Tag Archives: turning a tenon

Restoring and Restemming a Savinelli Capri 915


Blog by Lee Neville

Over the past few months I have been continuing my correspondence with Lee via email. He picked up a couple of pipes for me at a local antique shop in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and sent them to me. We have fired emails back and forth on restoration questions and issues. He also included Charles Lemon of Dad’s Pipes in the conversations and we had a great time. Earlier this week he sent Charles and me an email about a restoration of another pipe that he restemmed. Charles and I spoke with him of the style and size of stem to use. He did a great job on the restemming and the description of the work so I asked him if I could post it on rebornpipes. He was glad to have me do so. Thanks Lee for your work and this second write up. It is great to have you on rebornpipes as a contributor once again! – Steve

Thought I would share my pipe rehabilitation effort of a Savinelli Capri 915.  It showed up in the Winnipeg Ebay lot as a dirty stummel with a snapped-off stem tenon wedged into its shank. Alas, the original stem was not included in the lot.

This is a “Birks” pipe – Henry Birks & Sons, or what it’s now known by these days – “Maison Birks”, is a Montreal-based jewellery/glassware/fine leather goods/timepieces/ silver & gold flatware / object d’art firm in business here in Canada since the late 1800s.  It appears Birks would commission pipes from manufacturers and stamp them with their house name and offer them for sale during special promotions – Christmas, Father’s Day etc.  This Savinelli is the first of two “Birks” pipes I’ve got on my bench to restore.The plan is to clean this stummel up to the natural briar,  treat it to a wax protective finish and fit a replacement stem.  This will be fun as I just received the PIMO stem tenon cutter tool which will make short work of fitting a properly sized tenon on a replacement stem blank.

Stummel clean up
The bowl was in good shape. The rim showed minor discolouration from lighting.  The rim was not obscured by any lava. The previous owner was not a dottle-knocker – luckily no dents or chips on the bowl rim.  I reamed the bowl out with my newly arrived Pipnet set – I started with the smallest head, applying light twisting force and allowing the tool to make its way into the bowl.  This was repeated by the following two larger reaming heads to remove existing cake close to briar.  This was followed by twists with a dowel covered with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the remaining cake, then more twists with 320 / 400 grits to finish the bowl interior smooth. There are no cracks or burnouts in the bowl. The shank cleaned up with a few runs of alcohol-soaked pipe cleaners and q-tips.

I attacked the stummel with a soft toothbrush and Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the rim discolouration and surface dirt/grease. The accumulated grunge lifted right off after two scrubbing sessions.  I was delighted to see the proprietary sandblasting/rustication is scarcely worn – the deep relief is quite attractive.

The stummel was then covered with masking tape. I clamped the padded stummel in my dremel vise and using a drill bit sized just over the ID of the snapped off stem tenon, ran it in a smidge gently, then reversed the drill and the tenon remnant came out with the drill bit.  This revealed a very fine crack in the mortise end of the stummel.  Using thin CA glue, I lightly dabbed the crack, watching it wick into the crack, then sprayed accelerant to instantly set the glue.  I lightly sanded the mortise face and mortise with 1000 grit paper to ensure any glue squeeze-out was removed before attempting to fit replacement stem

Fitting a new stem
I viewed the Savinelli web site to glean pipe proportions (stummel to stem) as well as canvassing yourselves for your thoughts on replacement stem length. I also found a high-definition image of a Capri 915 online.  Applying some ‘Edmonton Windage’, I ordered an oval tapered stem blank in a 2.25″ length from Vermont Freehand Pipes.

The stem blank on arrival was a bit wider than the stummel shank, so there was some filing and final sanding required to match the stem to the shank profile.

I mounted the replacement stem into the vise and drilled the stem draught hole to accept the guide rod of the PIMO stem tenon cutting tool.  I then mounted the PIMO stem tenon cutting tool and gently took a succession of cuts to arrive with a couple of thou of tenon final size.  I used a strip of 320 grit sandpaper to work the circumference of the tenon to a snug fit into the stummel mortise.  I used a variety of tools to flatten the stem tenon face so it would meet up with stummel mortise surface properly – needle files, sandpaper, a few licks with a very small chisel – all under a magnifier lens working the stem mating surface – testing fit/working it/test fit/working it until I got the proper fit.

Rough file work was then required to narrow the stem.  This took about an hour.  I then worked in the round with a file to shape the circumference of the stem to match the stummel profile. Last steps were using 220 sandpaper to work the circumference down as close to the final dimension. I followed that with 400 and 600 grit sandpaper.  I was now a scant hairs-width proud on the stem.  I then replaced the masking tape covering the stummel shank with clear scotch tape and brought the stem into line with the shank profile with 1500 and 1800 micro mesh pads.I filed the stem button into shape and from that point on, it was just applying a succession of micro mesh pads to 12000 to polish the replacement stem. Here is the clean stummel and new stem before finishing.Finishing the Pipe 
I treated the stummel to a coat of Howards Feed and Wax (beeswax, carnauba and citrus oils), let it sit for 30 minutes, then wiped off the excess, followed with a thin coating of carnauba wax over the whole pipe and a rub in with a polishing brush.  Using a cotton buff on my Dremel at 4000 rpm, I ran the buff over the entire pipe to bring out the shine. This pipe cleaned up very nicely and is a joy to hold.  I had fun fitting a new stem that is in proportion to the stummel and I think it’s a close resemblance to the stem originally fitted to the pipe.

Thank you Charles and Steve for your help on stem selection.

Onward and upwards!

Lee 

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Crafting a Churchwarden for a Lord of the Ring’s Enthusiast


Blog by Dal Stanton

After restoring 3 pipes which Tina chose to gift special men in her life, the final request was to fashion a Churchwarden for her oldest son Thomas, who is a Lord of the Rings “groupie” and of course, he wants a ‘Gandalf Pipe’ to aid in blowing inspired smoke rings!  Tina’s son has been married for a few years and apparently, he and his wife have a Lord of the Rings movie binge at least once a year!

