Feeding your pipes

Pipe and other hardware related discussions
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Feeding your pipes

Post by Monarchist » Fri Jan 17, 2014 9:55 pm

When I had my wood shop, one of the things I used to do was oil those pieces that were not finished with a hard finish, i.e. shelacked, polyurethamed, etc. Linseed oil, mineral oil, etc. were meant to feed the wood and prevent drying out which can cause wood to warp, split, etc., despite having been kiln dried, seasoned, etc.
Does anyone do this for their pipes? I use mineral oil to feed the wood of my pipes, which as we all know are subjected to heat which can dry the wood out. What do you think?
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Post by Rusty » Fri Jan 17, 2014 11:13 pm

Nope. Think about it for a moment... The pipe makers invest up to ten years in air-drying briar & sometimes more. And then we smoke them feeding them tars, tobacco byproducts, saliva and lots of moisture. So they're not dry anymore and smoking them most certainly doesn't dry them. Well smoked pipes are loaded already and they taste like tobacco. Some of us rest them so that they dry out a bit because they're quite moist.
But you think they're too dry. So they need more feeding with mineral oil.

I think it's pointless but you're a bit obsessive so do enjoy yourself. Mineral oil is probably almost inert & unless it's perfumed it should be odorless so I imagine it doesn't matter very much. Knock yourself out.

You should find some nice meerschaums. You can play with bees wax and colouring. You'd enjoy that I think. This is an obsessive's dream and it actually does something! Wow.
Last edited by Rusty on Fri Jan 17, 2014 11:29 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Post by mont974x4 » Fri Jan 17, 2014 11:25 pm

Do pipes have an "angels share" like whiskey barrels?
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Post by Rusty » Fri Jan 17, 2014 11:32 pm

mont974x4 wrote:Do pipes have an "angels share" like whiskey barrels?
They have a lot more than that. Old well used pipes are usually considered disgusting, because they're loaded and smelly, by all except the smoker and he loves them. Burning tobacco in them is optional at that point really. They've reached saturation.
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Post by A_Morley » Sat Jan 18, 2014 2:12 am

This thread inspires in me an inexplicable rage.
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Post by coco » Sat Jan 18, 2014 7:44 am

While this is not written about pipes, I think is is relevant:
Bob Flexner, [i]Understanding Wood Finishing: How to Select and Apply the Right Finish,[/i] page 234 wrote:Myth: Furniture polish replaces the natural oils in wood (or "feeds the wood")

Fact: There are no natural oils in common furniture woods, and they don't need feeding. Only a few exotics, such as teak and rosewood, contain oil, and the oil in these woods doesn't need replacing (especially not with petroleum oil).... The purpose of the finish is to keep liquids, such as oil, soft drinks, perspiration, and water out of the wood. If your finish is in good shape, furniture polish shouldn't be able to get to the wood at all.
(emphasis mine)

I don't think that pipes or other wood products need to be fed, though the perception that they do persists among many woodworkers. Unlike leather, which will loose its natural oils over time, wood will remain stable without us replenishing anything.
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Post by Monarchist » Sat Jan 18, 2014 8:09 am

Honestly, Rusty, If you're going to dispense psychological evaluations along with your pipe advice, don't give it away free, charge for it. Otherwise, people won't take you seriously.
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Post by Monarchist » Sat Jan 18, 2014 8:46 am

coco wrote:While this is not written about pipes, I think is is relevant:
Bob Flexner, [i]Understanding Wood Finishing: How to Select and Apply the Right Finish,[/i] page 234 wrote:Myth: Furniture polish replaces the natural oils in wood (or "feeds the wood")

Fact: There are no natural oils in common furniture woods, and they don't need feeding. Only a few exotics, such as teak and rosewood, contain oil, and the oil in these woods doesn't need replacing (especially not with petroleum oil).... The purpose of the finish is to keep liquids, such as oil, soft drinks, perspiration, and water out of the wood. If your finish is in good shape, furniture polish shouldn't be able to get to the wood at all.
(emphasis mine)


I don't think that pipes or other wood products need to be fed, though the perception that they do persists among many woodworkers. Unlike leather, which will loose its natural oils over time, wood will remain stable without us replenishing anything.

