Tag Archives: Walnut pipes

Repairing and Restoring a Walnut Folk Art Russian Pipe

Blog by Steve Laug

I started cleaning up and repairing this Russian Folk Art Walnut pipe before taking photos of it. It was truly a mess. The shank had been cracked off at an angle behind the copper band and had been repaired by gluing the two pieces together without a lot of care to align the parts. As it was the crack was quite wide open all the way around the shank and had been sealed together with epoxy. I heated it to see if I could take it apart and align the parts and the glue definitely softened. I could rebreak it without further damaging the shank parts so I settled for heating it enough to realign the two parts. I realigned the parts and cooled the shank so the glue hardened. I filled in the deep crevices in the shank with briar dust and clear super glue putty. It hardened and bound the parts together. There was no movement in the shank at all at this point in the process. The photos below show the pipe with the stem in place. The repairs to the shank with the putty mix looked pretty decent in the photos. The rest of the pipe was a mess. The rim was thickly caked with over flow from the thick bowl cake. The finish on the bowl was dirty and sticky. The copper band on the shank was covered with a thick buildup of hardened “gunk” that would not come off with a simple wash. The airway in the shank was dirty and almost closed off. The mortise was also clogged. The tenon on the stem had a rubberized cement buildup around the angles at the stem. The stem itself was horn and had tooth marks on the top and underside near the button. The rounded button had an orific entrance into the stem. It was so plugged that I could not push a pipe cleaner through it. I took some close up photos of the repaired shank to show the flow of the two parts and how the realignment had worked. They also show the super glue/briar dust putty filling the crack that went all the way around the shank. There was some glue from the previous glue job that ran up the shank toward the bowl and actually ran around the copper band edge. The third photo shows the rim and the cake in the bowl. There was damage to the front edge of the bowl from someone knocking it out against a hard surface. I took photos of the stem to show the damage at the button end on both sides. The horn surface was worn and the shine was gone.I sanded the roughness of the repaired area on the shank with 180 grit sandpaper. I wanted to smooth out the surface of the repair so that it matched the shank. I continued to sand it further with 220 grit sandpaper. I smoothed out the repair and the shank began to look like it would have originally. You can see the coating on the copper band. It is like someone painted the surface with a glue coat or with varnish. That coat would need to be removed so that the patina of copper would shine through. The front of the bowl had a brass and copper insert in the wood. It was a mix of thorns and vines that was nailed to the front of the bowl. I reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife until the walls were bare and all of the cake was gone.I topped the bowl on a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the hard cake and the damage to the front of the bowl. It was a light topping that did not remove much of the rim top but it left it clean, smooth and even.I wiped down the exterior of the bowl with alcohol on cotton pads to remove the finish and the grime that was built up on it. Once it was clean the grain of the walnut shone through the stain on the wood. The next photos show the clean bowl and shank with the repaired area shown clearly in the photos. I used a sharp knife to flare the aluminum insert in the shank. I topped the shank end with the topping board to smooth out the face of the shank. I sanded the bowl, shank and copper band with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. The pads removed the material that was built up on the copper band and gave it a shine. I cleaned out the airway in the shank and the mortise with cotton swabs, pipe cleaners and alcohol until the airway was clean.I stained the bowl and shank with a dark brown aniline stain, flamed it and repeated the process until I was happy with the coverage.I took the following photos of the bowl once it had dried. The dark brown was a little dark to my liking so I would have to wipe it down to make it a little more transparent. I wiped the bowl down with alcohol on a cotton pad and then buffed the bowl with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. The photos below show the colour of the bowl once I had finished with the buffing. I was really happy with the colour and the coverage of the stain on the repaired area. The stem was fairly clogged with tars and oils. It took a lot of work to clean out the gunk in the stem. Pipe cleaners were really hard to push through the buildup so I picked at it with a piece of wire bent to the angle of the stem. I finally was able to break through so the pipe cleaners and alcohol finally did their job on the stem. I also cleaned off the rubber buildup on the tenon next to the stem with a sharp knife and used the alcohol to scrub that area as well.I polished the horn stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each set of three pads. After the final set of pads I gave it a last coat of the oil and set it aside to dry. I buffed the bowl and stem a final time with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel and then gave the pipe several coats of carnauba wax. I buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise a shine and hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It is looking far better than it did when it arrived. I think the owner will be happy about this piece of his own pipe history being brought back to life. It joins the others that are finished of the nine he sent me. Only two more pipes to go and I will be down with this lot. Thanks for looking.