In my research on the Churchwarden shape, as the story goes, there were men back in the days when they didn’t lock churches at night, who were employed as ‘wardens’ of the church – whose responsibility was to guard the premises.  To be faithful to their charge, they were not allowed to leave the walls of the church.  That created an unusual dilemma between guarding the holy confines and the desire to enjoy one’s evening smoke.  The moral dilemma was creatively solved by a stem.  The length of the stem enabled the church wardens to tend to their evening bowls as they stood vigilantly inside the church walls while the stems extended through the windows…so the story goes (see Pipedia’s article).  Of course, everyone knows that Churchwardens were prevalent in Middle Earth as Gandalf spun up fireworks and smoke rings!

I found a bowl that I put aside quite some time ago that

Courtesy of Gonzalo Kenny https://lotr.fandom.com/wiki/Balrogs

I believed would serve well as a repurposed stummel to be mounted as a Churchwarden.  I know that there are strict Warden purists out there who question the validity of repurposing a bowl for use in fashioning a Churchwarden.  Yet, I appeal to Bill Burney’s description of the Churchwarden in his excellent Pipe Shapes Chart published in Pipedia where he says: “Interestingly, all the other styles of pipe are identified by the shape of their bowls, but the churchwarden is identified by its long stem.  The stem can be bent or straight, but it is always very long – 9” to 18” long.”.  There may be ‘true born’ Churchwardens and there are also those Churchwardens who are adopted into the ranks through the promotion of a discarded and forgotten stummel surviving from another lifetime where they served among other mere mortal pipes that they used to be.  For a common bowl to be remounted onto a Warden stem and to experience that metamorphosis is perhaps like when Gandalf transformed through fire in his mortal combat with Balrog – transforming from The Grey to The White….  Perhaps, only Gandalf knows for sure!  The bowl and stem I chose for this transformation are now on my table.The pre-molded Warden Stem comes from my main supplier, Tim West at http://www.jhlowe.com/bits.htm.  The stummel has ‘Real Briar’ stamped on the side of the shank, but what I like a lot is the 1/2 bent shank.  This will yield a very nice sweeping bend in the Warden stem.  The bowl’s size is not too large – perfect for a Churchwarden. Looking closely at the stummel, I see potential grain underneath the dark, marred surface.  The rim has lava flow but has an attractive inwardly slanted rim.  The chamber has light cake.  I take some pictures of the stummel in its current condition. Before I start working on fashioning the new preformed stem, I clean the stummel.  I start by reaming the chamber using the Pipnet Reaming kit.  I only use the smallest of the blade heads and then transition to the Savinelli Fitsall Tool to fine tune the scraping and cleaning.  Then I sand the chamber using a piece of 240 grade sanding paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen.  Finally, after wetting a cotton pad with alcohol, I wipe the chamber cleaning it from the carbon dust.  I inspect the chamber after finishing and all looks good. Next, turning to the external surface, I take a few more pictures to show the nasty layer of grime over this stummel!  I use Murphy’s Oil Soap undiluted on a cotton pad and begin the scrubbing process.  I also utilize a brass wire brush to clean the rim. The results are good, but the reality is revealed by the cleaning!  The reality of the condition of the stummel is the reason it was in the box with other lonely stummels having given their all and discarded!  The finish is shot and the rim in mangled. Restoring this stummel to fashion a Churchwarden will be a noble endeavor! Next, I turn to cleaning the internals.  Using cotton buds and pipe cleaners wetted with isopropyl 95%, I go to work.  The internals are nasty.  I also utilize and small dental spatula to scrape the mortise walls.  There was a lot of resistance, but the buds started lightening until I was satisfied that the largest part of the cleaning was accomplished.  I’m not too concerned at this point because I’ve already made the decision to put the stummel in a soak of acetone to totally remove all the old finish which will also take care of residual internal tars and oils. The next morning, I fish the bowl out of the acetone bath.  Some of the finish was removed during the soak, but with the use of 0 grade steel wool, I’m able to dispatch the old finish easily after the night’s soak softened the old finish.  The pictures show the raw briar that allows me to start over. With the stummel cleaning process completed, I turn now to fashioning the preformed Churchwarden stem.  I use an electronic caliper to measure the diameter of the mortise to mark the target sizing of the tenon of the preformed stem that will eventually be seated.  The mortise measurement is 7.38mm in diameter.  Using Charles Lemon’s (of Dad’sPipes) methodology, I add 50mm to this exact measurement to give me my ‘fat’ target.  The ‘fat’ target is what I will aim for when bringing the tenon down to size using the PIMO Tenon Turning Tool.  The ‘fat’ target is 7.88mm.  From this point, I will sand the tenon by hand which gradually and patiently custom fits the mortise. The first thing needed is to pre-drill the tenon airway with the drill bit provided by the PIMO tool.  This enlarges the airway slightly enabling the insertion of the PIMO tool guide pin.  I mount the drill bit to the hand drill and drill out the airway.Next, the PIMO Tenon Turning Tool is mounted on the hand drill and I cut a small test sizing to measure to give me the distance between the test cut and the ‘Fat’ target.  After cutting the test, I measure it with the caliper and record 8.72mm and subtract the ‘Fat’ target, 7.88mm leaving .84mm to remove using the PIMO tool. Using the Allen wrench provided with the PIMO tool, I close the gap of the cutting arm and cut again.  The measurement of the next cut after closing the gap of the carbide cutter arm took off more than I wanted – the measurement is 7.47mm – beyond the 7.88 fat target.  This is why you only to partial cuts at the beginning!I enlarge the gap of the cutter arm a small amount and cut again.  The next measurement is 7.75mm – much better, just falling under the 7.88mm fat target.With this measurement reached, I cut the entire tenon down to the 7.75mm width.  I take the cut to the stem shank facing so a nice straight edge is created, and a ‘shoulder’ is not left from the rough preformed stem.I begin the sanding process by wrapping the tenon with 240 grade paper and rotating the stem and applying pressure strategically with my finger and thumb. I smooth and shorten the tenon a little so that it looks better and doesn’t butt into a ridge that I detect in the mortise which would block the full insertion of the tenon.  I use a flat needle file to do this.The process is slow with a lot of tests and sands… But in time the tenon seats very nicely in the mortise.  Nice!With the tenon snuggly seated in the mortise, the work is far from finished!  The picture shows the offset of the stem and the lip of briar hanging over the stem.  No stem fits automatically!The preformed Warden stem also is not straight but bows to the left through the reach of the stem.  I’ll work on this when I bend the stem later.Using 240 grade paper I begin the process of sanding the junction of the stem and shank.  My goal is to have a seamless transition from shank to stem with no overhanging ridges.  The other issue I see is that both the shank and stem have high spots that need to be sanded down and blended into a uniform flow.  What I want to avoid is the bloomers or stuff-pants look – where the shank balloons out when the sanding has not tapered the flow of the shank from the stem width as it transitions into the shank. It takes time, but in time the ridges have been removed and the tapering through the shank to the bowl looks good. I continue sanding the entire stem with 240 grade paper.  The precast stem is full of ridges and the casting seam down both sides – all of which needs to be sanded away and smoothed.  