Tag Archives: restemming

A Blasticated Capri Bent Billiard that came with a story


Blog by Steve Laug

A few days ago I received a call at work from a fellow who was just leaving the local pipe shop in Vancouver that refers people to me for repairs. I have to tell you this guy had a story that I had not heard before. He was driving and chatting at the same time. He said that he had picked up a pipe that fast becoming a favourite of his. He was driving and smoking it when he accidentally dropped it out of the window. It seems like the car was moving – at least slowly in his story. The bowl went one way and the stem took off. He stopped and picked up the bowl and could not find the stem. What was not clear to me was what happened to the stem. He said that there was no broken tenon in the shank. He only had the bowl. He stopped by my house and left the bowl in his Autoplan Car Insurance plastic bag in my mail box. He had his phone number and name on the bag. This morning I called to see what kind of stem he wanted on the pipe and it turns out he is a tugboat captain. He said the stem was tapered and rubber. He would be back to Vancouver in two weeks and would get a hold of me then. So that is the story of this pipe.

I actually had no idea what to expect when I returned to my house. My wife had brought the bag inside when she came home. I asked about the pipe and she handed me the Autoplan bag. I took the pipe out of the bag and took photos. The pipe appeared to have what I call a blasticated finish. It is typically done when someone rusticates a bowl and then sandblasts it afterwards. It gives it a very interesting look. The finish was almost new other than several rough spots of road rash around the rim top, heel and sides. The beauty of this type of finish is that it is very forgiving when it has this kind of damage. I took some photos of the pipe before I did any work on it. You can see it is a bent billiard, it is made by Capri and it is sans stem. I went through my cans of stem options and found only one thick tapered stem that would actually work on this pipe. The tenon was not turned and it was an unused blank that still had some casting marks on the sides and button. I quickly sanded the tenon to see what I was working with. I could see that with a bit of work it would be a good fit for this pipe.I used a wire brush to knock off the loose bits from the road rash and then used a walnut stain pen to touch up the damaged areas on the finish.Now it was time to work on the stem. I set up my cordless drill and put the PIMO tenon turning tool in the chuck. I set the cutting head for the first pass on the tenon and spun the stem on the drill to remove excess rubber.I measured the diameter of the mortise again and reset the cutting head on the PIMO. I spun the stem once more and took it down to a close fit. I filed and sanded it the rest of the way.The shoulders on the cast stem were slightly rounded and the diameter of the stem was a little bigger than the diameter of the shank. I used a rasp to remove the excess material and reduced the stem to a very close fit on the shank.I sanded the file marks out of the stem sides with 220 grit sandpaper. There still needs to be some fine tuning but the stem is beginning to look like a fit. I took photos of the pipe with the new stem at this point to have a look. I worked on the sides of the stem diameter to fine tune it. It was definitely looking better. It was time to bend the stem to fit the flow of the bowl. I set up my heat gun. I put a pipe cleaner in the airway of the stem to keep the airway from crimping. I moved the stem over the heat until the vulcanite softened. I used round handle of a chisel for the shape of the bend and bent the stem until it looked right on the bowl. I always try to bend the stem to get the same angle on the bend as the flat top of the bowl.I put the stem back on the bowl and took photos of the look of the pipe now. I like the look of the stem and the flow of the pipe. I still want to shape the shank stem fit some more so the flow is uninterrupted. I removed the stem and turned my attention to finishing the restoration of the bowl. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the briar with my fingertips and a horse hair shoe brush to clean, enliven and protect it. I find that the balm really makes the briar come alive again. The contrasts in the layers of stain really made the rustication shimmer and show depth. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The pipe really looks good at this point. I am very happy with the way the pipe is looking at this point in the process. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I sanded it with 220 grit and 400 grit wet dry sandpaper to smooth out the remaining marks on the stem. I had coated the tenon with a light coat of clear fingernail polish to protect the fit during all of the fiddling and sanding I was doing.  I have experienced damaging a tenon because I was careless so I will often do this when restemming a pipe now. I still needed to smooth out the tenon a bit but it was starting to look really good.I polished the stem surface with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with a damp cloth after each pad to remove the sanding debris. I polished it further with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both fine and extra fine. I hand buffed it with a cloth. I gave it a coat of Briarville’s No Oxy Oil even though it does not work as well on acrylic as it does on the vulcanite it was designed for. It works to give a top coat to protect and preserve the newly cleaned and polished stem.  This was a change of pace to the normal day to day restoration I have been doing. Fitting a stem to a bowl is interesting and it is time consuming. Once I was finished I put the new vulcanite stem back on the bowl and polished the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservators Wax and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The Capri Bent Billiard with the new stem polished up really well. The polished stem looked very good after the buffing. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions of this pipe are Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. For a low cost pipe this little billiard is eye catching. I will be calling the fellow who dropped it off and let him know the pipe is finished. Thanks to each of you who are reading this blog. Remember we are not pipe owners; we are pipemen and women who hold our pipes in trust until they pass on into the trust of the next pipeman or woman.

A New Beginning for Jennifer’s Dad’s Karl Erik Knute of Denmark Freehand


Blog by Steve Laug

I decided to change things up a bit and work on another of Jennifer’s Dad’s pipes. For the next pipe from the estate of George Rex Leghorn I have chosen a nicely shaped Knute of Denmark Freehand. You may not have read about this estate before, so I will retell the story. I received an email from Jennifer who is a little older than my 64+ (65 now – sheesh, I forget how old I am) years about whether I would be interested in her Dad’s pipes. My brother Jeff and I have been picking up a few estates here and there, so I was interested. Here is the catch – she did not want to sell them to me but to give them to me to clean up, restore and resell. The only requirement she had was that we give a portion of the sales of the pipes to a charity serving women and children. We talked about the organization I work for that deals with trafficking and sexual exploitation of women and their children and she decided that would be a great way to carry on the charitable aspect of her Dad’s character. With some great conversation back and forth she sent the pipes to Jeff and he started the cleanup process on them. Once he had finished cleaning them all he sent them to me to do my work on them.

The Knute Freehand pipe with plateau on the rim top and shank end is stamped on the left side of the shank Knute of Denmark. The bowl had nice grain on the sides and cross grain on the front and back and rugged plateau on the rim top and shank end. The finish is very dirty making it hard to see beyond that to the nice grain underneath that. There was a thick cake in the bowl and it had overflowed with lava onto the inward beveled rim top. It was a dirty and tired looking old pipe. The stem was badly oxidized and there were George’s usual tooth marks and chatter on both sides just ahead of the button. The button was also damaged. The other issue with the stem is that it did not really fit the pipe. The tenon was a bit large and I just had a feeling it was the wrong stem. The pipe had been sitting in boxes for a lot of years and it was time to move ahead with the restoration. Jennifer took photos of the pipes she was sending. I have included the two photos of this pipe below.When the box arrived from Jennifer, Jeff opened it and took photos of each pipe before he started his cleanup work on them. This Knute Freehand was a nicely shaped pipe and we have both worked on quite a few Knute pipe. This was going to be an interesting restoration. Knute pipe are well made and I have found that they not mentioned much in the online pipe communities that I frequent. I enjoy working on them. The shape on the Knute seems to really capture the flow of the grain on the briar. The briar appeared to be in good condition underneath the grime. The finish looked intact under the grime and oils on the bowl sides from George’s hands. The bowl had a thick cake that had hardened with time. The lava overflow on the rim top filled in much of the plateau. It was very thick but it could very well have protected the rim from damage. We won’t know what is under it until Jeff had cleaned it off. The stem was oxidized and also had some calcification on the surface. There were deep tooth marks on both sides just ahead of the button. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he started working on it. I include those below. Jeff took photos of the bowl and rim top to show the cake in the bowl and the lava build up on the plateau rim top and dust and grime in the shank end as well. It was thick and hard but hopefully it had protected the rim and edges from damage. The lava coat looks horrible but it points to a well-used, favourite smoking pipe. George must have enjoyed this old timer a lot judging from the condition of the pipe. Jeff took a photo of the side and heel of the bowl to show the condition of the finish – the grime and grit all over the sides and bottom of the bowl. The was also a deep gouge in the heel on the right side. It is a dirty pipe but it has a stunning grain around the bowl sides and cross grain on the front and back.Jeff took a photo of the stamping on the left side of the shank. It is very clear and readable. It reads Knute of Denmark.Jeff took photos of the top and underside of the stem showing the scratching, oxidation and tooth marks on the stem surface. The tooth marks are quite deep on both sides of the stem. I turned to Pipedia to refresh my memory regarding the brand (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Knute). I had recollections that the pipe was made by Karl Erik Ottendahl as one of his sub brands so I wanted to confirm that. I quote from that article below:

Knute of Denmark pipes are said to be made by Karl Erik, see his listing herein.

Karl Erik Ottendahl was born in Aalborg in 1942, just a few miles from the very northernmost tip of Denmark. He began his career as a Lithographer as an apprentice in the craft at the age of 16. While working as an apprentice he began hand carving pipes as a hobby and to give as gifts to his more senior colleagues. He began his career making pipes for various labels in Denmark and the United States. Often he would make the higher grade pipes for a well known brand that was known for their midrange or low end pieces such as Wally Frank. While doing this he administered a factory of fifteen craftsmen. During this period he did make of some of his own handmade pipes, but he felt that the responsibility of managing the factory did not give him the freedom he wished he had.

Other brands confirmed to be from Karl Erik are: Champ of Denmark, HTL, Jobey Dansk, Knute, Golden Danish, Lars of Denmark, Larsen & Stigart (Copenhagen pipe shop), Shelburne, Sven Eghold and Wenhall (for Wenhall Pipes, New York), some Ben Wade and pipes marked IS and IIS.

I could start my restoration of this beautiful freehand with the knowledge that I was dealing with a Karl Erik Ottendahl made freehand. But before I get on to restoring the pipe I thought I would once again include the tribute that Jennifer wrote to her Dad for the blog. She also sent some photos and an article that her Dad wrote for Jeff and me to be able to get a feel for him. I have included those below. Note in each of them that he is holding a pipe in his left hand. I asked her to also send me an email with a brief tribute to her Dad. Here is her tribute from an email to me.

Steve, I want to thank you again for accepting my dad’s pipes.  They were so much a part of my dad’s life that I could not simply discard them. But as his daughter, I was not about to take up smoking them either. *laughing* I think my dad would like knowing that they will bring pleasure to others.  I know that I do.

I’m not sure what to say about his pipes. I always remember Daddy smoking pipes and cigars.

First a bit about my dad. Though my father, George Rex Leghorn, was American (growing up in Alaska), he managed to join the Canadian Army at the beginning of WWII, but in doing so lost his American citizenship.  He was fortunate to meet a Canadian recruiting officer who told him the alphabet began with “A” and ended with “Zed” not “Zee”, and also told him to say that he was born in a specific town that had all its records destroyed in a fire.  When the US joined the war my dad, and thousands of other Americans who had made the same choice*(see the link below for the article), were given the opportunity to transfer to the US military, and regain their citizenship.

After WWII, my dad, earned his degree at the University of California Berkeley and became a metallurgist. There is even a bit about him on the internet.

He loved taking the family out for a drive, and he smoked his cigars on those trips. (As a child, those were troubling times for my stomach.)

I most remember my father relaxing in his favorite chair with a science fiction book in one hand and a pipe in the other… Sir Walter Raleigh being his favorite tobacco… and the pipes themselves remind me of him in that contented way.  If I interrupted his repose, he’d look up, with a smile on his face, to answer me.

It seemed he smoked his Briarwood pipes the most, though he had others.  At the time, it was only the Briarwood I knew by name because of its distinctive rough shaped bowl.  And it was the Anderson Free Hand Burl Briar, made in Israel, which I chose for his birthday one year, because I thought he might like that particular texture in his hand.

At least two of his pipes, he inherited from his son-in-law, Joe Marino, a retired medical laboratory researcher (my sister Lesley’s late husband)… the long stemmed Jarl (made in Denmark), and the large, white-bowled, Sherlock Holmes style pipe.  I believe Joe had others that went to my dad, but Lesley was only sure about those two.

