Loose Stem Repair Option

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Dec 11, 2018
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Just performed a loose stem repair to an old Rossi of mine and worked like a charm...then did the same to 2 cobs I have and worked great on those as well.
Took boiling water and poured it into a small bowl to about 3/4" deep, took a worm/screw clamp and clamped it around the mortise of the shank with some electrical tape around it and screwed it down nice and tight. Held that in the water for about 2-3 minutes until hot, then I tightened on the screw a little more to make sure the wood was malleable--i.e., hot enough, inserted the stem and kept tightening until the stem was as tight as I wanted it. Let it cool completely for about 10 minutes and took the clamp off...worked great, FYI.

 

haparnold

Preferred Member
Aug 9, 2018
1,170
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Lexington, KY
I'm truly really glad this worked well for you. But if the procedure you did is what I think it is, I will almost certainly never have the guts to try this on one of my pipes.

 
Dec 11, 2018
257
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Well, I figured that most of the repairs I've seen bantered about are fairly temporary in nature (like beeswax which I've tried but only lasts about a week) and/or simply toxic (like crazy glue on the inside of the mortise to swell it) and this one came across to me as probably being more permanent...we'll have to see. That said, it's better than having a stem so loose that it falls out when the pipe sags in your mouth, lol, so it was a risk I was willing to take to make a non-smokeable pipe, smokeable again.

 

sablebrush52

Preferred Member
Jun 15, 2013
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Quick and simple from Walt Cannoy.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=khWHIzdBbhw&t=571s

 
Dec 11, 2018
257
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I saw that video, sable; my issue was you could see a distinct expanding in the mortise area when you held it up to light, so swelling/disforming the stem like he does seems a little like taking a tire off by removing the car, I more wanted to address the problem itself (i.e., expanded mortise area). Second, his method seems like it would result in too tight of a fit...I smoke filtered pipes so I want to be able to remove the stem daily; the way I did it I was able to tighten the clamp to the exact pressure I wanted for the stem to be tight, yet easily removable.

 

sablebrush52

Preferred Member
Jun 15, 2013
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I've used Walt's method, (which essentially returns the tenon to its original dimensions as vulcanite has dimensional memory) a number of times and it's worked fine. If the original fit was tight, it will be tight. If the original fit was medium firm, it will return to medium firm. As Walt pointed out in the video, the original fit was tight.
If your method works for you, that's all that matters. But for folks who are a little bit less handy, Walt offers a simple reliable way to restore the fit to its original state.

 

sablebrush52

Preferred Member
Jun 15, 2013
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What does that mean? I'm not familiar with dimensional memory.
It simply means that when heated sufficiently, vulcanite will return to its original shape and size.

 
Dec 11, 2018
257
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But for folks who are a little bit less handy, Walt offers a simple reliable way to restore the fit to its original state.
I think it's more just a different way to do it; seems to me turning a flathead screwdriver requires about the same amount of mechanical savvy as melting a stem over a flame...maybe I'm wrong though

 

sablebrush52

Preferred Member
Jun 15, 2013
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1,196
I think it's more just a different way to do it; seems to me turning a flathead screwdriver requires about the same amount of mechanical savvy as melting a stem over a flame...maybe I'm wrong though
So you're deforming the shank to fit around the tenon rather than returning the tenon to its original shape. If that works for you, great.

 
Dec 11, 2018
257
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As I said earlier, it wasn't the tenon that was the problem, it was an expanded mortise, so the clamp returned the MORTISE to its original shape.

 

chasingembers

Preferred Member
Nov 12, 2014
17,236
3,273
Smoking causes the mortise to swell, hence a tight stem after smoking. After many smokes, that 360° compression on the tenon will cause a loose stem. Heating a tenon with a flame or heat gun makes it spring to its original dimensions. In Walt's video, he does the procedure on a stem that isn't necessarily loose and the fit seems a bit tighter. I've used that process on all my loose stems for years with no issue.

 

georged

Preferred Member
Mar 7, 2013
2,611
45
The mortise/tenon fit question is surprisingly complex, and a truly "back to new" sort of fix---meaning undetectable visually and long lasting---usually requires specialized tools and a lot of experience to achieve.
There are damn near as many Band-Aid fixes as there are pipe smokers, though, and the only metric for them is not causing harm. Otherwise, if it works, it works.

 

zack24

Preferred Member
May 11, 2013
1,726
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Along those same lines- but with much less risk- is using a paint brush dipped in boiling water on the inside of the mortise- let it dry, you'll have some internal expansion of the mortise....But as George mentioned- it's a bandaid....

 

ssjones

Moderator
Staff member
May 11, 2011
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Maryland
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I've used Walt's method with pretty good results.
On a related thread, from a couple of weeks ago, someone posted a link to a tenen expansion tool set from Vermont, I bought it and using it for the first time, I promptly cracked the shank on a very nice GBD Prehistoric bulldog, rending it as fire pit fuel. (It had a Perspex stem).
So, I'll go back to Walts method.....