I also use the flat needle file to form and shape the new button.  I want to retain the curved button slot.  It looks classy! After sanding out the main issues with the new precast Warden stem, I transition to wet sanding using 600 grade paper.  With the bowl and stem united, I sand not only the stem including the shaped button, but also the junction of stem and shank to continue to smooth and blend the tapered transition.  After completing the wet sanding with 600 grade, I use 000 grade steel wool to sand in the same way.  The distance pictures with a Warden stem are always too far away to see detail, but a close-up shows some progress.With the main fabricating and sanding completed with the Churchwarden’s stem, the next step is to bend it.  The 1/2 bent shank of the stummel provides a wonderful trajectory for the bend and sweep of the stem – which emulates more directly Gandalf’s style of Warden.  My goal is to bend the stem so that the final orientation of the bit is generally on a parallel orientation with the plane of the stummel rim which is what is suggested by the ruler in the picture. I remarked earlier that the stem is also a little catawampus to the left as you look down the shaft toward the bowl.  Interestingly, I set up a renewed picture to show this looking down the shaft and my second look at this isn’t as pronounced as it appeared to me before.  The sanding and shank tapering may have mitigated this to some degree. Bending the stem is usually by trial and error to get it right, but the good thing is that the vulcanite stem is very forgiving!  To be on the safe side, though I don’t really believe it to be necessary, I put a pipe cleaner into the end of the stem to protect the airway integrity.I use the hot air gun to warm the vulcanite.  As it’s warming, I gently apply pressure to the bend as the rubber compound becomes supple.  When the stem becomes pliable enough and the bend reaches what appears to be at the right place as I eyeball it, I transfer the pipe to a chopping board where I can use the flat surface and the overhang for the bowl and button expansion at both ends, I press down to straighten the shaft orientation as I hold the bend.  This works very well. The first time around, I decide I need a bit more bend, so I reheat, bend further and then hold the stem firmly against the chopping board until the vulcanite sufficiently cools so that I don’t lose the bend.  To make sure the bend holds I run cool tap water on the stem to seal the bend.I like the results!  The bend is perfect and will present a true Gandalf experience for the new steward of the Churchwarden taking shape.Before I put the newly bent Warden aside to turn to the stummel, I apply paraffin oil to vitalize the vulcanite.Turning now to what was a ‘throwaway’ stummel, I like the grain that made an appearance after the cleaning.  It’s in there!  It just needs some TLC to restore it to the condition that allowed for more beauty to come through.  The briar surface is in surprisingly good condition. There are a few dents and nicks to be expected. There’s a more significant heel bruise where it appears the bowl was thumped on a hard surface.The rim has an attractive inwardly sloping cant which will serve to my advantage in dealing with the residual burn marks and the right side (top in the first picture) of the rim.  The outer edge of the rim is also chewed up a bit. Starting with the rim, I begin by using a coarse 120 grade paper to clean and remove the scorched wood and the dents on the edge.  I follow this with 240 grade paper sanding the canted rim surface.  I’m hopeful this will remove the blemishes but also serve to freshen the rim canted pitch and lines.  I then fine tune with 600 grade paper. The results are great.  The transformation is more than hoped for!  The rim is actually very attractive and some grain peeking out.I do the same with the heel bruise.  I dispatch the blemish quickly with 240 grade paper followed by 600 grade paper.Continuing the sanding, I now sand the entire stummel using sanding sponges.  I start with a coarse sponge, followed by a medium grade then finish with the light grade sanding sponge.  The briar grain is showing up!Following the sanding sponges, I apply the full regimen of 9 micromesh pads.  First, I wet sand using pads 1500 to 2400 then dry sand with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  For a ‘throwaway stummel’ this piece of briar is looking very nice. Throughout the micromesh process, I knew I was approaching a decision point.  The natural briar came out way more than I had thought possible when I began with this stummel.  I can remain with the natural briar or apply a dye.  I decide to apply Fiebing’s Saddle Tan Pro Dye to the stummel not for the purpose of covering blemishes but to bring out the briar grain more which is still somewhat subdued as I look at it.  I assemble my desktop dying components.  After I wipe the stummel with alcohol to clean the surface, I insert two folded pipe cleaners into the shank to serve as a handle.I then heat the briar stummel with an air gun.  As the briar heats, this expands the grain enabling the grain to be more receptive to the dye when it’s applied.Using a folded pipe cleaner, I paint the bowl with the aniline based dye in sections and flame each section as I go.  I use the lit candle to combust the painted section of wet dye and it immediately combusts the alcohol in the dye leaving the pigment to set in the heated wood.  I eventually apply the Saddle Tan dye to the entire stummel and repeat the painting and flaming process again to assure full coverage.  I then put the dyed and flamed stummel on the cork to rest through the night. With the dyed bowl resting I take the Churchwarden stem through the full micromesh regimen.  I wet sand using pads 1500 to 2400 and then dry sand with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  Between each set of 3 pads I apply a healthy coat of Obsidian Oil to the stem to vitalize the vulcanite.  The newly polished vulcanite pops!  I take one concluding picture instead of the usual 3 because the picture shows no detail because of the size of the stem!The next morning, I’m ready to unwrap the flamed bowl.  After mounting a felt cloth buffing wheel on the Dremel, I set the speed to the lowest possible to reduce the heating factor.  I then apply Tripoli compound to the bowl to remove the flamed crust to reveal the briar beneath. With the assistance of my wife, she takes a few pictures to show the initial removal of the flamed crust.  It takes me a good bit of time to slowly and methodically go through this ‘plowing’ and polishing process.  I remove dye blotches to make sure what is revealed is the minutia of the grain texture.  Not pictured is after I complete the process with the felt wheel (pictured below) I change to a cotton cloth buffing wheel and increase the speed of the Dremel to 40 % of full speed and again go over the entire stummel with Tripoli compound.  I do this first, to reach into the crook of the shank that is too tight for the felt wheel to reach.  Also, I like the further fine tuning of the Tripoli compounds polishing of the briar surface.  The grain sharpens even more providing the contrasts between the harder and softer woods of the briar.I then wipe the bowl with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95% to blend the dyed finish.  The wipe of alcohol evens out the finish and blends it.  Wiping with alcohol will also lighten the finish if I continue to wipe, but I like the tone of the hue where it is so I only to a light wipe for blending purposes.I switch to another cotton cloth buffing wheel, keep the speed on the Dremel and 40% and apply Blue Diamond compound to the stem and stummel.  I don’t join the two because it is easier to work with each individually.  After completing the application of the compound, I wipe both stem and stummel with a felt cloth to remove the compound dust left behind.Finally, I reunite the Warden stem with the repurposed stummel and apply a few coats of carnauba wax to the Churchwarden.  When finished, I give the pipe a vigorous hand buffing with a microfiber cloth to bring out the shine.

