This pipe was sent to me by a DadsPipes reader for a little TLC. As the pics below show, the pipe was actually in pretty good condition other than some lava on the rim and a chunk of lower button missing from the acrylic stem.
The smooth underside of the shank is stamped “DR” over “Ardor” over “URANO” over “ITALY” over “S. HOLMES” over “FATTA A MANO” over “2011”. The nickel shank band is unmarked but clearly factory-installed. It is not a repair band.
I started the cleanup of this beautiful Ardor by clearing out the light cake from the chamber. It was fairly wet and sticky and smelled heavily of aromatic tobacco – Lane 1-Q, perhaps? The chamber was in excellent condition under the cake.
I wasn’t sure how much of the lumpy rim was lava and how much was due to damaged briar. I used a cotton pad dipped in alcohol to dissolve and wipe away the lava crust and found pristine briar underneath. Nice!
A few pipe cleaners dipped in alcohol removed a light buildup of tars from the mortise and airway.
At this point in a typical restoration, reaming and cleaning the internals usually takes care of most of the smell from an estate pipe. This time, however, the stummel still carried a heavy aroma, so I set it up for a salt and alcohol treatment.
I twisted a bit of cotton into the mortise and airway and filled the bowl with coarse kosher salt. An eye dropped made it easy to fill add alcohol to the bowl; I kept adding more alcohol until the cotton in the shank became wet and started to show some discolouration from dissolved tars. I then set the stummel aside overnight to let the salt and alcohol do their job.
While the stummel sat, I ran a pipe cleaner dipped in more alcohol through the stem to clean the airway before dealing with the broken button.
Regular readers will know that my process for repairing chipped stems involves wedging a tape-covered cardboard form into the slot at the bit and then applying a patch made from CA glue and activated charcoal powder. Usually the wedge is easy to shape; with this hand-made stem that process took a bit more effort.
The slot on this Ardor stem was rather shallow and more of a crescent shape than a true “Y” slot. The slot was also rounded – looking a the end of the bit, the slot looked more like a football than a rectangle. To reproduce this shape on the broken side, I used a bamboo skewer slipped into the airway to push the cardboard wedge into position.
This series of pics shows the process – the broken button, then the patch applied, and an end-on shot of the slot shape after the wedge was removed.
I let the stem sit overnight to give the patch time to cure completely, then used needle files and sandpaper to first rough in and then refine the shape of the new button. As you can see, there was still some more work ahead of me at this point.
I took a pause from stem work to check on the stummel. The salt and alcohol treatment had done its work overnight, leaching the tars and other contaminants from the briar into the salt and cotton.
I removed the cotton from the shank and dumped the salt from the bowl. A pipe cleaner dipped in alcohol tidied up the remaining softened tars and stray salt crystals and left the stummel smelling MUCH better. The aromatic scent wasn’t completely gone, but as the pipe would soon be filled with the same tobacco, I judged the stummel clean enough.
It took a few more rounds of stem work to complete the repair – those darned air bubbles that form in curing CA glue can be tenacious – but eventually I got them all and took the pipe to the buffer for a final polishing.
I buffed the pipe with White Diamond compound, focusing on the smooth areas to avoid cramming wax into the rustication. A few coats of Carnauba wax finished off the restoration.
I’m quite pleased with the results of this repair and refurbishment. Cleaning and polishing the stummel certainly helped the appearance of the pipe, but the meat of this job was the stem repair, which took the pipe from unusable to ready to smoke. I’m sure the pipe’s owner will be pleased to get this one back in his rack and rotation.
Thanks for joining me for this restoration. I hope it encourages you to tackle your own stem repairs.
Until next time, Happy Piping! Here’s the finished pipe.