I don't agree in the least. Go ahead and get yourself some scrap oak, walnut, cedar, etc., and then tool the hell out of them either with a sander, or a table saw, a drill, whatever. Work it until it starts to smoke. Notice the difference in smell? That's the various oils in the wood.

Second, go look around some old dump or abandoned farm for old ultra distressed furniture. I've seen plenty. It all began as nicely kiln or air dried lumber at spec. Over time changes in ambient air temp and humidity (T/H) will undo the best drying job if the wood is not protected. Wood is like a sponge it can store moisture or release it depending on environmental conditions.

Jumping Jupiter! These are all things they made us learn all the way back in junior high shop, before they ever let us near the tools.

Back in the days of rifles with wooden stocks, the military appreciated this fact. When you were issued your weapon, you also drew your barracks cleaning kit with solvent (usually plain gasoline) and went to work removing the cosmoline from it. You also drew a measure of linseed oil for the stock. Along with cleaning your weapon, oiling the stock was part of the regular routine of maintenance. Otherwise, the wood could easily warp, making hitting your target nearly impossible. The effect of T/H on wood even in minute amounts is why marksmen glass bed their stocks.

Now where pipes are concerned, I would have assumed that they are affected by these same forces, regardless of how long the briar was dried. Don't tell me that the carnauba wax pipe makers apply to their product is purely for achieving a shine! I wonder how many broken stummels, cracked bowls, etc., are due to the briar being desiccated at time of manufacture and then reabsorbing, then shedding moisture, over and over its lifetime?
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Post by Rusty » Sat Jan 18, 2014 9:25 am

Monarchist wrote:Honestly, Rusty, If you're going to dispense psychological evaluations along with your pipe advice, don't give it away free, charge for it. Otherwise, people won't take you seriously.
That will be 50 cents, please. :lol:

I'm kind of hard line on not applying stuff to briar. I'm stingy applying alcohol too. I think S & A treatments are an assault. I avoid all this stuff. Be conservative with your pipes.

Cracks & burned fractured rims were much more common when people smoked one pipe day in and day out together with bad handling habits like banging the pipe rim on hard surfaces. We don't do that. We also distribute the wear and smoking load over many more pipes. I've been smoking pipes for over 40 years and I still have all but the ones that suffered a bad accident that destroyed them. I've learned through experience that we can reduce the wear and tear and not have to do radical things to them. That's what keeping them in socks about, and not banging them, distributing the load across many pipes, and be conservative with them. It all works.

But I do like bees wax and playing with meerschaums. You should purge your desire to play with those. They actually do quite well with bees wax applied. I have one meerschaum that was dropped and it cracked rather than shatter (it was luck) and the bees wax apparently prevented any more growth or opening in the crack. I was delighted to discover that.
Last edited by Rusty on Sat Jan 18, 2014 9:30 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by mont974x4 » Sat Jan 18, 2014 9:29 am

Rusty wrote:
Monarchist wrote:Honestly, Rusty, If you're going to dispense psychological evaluations along with your pipe advice, don't give it away free, charge for it. Otherwise, people won't take you seriously.
That will be 50 cents, please. :lol:

I'm kind of hard line on not applying stuff to briar. I'm stingy applying alcohol too. I think S & A treatments are an assault. I avoid all this stuff. Be conservative with your pipes.

