How do I fix my blowstick?

I've had several "opportunities" to repair blowsticks.  I'm assuming that your blowstick is non-functional and that you're going to do this because you want to salvage it.  I would not recommend doing this to a functional blowstick as the risks of damage are pretty high. 

If you want the advantages of a big bore blowstick, buy one.  This procedure will result in an improvement, but perhaps quite not as good as a commercial, large bore blowstick (e.g., AirStream) - and a the cost of alot more work.

(That said, I do this modification a few times each year for those who wish to use their original blowstick with matching mounts, etc on their pipes. Since I bought a lathe, I can now also "shorten" the blowstick!)

In those blowsticks I've worked on, the damage is usually cracks due to the use of "Little Mac" valves, but occasionally from blowing through a very dry blowstick without oiling it first.  I did once repair a blowstick that someone tried to enlarge to 7/16" and destroyed the threaded part where the mouthpiece attaches - that was fun because I had to recreate the threaded part, too!

In any case, the procedure is pretty much the same... 

You'll get the parts, make clamps for the piece so it won't split, bore out the blowstick, insert a new metal bore and then clean it up.

You'll need non-viscous cyano-acrylate glue, epoxy glue, a hack saw, a power drill with suitable size bits and 200+ and 400 grit sandpaper.  A tapered reamer is optional. If you have a metal turning lathe, that's better than the power drill. Ideally, you should have an old mouthpiece that you can sacrifice, too.

ABOVE ALL, the drill bits must be SHARP. (Failure to follow this will split the blowstick.)

Read the procedure through and do a "dry run" first to be sure you really want to do this - and are ready to do it.

Assembling the parts:

  1. Go to a hobby shop and buy thin walled 11/32" or 3/8" outside diameter brass or aluminum tubing. (Judge from the dimension of the threads where the mouthpiece attaches to see what size is right.  I almost always use 3/8" brass - only did 13/32 once.)   If you're afraid you might split the threaded part when you bore it out, you're probably considering too big a bore or are over your head. Make sure you have at least 1/2" more length than you need in your blowstick.
  2. You'll want to use drill bits that increase in size from 1/32 larger than the original bore (typically 5/16) to 1/64" larger than the target outside diameter. You should never remove than 1/32" in each step. I typically use an 11/32, 23/64, 3/8 and then 25/64" bit. Remember - THE BITS MUST BE SHARP.
  3. You'll need
    • non-viscous cyano-acrylate glue,
    • epoxy glue,
    • a hack saw,
    • a power drill, (Note: If you have a metal turning lathe, that's better than the power drill.)
    • suitable size SHARP drill bits (use traditional shaped ones as they are self-centering in the existing bore)
    • 200+ and 400 grit sandpaper. 
    • Ideally, you should have an old mouthpiece that you can sacrifice, too.
    • A tapered reamer is optional.

Making the clamps:

  1. If you have the luxury... Cut off an old mouthpiece just above the threads, and screw this "nut" back onto the blowstick "bolt".  The "nut" becomes the ultimate clamp and you will NOT split the thin, threaded end - as long as your drill bits are sharp.

    otherwise,... Wrap the blowstick tightly with black waxed hemp over its entire length and use special attention near the ends.  Use several layers of hemp in rings along the body and make it tight. 

    This makeshift set of clamps is what you will rely upon to keep the wood from splitting.

Bore it out:

  1. Bore out the blowstick with a drill bit and drill.  If you have intermediate size drill bits, use them as that will aid alignment and reduce stress on the wood so that it won't be as likely to split.  Be careful that you don't wrench your wrists doing this operation.  If the wood gets warm or theirs a lot of torque on your wrists, your drill bits aren't sharp.

    A rubber jawed vice will work - especially with the black waxed hemp.  You'll probably have to bore from both ends unless you have a machine shop set-up in your basement!  If the holes don't meet in middle, you're going to need some help or will need to use the next smaller size tubing!  Help can come in the form of a dowel with a piece of sandpaper spiraled around it to smooth out the middle where the two boring jobs met. Chuck this into a drill and smooth it out until you can force the tubing through.)  (Note:  I like to gently use a reamer on each end so that there is a small space between the wood and tubing.  This helps hold the finish layer of epoxy and makes a nice-looking, water-tight finish.

Glue the metal tubing in place:

  1. Once you've got the tubing in the blowstick, leave at least 1/4" sticking out of both ends.  Apply the cyano-acrylate glue to the outside of the tubing where it meets the wood.  It should wick its way down the between the wood and tubing resulting in a good bond.
  2. Now mix up some epoxy glue, smear it around the outside of the tubing where it meets the wood.  Try to "stuff it" down the crack between the tubing and the wood to make a good tight seal. Leave some excess glue, as we'll smooth it down later.  If you've had a "Little Mac" in the bottom, you'll need to add quite a bit and may need to do two applications to build it up enough so that we can make it good and smooth.

Finish off the ends:

  1. Once this is dry (give it a full day!), cut off the excess tubing near the original wood with the hack saw.  Then place the 200+ grit sandpaper on a flat surface (like glass) and, with the blowstick perpendicular to that surface, sand away the brass and epoxy almost down to the original wood.  Finish up with the 400 grit sandpaper and you should have a mirror finish on both ends.
  2. Now put in one of those $3 brass and rubber flappers and you're back in shape.

If your blowstick cracked all the way through, you'll need to deal with the cracks in the outside as well. (See How do I fix a crack?)

Copyright S.K. MacLeod 1996-2016