Last week I wrote about a Meerschaum Canted Billiard stummel that had been lost in the back of a drawer for decades. Hidden away with that pipe was another stummel, the Orlik P9 Bent Apple that is the subject of this week’s post.
The stummel was in above average estate condition, with the most notable issues being a few small handling marks, a thin, opaque layer of carbon deposit on the rim and a small chip out of the briar on the left shank. The stem was missing except for a section of the tenon, which had snapped off inside the shank. I’m guessing that the accident that broke the tenon occurred early in the pipe’s life, which would account for both the pipe’s low usage and its burial in the back of the aforementioned drawer.
This series of pics shows the stummel as it looked when I brought it to the work table to begin its restoration.
The stummel is stamped on the left shank with “Orlik” over “Made in England”, all in block letters.
The right shank carries the shape number, “P9”.
Job One for this restoration was to get the remnant of old tenon out of the shank. As regular readers will know, my usual method is to dribble some 99% isopropyl alcohol into the shank to loosen the tenon before extracting it with the help of a wood screw and a pair of pliers. It works 99% of the time, but this was a 1% moment. Despite repeated applications of alcohol and mechanical force, the tenon refused to come loose and I had to resort to drilling out the shank to remove it.
Drilling out an obstruction is always a nervous moment for the repair technician as any untoward sideways movement of the drill bit can alter the diameter of the mortise or even crack the shank in extreme cases. It pays to take your time and proceed methodically. I also usually use a drill bit that is slightly smaller than the mortise as an extra bit of insurance against damaging the briar.
With the mortise and airway clear, I gave the briar a quick cleaning. The interior of the chamber, shank and airway were very clean, which is probably why I forgot to take a picture – whoops! I did remember to grab the camera after scrubbing the exterior of the stummel with Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the old wax, oils and dust.
Here is a closeup of the chipped shank. With the briar clean, I could drop fill the damaged area with thick CA glue mixed with briar dust. The CA glue sets very quickly here, so I didn’t dawdle. I set the stummel aside overnight to give the patch time to cure completely before filing and sanding it to match the surrounding briar.
Cleaning the rim had brought a small ding at about the 12 o’clock position on the inner rim into focus. A few minutes with sandpapers in 220 through 2000 grits smoothed out the flaw and restored the rim to a nice round appearance.
Then it was time to move onto the heart of the restoration of this Orlik bent Apple – a new acrylic stem in classic Tortoise. The shot shows all the parts assembled on the table – the stummel, the stem blank and a short section of Delrin rod through which I had drilled a 1/8″ airway.
Destined to become the new tenon for this pipe, I reduced the stem end of the rod to just under 5/16ths of an inch in diameter and sanded the shank end slightly to get a nice snug fit in the shank mortise.
When I was happy with the fit of the tenon, I countersunk the face of the rod to funnel the airway and ease the flow of smoke through the pipe.
Halfway there – now to the stem! The acrylic stem blank came with a 1/8″ airway predrilled. I’d have to open up the first half inch or so to accommodate the end of the tenon.
Acrylic is rather more brittle than Vulcanite when it comes to drilling. I used a series of drill bits of increasing diameter to slowly widen the airway to the proper size. Drilling it in one go, especially with a hand drill, with a large drill bit can result in chipped edges or even a spiral fracture of the stem blank. One of these days I’ll invest in a jig to hold stems upright in my drill press, but until then, this method works fine even if it is more time consuming.
A dry fitting of all the components. Looking good! Time to glue it up.
I mixed up a small amount of clear two-part epoxy to glue the Delrin tenon into the stem. A series of lines cut around the tenon and a few more inside the stem mortise help to provide mechanical grip for the glue, which might otherwise loose its hold on the slippery Delrin.
After wiping a small amount of petroleum jelly onto the shank face to avoid gluing the stem permanently to the stummel, I applied the epoxy to both the outside of the tenon and the inside of the stem mortise and slid everything together. After some careful positioning, I clamped the pipe upright in the vise (note the padding on the jaws) and left the pipe overnight again to give the epoxy time to cure completely.
A nice, light-tight fit between the stem and shank.
The next day, I twisted the stem out of the shank and cleaned off the petroleum jelly and any squeezed-out epoxy. I remounted the stem and wrapped some masking tape around the shank to protect the briar from the next stage in this refurbishment – filing the stem to size.
Please take careful note of the fine, white acrylic dust generated by the initial rough shaping of the stem. The pic below shows some of the mess created, but what it can’t show is the amount of fine dust that get airborne during the work. A dust mask or respirator is a must here, folks. You do not want to breathe acrylic. I wear a good mask and run my shop air cleaner whenever there is sanding going on, which is often around here.
The first rough shaping is just that – it’s mostly stock removal from the oversized stem blank. When I get close to matching the stem to the shank diameter, I switch to sandpaper. The mask stays on during dry sanding with 220 grit paper, after which I clean up and carry on with wet sanding to 2000 grit. The water traps the acrylic dust, so I usually ditch the mask at this point and leave thre air cleaner running to catch any stray airborne acrylic.
Just before final polishing, I slipped a pipe cleaner though the stem and warmed it over the heat gun until it became pliable. I bent the stem and ran it under cold water to cool the acrylic and set the new shape.
Then it was time to take the completed pipe to the buffer for a run of Red Tripoli and White Diamond compounds followed by several light coats of Carnauba wax to protect the briar and build up a nice shine.
The finished pipe looks great with its Tortoise acrylic stem and the stummel is fresh and inviting even with a few handling marks here and there. These character marks tell the pipe’s story, so I like to leave them intact when I can.
Thanks for walking through another estate pipe restoration with me. I hope you enjoyed following along; hopefully you picked up a trick or tip to add to your own restoration tool box.
Here’s the finished pipe. Until next time, Happy Piping!