Cracks & burned fractured rims were much more common when people smoked one pipe day in and day out together with bad handling habits like banging the pipe rim on hard surfaces. We don't do that. We also distribute the wear and smoking load over many more pipes. I've been smoking pipes for over 40 years and I still have all but the ones that suffered a bad accident that destroyed them. I've learned through experience that we can reduce the wear and tear and not have to do radical things to them. That's what keeping them in socks about, and not banging them, distributing the load across many pipes, and be conservative with them. It all works.
Lucy only charges $.5
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Post by Rusty » Sat Jan 18, 2014 9:31 am

mont974x4 wrote:
Rusty wrote:
Monarchist wrote:Honestly, Rusty, If you're going to dispense psychological evaluations along with your pipe advice, don't give it away free, charge for it. Otherwise, people won't take you seriously.
That will be 50 cents, please. :lol:

I'm kind of hard line on not applying stuff to briar. I'm stingy applying alcohol too. I think S & A treatments are an assault. I avoid all this stuff. Be conservative with your pipes.

Cracks & burned fractured rims were much more common when people smoked one pipe day in and day out together with bad handling habits like banging the pipe rim on hard surfaces. We don't do that. We also distribute the wear and smoking load over many more pipes. I've been smoking pipes for over 40 years and I still have all but the ones that suffered a bad accident that destroyed them. I've learned through experience that we can reduce the wear and tear and not have to do radical things to them. That's what keeping them in socks about, and not banging them, distributing the load across many pipes, and be conservative with them. It all works.
Lucy only charges $.5
Note to the numerically challenged $.5 is 50 cents.
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Post by mont974x4 » Sat Jan 18, 2014 9:34 am

Rusty wrote:
mont974x4 wrote:
Rusty wrote:
Monarchist wrote:Honestly, Rusty, If you're going to dispense psychological evaluations along with your pipe advice, don't give it away free, charge for it. Otherwise, people won't take you seriously.
That will be 50 cents, please. :lol:

I'm kind of hard line on not applying stuff to briar. I'm stingy applying alcohol too. I think S & A treatments are an assault. I avoid all this stuff. Be conservative with your pipes.

Cracks & burned fractured rims were much more common when people smoked one pipe day in and day out together with bad handling habits like banging the pipe rim on hard surfaces. We don't do that. We also distribute the wear and smoking load over many more pipes. I've been smoking pipes for over 40 years and I still have all but the ones that suffered a bad accident that destroyed them. I've learned through experience that we can reduce the wear and tear and not have to do radical things to them. That's what keeping them in socks about, and not banging them, distributing the load across many pipes, and be conservative with them. It all works.
Lucy only charges $.5
Note to the numerically challenged $.5 is 50 cents.

You're right. Should be. $.05.

Have mercy on me. I'm on my first cup of coffee.
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Post by Rusty » Sat Jan 18, 2014 9:50 am

mont974x4 wrote:
Rusty wrote:
mont974x4 wrote:
Rusty wrote:
Monarchist wrote:Honestly, Rusty, If you're going to dispense psychological evaluations along with your pipe advice, don't give it away free, charge for it. Otherwise, people won't take you seriously.
That will be 50 cents, please. :lol:

I'm kind of hard line on not applying stuff to briar. I'm stingy applying alcohol too. I think S & A treatments are an assault. I avoid all this stuff. Be conservative with your pipes.

Cracks & burned fractured rims were much more common when people smoked one pipe day in and day out together with bad handling habits like banging the pipe rim on hard surfaces. We don't do that. We also distribute the wear and smoking load over many more pipes. I've been smoking pipes for over 40 years and I still have all but the ones that suffered a bad accident that destroyed them. I've learned through experience that we can reduce the wear and tear and not have to do radical things to them. That's what keeping them in socks about, and not banging them, distributing the load across many pipes, and be conservative with them. It all works.
Lucy only charges $.5
Note to the numerically challenged $.5 is 50 cents.

You're right. Should be. $.05.

