311. Paul Combs, CPG on Repairing the House Pipe Stem of an 1898 Dutch Billiard
The 1898 Shape 4 came to me with a broken off bit tip, location of the missing piece unknown, and the previous owner(s) had affixed a part of another bit in its place with some glue and a metal band.
The bone tenon extension was still on the bit and fully intact and the Peterson’s Patent stamp on the back of the bit was present but so faint that my camera barely picked it up. The bowl was actually in good condition, just dirty with substantial carbon buildup. Using the intact bit from another house pipe as a guide (the 1918 Deluxe) I aligned them visually and determined that the missing end must have been close to 2 inches long.
I masked off the patent stamp on the back of the bit to protect it while I worked and removed the tenon extension. I slowly heated the bit with the heat gun and when it was soft gently straightened it out for the next step. Measuring with the digital calipers I could see there was just enough room in the airway for a 6mm diameter threaded joiner – this would allow a 4mm passage through the joiner, which being this close to the tip (I hoped) would not significantly disrupt the airflow as the bore continued to reduce to 1.5 mm at the tip. I would have preferred to place the joiner right where the original break was, but due to the taper of the bit the top and bottom airway walls were paper thin at this spot, so I decided to remove about an inch of material from below the original break in order to move to a slightly thicker part of the stem walls for the repair – I could make up the lost length by leaving more length on the tip I was adding.
I prepped the facing of the bit and made up an aluminum joiner (6mm – 0.75mm pitch) using a threading die (no single point thread cutting this time around). After running a matching tap into the airway, I mounted the threaded joiner into the bit with Extra Strength rubber reinforced Black CA. One of the things was also clear at this point was that, measured side-to-side, the original air channel was not quite in the center of the bit. I would have to deal with that later – since I intended to smoke this pipe, a straight airway was (slightly) more important to me than perfectly straight outward appearance.
I went through some old Peterson P-lip bits and found I had a one with the length and width and height needed to face up to the original with enough material to shape it down to match. It was a nice wide saddle bit, a bit oxidized but otherwise completely sound and just long enough. I prepared the ‘donor’ bit by heating and bending it straight, mounting in a holding fixture in my lathe and cutting it off square just a bit over length.
I drilled and threaded the air channel with a tap to receive the joiner. I made a threaded holder for the bit end and cut down the face on my lathe removing material in increments of a thousandth until the two parts threaded together nice and straight with no gap, and the (flat) tops and bottoms aligned correctly. I left it unglued at this step so I could easily take apart / screw back together to test fit / check progress (which I must have done a hundred times before I was finished).
At this point I did some more shaping on the shank of the new tip to get it to match as closely as possible. One of my goals during this project was to leave the original bit as untouched as possible so that carving and shaping would only be done on the replacement tip, so I taped off the original portion with masking tape to prevent / protect from any errant filing or sanding. Shaping of the new tip was done first with a file, then the sanding drum on my Dremel, followed by slow work with a fine flat needle file, followed by fine sandpaper, then 00 steel wool, then 0000 steel wool. (Final finish sanding came later came after joining with the Micro Mesh.) Once the shape was really close, I glued the joiner into the new tip, again with black CA, making sure the threads thoroughly glued and also just a film of glue on the mating faces that mostly squeezed out upon joining.
Next came final shaping and sanding. I made a mistake by doing final buff and polish while the whole bit was still straight, before heating and bending to its final curve. Although my repair joint had been nearly invisible before, the process of heating and bending (I suspect due to the expansion and contraction) made the joint more visible. I was able to improve it slightly by applying a small amount of the black CA around the joint, removing the excess with 0000 steel wool, and re-polishing.
For the final bend, I really wanted to keep as close to the original as possible but the placement of my repair made that impossible because the 1-inch joiner was rigid and I didn’t want to risk pushing through the top of the bit, so I compromised by moving the primary curve slightly lower than on the original. In looking at the various house pipes in the 1896 catalog and Peterson book, they look to me to be more of an arch than the original bend on this pipe was, so I think I came out OK. I also theorize that a more gentle bend will create less turbulence in the smoke than a sharp one.
Regarding the smoking experience, I am still getting to know this pipe. The long bit provides quite a ‘fun factor’ – should we call that the ‘Gandalf Effect’? The draw is good and smooth although it does offer a bit more resistance than a regular sized system pipe (side-by-side comparison to an XL5) and compared to a regular-length pipe the smoke has definitely cooled a bit by the time it travels all that way up the bit. I am fortunate to have three other large Peterson house pipes to compare it to and although this one has by far the longest bit of the four at 13”, it also happens to have the smallest bowl (20mm chamber diameter, 39mm depth).
So far I am finding that I don’t get the flavor nuances from the Shape 4 that I do from my wider-bowled pipes, for example the Orientals in KBV King’s Ransom don’t step forward for me in this pipe the way they do in my 1918 Deluxe House Pipe (with 9.5” stem, 24mm chamber diameter, 59mm depth). This may simply be due to more surface-area of the burning tobacco in the bigger bowl which is an argument in favor of wider-bowled pipes in general.
With most of my pipes I get good smoking results with a snug inverted pack (aka ‘Air Gap’ method) but that has not worked as well in this pipe. The Shape 4 seems to want a looser pack. I recently tried SPC Mississippi River in a smallish cube-cut, gravity fed with better results—the tobacco burned more evenly and more of the nuanced flavors came through. I also find the larger-bowled house pipes to be more forgiving of the occasional series of big puffs than the Shape 4 is, which seems to heat up fairly quickly by comparison – I think there simply is not as much briar mass on this pipe to absorb the heat. More research and experimentation are needed but I can say that this long-stemmed Shape 4 delivers the classic dry Peterson System smoke I appreciate and is a lot of fun.
The Magic Link for the CPG / PPN 2022 pipes went out November 1st and I’ve already heard from several Pete Geeks on the east coast of the US and in Ireland who’ve received their pipes. I’m still processing CPG certificates and Merit Badges, so please bear with me.
In the meantime, if you didn’t receive the link and were signed up for a pipe, please let me know asap. I’ve already heard from three pipemen who didn’t get the link (which may be in your spam folder if it wasn’t caused by my oversight).
Andrew Moultrie’s pipe
I’ll begin sending out invitations to those on the Alternate List if I don’t hear from the remaining folks on the original list by Saturday the 12th,.
If you’d like to have your name placed as an alternate, send me an email at email@example.com. I can’t promise you a pipe, but I’ve already had a half dozen decide not to participate in the project. It’s important to fulfill our 90 pipe obligation, as I’m thinking it would be fun to do this again next year (after I recover from this year).
Casey Jones’s pipe