Fashioning a New Stem and Chamber Repair for a Chacom Relief Oval Shank Billiard

The next pipe on the worktable is an attractive Chacom Relief.  I am surprised it stayed in the ‘For “Pipe Dreamers” ONLY!’ collection as long as it did.  I acquired the Chacom December of 2018 in what I have called the ‘St. Louis Lot of 26’ that my son, Josiah, helped me to land.  Josiah lives in St. Louis where he studied and received his master’s in counseling at Covenant Seminary.  Currently, he continues to work in a group in St. Louis, was married to Katie, and they just had their first children – yes plural – identical twin boys 😊.  Grandpa is bragging a bit.

Back in 2018 when we were still living in Sofia, Bulgaria, Josiah reached out to me sending pictures of a lot he found for sale in a St. Louis area antique shop.  I liked what I saw, and Josiah insisted he go in with me to make the purchase with this caveat: that I choose a pipe from the lot as an upcoming Christmas gift from him.  It was an offer I could not refuse.  The picture below shows the St. Louis Lot of 26 with an arrow marking the Chacom Relief on the worktable.  Can one guess which one I chose as my Christmas gift?The House Pipe positioned in the center was the pipe I chose.  I later did the fascinating research and restored it and did this write up:  ‘A Christmas Pipe for Me – A 1920s Champion Made in France House Pipe’.  It continues to be a treasured pipe in my personal collection.The rest of the St. Louis Lot of 26 went into the online ‘Help Me!’ baskets of the ‘For “Pipe Dreamers” ONLY! collection where pipe men and women can commission a pipe as a gift or for themselves each benefitting the Daughters of Bulgaria – helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Most of the pipes in the Lot have already been claimed by new stewards.

I received a note from pipe man Justin back in August of 2021 inquiring about the Chacom saying that he loves older Chacoms and he was drawn to this one because of the way its design utilized both smooth and ‘rustication’.  After taking a closer look at the pipe, the rough wood is not rusticated but sand blasted – a more complex process and with nice results. I gave Justin my impressions of the pipe and an estimate of the final valuing of the pipe, and he was glad to commission the pipe.  I usually ask questions of stewards to learn more about them, and Justin was no exception.  In his note back to me he said,

I am beyond happy to move forward in this process and commission the Chacom. I think what you are doing is fantastic, both as a fan of history/artifacts and as a pipe smoker/collector. 

I found the Pipe Steward through the This Pipe Life forum (https://thispipelife.com/gate/). I will be sharing the news from this email on there and will be posting the link to the write up as well. Look to receive more business soon!

Pipe Smokers are nothing if not patient, so I will be saving my pennies and looking forward to your write up.

I am in the construction industry, selling materials for Quikrete. That just pays the bills though. I’m an avid reader, amateur historian, and aspiring theologian. I enjoy bird hunting with my English Setter and fly fishing as well. My wife and I currently live in Missouri but are moving soon to Florida for my job, Lord willing.

Since this note, I have learned that Justin and his wife have moved to Florida.  I appreciate so much Justin’s patience in waiting for his pipe.  In our communications this past year, Justin heard about my wife and my travels to Krakow, Poland, to help with the Ukraine crisis and shared that he and his wife also hope to serve one day in overseas short-term projects.  I appreciate Justin’s story and last September while my wife and I were in Bulgaria, Justin sent a note adding a Savinelli Oscar to his queued commissioned pipes as well.  Here now are pictures of the Chacom Relief first on the worktable. The only markings on the pipe – stummel and stem, is the stamped ‘Chacom’ [over] ‘Relief’ on the top of the football shaped shank. The lettering is growing thin. I find no COM nor does the stem hold the traditional Chacom stamp, ‘CC’.  This omission causes me to wonder whether the stem is a replacement.  It appears to fit and match that shank well, but this is a question that I sent to Steve of Reborn Pipes to get his sense of the stem’s origins.Chacom is a very well-known French brand that started in 1934 with the fusion of Chapuis-Comoy.  The reality is that it takes some time and patience to work through the histories of these two French names and the evolutions of their corporate identities.  Pipephil.eu, as one might expect, provides a cliff note telling of the history of the name Chacom:

The brand Chacom turned up (1934) after fusion of Chapuis-Comoy with La Bruyère.

Yves Grenard (†2012), second cousin of Pierre Comoy headed the company from 1971. He was responsible for Chapuis Comoy’s recovering its independance from Comoy. His son Antoine Grenard took over the direction of the company in 2007.

