Tag Archives: tobacco pipe stem repair

Custombilt Hooked Bass

  The Custombilt Masterpieces and Sculptured Bowls were produced during the Eugene Rich years 1946-1952, each one beautifully carved and surrounded by chunky Custombilt rustication. The Hooked Bass I believe is one of thirteen, I have one other in my collection the Shriner’s Emblem that I have yet to restore. The Hooked Bass is the largest full bent Custombilt in my collection, with a generous 25mm by 47mm deep chamber and an overall length of 6 inches, a hardy yet surprisingly light weight pipe. This saddle bit Bilt was designed for a long relaxing smoke. 


-The Restore-


The pipe was immaculate, the nomenclature crisp- Custombilt (Rich Era s) over Imported Briar and a shape stamp I have not seen before. Very lightly smoked, the chamber still held some of its original bowl coating. The stem, light oxidation, faint chatter and metal flecks thought out the vulcanite, I have many war time pipes with recycled rubber stems.


I started with the chamber and its light cake. The largest PipNet reamer attachment was still to small for the massive chamber, I used the largest attachment and worked slowly around the inside wall of the chamber until I was back to briar. I uncovered a pit at the back of the chamber wall.


Next the rim and one scorched area, I applied Method Wood For Good to the scorch and scrubbed with Q-Tips to try and lighten the area. When finished the rim blended pretty well. I wiped  down the stummel with a rag and Method Good For Wood, getting into the deeper carving with a soft children’s toothbrush.


Next I moved to the internal cleaning of the stummel and stem. Using EverClear, mortise/shank brushes, stiff/soft pipe cleaners and Q-Tips cleaning until my finial pipe cleaner came out as it went in.


After the internal cleaning of the chamber I could see the sand pit better. The original filler that had been packed in the pit was crumbling away, using a pick I removed any loose debris from the cavity, cleaning the area one more time with EverClear and let dry. I mixed some pipe mud using cigar ash, a little water and then repacked the pit. I left it to set, once dry I removed the excess with a rag.


With the pit refilled I decided to use a bowl coating to give the chamber a line of defense while braking the pipe in. I had some premixed bowl coating in a lock&lock leftover from a previous pipe. I have cut and pasted my process for applying the bowl coating from a past post below.

Prepping the chamber before applying the bowl coat, the chamber was scrubbed thoroughly with EverClear during my internal cleaning but I gave it one more round with an EverClear dipped Q-Tip and allowed it to dry, removing any the loose debris from the crack with a pick. I then mixed a little cigar ash and water together to make pipe mud to fill the crack, I applied it with a finger and left to dry. Once the mud was hardened in the crack I wiped the excess from the chamber with a rag. The bowl coating is a three step process starting first with mixing the primer coat. (Step One)- I start with honey about 2.5 ml in an old medicine cup, I add activated charcoal powder a little at a time to the honey and stir with a toothpick until I get the right constancy (it will ball up on its self as the charcoal coasts the honey but continued mixing will combined the two) basically your looking for the toothpick to stand on its own for a few seconds before falling to the side of the cup. I let the mixture settle until the bubbles rise to the top. (Step Two)-I apply a thin layer of the mixture to the chamber with a small flat paint brush, starting from the bottom of the chamber and working up the side walls being careful not to get it on the rim  (If you do get it on the rim warm water and a Q-Tip will remove it just try not to get water in the chamber itself).  There will be quite a bit of primer coating leftover, I store it in a lock&lock and will keep for a while for reuse.

I let the coating set in the chamber for a few minutes just so it looses some of its shine, I then insert a folded pipe cleaner into the airway and lay down a piece of printer paper on my desk top before moving to the next step.(Step Three)- I add a little charcoal powder to the bottom of the chamber and slowly turn the stummel in hand to coat the entire chamber any excess charcoal powder that falls to the paper can be reused. I leave the stummel aside to dry, the chamber should be a dark gray color when completely coated if any dark wet spots reappear repeat step three. When the chamber is well coated and wet spots have not re-emerge I tap the stummel lightly on the side of my finger to remove any leftover charcoal powder. In warm dry conditions I leave the chamber to cure for a couple of days before buffing the stummel, in high humidity it could take up to a week or longer. Once the coating has cured for a few days and is dry to the touch and doesn’t smear (If it does smear and appears wet again repeat step three and let dry) I’ll remove the pipe cleaner, blow out any leftover powder and wait an additional week before packing and puffing. To be honest its a pain and takes a long time to fully cure which is why I avoid it if I can but I believe the clean smooth finish is worth it. All I can say is if you decide to try this bowl coating take your time and be patient, its all trial and error.


Before oxidation removal I addressed the light chatter.


Using a Bic lighter I lightly brushed the bit with the flame to raise some of the chatter. Most of the shallow chatter raised what remained could be lightly sanded away.


