Pipe makers that use water glass to coat bowls?

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sailortodd

Junior Member
Nov 2, 2011
76
0
I did a quick search here and more broadly across the internet, and couldn't find a list of manufacturers that are known to use water glass (sodium silicate) to coat their bowls. From my limited understanding, among bowl coatings, most are harmless, but water glass forms an impermeable barrier that would prevent water absorption and whatnot in the bowl, thus potentially negatively affecting the smoking characteristics of a pipe. In other words, a characteristic it would be preferable to avoid in a pipe. Anyone know of pipe makers confirmed to use a water glass coating?

 

sasquatch

Preferred Member
Jul 16, 2012
965
4
Show me data that suggests sodium silicate renders a surface impervious to moisture, and I'll provide a list of guys who use it.

 

sasquatch

Preferred Member
Jul 16, 2012
965
4
I take it back: dried and heated, liquid sodium silicate will provide a barrier.
That said, I'm not sure that the smoking characteristics of a pipe can be said with authority to deteriorate with such a barrier - surely oil cured pipes provide the same "problem".
Most makers will tell you what their bowl coating is made of.
And some guys don't coat at all, or so I hear.

 

georged

Preferred Member
Mar 7, 2013
2,598
5
I Googled "bowl coat"...
Not what I expected:
https://www.google.com/search?hl=en&site=imghp&tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=1858&bih=963&q=bowl+coat&oq=bowl+coat&gs_l=img.3..0i5i30j0i24.2318.4377.0.4851.9.9.0.0.0.0.160.639.8j1.9.0....0...1ac.1.64.img..0.9.638...0j0i8i30.oxuVZrsBDcE

 

frozenchurchwarden

Preferred Member
Mar 1, 2014
1,961
9
The permeability of the wood mostly doesn't affect smoking quality, at least not beyond the first few minutes.

People have done demonstrations to show that water barely penetrates the surface of Briar after a days of soaking, and it doesn't take long for the surface inside the shank to become saturated while smoking a pipe.

 

sablebrush52

Preferred Member
Jun 15, 2013
9,609
111
Hey Geroge, isn't silicate what you used to preserve the chamber walls of my 1920's Barling?

The consensus of pipe smokers regarding chamber coatings seems to be that there is no consensus.

 

georged

Preferred Member
Mar 7, 2013
2,598
5
Hey Geroge, isn't silicate what you used to preserve the chamber walls of my 1920's Barling?
Yes. A mix of waterglass and micro-powdered activated charcoal applied over its several heat-sunken areas (but only there). The least amount of coverage that would do the job.
The consensus of pipe smokers regarding chamber coatings seems to be that there is no consensus.
Truer words were never spoken. (OK, written :lol: )

 

sailortodd

Junior Member
Nov 2, 2011
76
0
I clearly stirred a hornet's nest I wasn't prepared to stir. The best/only information I have about water glass bowl coating is anecdotal from Greg Pease in his article "Bowl Coatings - The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Part II."
Many years ago, I acquired a well-used pipe made by a maker who used a waterglass coating. The pipe had been carefully smoked by its previous owner, whose taste in tobacco is similar to my own. When I got it, it had a fairly thin, beautifully maintained cake, and it had been meticulously cleaned. I filled it with a favourite mixture, and lit up, finding the resulting smoke to be off tasting. Interestingly, I also noticed that the shank built up moisture more rapidly than I usually experienced. Even a dozen bowls and thorough cleaning and reaming back to the walls did nothing to improve things.
To satisfy curiosity, and in the hopes of redeeming a beautiful pipe, I ended up cutting the chamber back to pristine, bare wood, not an easy task, and treated the pipe like a brand new one. The initial smokes tasted of virgin briar, and within a few bowls, the pipe was already smoking much better, with noticeably less moisture finding its way into the shank, reinforcing the hypothesis that the glass-like layer of silicate can, at least in some cases, interfere with the porosity of the briar, one characteristic of the best smoking pipes that is so highly prized. I’ve subsequently repeated the experiment with several other pipes, each time with similar results. Some people seem to get along just fine with these coatings. I, apparently, do not. Tobacco choice and taste preferences may play a role, here, but for me, for the tobaccos I prefer, for my smoking style, my tastes, leave the waterglass in the bottle, please.
As far as I can tell there is no solid data to back up the claim, but his experience swayed me.

 

sasquatch

Preferred Member
Jul 16, 2012
965
4
Well, all I will say is that most guys who coat (and I don't in general, I think it's stupid) do not do so thinking that it ruins their 1000 dollar pipe's performance.
Regarding porosity of briar.... it is VERY slow to soak up moisture, and if you cut an old pipe apart usually what you find is that the tars have wicked in about 1/2 a mm.
If GLP's thesis is correct, then oil-cured pipes should smoke horribly, and so should Castellos (in fact one of his favorites) because of the bowl and airway treatment they receive. Neither is the case, so I'll let the silicate coating off the hook re: moisture.