Chacom is a brand of Cuty-Fort Entreprises (Jeantet, Vuillard, Jean Lacroix, Ropp …).

For a fuller recitation of the roots of the Chacom name, Chacom’s website (https://www.pipechacom.com/en/index.htm) provides a great history with photographs.  The history begins in 1825 in a dated event bulleted fashion.  To get a sense of the origins, the 1800s is summarized in this fashion:

1825 : Well before the discovery of briarwood the COMOY family manufactured pipes in the small village of Avignon, near to Saint-Claude, mostly in boxwood for the “Grumblers” of the Army of Napoleon.

1850 : Birth of Henry COMOY, founder of the brand.

1856 : Discovery of briarwood and particularly the special treatment it required for the making of pipes. Saint-Claude becomes the birthplace of briar pipe manufactures and the world capital of pipe-making.

1870 : Henri COMOY, prisoner of war in Switzerland meets his cousins the Chapuis and ruminates the idea of an association.

1879 : Henry COMOY emigrates to London with some of his technicians from Saint-Claude and establishes the first English pipe factory in England H. COMOY & C° LTD. The Saint-Claude factory supplies them with briarwood and pipe bowls.

The divided presence of Comoy (England) and Chapuis (France) is a key element of the history throughout the 1900s.  The early 1900s is described in the Pipedia article and explains the lead up to the creating of Chacom:

1922 : After the First World War the association COMOY and CHAPUIS is realised and the Saint-Claude factory becomes CHAPUIS COMOY & Cie.

1924 : Death of Henri COMOY. His sons Paul and Adrien assume the direction of the factories in Saint-Claude and London assisted by their cousins Emile and Louis Chapuis.

1928 : London now able to produce their own pipes, and in order to develop the Saint-Claude factory, the brand CHACOM is created, using the first three letters of the COMOY and CHAPUIS families. Up till 1939 CHACOM was offered only in France, Belgium and Switzerland in order not to embarrass the COMOY pipes which had the same shapes and qualities.

1932 : The world economic crisis reaches Saint-Claude. To weather this problem Chapuis Comoy & Cie joins with another company under the name of LA BRUYERE, forming the biggest pipe concern in the world with 450 workpeople. Big trucks were needed to transfer the briar blocks from the drying shed to the factory.

The rest of the history focusses primarily on the expansion of the Chacom brand and how it was distributed first in Europe, later in the US, Russia, Japan and China. However, during the latter 1900s a key transition is mentioned:

1971 : Having recovered its independence from COMOYS of London, Yves GRENARD, second cousin of Pierre COMOY, takes over the direction of Chapuis Comoy & Cie and at the same time the exclusive sale of H. COMOY & Ltd, in France.

His son, Antoine Grenard, took over management in 2007.  The final entry in the history was 2016 when after more than a century operating out the center ‘pipe district’ of Saint Claude, the company moved a few kilometers away into a new building which is able to address the production needs better and showcase the history of Chacom in a museum exhibition. To this day, Chacom is exclusively a French made brand out of St. Claude.  One can go to the current Chacom website to peruse the offerings (https://www.pipechacom.com/en/index.htm).

Regarding the specific Chacom Relief on the worktable, I have searched in every resource that I can come up with and am not able to locate another Chacom ‘Relief’.  The name relief is most likely based on the comparison of the blasted and smooth briar patches making up the bowl’s presentation.  The other question which I mentioned earlier was the absence of the ‘CC’ stem stamping which is evident on every Chacom I’ve seen.  I had sent Steve an email with the question of this stem being a replacement.  His sense was that it probably was, but he too, could not find any reference to a Chacom Relief in his searches.  So, this confirmed my suspicions.

