A Christmas Mending for a Snapped Shank – a Stanwell Royal Guard 581 Made in Denmark Pickaxe

Disasters happen and this pipe has made its way back to the worktable to see what I can do to help.  My son-in-law, Niko, commissioned this pipe from the Pipe Steward inventory that he wanted to add to his blossoming collection of pipes.  What caught his eye was the Stanwell Royal Guard’s stylish and eye-catching blasted surface which complimented the unique Pickaxe shape.  I acquired the Royal Guard Pickaxe in 2019 in a ‘Lot of 68’ I found on the eBay auction block from a seller in West Hartford, Connecticut.  The original restoration of the Royal Guard was posted in 2021 at Rebornpipes (see: LINK) and the picture below stands in sharp contrast to the pipe now on the worktable.We were visiting Niko and my daughter, Johanna, in Nashville in October, when Niko produced the Pickaxe pieces in his hand for me to see.  I lost a beat as I looked at the pipe carnage.  Niko explained that he had the pipe in his hand and one of their dogs rushed by him knocking him off balance. He described how he reflexively reached out to steady his balance against the wall and the next thing he knew there were two pieces of pipe in his hand….  I brought the Royal Guard back with me to Colorado to do what I could do.  What is great is that Niko and Johanna have come to Colorado for Christmas, and my plan is to surprise Niko with a repaired Royal Guard that he will discover under the tree.  Here is the patient now on the worktable. While I’m saddened that this pipe has experienced this trauma, I’m always happy to learn new things.  This will be my first shank break project and I’m looking forward to it.  In the interest of full disclosure, I have researched and read several of Steve’s shank repairs on Rebornpipes.  I am never ashamed of admitting that I benefit from the information that a master restorer may offer and I’ve benefitted many times over the years from masters like Steve Laug and Charles Lemon of Dad’s Pipes (www.Dadspipes.com).

The good news is that this break is clean.  There are no splinters that have broken off or fragments missing.  When I press the pieces together, it’s difficult to see that there was a break.From my gleanings of Steve’s posts and from questions I sent directly to him, the basic approach is to cement tubing into the bowl side of the shank’s airway with some tubing extending beyond the break.  Then, the stem side of the shank is mounted over the extended tubing and then cemented as the two sides of the shank come together.  This is the concept, but there is additional important detail that informs the project.

The first thing I do is to measure the diameter of the airway to get an idea of the size of tubing that would be necessary.  Using an electronic caliper (one of the best Christmas presents I gave to myself!) the airway measures .153 inches.  I’m not even sure what that measurement means so I placed the ruler next to the caliper arms and .153 inches is just a whisker more than 2/16 or 1/8 inch.  I switch the caliper over to mms and this reads 3.88mm.  For measurements this small, mm system is more helpful to me. I have 3/16-inch stainless steel tubing on hand and the packaging says that this is 4.76mm which is the internal diameter. The external diameter is 5mm. This is a good bit larger than the airway measurement and to use this tubing would require enlarging the airway using a drill bit.  In my communications with Steve responding to my questions, he said that 3/16-inch tubing could be used, but he tries to aim for tubing the same size as the airway (or close to it).  I also asked him what kind of tubing he used – asking about copper and brass tubing as well as stainless steel.  His response was helpful.  He uses stainless because it doesn’t corrode.  He also said that copper will oxidize over time and “gives the smoke and off-putting taste – same with brass.”  I decided to check out other sized stainless tubing available – something closer to the airway diameter of this Stanwell Pickaxe.  I found some tubing that was listed as 3mm.  When it reached me here in Golden, I placed the 3/16 inch or 4.76mm stainless tubing next to the 3mm tubing and the difference is noticeable. I measure the new 3mm tubing’s external diameter, and it was an even 4mm – much closer to fitting our 3.88mm airway.Before cutting the length of the tubing, a 4mm drill bit is secured and mounted in the hand drill grips.  I do not power the drill on but hand turn the grips to carefully drill out the airway.  Before doing this, I use a smaller drill bit to insert into the airway to measure the distance from the break to the draught hole. This measurement was 14mm or 9/16 inches.  I want to leave a distance between the end of the tubing and the draught hole, and to know how much room with which I have to play.  I decide to seat the tubing in the airway about 1/4 inch – that should give enough room and stability to do the job. Next, the 4mm drill bit is mounted and the tape marks about 1/4 inch as a guide.The process is a bit nerve-racking as the drill bit is hand turned and I can hear a bit of snapping as wood is being removed from the airway.It takes a bit of effort to seat the tubing in the airway because the fit was tight – which is good.Next, with a metal blade mounted on the rotary tool, the tube is cut to an operational size – about 7/8 inches total length.The cut end is filed down and smoothed to make sure nothing hangs on the tubing.Next, the stem side of the shank airway is hand turned drilled to accommodate the tubing.The airway is expanded on the stem side and the tubing fits nicely, snug and no movement.I test the tubing junction between the shank pieces before cementing.  All looks good and ready to go.Before gluing with 2-part epoxy, the file is used to rough up the tubing surface to help with the glue adhesion.A 2-part epoxy is used instead of CA glue because the epoxy does not set up immediately allowing time for adjustments during the fitting.  Epoxy is placed around the tubing and then is seated in the shank.  I allow it to set up before moving on to the next phase.Now, epoxy is placed on the tubing that is extended and a small amount on the exposed briar from the break. The stem side of the shank is then mounted on the tubing and seated on the break and pressed in place.  A small amount of epoxy is used on the exposed briar from the break so that it does not squeeze out on the surface when pressed in place. After holding it in position by hand for about 5 minutes, the stummel is placed in an egg carton to allow the junction to fully cure.  I’ll give it overnight!Today is Christmas Even and on the home stretch!  The epoxy has fully cured. To help with the blending with a microscopic edge, a line of black from a dye stick is traced over the crack to camouflage the crack line as much as possible.  It looks good.After reuniting the stem and stummel, the Royal Guard enjoys a fresh application of carnauba wax and after this, the pipe is given a rigorous hand buffing to raise the shine.The next step is to gift wrap this Danish Stanwell Royal Guard Pickaxe and put it under the tree for Niko to find.  I’ll have some tobacco ready to go to share a Christmas bowl – if it’s not too cold!  The crack line is almost invisible – you would have to know its there to find it. I’m pleased to have the opportunity to try out a new restoration technique and restore this attractive pipe to active service.  Have a Merry Christmas and blessings to you and to your family in the year approaching!  Thanks for joining me!




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