Over the past few months I’ve received several emails from readers asking about the specific products I use for my repairs and restorations, so I thought I’d write up a quick post on the subject.
Most of the questions deal with adhesives, so I’ll start there. Happily, all of these products can be found at just about any decent hardware store in North America. Folks overseas may have access to the same brands, or may need to find local equivalents.
One Note Before I Begin: The products discussed below are those that work best for me to date and after much trial and error. Others may or may not find them ideal. I encourage everyone to experiment with new and different products even if you’ve already got favourites as you never know when something better will come along.
Original Krazy Glue is my first choice for a thin CA glue. It’s readily available, affordable, and is just about the perfect consistency for flowing into tight cracks in briar and filling small dents and scratches in stems. Also perfect for installing logos and other small parts without adding bulk.
For fills in briar or Vulcanite (mixed with briar dust or activated charcoal powder, respectively), I like Gorilla Super Glue. It is considerably thicker than Krazy Glue, so it is capable of filling even fairly large gaps.
What about black CA glue, you may ask? While I have experimented with a few different black glues, I haven’t been thrilled with the results compared to CA mixed with charcoal powder. If you find one you really like, let me know!
First up here is your average two-part epoxy. Shown in the pic is LePage’s 5-Minute Epoxy, but the slow-setting variety also works and sometimes a longer set time is preferable. Epoxy like this is useful for gluing Delrin tenons into stems, adding shank extensions to stummels, and other such jobs that need a strong bond but are not subject to high heat.
Where heat is involved, you can’t do better, in my opinion, than JB-Weld. I use two varieties. Original JB-Weld, which is good to 550 degrees Fahrenheit, takes a few hours to set and 24 hours to cure fully. I reach for this epoxy when I need to do a chamber repair or fill a burn-out. Best for situations where you can set the piece in position and let gravity deliver the glue where it needs to be.
For faster repairs (sets in 15 minutes and cures in a few hours), JB-Kwik is an ideal addition to the repair toolbox. Not quite as heat resistant as the original JB formula (good to 300 degrees Fahrenheit) but its faster set time allows its use on vertical surfaces like chamber walls without sagging or running. I’ve also seen it used successfully to rebuild a completely shattered briar stummel.
In practice, I have found JB-Kwik just as suitable as original JB-Weld for chamber repairs, despite its lower heat resistance. If you only want one variety in your kit, I’d go with JB-Kwik as it is much more convenient to use.
I’m not talking about traditional wood filler here, as I haven’t found one yet that will accept stain like briar. Instead, my fillers are additives I mix with CA glue.
To patch the exterior of briar stummels, I use Briar Dust which I salvage from the topping board after sanding down damaged rims. I simply dump the dust left on the sandpaper into a small container for use later. If you’re just starting out and don’t have a stockpile of briar dust, I suggest taking some 220-grit paper to a junker stummel.
I fill tooth dents and rebuild broken buttons on Vulcanite stems with CA glue mixed with activated charcoal powder, which adds both colour and texture to the fill material. I use charcoal powder that is readily available at my local pharmacy in the form of Swiss Naturals activated charcoal capsules. These capsules can be twisted apart by hand to access the charcoal powder inside. To make things easier, I tend to empty a bunch of capsules at a time into an air-tight container and scoop it out with a toothpick to mix into CA glue.
Charcoal powder is also very useful to have on hand when dealing with a severely “ghosted” (aka smelly) pipe.
Sandpapers in a variety of grits are essential to pipe repair and restoration. I buy mine off the shelf at the hardware store and cut the sheets down into 64 roughly one inch square pieces. I generally have the following grits on hand: 220 and 320 dry papers, and 400, 600, 800, 1000 and 2000 grit wet/dry papers. Shown here is a cheap & cheerful organizer I made from a cellphone box and scrap cardboard.
Micromesh Sanding Pads are one of the few special-order items that should be in every restorer’s tool kit. A full set of nine pads covers 1500-12000 grit, perfect for use after wet sanding with regular sandpapers to erase sanding scratches and build shine on briar, meerschaum, Vulcanite and Acrylic. I buy mine in Canada through Lee Valley.
I’ll end this post here for today. I hope I have addressed some of the most common inquiries about restoration supplies and where to source them. If you have questions about any of the products above or would like to know about other products I use, please post your comment below and I’ll try to answer, either directly or by way of a follow-up post.
Thanks for joining me for this discussion. I hope it encourages you to track down supplies to tackle your own estate restorations.
Until next time, Happy Piping!