Vulcanite Stem Care

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New member
Sep 25, 2017
Well I've removed all the oxidization off of my stem with a baking soda paste. The problem now though is the stem is a matte black than a shiny black so it's in need of some polishing.So I ask what exactly should I do to polish it up? Should I use obsidian oil? Do I need to buy tools? What exactly?
Edited by jvnshr: Title capitalization.



Mar 20, 2017
Ontario, Canada
Alright, I'm going to tell you what I do and I can guarantee there will be at least three guys telling you I'm completely wrong. From the point you're at I use a dremel set to its lowest speed setting, with a 1" buffing pad. First I'll go over the stem with tripoly using the lightest touch possible. Then I go over the stem again with a different buffing wheel and mineral oil. Always produces a nice, like new shine.



Preferred Member
Aug 9, 2013
I think that the biggest problem with suggesting tools like Dremels or pocket knives for cake, or removing the stem while hot, is that we don't know the hand-eye skill level of who we are making the suggestion to. When I suggest it is ok to remove a stem from a warm pipe, and then a big gorilla of a dude uses his big meaty hands to just yank the thing out, then there is a problem. Or telling a guy to use a pocket knife to gently shave out the cake, and he pulls out a hacked up crappy convenience store knife and hacks at the bowl rim.

If you are going to master a Dremel, don't try your Dunnie or Becker as your first attempt... or do, for a valuable life experience, ha ha. But, don't blame me.
A wet micro mesh pad is almost ham handed safe. A newbie can easily pick them up and figure them out... easy enough for a gorilla to use, ha ha. Then I will coat mine with a touch of a microcrystalline wax, like Renaissance Wax, or a paste carnuba. The Ren Wax is warmed in your fingers and just worked in, massage it like a... well, just massage it in till it is coated. Then wipe it away after it has dried to a haze. Easy Peasy.



Preferred Member
Feb 21, 2013
For the real basics, be sure not to store your pipes in direct sun, like by a window; wipe the stem down vigorously after every smoke; use a polishing cloth or other slightly abrasive cloth from time to time. You can do more, if a stem needs it. In one case, with an estate pipe that would turn gray and grainy after each polishing and one smoke, I just replaced the stem with an acrylic.



Preferred Member
Nov 12, 2014
I never joke about pipe care. ChapStick is just as useful as mineral oil and obsidian oil.



Preferred Member
Oct 12, 2011
The best way to deal with vulcanite/ebonite is to buy pipes with acrylic stems instead
I agree. Getting to hate the above mentioned and opting for acrylic...



Preferred Member
May 8, 2017
Sugar Grove, IL, USA
I too prefer acrylic, since I'm not a clencher, but we often don't have a choice with estate pipes. Essentially, you need to sand them. You'll get them kind of shiny buffing them, but they will be a little pebbly and not super smooth. The micromesh brand abrasives are fantastic, but I strongly prefer the sheets over the pads. The pads are not very flexible and deteriorate much faster than the sheets. It's also harder to identify the grit of each pad. The pads are color coded while the sheets have the grit printed on the back. The sheets come with a semi-firm foam rubber sanding block. Although seemingly expensive, they are extremely durable. They're worth every cent. I bought mine at Woodcraft.



Preferred Member
Jun 5, 2017
Carmex in the little jar works wonders too. My tool kit includes a jar and one sits on my desk.



Preferred Member
Jul 11, 2014
I don't remember who it was, but on one of Brian Levine's radio shows a guy mentioned that he uses a little dab of toothpaste on a cloth to wipe his stems apres smoke. There's just enough mild abrasive to help maintain and clean the stem and it leaves them minty fresh! (or I guess you could go with cinnamon )



Preferred Member
May 13, 2017
Not sure about mineral oil.

According to the Environmental Working Group, mineral oil is derived from petroleum and may be contaminated with cancer-causing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Mineral oil aggravates acne and negatively impacts skin function, causing it to age prematurely
I always use vergin olive oil and have no problem, use a cloth to buff off.



Preferred Member
Oct 10, 2013
Chapstick/Carmex/Blistex all work fine.
Dremel: As with all buffing, a few tips are useful. First, you need a light touch. Pressing harder doesn't work better, it actually generates more heat, embeds the compound or wax and risks deforming the stem. Second, always keep the tool moving, do not dwell in one location. Third, alternate buffing direction by 45° periodically. Run in one direction for a short time, then tilt the direction 45°.
Micromesh works very well (perhaps even better, in the hands of a skilled restorer), but it is more labor intensive, and if you have arthritis in your hands that may be an issue.