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The Variety of Pipe Stems

(52 posts)
  1. tufftony

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    Such a range - Acrylic, Lucite, Vulcanite, Ebonite, etc., - and all of us must have preferences (mine is Acrylic,
    what's yours?). So why do so few pipe sellers mention what the stems of their wares are made of? I've ended up with some pipes I can't smoke because the stem surfaces just don't feel pleasant at all in the mouth and others (fancy colored
    ones) that have even had the effect of burning my lips.

    Posted 1 month ago #
  2. ashdigger

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    I'm an ebonite/vulcanite fan. I don't care for acrylic.

    Reputable sellers always list stem materials.

    Ubi Ignis Est?
    Posted 1 month ago #
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    aldecaker

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    I like the feel of vulcanite over acrylic, but the upkeep for vulcanite is a pain in the ass. For cobs I really like the MM Danish bits; the width and hardness are about perfect for me.

    A man who serves his country is a patriot. A man who serves his government is an employee. The two are not always the same thing.
    Posted 1 month ago #
  4. chasingembers

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    Ebonite/vulcanite here, especially brindle/cumberland.

    Damnation seize my soul if I give you quarters, or take any from you.
    -Edward Teach
    Posted 1 month ago #
  5. anthonyrosenthal74

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    I suppose my preference is vulcanite/ebonite. But the stem material has never really been a deciding factor in the pipes I've bought. Vulcanite is clearly more comfortable to clench, but I'm not normally a clencher.

    Arrrrr, shiver me timbers! International Talk Like a Pirate Day is September the 19th!!!
    Brothers Of The Black Frigate
    Posted 1 month ago #
  6. cigrmaster

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    Out of 80 something pipes in my collection only 4 have acrylic stems. The rest of mine are vulcanite/ebonite. I like the softer feel of vulcanite/enbonite on my teeth as I clench most of the time. Yes the softer stems need some care, but if they are made from high quality rubber then oxidization isn't a big deal.

    Harris
    Posted 1 month ago #
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    wannabe

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    Ebonite/vulcanite also! And don't mind the extra maintenance, for the good feel.

    Posted 1 month ago #
  8. onestrangeone

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    I prefer vulcanite/ebonite, cumberland but acrylic is not a deal breaker as long as it’s shaped right.

    Posted 1 month ago #
  9. jpmcwjr

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    I'm indifferent. I don't clench down hard enough where stem material (softness) makes any difference.

    I know that you believe you understood what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.
    Posted 1 month ago #
  10. haparnold

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    Acrylic all the way. Though I am a softie for the aesthetic of Cumberland.

    De Gustibus Non Est Disputandum
    Posted 1 month ago #
  11. olkofri

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    Acrylic.

    Not the sweet, new grass with flowers is this harvesting of mine;
    Not the upland clover bloom...
    Posted 1 month ago #
  12. warren

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    I bet you could inquire before purchasing.

    A man without a shillelagh is a man without an expedient.
    Posted 1 month ago #
  13. derhammer

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    I like the feel of the ebonite/vulcanite stem cause I bite most of the time. Over time they do get scratches and marks (yellowish/beige marks). Acrylic ones however don't.
    Are there any solution by the way to keep ebonite/vulcanite stems looking good?

    Pierre
    Posted 1 month ago #
  14. tufftony

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    I think the yellowish/beige marks are caused by oxidation. There are polishes
    that will apparently get rid of it but how well they work I don't know.

    Posted 1 month ago #
  15. railman

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    Stem material isn’t necessarily a deciding factor but I do prefer ebonite/vulcanite. I used to avoid it if possible because I didn’t know how to maintain it, but now that I’ve learned how to I definitely prefer the softer feel and the fact they are usually thinner than lucite.

    Posted 1 month ago #
  16. hawky454

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    I much prefer acrylic to vulcanite. I don’t get why pipe smokers get all snobish over vulcanite. I understand why pipe makers would prefer to work with it as it’s a much easier material to work than acrylic but as a pipe smoker I think acrylic makes a much better stem, it’s more resistant to bite marks/bite throughs, Its more neutral in taste and it virtually hassle free, it doesn’t turn to an ugly green like vulcanite and the design possibilities are limitless.

    Posted 1 month ago #
  17. chasingembers

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    the design possibilities are limitless.

    As is ebonite.

    Acrylic just feels cheap to me, and if you're not chewing on the stems, you'll barely leave a mark on ebonite.

