Tag Archives: shaping a replacement stem with a Dremel

Finding a Hidden Gem Underneath all the Grit and Grime

I went to work on the third pipe down in the far right column. It was one that I almost bypassed because of the shape it was in, but decided to take a chance and see what was underneath all of the mess. The stamping was long ago worn away by buffing. It had originally had a ferrule on the shank and that was missing. The bowl was badly caked and it was out of round from overzealous reaming. The finish was shot with thick black grime impregnated into the bowl finish all the way around. Underneath there appeared to be some nice grain. The missing ferrule left behind remnants of the glue that had held it in place. In the shank where the ferrule was missing were several fills – the only ones in the pipe. The size of the pipe is about a group 2 – kind of the classic size of an older billiard. The stem was missing so it would need to have one made to fit.



The next series of photos shows the build up on the outside of the bowl. Not only was it badly caked it also was covered with a grey/black grime that would be challenging.






I used acetone and cotton pads to remove the external grime on the bowl (Photos 1 – 2 below). There was actually some nice grain underneath all the grime. I reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer starting with the smallest cutting head and working my way up to the largest that would fit the bowl. I wanted to ream it back to bare wood so that I could work on the damaged inner rim (Photo 3 below). I topped the bowl to remove the damage to the top of the rim and clean up the outer edges of the rim. I used my normal method of a piece of sandpaper on a flat surface and pushing the bowl into the sandpaper and rotating it to remove the damaged briar (Photo 4 – 5). I also push a nickel band onto the shank part way. I would later need to heat it to get a pressure fit deep on the shank. This band would both strengthen the thin walls of the mortise at the end and also cover the only fills present on the pipe.






I used a Dremel with a sanding drum to work on the roundness of the bowl. I worked to even out the distance between the inner edge of the rim and the outer edge. Once this was completed I used sandpaper to smooth out the edge and give it a slight bevel (Photo 1). I wiped down the bowl and rim with acetone on a cotton pad to clean off the last of the dust and grime from the reaming and sanding (Photos 2 – 3).




I set up the heat gun and turned it to the high setting. I held the band over the heat and rotated it to evenly heat the entire band (Photo 1). Once it was heated (just a few minutes) I then took it to the work table and pressed the band in place on a metal plate I use for setting the bands. Sometimes this takes several trips between the heat and the plate but this time one trip was all it took and the band was set (Photos 2 – 3).




I used a PIMO tenon turning tool to turn the tenon to fit the mortise. I generally turn it until it is close and then finish the fit by hand with sandpaper (Photo 1). After sanding the stem fit quite well in terms of the tenon. It was snug and flush against the shank – no light showing through (Photos 2 -3). I used the Dremel with a sanding drum to remove the excess vulcanite on the stem and to shape it to match the diameter of the shank. I sand carefully with the sanding drum to bring it as close as possible to the size I want. You have to be careful and steady so that you do not nick the shank or the band while doing this. The finishing fit is done by hand with files and sandpaper (Photos 4 – 5).






The next series of seven photos show the shaping process. I begin with a medium grit emery paper and sand out the scratches left behind by the Dremel. I shape the stem with this paper to the point where the flow and fit of the stem is what I am looking for (Photos 1 – 2). I then move on to 220 grit sandpaper and continue to remove the scratches and shape the stem (Photos 3 – 4). It then finish this shaping with a fine grit sanding sponge and polish out more of the scratches. Each grit of paper brings the stem closer to the finished shape (Photos 5 – 7).








I apologize for the graininess of the next two photos but they show the bowl after I had stained it. I used a dark brown aniline stain thinned with one part alcohol. I wanted a rich reddish brown colour on this old timer so I thinned the stain to match the colour I wanted. I applied it to the bowl and rim, flamed it, reapplied it and flamed it again.




I worked on the stem with micromesh sanding pads. I also sanded the nickel band to bring out a polish to it as well. The next series of seven photos shows the progressive shine that comes to the stem with each successive grit of micromesh from 1500-12,000 grit. I wet sanded with the 1500-2400 grit and then dry sanded with the remaining grits.








I sanded the bowl with the higher grits of micromesh and then buffed the pipe with White Diamond to give the entirety a rich shine. I applied several coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a soft flannel buff. The stain really highlights some of the beautiful grain on this pipe. I am glad I took the risk to bring this one back to life.