Wow!  When I think of where this throwaway stummel was at the beginning of the process and what I see now, it is truly amazing. This Churchwarden’s 1/2 bent shank provides the perfect trajectory for the stem’s gentle, flowing bend to project a pipe that is truly Gandalf worthy!  The grain of the bowl is varied from a vertical flame, a knot with outwardly flowing concentric circles and some bird’s eye thrown in for good measure!  This Churchwarden is certified for Middle Earth distribution for Tina’s son, Thomas.  Tina commissioned  this Churchwarden project along with 3 other restorations (to learn more about commissioning pipes see: For “Pipe Dreamers” Only! ) and each will be boxed and heading to Birmingham, Alabama, USA, from Bulgaria.  All these pipes benefit our efforts here in Bulgaria working with women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited – the Daughters of Bulgaria.  Thank you, Tina!, and thank you for joining me!

 

Replacing a Broken Tenon in a Dunhill 196F/T Shell Briar


Blog by Steve Laug

This is one of the Dunhill Shell Briar pipes that I sold earlier this year. It is a 196F/T Shell Billiard. Not too long ago I received an email from Bill the buyer of the pipe saying that there had been an accident and that the stem had broken off the pipe leaving the tenon in the shank. He was a bit forlorn in asking if it was repairable or not. I assured him that it could be fixed and told him to send it up to me in Vancouver. I had to laugh in that when it arrived it was in the original box that I had used to ship it to him – all the packing etc. was the same. Great use of the boxes. It will soon make its second trip to Bill. This is a well-traveled box and pipe – twice to the East Coast of the US from Canada and once back to me for repair. I put the pipe in queue as I have a large backlog of pipes to work on from several estates that the families are waiting on. I figured I would be able to slip into the work somewhere along the way.