 

tmb152

Senior Member
Apr 26, 2016
392
0
I clearly stirred a hornet's nest I wasn't prepared to stir.
No, SailorTodd, you just got more of the increasingly typical smarmy responses from people in a group where "no question is supposed to be too stupid to answer" or something like that, not that there was anything wrong with the question. Maybe they are just tired of reading or have run out of better, more constructive things to say.
It just so happens that a good friend of mine was district manager just under the VP of the largest glass manufacturer in the country and I have a fairly extensive background in optics and lenses (glass), just to answer anyone who comes back to claim I "haven't a clue what I'm talking about." The problems and issues I see in a glass coating are:
1). It would have to be applied as molten glass not as an insert--- an insert would limit the design / shape of the bowl, require greater thinkness and then would allow separation from the wood or require a bonding agent most likely to be adversely affected by the heat of the flame.
2). It would have to be thick enough to prevent cracking from the stress of heating and cooling, especially uneven heat, plus cleaning, and that would be pretty thick--- maybe 1/8th inch at least? Likely more. And it would likely fail (crack) anyway after a time just from the repeated stress.
3). The thin coating you probably envisioned is impractical I believe for all of the above reasons, even if using a low-expansion substrate like the now discontinued Pyrex--- I am not sure if anyone else (the Chinese?) have bought/stolen/copied the Corning formulation.
4). As a molten glass lining the bowl, the temperature of molten glass and the need to raise the pipe to the same temperature, then anneal it slowly for hours would utterly destroy the pipe, plus there is the issue of creating / keeping the air hole for the smoke to pass into the stem.
For all of the reasons above, I think the idea, while good, is cost prohibitive and impractical, and probably unreliable. If done at all, it would have to be fairly thick and applied as an insert. It would have to be removable to allow replacement. While the glass would negate moisture and oils and tars from the tobacco from getting into the briar, I think if you want to go this route, it would be far more practical to simply use a hand-blown all glass pipe. I'm sure they still make those for smoking other things. ;^D But to be honest, I just don't think it worth the effort for as effective regular briar or meerschaum are.
Regards,

 

clickklick

Preferred Member
May 5, 2014
1,673
0
What of the above was smarmy?
This is a highly debated topic that some actually feel passionate about. There are some very well established names posting in this thread and it appears to me they are trying to stay neutral, as fact trumps opinion. There are very little proveable facts when it comes to this topic, and a whole swarm of opinions.
The consensus is, you either like it, or you don't.
I don't, and therefore, I don't use it on the pipes I make, nor do I buy pipes with bowl coatings. Although this is just my opinion and I present no facts regarding the use, smoking qualities, or benefits of coating the inside of the bowl with waterglass.

 

mso489

Preferred Member
Feb 21, 2013
25,940
112
Although the quantities involved are likely innocuous, silica is not something one wants to ingest or inhale. Most of my pipes came with a bowl coating, but it is always big points when they don't, and an uncoated bowl has never caused any problem for me. I appreciate the process of gently breaking in an uncoated bowl. The old timers used a little honey spread around the bowl of a pipe before it was smoked. I guess that baked a little glaze of sugar inside the bowl and protected the briar; anyway, it was/is a nice ritual. My independent pipe shop proprietor still offers that when he sells a pipe, which I think is commendable.

 

georged

Preferred Member
Mar 7, 2013
2,598
5
No, SailorTodd, you just got more of the increasingly typical smarmy responses from people in a group where "no question is supposed to be too stupid to answer" or something like that, not that there was anything wrong with the question. Maybe they are just tired of reading or have run out of better, more constructive things to say.
It just so happens that a good friend of mine was district manager just under the VP of the largest glass manufacturer in the country and I have a fairly extensive background in optics and lenses (glass), just to answer anyone who comes back to claim I "haven't a clue what I'm talking about." The problems and issues I see in a glass coating are:
1). It would have to be applied as molten glass not as an insert--- an insert would limit the design / shape of the bowl, require greater thinkness and then would allow separation from the wood or require a bonding agent most likely to be adversely affected by the heat of the flame.
2). It would have to be thick enough to prevent cracking from the stress of heating and cooling, especially uneven heat, plus cleaning, and that would be pretty thick--- maybe 1/8th inch at least? Likely more. And it would likely fail (crack) anyway after a time just from the repeated stress.
3). The thin coating you probably envisioned is impractical I believe for all of the above reasons, even if using a low-expansion substrate like the now discontinued Pyrex--- I am not sure if anyone else (the Chinese?) have bought/stolen/copied the Corning formulation.
4). As a molten glass lining the bowl, the temperature of molten glass and the need to raise the pipe to the same temperature, then anneal it slowly for hours would utterly destroy the pipe, plus there is the issue of creating / keeping the air hole for the smoke to pass into the stem.
For all of the reasons above, I think the idea, while good, is cost prohibitive and impractical, and probably unreliable. If done at all, it would have to be fairly thick and applied as an insert. It would have to be removable to allow replacement. While the glass would negate moisture and oils and tars from the tobacco from getting into the briar, I think if you want to go this route, it would be far more practical to simply use a hand-blown all glass pipe. I'm sure they still make those for smoking other things. ;^D But to be honest, I just don't think it worth the effort for as effective regular briar or meerschaum are.
Oh, the irony. :lol:
Especially this part:
It just so happens that a good friend of mine was district manager just under the VP of the largest glass manufacturer in the country and I have a fairly extensive background in optics and lenses (glass), just to answer anyone who comes back to claim I "haven't a clue what I'm talking about."
Waterglass is just a term. The semantic equivalent of two dimensional art's "impossible objects". It has nothing to do with sleeving a pipe bowl with a glass liner.
I love this place. :lol: :lol: :lol:

