Stem/shank fit

92degrees

Well-known member
Sales
#1
Maybe a weird question:
I have some nice pipes. I smoke them regularly and try to maintain them carefully. Over time (a few years), it seems like the fit between the stem and the shank is not as perfect/seamless as it was when the pipes were new from the maker. Pipes are stored in a closed, dark cabinet in my living room. I live in the northeast. I remove the stems and everything is clean, but when I put them back together there appears to be daylight from one angle or another. I have always assumed that briar is very stable, but is this not true? Is there something else I should be doing or is this normal over time?
Thanks.
 

Arkie

Well-known member
#8
Wait about 15 minutes after smoking before pulling the stem out of the stummel. The heat and moisture from smoking causes the briar to swell and makes the tenon and mortise a tight fit. Repeatedly forcing them apart stretches the tenon and causes a loose fit. There is a way to permanently fix the loose fit but it can ruin the pipe if it isn't done carefully.
 

92degrees

Well-known member
Sales
#9
Thanks. It's not an issue of tight or loose -- it's that with the stem fully inserted there seems to be a very slight gap between stem and shank. It's a very picky thing. I can try to photograph it but some will think me crazy. I just didn't know if I was doing something wrong in the maintenance area. I did clean everything today and the problem persists.
 

RDPipes

Misogynistic Pipe Maker to the Stars!
Sales
#12
Crud can certainly build up in crevices specially in the base of the mortise where it looks clean to the naked eye,
that and removing the stem after every smoke can certainly put wear on the mortise and related contact spots.
Living in the North East isn't helping either with the temp and humidity changes involved in the seasons.
I would back off pulling the stem off too much and as stated earlier clean the mortise well getting into the right angles.
 

Maddis

Well-known member
Sales
#14
If the maker does not leave a couple thousandths of an inch at the end of the tenon (rather than butting it up flush against the bottom of the mortise), over time heat and humidity changes can shrink the mortise just enough that the tenon bottoms out and a gap appears because the stem cannot be inserted far enough to close the gap. If that's whats going on, a few strokes with some 400 sandpaper on the end of the stem tenon should solve the problem. If the gap is asymmetrical, this will not solve the problem.
 
#20
If I were this picky, I would not be smoking pipes. Fifty plus years of pipe smoking has taught me that things change over time. Dissimilar materials will change the way things fit together. I have pipes that are over fifty years old that fit perfectly, and some that have a gap here and there. It is about the smoking properties of the pipe that I care about. I was a second generation sign painter for over fifty years. Over thirty five with a brush, before I had to go to computer to survive. When I was young and learning, I tried to make everything perfect. My Dad told me the things I was worried about would not be noticed by 99 out of 100 people. He was right. They look at the whole finished product, rather than the tiny little imperfections. Try to imagine a world of perfect people. I just say "Live with it", and enjoy life for all of our differences.
 
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