With a renewed appreciation of the Chacom name and history, I take a closer look at the Chacom on the worktable.  The pipe seems to be in good condition.  The cake in the chamber is moderate and lava flow on the rim is thick.  The stem has light oxidation and the bit has some bitting and tooth chatter mainly on the lower side.  I look forward to cleaning up the briar surface – the two briar surfaces in contrast will look good and the grain in the smooth briar will come out nicely.  The rough, blasted briar has been worn down over time and is fairly smooth for a textured finish.  To begin, the focus is first on the stem.  Fresh pictures show the oxidation in the vulcanite.  I also notice what appears to be a crack in the lower bit – marked with an arrow.  I decide to continue with the cleaning process because it’s difficult to see at this point.  After cleaning, I will then assess the possibility of repair work on the crack.Before putting the stem in a soak to deal with oxidation, the airway is cleaned with pipe cleaners moistened with isopropyl 99%.The stem has a good bit of oxidation and some calcification on the bit area.  A piece of 000 grade steel wool is applied to the stem to get a jump on removing the oxidation.The stem is next placed in a soak of Briarville’s Stem Oxidation and Remover.  The directions describe a soak for 2 to 24 hours depending on the need.  I opt for the 24-hour soak.The next day the pipe is fished out of the Oxidation Remover. Using a cotton cloth, the stem is rubbed vigorously to remove the raised oxidation.   The process seems to have done a good job at first glance.A quick pipe cleaner moistened with isopropyl 99% alcohol is run again through the airway to clear away residual Oxidation Remover.Next, to encourage the conditioning of the vulcanite rubber compound, Paraffin Oil is applied to the stem.  The dry vulcanite soaks up the oil and I put the stem aside for the time.Turning now to the cleaning of the Chacom stummel, undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap is used with a cotton pad to scrub.  A few starting pictures are taken to mark the progress. Using undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap, the bowl and rim are scrubbed with the cotton pad.  The pad shows the grunge that was on the briar surface.The brass wire brush helps to address the thick, crusty lava flow build up on the rim. The brass does not damage the briar but adds a bit more muscle to the scrubbing process.Well, some days are just not like other days.  At this point I realize that I skipped a somewhat important step in my cleaning regimen.  Reaming the chamber and removing the carbon cake build up is before the external briar cleaning.  Why?  As part of the chamber cleaning after the removal of the cake, the stummel is taken to the sink where hot water with anti-oil dish washing liquid is used with shank brushes to begin cleaning the internal – the mortise and airway through the draft hole.  I decide to stop at this point and back-track a bit.  I give the stummel a mild rinse removing the surface soap residue without getting water in the chamber.  The chamber was damp, so I put the stummel aside to allow it to dry before continuing.  The rim is much cleaner, but I want to return to the rim cleaning after the reaming of the chamber.After the chamber has dried, starting with the smallest of the 4 Pipnet Reaming Kit blade heads the reaming process commences.  I end up using 3 blade heads.After the reaming kit, the Savinelli Fitsall Tool is used to scrape the chamber walls removing more of the carbon cake.  It does a good job reaching into the angles and scaping the floor of the chamber around the draft hole.During the use of the Fitsall Tool, I notice what appear to be some burning issues.  I detect a concave bulging effect on the back side of the chamber where the burning in the chamber was not balanced and charring occurred.  When this charred briar is removed with the Fitsall Tool, it leaves a vacated rounded area on the back side about halfway down the chamber.  To clean the area further, instead of wrapping 240 paper around the Sharpie Pen to sand I use a coarser, 120 grade paper to clean out the charring.After the chamber is cleaned and sanded, a much-lightened picture helps to see the chamber issues.  There are some small fissures caused by overheating (yellow arrows), minor veins (red) and the rounded area (blue).  These issues will be addressed a bit later.Returning to cleaning the rim, a brass brush and Murphy’s soap continue the job.The cleaning process continues with the stummel being taken to the sink and with shank brushes, the internals are scrubbed with hottish water and anti-oil liquid dish washing soap.  After the stummel is thoroughly rinsed, it returns to the worktable.Focusing now on the internals, pipe cleaners and cotton buds moistened with isopropyl 99% scrub the mortise reaching down through the airway. A small dental spoon also is used to scrape the mortise walls to excavate the tars and oils.  The more I can remove tars and oils like this, the fewer pipe cleaners and cotton buds are used.  After some effort I call a stop to transition to a soak.The end of the workday is coming, so I decide to give the stummel a deeper cleaning using a cotton ball and isopropyl 99% alcohol soak. This soak helps to draw the tars and oils out of the internal briar.  One cotton ball is stuffed into the chamber and one after pulling and stretching is fashioned into a ‘wick’.  This cotton wick is then forced down the mortise and airway with the help of a straight wire.Next, the large eye dropper is used to fill the chamber with the alcohol.  