    Posted 1 month ago #
  18. tufftony

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    I much prefer acrylic to vulcanite. I don’t get why pipe smokers get all snobish over vulcanite. I understand why pipe makers would prefer to work with it as it’s a much easier material to work than acrylic but as a pipe smoker I think acrylic makes a much better stem, it’s more resistant to bite marks/bite throughs, Its more neutral in taste and it virtually hassle free, it doesn’t turn to an ugly green like vulcanite and the design possibilities are limitless.

    I hear you, bro.

    Posted 1 month ago #
  19. tufftony

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    "Stem material isn’t necessarily a deciding factor but I do prefer ebonite/vulcanite. I used to avoid it if possible because I didn’t know how to maintain it, but now that I’ve learned how to I definitely prefer the softer feel and the fact they are usually thinner than lucite.

    How is it maintained?

    Posted 1 month ago #
  20. chasingembers

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    How is it maintained?

    I thumb buff mine with toothpaste after each smoke. Rinse, dry, and apply Obsidian Oil.

    Posted 1 month ago #
  21. derhammer

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    This is what I meant.

    Again maybe I just got a nasty mouth. I am sorry.

    Posted 1 month ago #
  22. chasingembers

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    This is what I meant.

    This was done with Magic Erasers, Barkeeper's Friend, and toothpaste.

    Posted 1 month ago #
  23. tufftony

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    Nice!

    Posted 1 month ago #
  24. derhammer

    derhammer

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    Oh I see! Thanks, Embers!

    Posted 1 month ago #
  25. chasingembers

    Embers

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    Very welcome!

    Posted 1 month ago #
  26. mikethompson

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    That picture always makes the rounds in any stem thread and I never tire of seeing it.

    Posted 1 month ago #
  27. chasingembers

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    One of my favorite restorations.

    Posted 1 month ago #
  28. hawky454

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    As is ebonite.

    You just proved my point. Again, Ebonite is much more limited... show me a clear ebonite piece with white swirles or a transparent amber etc, etc. Again, the possibilities are limitless in acrylic and you don’t need to wipe toothpaste on your stem after each smoke!

    Check out some of Neerup’s stems... ya just can’t do a lot of that with ebonite.

    Posted 1 month ago #
  29. cosmicfolklore

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    I don’t get why pipe smokers get all snobish over vulcanite.

    The feel of acrylic on my teeth used to hurt my teeth, similar to chewing aluminum foil, it just hit the nerves. But, since I started holding my pipe behind my eye-teeth when I clench, it doesn't bother me as bad to smoke an acrylic pipe.

    But, I have never had a problem with my stems oxidizing. I just hit my pipes with a jeweler's polishing cloth or a dry rag before putting it on my rack, and I have never had a stem oxidize. I leave them on the dashboard of my car in the Alabama summers. I rinse them with water daily. I do not like the idea of putting oil on my stems to make them slippery and nasty in my mouth. And, putting toothpaste on my pipes... ha ha, well, do what you want. But, I have never had a pipe stem oxidize. I chock that up to just lazy pipe hygiene. Just wipe down your stems really well after you smoke them. Bring them back to a shine. Do not buff with paper towels. And, letting a pipe set for a long time without smoking it is neglect.

    Michael
    Posted 1 month ago #
  30. sablebrush52

    sablebrush52

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    My preference is a comfortable bite area. Acrylic/ebonite makes no difference to me. There's acrylic stem material that feels just like vulcanite/ebonite. It's pricier and harder to find, and George has made me custom stems from it. But even so, I have no preference except that it be comfortable.

    It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt. - Mark Twain

    It is pointless to argue with a fanatic since a dim bulb can't be converted into a searchlight. - Jesse Silver
    Posted 1 month ago #
  31. hawky454

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    Fair enough, Cosmic, I’ve noticed a defference in mouth feel but to me it was never that much of a difference, I’ve now come to love the clang I get when putting an acrylic stem in my teeth. I always guessed that the snobbery to ebonite was caused by all the Dunhill smokers... “Dunhill uses it, therefore it must be the best!”

    Does anyone know when they first started using acrylic on pipes? It does seem to be much more accepted these days. Could it be that Alfred never thought of using acrylic???

    Posted 1 month ago #
  32. jazz

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    I prefer the feel of vulcanite but also prefer the look and maintenance of acrylic and I'm a sucker for a coloured stem. I suppose that means I don't really have a preference. I won't let stem material dictate what pipe I buy and my pipe collection shows about a 50/50 split nowadays.

    Posted 1 month ago #
  33. cigrmaster

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    The comfort of a hand made ebonite stem from a guy like Rad Davis really enhances the enjoyment I get from my pipes. It has nothing to do with snobbery.

    Posted 1 month ago #
  34. chasingembers

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    Check out some of Neerup’s stems... ya just can’t do a lot of that with ebonite.

    Really? Wow, when did he start making stems that ugly?