Today was the day. I finished a lot of pipes lately so I felt ok about working on this one. I figured it would be pretty straight forward to pull the broken tenon and replace it. Boy was I wrong. The broken tenon was stuck in the shank. My usual tricks for pulling a broken tenon – a screw in the airway and wiggling it free – did not work. Even a trip to the freezer did not work. I had to resort to more serious tools.I got out my cordless drill and chucked up a series of drill bits to see if I could pull it that way. I have often found that in the process of drilling out the tenon it will stick to the bit and come out as I back out the drill. That did not happen on this pipe! I ended up working through the bits until I finally was finished and the mortise was smooth and clear of the old tenon.With the airway cleared in the mortise I measured it for a new tenon. Yet again another setback. I did not have any tenons that were the right diameter for the mortise! I chucked the PIMO tenon turning tool in my cordless drill and reduced the diameter of a threaded tenon replacement that I had in stock until it was the right diameter to fit the mortise. I tried to hold the tenon by hand and turn it but soon realized that did not work this time. I used a pair of needle nose pliers to hold it until the tenon was finished.When I finished there was a small hip between the threaded portion and the smooth portion of the new tenon. I worked the tool back and forth to remove that. I also held a needle file against the hip while the tenon was spinning on the drill. It did not take too long to remedy that issue. The new tenon was almost ready to use. I would still need to reduce the diameter of the threaded portion before I could use it but it was good for the moment.I drilled out the airway in the stem to receive the new tenon. This is always a little tricky as you need to keep the stem absolutely straight so that you do not angle the airway. I always start with a bit slightly larger than the airway and work my way up to the size of the tenon insert. In this case I also needed to be careful not to drill the stem too deeply as the tape is quite long and it would be easy to ruin the stem. With the airway opened in the stem to take the threaded tenon end I used a tap to thread the airway inside the bowl. I had to open the airway a little more so I used a penknife to widen the diameter to take the tap. I used a Dremel with a sanding drum to reduce the diameter of the threaded portion of the new tenon until it could be screwed into the stem.I coated the threaded end of the tenon with super glue and turned it into the end of the stem. I pressed it completely in place against the table top so there was not a gap. I filled in the slight gap with some clear super glue and laid the stem aside to let the repair cure.When the glue cured I addressed some oxidation at the shank end of the stem. I sanded it with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper until the oxidation was removed from the stem surface. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil and let it dry.I polished the stem surface with micromesh sanding pads to bring back the shine to the vulcanite. I wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil after each pad and a final coat after the 12000 grit pad. I polished the stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel and gave it several coats of carnauba wax. I gave the bowl several coats of Conservator’s Wax. I buffed the finished pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below and I think it came out looking pretty good. I just got back from the Post Office and sent it back to Bill. I look forward to seeing what he thinks once it is in hand once again. Thanks for reading this.

New Life for a Sad, Old Kriswill Bent Egg


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe in the queue is from a group of pipes that Paresh purchased from a rag picker in Mumbai, India. The fellow had found a large number of pipes as he was going through rubbish bins and contacted Paresh. This is a tired and worn looking Kriswill. I knew looking at it even before the stamping was checked that this was a Kriswill because there is something distinctive about the shapes. The pipe is stamped (though it is faint now from wear) Kriswill Hand Made in Denmark. The pipe was filthy and unusable. I think it was from the generation who smoked a pipe to death and then pitched it. The finish on the pipe is very dirty and the sandblast is almost worn smooth. There is a thick cake in the bowl and a lava overflow on the rim top. I can see some damage to the inner edge of the rim but because of the cake and tars it is hard to know what the inner edge looks like. The stem was broken at the tenon and there was a very strange set up keeping the pieces together. I took photos of the pipe before cleaning it. The photos give a pretty clear picture of the shape of the pipe and its general condition when I received it. At first glance I thought that the tenon was broken off in the shank but as I examined it I came to believe it was even worse. It looked like someone had glued something in the shank and Gerry-rigged a connection to the stem. The photo below shows what I saw. What is not clear in the photo was a piece of metal in the centre of the mortise area. It looked like a tube but when I tried to push air through the shank it was absolutely plugged.I was going to have to try to drill out the shank but before I did that I examined the shank and stem more closely. The stem had been hacked pretty seriously so that the diameter was not even close to the diameter of the shank. In the centre of the mortise the metal tube turned out to be a 2 inch long finishing nail. It appears that the nail was used to keep the stem in place in the shank. For what? I don’t have an answer for that as it was utterly unsmokable. Once I removed the nail with a pair of needle nose pliers I was able to blow air through the shank. It was at least clear. I used a drill bit slightly larger than the mess in the shank and carefully drilled the shank. It did not work to clear out the shank! However, it was clear what was there – it was a tube made of masking or painters tape! I took a pen knife and twisted it into the mortise and was able to pull the tube free of the shank. The last photo shows everything that had been in the shank to hold the stem in place on the shank. I could surmise from the length of the stem what I would need for a replacement stem. I went through my can of stems and found one that had the right sized tenon and was the same length and width as the broken stem. It was a saddle stem instead of a taper but I liked the look of it on the pipe. I pushed it in place and took the following photos. I would need to reduce the diameter of the saddle, bend the stem and do a general cleanup, but it was a keeper. I took a photo of the stamping on the shank to show that it reads Kriswill. Underneath it says Hand Made in Denmark but that stamping is faint and only readable in a bright light or with a lens.With the stem chosen I set it aside to work on the bowl. I really hate working on dirty pipes! I can’t say enough how much I appreciate my brother Jeff doing the lion’s share of the reaming and cleaning before I even work on pipes… It is these few that I have to clean up that make me thankful and realize how much work he does before I get them here to restore. Thanks Jeff. The bowl had a thick cake and a heavy overflow of lava. It was obviously someone’s favourite pipe.I reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer using the smallest cutting head. The bowl on these old Kriswill pipes is conical so the PipNet only goes so far down the inside. I reamed out the bowl as far as the reamer would reach and then used Savinelli Fitsall pipe knife to finish the project. I scraped the rim top with the pipe knife to remove the majority of the lava and could see that the rim edges and top were damaged with burn marks.To remove the damage to the top of the rim I topped it on a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper. I worked on it to remove the burned areas and the damage to the inner edge of the rim as much as possible. I am happy with how it turned out.I lightly beveled the inner edge of the rim with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to give it a cleaner look. The look of the bowl at this point is far better than when I started the rim clean up. I will still need to polish the rim and match the stain to the shank end smooth portion. Fortunately for me this old Kriswill originally had a smooth rim top so it will look like new.I polished the topped bowl rim with 3200-12000 grit micromesh sanding pads. With each successive grit of micromesh the grain stood out more and gave a good finished look to the pipe. I liked what I saw when I looked at it. There was a little variation in stain colour between the rim top and the shank end so I decided to stain both to get a good blend. I used an Oak stain pen to match the colour of the shank and smooth spot where the stamping was. Once the stain had cured for that time I moved on to the next step in the process.It dawned on me at this point that I had been so intent on getting the plug out of the shank and topping the bowl that I forgot to clean out the shank! I normally do that right after reaming the bowl but forgot. It goes to show you that if you vary an habitual pattern even a bit you will leave steps out. I stopped the process and went back and cleaned out the shank and airway to the bowl with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and isopropyl alcohol until the pipe was clean and smelled fresh.With the rim top and bowl polished and the shank and airway CLEAN, I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm 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 with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The following photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process. The bowl and the rim top look really good and the darkening and lava are gone. The finish looks very good with the contrast between the rich, dark brown and the Oak stain on the rim and shank end. I am very happy with the results. With the bowl finished I set it aside and turned my attention to the stem. I used a file and a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to shape the diameter of the saddle portion of the stem to fit the diameter of the shank. It took a lot of filing and sanding to get it to this point but there is a lot of fine tuning work to do. The shank is not round but it is more of a vertical oval in shape so the stem will need to match it to have a seamless fit. It is a lot of hand shaping work to get the two to match. I sanded the scratches and the tooth marks on the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to bring the shank and saddle portion into line. I further sanded and shape it with 400 grit sandpaper to remove the scratches. This is the beginning of the polishing process on the stem. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil and put it back in the shank to take progress photos. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each pad. I further polished it with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. This pipe has had quite a journey to this point in time and space. It somehow traveled from Denmark where it was made to Mumbai, India. There is was found abandoned, binned and found by a rag picker who then sold it to Paresh in another region of India. From Paresh it traveled to me in Vancouver, Canada. In April it will travel to Nepal with me and back Paresh in India. I only wish that it could tell its story. All I know is that I have extended its life of usefulness and given its purpose back as it was intended.

