Fashioning a Replacement Stem for a French Gentleman No. 1 Rusticated Horn Pocket

This unique pipe came to me in what I have called the French Lot of 50.  I acquired it from the French eBay auction block and it has yielded many great collectable pipes for stewards who commissioned them from the For “Pipe Dreamers” Only! collection.  The picture below shows the French eBay seller’s presentation – a pile of pipes that revealed peeks here and there – very enticing for a pipe collector!  I had the winning bid and the French Lot of 50 made its way to me when we lived in Sofia, Bulgaria.  These pipes have made many new stewards happy, and this has benefitted the Daughters of Bulgaria – a work in Bulgaria helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.All these pipes have been posted online for pipe men and women to peruse and if one or more pipes stand out, they are commissioned.  Pipe man, Ken, aka, Ken ‘Bründle’ on the Facebook group, Brothers by Briar, which he co-moderates,  has commissioned pipes before and I appreciated much his welcoming spirit when I joined the Brothers by Briar group.  One of the pipes I restored for Ken was a GEFAPIP 2500 France 106 S Rusticated Dublin (See LINK for write up) restored from a cracked bowl.  He sent a selfie when the Dublin was first put into service – something I request of all the ‘new stewards’ of pipes that are restored and adopted.  From the previous post:

When I asked Ken where he was from, his reply was that he was from Kentucky but originally, he was from ‘The Shire, Hobbiton to be exact.’  He teaches 9th grade English and is a prolific reader – favoring books describing Hogwarts and Middle Earth.  Some could say that Ken is a Renaissance man, not only does he explore the worlds of literature, pipes, and tobaccos, he also is a knife maker, spends time fly fishing, restores revolvers, taking in the Cinema as a fan of the Big Screen, and he listens to an eclectic collection of music.  His ‘man cave’ is also adorned with original ink portraits depicting the famous – mythical and of humankind, garnering their pipes – these all the creation of artist, Artur Lopes, also a well-known pipe man par excellence.  Ken’s portrait was also captured by Artur Lopes as a commissioned Christmas present.

One of Ken’s favorite shapes is the Bulldog, but this Horn shape Gentleman Rusticated got his attention.  It could be designated a pocket pipe and is light enough to go hands free with the dimensions: Length: 4 1/4 inches, Height: 1 1/2 inches, Rim width: 1 1/4 inches, Chamber width: 3/4 inches, Chamber depth: 1 1/4 inches.  Ken found this one as well in the Pipe Dreamers collection.  Here are the pictures that got Ken’s attention again. I’m calling this Horn a Pocket Pipe because its length is a pocket-perfect 4 1/4 inches.  The stout horn shape also should hold up well in the pocket.  The nomenclature on the underside of the oval shank is ‘GENTLEMAN’.  On the upper side of the shank, parallel with the shank facing (second picture below) is a marking but unintelligible to me at this point!  The only letter that seems to be clear is the letter ‘N’.  The stem is stamped on the upper side with a ‘G’ (picture immediately above).  This stem stamping is badly scratched with what looks like metal plyers gripping and mangling this stem.Information regarding the Gentleman came up empty checking with Pipedia.  However, my next stop looking at found me looking at the exact pipe.  Here is what I found:The COM was inconclusive, but if I were to guess, I would put my money on the more likely French source of Chacom or Butz Choquin since this pipe was purchased from a seller in Paris.  In addition to the sideview picture in the panel above, two additional pictures added information that helped me to identify the marking on the top of the shank: ‘No. 1’. I also looked at Herb Wilczak & Tom Colwell’s, “Who Made That Pipe?” and found no listing for Gentleman in that huge inventory.  If one does a general search for ‘Gentleman pipe’ on the internet, the majority of pictures that emerge are Missouri Meerschaum’s ‘Country Gentleman’ and the more generic interpretation of ‘gentleman’ pipe smokers – which includes most who smoke pipes 😊.  I did find one reference to a 2014 article, ‘The Gentleman Smoker’, by Kevin Godbee, that explored the growing interest in the pipe hobby among a younger generation and how ‘pipe’ style has been viewed in the past.  A couple paragraphs jumped out from that interesting article:

Pipe smoking is a talisman of that bygone era; an era remembered to have been a calmer and more civilized time of gentlemanly behavior and style. Dressing well also harkens back to such times. I recall that my father never went downtown without a nice jacket and tie if he wasn’t wearing a suit. And always with one of his small, brimmed fedoras that were so popular at the time. This was to show respect and also to present himself, at a glance, as the gentleman he was. He invariably was smoking his pipe as well.

