Tight Fitting Stem

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cbrand

New member
May 19, 2015
7
0
I have 3 pipes I'm fixing up really just for fun. One of my pipes has a stem that is way to tight. My Question is, should I sand Dow the tenon or open up the mortise a little? I do have a caliper to get measurements accurately.
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newbroom

Preferred Member
Jul 11, 2014
5,493
8
Try rubbing a pencil lead on the tenon. Graphite will lubricate it. changing any original dimensions should be your last resort, imo. also, beeswax is sometimes suggested. I like the graphite method, and of course, when you meet resistance that is excessive, try the freezer for a few minutes.

 

jazz

Preferred Member
Feb 17, 2014
787
0
UK
My experience tells me that what Newbroom said is correct. Graphite does work for me as does putting the pipe in the freezer for 20 mins to get the stem off initially.

 

drwatson

Preferred Member
Aug 3, 2010
1,720
0
toledo
Not to totally disagree with the others, but,, I'm going too. Although those options may work, adding beeswax can eventually gunk up. It's kinda like putting a band aid on an artery.. To fix the problem forever, sand the tenon with about 600 grit wet/dry sandpaper. Go slow and even. I personally like my tenons to push and pull out easy. And I have never had a cracked shank.

 

kcvet67

Preferred Member
Jul 6, 2010
968
0
Don't be too quick to do anything that's irreversible. Estate pipes that haven't been smoke in a while often have problems with the stem fit. Usually this manifests as a stem that's too loose, but it can occasionally be too tight. Usually these problems will straighten out on their own after smoking half a dozen bowls. The primary cause is that the wood surrounding the mortise has dried out too much, but if the pipe was stored in a humid environment it's possible that the briar has swelled a little causing the stem to be too tight. Until you're sure that this isn't what's happened, I'd advise postponing any sanding and just use graphite or beeswax. If the problem persists you can always sand it later but you can't put back what's been sanded away.

 

jpmcwjr

Preferred Member
May 12, 2015
13,883
811
Monterey Peninsula
Would the latter case- too humid, shank swollen imperceptibly in the mortise— be the one time you might want to leave the stem out for a few hours at a time, trying the fit in between each round?

 

georged

Preferred Member
Mar 7, 2013
2,608
31
Lubricating a tight-fitting mortise & tenon is categorically a bad idea, because the pressure must go somewhere. (In fact, adding a layer of lube actually increases the pressure slightly because the lube takes up space.)
I've lost count of the number of cracked thin-shanked pipes that have been sent to me as the result of the pencil trick; and---trust me on this one---re-cutting a conical mortise & tenon back to cylindrical (and then getting them to fit properly) from a lubed tenon being jammed into a thick shanked pipe is not easy to do.
The catch is that reducing the diameter of a tenon while keeping it uniform is a fiddly business in its own right. (Though functionality is easy to achieve, getting a factory-perfect result is not.)

 

georged

Preferred Member
Mar 7, 2013
2,608
31
What then, do you recommend?
Reducing the tenon's diameter.
Doing that well---not making it into a cone or an hourglass shape, or making it too small/loose fitting---is the issue. That can be done with strips of sandpaper, but practice is usually necessary to get a good result. If you don't have a dial caliper to monitor consistent-diameter-over-length, test fitting frequently can also work.
If you decide to DIY, 600 grit is probably the best compromise between not taking forever and getting a decently smooth finish. Cut it into strips slightly narrower than the tenon is long, and pinch grip the paper together after a single fold/wrap around the tenon. (DO NOT squeeze the paper directly on the tenon---that will create a Coke-bottle "waist"). Then turn the tenon in one direction only, with about 70% of the pinch-pressure applied nearer the base of the stem. If you don't consciously do that, what feels like even pressure will actually be higher toward the end of the tenon, and you'll slowing make it into a cone shape.
Either measure often, or test fit often. Move to a new spot on the paper strip each time you re-start the process.
When the fit feels right, the raw material will likely still squeak and chatter a little. A smooth "glide" fit always takes a touch of beeswax. (Unless the tenon is Delrin, of course.)
Me? I stopped messing with all that some time ago and use machines, but no one here is likely to have either them or the specialized supporting tools required to do it that way.

 

drwatson

Preferred Member
Aug 3, 2010
1,720
0
toledo
This is a tight stem, it's not landing a man on the moon! Clean it sand it and be done with it. Or soap it and you will have a awesome bubble pipe.

 

mcitinner1

Preferred Member
Apr 5, 2014
4,043
2
Missouri
@ Docwatson, Brother no offense but you just down played the most experienced pipe specialist on this forum. His business is "Precision Pipe Restoration". If you haven't seen this thread, check out his shop.

http://pipesmagazine.com/forums/topic/your-work-shopkitchen-table#post-782165
http://pipesmagazine.com/forums/topic/sav-320-ex-broken-stem#post-782014

 

georged

Preferred Member
Mar 7, 2013
2,608
31
This is a tight stem, it's not landing a man on the moon!
That depends on standards and expectations. At the lowest level pipes are simply tobacco access devices, and the right answer when fixing one is whatever returns it to functionality. At the the highest level, pipes are objects of artfulness and precision equal to anything produced by humans in any medium.
Spending a half hour to achieve a perfect stem fit on an example of the first type would be pretty silly. Equally true, though, is a result that is in ANY WAY short of matching the workmanship and quality of the rest of the pipe when working on the second type is categorically unacceptable.
In short, it's the owner who gets to decide, whether they do the work themselves or hire it done.
Because the majority of the pipes I work on are high grades whose owners care about them a LOT, my replies to "how to" questions on boards like this one are often seen as overkill by smokers & collectors who aren't "perfection chasers".
My apologies for that, but I don't know any other way to do it. Or even think about the problem.
PS to WhiteWolf --- please PM me your real name. I haven't any idea who you might be based on what you've said on this board.

 

drwatson

Preferred Member
Aug 3, 2010
1,720
0
toledo
@ Docwatson, Brother no offense but you just down played the most experienced pipe specialist on this forum
I'm not sure exactly how agreeing is down playing???
I have pipes from 20 bucks to 600 bucks, they are all my babies and I am one of the most anal, perfection driven people I know.

 

admin

Smoking a Pipe Right Now
Staff member
Nov 16, 2008
7,941
169
St. Petersburg, FL
Cbrand - Please check your private messages. I don't like to post these types of requests in public, or highjack a thread, but you are not receiving notifications because you do not have your email filled in on your account. Please fix that as it is a requirement to have an account here. Thanks.

 

calabashed

Member
May 10, 2015
163
1
Have you owned the pipe since it was new, or picked up estate? An old trick to fix a loose stem is to heat the tennon slightly and tap it end first on a hard surface to flare it out. It's easy to make it way too tight this way (like far beyond what you'd expect if it was factory new), if that sounds like what you've got might want to take a close look at the tip of the tennon to see if it's been given this treatment.

 

cbrand

New member
May 19, 2015
7
0
The pipes in question are easily as old as I am (29). The stems were hard to remove but it was possible. I ended up using what was available to me which was a dremel , 120 grit flap wheel and my caliper. The wheel was a wide as the tenons that were on average .5 mm wider then the mortise. I fired of the dremel and on a low speed and rotated the tenon around it. The result was two snug fitting stems. I don't dare to clean it up better as the may become to loose.