Enlarge Pipe's Airway?

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Johnny_Pipecleaner

Senior Member
Nov 13, 2019
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I have a couple of pipes from a carver and their airways are just a bit tighter than most. It's a real pain in the ass to feed a pipe cleaner through them--lots of resistance, cleaner gets bent, won't feed through without a good amount of effort and focus.

I read a review from another user that said "had to open up the stem with a bit to take a pipe cleaner easier".

What type of bit would I use to do this? Any advice on how not to ruin my pipes in the process?
 

Johnny_Pipecleaner

Senior Member
Nov 13, 2019
309
895
Maybe I can just use a standard set of very small drill bits?

I was thinking I needed some wacky 6" long tiny diameter drill bit, but after more thought, the tiny airway hole at the mouthpiece is probably all that needs to be opened up.

I envisioned that tiny hole going all the way through the stem, but it likely widens out very quickly, right?
 
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BROBS

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Nov 13, 2019
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Maybe I can just use a standard set of very small drill bits?

I was thinking I needed some wacky 6" long tiny diameter drill bit, but after more thought, the tiny airway hole at the mouthpiece is probably all that needs to be opened up.

I envisioned that tiny hole going all the way through the stem, but it likely widens out very quickly, right?
I wouldn't redrill the stem.

to redrill the airway yes just use a standard wood bit and a hand drill. size the bit by putting the shank end into the airway. Find the bit that fits, then move up one size. start the drill bit into the hole gently with the drill off.. then run it high speed straight in. The bit will follow the previous hole and enlarge the airway. just watch in the chamber so your bit doesn't go in too far.. you want to go about the same distance in as the original drilling.

I've done this on a good number of pipes, also estates with gummy airways. I usually just go up one bit size to get to fresh wood.
 

Johnny_Pipecleaner

Senior Member
Nov 13, 2019
309
895
I may have used the term "airway" incorrectly. I need to enlarge the hole in the stem, not the briar. And I don't need to enlarge the shank end, I just need to enlarge the mouthpiece end ever so slightly.

When I try to push a standard pipe cleaner into the mouthpiece, it barely fits. It resists the pipe cleaner so much so that the cleaner kinks if I'm not verrry careful.

The pipes in question are all straight pipes, so I think I can just use the small wood drill bit in the same manner that you described @BROBS , just find the next size up and go for it.
 

BROBS

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Nov 13, 2019
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ohhhh dang. I see now what you mean.

is it just the slot in the button being too narrow?

I've had some like that.. and I opened up the button slot with a flat diamond file.

if you go out the button slot with the drill bit it will leave a circular opening like Kermit the frog's pupil.
 

Johnny_Pipecleaner

Senior Member
Nov 13, 2019
309
895
ohhhh dang. I see now what you mean.

is it just the slot in the button being too narrow?

I've had some like that.. and I opened up the button slot with a flat diamond file.

if you go out the button slot with the drill bit it will leave a circular opening like Kermit the frog's pupil.
I'll have to take a closer look tonight once I'm home from work. It might be the slot in the button. I assumed it was the actual hole itself, but you may be right
 

jeff540

Senior Member
Jan 25, 2016
414
452
Southwest Virginia
Do you have a bench vice? I've widened airway by using the bench vice to hold the drill bit and carefully twisted the offending piece onto the bit. Follow BROBs advice for sizing the bit first. I do not advocate using a hand drill in one hand with the working piece in another.

It will also help to make sure you have a sharp working edge on your drill bits.
 

Idahojoe

Member
Sep 30, 2019
165
227
58
Wilder, Idaho
to redrill the airway yes just use a standard wood bit and a hand drill. size the bit by putting the shank end into the airway. Find the bit that fits, then move up one size.
I need to do this on a couple of pipes but was little reluctant to try it. I'm doing it!
Thanks BROBS.
 
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paulie66scandinavian

Preferred Member
Jul 28, 2016
4,433
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Finland-Scandinavia-EU
Now, I have been doing this road before and learned it hard way, I mean enlarging the button airhole using a drill inserted in my mighty Dremel drill, the result was I had stem with a cracked button part in my hands,and all this happened in second,moreover,If one doesn't possed with quality and 100% proper size of precision files then better leave it as it is,as of now I might need to take that very same route again with one of my pipes but since I couldn't find anywhere small enough set of files I will put off that project' for now
 
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tkcolo

Member
Apr 30, 2018
185
173
47
Granby, CO
I redrill mine a lot. I have screwed a few up, but I'm more careful now. I redrill the stummel to clean them out periodically. I like 5/32. 11/64 is too big for my tapered cleaners, and I feel like I don't get them clean enough.

I straighten the stem (if req'd) to re-drill that, as well as reworking the air-hole slot and the button if I don't like it. If it can't pass a tapered cleaner, I don't want to smoke it. I have yet to find the right tapered bit to get the stem transition perfect though. I have screwed up a lot of buttons and slots. I only do them on cheaper pipes, but my confidence is growing. My biggest advice there is to go slow and take less off. The mistake I make most often is getting a rough shape to where I want the finished shape, and when I get it finished and polished, it's a little too thin and fine.

Take all of this with a grain of salt. I'm no expert. Barely an amateur. And I'm fairly handy with tools. I won't ever sell any of my modified pipes, unless I get them perfect. Mostly, if I screw one up, I don't mind pitching it. If I have one I really love, I'd probably pay Mike at Walker Pipe Repair to do it. Although I'm getting bolder with the mods!
 
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