In today’s atmosphere of vitriolic political wrangling, banking frauds, terrorism, the NSA and a perceived growing lack of respect for one’s fellow man, folks may indeed be longing for the civilities of days gone by.

The article is a fun and interesting read, and rings of an accurate take on ‘pipe style’ 😊 in my experience.

The general condition of the horn shaped rusticated bowl is good with some issues.  The glaring issue is the mangled stem which has been mauled.  I’m guessing that someone took a pair of plyers to the stem which must have gotten stuck in place.  The two pictures below show not only the scarring on the stem, but also the damage bleeding over onto the shank.  Not a pretty site.The stem’s bit has also seen better days.  The picture below shows the stem after having soaked it to remove the oxidation and after cleaning the airway.  I cleaned it hoping that it would improve its dismal condition.  The upper bit has a broken button that has apparently been roughly re-glued probably to keep the pipe in service.The lower bit shows the fracture line which severed the entire left quadrant of the bit.  My guess is that when the bit was fractured, the fracture broke into 2 pieces. There are two take aways from what I see.  First, the steward who applied the ‘repairs’ with plyers and glue, was a pragmatist – just get the pipe functional – aesthetics were secondary.  The second take away is that this pipe was well used and ‘loved’ from a functional point of view by the previous steward 😊. When Ken commissioned the Gentleman, I mentioned my concern for the stem.  He responded with confidence in my ability to bring this stem back to life and reminded me of the moniker he pronounced on me – Dallivander from Garrick Ollivander, the famous and well regarded wandmaker of the Harry Potter universe.  Ken donned me with this moniker not only because of the ‘magic’ of my restorations but because in proper Harry Potter fashion, as the wand chooses the wizard, I believe the pipe also chooses the steward 😊.  However, notwithstanding Ken’s confidence in my wizardly abilities, after going back and forth in my mind about what the stem’s repair might look like – what might be left afterward, I’ve concluded that this original stem will rest in peace.  He has already endured more than a stem should be asked to do.  The HUGE factor in trying to restore the stem was to salvage the original mangled ‘G’ stamping that came from either Chacom or Butz Choquin. Even so, with all the issues stacked up, I’ve decided to fashion a new stem for the Gentleman.  If Ken decides to keep the Gentleman after he’s looking better, I will include the original stem in its limping though functional condition for Ken to do as he wishes. With the decision reached, a note was sent to Tim West of ‘Tim West Briar Pipes and Repair’ ( to find a replacement Gentleman stem.  I used my electronic caliper (best present I ever gave to myself!) to measure the key parameters to send to Tim with the idea that the replacement needed to be a bit on the ‘fat’ side so that it could be fashioned down to fit and to be shaped. Along with the replacement stem for the Gentleman, I asked Tim to send an assortment of shorter stems to add to my personal inventory.  I found later that Tim attended the Chicago Pipe Show and it took a bit longer to get back to me.  In the meantime, the rusticated horn shaped stummel needs cleaning.  The chamber has a moderate buildup of carbon cake which will be cleared to allow a fresh cake to be developed and to inspect the chamber for heating problems.The rim also appears to have lava flow over it even thought the black hue masks it.It appears that the nomenclature panel on the lower side was originally dyed with a black dye finish because of the remnants of black spots left and the worn areas showing briar.  To resolve this, the Gentleman will receive a fresh black finish.  This will refresh the look of the pipe as well as help to mask the sanding necessary to work out the plyer grip marks on the end of the shank.Not shown is the cleaning of the airway and removal of oxidation from the original stem which will accompany the Gentleman to his next place of service.  To clean the chamber, the Pipnet Reaming Kit is used to ream the chamber.  The two smaller blade heads are used.While using the second Pipnet blade head I noticed that the more conical shaped chamber tightened not allowing the blade to reach the chamber floor.  For situations like this, the Kleen Reem Pipe Tool works nicely navigating narrower chambers.  