The Buescher, corncob pipe my older sister Lesley bought for Daddy while on one of her travels around the States.

A note on the spelling of my sister’s name…

My dad met my mother, Regina, during WWII and they married in Omagh, Ireland.  My mother was English and in the military herself.  The English spelling of Lesley is feminine, and Leslie masculine, in the UK… just the opposite of here in the United States.  I guess my mom won out when it came to the spelling of the name…

This pipe was a real mess just like the other ones in the collection. I did not know what to expect when I unwrapped it from his box. He reamed it with a PipNet pipe reamer and cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed out the internals with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until the pipe was clean. He scrubbed the exterior of the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove the grime and grit on the briar and the lava on the rim top. The finish looked really good when I got it. The rim top looked much better but had scratches and nicks in the surface and some darkening on the inner and outer edges. The silver band was oxidized and tarnished. Jeff had cleaned the internals and scrubbed the exterior of the stem and soaked them in Before & After Deoxidizer bath to remove the oxidation. The stem looked very good other than the deep tooth marks in the surface. When the pipe arrived here in Vancouver for the second stop of its restoration tour it looked very good. I took photos of the pipe before I started my part of the restoration. I was so pumped to get started on this Karl Erik made Knute that I totally forgot to take photos of what it looked like when it arrived.

I jumped in and addressed the gouge in the briar on the heel of the pipe. I filled it with briar dust and super glue. Once it cured I sanded it smooth with 220 and 400 grit sandpaper. I restained the sanded spot and the light spots around the rim and shank end of the bowl with a Maple stain pen to match the colour of the bowl and shank. I polished the bowl and the high spots on the plateau rim with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded it with 1500-12000 grit pads and wiped it down between pads with a soft cotton cloth. You can see the progress in the shine as you go through the photos. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the finish of the bowl and the plateau rim top and shank with my fingertips and a horsehair shoe brush to clean, enliven and protect it. I find that the balm really makes the briar come alive again. The contrasts in the layers of stain really made the grain stand out. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The pipe really looks good at this point. I am very happy with the way the pipe is looking at this point in the process.  I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I examined the diameter of the tenon and the mortise. The tenon was not the right length for the mortise. It was too short and stubby. The way that the tenon was turned also did not allow the stem to seat correctly against the plateau shank end. I went through my can of stems and found one that was the perfect fit. The length and diameter of the tenon was correct and the way the stem sat against the shank end was perfect. The length of the stem also worked better with the look of the pipe. The stem was bent a bit too much but that is easily corrected.  I put a pipe cleaner in the stem to keep the airway from collapsing or kinking. I heated the stem slowly and carefully with a candle until the vulcanite was pliable and then straightened out the bend to match the flow of the rim top of the pipe.I used running water to cool the stem and set the new bend. I sanded the stem to remove the oxidation that was on the surface with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper and a piece of 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. At this point the stem is looking better and I don’t have to deal with George’s tooth marks. I rubbed the stem down with Denicare Mouthpiece Polish and a cotton pad to remove remnants of oxidation and to further blend in the sanding. The stem was showing some promise at this point in the process.  I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-12000 grit pads. I polished it further with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both fine and extra fine. I finished by wiping it down with Briarville’s No Oxy Oil and buffing it to a shine. I always look forward to this part of the restoration when all the pieces are put back together. I put the pipe back together and buffed the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. It is fun to see what the polished bowl looks like with the grain popping, the plateau on the rim and shank end contrasting well and finally the newly fitted black vulcanite stem almost glowing. This Karl Erik made Knute Freehand is beautiful and feels great in my hand. It is one that could be clenched and smoked while doing other things as it is very light weight and well balanced. It must have been a fine smoking pipe judging from the condition it was when we received it from Jennifer. There should be a lot of life left in this Knute Freehand. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ½ inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. This is one that will go on the rebornpipes online store shortly. If you want to carry on the pipe trust of George Rex Leghorn let me know. Thank you Jennifer for trusting us with his pipes. Thanks to each of you who are reading this blog. Remember we are not pipe owners; we are pipemen and women who hold our pipes in trust until they pass on into the trust of the next pipeman or woman.

