We get to the place and take a look at the shower head. Its a standard 45 degree pipe with a shower head on it. I turn it on to see what's the deal. Water gushes out of the wall behind the gasket. That's bad. The pipe is real loose, which is also bad for a pipe. I go to unscrew the pipe from the wall and it just snaps, leaving half of the thread inside the pipe. It's totally rusted through. Turns out that the tenant was trying to adjust the shower head and, being 25 years old, the pipe broke. To make a long story short, i tried a number of things. First some pliers, but there was nothing to grip onto. Second, a PVC pipe nipple remover. Unfortunately, its made of aluminum, which is softer than copper and so the tool totally got destroyed.
Now we were in a pickle. How do you screw in a new pipe if the threads of the old one are stuck inside? It HAD to come out, or else your job would consist of busting a hole in the wall, cutting the pipe off altogether, and then welding in a new one. No small task by ANY means, and one to be avoided at all costs. Perhaps there was a reverse drill bit (easy-out)? Or a re-threader? Both Home Depot and Lowes said no, they carry nothing in that large size, and i would have to bust out the wall. Hells no, i said. So we tried one last ditch attempt: we went to our local True Value Hardware store. The helpful hardware man immediately knew what to do. He showed us a brand new tool they recently received. It's called a Cam tool, and let me tell you it's pure GENIUS! (and only $5 too!)
The way the tool works, as you rotate it out (to the left, to the left) the center cam section spreads wider and grips onto the inside pipe piece. As it gets tighter and tighter, the broke pipe piece eventually begins to turn with it and wallah! To make the long story short, we took it back and it did just the trick. The old thread came right out, and a in went a new pipe. Perfect.
Moral of the story? For each job there is the right tool. Don't even bother trying if you don't have it. And even though Home Depot & Lowes may be huge and have low prices, they don't have the variety or specializations like the little guy. So don't count them out!