The shape of the teeth allow it to reach the floor removing the carbon.Next, the Savinelli Fitsall Tool nicely finishes the major scraping of the chamber walls.The final step is to sand the chamber using 220 grade paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen.After wiping the chamber with a cotton pad, a quick inspection of the chamber reveals no heating problems.Moving next to cleaning the external rusticated surface, undiluted Murphy’s Oil soap is used scrubbing with a cotton pad.To clean the rim, a brass brush is used which does not damage the briar but adds a bit of muscle to the cleaning.The stummel is next taken to the sink where hot water is used with anti-oil liquid dishwashing soap.  Differing shank brush sizes are used to scrub the internals.  After a thorough rinsing, the stummel returns to the work table.The internal cleaning continues with a ‘slog’ fest using isopropyl 99%, pipe cleaners and cotton buds.  The internal briar is mucked up with tars and oils.  To help, a small dental spoon is used to scrape the mortise walls pulling out a good bit of grunge.  After a good bit of effort, the buds and pipe cleaners emerge lighter.  The cleaning will continue later with a kosher salt and alcohol soak through the night to help further clean the internals and to freshen the briar.After a week or so, I received the stems that were ordered from Tim West.  Two were designated as potential replacements and a few others just to increase my on-hand inventory.When the original Gentleman stem is placed alongside the two replacement candidates, the challenges of the project become more apparent.  There is a lot of stem that needs to be trimmed and shaped to emulate the original as closely as possible.  The ‘candidate’ on the top in the picture below is a fishtail style whereas the original is straight but tapers toward the button.  The candidate on the bottom, which has ‘Giudici Italy’ stamped on it, is a straight style.  This was Tim’s primary offering for the replacement, but my first concern was its size – especially the slot’s size. If the slot of the larger Italian candidate stem is too wide to allow its downsizing to emulate the original stem, it’s a no go unless the button is left somewhat larger.  This may be what needs to be done in the end.  The picture below provides vertical lines that give the idea of the rubber that needs to be removed which compresses around the slot as a new button is fashioned.  Using the caliper, I did measure the slot size of the Italian candidate stem, and it was just a hair larger than the Gentleman original, but I believe it should be ok. The other issue is the depth of the original stem’s facing where the depth of the stem is the most as the stem tapers up toward the shank.  The question is, at what point on the candidate stems will this depth measurement align in the tapering angle and what is the resulting length of the stem to reach that depth measurement?  My caliper has a manual tighten down screw that holds the measurement jaws in place.  With the jaws at the stem facing, the depth of the original stem is physically locked in. After placing some painters’ tape at the midsections of both candidate stems, the caliper jaws are moved toward the stem facings of the candidates.  As the stems taper expands, the claws eventually contact the stems.  This ‘contact point’ marks the place where the depth is the same as the original stem.  Ideally, one needs a bit more to aid in sanding and creating a flush junction between the shank and stem.The contact points are marked for each candidate’s stem.  The picture below shows both candidates’ contact points aligned with the original stem facing.  The candidate on the top leaves a larger overall length from the facing to the button.  The Giudici Italian stem aligns much better with the button extending slightly more than the Gentleman.Overlaying the original stem on the Italian candidate, gives an idea of how much needs to be trimmed and sanded to fashion a replacement – no small task!The first step in fashioning the replacement stem is to form a rough tenon which will also remove a good bit of the stem facing to create the correct stem length.  The gradual creation of the tenon acts as the cornerstone to make sure the stem is in alignment as the process progresses.  The main tool for cutting and shaping the tenon is the Tenon Turning Tool (TTTool) that mounts onto a hand drill.  The tool rotates as the carbon cutter arm shaves away the excess rubber.  The tool has two adjustment screws to loosen the blade and to change the cutting measurements. The TTTool also comes with a drill bit sized to enlarge the stem’s airway to accommodate the Tool’s guide pin.  The existing airway nicely guides the guide pin drill bit.With the airway enlarged, the stem is mounted onto the guide pin.  