Transforming a Hornless Sculpted Bull’s Head into a Churchwarden with Horns


Blog by Dal Stanton

I would have never come up with this on my own.  Seth already commissioned the restoration of a French GEFAPIP 500 Bent Bulldog which he found calling his name in the online collection of pipes I call, For “Pipe Dreamers” Only!.  The Bulldog needed a lot of stem work which included deep oxidation, a button rebuild and re-seating the stem/shank fit.  I was pleased with the results of that transformation pictured below.While I was working on the GEFAPIP Bulldog, Seth emailed me with a question – could he commission a Churchwarden project by repurposing another pipe’s bowl listed in For “Pipe Dreamers” Only!.  A Sculpted Bull’s Head with a bent stem had gotten his attention and with a little ‘dreaming’ applied, Seth could envision the Bull’s Head mounted on a Warden stem.  I found the Bull’s Head in the inventory and pulled it out to look at through Seth’s eyes… Yep!  I could see it, too.  What was missing in the mix were the Bull’s horns.  I responded that we could do this and after working out the details, I added the Bull’s Head CW project to follow the Bulldog project! Here are pictures of the Sculpted Bull’s Head which got Seth’s attention: The Bull’s profile is detailed and a bit on the whimsical side, especially with his missing horns.  He seems to be smiling in the picture above.  There are no identifying marks on the pipe.  When the Bull made it to the worktable, the question that came to my mind was how would I fashion the missing horns?  I took this question to ‘Google search’ to find other sculpted bull heads to get some ideas.  I clipped a screen shot of the search results and you can see that the horns are not uniform which is true of real bulls.  I looked through the pictures to see if I could find a bull that resembled Seth’s Bull, but I could not.  The interesting thing was that I found that many bull heads were from Italy.  What I noticed as well, was the similarities and differences between the pipes.  The eyes were made of differing materials and also the shaping of the ears situated behind the horns were distinctive and showed bulls sculpted by the same ‘school’ or carver.  After concluding the online search, I decided that I would send a note to Seth asking him to do the same search and to let me know what horns looked best – with the understanding this Bull’s Head will be mounted at the front end of a Churchwarden stem.  I’m thinking about the balancing and general look.  After sending the email, I place the Bull’s Head stummel with a Warden stem to get an overall sense of proportion.  I like it!I begin the Sculpted Bull’s Head Churchwarden project with the general cleaning of the stummel before fashioning the stem.  I take a picture of the chamber showing very little cake buildup, but I do see vestiges of the former steward’s tobacco.  I use the Savinelli Fitsall Tool to scrape the walls of the narrower than usual chamber.  After wrapping 240 grade paper around a Sharpie Pen, sanding the chamber removes more carbon.  I finish this phase by wiping the chamber with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95%.  After inspecting the chamber, I determine that all looks good. Moving to the cleaning of the external surface, using undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and a bristled tooth brush I go to work scrubbing all the crevasses of the sculpting.From the worktable, I transfer the Bull’s Head to the kitchen sink where I rinse the surface with warm water as well as clean the internals.  Using anti-oil dish soap, long shank brushes scrub the internals.  Afterwards, the stummel is rinsed thoroughly – inside and out.The appearance of the Sculpting is realistic, especially the carving around the eyes. I continue cleaning the internals using cotton buds and a pipe cleaner – all dipped in isopropyl 95%.  The internals are good, and I move on.With the stummel clean, it’s time to begin fashioning the Warden stem.  The first step is to take some measurements using my German made electronic caliper – one of the best additions to the toolbox I’ve made.  I measure the internal diameter of the mortise to establish the target size of the tenon.  The measurement is 6.80mm.  Next, after mounting the drill bit provided by the PIMO Tenon Turning Tool set, the airway is drilled out to receive the Guide Pin of the TTT. After drilling the airway, the TTT is mounted.  The first cut of the tenon is intentionally larger to act as a starting point for the measurement.  In the picture below the guide pen is in the now enlarged airway.  In the past, I’ve learned the hard way that it’s critically to cut the tenon of the precast Churchwarden stem all the way to and through the raw stem facing.  I’ve put an arrow at the facing that is shouldered coming from the casting.  If this shoulder is not removed, it simply migrates to the pipe which is not good.I do the initial cut of the tenon through the ‘shoulder’ so that a sharp 45-degree angle is left which will be able to seat more exactly with the shank facing.Again, I measure and the tenon after the initial cut and it is 8.92mm.  The difference between the starting cut and the target size of the tenon (6.80mm) is 2.12mm. In order to approach the target size conservatively through sanding, 40mm is added to the target size of the tenon to create a ‘fat’ target – to leave a bit of sanding to be able to customize the fit.  Adding .40mm to 6.80mm gives a fat target of about 7.20mm.  This is what I aim for with the PIMO Tenon Turning Tool before transitioning to sanding the raw tenon.After a few cuts closing in on the ‘fat’ target, I settle for 7.31mm.  I now transition to sanding. Using a coarse 120 grade, I pinch the paper around the tenon as evenly as possible and rotate the stem while holding the paper stationary.  My goal is to size down the tenon evenly so that the whole tenon is maintaining contact snuggly on the mortise walls once seated.  Progress is patient as I sand and test the fit. As the progression moves closer to completion, I transition to 240 grade paper to do the final sanding.The tenon is fitting well – snug but not too tight.  The pictures below show the seated stem.  The stem is almost perfectly flush with the upper shank, but the stem is fat on the lower quadrant.After taping the shank with a layer of masking tape to buffer the briar from the heavy sanding, I attack the fat lip of the lower stem using coarse 120 grade sanding paper.  The goal is to sand the excess vulcanite to form a uniform shank/stem union.After achieving a good union at the shank, I continue the sanding with the 120 paper over the entire precast Warden stem.  The stem, even though it is new, has the casting seam down both sides that needs sanding and uneven rippling that needs smoothing. After the 120 grade paper, I follow by sanding the entire stem with 240.After the stem proper has been sanded, I switch the focus to the rough precast button.  Pictures of the upper and lower raw button show the imperfections that are first filed using a flat needle file.After doing the major shaping with the file, I follow with 120 and 240 sanding papers to fine tune the button shaping.Without a doubt, the least pleasing aspect of fashioning Churchwardens is sanding the stems and dealing with all the rubber dust!  I’m thankful to move to the fine sanding stage by wet sanding with 600 grade paper followed by applying 000 grade steel wool to the entire stem.Next, with the stummel and stem united, I remove the masking tape to begin sanding with micromesh pads.  At this point, I focus the sanding on the stem/shank junction and the stummel.  Sanding the shank with the stem engaged keeps the junction edges from shouldering.  I also sand the stummel to clean it up.  There’s no doubt that this Bull’s Head sculpting will remain ‘rough’ and rustic, but I want to sand the smooth briar points of the Bull’s head: shank, underside, muzzle and the high points of the sculpting ridges.  Pictures of the landscape show the smooth briar patches that will be the focus of the micromesh pads. I begin by first wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400, followed by 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000. Next, I address the stummel’s hue.  The original pictures of the Sculpted Bull’s Head indicate an original darker stummel.  What I believe will look good is to darken the stummel again and then lightly sand the peaks of the sculpting to bring out highlights giving the overall appearance more depth and contrast. The crevasses of the sculpting will hold on to the darkened hue while the peaks will lighten.  I’ll use Fiebing’s Dark Brown Leather Dye to do the job.  After removing the stem, I clean the stummel using a cotton pad and isopropyl 95%. It takes a bit of time as I get into each crevasse of the sculpting.I assemble the staining station and use the hot air gun to warm the stummel before applying the stain. This opens the briar to help its receptivity to the dye. Unlike my normal approach of flaming the aniline dye after painting it on the briar surface, with the rough texture I apply a simple dye wash and allow it to dry and set. I use the bent over pipe cleaner to apply dye in all the crevasses of the sculpted surface.  After applying the leather dye, I let the stummel rest for several hours.With the stummel resting now, I turn back to the stem.  Before, with the stummel attached, I have already applied micromesh to the junction area.  Now I continue with the rest of the stem starting with wet sanding with micromesh pads 1500 to 2400 then dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  Between each set of 3 pads, Obsidian Oil is applied to the stem.  Steve did an informative blog on comparing Obsidian Oil with Briarville’s, No Oxy Pipe Stem Oil (See LINK).  His conclusion was that both seemed to be equally good products.  What I didn’t know before reading Steve’s blog was about the anti-oxidation properties of Obsidian Oil.  It doesn’t remove oxidation if already present, but it hinders the growth of oxidation.  As a result, I’ve started using Obsidian Oil for the maintenance of my own pipes in rotation. Putting the stem aside for the time, I take up the stummel which has been resting for several hours after applying the dye.  I use a cotton pad wetted with alcohol to give the stummel a wipe to remove excess dye. Next, I mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel with the speed set at about 40% full power.  I apply a light application of Blue Diamond compound and I intentionally keep the compound light because I want to avoid caking in the crevasses.  My focus is primarily buffing on the smooth briar and the peaks of the sculpting.After application of the compound, I use a felt cloth to give the stummel a rigorous buffing to remove the compound dust from the surface.  I very much like the results.  The effect I was shooting for with the contrast between the smooth briar peaks and the darker crevasses is evident. The rough, rustic texture is preserved but the smooth briar pops in comparison.  I’m surprised also by the mahogany leaning hue resulting from the dark brown dye that I applied.  The following pictures show what I see. I decide to condition the dried Sculpted Bull’s Head stummel using Before & After Restoration Balm. I place some Balm on my fingers and work it well into the crevasses of the sculpting and over the smooth briar surfaces.  During this process, I note that the dye applied to the stummel earlier is coloring the Balm somewhat as it’s worked into the briar.  I also see some coloring on my fingers.  After working the Balm in well, I place it aside to allow the Balm to do its thing and then I use a cotton cloth that I will discard to wipe the excess Balm which is also colored somewhat with the fresh brown dye that is lifting off the stummel. To address the leaching dye issue, which is normal for newly dyed woods – briar is no exception, is to heat the stummel with the hot air gun which helps the dye to fully leach.  When the stummel is heated, I wipe it first with a cotton cloth and then with a paper towel.  The hopeful result of this is after the pipe reaches his new steward, when the steward fires it up for the first few uses, dye will not leach on his hands from the heated stummel – or be minimized greatly!Next: bending the Warden stem.  After reuniting the stem and stummel I place the pipe on a piece of paper to sketch the angle of curve needed to help as a template.  I first draw a horizontal line to serve as the plane of the plateau.  I use the horizontal shelf behind the angled chamber stack to line up with the horizontal plane.  After outlining the unbent angle, I sketch the bend to bring it into alignment with the horizontal to serve as my template.Even though the bend needed is not great, a pipe cleaner is inserted into the end of the stem to guard the airway integrity during the bend.  Using the hot air gun, the middle of the stem is heated because this is where I want the bend to be so that the end of the stem resolves nicely along the horizontal plane.  I remove the stummel so that I can place the stem flat on the template after it is heated so that the stem is not angled or twisted to the left or right during the vulcanite’s supple stage.As the stem heats, I’m careful to keep ‘up’ up, so that the fit of the stem in the mortise isn’t accidentally flipped!  As the rubber heats, I gently apply pressure to the bend area.  When the heating has sufficiently warmed the vulcanite, I bring the stem to the template and create the bend according to the template and hold it in place for a few minutes as the rubber cools and the bend is held in place.  The first attempt renders perfect results!  I move on.With the stem now bent, I catch it up with the stummel by applying Blue Diamond compound to the entire stem.  After mounting a cotton cloth buffing wheel onto the Dremel and with the speed set at about 40% full power, I apply compound to the stem.  After finishing the application, I wipe/buff the stem with a felt cloth to remove the leftover carbon dust.I’m very pleased how things are shaping up.  Before the final polishing, I have one project left which is a little daunting: the horns.  I’ve been thinking throughout (and even before starting!) the restoration how I was going to address the fashioning of the horns.  The sides of the Bull’s head have holes which provide the diameter of the horn mass.  As I looked at many examples on the internet of sculpted Bull’s heads, I found that there are a several varieties of horn style which is true with real life bulls!  To narrow in on a style, I described sending Seth an email asking him to do some online research.I received his reply stating that he liked the shorter, stockier horns that turn up slightly on the ends.  He also sent a couple pictures to illustrate his desires which were very helpful.  As I’ve thought about this part of the project, fashioning one horn is not the greatest challenge, but fashioning two is!  The challenge is to match the two but in reverse orientation – left and right horns!  The pictures Seth provided are helpful, but there is a contrasting complexity even between the two examples he sent.  The picture on the left shows the horns set on a vertical platform shaped on the side of the bull’s head to allow the visible horn to have more mass with (I’m assuming) a smaller peg inserted into the holes.  Whereas, the example on the right, more like what I have on my worktable, the horn diameter and mass are confined to the diameter of the hole.  It seems to be that the general proportion of the examples Seth sent below and many of the online examples I’ve seen is that the visible horn is about half the width of the bull’s head. Unfortunately, in my 10th floor flat in the formerly Communist period apartment block, I do not possess much in the way of precision wood working equipment, like a lathe!  Shaping the horns will be by hand using a Dremel, files and sanding paper.  I plan to use cherrywood as the material for the horns.  Cherry trees grow almost everywhere in Bulgaria and there are several in the green area in front of our block.  A couple years ago I harvested a couple very straight branches from a cherrywood tree in the front green area to dry out and to use with a project of restoring a French made cherrywood Ropp stummel and stem.  I trimmed them down and they’ve been in my bucket waiting for some time – now, very much dried and ready.  The Ropp project will continue to wait! I begin with horn number one.  First, I cut a length of the cherrywood stem the width of the bull’s head.  I know that roughly half of this will be the horn.  The other half will be what is eventually inserted in the hole which is the ‘peg’ side.In order to give a center orientation for the peg, I use a small sanding drum to trace a guide circle.After drawing a line around the piece of wood to mark the extent of peg shaping, I use a sanding drum in a circular motion around the end  and gradually shape out the peg. As I was progressing on shaping the horn peg, I notice the line of a grain crack – ugh.  I decide to see if it might work after some sanding and filing, but the crack will be a problem.  I’m hoping that this is not characteristic of this wood! I move on and start over.With the second start, I decide not to cut the short piece of cherrywood but to shape the horn peg first.  I do this so that I can save wood if I must cut it off again and restart.  Again, I mark the center horn peg template and use the sanding drum mounted on the Dremel to shape the peg.I sanded and tested the fit a few times until the horn peg finally found home in the side of the bull’s head! Next, I cut off the smaller piece measuring to leave a little more than half the width of the Bull’s head.  I leave extra length to enable me to sand down to a good fit.Next, with the picture that Seth sent to me showing the horn style he likes, I draw a horn template on the cherrywood inserted into the hole.  The most critical thing at this point is to have a guide to help me stay within close parameters of proportion as I shape the horn step by step.Remembering that the first horn is easier than the second, I use the rounded angle of the sanding drum to create a consistent angle for the upswing of the horn tip.  I’ll do the same for the second horn to minimize differences.  With the Dremel set to slow, I press the drum into the wood to create the horn tip upswing angle. I then remove the remaining excess wood on the upper side of the horn bringing the top parallel with the upper side of the peg. Next, I turn the horn shaping over, with the horn tip facing down, to now work on the bottom of the horn. The hand saw cuts the excess off the cherrywood piece so that the cut is very close to the end of the horn.  This saves on sanding.Again, using the sanding drum mounted on the Dremel, I begin to take wood off the lower side of the horn piece.  I start by sanding a horizontal base-line which identifies the horn’s lower side.As the sanding moves toward the end of the cherrywood – toward the horn tip that is facing downwardly, I curve the sanding so that the angled underside of the horn is shaped toward the inverted horn tip.The roughing out of the upper and lower horn is looking good and it resembles a paddle at this stage.  The next 3 pictures show the horn from the different angles and the excess wood on the end identified by the template is still needing to be sanded to better define the horn tip. I insert the rough horn into the bull head to make sure I’m tracking in a good direction.  I’m looking for good proportions. So far, very nice – but again, the first horn is easier!I transition to a smaller sanding drum to begin the removal of the excess wood on the front and back portions of the rough horn.  The horn starts to emerge very nicely during this part of the sanding which is patient – I am very careful sculpting with the sanding drum.  I can’t replace wood!After patient shaping, I test the emerging horn and it looks great!  The proportions are good on both the horizontal and vertical axis.With the challenge of now replicating the roughed-out horn, but in reverse, I try to emulate the same process and patiently move step by step.  I draw the peg template and again use the drum to shape out the peg.When the peg arrives in time with a good fit, I use the finished horn to draw a template on the second horn piece.Again, using the sanding drum, the angle is notched out creating the pitch toward the horn tip.As before, I then remove the excess on the top bringing it roughly parallel to the upper side of the peg.  With this done, I cut the cherrywood for a more manageable piece.To shorten this part of the write-up, after much careful sanding, shaping and test fittings, I arrive at two roughed-out horns.They aren’t identical but close enough to pass for the real deal!To leave the horns in semi-rough condition with some texture, I sand both with 240 and 600 grade papers.  This smooths the cherrywood but keeps the horns more rustic.I’m not sure what it will do with the raw cherrywood, but I apply Before & After Restoration Balm to see what happens.  After applying the Balm with my fingers, I let the Balm do its thing for about 20 minutes.  The light cherrywood didn’t change much, but there is a more of a ivory-like hue to it now. Not bad.Almost in the home stretch.  Using BSI Maxi-Cure Extra Thick CA glue, I glue the horns in place.  After placing a drop in each hole, with a toothpick, I spread the glue around the circumference of the hole.  I then insert each horn and pitch it up as Seth requested.Now the home stretch.  All that is lacking is applying carnauba wax to the pipe.  After reuniting stem and stummel, I mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel and set the speed to about 40% full power.  I apply carnauba wax to the stem and Sculpted Bull’s Head stummel and horns.  I’m careful to go light on the wax in the sculpting staying primarily on the smooth briar and peaks. After application of the wax, I give the Churchwarden a rigorous hand buffing with a microfiber cloth to raise the shine.Oh my!  I love it, and I trust that Seth will as well.  His idea of turning this Sculpted Bull’s Head into a Churchwarden is a winner hands down.  The sculpting cleaned up nicely and the dark brown dye with the contrast highlighting with smooth briar is attractive, but the rustic air of the pipe is preserved.  I’ve never fashioned horns in a restoration before this project, but I believe the Bulgarian cherrywood looks good and does a good job emulating the horns.  Fashioning the horns wasn’t easy, but I’m pleased with the outcome. As the commissioner of this project, Seth will have the first opportunity to acquire this Sculpted Bull’s Head Churchwarden from The Pipe Steward Store.  This pipe benefits the Daughters of Bulgaria, women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Thanks for joining me!

A Challenging Restoration of a Peterson’s System 3, Irish Free State Stamped Pipe


Blog by Paresh Deshpande

This pipe had been on my ‘to do list’ for long but since it came without a stem and as I did not have one, this project was kept pending since long. Now that I have received my large consignment of estate vulcanite and bone/ horn stems, including one Pete System P-lip stem, I couldn’t help but fish out the Pete stummel again to work on.

Most of my fellow pipe restorers would have turned away from this project that I had decided to work on next. To be honest, I would have led the pack in just consigning this pipe to history, but for the provenance of this Peterson’s System pipe. This pipe had once belonged to my grandfather and from the condition that it was in; it was apparently one of his favorite pipes!!

