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Plugged Stem

AlaskaPipe

Well-known member
#1
About 6 months ago I bought a brushed Stanwell half bent billiard, but recently I've discovered that the stem is completely plugged. When separated from the pipe, it won't pass air, and even the sturdiest pipe cleaners I've tried won't budge whatever the blockage is. I've tried from both directions.

I can't imagine that the blockage is a wad of tobacco, and I'm wondering if some internal defect has allowed a chunk of the stem material (acrylic?) to dislodge and block the airway. Pure speculation on my part though.

Any ideas? I love the feel of this pipe and would like to get back to smoking it.
 

Sir Saartan

The Tan Saarlander
#3
About 6 months ago I bought a brushed Stanwell half bent billiard, but recently I've discovered that the stem is completely plugged. When separated from the pipe, it won't pass air, and even the sturdiest pipe cleaners I've tried won't budge whatever the blockage is. I've tried from both directions.

I can't imagine that the blockage is a wad of tobacco, and I'm wondering if some internal defect has allowed a chunk of the stem material (acrylic?) to dislodge and block the airway. Pure speculation on my part though.

Any ideas? I love the feel of this pipe and would like to get back to smoking it.
If it isn't a bent stem, I would try to boil it for a while first... maybe that helps. a bent stem would become straight and need to be rebent.
 

Sir Saartan

The Tan Saarlander
#5
However, it is a "bent" stem in that this pipe is a half bent billiard.
that was my question.

When heating an acrylic or vulcanite stem, it will straighten up. in your case, it's only lightly bent, so I would personally
be confident I'd get it back into the original shape after the repair.

Once the stem is straight, you can use a light to shine through the stem and see what's going on inside. Also, you could
easily use a very small drill bit to drill through whatever is plugging up the stem, if it doesn't come lose during the heating
process.

After that, I'd simply heat it over a candle and rebend it to the original shape.

Done carefully (especially the drilling part if neccessary), I don't see why you'd be unsuccessfull.

I know some guys here have done many more restoring projects, but my experience is: if you're being
somewhat carefull, a pipe won't just crumble in your hands.
 

Kiowapipe

Needs to think of a clever custom title
Patron
#8
It's almost certainly fixable. Just take your time with however you approach it so that you don't accidentally do something un-fixable. It's not likely you'll cause damage, but it is possible (ask me how I know... :oops:)
Some combination of soaking and poking will eventually get it open. If you use a drill bit, it's safer to turn the stem on the bit, not the other way around, especially if the stem is acrylic.
 

xrundog

Old Pipe Dude
#11
A lot of old timers would smoke a pipe without cleaning it until it didn't draw anymore. And that stuff gets really hard over time. soaking it for a good while in tap water might do the trick. If not, maybe a Kemper saw. It's used for clay sculpting, but it's sharp enough to rework the airway at the button. And it's fine enough to fit in both ends. I've used mine on obstructed airways with good results.
 

AlaskaPipe

Well-known member
#14
Well, an overnight soak in plain tap water didn't loosen it up enough to clear it with a pipe cleaner. The suggestions for using a paper clip, bale wire, romex or guitar string are great! I think I'll give a paper clip a shot tomorrow after another overnight soak.

Thanks!