When the alcohol surfaces over the cotton this signal there is enough.  After about 10 minutes, after the isopropyl 99% is absorbed into the cotton, the alcohol is topped off.  The lights go off and the stummel soaks through the night.The next morning, there is very little soiling with the chamber cotton ball, but the wick has some.  This hopefully means that the previous cleaning was effective and little tars and oils were left to draw out.To confirm this, hope a cotton bud and pipe cleaner indicate that the internals are as clean and fresh as I can make them. A quick whiff of the chamber confirms that the briar is refreshed.   I move on.I decide to move ahead with the chamber repair first and follow with the stem repairs.  I take 3 fresh pictures leaving the shank in the shot to indicate the orientation of the chamber is in view.  Facing the front of the stummel, the first picture looks to the left, then centered, lastly, the right.  If you study the pictures, the bulge can be seen with the help of the yellow boundary markers.  Heating veins and some more significant fissures can also be seen.  There are some veins toward the front of the chamber which the photos do not show.  My approach to patching these veins, fissures, and bulge will be to apply a heat resistant epoxy, J-B Kwik Weld.  This approach was passed on to me by both Steve at Reborn Pipes and Charles Lemon of Dad’s Pipes and has proven to be an effective patch.J-B Weld is made up of two ingredients, ‘Hardener’ and ‘Steel’ which are mixed in equal proportions.  The mixture turns black and has about 4 minutes before it starts setting up.  The Weld mixture is then applied to the problem areas pressing into the veins and crevasses.  Some will also be applied to the concave bulge to fill it in some.  After about 4 hours the patches are fully cured and then sanded to remove the excess material only to leave filled areas.  That describes the technique, and now the practice.The Hardener and Steel are placed on a scotch tape covered, plastic mixing disk.  The tape pulls off to quicken the clean-up later.The weld components are then mixed with a toothpick.When thoroughly mixed, a flat dental spatula is used to trowel the mixture to the target areas and then used to spread and press the mixture into the briar crevasses and veins.   Care is taken to avoid getting the mixture on the rim, but fully in the chamber where needed.To allow gravity to help with the curing process, the stummel is placed in the upper hole of a pipe rack behind my chair where pipes in the queue and other projects are waiting.  This orientation helps to settle the patches toward the back side of the chamber.Now it’s time to turn to the stem which has some issues that need resolving.   Fresh pictures are taken after the deoxidation and cleaning processes.  The lower bit has 2 cracks that are part of the same biting/clenching damage.  The yellow arrows show the progress of the cracks.  The central (or upper) crack has progressed more.  The lower crack still can be labeled as a hairline crack.  I have studied the cracks with a magnifying glass and have placed the red lines where the cracks terminate.  If these cracks were left alone and with the continued practice of the former steward of biting the bit, undoubtedly the cracks would unite, and the entire piece would break off from the stem.On a hunch, carefully I insert a fatter-than-normal pipe cleaner through the airway and slot to see if there is any movement in the primary crack in the center.  In the picture below, it appears that the crack’s crevasse has expanded on the button just a small bit.  This kind of flexing can cause the crack to progress if applied too forcefully, but it also shows the path to how to patch the crack. This small flexing can allow extra-thin CA glue to seep more deeply into the crack and result in a solider welding of the parts.  The other aspect of the crack – the physics of it – is that it was formed by compression going the opposite direction than the outwardly directed force created by the pipe cleaner.  That works to help the patch to be stronger as well when the crack is outwardly flexed, glued, and released.This picture of the slot shows that some vulcanite has broken off leaving a divot.  At that point, the button is much weakened in the thinning of the button.Since this stem is most likely already a replacement stem, which was confirmed by my email with Steve, the stakes are not quite as high as with the restoration of a pipe’s original stamped stem.  I have two options at this point – try to repair the crack and restore the stem or use another stem as the next replacement possibly in my can of stems?  I look in the can and do find a candidate pictured below.  The length is good, and the saddle is a bit shorter, but is very workable.  Of course, the tenon would need to be refashioned, removing the thinner extension and shaping what remains.Also important in the choosing a good candidate, is whether the round saddle part of the stem has enough ‘meat on the bone’ to be fashioned down to align with the with the football shaped shank.  After eyeballing the candidate comparing it to the shank, there’s enough vulcanite laterally as well as vertically.After some thought, I come to a decision.  Even though I believe the original replacement stem’s crack could be mended, the confidence level of a new steward of having a solid bit won the day.  Both options would require a bit of work, but I would rather spend the time and focus on fashioning the new replacement stem.