Well, the pipe that is now on my work table is in a pretty badly battered condition and came without a stem. There are ample signs of this pipe having been repaired earlier and extensively smoked thereafter. The stampings are all but worn out and can be seen under a bright light and under a magnifying glass. The left side of the shank bears the stamp “PETERSON’S” over “SYSTEM” over an encircled # 3. The pipe bears the COM stamp of “IRISH” over “FREE STATE” that is stamped perpendicular to the shank axis in two lines and very close to the shank end. The ferrule has the usual three cartouche with first having Shamrock, the second a Prone Fox and lastly a Stone Tower. Stamped above the cartouche are the letters “K & P” and is stamped below as “PETERSON’S” over “DUBLIN”. Having worked on quite a few old Peterson pipes from my inheritance and few from my Mumbai Bonanza, I was pretty sure that this pipe dates to 1920- 30 time period. To confirm this and also refresh my memory, I turned to my favorite site rebornpipes.com and to a write up “A Peterson Dating Guide; a Rule of Thumb” by Mike Leverette, here is the link (https://rebornpipes.com/2013/08/11/a-peterson-dating-guide-a-rule-of-thumb-mike-leverette/)

Here is what I have found and I reproduce it verbatim from the write up:-

The Irish Free State was formed on 15 January 1922. So the Free State Era will be from 1922 through 1937. Peterson followed with a COM stamp of “Irish Free State” in either one or two lines, either parallel or perpendicular to the shank axis and extremely close to the stem.

Thus, it is confirmed that this pipe is from the period 1922 to 1937 and this has to be one of the earliest Peterson’s pipes that was in my grandfather’s rotation and probably one that was his favorite.

INITIAL VISUAL INSPECTION
The stummel is covered in dirt and grime. All that catches your eyes is the dirty darkened upper portion of the stummel something like a flume, but not quite like it!!! Closer examination confirmed my worst fears….. CRACKS!! Yes, crack with an ‘s’. There are a couple of major cracks, one to the front of the stummel in 11 o’clock direction and the second major crack is at the back of the stummel. It is from the end of this big crack that three smaller and fine lined cracks emanate creating a web of cracks at the back and extending to the sides of the stummel. These cracks appear to have been repaired at some point in the past, definitely more than 40 years back, and these repairs have been camouflaged under a blotchy coat of black stain. The exact extent of damage can be assessed only after the external surface of the stummel had been completely cleaned and under magnification. The foot of the stummel has a number of dents and dings which needs to be addressed. In spite of all the cracks and its subsequent repairs, this pipe had been in continuous use as is evidenced by the thick layer of cake in the chamber. It seems that my grandfather even took the efforts to keep the thickness of the cake to a dime, not successfully though and so unlike him!! The rim top surface is completely out of round with the cracks extending over the rim top in to the chamber. The extent of these cracks in to the chamber and damage to the walls will be ascertained only after the chamber is cleaned off the complete cake. The rim top is covered in a thick layer of lava overflow. The ghost smells are ultra-strong, I say.The mortise, shank and especially the sump are chock-a-block with old oils, tars, grime and residual flecks of tobacco. The air flow through the draught hole is laborious and will require a thorough cleaning.There being no stem with this pipe, the biggest challenge will be to find one that fits. Nonetheless, this particular pipe, though I desire to restore and preserve, I am not sure what the real condition of the stummel would be under all the dirt and grime and even if it’s worth the efforts that would be needed.

THE PROCESS
The first obvious issue that I wanted to address was to find a correct stem, preferably original P-lip stem, for the pipe. I rummaged through the parcel of estate pipe stems that had only recently reached me and I knew it contained a Pete System P-lip stem. I fished it out and tried the fit of the stem in to the mortise. Here is what I saw. Though the fit appears to be good in pictures, that is not so!! There are these following issues which are difficult to gauge from the pictures:

(a) The stem does not seat firmly into the mortise. There is a play between the tenon and the walls of the mortise; this, in spite of the rubber packing that the tenon came with. Or is this play a result of the rubber packing?

(b) The seating of the stem is too high. The tenon end does not reach anywhere near the draught hole, let alone reach slightly below it for the system to work.

(c) The stem, if pushed further in to the mortise would put additional pressure on the walls of the mortise, subsequently resulting in cracks at the shank end.

(d) The plane of the bowl and the bend of the stem are not aligned. The stem is too straight making for an awkward appearance.

With certain modifications to the stem, I feel confident that I could make the stem work efficiently in a system pipe. The saddle is deeply gouged all around. The upper and lower surface of the stem has significantly deep tooth indentations in the bite zone. The button edges are badly deformed with deep bite marks. Following pictures show the condition of the stem as I received it. The tenon is clogged with heavy accumulation of oils and tars which is seen through the tenon opening. The rubber packing cap is also covered in dirt and grime.With a sharp knife, I removed the rubber cap by separating it from the tenon end, expecting to find a chipped or badly damaged tenon. However, the tenon is intact and apart from being clogged the stem is in decent condition. After I had removed the rubber cap, I rechecked the seating of the stem in to the mortise. The seating was still loose and too high!! Next I moved ahead and reamed the chamber with a Castleford reamer head size 2 followed by size 3. With my sharp fabricated knife, I removed the cake from the chamber where the reamer head could not reach and gently scrapped away the lava overflow from the rim top surface. Thereafter, using a folded piece of 180 grit sand paper, I sanded out the last traces of cake and exposed the walls of the chamber and wiped the chamber with a cotton pad dipped in isopropyl alcohol to remove the carbon dust left behind by all the reaming and sanding process. Even though there are no heat fissures/ lines along the chamber walls where the cracks do not extend (a big solace, I say!!), the stummel cracks are a different story which I shall come to subsequently. The chamber ghosting is still significantly strong which may further reduce once I clean the sump/ reservoir and the mortise. The two major cracks (marked in red arrows) that were observed in the external stummel surface extend well in to the chamber with the old repair fills in these cracks in plain view. Further sanding and close scrutiny of the walls confirmed my gut feeling that the minor cracks originating from the major cracks will also be seen as heat fissures in the chamber walls. These have been marked in yellow arrows. As I was contemplating my further course of action to address the chamber issues, I set the stummel aside and decided to work on the stem. I cleaned the internals of the stem using hard and normal bristled pipe cleaners and isopropyl alcohol. With a pointed dental tool, I scraped out the entire dried gunk from the tenon end.I decided that I would first undertake the cleaning, both internal and external, of the stummel before proceeding with further repairs. This cleaning will not only give me a clear picture of the extent of damage but also the efforts that would be needed are justified or otherwise.

I cleaned out the internals of the shank and mortise. Using my dental tool, fabricated knife and specifically modified tool, I scraped out all the dried oils, tars and gunk that had accumulated in the draught hole, airway and sump. The amount of crud that was scrapped out and the condition of the pipe cleaners that were used leaves no surprise why the air flow through it was restricted. I finished the cleaning by running a few pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl alcohol. I also wiped the sump with cotton buds and alcohol. I gave a final cleaning to the sump with a paper napkin moistened with isopropyl alcohol. This, however, did not address the issue of ghost smells in the stummel.I decided to address the issue of old odors in the chamber and shank by subjecting it to a cotton and alcohol bath. I wrapped some cotton around a folded pipe cleaner, keeping the tip of the pipe cleaner free of wrapped cotton as this would be inserted through the draught hole in to the chamber. This would form the wick for the shank. I tightly packed the chamber with cotton balls and filled it with 99% pure isopropyl alcohol using a syringe and set it aside. By next day, the cotton and alcohol had drawn out the all the old tars and oils from the chamber and max from the shank. With my dental tool, I further scrapped out the loosened gunk from the sump and mortise. I cleaned the external surface using a hard bristled toothbrush and Murphy’s Oil Soap. With a soft bristled brass wired brush, I removed the overflowing lava from the rim top surface and cleaned the internals of the shank with a shank brush and dish washing soap to remove what little crud remained in the shank. I rinsed it under running tap water and wiped the stummel dry with an absorbent soft cotton cloth. Fortunately for me, the blotchy coat of black stain that was applied to mask the repairs came off with use of Murphy’s Oil Soap and dish washing soap. Had this not worked, an alternative method of removing this coat would be to wipe the stummel with pure acetone and/or isopropyl alcohol on cotton swabs. With the stummel nice and clean, the damage is now all too apparent and it did not present an encouraging picture. The major cracks are quite deep and the secondary minor cracks emanating from the major crack are restricted at the back of the stummel. Here is what I saw. I shared these images with Steve and sought his opinion if this project was even worth the effort. A few minutes later, Steve responded in his characteristic manner. I reproduce the exact exchange that took place between us

Steve: What a mess

Me: What is the best way ahead? Worth the effort? Grandpa collection…

Steve: That was my question… is it worth it? With the Grandpa connection, I would probably work on it. I would thoroughly clean the inside and outside. Once that is done, I would line the bowl with J B Weld to completely bind the inside together. Once that is done, then fill and repair the outside with glue and briar dust.

Me: This is the condition of the shank and stummel joint…emotions dictate restoration while practical experience says it’s a gonner…

Steve: I have been there…go with emotions on this one…it will take time and be a real resurrection!!

Now that clarity has been established and hints for the way ahead have been spelt, I decided to complete this project.

I decided to address the stem issues first.

As noted earlier, the seating of the stem in to the mortise was loose and too high for the Pete’s famed system to work efficiently. I inserted a pipe cleaner in to the mortise and up to just below the draught hole, bending the pipe cleaner at this point to mark the depth that I desired. Next, I mark the same depth on to the saddle of the stem with a white correction pen. I wound a scotch tape along the marked white line extending towards the button end. This gave me a reference line beyond which sanding needs to be avoided. With this initial preparation completed, I next mount a 180 grit sanding drum on to my hand held rotary tool, set the speed at half of the full speed and proceeded to sand down the portion of the stem towards the tenon end. I frequently checked the fit of the stem in to the mortise to ensure a snug fit and avoid excessive sanding of the stem. Making steady progress, I was satisfied with the stem modifications at this stage. The tenon was just below the draught hole and there was no play in the seating of the stem in to the mortise. Next, using 150 grit sandpaper, I sanded the entire stem, especially being diligent around the saddle portion that was shaved off to achieve a snug fit of the stem into the mortise. Though I had to spend a considerable time, I was happy with the blending to a smooth transition at the edge which was sanded down. I wiped the stem with Murphy’s oil soap on a cotton swab to remove the sanding dust and oxidation. The stem looked good and should function as it is supposed to, making me very pleased with the fruits of my efforts at this stage.Just a word of caution here for all the first timers using the sanding drum and rotary tool; firstly, ensure that the rotary tool is set at 1/3 or ½ of the full rpm of the tool as too high a speed will fling the stem away from your grip and may result in excessive sanding of the stem surface. Secondly, keep the stem turning evenly at all times to achieve as evenly sanded surface as possible and avoid deep gouges. Thirdly, frequently check the progress being made and remember the mantra “LESS IS MORE”! Fine tuning is best achieved by eyeballing and working with hands and sandpapers.

Staying with the stem repairs, I mixed CA superglue and activated charcoal, filled all the deep tooth chatter and indentations and also over the button edges and set the stem aside for the fills to cure. I shall blend these fills and also sharpen the button edges once the fill has hardened considerably.Now with the stem set aside for the fills to cure, it was time for me to work the stummel. I topped the rim on a piece of 220 grit sand paper to even out the rim surface dents and dings and also to reduce the charred rim surface. The repairs to the cracks, marked with red arrows, are all too apparent now as can be seen in the following pictures. The rim top surface is charred and thin in 10 o’clock direction which have been marked in blue circle. The rim top repair towards the front of the bowl has resulted in thinning of the rim top. This is marked in a yellow circle. This stummel has some serious issues that need to be addressed. I preceded the stummel repairs first by coating the walls of the chamber with a slightly thick layer of J B Weld. J B Weld is a two-part epoxy Cold Weld in two tubes; hardener and steel which are mixed in two equal parts (ratio of 1:1) with hardening time of 5-6 minutes and complete curing time of 6-8 hours. I poured the contents of the two tubes and mixed it well. I applied this mix, as evenly as possible, over the entire chamber wall surface. I worked fast to ensure an even coat over the chamber walls before the weld could harden. I set the stummel aside for the application to harden and cure overnight. By the next afternoon, the J B Weld had cured and hardened considerably and will now be able to hold the stummel together as I move along with drilling counter holes, refreshing the fills in the cracks and further sanding and polishing processes. I gouged out the old fills from the cracks. I was careful not to apply too much pressure or dig deeper than absolutely necessary to remove the old fills. Using a magnifying glass and a white correction pen, I marked the points for the counter holes at the start, the turning and the end points along the extent of all the cracks seen on the stummel, and mark my words all Readers, there were plenty and then some more!! After I was done with my markings, the stummel appeared more like a mosaic of white dots!! Next, I drilled counter holes with a 1mm drill bit mounted on to my hand held rotary tool deep enough to serve as a counter hole while taking care that I did not drill a through and through hole. These counter holes arrest and prevent the spread of the cracks further. The importance of these counter holes cannot be underestimated. In fact, this pipe had been repaired previously and the repairs were solid enough, though without counter holes, that the pipe was smoked by my grandfather for many years. However, in my scant experience in pipe restoration I have seen that the extensive spread of the cracks towards the back of the stummel is a result of lack of drilling a counter hole to arrest the spread!!