Have mercy on me. I'm on my first cup of coffee.
Mercy it is. But as penitence you should tell me what the sum of all the whole numbers is ie 1 + 2 +3 +4 +.... etc. What's the answer?
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Post by Pepik » Sat Jan 18, 2014 9:51 am

A_Morley wrote:This thread inspires in me an inexplicable rage.
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Post by coco » Sat Jan 18, 2014 10:01 am

Monarchist wrote:
coco wrote:While this is not written about pipes, I think is is relevant:
Bob Flexner, [i]Understanding Wood Finishing: How to Select and Apply the Right Finish,[/i] page 234 wrote:Myth: Furniture polish replaces the natural oils in wood (or "feeds the wood")

Fact: There are no natural oils in common furniture woods, and they don't need feeding. Only a few exotics, such as teak and rosewood, contain oil, and the oil in these woods doesn't need replacing (especially not with petroleum oil).... The purpose of the finish is to keep liquids, such as oil, soft drinks, perspiration, and water out of the wood. If your finish is in good shape, furniture polish shouldn't be able to get to the wood at all.
(emphasis mine)


I don't think that pipes or other wood products need to be fed, though the perception that they do persists among many woodworkers. Unlike leather, which will loose its natural oils over time, wood will remain stable without us replenishing anything.

I don't agree in the least. Go ahead and get yourself some scrap oak, walnut, cedar, etc., and then tool the hell out of them either with a sander, or a table saw, a drill, whatever. Work it until it starts to smoke. Notice the difference in smell? That's the various oils in the wood.

Second, go look around some old dump or abandoned farm for old ultra distressed furniture. I've seen plenty. It all began as nicely kiln or air dried lumber at spec. Over time changes in ambient air temp and humidity (T/H) will undo the best drying job if the wood is not protected. Wood is like a sponge it can store moisture or release it depending on environmental conditions.

Jumping Jupiter! These are all things they made us learn all the way back in junior high shop, before they ever let us near the tools.

Back in the days of rifles with wooden stocks, the military appreciated this fact. When you were issued your weapon, you also drew your barracks cleaning kit with solvent (usually plain gasoline) and went to work removing the cosmoline from it. You also drew a measure of linseed oil for the stock. Along with cleaning your weapon, oiling the stock was part of the regular routine of maintenance. Otherwise, the wood could easily warp, making hitting your target nearly impossible. The effect of T/H on wood even in minute amounts is why marksmen glass bed their stocks.

Now where pipes are concerned, I would have assumed that they are affected by these same forces, regardless of how long the briar was dried. Don't tell me that the carnauba wax pipe makers apply to their product is purely for achieving a shine! I wonder how many broken stummels, cracked bowls, etc., are due to the briar being desiccated at time of manufacture and then reabsorbing, then shedding moisture, over and over its lifetime?
Please don't read anything that follows in an adversarial tone.

First, I would like to affirm that wood degrades with radical changes in environmental humidity. A properly dried (air or kiln) piece of lumber will reach an equilibrium with its environment over time via moisture exchange. The cell walls will gradually expand over time as it is exposed to a humid environment and the cells absorb moisture. Likewise, the cells will shrink if they are in a dry environment, given enough time. This expansion and shrinkage can make the wood split and warp over time, and it can cause joint failure in mortise and tenon joinery.

Second, how do we fix it? We can help prevent moisture exchange in environments that rapidly change humidity by use of a plasticized film finish such as polyurethane. Imagine an environment that has high humidity for a month or so, and then low, and then high again, and so on. Polyurethane can help things, since it is resistant (though certainly not impervious) to moisture exchange. It will slow down moisture exchange enough that maybe by the time the wood begins to get higher in humidity, the environmental humidity will have gone down again. However, even twenty coats of polyurethane can't stop moisture exchange altogether. Let's say that you build a tabletop with an expanse of boards running in one direction, and an expanse of boards running in the other direction, with the two sets of boards firmly glued together. Over time, no matter how much poly you put on there, disaster is sure to come as the two sets of boards expand and contract.