The cutting arm is set to cut a ‘fat’ sizing on the tenon simply to work the tenon down to ‘push back’ the stem facing.  The fine tuning of the tenon to fit the mortise comes later.The fat trim is made part way to the facing just to illustrate the process.  The rubber shavings go everywhere!The TTTool cut the tenon until it reaches the full extension of the guide pin.  At this point, the tool is not able to go further without first cutting the excess tenon off to enable more cutting latitude.With the tenon cut off leaving a remnant (first picture), again the airway is enlarged to accommodate the TTTool guide pin (second picture).At this point excess rubber needs to be removed to make the stem facing smaller.  The TTTool is not able to cut a swath as wide as the stem facing.  The painters’ tape is left on to show the ‘contact point’ measurement indicating the proper facing depth.  This means that removal of excess rubber should not go beyond this point.  A sanding drum is mounted onto the rotary tool to remove the excess.The goal is not to make it ‘pretty’ at this point.  The drum very nicely removes excess leaving a very rough tenon – narrow enough for the TTTool to handle.Still set at the same ‘fat’ measurement, the TTTool pushes the tenon creation toward the future stem facing marked by the ‘contact point’.Again, the sanding drum carefully removes excess just shy of the contact point. Before cutting the tenon, at this point I measure the needed length for the finished tenon.  I don’t want to cut too much off.  A marker sets the length and again the excess is cut off.  A flat needle file is used to flatten the end of the tenon after cutting it and to clear away rough edges.The TTTool again cuts the tenon down to the stem facing.  The TTTool continues to rotate a bit pressing against the stem facing.  This helps to leave a flat, perpendicular stem facing at the ‘contact point’. The rough tenon is complete with the stem facing right at the contact point which marks the depth of the shank at that point. Next, the rough tenon needs to be cut so that it is roughly 50mm fatter than the actual size of the mortise.  The slightly fat cut allows for fine tune sanding to fashion the tenon to fit well.  The mortise diameter is 7.29mm.Compared to the mortise diameter, the rough tenon measures at 8.58mm.  The difference is 1.29mm.  To leave about .50mm on the tenon, the amount of excess to be removed by the TTTool is about .79mm leaving a rough tenon diameter of 7.79mm.  Exact measurements are not necessary, but the goal is not to cut too much off.The cutting arm is reduced some and to be on the safe side of things, a test cut is made.  The good news is that I did a test cut!  The caliper shows the test cut to be 7.05mm – a bit too much! The cutting arm is opened a small amount and another test cut gives a better reading of 7.66mm.  This is close enough.  The tenon cutting is completed by the TTTool.Next, the sanding begins using a coarse 120 grade paper.  The sanding goes slowly, and this is good.  Sanding and testing is repeated a lot until the stem is fully seated into the mortise.A squared needle file is used at the end of the sanding process to file at the base of the tenon.  The fit looks great.With the tenon work completed, fashioning the stem is next.  A lot of rubber needs to be removed, but the caution again is to go slowly because you can’t replace the rubber once it’s removed!The sanding drum is also used to remove the excess more rapidly – but still, going very slowly. The shaping process took a good amount of time and artistic appraisal!  The stem looks great.  The square needle file is used to help shape the button which has more of an oval shape.  Pictures show the upper and then lower stem.  The customized fashioning of the stem results and a foot print that helps the new steward to know which is the upper side of the stem when reseating the stem.  If the stem is inverted, the edge of shank/stem facing will have a ridge.  The correct mounting of the stem should have no ridges.The sanding continues with 220 grade paper – upper and lower.Next, the stem is unmounted and taken to the sink where it is wet sanded with 600 grade paper.  Following this, 0000 grade steel wool is applied. I like what I’m seeing 😊.The day is ending, and I switch gears for now.  Earlier I mentioned that the internal cleaning would continue with a kosher salt and alcohol soak.   This several hour soak helps to draw out tars and oils as well as to freshen the briar.  A cotton ball is used to form a wick to help to draw the tars and oils.  The cotton ball is pulled and twisted and then guided down the mortise with the aid of a stiff wire.  The wick is pushed through the mortise as far as the draught hold.Kosher salt is then placed in the bowl.  