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PostPosted: Fri May 17, 2013 4:56 am 
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For reasons I can't fully explain, yesterday I felt compelled to demonstrate a foolproof way to create a razor-sharp, 90-degree, groove-free button crease, and then get it to shine as brightly as the rest of the stem while staying crispy-sharp during buffing. Also covered is how to cut the bite zone of a stem so it has an even radius and remains symmetrical in cross section after removing tool marks and scratches. With a bit of practice, the method will result in a stem that is optically perfect---meaning distortions aren't visible even in the stem's reflections---for its entire length, from shank to button crease.

So, I found a guy with a vidcam, a tripod, and some hella-bright lights who assured me he wouldn't die of boredom from filming a bit of esoteric minutia, and we gave it a go.

The biggest surprise (since I've never been filmed before, or heard more than a sentence of my own voice on an answering machine) was discovering that I sound more than a little like Billy Bob Thornton, and have a habit of looking up when mentally searching for a particular word. I know that I like precise words, but didn't realize how often or noticeable the selection process was when I spoke. In short, my delivery is pretty much shit. But since most of the information I wanted to convey made the trip in the end, I finally decided not to re-make it.

To further discourage you, know that the thing is long. Two parts worth, in fact, since YouTube has some sort of time limit.

PART 1 --- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eI8uDWs2 ... e=youtu.be

PART 2 --- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yEbDiKfe ... e=youtu.be

I can't say, "I hope you enjoy it!" and retain even a speck of intellectual integrity :lol: , but I do hope it helps anyone who is still searching for a way to deal with the annoyingly difficult last couple of millimeters of stem next to the button.

EDIT -- I realized after typing the above and going to bed that the refurb crowd might also find this demo useful, because removing bite marks and "de-greening" a stem are really just making a stem with the first 99% of the work already done... the final one percent of work is the same for both.

Yay! That means the potential audience just went from a couple dozen people to a couple hundred! Hollywood should be calling any minute now.

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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


Last edited by LatakiaLover on Fri May 17, 2013 12:28 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Fri May 17, 2013 9:58 am 
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Good videos! Some of those techniques I've discovered on my own, some were brand new. Generally speaking, I hate stem work, so any little tip or trick helps out a lot!

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PostPosted: Fri May 17, 2013 10:01 am 
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I was there watching over George's right shoulder while this was shot. It's amazing what I learned. Stem work is going to get A LOT easier....especially around the button :D

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PostPosted: Fri May 17, 2013 10:27 am 
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Fantastic, George! I have been playing around with this since we talked in St. Louis, but this video further clarifies the procedure you use, and will help me with some issues I was having, as well as speed up the process.

Thanks very much for taking the time to do this. It's going to raise the bar for everyone, and greatly improve the end result for many of us that have struggled with this aspect of stem work.

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PostPosted: Fri May 17, 2013 1:08 pm 
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I was watching the videos and came to the conclusion that I should just sent my pipes to you for stemming :)

thanks for taking the time brother, good stuff

rev

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PostPosted: Fri May 17, 2013 1:49 pm 
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Wowsers! That was . . . unorthodox.

TJ

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PostPosted: Fri May 17, 2013 1:54 pm 
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ToddJohnson wrote:
Wowsers! That was . . . unorthodox.

TJ


But wonderfully informative.

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PostPosted: Fri May 17, 2013 3:57 pm 
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You are a true gentleman, sir. Thanks for posting!

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PostPosted: Fri May 17, 2013 4:00 pm 
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Could you add a list of links to the files you're using so we can purchase them?

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PostPosted: Fri May 17, 2013 5:42 pm 
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The Smoking Yeti wrote:
Could you add a list of links to the files you're using so we can purchase them?


My go-to source for files is Otto Frei in Oakland. Here's their file page:

http://www.ottofrei.com/Files/

The dead edge models are called "pillar" files. I used several 6" demi-narrow ones for the bite zone radiusing shown in the video.

Good files are spendy, but would still be worth it at twice the price, btw. Cheap files just skid and "chew", and often have several high teeth that make them unsuitable for stem work. (Each stroke leaves several deep scratches).

