February 22, 2018, 11:17 am
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Pipe Kit Questions

What's tools do I need to shape the pipe kit?
Really whatever tools you have around that can remove wood. Keep in mind that briar is a very hard wood, so your tools should be sharp and hard. I don't suggest using carving chisels or chip knives, you'll easily dull them. Instead, a dremel with a carving bit would do nicely. Files are also a good way to remove wood, though it can be slow going. If you have a belt or disk sander, you could possibly use it with some ingenuity. A multitude of tools could be used, and there is no right or wrong way to do it.

How do I bend the stem?
When I was shaping my first pipe kits, I use to drop the stem in boiling water to allow it to soften. However, that had the effect of softening the tenon as well, and making it a different size. Instead, I suggest either a heat gun or an alcohol flame. Gently heat just the area you want to bend, carefully rotating it and keeping it moving over the heat. If you let the stem rest in one spot for too long, you can burn the stem, creating tiny bubbles on and under the surface that will need to be sanded away. Constantly test the stem to see if it is pliable enough to bend, if it doesn't bend easily, it's not hot enough. It should be very pliable and not put up any resistance.

Once the stem is hot enough, bend it to the angle you find most pleasing. Hold it in place while the stem cools. You can speed the process by holding the stem in front of a fan, or even dipping the bent area in a cup of cold water. There's no right answer as to how much bend, as long it isn't bent so far as to dump ash all over your front when it's in your mouth. This is YOUR pipe!

One point to remember is that the stem will be HOT. Protect your fingers with a leather glove, some band-aids on your fingertips, or even a piece of tooling leather.

How do I polish the pipe once it's finished?
Without a dedicated buffer, this can be a lengthy process. Firstly, it's important to remember that thorough sanding is most important. Work your way up through the grits, making sure that the scratches from the previous grit are removed before moving on. Once you finish with 600 grit you can begin polishing. Some folks, in the abscence of a benchtop buffing station, will use a dremel and a small buffing wheel. This is a lengthy process, but it does work. Use brown tripoli to remove the sanding marks, white compound to bring it to a nice luster, and finally buff on carnuba wax to get the shine.

This site and all images and documents copyright Kurt Huhn, unless otherwise noted.