it back to life. It had been restemmed before and the stem was good and heavy so it did not need to be replaced. There were tooth marks near the button on both sides of the stem. It had some deep oxidation that needed attention. Sometime in its life it had been buffed to the point that the stamping was all but gone on the underside of the shank. With a lens I could read Stanwell over Made in Denmark but all but one number of the shape number (1) was buffed away. The finish was sticky to touch from all the waxes and oils on the bowl. The sand blast was pretty worn away and now was shallow. The angled, tapered bowl had a thick cake and it had been reamed into almost an hour-glass shape. The rim top had an overflow of the tars on it and the blast was smooth. There was some damage on the front of the bowl from knocking the pipe out on something hard. There was a small crack on the left side of the bowl from the rim down about a 1/8 of an inch that would need to be repaired. From memory I knew that the bowl was drilled to follow the angle of the exterior of the bowl.When I turned the bowl over the bottom side was covered with cracks. There were four cracks of various sizes that did not go into the interior but rather sat on the surface of heel. They were all different in terms of depth and tended to follow the blast and cut across the ring grain. They were filled with grime and wax. The bottom of the bowl was a real mess.I took a close up photo of the rim to show the damage that had been done to it by reaming it with a knife rather than with a reamer. The cake was sticky and soft and what appeared to be an hourglass shape actually was not it followed the angled bowl walls. I was concerned that the inside of the bowl would also have cracks once the cake was removed. I recommended that we remove entire cake to assess the interior of the bowl. I also took a close up photo of the heel of the bowl to show the cracks.The stem was a replacement that was thick and well made. The fit against the shank was not too bad and there was little gap between the two parts. The stem was oxidized and there was come calcium build up on the first inch on both sides. There were tooth marks and tooth chatter on both sides of the stem near the button.The shank end shows how thick the buildup was inside of the shank. The tars and oils overflow the shank and show up on the end and walls. There were also two small holes drilled to the left and right of the mortise.I reamed the bowl with the PipNet reamer using the largest cutting head. Notice the angle of the cutting head as it shows the angle of the drilling of the bowl. I cleaned up the walls with a Savinelli Fitsall reaming knife. I sanded the bowl with 180 grit sandpaper wrapped around a piece of dowel. The third photo below shows the bowl after it has been sanded. I scrubbed the exterior of the bowl with acetone on cotton pads to remove the grime and the finish. The grime and oils came off the walls of the bowl and bowl sides and bottom to prepare the bowl for the repairs to the cracks. I drilled each end of all of the cracks with a microdrill bit on a Dremel. There were about 9 holes in the bottom of the bowl and two on the left side at the end of the shank.I put clear super glue into the cracks and pressed it down with a dental pick. I pressed briar dust into the glue and then put more dust in the glue and then more glue on top of the repair to seal it.I used a dental burr on the Dremel to rusticated the repaired areas on the bottom of the bowl and side to match them to the sand blast finish. I knocked off the rough areas of the rustication with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth it into the surrounding finish. The photos show the progress of this process. With the exterior cracks repaired and sealed I turned to work on the internals. The airway in the shank and the mortise was absolutely a mess. I used the drill bit from the KleenReem pipe reamer to clean out the airway into the bowl from the mortise. It was almost closed off with the tars and oils. I turned the bit into the airway until it was smooth. I used a dental spatula to scrape out the inside of the mortise. The scraped tars and oils can be seen in the photos below.There were two small drilled holes in the end of the shank on both sides of the mortise. I filled them in with super glue and briar dust. I cleaned out the inside the mortise and shank with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until they came out clean.The bowl smelled strongly of old tobacco and there were oils in the briar walls. I wanted to remove that smell as much as possible. I stuffed two cotton balls into the bowl, set it in the ice cube tray and used an ear syringe to fill it with alcohol. I left it standing overnight while it pulled the oils out of the briar bowl. In the morning the cotton was stained a yellow brown.I recleaned the mortise and airways after it had soaked using alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners.I stained the repaired areas on the bowl with a dark brown stain. I used a black Sharpie Pen to fill in some of the grooves in the briar and then restained it. I flamed it with a lighter to set the stain.I buffed the bowl with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel to raise a shine on the bowl. The photos below show the repaired areas and the blending into the surrounding briar. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I cleaned out the slot with a dental pick and pulled a lot of built up tars from there. I used a sharp knife to bevel the end of the tenon to open the air flow to the slot. I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to break up the oxidation and to also remove the tooth chatter and some of the tooth marks. Some of them were too deep and they would need to be repaired later. I cleaned out the inside of the stem with alcohol and cotton swabs to remove the buildup in the airway. The slot was very narrow and it was hard to push pipe cleaners through the airway. I decided to open up the slot with needle files to facilitate easier cleaning with pipe cleaners. I did not want to change the shape of the slot, but merely wanted to make it wider and tapered smoothly into the airway. I used both large and small round, oval and flattened oval files to shape the slot. Once I had it large enough for a pipe cleaner to pass through easily I folded a piece of sandpaper and sanded the inside of the slot. I sanded the stem around the button with 220 grit sandpaper and filled in the remaining tooth marks with black super glue. I set the stem aside to dry overnight. In the morning I sanded the stem with more 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the repairs and blend them into the surface of the stem. I also reshaped the button and smoothed out the repairs I had made there. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil on a cloth to have a better look at where things were at. I noticed a small bubble in the patch on the underside of the stem once I had cleaned it so I put another drop of black superglue on it to fill it in. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each set of three pads. After the final set of pads I set the stem aside and let the oil dry. I mixed up a batch of pipe mud – water and cigar ash – and applied it to the inside of the bowl to provide protection to the bare walls while a new cake is formed. When it dried I put the stem on the bowl and buffed it with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. Blue Diamond is a plastic polish that comes in a block. I load the buffing pad with it and polish the stem and the bowl. I use a light touch on the bowl so that I don’t load up the grooves and crevices with the polish. I gave the stem and bowl multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise a shine to the finish. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The repairs on the bottom of the bowl blended in very well and those on the stem did also. This is the first of nine pipes that I am repairing for a guy who dropped them off at the house. It is ready for more years of service. Thanks for looking.