New Stem & Dot for a 1960’s Brigham 104 Billiard

Brigham made a lot of pipes in their Toronto factory over nearly a century of production in Canada, so estate Brigham pipes are fairly common, especially in Ontario. Available in a wide range of quality and price points, there was a Brigham pipe to suit every style and budget and those pipers that loved them sometime went to lengths to keep their Brighams in smoking shape.

The pipe on the table today is perhaps one such salvaged pipe. This series of pics shows the pipe as it looked when I first brought it to the worktable. Have a good look and see if you can spot the problems.

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The stummel was actually in very good estate condition. It needed a good cleaning, but the briar was otherwise free from much of the dents and damages often found on estate pipes. The problem with this pipe is the stem – it’s wrong on several levels.

First, the number of brass pins (or Dots) on the stem doesn’t match the shape number stamped on the stummel. The pipe is stamped “104”, indicating a “Brigham Standard” or 1-Dot grade pipe, while the stem is inset with three Dots. Other indications that the stem is not original is the poor fit at the shank and the lack of a flat area on the bottom of the stem to correspond to the flat shank bottom. Finally, the stem is simply too short for the stummel. The Brigham Shape 04 is a large billiard, but this stummel has been paired with a short round taper stem better suited to a Canadian shape.

This pic shows the subject pipe (top) next to a Shape 04 Billiard from my collection. The stem on my 04 is a good 3/4″ longer than the stubby 3-Dot stem.

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With so many strikes against it, the only logical course of action here was to fit a new stem to the pipe and restore it to original spec. The rest of this post will focus on that process, leaving the basic cleaning as given.

A quick rummage around in my stem box produced a likely stem blank.

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New Old Stock aluminum tenon/filter holders for vintage Brigham pipes are virtually extinct, so I salvaged the tenon from the mismatched 3-Dot stem to transplant into the replacement stem blank. To extract the tenon, I warmed the shank end of the stem over the heat gun to soften the vulcanite, and then wiggled the aluminum tenon out.

The first brass pin acts as a retainer for the tenon/filter holder, so it can be a bit destructive to pull the tenon out. This time, however, I got lucky and the pin released the tenon easily without mangling the vulcanite.

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I prepped the new stem blank for the aluminum tenon by first cutting off the molded tenon and sanding the stem face smooth and true.

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Drilling the stem mortise is a two part operation – first, the airway is enlarged to 3/16″ to accept the Brigham Rock Maple filter. The second pass on the drill press opens the mortise to 9/32″ to accept the tenon, with just a bit of extra room for epoxy.

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With the drilling finished, I mixed up a small bit of JB Weld epoxy and glued the tenon into the stem. I assembled the pipe upright in my bench vise, and carefully lined up the parts before the epoxy set up.

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The new stem blank is larger in diameter than the shank, but the important thing at this point is that the stem/shank junction is nice and tight.

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I left the pipe in the vise overnight to give the JB Weld lots of time to cure properly before I futz around with it. I’ve learned the hard way not to attempt to rush glue of any kind during a restoration. Almost inevitably, rushing leads to misalignment of the stem and shank, which can mean starting over from scratch.

When the epoxy was fully cured, I wrapped the pipe shank with several layers of protective tape and began the process of filing and sanding the new stem to match the diameter of the shank. This takes a bit more work than novice restorers often think, as both the diameter and the taper of the new stem need to be adjusted.

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When I was happy with the size and shape of the new stem, the pipe went back to the drill press for its single brass Dot before I got any farther along with the polishing. I clamped the pipe in the vise, well padded to prevent damage, and drilled a 1/16″ hole in the left flank of the stem. I did not drill into the aluminum tenon here, as the epoxy is holding the tenon in place securely on its own.

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I glued a short section of brass rod into the hole with a drop of CA glue. When the glue dried, I filed the rod flush with the surrounding vulcanite and  carried on with sanding and polishing the new stem.  These pics show the Dot glued in place, and a few shots of the new stem after polishing to 2000 grit. A quick dab of stain pen matched the smooth ring of briar at the shank end to the original finish. Notice also in the last picture the flat area near the stem face I sanded to match the shank.

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I took the completed pipe to the buffer and gave the stem a run of both Tripoli and White Diamond compounds to erase the last sanding scratches and bring up the shine. The stummel was also polished on the White Diamond wheel, then the whole pipe was given several light coats of Carnauba wax to shine and protect the new finish.

I’m very pleased with the way this 1960’s era Brigham 104 has turned out. The discordant, short stem is gone, replaced by a factory-correct taper stem properly pinned to reflect the pipe’s Standard grade. The pipe has since been returned to its owner’s rack and rotation where it should provide decades of faithful service.

Thanks for joining me on this re-stemming project. I hope you enjoyed the journey.

Until next time, Happy Piping! Here’s the finished pipe.

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