That brings us to oil finishes. They don't work as well as polyurethane does at preventing moisture exchange:
Flexner, page 50 wrote:Myth #2: Oil finishes penetrate into the wood and protect the wood from the inside.
Fact: The penetrating qualities of oil finishes are of very little significance in protecting wood.
Flexner, page 53 wrote:It's myth that linseed oil applied in any manner is a durable finish. A linseed oil finish is too thin and soft to protect well against heat, stains, or wear. And linseed oil, no matter how you apply it, or how many coats you apply, is quickly and easily penetrated by water and water vapor.
Wax, regrettably, is much the same:
Flexner, page 229 wrote:Wax, applied thin as a polish, has no significant retarding effect on moisture exchange.
So, we might achieve some success prevent moisture exchange with polyurethane, were we willing to use many coats on the outside and inside of the pipe. That doesn't sound like fun at all to me.

Another idea would be to circumvent oil's tendency to stay only at the surface of the pipe [EDIT: while the pipe was being made]...
Flexner, page 53 wrote:Oil finishes are penetrating finishes, and they are sometimes marketed as protecting the wood from the inside. They are contrasted with film finishes, such as shellac, lacquer, varnish, and water base, which protect the wood by building a film on the surface of the wood. To assess the accuracy of the claim that penetrating finishes protect from the inside, you need to understand how penetration occurs and what value it has (or does not have) in protecting wood.

Liquids penetrate wood by means of capillary action. It's the same way that water and nutrients rise in the live tree. It doesn't matter whether the liquid is on the top, on the side, or on the bottom of the wood. If it is in contact with the wood, the liquid will work its way through the wood channels.

The trick to achieving deep penetration is to keep the surface of the wood wet for a while. You can put a straight-grained piece of wood into a jar containing about an inch of oil finish, and the finish will work its way through the wood and come out the top.

But what good does penetration do? Very little. [skip long discourse on surface protection...] The only possible advantage gained by filling the wood with finish is to stabilize the wood from shrinkage and swelling caused by water-vapor exchange. You plasticize the wood by filling all the cavities with cured finish.
Interestingly enough, Dunhill used to "oil-cure" their briar.
Here's the next problem: If you have a nice, open-grained wood like white oak, capillary action can saturate the wood with oil quickly. Closed-grained woods and woods that are very hard (read: briar) take much longer.

Dunhill had a long process, and reported that a lot of briars cracked during the process. After curing, however, they said the briars were less likely to crack that untreated briars.

Another way of going about it, taken from woodturning, would be to use a pressure pot to force oil into the briar. The briar, submerged in oil, could be introduced to a vacuum for a while (a couple hours should do it), so that the air came out of it, and then introduced to high pressure for a longer period of time (say, a day or so). This, hypothetically, would be enough to force the oil to spread throughout the entire briar, making moisture exchange much less of an issue.

Two tests would then be nice:

1) Cut a treated piece of briar in half to make sure that he oil did indeed penetrate everywhere.

2) Compare oil-cured pipes to non-oil-cured pipes over time.
Last edited by coco on Sat Jan 18, 2014 12:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by Rusty » Sat Jan 18, 2014 10:17 am

Just a quick note on the oil curing...

Oil curing and the application oils to cure the briar and remove the tannins and other stuff is not the same as applying later in the pipe's life.

Ashton-Taylor also said that he never saw oil baths for their briar in his entire time at Dunhill though it was accepted that they once did and that was the origin of making Ashton pipes with character.

Also that Smokingpipes article appears to have been discredited by photos of Dunhill's pipe making shop. There are no fraizing machines in evidence, nor oil baths. It looks like that they built pipes just like Charatan and all the rest of the old makers in England - they turned the stummels on a Lathe and may have have had shape guides too. Just looking at their shop pics is informative. They've never actually said that they oil cure or that buy pre-made stummels etc. So there is a lot of myth mixed with truth with them.
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Post by coco » Sat Jan 18, 2014 10:23 am

Rusty wrote:Just a quick note on the oil curing...

Oil curing and the application oils to cure the briar and remove the tannins and other stuff is not the same as applying later in the pipe's life.