    Ebonite Rods

    Neerup Stem

    Posted 1 month ago #
  35. mso489

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    The pipe stems I like are the ones I don't notice. Vulcanite and acrylic (on smaller or lighter weight pipes) often seem to work, always fishtail.

    Posted 1 month ago #
  36. hawky454

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    Embers I think your missing my point man. Sure there are a lot options as far as ebonite goes and I am no ebonite hater, my Gamboni has a beautiful cream colored ebonite stem (oxidizes very easily and no I’m not gonna brush his teeth) but I’ve never seen transparent ebonite/vulcanite stems and I’ve not seen such a variety that you can get in acrylic. If you can give me some examples of transparent ebonite/vulcanite than I will stand corrected but I’ve never seen one on a pipe... have you? A lot of the Neerup pictures don’t do the stem work justice because most of them have a translucence to them that I’ve never seen in ebonite.

    Posted 1 month ago #
  37. cigrmaster

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    hawky, do you need all those colored stems because you are accessorizing with your shoes and hand bags?

    Posted 1 month ago #
  38. cosmicfolklore

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    I have read that some of the pipemakers, maybe they were Italian, would pour their own acrylic in the studio, giving them even more control and manipulation over the stem material. Vulcanized rubber could be done in the studio, but it is a very messy, messy process with a steep learning curve.

    Posted 1 month ago #
  39. hawky454

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    hawky, do you need all those colored stems because you are accessorizing with your shoes and hand bags?

    I’ve got to match my outfits, but of course!

    I have read that some of the pipemakers, maybe they were Italian, would pour their own acrylic in the studio, giving them even more control and manipulation over the stem material. Vulcanized rubber could be done in the studio, but it is a very messy, messy process with a steep learning curve.

    I’m pretty sure that’s what JT Cooke did.

    Posted 1 month ago #
  40. rdavid

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    Hey Embers

    That Neerup churchwarden (absolutely beautiful) shows the stem material as acrylic on SP...

    Neerup churchwarden on SP

    "May my last breath be drawn through a pipe, and exhaled in a jest." Charles Lamb
    Posted 1 month ago #
  41. hawky454

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    This is an example of what I’m talking about.

    In my opinion, these are beautiful stems on the Savinelli’s and I love to watch them change colors over time as the pipes get more and more use. I love that you can see the inner mechanics on the stem and like I said, I’ve never seen that done and I don’t think it’s possible with an ebonite/vulcanite stem. This opens up a whole array of options in acrylic that just aren’t there with ebonite (at least not that I’ve seen)

    That Neerup churchwarden (absolutely beautiful) shows the stem material as acrylic on SP

    Yeah, I’m pretty sure that P. Jeppesen only uses acrylic but I could be wrong. Every pipe I own of his and everyone I’ve ever looked at have been acrylic.

    Posted 1 month ago #
  42. chasingembers

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    Hey Embers

    That Neerup churchwarden (absolutely beautiful) shows the stem material as acrylic on SP...

    I know, was just pointing out the color similarity between an ebonite rod and an acrylic stem.

    Posted 1 month ago #
  43. chasingembers

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    I am no ebonite hater

    Wasn't implying it. Most think ebonite only comes in varying shades of black and brown. I have seen translucent ebonite used in pens, but never in pipes.

    Posted 1 month ago #
  44. chasingembers

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    Then there's amber, ivory, horn, bone, briar, maple, birch, Redmanol, bakelite, celluloid, nylon, and plastic. Did I miss any?

    Posted 1 month ago #
  45. olkofri

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    Glass?

    Posted 1 month ago #
  46. chasingembers

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    Glass stem or entire pipe?

    Posted 1 month ago #
  47. chasingembers

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    Oh yeah, reed stems too.

    Posted 1 month ago #
  48. anthonyrosenthal74

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    Did I miss any?
    Amberoid.

    Posted 1 month ago #
  49. ophiuchus

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    I like both. As long as the stem fits my teefs.

    Posted 1 month ago #
  50. hawky454

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    Lucite. But I think acrylic, bakelite and lucite are all essentially just varying quality of the same thing. Not a pro on the subject though.

    Posted 1 month ago #
  51. didimauw

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    I perfer acrylic. I've never had much luck with vulcanite. It seems too soft for me, and I leave HUGE dents in them that become uncomfortable to me. Then the huge dents are tooth specific, which means I can't switch sides of my mouth.

    Posted 1 month ago #
  52. paulie66scandinavian

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    In all probability I prefer acrylic,yet as Sable pointed out,above all,the button area of the stem has to be comfortable

    Paul The Scandinavian'
    Posted 1 month ago #

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