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Identifying Stem Materials

(9 posts)
  • Started 1 week ago by alaskanpiper
  • Latest reply from mso489
  1. alaskanpiper

    alaskanpiper

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    All,

    Over the last few months I have acquired a few fun restoration projects that I am finally getting started on working on. This will require some deep cleanings on the stems of some Barlings, Grabows, Petersons, Castellos, and a wind capped Butz-Choquin. Right now I am working on removing decades worth of oxidation on many stems. Afterwords, I will need to clean them all inside. I have been told that alcohol based cleaners (which I use for all my shanks, etc. so far) should not be used on Acrylic stems. So my question is this: How does one tell what material a stem is made out of? They all just look like black plastic to me, so how do I know which ones are Acrylic vs. Vulcanite, Ebonite, Lucite, Kryptonite, Meteorite, etc?

    Once I get this figured out, it'll be back to youtube to learn how to sand out dings and scratches and refinish/stain briar. Let the journey begin....

    Thanks!

    "We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that death will tremble to take us." ---Hank

    "Yeah, well, you know that's just like, uh, your opinion, man..." --- The Dude
    Posted 1 week ago #
  2. chasingembers

    chasingembers

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    Rub the stem with your thumb until it's warm. If the stem smell like hot rubber it's ebonite/vulcanite if not, it's lucite/acrylic. Then there are other tests for amber, but doesn't sound like you need those yet.

    I like coffee exceedingly.
    - H. P. Lovecraft
    Posted 1 week ago #
  3. alaskanpiper

    alaskanpiper

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    Rub the stem with your thumb until it's warm. If the stem smell like hot rubber it's ebonite/vulcanite if not, it's lucite/acrylic. Then there are other tests for amber, but doesn't sound like you need those yet.

    Good to know! Every single one of them began to stink like burning rubber when I was using the magic eraser on the oxidation. Does that indicate Vulcanite?

    And yes, I have not begun to F with amber in any capacity whatsoever.

    Thanks!

    Posted 1 week ago #
  4. chasingembers

    chasingembers

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    Every single one of them began to stink like burning rubber when I was using the magic eraser on the oxidation. Does that indicate Vulcanite?

    That it does. Even the presence of oxidation indicates it. Acrylic doesn't oxidize.

    Posted 1 week ago #
  5. chasingembers

    chasingembers

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    Another test is tapping the back of your thumbnail on the stem. A dull tap=vulcanite and a sharp tap=acrylic.

    Posted 1 week ago #
  6. alaskanpiper

    alaskanpiper

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    That it does. Even the presence of oxidation indicates it. Acrylic doesn't oxidize.

    Well, that (as well as the thumb tap trick) is extremely helpful! Thank you, sir!

    Posted 1 week ago #
  7. chasingembers

    chasingembers

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    Always glad to help!

    Posted 1 week ago #
  8. burleyboy

    burleyboy

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    Another test: Acrylic / lucite should be slightly translucent. Ebonite / vulcanite isn't. If there is no sign of oxidation, I use a strong light source on a thin part of the mouthpiece to test this.

    Have fun refurbishing. It's a great part of pipe passion!

    Kind regards
    Julius
    Posted 1 week ago #
  9. mso489

    mso489

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    Not all plastic stems are acrylic or lucite. I consider those the up-scale plastics. Others are softer, or just different. Most name brand pipes that use plastic stems use acrylic or lucite. As for the non-lucite and non-acrylic, I'm not sure what they are, nor how you can identify them. Savinelli has a series called "Oscar Lucite," with lucite stems and, unlike many Sav pipes, no filter. Many factory pipes have shifted over to acrylic stems, as have a number of hand-carvers. They have a harder feel against the teeth, but don't oxidize which is a real plus over time. High end pipes tend toward sticking with Vulcanite and Ebonite, as a matter of tradition it would seem, and better feel against the teeth.

    Posted 6 days ago #

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