The new replacement stem is taken through the cleaning of the airway, application of 000 grade steel wool to get a jump on removing oxidation, then placed in a soak of Briarville’s Oxidation Remover for several hours.After the soak, a cotton cloth is used to vigorously rub the stem removing the raised oxidation, the airway is cleaned again, and the stem is given an application of Paraffin Oil to condition the stem.  The stem is put aside for now to absorb the oil.The J-B Weld patches have had sufficient time to cure.  A picture shows the patch material in its cured state.The heavy lifting sanding to remove the excess patch material is done with a sanding drum mounted on the rotary tool.  Very little pressure is used as the sanding drum engages the chamber.  The natural curvature of the drum essentially ‘slides’ over the patch material and the 40% full power rotation removes what needs to be removed.  As the sanding progresses, briar emerges where there were no veins and fissures – the excess is erased.This picture shows the patch residue being removed from the chamber – quite a bit.The results from the sanding drum show the filling of the bulge sufficiently and  other imperfections.The drum sanding is completed and next sanding is fine-tuned with 240 paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen.I’m pleased with the results.  During the sanding, the chamber was rounded as well as removing the patch material.  The completion of this repair will be the application of ‘Pipe Mud’ over the chamber at the end to create a jump-start to forming a protective cake in the chamber.Before moving the attention back to the stem which holds a good bit of work, I want to take care of some issues with the stummel.  The stummel should not proceed too far down the path in front of the stem because of the large amount of sanding that occurs fashioning the stem to match and seat properly with the shank.  There are two things to address before the stem becomes a construction zone: first, to cut a smart bevel on the inner edge of the rim to clean the black char circle and to refresh the lines.  The picture above shows the condition of the inner rim.  The second project is to redo a fill on the briar surface.  Only one fill has been found and it needs attention.  It’s located on the right, underside of the shank.  I’ll address this now so that it will be ready to be sanded later.First, a bevel is cut into the inner rim to clean it up and create fresh lines.  A starting picture is taken to mark the progress.A wooden sphere is used to cut the smart bevel.  Using 240 paper pressed between the rim and the sphere, the sphere is rotated several times in the confines of the inner edge.This is followed by the same procedure using 600 grade paper.The results are good.  The bevel allows briar grain to peek through and crisp new lines.Next, working on patching the fill, a hooked dental probe is used to dig out the old patch material.  The fill material turns out to still be strong, but the old patch had contracted and was no longer flush with the briar surface.After cleaning the area with a cotton pad moistened with alcohol, a small spot-drop of regular clear CA glue is applied on the pit.  To help with blending, briar dust is sprinkled over the patch.  The stummel is then put aside to allow the patch to thoroughly cure.With the fill patch cured enough to handle the stummel, all the main players for re-sizing and shaping the tenon are on the table.The PIMO Tenon Turning Tool (TTT) is a very helpful addition to my arsenal of tools I acquired from Vermont Freehand.  The basic concept is that the carbide cutter cuts off excess vulcanite as the tool is guided by the guide pin inserted in the airway while rotated by a hand drill.  This picture is taken from the TTT directions that came from the manufacturer and it provides the main conceptional idea.To set the starting parameters, another great addition to the toolbox is an electronic caliper.  I take a measurement of the mortise diameter.  The caliper reads 7.44 mm.  This measurement is the target size for the re-sized tenon to match.Next, the tenon is measured to see how far we must go.  The caliper reads an even 9.00mm.  The difference between the size of the tenon and the mortise is: 1.56mm (9.00 – 7.44 = 1.56).  I have learned from reading posts from Charles Lemon of Dad’s Pipes (https://dadspipes.com) that it is wise to leave about .50mm as a ‘fat zone’.  What this means is that the ‘fat target’ for the TTT will be about .50mm larger than the actual measurement of the mortise (7.44).  So, the fat target is 7.44 + .50 = about 7.94mm.  From this tenon measurement, the tenon is gradually hand sanded down to the mortise size, testing and retesting as you go, so that the tenon will be customized for this specific mortise.  The worst-case scenario is to get too greedy and cut off too much of the tenon resulting in an undersized, loose fit – so the theory goes.  The practice can be a challenge, but patience usually turns out to be the best tool in the toolbox 😊.The next step is to use the drill bit provided and drill out the airway to fit the guide pin on the TTT.  I find that the airway was already sized well, but I run the drill through for good measure.The tenon has a narrower extension which will need to be cut off, but for now, it will remain.  The first cut is a test cut.  The Carbide cutter is rested on the tenon proper and then the space is reduced a bit by adjusting the Carbide cutting arm.A test cut is a partial cut made and then measured.  The purpose of the test cut is to make sure that the cut is not taking too much off before completing the cut on the entire tenon.  