I filled these cracks and counter holes with a mix of briar dust and CA superglue using the layering method (layer of superglue followed by sprinkling of briar dust and repeated it till desired thickness of fill was achieved) and set it aside for the fills to cure. I ensured that I filled the thin outer edge of rim top surface that I will subsequently sand down to match with the rest of the rim surface.While the stummel was set aside for curing, I decided to correct the geometry of the stem in relation to the plane of the bowl. The stem was too straight and was awkward to clench. After inserting a pipe cleaner through the stem, I heated the stem with a heat gun till the vulcanite became a little pliable. Holding the tip of the pipe cleaner, I gave the stem a bend, eyeballing it to suit the bowl. Once I had achieved the desired bend, I held it in place under cold running water till the stem had cooled down sufficiently to retain the shape. The stem was now comfortable to clench. Here are the pictures of the stem before (on the left side) and after (on the right side) the bend. Now that the seating of the stem into the mortise and the bend to the stem had been sorted out, I proceeded to sand/ blend the fills and impart a nice black glossy shine to the stem. With a flat head needle file, I sanded these fills to achieve a rough match. I further fine tuned the match by sanding the filled area with a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper pinched between my thumb and forefinger. I followed it up by sanding the entire stem surface using 400, 600, 800 grit sand papers and finally with a piece of 0000 grade steel wool. This serves to remove the deep seated oxidation and also reduces the sanding marks of the more abrasive sand papers. I also sharpened the button edges while sanding. I wiped the stem with a cotton swab and alcohol to remove all the oxidation and sanding dust from the surface. I applied a little Extra Virgin Olive oil over the stem and set it aside to be absorbed by the vulcanite. The stem has turned out amazing and now I felt upbeat about completing this project.I wet sand the stem with 1500 to 12000 grit micromesh pads. Next I rubbed a small quantity of extra fine stem polish that I had got from Mark and set it aside to let the balm work its magic. After about 10 minutes, I hand buffed the stem with a microfiber cloth to a nice shine. I rubbed a small quantity of olive oil in to the stem surface to hydrate it and set it aside. The stem now had a nice deep black and glossy shine.With the stem completed, I turned my attention to the stummel. In the intervening time when I worked the stem, the stummel crack fills had hardened and cured well. Using a flat head needle file, I sanded these fills to achieve a rough match with the rest of the stummel surface. I further fine tuned the fills by sanding the entire stummel surface with folded pieces of 220, 400 and 600 grit sandpapers. The stummel was now clean and even. On close scrutiny of the cleaned stummel surface, I observed a small crack which I had missed out earlier. I will need to drill counter holes to arrest the spread and extending of these cracks. Under a magnifying glass and bright light, I marked the ends of the now observed cracks with a white correction pen. I mounted a 1mm drill bit on to my hand held rotary tool and drilled counter holes. I filled these counter holes and cracks with a mix of briar dust and superglue. I also took this opportunity to touch up and refill those areas which required further fills and set the stummel aside to cure. Once the fills had cured, I went through the complete cycle of sanding with a flat head needle file followed with 220 grits sandpaper. The fills are all solid and have naturally blended in quite nicely with the entire briar surface. The rim top surface is now evenly thick and with folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper, I created a slight bevel to inner and outer edges of the rim top. I am happy with the appearance of the stummel at this stage of restoration. I polished the stummel with micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 12000 pads. I polished the freshly topped rim surface and the newly created inner rim bevel. I wiped the surface with a soft cloth at the end of the micromesh cycle. The stummel looked amazing with a deep shine and beautiful grains popping over the stummel surface. I was surprised that the rim top surface has the same deep brown coloration as the rest of the stummel surface even though the repairs to the cracks were still sticking out like sore thumbs through the shining stummel surface, I was not overly perturbed having made peace with myself regarding the repairs showing, still I shall attempt to mask them by staining the stummel subsequently. I massaged a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration Balm” with my fingers into the briar. The immediate and incredible transformation that takes place is a worthy reward for all the efforts!! I let the balm sit on the surface to be absorbed in to the briar for about 20 minutes. The bowl now looked fresh and attractive with the grains popping out any which way you look at the briar. Even the repairs to the stummel are a lot less visible what with the briar taking up a deep dark and vibrant brown hues. I polished off the balm with a soft cloth to a lovely shine. Next, with a folded piece of 150 grit sandpaper, I sanded the coat of J B Weld from the internal walls of the chamber keeping just a thin layer of coat along the walls. The coat appeared uneven at this stage but once it was coated with pipe mud, the chamber walls would become even and smooth. I decided on giving the stummel a stain wash with a Feibing’s Dark Brown leather dye. I diluted the Feibing’s Dark Brown leather dye in 99.9% isopropyl alcohol in approximate ratio of 1:4 and with a cotton swab, I dabbed the diluted stain over the stummel surface, letting it set for a few moments and thereafter wiping it off with a dry clean cotton swab. I repeated the process till I had achieved the desired coloration. I was pleased with the color of the stummel which highlighted the grains while the stummel repairs were masked nicely. This time around, even the fills had absorbed the stain and blended in nicely with the rest of the stummel. In order to ensure that the stain wash sets in to the briar, I warmed the stummel with a heat gun while being careful that I did not overheat the crack repairs/ fills.Now on to the home stretch… To complete the restoration, I re-attached the stem with the stummel. I mounted a cotton cloth buffing wheel to my hand held rotary tool, set the speed at about half of the full power and applied Blue Diamond compound to the entire pipe to remove all the minor scratches that remained. I wiped/ buffed the pipe with a soft cotton cloth to clear it of any leftover compound dust. With a cotton buffing wheel earmarked for carnauba wax, I applied several coats of carnauba wax. I worked the complete pipe till the time all the wax was absorbed by the briar. The pipe now boasted of a beautiful and lustrous shine. I vigorously rubbed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine and also clean away any residual wax that had been left behind. I vigorously buffed the nickel ferrule with a jeweler’s cloth and brought it to a nice shine. I was very happy with the way this beauty had turned out. The following pictures speak of the transformation that the pipe has undergone. There was only one more issue that needed to be addressed and one that could not be ignored, being a functional issue. After I had lined the walls of the chamber with a thin coat of J. B. Weld, it was necessary to prevent the walls from coming in to direct contact with the burning tobacco. I addressed this issue by mixing activated charcoal and plain yogurt to a thicker consistency, just enough that it would spread easily and thereafter applied it evenly all along the chamber walls after inserting a folded pipe cleaner through the draught hole to keep it open. Once dry and set, this will not only protect the walls but also aid in faster buildup of cake.P.S.: This project was one with many challenging issues that needed to be addressed, the first and biggest being finding an original Peterson’s system P-lip pipe stem, ensuring a snug fit in to the mortise, modifying the stem to function as it is supposed to and finally addressing, fixing and masking all those cracks. But now that the project is completed and the pipe is definitely smoke-able and gorgeous looking, I cannot but thank Steve who goaded me in to working on this pipe in the first place and for all the input/ suggestions rendered during the process to help me preserve memories of ancestor.

I wish to thank each one for sparing their valuable time to read through this write up and sharing this journey with me while I enjoyed working on this treasured inheritance.

 

Finally Getting to Finish a Churchwarden Stem for a Chimera Bowl that Alex gave me.


Blog by Steve Laug

Over a year ago Alex gave me a second bowl by Tedd Weitzman that needed a stem. I recall that when he passed it to me that he said that Tedd had given the bowl to him to finish some time. It was one of Tedd’s early pipes and one that he had never finished. Now the bowl had made its way with Alex from Atlanta, Georgia to Vancouver, BC he moved here. As we spoke about it over the past months Alex thought that maybe it would make a good churchwarden. I figured that it would but I did not have a stem that would work for that at the moment so it went in the box of pipes that I have to work on for Alex.

Sunday evening I took the bowl out of the bowl and had a look at it. I turned it over in my hands several times and studied it. It is an interesting bowl and not a shape that I have a ready name for. Alex has said that it was made around the same time as the Chimera pipe that I had worked on for him previously (https://rebornpipes.com/2018/07/06/adding-some-length-to-a-chimara-blowfish/). Tedd Weitzman commented on the previous pipe and remembered it well. The Blowfish pipe that I wrote about in the above blog was stamped Chimera while this one bore no stamping. It was an unmarked bowl so I was going with Alex’s memory about it. The way that the pipe was designed it worked as a sitter without a stem. Hopefully it would do the same with the new stem I was going to fashion for it. There was some rim darkening on the back side of the rim top and a small nick on the front edge. The mortise was drilled in the peak of the shank end that was almost a tortoise shell shape. Describing it is a bit of a challenge but this might work. If you can imagine a tortoise of turtle shell – the mortise came out where the head and neck would have extended. There was some damage around the thin edges of the shank end and some wear there as well. Here are some photos of the bowl. Tedd and I had another common friend besides Alex – John Offerdahl. I could not immediately get a hold of Alex this morning so I sent a quick message to John. For the life of me I could not remember Tedd’s name or the brand of the pipe that I had done previously. When it was finished Alex had me send it to John who passed it back to Tedd… the circle closes. John responded promptly this morning that the pipe was definitely on that was made by Tedd. It was made during the time that he and Tedd had made pipes under the Chimera name around 2010.

I remembered that the Chimera was a creature from Greek mythology that was often depicted as a creature that was a hybrid. It often was shown as having the head of a lion and a got and a snake’s head at the end of the tail. Throughout time it has been used to mean any fictional creature composed of multiple different animals. Knowing John’s love of literature I was pretty sure that this is what was in his mind when he came up with the brand name for the pipes.

One of the reasons for me taking the pipe out of the box on Sunday evening was that I had received a stem that my brother Jeff had picked up at an auction on Friday. It was an older KBB stem probably from a Yello-Bole. The threads on the screw in tenon were worn and thus the tenon was really not usable. There was a worn and damaged propeller logo on the stem top that was off centre. I think that the stem was a replacement and that the logo was an afterthought. Here is what the stem looked like after I had wiped off the sticky spots and spilled glue that was on the surface. There were some tooth marks and chatter on the button end and the airway and slot were filled with debris and tars. The curve of the stem was perfect and the straight button end worked far better for me than a flared or fishtail end.I heated the metal tenon with the flame of a lighter and softened the glue holding it in the stem. I unscrewed it from the stem with a pair of pliers and wiped down the end of the stem. I faced the stem end on a topping board to make it smooth and square and used my Dremel and sanding drum to give the end a slight taper so that it would fit in the mortise of the bowl. I took a few photos of the stem in place – very roughly with more work to do but you can see the direction I was heading with this one. Yesterday I took my wife and two of my daughters down to Bellingham, Washington to do a bit of shopping with their Christmas money. The mall is great because it has a large circular waiting area that is comfortable and well lit so I planned ahead for my wait. I took the stem and bowl with me along with several folded pieces of 220 grit sandpaper. The girls had a great time shopping and I had a nice coffee and worked on the fit of the stem to the shank. We both had a great day. In the photos that follow you can see the conical shape of the tenon end of the shank. It fits snugly in the shank. This morning I worked on polishing out the remaining oxidation with 220 grit and 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. I like the overall look of the stem. I took photos of the stem after sanding it.I rubbed the stem down with Denicare Mouthpiece Polish. I have a few tins of this laying around so I am trying to use them up. I have found it is a great pre-polish for my use as it shows me areas that I need to work on with the micromesh sanding pads.  I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped it down after each pad with a damp cloth to remove the sanding dust. I polished it further with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. I finished by rubbing the stem down with some “No Oxy Oil” to protect the vulcanite. I am experimenting with the product from Briarville and tracking how it works so I can write a review of it. I cleaned up the darkening on the back side of the rim top and the nick on the front edge with 220 grit and 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. I also worked over the areas around the mortise that had nicks and damaged spots with the sandpaper. I was able to smooth them out using the same papers. I polished the rim top and shank end with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads and wiping it down with a damp cloth after each pad. I restained the sanded areas with an Oak stain pen to blend it into the rest of the finish.I rubbed the bowl and rim down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the briar with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed the pipe with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. I really like watching the Balm do its magic and bring the briar alive. This interestingly shaped Chimera Bowl has some really beautiful grain all around the bowl and shank. The grain really is quite stunning. The bowl while uniquely shaped is very symmetrical. The placement of the mortise at the peak of the shank would have made fitting a stem difficult. I can see why it was left stemless and unmarked. I decided to go with a military style mount that would fit well without changing the shape of the shank end. The long, bent Churchwarden vulcanite stem is high quality and shined up well. I buffed the bowl and the stem with Blue Diamond polish to raise the shine on the briar and the vulcanite. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the entire pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are: Length: 11 inches, Height: 2 ¾ inches, Outside Diameter: 1 ½ inches, Diameter of the chamber: ¾ inch. This uniquely shaped briar bowl and long stem work together to make a Churchwarden that feels great in the hand. Its length makes it a perfect pipe for sitting and reading a good book or watching a movie. It is light in weight which also adds to the charm. It was a pleasant one to work on and a definite change of pace from Bob Kerr’s estate. Thanks for walking through the restoration and restemming of this pipe with me.