The speciality 3/16" nut seating file came from Stewart-McDonald, the guitar guys:

http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Tools/Files ... _File.html

It is an absolute razor. An outstanding & essential piece of gear in my book.

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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: Fri May 17, 2013 7:00 pm 
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After answering a few PM's, I guess I should clarify my response to these videos. These questions are specifically for LatakiaLover, I suppose.

1. If you sand to 1800 grit, what grit are you polishing with? From the looks of it, that's Tan compound followed by Red. The brand looks like Diamond to me, and I know what those grits are. They're way below 1800. Why sand to such a high grit and then buff with a much lower grit. Seems like a huge waste of time and effort.

2. You use a lot of highly specialized files and homemade jig-like thingies. Have you ever tried a simple rough single-cut file with one safe edge, and a smooth double-cut file that also has a safe edge? I don't think I understand completely which problem you've created a solution for with all these things.

3. Do you have any experience with a stem-knife, or have you ever considered integrating it into your process? Granted, you have to make it yourself, and a tool is only as good as its maker, but if you make a good one, you can essentially scrape to 400 grit. It's especially helpful once you get beyond very simple mouthpieces like this one, though scraping the front face of the button does eliminate all the other steps even on a simple saddle or taper.

4. A lot of guys hand cut stems, but you're using a rubber blank. Do you use the same method when you have to create the button rather than simply touching it up?

In my experience, the key factors are 1) the correct filing technique, 2) a very good stem-knife that doesn't chatter, 3) the correct type of 400 grit sandpaper (closed coat 3M Imperial torn in half and folded precisely in thirds), 4) the correct size and type of buffing wheel at the correct speed, and 5) the correct amount of the correct buffing compound. To be honest, I'm afraid after watching a video like this, guys may have an overly complicated notion of what's "required" to do the job well.

I have no doubt that your mouthpieces end up shiny, but I'm not sure the method you've demonstrated is that broadly applicable. I've seen a lot of guys cut mouthpieces--including nearly all the ones you mentioned at the beginning of your video who get it "right"--and your method is unique to you as far as I'm aware. Doesn't mean it's wrong. Doesn't mean I disagree with you on how to do what you do. It just doesn't strike me as being particularly efficient. It seems a bit like an engineer trying to do a finger painting. That said, if it helps guys to make better pipes, I'm all for it. I am interested to hear an explanation for all the extra steps, though. Alright, gotta go. Pizza and movie night with the kiddos.

TJ

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PostPosted: Fri May 17, 2013 8:05 pm 
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Todd ---

I'd really rather not get into a back-and-forth thing---deconstructing, defending, explaining, and so forth---approaches that work. Yours, mine, or anyone else's. There's no point. It would quickly become tedious, as well.

You'll just have to believe me when I say there's a reason for each step in the video. I've made thousands of stems, and am no fan of unnecessary labor. You'd be amazed how fast and reliable this appears-overly-complicated-on-first-viewing method is if you saw it in real time, I think. :wink:

The reason I showed it at all is because shaping and finishing the bite zone/button junction well---meaning to Danish standards---is something that gives virtually all beginners, many mid-level guys, and even a few well-known professionals fits, and there was nothing on the Net to help them. Like finishing techniques, most stem tricks are closely guarded by those who make good ones.

George

PS -- a blank was used instead of rod stock for convenience and economy, nothing more. I shape and finish stems the same way regardless of material (excluding exotics, of course).

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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


Last edited by LatakiaLover on Sun May 19, 2013 2:33 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Fri May 17, 2013 8:17 pm 
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I will jump in and "defend" George's methods......I don't know dick about making stems and what I learned will, indeed, help me put out a better product. I have changed things in the way I cut a stem (especially the bite zone and button) after spending a day with George.

My Grandpa Smitty always told me there was more than one way to skin just about every type of animal imaginable. I think we have the same thing here.

