How do you clean an estate pipe?

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Post by UncleBob » Sun Dec 08, 2013 12:59 pm

If the burn spots really bother you, you might try sanding the spots on a disc sander. I would use 110 on a SLOW wheel (1200 rpm or less), though. Then finish with 220 grit. If the wheel is too fast, it will actually burn the briar,
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Re: How do you clean an estate pipe?

Post by ElgarAlienPooh » Sat Aug 23, 2014 10:45 am

The fleamarketing housewives of rural America who "don't know anything about pipes," take wretched pictures of them, and put them up on Flea Prey for whatever they'll bring have been my pipe sources of choice for ten or so years. Lots of water under that dam by now. So, based on having done restoration work in a violin shop while a musician and on a long friendship with a famous pipe restorer, FWIW :

It depends on whether or not you value authenticity, and how much. "Pipe Restoration" in Britain, from what I've seen, pretty much means "Re-Manufacture." Nomenclature's sanded-buffed to oblivion, minor dents are sanded-buffed down past, and the whole pipe's refinished in a color it never was originally. There will be a special circle in lower purgatory for these people.

Outards :

Rim tar and general all-over stummel dirt : spit in a kleenex. Gently and let it dry in between passes. It's amazing (perhaps) how much of the original finish persists under the X-years' accumulation of hand grease, smoke &c. Occasional rubbing with an old, soft flannel shirt. (But you probably do that anyway).

Stem : Start with 400 grit wet-dry paper used wet. Go gently and let the abrasive in the paper do the work. Follow with 600, 1200 and then, if this is going to have a hobby appeal, micromesh. There's no way around that the brown stuff is oxidized and in need (if what you're after is black that looks like lucite) of removal. Or, once the visible abrasive scratches are gone, something like Savinelli Stem Polish (which is simply binstein -- a finely grained pumice -- in a base). To keep the button looking like a button (and not a jelly bean, which the basement commandos with buffing wheels specialize in, use a wooden or cardboard backing to keep it flat while you're following the contours of the button).

Be aware that if you do the stem off the pipe, you will end up rounding the shoulder of it where it meets the shank, creating a "panty-line" you can see from 20 feet away. Don't do that unless you don't care.

Tooth dents are generally areas of compression and can -- at least in theory -- be raised again. You can google around for this if it's of interest.

To keep it black, there is a patent nostrum called "Obsidian Stem Oil." Never used it but it's undoubtedly better than olive oil, which eventually turns nasty and smells. Not liking the taste of vulcanite (old OR new -- and the old, pre-1970s vulcanite is an order of magnitude superior to that used on any but the high-end artisan pipes of today), I cover the bite zone in transparent scotch tape and find it works very well. If that's too home-made-y for you, softee bits.

Stem oil CAN darken oxidized volcanite, and is much preferable around stamped stem logos to sanding them into oblivion.

There is NO way to get rid of actual char.

Innards :

Reaming you take for granted, and for the reason mentioned. My friends and I (believe it or not I have several) go down to black wood, as I/we value the taste the briar itself adds. Whether this is an easy job or one from hell depends on the previous smoker & tobacco. There is cake that approximates cement.

90% of the vile nastiness and ghosting in an "estate" pipe is in the shank, where moisture is slow to dry and mildew likes to grow. All the kosher salt & alcohol (which, as pointed out, is potentially dangerous and not really needed anyway) in the world inside the bowl doesn't address this.

If you're doing it the right way (and there is one), caked gunk in the shank is drilled out. By hand, slowly and gently, with a graduated set of drill bits (you need metrics and Englishes) until you're down to bald briar. You'll also want to make a special scraping tool to do the inner face of the headspace area between the tip of the tenon and the face of the briar.

Alcohol WILL soften much of it (as will simply smoking it), but while it's doing that, it's turning part of it into a varnish that penetrates the briar and can't then be removed other than by opening the i.d. of the airway through it. On old pipes that were drilled oversize to accomodate "fittaments" ("stingers"), kleenexes folded over 5 times lengthwise & then in half. Twisted into alcohol/smoking dampened headspaces, you can be amazed at what will keep coming out. (The longer it was smoked, the more residue there is in there).

Many ghosts (even some nasty ones like aromatics) will just smoke away with continued use. If you're of the Latakia persuasion, I'm told that it will help mask the nastiness while that's happening. But Lakeland ghosts (which I suspect are the bastard offspring of men's room urinal cakes and old lady floral shampoos) require Ozone. It's a dirt-cheap and 100% effective solution. The only drawback is the turn-around time (or at least it was the last time I had to resort to it). (No relation)

Patent Pipe Polish is just silicone in solution which will penetrate the finish, create an un-natural (and certainly unoriginal) high contrast staining and be un-removable. Yuck.

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Last edited by ElgarAlienPooh on Sat Aug 23, 2014 5:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How do you clean an estate pipe?

Post by gravel » Sat Aug 23, 2014 3:51 pm

Excellent post

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Re: How do you clean an estate pipe?

Post by bilder » Thu Nov 20, 2014 11:39 am

An alcohol retort will do wonders for cleaning a pipe. I made one awhile back and it made a world of difference in some of the estate pipes I thought were clean. It gets into the shank really well and gets rid of a bunch of the nasties in there. A test tube, some surgical tubing and a cork is about all you need. I use a candle to heat it up with.

My Christmas list this year is mainly asking for tools that I can use for cleaning pipes. May try my hand at learning pipe repair as well, but that is a distant thought for now.
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Re: How do you clean an estate pipe?

Post by Irish-Dane » Sat Apr 02, 2016 6:40 pm

I have 4 pipes loaded with a salt retort right now. Tomorrow the stems get their treatment.
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