A Unique Handmade Single Piece Black Walnut Pipe

Blog by Steve Laug

My brother Jeff found this handmade Black Walnut pipe on one of his eBay shopping forays. He loves the hunt for pipes and has a habit of finding some unique pieces for me. One of the beauties of having him picking up pipes for me is that he always finds stuff that I would never even look at. This was one of those that I would not even have looked at. But I am glad that he did. It is actually a beautifully made pipe that is a single unit – the stem is integral to the body of the pipe. walnut1 Walnut2 Walnut3The delicate curves of the bowl and shank make maxim use of the grain pattern in the wood. The bowl is drilled lower than the entrance of the airway into the shank and obviously the carver used a regular wood drill bit as there is a pilot hole at the bottom of the bowl. The drilling of the airway follows the curve of the stem and shank into the bowl. It enters the bowl about 1/8 inch above the bowl bottom. Walnut4 Walnut5A pipe cleaner passes easily through the stem/shank to the bowl. The draw is very easy and it is quite open. There is not a button cut on the end of the stem, rather it comes to a sharp end and a round opening in the end. The top of the bowl is also really well done and for a hand shaped pipe it is quite round. The bowl walls are quite thin. The pipe remains unsmoked.Walnut6 Walnut7I sanded the natural finish with micromesh sanding pads from 1500-4000 grit. I cleaned up some of the sanding marks that remained on the finish.Walnut8 Walnut9I gave the bowl multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a clean buffing pad on the wheel. The grain began to pop even more with the shine and the curves of the pipe followed the grain in an amazing way. The anonymous pipe carver did an amazing job carving this one and using the best lay of the piece of wood. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. I did a bit of hunting on the web and I am pretty sure that the pipe is walnut. Do any of you have any other ideas what it is made of? Thanks for looking.Walnut10 Walnut11 Walnut12 Walnut13 Walnut14 Walnut15

Alternative Woods: Refurbishing and Restemming a Black Walnut Pot

I received this pipe bowl as a gift from a friend in exchange for some work I did on one of his pipes. I took it out of the box and put it in the refurbishing box without giving it much of a look. Today I took it out of the box and looked it over. It is well made; the airway is drilled straight and comes out the bottom of the bowl. The drilling is accurate and clean. The mortise is smooth and clean. The bowl has been smoked very little as the bottom half is still fresh wood. The shank is clean and there are no tars. The wood is clean with a few dings and dents. There seems to be a slight finish on the bowl – varnish or something. It also appeared to have a band on the shank originally as there is a stain from the metal on the end of the shank. It came to me without a stem. Today I will take care of that.




I wiped down the bowl with acetone and cotton pads to remove the finish and sanded it with a medium grit sanding sponge. I wiped and sanded until the finish was gone from the bowl and then wiped it down a final time. The smell of the sanding dust as well as the grain told me that I was dealing with a well made walnut, probably black walnut pipe. This one would clean up very nicely.




Since I could not remove the stain left behind by the previous band I decided to reband the pipe. I found a nickel band in my band collection that would be a perfect fit. I heated it with the heat gun and the pressed it into place on the shank. I cleaned up the shank end of the pipe once the band was in place and widened the bevel on the inside end of the mortise to fit the new stem that I would fit for the pipe.




I went through my can of stems and found three different stems that would work with this pipe. Two of them were vulcanite and one was a clear acrylic. I have not done much work with clear acrylic and never turned the tenon to fit a pipe so this one seemed to be the way to go. Each pipe has to be a bit of a learning experience. Besides I liked the way the clear acrylic looked with the walnut bowl and the silver band.

I drilled the airway in the stem to fit the end of the PIMO tenon turning tool and then put the tool on my drill and slid the stem in place. I adjusted the cutting head on the tool to cut off enough material to get a close fit on the stem. The tool is touchy in terms of accurate adjustments so I eyeball it close and then sand it by hand until it fits the shank.

I pushed the stem in place on the walnut bowl and set it down to look at the overall appearance of the pipe. The clear stem was going to work well once I had shaped it to fit. The walnut was already darkening from the oils in my hands. This was going to be a beauty once it was finished.




The diameter of the stem and that of the shank were different. The stem was significantly larger than the shank of the pipe. I used a Dremel with a sanding drum to sand off excess acrylic material. I proceeded with that slowly and carefully as I did not want to nick the band or damage the pipe bowl.


I took the material down as close as possible with the Dremel and then did the rest of the sanding by hand with 220 grit sandpaper. It took quite a bit of time and several return trips to the Dremel before I had the shank and the stem diameter matching. The following photos show the progress on the stem with each one taking it a step closer to the finish.




When I finally had the fit correct with the 220 grit sandpaper I switched to a medium grit sanding sponge to further refine the fit and to remove the scratches left behind by the sandpaper. I finished sanding with the medium grit and used a fine grit sanding sponge to sand the stem again. When finished the stem looked opaque and the shape was done. All that remained was to polish the stem.




Before sanding it further I used a needle file to smooth out the transition in the airway between the stem airway and the place where the drill bit ended when I worked on the tenon. I was able to even out the transition and taper it for a smooth and seamless transition. The walnut was continuing to darken from my hands as I worked on it. I also stopped and sanded the rim of the pipe to remove the deep scratches that were present when I received it.




I wet sanded the stem and the band with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads and then dry sanded with 3200-12,000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down between each grit of micromesh with a damp cloth to remove the sanding dust and to further polish the stem.



After I finished sanding the stem and the band with the micromesh pads I took the pipe to the buffer and buffed it with White Diamond to further polish it. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil and when it was dry gave the pipe and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and a final buff with a soft flannel buff. The finished pipe is shown below. The bowl has only been given a wax coat and no stain. The finish is natural and I believe that it will continue to darken as it picks up the oils from my hands when I smoke it.