Rebuilding a Pipe Stem Button Using CA Glue and Charcoal

Hi again! This is more or less a continuation of my previous blog post Salvaging a Sorely Mistreated Brigham 3-Dot Acorn, but I decided to break it out into its own repair blog to make the information  easier to find.

If you recall, this pipe stem had been “hack repaired” by a previous owner (or, heaven forbid, a pipe “repair man” who didn’t know what he was doing). The upper lip of the button was almost completely missing, and the area directly behind the button on top of the stem had been sanded or filed down, leaving a depression in the stem. The stem was so thin on top that it was possible to mash it flat between your teeth when gripping the pipe in your mouth. Yikes!

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After cleaning and removing the built-up oxidation from the stem, I started this repair by slowing filling the depression on the top of the stem with CA glue. I floated a layer of glue into the depression and let it cure, then added another, and another, and… well you get the point. The next 2 pictures show the stem after building it back up to where it should have been.

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And now for the fun part – making a new button! I suppose this would work with straight CA glue, but then you’d have a clear button on a black stem.  I also don’t have any black CA glue in stock at the moment, so I decided to make my own by mixing finely ground activate charcoal into thick CA glue to make a black cement. Working in stages, so as not to have my cement cure on the worktable instead of the pipe stem, I began layering on the black goop until I had more than enough to file back to size. Doesn’t look even close to something I’d want to put in my mouth at this stage!

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After the CA & charcoal cement had cured, I began filing off the excess and shaping the button itself. I used a flat bastard file and a 2-sided emery board for most of the rough shaping, which went relatively quickly.

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It looks like a button again! After sanding to 2000 grit, I took the stem to the buffer and hit it with Red Tripoli, White Diamond and a coat of wax.  There are still a few small flaws in the top side of the button area, which I may go back and fill with even more CA glue after this repair fully cures in a few days, but for now, the pipe stem is miles ahead of where it was and actually stays put in your mouth while smoking the pipe. A huge improvement!

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