I polished stem with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s 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 pipe polished up pretty nicely. The contrasting grain came alive with the buffing. The rich contrasting browns and black colouring works well with the new, polished black vulcanite stem. The finished pipe is a beauty and feels great in the hand. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 inches, Chamber diameter: 5/8 of an inch. I will be taking this pipe with me to India soon and giving it back to Paresh. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me on this battered and weary Kriswill.

Finishing the Restoration and Restemming a Custom-Bilt Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

Not long ago I was speaking with Paresh and Abha on Facetime and they showed me a second pipe that they wanted me to finish for them. This one was a Custom-Bilt billiard that had come to him from the estate of his Grandfather. It had a threaded tenon stem and a shank that had no threads. I have never seen a Custom-Bilt with a threaded mortise and tenon so it was a fair assumption that the stem was not original. It had been wrapped with glue and tape to make it fit in the shank and the fit was awful. Paresh wanted me to fit a new stem on the pipe for him. Abha had done a magnificent job cleaning the pipe so it was really a simple restoration for me – just fit a stem and finish the bowl. The briar was clean and lifeless so it would need some attention to breathe life into it again. He wanted me to pick up where he had left off and finish the pipe for him. The pipe was stamped on the left side of the shank Custom-Bilt and on the underside it was stamped Imported Briar. It would be interesting to see what I could do with it. When the pipe arrived this is what it looked like. You can see the remnants of wrapping and glue on the metal threaded tenon. There were tooth marks in the surface of the vulcanite stem on both the top and underside near the button. The first photo below shows the rim top and the inside of the bowl. Both were very clean and the rustication was in great condition as were the inner and outer edges of the bowl. The second photo shows the end of the shank with the glue on the inside of the mortise and the lack of threads that would be present if the tenon that was on the stem would work with this pipe.I took some photos of the stamping on the left and underside of the shank. The left side reads Custom-Bilt and the underside reads Imported Briar.I took close up photos of the stem. You can see the metal tenon on the end of the stem. There is some oxidation and there are the tooth marks on the stem top and underside.I wanted to refresh my memory on the history of the brand. I knew that his one was one of Tracy Mincer’s pipes because of the hyphenated name stamp. I looked on Pipedia and read Richard Esserman’s write up on Bill Unger’s Book. He gives a great summary of the history there. I quote a section of it below. (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Custom-Bilt(Rich Esserman))Tracy Mincer started the original Custom-Bilt pipes it appears in 1934. Bill meticulously details the start of the Company, how it was financed, the changes in the original ownership, how the company distributed its product, the manufacturing process, certain patented items, and other interesting stuff.

Mentioned briefly in this chapter was the fact that Custom-Bilt was producing big, carved pipes using Algerian briar for production up to WW II. One important employee, Hetzer Hartsock, stated: I can tell you something about that rough texture that Custom-Bilt had. One reason rough textured was used was not only for looks but it could hide flaws in the briar. [The process gave] A very uncontrolled cut. Then he [Tracy] would buff it out. [page 25]

Custom-Bilt pipes retailed between $5.00 and $15.00 in the 1940s. According to an ad, standard Dunhill pipes were selling for $12.00 and $13.50, Parker pipes $7.50, GBD for $6.00 and Comoy’s $7.50. Not mentioned was that special Dunhills could retail up to $100 and certain Comoy’s up to $25.

In 1946, the name was changed to Custombilt after Mincer began an association with Eugene J. Rich, Inc. There were some big changes in advertising and distribution. The slogan “AS INDIVIDUAL AS A THUMBPRINT” began at this time as well.

In the early 1950’s, Tracy Mincer developed severe financial problems that caused him to stop making the Custombilt, and he lost the name. In 1953, Leonard Rodgers bought the company and emphasized tobacco pouches and butane lighters. (However, it appears Mincer was working on his new pipe, the Doodler.) In 1968, Rodgers sold the Company to Consolidated Cigars. In the early 1970s, Wally Frank Co. bought the Custombilt trademark and began to produce their version of the pipe in 1974 or 1975. Hollco Rohr owned the Weber pipe factory, located in New Jersey, and produced the Custombilt pipes there. In 1987, the pipes were made out of the Butz-Choquin factory (France) and then Mexico until the late 1990s. Currently, the Custombilt name is owned by Tobacalera of Spain.