Ashton-Taylor also said that he never saw oil baths for their briar in his entire time at Dunhill though it was accepted that they once did and that was the origin of making Ashton pipes with character.

Also that Smokingpipes article appears to have been discredited by photos of Dunhill's pipe making shop. There are no fraizing machines in evidence, nor oil baths. It looks like that they built pipes just like Charatan and all the rest of the old makers in England - they turned the stummels on a Lathe and may have have had shape guides too. Just looking at their shop pics is informative. They've never actually said that they oil cure or that buy pre-made stummels etc. So there is a lot of myth mixed with truth with them.
I was thinking about pipe making, not on finished pipes. But I didn't properly announce my change in direction.

Do you think that oil-curing would help make a better pipe?
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Post by Roadmaster » Sat Jan 18, 2014 10:31 am

coco wrote:
Rusty wrote:Just a quick note on the oil curing...

Oil curing and the application oils to cure the briar and remove the tannins and other stuff is not the same as applying later in the pipe's life.

Ashton-Taylor also said that he never saw oil baths for their briar in his entire time at Dunhill though it was accepted that they once did and that was the origin of making Ashton pipes with character.

Also that Smokingpipes article appears to have been discredited by photos of Dunhill's pipe making shop. There are no fraizing machines in evidence, nor oil baths. It looks like that they built pipes just like Charatan and all the rest of the old makers in England - they turned the stummels on a Lathe and may have have had shape guides too. Just looking at their shop pics is informative. They've never actually said that they oil cure or that buy pre-made stummels etc. So there is a lot of myth mixed with truth with them.
I was thinking about pipe making, not on finished pipes. But I didn't properly announce my change in direction.

Do you think that oil-curing would help make a better pipe?

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Post by Rusty » Sat Jan 18, 2014 10:35 am

coco wrote:
Rusty wrote:Just a quick note on the oil curing...

Oil curing and the application oils to cure the briar and remove the tannins and other stuff is not the same as applying later in the pipe's life.

Ashton-Taylor also said that he never saw oil baths for their briar in his entire time at Dunhill though it was accepted that they once did and that was the origin of making Ashton pipes with character.

Also that Smokingpipes article appears to have been discredited by photos of Dunhill's pipe making shop. There are no fraizing machines in evidence, nor oil baths. It looks like that they built pipes just like Charatan and all the rest of the old makers in England - they turned the stummels on a Lathe and may have have had shape guides too. Just looking at their shop pics is informative. They've never actually said that they oil cure or that buy pre-made stummels etc. So there is a lot of myth mixed with truth with them.
I was thinking about pipe making, not on finished pipes. But I didn't properly announce my change in direction.

Do you think that oil-curing would help make a better pipe?
If by better pipe you mean more resistant to cracks and other later life issues then I don't think so. But that's opinion and I'll expand on why I think this.

My oil cured pipes are the same as the air cured on this issue. They're wearing the same as air-cured pipes but nothing has cracked on any of them. The oil vs air curing is really two-sided. First, oil curing results in a reduction in investment in briar inventory and holding time for a manufacturer vs another process & maybe more equipment in the shop. Second, oil curing is a feature that suggests character and it has slight marketing advantage. With the Algerian briar that Dunhill used it did also harden the briar after the whole process and that's in the patent write-up I think. But the same Algerian briar was common among air-cured manufacturers as well (eg Barling, Charatan, and others likely). It's likely that their pipes, made of Algerian, survive in proportion to their manufacturing quantities and nothing else. We see old pipes from them all. It's not like we only see oil-cured pipes.
Last edited by Rusty on Sat Jan 18, 2014 10:37 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by DepartedLight » Sat Jan 18, 2014 10:36 am

When I finish a bowl I use the oils from my face and rub it in on most occasions. The tobacconist I used to work for way back when showed it me. Don't know if it helps, but it puts a nice matte finish on old briars.
DL Jake

you win the sneakiness award. » Bloodhound

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