Tag Archives: stem

Polishing a Chair Leg/Fancy Stem

I have a GBD Tapestry that I am restoring, hopefully it will be done in the next day or so. I really like the Tapestry line; this makes my second one in different shapes. They have a fancy “chair leg” stem that while attractive are a pain to polish, especially if they are heavily oxidized, as this one was. 

You can see the “problem” areas in the photos. Unfortunately I forgot to take photos before beginning to remove the oxidation and calcification, which were quite thick. 

Remembering back to the first one I restored, I thought that sharing the method I use on this type of stem would be helpful to others. It’s not a fast process but it is pretty well foolproof because no machines are used, only “you power” and buffing compound on a piece of thin leather lace. 

I use 3/32″ lace but it also comes in 1/4″. I imagine other materials would work, too. I drag the lace across the bar of compound to load it after putting the stem in a hobby vise. (I use this table top vise with only my hand for holding the vise in place – it has rubbed coated jaws – so I don’t put too much stress on the stem and possibly break it.) I take one end of the lace in each hand and rub it using a “sawing” motion (pull the lace toward me with my right hand, then my left, repeat) in the crevices, reloading the compound as needed, until the oxidation is gone. 

It does require some time and effort but there’s almost no chance of getting the stem out of shape, ruining the graceful lines, or breaking it. 

About Stem/Bit Shapes

Blog by Steve Laug

The matter of bit/stem shapes can be confusing when speaking about our pipes to others or inputting information on stems into database programs such as Pipe Smokers Unleashed or P&T Foundations. I have been asked several times to put together a simple article on the shapes of stems. So here it is. It is not rocket science or anything profound, it is just a simple method that I use in differentiating stems. I have found several pictures that are from different websites to help with the explanations.

There are three basic stem shapes SADDLE, TAPER AND COMBINATION. The MILITARY OR STICK BIT stem is a variation of one of the other three. The stems can either be straight or bent according to the shape of the pipe. Each stem shape also has variations on the theme – gentle taper, fat taper, long taper, thin taper etc. Same with the saddle there are variations on the saddle – 1/2 saddle, full saddle, etc. Both of these also come in geometric shapes Diamond, Triangle, Square, Round and Oval.

The stick bits or military also come in the same shapes though the taper is fairly standard. Add to the confusion regarding bits, the Peterson faux military or stick bits which have a tapered tenon that fits the shank and the various freehand stems that have unique shapes and you get the picture.

Tenons are either push style or threaded. The push style can be integral to the stem or can be a Delrin insert. Both hold the shank by friction. I personally find the push tenon more to my liking than the metal or bone threaded tenon. The threaded tenon is screwed into the matching threads in the shank of the pipe. In both the bone and the metal versions these are often over or under turned in estate pipes. Generally, heating the tenon allows the tenon to be readjusted to fit properly.

The shape of the bit from the button forward is also varied. I was able to find the following picture that spells out the various shapes of the bits. There are basically five bit shapes that also have variations in their form according to the pipe maker or manufacturer. These are the standard straight bit, fishtail bit, p-lip bit, denture bit, wide comfort bit and the double comfort bit (stepped bit that was developed by Charatan). The bore on the bits is generally a single bore as pictured below. But the double bore or twin bore was also developed to make a bit more bite resistant.

The slot or airway in the button also has three variations – the circle or orific hole, the straight slot and the oval. The descriptions are pretty clear from the names of the airway or slot. The orific or circle is exactly as it sounds. It is generally used on older pipe stems – both meerschaum and briar. I have found it on pipes from the 1800’s and early 1900’s. The oval and straight slots are similar. The oval is a reworked and opened slot. The oval gives the opening a wider more open draw.

It would be great to hear if others of you who read this have further explanations that add clarity to the discussion. Please feel free to post a comment to this regard.