I set the bowl aside and decided to work on the stem. The diameter of the stem was perfect for the pipe so I needed to remove the metal threaded tenon and replace it with a Delrin tenon. I heated and scraped away all of the glue and tape on the threads of the tenon and those that bound it to the stem. I held it tight with vise grip pliers and turned the stem. It would not come out no matter how I turned or pulled on it. I decided I would have to use more drastic measures. Using the vise grip pliers as a vise I set up my cordless drill to drill out the tenon. I started with a bit slightly larger than the airway in the tenon and drilled it. I was hoping it would catch and pull the tenon out. First bit was a failure. I worked my way up to a bit slightly smaller than the diameter of the tenon and worked on it. The extended portion of the tenon broke off and I was left with the piece in the stem. I drilled it out with a bit and the bit grabbed the piece and it all came out.Once the metal was removed from the stem I cleaned out the hole in the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners to remove the debris. I smoothed out the threads to leave grooves in the tenon insert. Once I had it smoothed out enough I tried it in the stem. The fit was perfect. I cut deeper grooves in the tenon with a file and coated it with black super glue. I pressed it into the stem and lined it up so the fit was straight.  I set it aside to let the glue cure. While the glue cured I worked on the bowl. I scraped the glue out of the inside of the mortise using a pen knife. The glue had hardened so it took repeated scraping to get rid of it and bring the mortise back to bare wood.When the glue cured I tried the fit of the stem in the mortise. The stem fit well on the shank. I put it in place on the shank and took photos of the pipe at this point in the process. I rubbed down the briar with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the smooth surface of the briar with my fingertips and into the rustication patterns with a horsehair shoe brush to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed the bowl with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The following photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process. The grain is really starting to stand out. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each pad with Obsidian Oil to remove the sanding dust on the vulcanite. I wiped it down with a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. I polished stem and bowl with Blue Diamond to polish out the remaining small scratches. 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. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. The natural oil finish works well when polished to really highlight the variety of grains around the bowl and shank. The polished black vulcanite stem works together with the beautiful grain and worm trail rustication in the briar to give the pipe a rich look. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The shape, finish and flow of the pipe and stem are very well done. The dimensions are Length: 5 3/4 inches, Height: 1 3/4 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/2 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 inches. I will be sending the pipe back with the others that belong to Paresh. I have one pipe left to finish for him. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this well-made Tracy Mincer Custom-Bilt. 

Crafting a New Stem for a Cortina Factory Denmark 22 Freehand Stack


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the table was one that my brother Jeff picked up on an eBay auction from a seller in Franklin Tennessee almost two years ago. I know it seems like a long time ago and I suppose it is but I have boxes of pipes to refurbish here and this one came up today! It was in a box with the freehand pipes that I have been working my way through. It is an interestingly shaped sandblast pipe that is a stack. When I first looked at it I did not see any stamping on the shank. As I examined it today I found stamping on the thin band of smooth briar between the horn shank extension and the bowl. It stamped around the band and reads CORTINA FACTORY DENMARK with the shape number 22. The pipe looked pretty good when he got it from the seller. There was dirt and grime in sandblast finish on the bowl. The horn shank extension was oxidized and tired looking. There was a metal mortise inset in the horn to protect it from splitting. There was a light cake in the bowl and the inner and out edges of the bowl were in good shape. The contrast brown finish on the pipe was in excellent condition. I am not sure if the stem on the pipe was the original as the tenon was very long and the fit in the shank was snug but not deep. It was lightly oxidized but in decent condition. I think a stem with a shorter tenon and snug fit to the shank would work well. I would also see if I could shape one to follow the shape of the horn extension. I would have to see what I could find in the can of stems. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he started his cleanup up work. Jeff took photos of the stamping on the pipe. The first photo shows the shape number 22 on the smooth band. The second shows the CORTINA stamp on the smooth band. The third and fourth photos show the stamping Denmark Factory. The next photo shows the shank end – a mottled horn with the metal mortise insert. The stem is in place but you can see that the diameter of the tenon is smaller in diameter than the insert. The second photo below shows the striations in the horn shank extension. The stem was dented and worn. I wanted to replace it with a different stem than the replacement that came in it so I was not too concerned with the stem condition.Jeff had scrubbed the exterior of the bowl with Murphy’s Oil soap and removed the dust and grime that had accumulated there. The finish looked very good once it had been scrubbed. He lightly reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer and cleaned it up with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He cleaned the interior of the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. The pipe came to me clean and ready to do the restoration and restemming. I took some photos of the bowl to show the condition at this point in the process. I took some photos of the horn shank extension. At first I thought it was acrylic but as I worked on it I was sure that it was real horn. It was a unique and pretty piece of polished horn. It need to be polished but it was unsplit and in good condition.As has become my practice when working on restoring pipes I did some research on the Cortina Factory Denmark brand name. Pipedia noted the brand but had no information to give in terms of the company or a time frame. I also looked on Pipephil’s site and found a listing for the brand. I have included a screen capture from that site (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-c7.html). The first pipe in the photo shows the Cortina brand and stamp that is the same as on the pipe I am working on. The second one is attached to the Georg Jensen brand and the stamping is actually very similar. It makes me wonder if the Cortina was not a line of pipes made by Georg Jensen. I have no proof of that other than the connection shown in the screen capture below.I started my restoration of the pipe armed with the little bit of information that I could find on the brand. I polished the horn shank extension with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad to remove the sanding dust. Once I had finished with the last pad I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil to enliven the horn and preserve it. I turned from the horn shank extension to work on the sandblast briar of the bowl. I rubbed the bowl down with Before & After Restoration Balm to deep clean the briar bowl and the rim top as well as the briar shank. The product works to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I hand rubbed it with my fingers, working it into the exterior of the pipe. I worked it into the blast with a horsehair shoe brush. After it had been sitting for a little while I buffed it with a soft cloth to polish it. The pipe really began to have a rich shine. I took some photos of the bowl at this point to mark the progress in the restoration. I had a stem in my can of stems that had turned portions that as the shape of the shank extension on the pipe. Once the stem is cleaned up I will point out the shapes more clearly. I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to shape the tenon to fit in the mortise. I sanded the oxidation to remove it from the rest of the stem. I took a photo of the new stem next to the one that had come with the bowl. You can see the variation in the shape of the stem. The top one has a very long tenon that fit into the shank up to the spot where the oxidation begins. It is longer than the new stem and the shape is not quite right. On the new stem I have boxed in the shapes in red that parallel the shape of the shank extension.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each pad with a damp cloth to remove the sanding dust on the acrylic. I polished the stem with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine and I set it aside to dry. I polished stem and bowl with Blue Diamond to polish out the remaining small scratches. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and 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 pipe polished up pretty nicely. The contrasting brown stain on the sandblast, the variegated swirls in the horn shank extension and the polished vulcanite stem worked together to give the pipe a unique look. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. This is one of those interesting unknown Danish Pipes that I think could possibly lead back to Georg Jensen but we will probably never know for sure. The shape, finish and flow of the pipe and stem are very well done. The dimensions are Length: 6 1/2 inches, Height: 2 1/4 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/4 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 inches. This one will be added to the rebornpipes store soon. If you are interested in adding it to your collection send me an email to slaug@uniserve.com or send me a message on Facebook. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this piece of Danish pipe making history.