This is a safety net.The measurement of the test cut is 8.59mm.  I’m aiming for the fat target of just under 8.00mm.At this point the extended tenon is cut.The Carbide cutting arm is adjusted again and a small test cut measures at the correct size.I’ve reached a measurement just under the ‘fat target’ with a measurement of 7.86mm.  Sanding begins at this point to bring the tenon down to a customized 7.44mm, the actual diameter of the mortise.I use a coarser 120 grade sanding paper to begin the sanding process.  As the picture shows, the paper is wrapped around the tenon with equal pressure applied and the tenon is rotated inside the paper.  I have experienced two challenges during the tenon sanding process which I try to avoid.  The first is that unequal pressure is applied in sanding resulting in more of a cone shaping of the tenon – the tip being narrower with an expanding tapering toward a fatter base.  The fit with this problem usually results in it being too loose.  The sanding should keep the tenon in a straight cylindrical orientation as much as possible.  The second problem is losing patience as the tenon begins to work its way into the mortise – a little at a time.  I have cracked shanks by being too assertive in working the newly sanded tenon into the mortise.  That ‘crack’ is not something anyone wants to hear!After some sanding the first test – a bit of movement.  The following pictures show the slow, incremental approach – sanding/testing, sanding/testing…. Patience paid off.  The shank facing and the stem facing meet.  The picture shows the amount of trimming needed to shape the stem into a football (American) shape matching the shank.Unfortunately, mortise/tenon weddings are not made in a perfect world.  The top/down perspective shows a less than straight alignment after the tenon is seated in the mortise.  There is a resulting gaping on the right (top in picture) side of the shank.The views down the sides of the shank again reinforce the amount of trimming and sanding that is needed.To protect the shank briar from the use of the sanding drum mounted on the rotary tool, painters’ tape is wrapped around the shank.The stem is rotated to put it in the correct orientation with the stummel.  It will remain in this position throughout the entire sanding process as the stem is shaped. The reason for this is that the shaping will be fully customized and if the orientation changes mid-stream, this results in a less than ideal fit.A sanding drum is mounted on the rotary tool with the speed set to about 40% full power.The process of removing the vulcanite around the saddle to align it with the football shaped shank takes some time.  It’s not just a matter of removing the lip overhang but the entire saddle has to be shaped and tapered so that you’re not left with a fat, bulging saddle, which looks like stuffed pants – as Steve puts it.  The shaping also should create unified lines down the sides of the shank and stem.  The sanding drum goes to work.  The pictures show the progress. After the sanding wheel, 120 paper is used to fine tune further.After sanding a bit, I remove the thick layers of painters’ tape to eyeball the progress.  The pictures show the lip that remains caused by the thick shank wrapping. To continue to fine tune the sanding I place a thinner layer of protective tape around the shank.  This will help to remove the lip and bring the shaping closer to being flush with the shank.After a good bit of sanding using 120 paper, I stop to assess the progress.  Looking down from the top, the lines along the sides are looking good, but more sanding is needed to ‘squeeze’ the saddle a bit more.  The lines coming down the sides of the shank should continue the same trajectory with a gentle curving.  The red arrows show where the sanding is needed on the saddle.  The stem’s left side also had more curvature than the right side (top).  The yellow line indicates where sanding was done to try to match the left side’s curvature. The side view also shows the need for more sanding to avoid the ‘stuff pants’ look.  The top and bottom of the shank taper down and up.  The red dots show how the taper should continue in the saddle.  More sanding is needed 😊.The sanding drum returns and carefully removes additional vulcanite from the saddle and sides.  Then I continue again with 120 paper.  Additionally, I remove the tape again and it shows the lip overhang – it is closer to being flush with the shank, but still more sanding is needed.This time protective tape is moved up a bit, protecting the Chacom nomenclature, but exposing briar to enable the next round of sanding to remove the lip and have the union more seamless.Sanding continues with 120 paper and this picture shows the progress on the upper side.  The center and bottom areas of the shank/stem union are flush.  The upper section still needs more sanding.  I can tell when it is flush when the sanding reaches and removes the darker, original briar hue.  The arrow marks this section where the briar has been shielded by the lip.  After the 120 sanding is complete on the top, the picture on the right shows the results. The underside shows the same darker un-sanded area then the completion of 120 sanding on the right.I had almost forgotten that there were other parts of the stem that needed addressing, but finally after replacing the 120 sanding paper with 240, the entire stem is sanded including refreshing the button with a squared needle file.The bit and button have minor chatter and should sand out.  The first few pictures show the filing to refresh the button – upper and lower.The completed sanding with 240 paper – upper and lower.I wish I could move on with the sanding of the stem, but there’s another issue that has been staring at me since I mounted the new replacement stem.  