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 Post subject: Churchwarden Stem making
PostPosted: Sat Nov 01, 2014 11:13 pm 
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Hey fellow pipemakers,
for my next pipe I would like to make Churchwarden. I've searched the forum, but I ddidn't find anything directly addressing making that long stem.... are there any special tips or tricks you guys know that would make the process easier? I'm planning on using acrylic, if that makes any difference. Thanks!

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 01, 2014 11:28 pm 
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"Not once has a customer looked at one of my pipes and said, 'I like this pipe, but wish you had made the stem an hour faster'... I want every stem to be perfect" --- Adam Davidson


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 02, 2014 12:04 am 
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Drill slowly and use a lubricant so it doesn't melt. It's not easy. That's why you don't see a lot of hand cut Churchwarden stems being made.

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 02, 2014 12:32 am 
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LatakiaLover wrote:
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So drinking helps? I'll try that. :thumbsup:

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 02, 2014 4:51 am 
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The drilling, although a bit more work, is not the problem, keeping straight lines when shaping is.
If you can, get a premold rather.

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 02, 2014 7:55 am 
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To keep straight lines, use a strip of thin tape from the slot all the way down the stem to the tenon. Should keep you on center while you do the rough shaping. If you can't find the tape, just scribe or mark the center of the sides if the rod. It is, as Charl said, the more challenging part, but it's doable if you take your time. The stem blanks most easily accessible for Churchwardens are fairly ugly in my opinion, and you can't add more material onto a stem blank.

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 02, 2014 8:56 am 
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Drilling a normal length acrylic stem is bad enough. Drilling a churchwarden length stem is pretty tricky. I did it once in 2009. Once was enough. I ruined a 12" rod on my first attempt because I didn't clear the chips often enough and didn't go slow enough. I drilled it using a 1/8" x 12" bit that I tapered the tip. On the second attempt, I drilled at the slowest speed my lathe could go and cleared the chips every 1/8". It took a while to do. I drilled the last inch and a half or so for the slot by flipping the blank over and drilling from the other end to meet up with the 1/8" airway. Shaping wasn't that difficult because I used a translucent acrylic and was able to see the airway to use as a guide for shaping. It's not great but here's the result. The abrupt bend in the stem is by design because it was a replica.

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 02, 2014 6:37 pm 
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sandahlpipe wrote:
...The stem blanks most easily accessible for Churchwardens are fairly ugly in my opinion, and you can't add more material onto a stem blank.


That's what I've been finding... they all look like something you'd find on a Dr. Grabow...

Boy do I feel like a dummy... I've been drilling acrylic at high speed with light pressure, lubricating well, and often clearing chips and cooling the bit. It works... but I just tried drilling at minimum speed on my lathe (a small test piece) and it was easy in comparison! :banghead:

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 02, 2014 11:22 pm 
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LatakiaLover wrote:
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I missed you, George. :lol:

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 03, 2014 12:10 am 
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d.huber wrote:
I missed you, George. :lol:


Funny, that's what Bruce said to me just yesterday. While lowering a .45 with a wisp of smoke coming from the muzzle.

...and his next words were, "But I won't next time."

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 03, 2014 4:15 am 
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Yeah I just don't do it. Not very often I get asked anyway. The conversation usually goes like this:

"Hey man, can you make me a 3 colour churchwarden with a 24" long stem so I can dress up like Gandalf, oh and for about $150 (tend to be the same crowd lol)

"Sorry I don't make handcut churchwarden stems"

"Weird man, everyone I ask says the same thing, I thought you guys were pipeMAKERS!"

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 03, 2014 5:00 am 
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caskwith wrote:
"Sorry I don't make handcut churchwarden stems"


Actually, it isn't too bad if you do two things:

Use the "centerline tape trick" I showed in a photo essay thread I posted a couple years ago; and stiffen the stock after drilling with a (virtually) full length piece of drill rod for the shaping step.

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"Not once has a customer looked at one of my pipes and said, 'I like this pipe, but wish you had made the stem an hour faster'... I want every stem to be perfect" --- Adam Davidson


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 03, 2014 12:04 pm 
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I've had several requests to make the pipe I posted above again. I always turn down the request.

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 03, 2014 12:10 pm 
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I just charge a lot more for a churchwarden than a standard-length stem and haven't had many people take me up on it. They usually settle for a shorter stem or a different style pipe altogether and we're both happy.

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 03, 2014 3:04 pm 
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Whenever I've looked for pre-fab churchwarden stems in the past I only found vulcanite ones - the ugly stems you mentioned Joe, were those acrylic? If so do you have a url to those?


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 03, 2014 5:49 pm 
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LatakiaLover wrote:
caskwith wrote:
"Sorry I don't make handcut churchwarden stems"


Actually, it isn't too bad if you do two things:

Use the "centerline tape trick" I showed in a photo essay thread I posted a couple years ago; and stiffen the stock after drilling with a (virtually) full length piece of drill rod for the shaping step.



It's not the making that is the problem, I have made a couple in the past and they were not too much more difficult than a normal stem, I did use the centre line trick actually but with a pencil. It's the cost that is the problem, both of the rod stock (used and ruined) and the extra time. When I quote for the stem customer usually baulks.

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 03, 2014 5:54 pm 
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caskwith wrote:

It's not the making that is the problem, I have made a couple in the past and they were not too much more difficult than a normal stem, I did use the centre line trick actually but with a pencil. It's the cost that is the problem, both of the rod stock (used and ruined) and the extra time. When I quote for the stem customer usually baulks.


OK, that makes more sense than what I (mistakenly) thought you were saying.

Never mind. 8)

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"Not once has a customer looked at one of my pipes and said, 'I like this pipe, but wish you had made the stem an hour faster'... I want every stem to be perfect" --- Adam Davidson


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 03, 2014 7:48 pm 
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Yeah, I've never had much trouble cutting a churchwarden stem. It's just cost. I do it occasionally when the mood seizes me. Not often though. Chris is right- the churchwarden purchasing crowd tends to be a bunch of nincompoops- that being said, I want to make one for myself at some point.

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 03, 2014 10:33 pm 
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baiguai wrote:
Whenever I've looked for pre-fab churchwarden stems in the past I only found vulcanite ones - the ugly stems you mentioned Joe, were those acrylic? If so do you have a url to those?


Nah, they were vulcanite too. :( That's another reason I'm planning to make my own stem.

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PostPosted: Fri Nov 07, 2014 10:46 pm 
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Hey guys, thanks for the tips! I made my first churchwarden stem today, and it turned out OK. I broke the end off a couple of times, so it only ended up about 9 inches long, but it's a start. This would have been a bumpier road without your help. :)

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