Converting a Brigham Voyageur 109 into a Churchwarden


Blog by Steve Laug

This is the last pipe I am working on from the fellow here in Vancouver that he dropped off. There were 8 pipes in the lot – I have all eight of them now. This one is a Brigham bowl without the stem or other parts. The pipe is an apple shaped bowl that is stamped on the left side of the shank and reads Brigham over Voyageur over 109 Italy in a smooth panel on the rusticated bowl. The shank end had nicks and chips but was in fair condition. There was no stem with the bowl. The stem would have had the lighter weight nylon system tenon since the pipe is one of the Italian made Brighams. It was another one of his pipe finds on a recent pipe hunt in Vancouver. The rusticated finish had almost a scale like rustication pattern with flecks of paint in the finish. The rim top was damaged and was darkened toward the back of the bowl. The finish was very dirty and there was a thick cake in the bowl.  When we had first spoken about this pipe we had talked about replacing the stem with a Brigham stem. I talked with Charles Lemon and he sent me a stem blank and an aluminum system shank for the Brigham. When it arrived I talked with the Vancouver fellow about that and together we came to the conclusion that a churchwarden stem might look good on it. I ordered some from JH Lowe and found that they only have one diameter size stem. I ordered it and when it arrived it was significantly smaller in diameter than the shank. I had an interesting copper ferrule that I thought might work to provide a different look to the pipe and provide a way of using the smaller diameter churchwarden stem. I slipped the ferrule on the shank and put the stem partially in place in the mortise and took the following photos to send to the fellow to see what he thought. He liked it so I moved forward.I slipped the ferrule off the shank and took a photo of the stamping on the left side of the shank. It is very clear and readable. I sanded the outside of the shank to provide a smooth seat for the ferrule. I cleaned out the inside of the shank with a dental spatula to remove the heavy tar buildup on the shank walls. I heated the metal ferrule with a heat gun and pressed it onto the shank against a solid board.I heated the copper ferrule over a heat gun and pressed the ferrule onto the shank end. I repeated the process until it was set on the shank as far as I wanted it to be. To remove the paint flecks on the rusticated finish on the bowl I scrubbed it with a brass bristle wire brush and used a dental pick to remove the flecks. I wiped down the bowl with alcohol on a cotton pad to remove the dust and debris from the finish. I reamed the bowl with a PipNet Piper Reamer using the first two cutting heads to remove the majority of the cake. I cleaned up the remnants on the walls of the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. I used a dowel wrapped with sandpaper to sand down the walls on the bowl. I cleaned out the airway in both the bowl and stem with alcohol (99% isopropyl), pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until they were clean on the inside. I rubbed down the briar with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the finish with my fingertips and finished working it in with a shoe brush. The balm worked to clean, preserve and enliven the surface of the finish on the small bowl. The briar was coming alive so I took some photos of the pipe at this point. I polished the rim top with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I also polished the smooth portions of the rustication with the micromesh pads at the same time. I wiped the rim top down after each sanding pad with a damp cloth. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and buffed the bowl with a shoe brush. I buffed it with a clean buffing pad and took the photos that follow. I set the bowl aside and worked on the stem. I turned the tenon down on the churchwarden stem with a PIMO tenon turning tool. I took it down to about the diameter it needed to be for the shank. I used a Dremel and sanding drum to round down the edges of the stem above the tenon and also the casting marks on the stem. I wanted to make the stem more like a military mount stem.  I heated the vulcanite with a votive candle until it was flexible and put a slight bend in it that fit the look I was going for with the pipe.  I sanded the Dremel marks out of the tapered end of the stem and shaped the tenon some more with 220 grit sandpaper. I worked on the casting marks on the stem sides and around the button. I worked over the end of the stem to smooth out the area around the slot.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. After the final pad I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set the stem aside to dry. I put the stem back on the bowl and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. I used a light touch to keep the polishing compound from filling in the grooves in the rustication. I carefully avoided the stamping on the left side of the shank. I gave both the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and 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 finished pipe is shown in the photos below. This is the last of his pipes that I have to work on. This has been a fun bunch of pipes to work on. Thanks for looking.