Kinder gentler cleaning

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kane

Senior Member
Dec 2, 2014
429
0
Hello all,

I am sorry if I am going over already covered ground.....I am sure that I am as this is an important topic, but if you could address this it is much appreciated. I have inherited my Dad's pipe collection, these are mostly W.O. Larsens, Caminettos, Ascortis, and a few random pipes like a Briar Workshop freehand. Some of the pipes smoke nice, and some smoke bitter or sour, and some are clearly grunged-out. All of them have sentimental value to me and I do not want to risk damage to them, but I do want to get them to a state of good smoking pipes. I have read The Professor's Pipe-Sweetening Treatment with salt and alcohol and it sounds like a good way to do it, but I am worried about the disclaimer that it can damage a pipe's bowl. So, has anyone ever had a pipe damaged by the salt and alcohol treatment? I see some people do a cotton ball in place of the salt....any risk with this method, is it really safer than salt and alcohol? If doing the cotton balls, how much alcohol? Is it the same as the salt and alcohol method, like 8-10 drops, or do you saturate the cotton ball? Also, I have a bottle of Bacardi 151 rum handy......will this do, or should I really be using Ever Clear.....I have found denatured isopropyl alcohol hard to find, but could probably get Ever Clear...but why not 151?

Also, for restoring a vulcanized stem (some are nasty) with bleach, is it straight bleach, or do you dilute the bleach with water?

I want to get these pipes back in service,but do not want to risk any damage at all...if these were from Ebay, etc., I wouldn't care so much. but these are family.

Any advice is appreciated...this is my first time doing this and don't want to screw up.
Thank you,

Cliff

 

huntertrw

Preferred Member
Jul 23, 2014
3,858
0
The Lower Forty of Hill Country
kane:
I have used the salt-and-alcohol treatment on every estate pipe (a total of more than 60) which I have purchased, and have never had a problem as a result. I use coarse non-iodized salt and Everclear 190-proof grain alcohol, as it imparts no flavor.
First I cork the pipe's shank, fill the bowl to the rim with salt, and then apply the alcohol via a medicine-dropper until the level reaches the bowl's top. The pipe is then left undisturbed for a minimum of eight hours, after which I dump the soggy brown-tinged salt. I then wipe the inside of the bowl with paper towels, and thoroughly clean the shank using Ream-n-Kleen bristle pipe-cleaners followed by regular ones. Keep at this until they all come out clean. I then let the bowl air-dry for a minimum of 24-hours.
Each time the result has been a clean fresh pipe which I may then season with my own tobacco.
I hope that you find this information to be useful.

 

kane

Senior Member
Dec 2, 2014
429
0
Hunter,

thanks very much for the info and reassurance. Tried out one of the Larsens yesterday, but it tasted like an ashtray. Yuk.

 

huntertrw

Preferred Member
Jul 23, 2014
3,858
0
The Lower Forty of Hill Country
kane:
I just noticed that you also asked about Vulcanite stems. When restoring estate pipes I thoroughly scrub their stems using Bon Ami cleanser applied to a piece of paper towel wetted with warm water. This does a good job removing the oxidation on the exterior, and an old toothbrush is useful in getting the cleanser into the corners around the button. Bon Ami will not scratch the stem, but you will want to take care around any stamped nomenclature (e.g., logos, etc.) so as to not inadvertently diminish it. As for the inside of the stem, I use a good liquid dish soap and Bon Ami applied to Ream-n-Klean bristle pipe-cleaners, and keep at this until they come out with no staining.
Once the stem is scrubbed I will then treat it to a bath in straight chlorine bleach. This serves two purposes: removing additional oxidation, and sanitizing. If the stem has colored stamped nomenclature I will make certain that it is first COMPLETELY covered with a generous dab of petroleum jelly. I place the stem in a bowl, and then carefully add the bleach, allowing it to soak for five minutes. I then thoroughly rinse it using warm water, and again scrub the inside using Ream-n-Klean pipe-cleaners. Once the stem is dried I will wet a plain pipe-cleaner with Everclear, insert it, and leave it overnight. NOTE: If your stem has any aluminum (or other metal) or wooden trim, then DO NOT expose those parts to bleach as it will badly pit or be damaged.
Sometimes after bleaching the surface of the stem will be black, but rough. If this happens, then you may gently wet-sand them starting with 600-grit wet/dry paper, working your way to finer and finer grits until the appearance pleases you. Alternatively, you may gently buff the stem using a bench-top buffer and red rouge. In either case, the key is to use a LIGHT hand, and be careful to avoid any stamped nomenclature. The goal is to polish the stem while removing as little Vulcanite as possible, and I STRONGLY recommend practicing on some junk stems before tackling those on your good pipes. Once polished, I finish with Carnauba wax.
Again, I hope that you find this information to be useful.

 

sablebrush52

Preferred Member
Jun 15, 2013
9,594
85
There is an alternative method to the SA, which is to replace the salt with cotton balls. It's works as well, though you may need to add an extra treatment or two. I've not experienced any problems with the traditional method, though some claim that it can occasionally cause a crack.
I would not use bleach as it really pits the vulcanite. A number of restorers, including Walker Pipe Repair, say never use bleach. Even those restorers who do use bleach never advocate using it full strength. THere are other methods that will give you a fine gloss without having to start with a pitted surface and a pitted airway. Look into micromesh pads.

 

huntertrw

Preferred Member
Jul 23, 2014
3,858
0
The Lower Forty of Hill Country
sablebrush52:
Thank-you for the information. Where might I purchase micro-mesh pads?
Regarding the use of bleach, I find that sometimes it does roughen the surface of Vulcanite, and other times not. Are there different grades of that material which might explain this? Also, in the absence of bleach how do you sanitize estate stems? Please let me know.

