Vermont Freehand Question

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sothron

Preferred Member
Sep 20, 2011
4,025
2,762
Have a dilemma and figured I would throw it at the brain trust. Please note that I am not bashing the vendor here, it’s a genuine question as I know many of you have stems from this vendor.
I ordered three Foreverstems for Country Gent pipes. They arrived, beautiful. But they don’t fit. I even split the shank on one pipe being too forceful. Note that I have Foreverstems from Walker that fit flawlessly, no problems.

I emailed the vendor, who was quick to respond. He offered two solutions. First, he suggested that as pipe is smoked the wood shank loosens and that will help the stem to fit. Not an issue here as the pipes in question are between 5-7 years old and have been smoked throughout that time. Second suggestion was to insert a wet cotton ball into the shank, thereby encouraging the wood to flex or expand so the stem would fit. I am trying this as I type.

My question is: is this normal? Have any of you experienced this with Vermont Freehand stems and, if so, what did you do? Again, the Walker Foreverstems fit instantly with no issues so I’m wondering what the problem is here. Also wondering why not make the stems to fit out of the box, as Walker obviously had this part figured out.

Thoughts and suggestions from the peanut gallery, I mean, braintrust?
 

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sothron

Preferred Member
Sep 20, 2011
4,025
2,762
So I just fitted the stems after the suggested wet cotton tactic. Interestingly, they fit a bit better: a quarter to half way in depending on which of the three pipes in question. Now I’m going to smoke each of them, in keeping with the first recommendation, and see if this helps the fit. Let’s hope this isn’t just wishful thinking and forcing.

I’ll be very happy if this works out. Still not understanding why Walker could make stems that simply fit.
 

georged

Preferred Member
Mar 7, 2013
2,981
1,814
A good mortise-tenon fit is measured in thousandths of an inch. 1.5 thousandths too large or too small is enough to create problems. 3 thousandths is fall-out loose or shank-crack tight.

Steve Norse 100% knows his stuff. He's an excellent pipe maker in addition to selling supplies to the trade.

All he can do---all anyone can do---is make replacement stems to a specific, exact size. Whatever size Missouri Meerschaum (or whoever) says they must be for a proper fit on that model of pipe.

Unless there was a communication mix-up between you and Steve, I'm willing to bet he supplied you with the right stem, and your pipe's shank(s) have changed dimension.

Wood does that over time when smoked. Thermal and moisture cycling are the culprits.

Acrylic plastic does not.

As for why this never happened to you before, it's not a seller/source thing, but a matter of luck. i.e. whether your pipes' mortises have stayed the same size they were made.
 

Country Bladesmith

Preferred Member
May 2, 2020
2,974
12,730
Louisiana
I thought about this. Other opinions pro or con?

Just seems weird to order a stem that I then have to sand to fit. (?) But then, I am not a tinkerer, and many of you are;)

I just like to buy stuff that works (shrug?).
Like @georged said, Steve is having to make a “one size fits all” stem, and everything from tolerance stacking to a swollen shank (sounds like a Viagra side effect) could be to blame. I’d sand it down if it were me. Just check the fit often as you do. You can’t put material back on.
 
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georged

Preferred Member
Mar 7, 2013
2,981
1,814
Just seems weird to order a stem that I then have to sand to fit. (?) But then, I am not a tinkerer, and many of you are;)

I just like to buy stuff that works (shrug?).
Hello?

Did you read my response?

If so, the situation is either: A) hopeless; or B) you're deliberately trying to start a thread that will soon be closed.
 

Casual

Preferred Member
Oct 3, 2019
1,567
5,081
NL, CA
My experience was similar. I got a couple new VF forever stems, and tried them in a bunch of unsmoked cobs. One was tight but acceptable, while the other was just too large to fit. My older Walker forever stem fit perfectly, but I only had one of those to try. I haven’t settled on what to try with the one that didn’t fit, whether sand or freeze and grease it up.
 

peregrinus

Preferred Member
Aug 4, 2019
869
2,158
Pacific Northwest
Vermont Freehand has this caveat on it’s site in the Forever Stem section:

“Forever stems are intended for new pipes. They can still work in a used pipe but can be trickier to get a good fit.”

I found that the stem I ordered fit perfectly in a unsmoked Contrary Gentleman but was very, very tight in a previously smoked pipe of the same exact model. I used beeswax and gentle persuasion to get the stem nearly seated, then smoked it a few times to give the shank a chance to accommodate itself self to the new stem and after the 3rd smoke seated it flush.

My personal experience is as @georged explained:
“... and your pipe's shank(s) have changed dimension.
“Wood does that over time when smoked. Thermal and moisture cycling are the culprits.”
 
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Pit&Pipes

Member
Sep 29, 2020
249
1,924
OH-IO
I love the VF stems. I know I’m the odd man out probably but most are a tad tight to say the least. I put a little bees wax or nose oil on it and push it in. It’s usually in my drugstore Legend cobs and I guess I’ve been lucky to not have any issues.
 

sothron

Preferred Member
Sep 20, 2011
4,025
2,762
As an update, I used suggested the wet cotton ball in the shank method (paper towel, actually, as I had no cottonballs) and, counterintuitively, it worked. Very tight fit, but a fit. All’s well that ends well.
 

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