With chatter reduced I moved to the stems oxidation. I applied non-bleach Soft Scrub to the stem a left aside so the Soft Scrub could begin to penetrate the oxidation. Once the Soft Scrub turns from white to a brownish color its time to scrub vigorously with a rag adding more Soft Scrub as needed until all oxidation has been removed. (Holding the stem under natural light will help to see if all oxidation has been removed.) It took a few rounds to remove all oxidation.


Many war time stems were made with recycled rubber and contain small bits of metal spread throughout the stems material, it cannot be removed and I’ve come to except that. After raising most of the chatter there were a few spots that needed attention. I sanded the deeper impressions with 400 grit sandpaper wet and then ran the stem though 800,1000 and 1500 grit sandpaper wet until the stems surface was smooth. I locked the tenon into my vice so I wouldn’t round out the edge of the stem face and would still have a smooth fit between stem and shank.


After the rough sanding I ran the stem through the various grits of micro-mesh pads 1500-3200 wet and 3600- 12000 dry.



I used Howard’s Butcher Block Conditioner and a Q-Tip to get into the deeper rusticated areas where the buffing wheel couldn’t reach.I then buffed the stummel on the wheel with a few coats of carnauba and a round on a nude wheel. Buffing the stem with white diamond and carnauba. Hand buffing the pipe as a whole with a microfiber cloth before the photos.

Procure- Restore- Puff- Repeat

Thanks for dropping by-


A Dr.Plum Dinky Second?


Dr.Plumb DINKY.

DINKY is the only stamping on this 4 inch pipe, the only other marking is the word Mexico on the underside of the stem. The stamping is the same as the Dr.Plumb line of DINKY pipes so I would assume its a second or perhaps just an older make as most of the pipes in the Christmas lot are from the 80’s or 90’s. The shape is definitely similar.


The Restore



The pipe was in good shape, light chatter and oxidation, rim build up and light cake.


The chamber was on the small side, I had to utilize the PipNet and Castleford reamers to remove the cake. The chamber was free of any defects.


With the chamber complete I moved to the rim build up, I applied Method Good For Wood Polish to the rim and left aside to brake down the accumulation of tar and char. Once the build up softened I was able to remove the residue and some of the darkening using Q-Tips.


Next was the internal cleaning of the stem and stummel, using EverClear, Q-Tips, shank/mortise brushes and stiff/soft pipe cleaners I scrubbed the airway, mortise and chamber with EverClear until my final pipe cleaner came out free of debris.


The oxidation wasn’t bad on this little guy, I applied non-bleach Soft Scrub to the stem and left aside to penetrate the oxidation, once the Soft Scrub turned from white to a Brownish color I scrub with a rag adding more Soft Scrub as needed until all oxidation was removed (Holding the stem under natural light will help to see if all oxidation has been removed) I used Q-Tips dipped in Soft Scrub to get the oxidation around the bit and in the concave of the saddle bit stem.


After removing the oxidation the stem look good aside from some light chatter at the bit, I tapped off the bulk of the stem to keep my sanding in one area. I sanded the bit with micro-mesh 1500-2400 wet and 3200-6000 dry, then removing the tape to polish with the final two micro-mesh pads 8000-12000.



I finished up on the wheel with white diamond, a few coats carnauba and a round on a nude wheel. Buffing the stem with blue compound and carnauba, Hand buffing with a microfiber cloth just before the photos.

Procure, Restore, Puff, Repeat

Thanks for dropping by-


Custom-Bilt, Tracy Mincer Patented Filter

My wife picked up this Bilt a couple of weeks ago as an early Christmas present from Mike at Briar Blues . She was thoroughly impressed by his customer service, there was a mix up in shipping and the pipe was shipped from Washington to California and we live in New York. The mix up was caught quickly, corrected and shipped to our front stoop. Now this is something that happens all the time with businesses, so why is this different. The difference is in the way it was handled, the mistake was caught quickly, corrected and we were notified immediately, no excuses were made. Aside from top notch costumer service he has a beautiful selection of pipes for every budget, his descriptions, photos and site layout are spot on, as a first time buyer from his establishment we are more then pleased and will definitely return. If you haven’t already checked out his online shop give it a look Briar Blues.


The tell tale red dot of the Patented Filter.

The Tracy Mincer Patented Filter, granted to Mincer September 7, 1937 is one of the more interesting pipes made by Mincer, the design is unusual there is an aluminum insert that is held by a small plastic rod at either side of the mortise, usually the rod is red but I have seen black used as well, it can be difficult to spot on heavily rusticated pipes as it was on this Bilt being restored here. This particular Bilt I had an idea was a Patented Filter as it resembled some of the others in my collection but I could not see the tell tale red dot in the photos. The only draw back I’ve found to this Mincer line of pipes is the reverse style tenon, it can be difficult to achieve a tight fit between tenon and stem once the pipe is restored. 

The Restore


This Custom-Bilt was available in the pipes under $100 section at Briar Blues , when I received the pipe it was partially cleaned, the oxidation had been removed from the stem, the stummel had been buffed and the chamber reamed. The condition of the pipe was decent no major problems, the nomenclature worn but you can still just make it out, the star shape stamp was well stamped on the right side of the shank, very light chatter and a little rim darkening. The internals on this line are a little difficult to clean well due to the filter system and would need a bit more attention.