Fashioning a Second Churchwarden, “Made in England” for a Special Christmas Gift


Blog by Dal Stanton

I completed the first Christmas CW project by repurposing an Italian Permofilter rusticated bowl and mounting it on a Warden stem.  It is to be a gift for my son, Josiah, who came to Bulgaria from St. Louis to celebrate Christmas in Sofia, Bulgaria, with Mom and Dad!  Josiah’s Churchwarden came out well!Our daughter, Johanna, also has come to Bulgaria for Christmas.  She and her husband, Niko, arrived first and so my work fashioning a CW as a Christmas gift for Niko is a bit clandestine trying to keep it a secret until Christmas Day!  Niko hasn’t been easy to figure out for a pipe gift!  I was first going to give him a sculpted Meerschaum because I knew he had one before – a cheaper one that disintegrated in his hand while smoking it.  Yet, after he arrived, he saw that I was working on a Churchwarden for ‘someone’ who had commissioned one (actually, it was Josiah’s Churchwarden that I had commissioned myself!) and he wanted a Churchwarden, which was also on his priority list to add to his collection.  When I fished around regarding which he would rather have – trying not to spill the beans that I was gifting him a pipe, he said that a Churchwarden was higher on the list.  So, the Sculpted Meerschaum goes back into the inventory benefiting the Daughters of Bulgaria – our work helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited!The bowl I’m repurposing is from an unbranded petite bent Billiard that is marked only with the nomenclature, ‘Made in England’ on the left shank side and a shape number on the right, ‘950’.  I acquired this pipe in the ‘Lot of 66’ and it has been waiting for someone to commission him in the For “Pipe Dreamers” Only! collection. It is an attractive pipe and the grain shows much potential.  I did a quick search of the main shape number charts of English pipe names such as BBB and GBD but found no reference to a shape 950 that helped me with identifying the origins of this pipe.Now with the stummel on the worktable to transform it into a Churchwarden, I take more pictures to take a closer look.  The chamber has light to moderate cake build up and the lava flow over the rim is thick.  The rim width is also imbalanced with a thinning of the rim on the front left.  Undoubtedly, the point where the former steward drew down the flame to light the blend.The rim also has its share of nicks, cuts and chips.  The stummel also has several dents and pits here and there which need addressing.  As expected, the grime is thick on the darkened stummel.  Yet, the grain underneath shows great potential. The grain is primarily vertically oriented around the stummel. The stummel has the feel of having some age.  By the shape and looks of it, I would guess that it is from the 1960s or earlier.  The plan is to transform the petite bent Billiard into a Churchwarden by mounting it to a precast Warden stem that measures 8 5/8 inches in length.  I acquire Warden stems from Tim West at www.jhlowe.comI begin this CW Christmas project for Niko with the cleaning of the stummel.  First, after spreading paper towel to aid in cleaning, I use the Pipnet Reaming Kit to address the cake build up in the chamber.  I again take a close-up picture of the chamber showing the light cake build up to mark the start.  I use only the smallest of the 4 blade heads available in the Pipnet Kit.  Transitioning to the Savinelli Fitsall Tool, I scrape the chamber walls further and follow by sanding the chamber wall with 240 grade paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen.  The left-over carbon dust is then removed with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95% and after an inspection of the walls, I find no problems with heating. Moving now to the cleaning of the external surface, the surface is scrubbed using a cotton pad wetted with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap.A brass wire brush is also helpful in scrubbing the rim top addressing the lava caked on it.  I also utilize my Winchester pocketknife to scrape the rim.  To rinse the soap, the stummel is transferred to the kitchen sink where the stummel is rinsed with warm water.  Using different sized shank brushes with anti-oil dish soap, the mortise and airway are cleaned. Finally, after rinsing and back at the worktable, a picture records the results of the cleaning.  The old worn finish is all but gone revealing the briar beneath. The scratches and imperfections are very evident mingling with the distinctive grain patterns. Next, using cotton buds and pipe cleaners wetted with isopropyl 95%, cleaning the internals is addressed. As the picture below shows in stark visual imagery, the internals were a bear to clean!  Using a small dental spoon, I also excavate a lot of tars and oils scraped off the mortise walls.  From what I am able to see and feel down the mortise with the probe, the internal design has a trap and the angled airway is drilled over the top of the trap angling toward the draft hole entering the chamber.  The trap has done the job of collecting the gunk, but the steward did not seem to know that frequent cleaning of the trap would keep this guy in better shape!  Finally, after many expended pipe cleaners and buds, they began to emerge lighter. Later, the internal cleaning will continue with an alcohol and kosher salt soak further to clean and refresh the internals.Now looking at the stummel, I know that the shank will be undergoing a good amount of sanding to shape the shank during the stem fitting process.  Therefore, the restoration work that I now do on the stummel external surface will not progress beyond the shank sanding at this point.  I start at the top looking at the rim’s condition.  It’s in bad shape with nicks and chips around the rim’s edge and the scorching damage resulting in the thinning on the left front quadrant.  I use the topping board to begin addressing these issues. With 240 paper on top of the chopping board that serves as the topping board, I rotate the inverted stummel several times on the board. After a few rotations, I stop to look. With this first picture, the contours of the rim thinning are clearer.  I continue to rotate on the topping board.These next pictures show the progression of the topping a step at a time. I stop with the 240 topping even though edge damage remains.  I will rectify this with beveling instead of removing more rim real estate.  I switch the paper to 600 grade and smooth the rim top further with this finer grade sanding paper.  After several rotations on the board, I’m satisfied with the topping board results.  Nice looking bird’s eye grains are peeking through the rim surface.Addressing the edge problems, 120 grade paper is used first to cut an outer edge bevel to remove the remaining cuts and chips on the edge.  Following the 120 paper 240 grade paper is used to smooth out the bevel.Again to freshen the rim lines after the beveling, I do a very quick topping again with 240 and 600 grade paper.I finish the rim repair by sanding the bevel on the outside and inside rim edges with 600 grade paper.  It looks good.  I move on.Continuing now to address the stummel proper, I will do what I can to spare the remnant nomenclature on the shank sides as I sand out the problems on the stummel.  I use sanding sponges to address the cuts and dents on the stummel surface.  First, using a coarse sponge to sand, I follow with a medium grade and a light grade sponge.  Wow!  This block of briar is impressive with vertical flame grain running around the bowl and as you would expect, bird’s eye grain populating both the heel and rim.  Very nice.  I’ve progressed all I can now with the stummel until the stem sizing and placement is completed.  The first step in this process is to size and fit the Warden precast stem’s tenon into the mortise.  As with the first Churchwarden gift project for my son, Josiah, Niko’s Churchwarden Made in England bowl’s mortise is measured to establish the ideal target measurement for the tenon.  This measurement is 8.61mm. 40mm is added to this ‘target size’ to establish the ‘fat size’ target.  This is a conservative sizing of the rough tenon in order to patiently and more slowly sand the tenon to the target size.  This allows for customizing the tenon as well as avoiding the danger of cutting too much with the Pimo Tenon Turning Tool.  The ‘fat size’ is right at 9mm.Next, to establish a starting measurement sizing of the rough tenon of the precast Warden stem, the PIMO tool is used. To do this, the first step is to drill the airway with a drill bit provided by the PIMO kit to allow the PIMO tool’s guide pin to fit the airway. After mounting the drill bit on the hand drill, the airway is easily enlarged with the bit.  Next, after mounting the PIMO tool on the hand drill, using the Allen wrenches provided by the PIMO kit, I adjust the carbide cutter arm to be just a bit smaller than the rough tenon size.  This is simply to cut a uniform starting measurement size. I accomplish the initial cut and take a measurement of 9.46.  The difference between this measurement and the fat target of 9mm is .46mm. Again, I adjust the carbide cutter arm to close this gap.  After adjusting, I do a test cut by only cutting a little of the tenon and then measure.    The reason for doing the initial test cut is that if you over cut and the tenon is too small… well, you have a very loose fit!  My test cut was too much – 7.63mm! The target size, actual mortise measurement is 8.61mm.    After widening the cutting arm, I make another test cut and measure – 8.93mm.  This is good enough for achieving the fat target. I complete the tenon cut at 8.93mm.  I take the cut all the way to the stem facing – making sure that there is a square cut and no shouldering on the stem facing.Transitioning now to sanding, I first use a coarse 120 grade paper to do the heavy lifting.  As I sand, I test periodically to see the progress of the tenon’s entry movement into the mortise.  I grip the paper around the tenon and then with my other hand rotate the stem to create the sanding movement.  This keeps the tenon round as well. The pictures show the progress. When the tenon is close to fitting, I switch to 240 grade paper.  The stem finally seats into the mortise.When I eyeballed the shank size and the stem next to it, I knew that the shank was a bit larger than the stem and I would need to sand the shank some to taper the shank toward the stem size.  When the stem was seated, I saw how much of an overhang there was – it’s not a little.This angle however, revealed another issue that I did not foresee. On the lower shank, just below the stem is the hollow caused by the angled drilling of the airway.  I take a close-up of this cavity and then remove the stem to show the inverted mortise and drilling. Oh my. This creates some challenges. As if to add insult to injury, I discover another issue.  The tenon has a slight rock or wiggle when it’s fully engaged.  What this means is that the front of the tenon was sanded down too much and is not in contact with the mortise wall.  The tenon closer to the stem facing is making contact.  When I pivot the stem vertically, it rocks a little.  Not good. I decide to address the lose tenon first and think about the rest. To expand the tenon, I use a drill bit to insert into the airway.  I choose a drill bit which is the next size larger than what will fit into the airway.  I then use a Bic lighter to heat the tenon to warm the vulcanite.  When the vulcanite is warm enough, it softens and then I push the bit in the airway which expands the tenon.  After heating and inserting the bit, I take it to the kitchen sink and run cold water on the tenon to set the expanded vulcanite.  With the aid of a pair of pliers, the bit is retracted and again the tenon is inserted into the mortise.  The procedure worked well – the tenon tightened and there is now no rocking.  Moving on. After giving some thought to the conundrum of the shank and Warden stem placement, I recognize that I will not be able to save the bowl’s scant nomenclature.  To taper the shank in a balanced way, will require the sanding to start further up the shank.  I also decide that I will fill the drilling channel with briar dust putty to remove the hollow and make this area solid.  Finally, I decide to fit the shank with a band to mask the hollow as well as to give the emerging Churchwarden an added bit of class. First, to fill the drilling channel, I mix a small amount of briar dust and thick CA glue.  I use a plastic disk as a mixing pallet and to help with cleanup I put scotch tape down to mix on.  After putting a small amount of briar dust on the pallet, thick CA glue is placed next to it.  Using a toothpick, the briar dust is pulled into the CA glue and is mixed with the toothpick.  When the mixture thickens, I use the toothpick to trowel the putty into the drilling channel in the mortise.  I then set the stummel aside allowing the putty to cure through the night – lights out!The next morning, the putty has cured, and I go to work filing the fill to match the curvature of the mortise. A half-circle tapered needle file does the job well. The next pictures show the patch material now filling the hollow of the airway drilling and as well the necessary sanding to remove the excess overhang of the shank facing over the stem. To begin the sanding to remove the excess over the stem facing and to taper the shank, a coarse 120 grade paper makes the work more efficient.  The sanding includes the entire shank to provide a more gradual tapering toward the stem.  Without this, a ‘stuffed pants’ appearance is left.  The stem remains engaged in the mortise throughout the sanding process.After a good bit of sanding, the alignment is looking good.  As usual, on the sides where the precast stem seams are, the sanding is more directed.  The pictures show the alignment at this point using 120 grade paper alone.  The tapering of the shank looks good. I mark the upper side of the stem with a piece of scotch tape so that I later refit the stem with the correct orientation.  The next thing I want to see it how a band or shank cap will work.  Some months ago, the word went out about a pipe man on French eBay selling bags with a variety of copper rings, bands, caps, and spacers at a very decent price.  I don’t know who started the rumor – Steve, Paresh, Victor?, but several of us were able to order a supply for our work desks. The package containing the supply had a card, Pipe Estate at www.pipes-estate.com.  I have been waiting for an opportunity to utilize this addition to my inventory.After dumping the multitude of copper fitments on my worktable, it was fun taking a closer look at all the available sizes and shapes.  But the question always is, will there be one in all these that will work??As if I were holding the Holy Grail, I found a few that looked hopeful, but one was perfect.  A copper shank cap that fit the shank perfectly and reaches over the end of the shank to provide a spacer.  Perfect!Remounting the stem, I oohed and awed at the beauty and wonder of this addition to the creation of this Churchwarden going to Niko for Christmas!  There was a sacrifice in having to sand away the ‘Made in England’ marking on the shank which bums me out in a huge way, but I’m pleased with the shank tapering and the contribution of the copper shank cap to the ensemble. The rest of the Warden stem is awaiting sanding, but for the time, I continue sanding to smooth and finish the stummel.  Following the coarse 120 paper that did the main work on the tapering, 240 and 600 grade papers continue the process of smoothing the shank surface. Next, I put the stummel aside and continue sanding the remainder of the Warden stem with 120 sanding paper. I also use a flat needle file to shape the raw, precast button. Following the filing and 120 grade paper, 240 grade continues the smoothing process by erasing the scratches left behind by the coarser filing and sanding. Following the 240 paper, wet sanding with 600 grade paper erases the scratches of the 240 sanding and then applying 000 grade steel wool completes this phase of the sanding process.  One picture of the entire stem is taken followed by closeups of the upper and lower bit. The full regiment of micromesh pads is applied next by wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400 then dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  Between each set of 3 pads, Obsidian Oil is applied to vitalize the vulcanite stem.  Again, I take one picture of the entire stem from the orbital shot and two closeups of the upper and lower bit after the final 3 micromesh pads.With the micromesh process completed, it is time to bend the Warden stem.  I like to draw a template of a bend so that I’m not simply eyeballing the process.  The general goal is to have the mouthpiece of the Warden stem on a parallel trajectory with the plane of the rim.  On the diagram below, I draw a horizontal line representing the plane of the rim.  I also rough sketch the current disposition of the unbent stem.  Then I rough in a bend starting about 1/3 the distance from the shank and complete the sketch parallel with the rim plane.  This is the guide template.The hot air gun focuses on the area about 1/3 up the stem for the first bend attempt.  I bend the fat part of the stem first to have a more even and sweeping bend as it takes longer for the fat part to become supple than the thin part.  As the stem is rotated over the hot air, gentle pressure is applied and when the stem starts to bend, I know it’s reaching the state of shaping.  As the bottom third becomes supple, I move the heating up the stem a bit now to warm the middle.  All the while rotating back and forth and around.After the stem heats enough using the hot air gun, I place the pipe on the template and hold it in place until it holds its position.  I’ve found that even though it takes longer this way, I’ve lost the shape I want if I transition the pipe to the kitchen to run the stem under cool water to quicken the cooling.  The first attempt is good.  There’s a nice flowing bend but the final trajectory is a little wide.The second attempt is very close to what I want, but it’s still a hair wide.One more time heating does the trick.  This time I take the stem to the sink and run it under cool water to cool the vulcanite and hold the bend that has been created.With the Warden stem completed until the final polishing phases, I turn again to the stummel.  Using the full regiment of micromesh pads, with pads 1500 to 2400 I wet sand, followed by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  The bowl’s grain emerges through the process and I like what I’m seeing.  The bowl is fully wrapped with a vertical flame grain with bird’s eye grain populating the heel and rim – as you would expect being the cross-view perspective of the flame grain. With the hour growing late, I continue the internal cleaning and refreshing process using a kosher salt and alcohol soak. The first step is to fashion a ‘wick’ from pulling and stretching a cotton ball.  The wick serves to draw tars and oils out from the mortise cavity. Using a stiff wire, the wick is guided down the mortise. Then the bowl is filled with kosher salt which doesn’t leave an aftertaste as the iodized version.  The stummel is then placed in an egg carton for stability.Using a large eyedropper, isopropyl 95% fills the bowl until it surfaces over the salt.  After a few minutes the alcohol is absorbed, and I top off the alcohol one more time and set the stummel aside to soak through the night.The next morning, the soiling of the salt and wick evidences the processes active through the night.  The tars and oils were drawn from the internal briar surface.  I toss the expended salt and wipe the bowl with a paper towel.  I also blow through the mortise to loosen and remove any remaining salt crystals.To make sure all is cleaned, one cotton bud and one pipe cleaner dipped in isopropyl 95% were all that was needed to verify the results of the internal cleaning – cleaned!  I move on.Next, using Before & After Restoration Balm, the external briar is freshened and enlivened.  Mark Hoover’s Restoration Balm (www.ibepen.com) works very well to bring out the natural hues and to deepen them.  I place some of the Balm on my fingers and work it into the briar surface.  Afterwards, I place it the stummel aside for about 20 minutes to allow the Balm to do its thing.  Then the excess Balm is wiped/buffed off with a micromesh cloth.  The results are as hoped – a beautiful piece of briar is now more beautiful. Before moving on to the fine polishing and waxing phase, the copper shank cap/band needs to be attached to the shank. I test fit the cap over the shank and insert the stem.  The fit still looks good.  Next, with great caution, I place a drop of thick CA glue on the end of a toothpick and this apply the glue to the inside of the ring/cap.  Using the end of the toothpick, I run the glue around the entire underside and then slip it over the shank and press it into place.  I do this without excess glue seeping out from around the edges – relief!  I do not reengage the stem for a few minutes to allow the CA glue to cure – I don’t risk getting glue on the stem! On the home stretch!  With a cotton cloth buffing wheel mounted to the Dremel with the speed set at about 40% full power, I apply Blue Diamond compound to the stem and stummel avoiding the copper band.  When completed, I use a felt cloth to buff the pipe to remove compound dust before applying the wax.  Next, changing to another cotton cloth buffing wheel maintaining the same speed, carnauba wax is applied as well to the stem and stummel followed by a rigorous hand buffing with a microfiber cloth to raise the shine.