 

kane

Senior Member
Dec 2, 2014
429
0
Thanks again, Gents, for the excellent info and guidance.

FWIW, I believe the vulcanized rubber is the same or similar to what many saxophone mouthpieces are made of, usually called hard rubber mouthpieces. Amongst saxophone players, a common practice to restore the look of a mouthpiece is to soak it overnight in olive oil. I recall doing that with a mouthpiece, and while it made the mouthpiece look nice afterward it soon discolored again.

 

huntertrw

Preferred Member
Jul 23, 2014
3,858
0
The Lower Forty of Hill Country
kane:
Vulcanite contains sulfur, and that is what causes the oxidative discoloration and bad taste after pipe-stems and similar objects are exposed over time to light. The key is to remove this oxidation. To that end sablebrush52's suggestion certainly sounds "kinder and gentler" than my bleach method. Hopefully he will explain further how this works.

 

phil67

Preferred Member
Dec 14, 2013
2,052
0
Bar Keepers Friend is also great stuff for cleaning vulcanite stems. Non-abrasive and contains no bleach. It does take a bit of elbow grease, but it works. Once the stems are clean and polished just place a dab of ChapStick on it and rub it over the entire stem. Protects the stem from oxidation as it contains an anti-oxidant. As for the salt and alcohol treatment I've never had a problem thus far. By all means opt for the Everclear if you can get it. Personally, I hate isopropyl alcohol for cleaning pipes and will never use it.

 

kane

Senior Member
Dec 2, 2014
429
0
Gotta love those Lucite stems. Out of this collection, all of the vulcanized rubber stems are discolored, and all of the Lucite stems look new, except for teeth marks. And for the teeth marks, many of the vulcanized rubber stems have holes in the bit from clenching, yet no holes in the Lucite bits. Old Pops had quite a bite!

 

mcitinner1

Preferred Member
Apr 5, 2014
4,044
0
Missouri
Hunter search online hobby supplies for micro mesh pads. I had the sight saved but deleted it accidently.
edit...I googled micro mesh pads, and got a bunch of sites that carry them. I use them up to 12000 grit. They will give you a surface smooth as glass.

 

ssjones

Moderator
Staff member
May 11, 2011
14,092
70
Maryland
I used a very mild Oxyclean solution to soak problem stems, then I use that mixture as the water with the wet paper and micromesh sheets.
Rockler on Amazon sells Micromesh in pads and sheets. I prefer the 2x3 (or so) larger sheets.
http://www.amazon.com/Micro-Mesh-Micro-Mesh-12-000/dp/B001F7LVNC
The Reborn Pipes blog details all of the necessary steps and these materials.
http://rebornpipes.com/about/
Good luck, I'll look forward to seeing your restored pipes!

 

sablebrush52

Preferred Member
Jun 15, 2013
9,594
85
I have company over for the weekend so I haven't had the opportunity to reply. Here's a quick one. Be back on in a couple of days.
I use the micromesh pads to first remove the build of up of oxidation and "mouth crud" and then work my way through the finer grits to achieve a glass like shine. During the stages I alternate the direction by which I sand so that I don't introduce any sanding pattern into the finish as I go along. The final few stages are a wet sanding process. What I like about this is that I not only get a completely clean and polished result, I can control the angle of contact and thus reduce softening details like faceting on a fancy cut stem, or losing the button shape.
In addition to the exterior cleaning I'll also thoroughly scrub out the airway with high proof alcohol, though not denatured. To soften up deposits initially I'll thoroughly soak a cleaner, insert it into the airway, and leave it in there for an hour before scrubbing. I repeat with more alcohol dipped wire cleaners until the interior is clean. To polish the airway you can take a pipe cleaner, attach it to a dremel, add a bit of polishing compound, and polish the interior of the airway.
Once I have a clean, sanitized, and polished stem, I coat it with either Paragon or Halcyon Wax to protect it against air and use. After each day's use I'll clean the stem inside and out. A little preventative care works wonders over the long term.
Micromesh pad kits are available at any decent hobby shop.

 

huntertrw

Preferred Member
Jul 23, 2014
3,858
0
The Lower Forty of Hill Country
sablebrush52:
Thank-you for the information, and for teaching this old dog some new tricks! There is a Rockler store nearby, so I'll check with them concerning the availability of micromesh pads. They sound like something akin to the nylon-screen-like strips which are used in sanding cured drywall compound.
I also like your idea of polishing the stem's lumen using a pipe-cleaner attached to my Dremel Rotary Tool; that is one I had never though of. I imagine that it would make subsequent cleanings easier, as there would be minimal-to-no nooks and crannies to hold tar.

 

mcitinner1

Preferred Member
Apr 5, 2014
4,044
0
Missouri
http://www.amazon.com/Micro-Mesh-Assortment-Pack-18-Pieces/dp/B00HJC156U/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1419112180&sr=8-3&keywords=micromesh+12000
Hunter here's the pads on Amazon. They have a flexible thickness to them that are good for folding.
They also come in lower number grits too. 200 thru 1200.

 

kane

Senior Member
Dec 2, 2014
429
0
After posting a few days ago I took the pipe in question (the one that made my Dunhill Standard Mixture taste like an ashtray) and cleaned the shank and stem with pipe cleaners soaked in Bacardi 151 and scrubbed the bit with toothpaste. Let it dry out, and am smoking the same pipe with the same tobacco right now.....huge improvement!

I look forward to aquiring some Ever Clear, Micro Mesh, and cleaners and polish and doing a full job on these pipes. Cleaning the shank, stem, and bit really helped. The pipe smokes much sweeter than before.