The picture below shows the daylight coming through which indicates that the shank and stem facings are not flush.  This happens when fashioning replacement stems that were originally fashioned for a different pipe.The way of addressing this is to insert sandpaper between the shank and stem facings on the flush side and sand the area down.  This should bring the air gap closer together – that’s the hope.  This can be a bit tricky as I’ve discovered from other projects.  This area of the pipe is extremely sensitive to change, and sanding can cause things to get out of kilter more…After several sessions – sanding/testing and patience, the facings come together followed by a celebration from me! Yet, the celebratory picture below identified another challenge.  On the right side of the picture below, a pit can be seen in the vulcanite – ugh!  I’ll need to fill this very small pit with black CA glue before going further with sanding the stem.After cleaning the saddle with alcohol, the drop is placed on the pit. We wait a bit for the glue to cure.When the patch has cured, the patch is first filed with a flat needle file then sanded with 240 paper.Now, back on track, the stem is wet sanded with 600 grade paper.  This is followed by applying 0000 grade steel wool.Continuing with the stem sanding/polishing, micromesh pads are used starting with wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400.  Between each set of three pads, Obsidian Oil is applied to further condition the vulcanite and to prevent future oxidation.  This is followed by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000.The final set of 3 is 6000 to 12000.At this point the stem is put to the side and the attention is turn to the stummel.  One fill patch was made.  The patch has had plenty of time to cure.A flat needle file is used initially to file down the excess patch material.  The goal is to keep the file on top of the patch mound so that there is no collateral impact on the surrounding briar.  As you can see in the picture below, there is a bit of collateral impact that will need to be sanded out.Following the filing, to continue to smooth and blend the sanded briar, 240 paper is used and this is followed by 600 paper.  The natural briar is darkening but there’s still a patch footprint showing.To help to blend the patch area (above) and the end of the shank where there’s been sanding, sanding sponges will be used.  These will also help with cleaning up small nicks and scratches.  Three sponges are used starting with a coarser grade, then medium grade, and finally a fine grade. Painters’ tape is also used to protect the Chacom Relief nomenclature.Continuing with the sanding/polishing of the stummel, micromesh pads are applied starting by wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400.  Dry sanding then follows with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000. I’ve come to a crossroads and a decision needs to be made.  Through the cleaning and sanding processes, the stummel finish has evolved – generally lightening which is expected.  The transformation through the cleaning and sanding not only lightened it but also changed the basic Chacom Relief motif.  The original motif (left picture) boldly puts forward what appears to me to be a black finish which is seen not only in the blasted patch but also in the grain of the smooth briar – almost zebra like.  I called my wife in to look.  She agreed with me regarding the black motif of the original, but she also like the new honey brown motif and would not mind leaving it that way.  Decision time.  I agreed with Beth that the honey brown motif was attractive, but in my attempts to restore pipes striving to emulate as much as possible the original intent, I decide to move forward with the black motif and if successful, this will tie in the black stem quite nicely.Having made the decision, I must admit that it has always been stressful applying black dye to a briar pipe!  Here we go.  Fiebing’s Black Leather Dye is the dye of choice.  After assembling all the needed elements, the stummel is wiped with alcohol to make sure the briar surface is clean.  Next, with a folded pipe cleaner inserted into the mortise acting as a handle, the stummel is warmed using a hot air gun.  Warming the briar before applying the dye expands the grain enabling it to be more receptive to the dye.Next, the dye, as an aniline dye, is combustible because of the alcohol content.  Using a folded pipe cleaner as a brush, the black dye is painted on sections of the stummel at a time and then placed over the lit candle to ‘flame’ the dye. In contact with the flame, the alcohol in the dye immediately combusts and burns off leaving behind the pigment in the grain.  This process continues until the entire stummel has been painted with dye and flamed.  The process is repeated a second time to make sure the stummel has had a thorough application of the dye.To allow the dye to ‘settle in’ it is set aside to rest through the night.First thing in the morning, with coffee secured, I go to the worktable downstairs in my ‘Man Cave’ to begin ‘unwrapping’ the newly dyed stummel.  I’m anxious to see how the application of black dye has taken.  Each time dye is used, there may be an idea of how it will turn out, but the result won’t be known until the stummel is unwrapped.  To do the unwrapping of the flamed dye crust exposing the grain, Tripoli compound is applied to the stummel with a felt wheel.  The speed of the rotary tool is reduced somewhat to about 30% full power to reduce the buildup of heat during the process.  