It was helpful to me (and I really think that carvers at my "level" are who it is meant for). I do not have accesss to a "Master Carver" to teach me neat little tricks like making a stem-knife and how to use it properly. So I will take the extra steps and use them graciously because they just made my life A LOT easier.

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PostPosted: Fri May 17, 2013 8:39 pm 
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I was wondering why you sand so high and then use such a low grit polishing compound myself, is there a reason beyond, you have found it works best? Because that is certainly a valid reason. And I am not presuming to tell you anything because I need all the help I can get. That bit just seemed counter intuitive to me.

rev

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PostPosted: Fri May 17, 2013 9:43 pm 
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the rev wrote:
I was wondering why you sand so high and then use such a low grit polishing compound myself, is there a reason beyond, you have found it works best? Because that is certainly a valid reason. And I am not presuming to tell you anything because I need all the help I can get. That bit just seemed counter intuitive to me.


Going up to 800 or 1000 before buffing serves two purposes. One is at that level of smoothness, some reflectivity is created, and reading reflections is by far the best way to "read" shapes. And discovering that your stem-in-progress still needs tweaking sooner is better than finding it out later. The other reason is the same semi-shiny state exposes horisontal scratches like nothing else, and finding those sooner is better than later, too.

The reason I start buffing with a compound that's coarser than the final sanding step involves something that I've never heard adequately explained, only speculated about: "Zombie" scratches. Ones that by every measure and form of detection appear to be completely gone, but vestigial traces of which faintly return as soon as the stem is heated and bent. Even weirder, they can also return weeks or months later on a stem that was never heated or bent. It's as if stem material "bruises" somehow immediately underneath a scratch, and the bruise later emerges. In any event, the only way I've ever found that kills the zombies is by starting the buffing grit climb at a coarser level than seems necessary otherwise.

I'd love it if some materials scientist explained what's going on with that, but I've never been able to find one. In the meantime, solving the problem by whatever means experiment proved to reliably work is what I went with.

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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


Last edited by LatakiaLover on Sun May 19, 2013 2:37 am, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Fri May 17, 2013 10:37 pm 
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I thoroughly enjoyed these videos, very nice work you did there, thank you for taking the time with such a project. I look forward to your future vids.

Thanks again, keep up the good work!!!!


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PostPosted: Sat May 18, 2013 3:14 am 
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I finally re-watched the thing a minute ago (it's really hard to see yourself if you have a life-long aversion to cameras :lol: ), and noticed a couple things that need clarification.

The stem drawing at the beginning was too small to show the problem areas drawn in red. There should have been a close up, but it's too late now. So here's a static shot:

Image


The red is intended to show material that should be removed, but often isn't because it's so hard to get to using conventional tools. When it isn't, it shows up in the reflection lines after polishing. What you want is a taper that never ends or flattens out, right up until contact with the button face.

Another thing is at the end of the final 1500 grit sanding, when I said, "If you don't get all the scratches out now, you won't be able to remove them with buffing... it can't be done." What I meant was you can't remove them with buffing without creating a dished/scalloped area that spoils the line if the stem. Of course enough pressure can be applied to get them out in the literal sense.

My apologies for any misunderstanding.

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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: Sat May 18, 2013 5:19 am 
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Thank you sir!
I found useful tips in your videos that will help me.

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PostPosted: Sat May 18, 2013 9:01 am 
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thanks for the video and for answering my questions

rev

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"but rev, isn't smoking a sin?"

well I suppose if one were to smoke to excess it would be a sin

"but what would be smoking to excess?"

Why smoking two pipes at once of course


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PostPosted: Sat May 18, 2013 9:54 am 
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I also thought it was a good tutorial and I didn't see any need to have a blow up of the stem button drawing, I knew what you were talking about and I'm sure anyone that has dealt with restoring or the making of a stem knew.
It was a especially enjoyable for me as a real rookie to carving pipes to see a method being used that I myself have used for a couple of years now in restoring pipes. Only difference is I only use 400, 600, 1000 & occasionally 2000 grit and don't have those special files. And I use a Popsicle stick for my sand paper, just because I have a box full of them.

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