Wow!  The grain on this stummel catches the eye with the flame grain circling the bowl.  This bowl works well as a Churchwarden.  The size is perfect, and the shank pitch puts the long flowing Warden stem at a nice trajectory.  The addition of the copper band/shank cap is classy and works very well to transition the bowl and the stem.  I believe my son-in-law, Niko, will enjoy this Churchwarden which will be wrapped and waiting for him under the tree!  Thanks for joining me!

Fashioning a Churchwarden as a Christmas Gift for my Son


Blog by Dal Stanton

One of the advantages of having ‘The Pipe Steward’ in the immediate family is that there’s a very good probability that his gifting patterns might reflect one of his favorite pastimes – restoring pipes!  Over the years, it has given me great joy to gift my loved ones – sons and daughters(!), with pipes that I’ve restored.  There are at least two reasons for this.  First, they receive a beautiful pipe which has been given the TLC that brings it again to a pristine condition – often better than new!  They can enjoy the composite beauty of its shape, grain formations and hues.  Additionally, understanding a pipe’s story through the research and write-up that accompanies each recommissioned pipe adds to the overall appreciation for the pipe.  The pipe itself is the first part of a growing legacy.  Secondly, the fact that the gift has passed through the care and attention of my hands, restoring the pipe’s condition, adds my personal part to the pipe’s legacy.  The ‘Giver’s’ story is added to the pipe and is then associated with the pipe by the loved one that that receives the pipe, becoming its new steward.

My son, Josiah, is coming from St. Louis to join his mother and I for Christmas here in Bulgaria.  He joins his sister, Johanna and her husband, Niko, who have come to Sofia from Nashville.  Both Josiah and Johanna, our two youngest, lived here with us when they were teens.  So, they are coming ‘home’ for Christmas and this is special for them and for us.  Two additional things add to the specialness of this Christmas reunion.  First, Josiah is bringing with him a young lady for mom and dad to meet!  They met in college and have cultivated a relationship.  She’ll be coming to meet his parents….no pressure!  Secondly, Johanna and Niko are also bringing a special gift – we just found out that they are expecting their first little one to add to our growing number of grandchildren!  Gifts are special during Christmas and they come in different ways.  The greatest gift is the reason we celebrate Christmas – God’s gift of his Son, Christ, given to a dying and broken world to bring the gift of life.

For this Christmas, a Churchwarden will be fashioned for Josiah.  I enjoy repurposing forgotten bowls to give them new life by simply mounting them to a long, flowing Warden stem.  The uniqueness of the Churchwarden is that it is not primarily the style of bowl that makes it a Churchwarden, but the length and style of the stem.  From Bill Burney’s description in Pipedia we discover this information.I found two bowls in my box that held CW potential.  A petite ‘Made in England’ Bent Billiard with the shape number 950 on the shank.  No other markings.  It’s a classic petite English pipe which is attractive by itself, but so far, no one has shown interest in adopting him from the ‘For “Pipe Dreamers” Only!’ online collection where pipe men and women commission pipes for restoration benefitting our work here in Bulgaria with women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited – the Daughters of Bulgaria (Incidentally, if you go to this link you will see our daughter, Johanna, a few years ago painting a picture depicting our work with the Daughters).  I believe this bowl will serve as a gift for my son-in-law, Niko – next in queue.  The other bowl is a rusticated bowl with the sloppy stamping not fitting the smooth panel on the shank’s left flank.  Here are the candidates.As I evaluated the two, I decided on the rusticated bowl for my son, that is rustic and will give the newly fashioned CW an ‘Ole World’ feel.  I take a closer look at the ‘Rustic’s’ nomenclature.  The sloppy stamping shows ‘ERMOFILTER’ – with ‘’ER” running over onto the metal stem facing and stem, [over] ‘ORTED BRIAR’ (with the ‘IAR’ running over!) [over] ‘ITALY’, the COM.  Undoubtedly, the stamping’s aim was to reveal the name, ‘Thermofilter’ which is not found in Pipedia but Pipephil.eu has this panel of information with a ‘?’ indicating the COM.  The Thermofilter on my work desk adds Italy as the country of origin.I acquired this pipe while in the US a few years back at Madeline’s Antique Store in Manchester, Tennessee, just off Interstate 24.  It was a quick stop as we were traveling through and saw the billboard and decided to stop.  It was a very fruitful detour as I found a Dunhill in the wild and purchased it for a pittance.  In the picture below, the Dunhill (see link for this restoration: Another Wedding Trip Pick: A 1961 DUNHILL EK Shell Briar Made in England 1 4S) is visible (3rd from the bottom) and reminded me that this was on the trip when Johanna and Niko were married!  The Thermofilter is barely visible on the right edge in the pipe stand.I take some pictures of the rusticated bowl to get a closer look and to mark the start. The bowl is a perfect size for a Churchwarden, which tend to be on the diminutive side.  The half bend will provide a great sweeping trajectory for the Warden stem.  The rusticated surface is dirty and needs a thorough cleaning of the crevasses. I’m attracted to the deep burgundy red finish of the briar.  It should clean up very nicely.  To begin the project, an inspection of the chamber reveals almost no cake at all, if any.  I go directly to the Savinelli Fitsall Tool to scrape the sides and then sand the chamber using 240 grade paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen.  To clean the chamber of debris, I wipe it with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95%.After cleaning the chamber, an inspection reveals no problems with heating cracks or fissures.  Yet, I discover something strange.  On opposite sides of the chamber wall I discover stampings of numbers and perhaps some letters.  I’ve never seen this before and I decide to send a note to Steve to find out if his rebornpipes experience would lend any help. Steve’s response to my inquiry was brief:

Nope never seen that. I have seen small numbers in the bottom of the bowl. Maybe heated like a branding iron. What is the nomenclature?