Kosher salt is used because it leaves no aftertaste unlike like regular iodized table salt.  After placing the stummel in an egg carton for stability and to angle so that the rim and end of the shank are level, isopropyl 99% is used to fill the bowl until the alcohol surfaces over the salt.After about 10 minutes, the alcohol is absorbed into the cotton, and it is topped off once again.  The stummel is then set aside to soak through the night.The next morning, the salt and cotton wick are soiled indicating the continued cleaning during the night. After the salt is removed from the bowl, to make sure the cleaning is complete, additional cotton buds and pipe cleaners with isopropyl 99% alcohol are used.  There was some grunge, but the pipe cleaner and buds emerged lighter quickly.  Moving on!The newly fashioned stem is waiting for further sanding/polishing.  Micromesh pads are used next starting with wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400.  This is followed by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000. Between each set of 3 pads, Obsidian Oil was applied to further condition the stem and to protect it from oxidation. Earlier I observed that along with what appeared to be plyer grip marks on the stem, there were collateral marks on the end of the shank. Not wanting to erode the nomenclature, more abrasive sandpaper is not used.  Instead, the full set of 9 micromesh pads are applied to the smooth panel on the underside and the shank edge on the upper side.  The marks are not 100% erased but are mitigated by the sanding.  I’m not as concerned about this because the entire pipe will be refreshed with black dye.The rusticated stummel surface has bald spots where the black finish is worn.  The rim is also in a rough shape. To prepare the surface to receive a new coat of black dye, the entire surface is scrubbed with a cotton pad and alcohol to clean the surface and to remove old dye that is ready to go.Next, the stummel is warmed with a hot air gun to open the briar enabling it to be more receptive to the hue of the new dye.Fiebing’s Black Leather Dye is used.  A folded pipe cleaner acts as an applicator and dye is applied to the surface by simply washing the dye onto the surface.  With the rusticated surface, I’m passing on ‘flaming’ the aniline dye because the process removing the crusted flamed dye requires the application of compound.  This is what I’m avoiding because the compound will muck up the black finish and get lodged in the rustication.  The dye is applied thoroughly and the stummel is set aside to allow the dye to settle in.The next day, the newly stained Gentleman stummel rested through the night allowing the dye to settle in.  To remove excess dye and to minimize dye leeching onto the hands when it goes into service, a cotton cloth is used to give a rigorous hand buffing.The hand buffing is followed by buffing the rusticated surface with a new, clean cotton cloth buffing wheel using the rotary tool.  More excess dye is removed as evidenced on the buffing wheel.The newly fashioned stem and stummel are reunited and after mounting another cotton cloth buffing wheel onto the rotary tool, Blue Diamond compound is applied to the smooth briar panel on the underside of the stummel as well as to the smooth briar ringing the shank.  The stem is also buffed using the compound.To create a bit of contrasting in the black rustication, a 1500 grade micromesh pads is used to lightly sand the peaks of the rustication.  The result is the lightening of the tips.  I like this affect which to me deepens the contrast and gives the eye more to observe.The stem and stummel are next buffed with a felt cloth to remove compound dust and sanding dust left behind in preparation for application of the wax.The final step is to apply carnauba wax to the Gentleman after mounting another cotton cloth buffing wheel to the rotary tool with the speed set about 40% of full power.  Following the application of wax, the pipe is given a rigorous hand buffing with a microfiber cloth to remove excess wax and to raise the shine.  I couldn’t be more pleased with the way this probable French made Gentleman Pocket Horn turned out.  Replacing the stem was the right decision and the new Italian replacement stem turned out nicely.  The rustication gives a ‘down home’ feel and the unique Horn pocket size means this guy is ready to go fishing.  Ken commissioned the Gentleman and will have the first opportunity to claim him from the Pipe Steward Store benefiting the Daughters of Bulgaria – helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Thanks for joining me!

Please pray for the people of Ukraine






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