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Stem Fitment Fluctuation (Humidity Related?)

(7 posts)
  • Started 9 months ago by bluegrassbrian
  • Latest reply from franklyn22
  1. bluegrassbrian

    bluegrassbrian

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    To preface, I keep my pipes and ephemera in my basement. It's unfinished but furnished. The temperature stays pretty consistent but the humidity fluctuates depending on the outside weather.

    Within the last month humidity levels have increased. In that same period I've had 3 pipes that normally have snug stem fitment loosen up. Like, the stem removes effortlessly.. almost falls out.

    2 Dunhill Shells, and an almost 100 year old Reiss-Premier.. coincidentally all black Sandblast.

    Now it seems to me that logic would dictate higher humidity would lead to TIGHTER stem fitment, not LOOSER.
    None of my other pipes have changed noticeably.

    What's going on here?

    Tobacco's a help because it clears the mind
    But like all your friends it is vilified
    They always say, the right amount's fine
    Posted 9 months ago #
  2. sasquatch

    sasquatch

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    High humidity (ambient) will make the wood swell a little. Therefore the entire mortise expands (think of the iron ball/ring experiment where if you heat the ring, it will pass over the ball, but if the ring is cold it won't fit).

    "Why does my pipe stem get tighter if I smoke it?" well, same thing, the wood expands, but only the wood INside the mortise, the outside of the pipe does not get bigger, so there is a tightening effect very locally on the tenon when you smoke a pipe.

    So a real dry pipe will be a tight fit, a pipe in high humidity will be a loose fit, and a recently smoked pipe, paradoxically will be a tight fit as well, temporarily.

    Posted 9 months ago #
  3. bluegrassbrian

    bluegrassbrian

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    That makes more sense.
    I wasn't considering that high humidity would affect the entirety of the wood, not just the inside of the mortise.

    For a pipe to be that radically affected it seems perhaps the briar would have to be very well cured and porous at the microscopic level.

    Posted 9 months ago #
  4. craiginthecorn

    craiginthecorn

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    Yeah, it's counterintuitive, but true. Humidity expands the entire mortise, making stems loose. I have sometimes used low heat for extended periods as part of a process to eliminate mildew smells. Of course, this dries the briar and shrinks the mortise as a consequence. I always need to wait at least a week for the briar to rehumidify in order to re-mount the stems safely.

    Posted 9 months ago #
  5. mso489

    mso489

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    I've had stems loosen and then tighten nicely on their own, from humidity I assume. These are well-broken in pipes that have never had loose stems before or since.

    Posted 9 months ago #
  6. anthony416

    anthony416

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    There are many variables that could come into play depending upon the combination of heat/humidity, including the different coefficient of expansion of two dissimilar materials.

    Posted 9 months ago #
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    franklyn22

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    I've had this same thing happen before too but I always thought it was due to the pipe being cold. It was always pipes that I had not smoked in a few months. I always just smoked them again and everything tightened back up like it never happened.

    Posted 9 months ago #

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