 For the most part the rim was clean just a small burn at the back end of the rim and overflow in-bedded in the carved rim. I applied Method Wood For Good polish to the rim and left to penetrate the embedded crud. Once the Method softened the build up I used Q-Tips, a toothbrush and a pick to remove the debris.


The chamber was pre-reamed when my wife purchased the pipe but there was still a bit of old cake remaining, my first thoughts it could be a burnout but thankfully it wasn’t. Using the old Castleford reamer I removed the last bit of leftover cake, I then gave the chamber a quick once over with EverClear and Q-Tips. Before moving on to the internal cleaning of the mortise and stem I ran a retort to loosen up the old tars and tobacco.


After the retort I cleaned the internals of the airway, mortise and stem using EverClear, mortise/shank brushes, stiff/soft pipe cleaners and Q-Tips cleaning until my final pipe cleaner came out as it went in. I cleaned the inner of the stem with EverClear and cotton balls.


The stem oxidation was removed prior to my receiving the pipe but there was still a few tooth indentations, the rest of the stem look good so I taped off the bulk of the stem so my sanding would remain in the damaged area of the stem. I sanded the stem with 800, 1000, 1500 grit sandpaper wet to remove the indentations. I then ran the stem though the various grits of micro-mesh pads 1500-2400 and 3200-6000 dry, I removed the tape before sanding the whole stem with 8000 and 12000. ( There will be a noticeable difference in the finish of the stem after sanding one portion of the stem and leaving the other untouched, I buffed the stem with blue compound at low a speed to remove the fine sanding marks, I’ve had  great results using this process, once buffed the two sides blend perfectly.)


 After cleaning the old tars from the recessed stem the fit was no longer snug. I use the same process as I do with a standard tenon stem but instead of expanding the vulcanite tenon I am contracting the recessed stem,  I lightly heated the tenon end of the stem with a Bic lighter to contract the vulcanite and checking for a snug fit each time its heated (you have to take your time here as overheating with cause a non-fitting stem quite fast), I had to play with it a bit to get the right fit. For the saddle bit  Patented Filter Custom-Bilt pipes in my collection I use a heat gun on the lowest setting as the stem martial is thicker and more difficult to get it to contract.



I finished up on the buffer with carnauba, a round on the nude wheel and a micro-fiber hand buff. Buffing the stem with blue compound.

Thanks For Taking A Look.


Patching A Bite Through

Things have been crazy busy around here the past month, its a little calmer now so I have some time to put up a few posts. Last week A friend messaged me to put together a quick tutorial on stem repair, specifically patching a bite through hole at the bit end. I’ve been re-stemming most pipes so I had a few that would fit the bill. I focused on the patch repair and not so much on the entire stem as I said its out of the junk box so the stem is far from done but I think what lies below will help. Sorry it took so long to put up.


Before getting started I cleaned the stem inside and out with EverClear, pipe cleaners and makeup pads.


Next I roughed up the area to be repaired with a flat needle file and 220 grit sandpaper, cleaning the area once again with EverClear to remove the sanding debris.


Before the damaged area can be repaired the airway must be plugged to prevent it from being glued shut. I use card stock or index cards, folded over on it’s self and cut to fit the airway, once a good fit is achieved I applied a generous amount of original chap-stick to the card stock to keep it from being glued into the airway. ( Vaseline is also good)


With the stem roughed up, airway plugged and the stem wiped down with EverClear I now mixed thick black CA glue and charcoal powder together to form a paste. I used a 50-50 mix of glue and charcoal powder but you may have to play around with it a bit to get the right consistency.


You have to work quickly once the paste is mixed as it has a tendency to harden rapidly, with my cardboard plug in place I applied the paste to the damaged area with a toothpick working from the outer edge of the damage to the middle of the hole building it up in layers. Hitting it with accelerator to set the repair, I now left it over night to cure. The end result is much more patch material then was needed but this what you want.


The next morning after cure time I began to remove layers of the patch with a flat needle file working until I could see a difference in color between the patch and stem material , shaping the button at the same time.


It’s easy to make a mistake reshaping the button or you may uncover small bubbles in the patch itself, using straight CA glue will cover up any imperfections. Apply the CA glue to the area and hit it with accelerator, this can be reworked right away as long as the area of work is not too deep, in the case of deeper holes more time will be needed to cure.


Once I achieved the shape I’m looking for I ran the stem through 220 grit sandpaper to remove the deeper file marks, then 400, 800, 1000 and 1500 grit sandpaper wet. Finally I ran the stem though the various grits of micro-mesh 1500-2400 wet and 3200-12000 dry.


Final step buffing wheel, I buffed with blue compound, carnauba and a round on a nude wheel .In the end the patch blended pretty well but its not always the case.

Hope this helps any questions shoot me a message.