The combination of rough felt and the more abrasive Tripoli creates a good measure of ‘plowing’ action to remove the excess and this causes heat.  During the process, the felt wheel is cleansed often to remove the crust buildup as well as to keep the felt supple.As the flamed crust is removed, the goal is to remove as much excess dye as possible which leaves the contrast in the grains more distinctive – between hard and soft wood.  A picture shows the unwrapping process with the grain’s absorption of the black dye.After the felt wheel has done the initial round, the wheel is exchanged for a cotton cloth wheel with the speed increased to about 40% full power. Tripoli compound is again applied to the stummel.  I do this additional cycle with the softer wheel to further sharpen the distinction in the grain.  Again, the goal is to remove residue of dye from especially the light wood which leaves a sharper contrast between lighter and darker grain.The other reason for using a soft cotton wheel is that it can reach into the bowl/shank crook and remove the excess dye.  The felt wheel was not able to reach this area because of the sharper angles.After the Tripoli process is finished, to blend the new dye – not so much as to lighten it, the stummel is wiped lightly with a cotton pad moistened with alcohol. Very little dye came off on the cotton pad.Next, the stem and stummel are united to apply Blue Diamond compound – a finer abrasive that will raise the shine and continue to fine tune the contrasting of the stummel.Following the application of compounds, the pipe is wiped/buffed with a felt cloth to remove the compound dust and residue that collects on the briar surface.  This needs to be removed before applying the wax.Normally, after the application of Blue Diamond compound wax is applied, but a few mini projects are necessary.  After the repair to the chamber, a layer of ‘pipe mud’ will be applied after applying the wax.  This will create a starter cake to help a proper cake protective layer to develop.  The other mini project is with the stem.  The original stem had an ever so slight bend – probably an eighth. The bend will bring the slightly bent stem back into the proper orientation.  In the picture, the original stem’s bend is shown.To create the bend, first a pipe cleaner is slipped through the airway and serves as a handle.  Then a hot air gun is used to heat the vulcanite.  As it heats the vulcanite becomes supple.When I see that the vulcanite has softened, I use a piece of wood to slightly bend and to hold in place long enough to carry to the sink to put the stem under cool water to solidify the bend.  The first time I did this the bend was too much.  The goal of the bend is for the end trajectory of the stem to be on a parallel plane as the top of the stummel.  To correct the over bend, the stem is reheated, and it naturally straightens until it reaches the 1/8 bend and again it is taken to the sink to solidify the bend with cool water.This picture shows the results – looks good.Next, carnauba wax is applied to the stem and stummel.  Another cotton cloth buffing wheel is mounted on the rotary tool with the speed remaining at 40% of full power and the wax is applied thoroughly.  The pipe then is given a rigorous hand buffing with a microfiber cloth to remove excess wax and to raise the shine.After the application of wax is completed, I have one mini project remaining.  The picture below shows my stash of pure Cuban cigar ash that I collected while in Krakow, Poland, where Cuban cigars are available.  The ash was not just my effort, but my fellows joined in as well and willingly added their ash to my stash 😊.  Cigar ash is used to create a mixture called ‘Pipe Mud’ which is used to create a cake starter to protect the chamber briar and to encourage the development of a cake.To make the Pipe Mud, a small amount of water is placed in the small bowl and ash is gradually added and mixed until it thickens.Using the pipe nail, the mud is then troweled and spread over the chamber wall and floor.  The pipe is then set aside for several hours to make sure it’s thoroughly cured. It dries to a crust and the color of ash.  For the new steward, for the first several times the pipe is put into service, DO NOT scrape the chamber wall with a pipe tool to clean.  Instead, stir the ash, tip it out and use a folded pipe cleaner simply to rub the sides of the chamber.  It will take some time for the new cake to develop.This Chacom Relief of St. Claude has a new life to serve a new steward.  I’m pleased with the results of the finish bringing out the original zebra motif.  The contrast between the smooth and blasted, textured briar is what initially draws one’s attention to the pipe. The underside of the shank and heel have beautiful bird’s eye grains terminating the vertical grain flow. The newly fashioned stem works well with the slight, apologetic bend and the dark grain that ties in nicely with it. The bowl cradles nicely in the hand and should provide a new steward with ample time of reflection.  Justin commissioned this pipe and as the commissioner, will have the first opportunity to acquire him from the Pipe Steward Store benefitting the Daughters of Bulgaria – helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploit.  A ‘before’ picture reminds us how far we’ve come.  Thanks for joining me!

 

 

 

3 thoughts on “Fashioning a New Stem and Chamber Repair for a Chacom Relief Oval Shank Billiard

  1. Pingback: A Fresh Start for a Savinelli Oscar Aged Briar 102 Billiard of Italy – The Pipe Steward

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