With no resolution to this mystery, I move on to cleaning the external surface. I clean the rusticated surface with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap.  A cotton pad starts the process, but I transition to a bristled toothbrush quickly to clean in the craggy cuts of the rusticated surface.   From the worktable scrubbing, I transfer the stummel to the kitchen sink where I continue to rinse the stummel with warm water and clean the internals using long shank brushes.  With warm water, I add anti-oil dish liquid soap and scrub using the shank brushes.  After rinsing again, returning to the worktable I take the following picture of the cleaned stummel.  I notice that the finish is partially removed from the smooth briar panel holding the nomenclature.To complete the removal of the finish on the panel, I wet a cotton pad with isopropyl 95% and rub the smooth briar panel as well as the smooth briar ring circling the shank end.  This will provide a distinct contrast later during the finishing stage. What I also notice from the soiled cotton pad is that the finish color appears to be an Oxblood hue.     Moving now to cleaning the internals in earnest with cotton buds and pipe cleaners wetted with isopropyl 95%, I find that the mortise is clean!  This doesn’t happen often and I’m thankful for the shortened work!I now transition to fashioning the Churchwarden stem.  The first step is to fashion the oversized tenon of the precast Warden stem.  Using the electronic caliper – which was one of the best additions to my tool chest! – I take a measurement of the mortise diameter which is 7.86mm.  This represents the eventual sizing diameter of the tenon after sanding it down to size.The next step is to cut a starting test cut on the tenon using another great addition to my tool chest – the PIMO Tenon Turning Tool that I acquired from Vermont Freehand (https://vermontfreehand.com/).  I keep the directions on the wall in front of me for easy reference!  Before using the tool, the PIMO kit provides a drill bit to pre-drill the airway of the precast stem to fit the Tool’s guide pin.  After mounting the bit on the hand drill, I drill the airway.  Next, I mount the stem onto the PIMO tool which has replaced the drill bit on the hand drill.  Opening the carbon cutting arm to just a bit smaller than the diameter of the raw tenon, I make an initial cut of the tenon for measurement purposes.  The sizing is 9.79mm.  This is the starting point for sizing down the tenon.  Generally, it’s not a good idea to cut the tenon with the PIMO tool aiming for an exact finished target size (7.86) because of the danger of taking off too much.  It is also true that each fitting tends to be different.  So, the approach is to come to the target sizing in a more patient, conservative pace.  I add about .40 mm to the target size of 7.86 which identifies what I call the ‘fat’ target to aim for with the PIMO tool then transitioning to sanding by hand.  Adding .40mm to 7.86 results in a fat target of about 8.26mm.  This means I need to remove additionally about 1.50mm (9.79 minus 8.26) with the PIMO tool.Using the Allen wrenches to adjust the carbide cutting arm to a tighter cut, I first cut a test and measure.  I want to make sure I’m not over cutting before traversing the entire length of the tenon. And I’m glad that I did the test cut!  The test cut measured 6.72 – smaller than the target size!  The second test cut measures at 8.10mm – falling between the fat target and the target size – I go with it.  I cut the entire tenon as well as cutting into the stem facing just a bit to make sure that the edge is squared and not shouldered from the original precast stem.The cut is ideal.  The tenon is still larger than the mortise so that sanding now will ease into the fit and make it more customized.It doesn’t take too long with sanding for the mortise fully to receive the newly shaped tenon.  A coarse, 120 grade paper is used initially to do the heavy lifting then 240 follows to fine tune.  The fit is good.There is no perfect union and this picture shows the shank facing extending a bit beyond the stem facing.I wrap the shank with masking tape to provide some protection to the rusticated finish as I sand to bring the shank facing and stem into alignment.  As before, focusing on the fitting first, I start with coarse 120 and follow with 240 to sand the junction.    When the junction transitions smoothly from the shank to the stem, I transition to the stem proper.  The picture below shows the casting seam down the side of the stem.  This seam as well as the ripples that are always present in a precast stem are sanded out.After some effort, and a lot of rubber dust(!), the ripples and seams are sanded with coarse 120 grade paper.  These pictures are not easy to see detail, but if ripples remained, they would be evident with the different hues on the stem.Next, I work on the bit and button shaping.  You can see the rough condition of the button and the vulcanite excess on the slot.  The darkening of the vulcanite forming a ‘V’ in the middle of the bit shows how the surface of the precast stem dips as it flares out to the stem edge. This will be filed out and the button shaped using a flat needle file.   The following two pictures show the progress of filing.  To remove the valley dip of the surface, I file down the outside valley ridges that are higher.  At the same time, the filing sharpens the button lip.  The first picture shows the initial lateral filing to bring the bit surface into a more level state.The next picture shows the leveled bit surface after the outer quadrants have been rounded and shaped toward the stem edges.The final filing for the lower bit completed.The slot is rough.  After filing the excess vulcanite to level the slot facing, I see a small divot in the inner edge of the slot which I didn’t picture!  A round pointed needle file fits nicely into the slot allowing uniform filing of the inner slot edges – upper and lower.  With the heavy-duty sanding and filing completed. I use 240 paper to fine tune the bit and button shaping.  At this point, the button perimeter is sanded.I follow the fine tune sanding of the button by sanding the entire stem with 240 grade paper.The next picture was to remind me to remark about how nasty working in rubber dust is!  It, without question, is the least desirable part of fashioning new Churchwardens!  This Bulgarian designed work cloth will be going into the soak tonight!The Warden stem is transitioned to the kitchen sink where 600 grade paper is employed to wet sand the entire stem. During the entire sanding process, the stem and stummel remain joined so that the sanding creates a perfectly uniform union with stem and shank. Before transitioning to the micromesh phase, I file the end of the tenon where excess and rough vulcanite persists.  Using the flat needle file, it is dispatched quickly.The question in my mind is whether to bend the stem now or go directly into the micromesh phase.  By leaving it unbent at this point makes continued sanding easier, and this is what I do. Using 1500 to 2400 grade micromesh pads I wet sand the stem followed by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  Between each set of 3 pads I apply Obsidian Oil to condition the vulcanite.  I only show one picture of this process instead of the usual 3 because capturing the detail with the long stem is not possible. I do, however, take close-ups of the upper and lower bit. The next step is to bend the Churchwarden stem.  The goal is to bend the stem so that the end of the stem, the bit, is on a parallel trajectory with the plane of the rim of the stummel.  I sketch a template to help visualize and compare.I use a hot air gun to heat the vulcanite.  I continually rotate and move the stem over the hot air to avoid scorching the stem and to heat more evenly a section of the stem.  To begin, I focus the bend more toward the middle of the stem, where the stem is thicker.  If I heat the entire stem at once the thinner portion at the end of the stem will heat and bend first creating a sharper angle – which I am trying to avoid.  A sweeping bend is what I like best.As the stem is heated, gentle pressure is applied so I know when it becomes supple enough to start bending.  The first step focusing on the middle bend is below.  After I bend it, I hold it in place until I run it under cold water in the kitchen sink to hold the bend.  As expected, the trajectory of the end of the stem is still a little high.  The next step of heating I avoid the middle of the stem and heat the section about 3/4 up the stem – the thinner section.  After heating and bending more, again I take the stem to the sink to cool the stem with water to hold the angle.  The template shows that I’m in the sweet spot.  Notice I inserted a pipe cleaner in the end of the stem to be on the safe side – guarding the integrity of the airway as it bends.  It looks good and I move on. Next, the stummel awaits attention.  After removing the freshly bent CW stem and putting it to the side, I take a fresh look at the rusticated stummel that, to me, resembles craggy tree bark.  I like it! Before addressing the stummel, I first run the smooth briar nomenclature panel and ring around the end of the shank though the full battery of micromesh pads, 1500 to 12000. I like the craggy/smooth contrast.My aim with the stummel is to refresh the hue, which appears to be a subtle Oxblood.  Using Fiebing’s Oxblood aniline dye, I will apply it like I usually do – painting and flaming with a lit candle.  Then, during the following ‘unwrapping’ stage, I will not use Tripoli compound as I usually do.  The reason for this is that the compound will get caught in the crags and that would not be fun to remove.  I think the felt buffing wheel on the Dremel will be enough by itself to effectively unwrap and abrasively buff to remove excess crusty flamed dye.  Creating more contrast in the craggy landscape of the rusticated surface and the smooth peaks of the rustication is the aim.  At least this is my hope!  I assemble my desktop staining kit.  After wiping the stummel with a cotton pad wetted with alcohol to clean it, I warm the stummel over the hot air gun to expand the pores in the briar to help it be more receptive to the dye.  Then, using a bent over pipe cleaner, I apply the Oxblood dye in sections and flame the wet dye with a lit candle.  The alcohol in the dye combusts with the flame and sets the dye in the briar surface. After working through the entire stummel painting and flaming, I set the stummel aside to rest for several hours allowing the dye to set.Later, with a cotton cloth wheel mounted onto the Dremel and the speed set to 40% full power, I apply Tripoli compound only to the smooth briar nomenclature panel and ring around the shank end.Next, I mount a felt cloth buffing wheel onto the Dremel, setting the speed to the slowest possible, and go over the entire surface working the edges of the buffing wheel in the valleys and ridges of the rusticated surface.  The slower speed is to avoid over heating – I don’t want to start a fire with the coarser buffing wheel!I also concentrate on the upper peaks of the ridges that present very small smooth briar surfaces that are buffed.I like the contrasting effect of this process – the changing hues of the Oxblood from valleys to peaks with the smooth briar and rough briar – nice.Not pictured is mounting another cotton cloth buffing wheel onto the Dremel, setting the speed at 40%, and applying Blue Diamond compound only to the smooth briar nomenclature panel and ring around the end of the shank and to the Warden stem remounted to the stummel.  Finally, with another cotton cloth buffing wheel mounted onto the Dremel, set at the same speed, I apply carnauba wax to the entire pipe – stem and stummel. Over the rusticated surface, I increase the speed of the Dremel to about 60% full power to create more heat to dissolve the wax in the rusticated landscape.  This helps in keeping the wax from caking in the rough surface. I finish the newly formed Churchwarden by hand buffing with a micromesh cloth and brushing the stummel with a horsehair brush to raise the shine.

The Oxblood coloring of this rusticated bowl came out exceptionally well. My eyes are drawn to the contrasting of the flecks of smooth reddish briar populating the rusticated landscape.  The rustic feel of the bowl is enhanced by the ring of Oxblood smooth briar transitioning from the rough bowl to the long, black Warden stem.  The Oxblood shank ring contrasting with the stem simply pops.  Of course, the long, sweeping bend of the stem is why every pipe man or woman wants at least one Churchwarden in their collection.  This Churchwarden is heading under the Christmas tree here in Bulgaria as a gift for my son. My joy is completed knowing that in the future, when he pulls it out and fills it with his favorite blend and settles in to have some moments of reflection that he will reflect on this special Christmas in Bulgaria!  Thanks for joining me!  Merry Christmas!