 

prairiedruid

Preferred Member
Jun 30, 2015
1,676
4
Grandmother used to put eggs in a water glass solution to preserve them for an extended period of time. Something like up to 10 months, just remove the egg and wash off the water glass; it made the egg feel slimey. Eggs were still tasty.

 

zack24

Preferred Member
May 11, 2013
1,726
0
I always use a coating unless it's a commission where they request it be bare...I didn't start using one, but then talked to a few guys like Jeff Gracik and looked at some of the top makers on Smoking Pipes- Chonowitsch, Ivarsson, Davis, Lindner, Florov, Askwith and Weaver...they all coat. (Yep- a few exceptions- most notably Kent Rasmussen who sands to maybe 1200 grit inside his bowls-which gores another canard that says finely sanded bowls don't build cake)
A coating is 2(sometimes 3 elements)- typically activated charcoal and a binder. The binder can be honey, sour cream, waterglass, or a couple of substances you probably don't want to know about. My first bowl coating I tried was full strength waterglass straight out of the bottle with activated charcoal- ended up too thick and tasted like crap. I've started using heavily thinned waterglass and activated charcoal. It takes at least 3 coats to build up enough to hide the grain- I haven't been able to detect a taste from that approach...
When I don't coat, I sand to 600 grit and call it a day...

 

tmb152

Senior Member
Apr 26, 2016
392
0
Sorry, my confusion. In hearing the OP talk of "water glass," I wrongly mistook him for referring to "water-white glass," and so was thinking along the lines of a crown glass, a true glass coating. My mistake. "Water glass" is just a hydrated silica, a reactive alkaloid in a chemically available form. Applied to line a pipe bowl, I do not think that would provide a complete barrier to moisture or tobacco oils, nor do I think it is anything I would want to be heating, puffing on and inhaling, personally. Then there is the matter of reaming the pipe.
I would expect that as the material expands and contracts with the briar, many microscopic fractures would form in the crystalline lattice, making it permeable enough to defeat the desired effect and I'm not sure "sealing" briar is a good thing anyway! Part of what I think makes briar so good is its ability to breathe.
To be honest, while all of my pipes came with a blackened interior to their bowls (except meers of course), one of my latest and best came totally untreated--- bare briar inside, it is one of the best pipes I've ever used and smoked--- great from the first bowl. Maybe the easiest to break in pipe I have ever had. After a few bowls, the insides were mostly blackened enough anyway to get rid of that bare wood look and everything I put in that pipe smokes just amazing, full of flavor and distinctiveness and no bite.
BTW whitewolf, great post above! Very informative reading.

 

tmb152

Senior Member
Apr 26, 2016
392
0
MSO, very interesting your comment about coating the untreated bowls with honey. My untreated pipe I broke in smoking mostly Virginias and I wonder if the sugars in them effected a similar process to the honey. Seems to have worked well.
Georged, yep, never heard anyone use the term "water glass" before for hydrated silica. Even products I have which have it in them, they call it hydrated silica. But by its very implication, that makes it soluble. Nothing I want in my pipe or lungs. I generally deal with glass from an optical POV and individuals and companies often use the term "water-white" glass to differentiate it from the cheaper soda-lime glasses. What many call "plate" glass.

 

ssjones

Moderator
Staff member
May 11, 2011
14,102
88
Maryland
I'm a fan of the bowl coatings that Zack describes (activated charcoal and a binder, sometimes gelatin) I'll take that any day over an uncoated bowl.
I've never tried a true water-glass coated bowl.
Stain dips like Peterson uses are awful tasting, but easily removed if desired.
I have an unsmoked, 50-couple year old Sasieni waiting on my shelf. It is "precarbed" which to my eye, looks like a bowl coating. That one gets smoked at the birth of the first grandchild, so I'll let you know of that experience.