I Can't Get The Smell Out Of The Inside Of Stem

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tombraider

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Feb 21, 2013
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I purchased an estate Comoy's Tradition Canadian a few months ago. It was in good condition when I received it but I did a series of salt and alcohol treatments and retorts anyway to clean the bowl and shank of any ghosting from previous owner. The stem had a little oxidation so I followed advice and did the oxyclean soak followed by Magic Erasers followed by micro-mesh pads to make it look new again. My problem is, no matter what I do, I still can't get the offensive smell out of the vulcanite stem. I've soaked it in alcohol overnight, vinegar overnight. I've run more pipe cleaners soaked in both than I can count through it. It has the great 3 piece C in the stem so I don't want to look for a replacement. There has got to be a way to clean this. I know I have asked this question before but does anyone have a trick that I haven't tried?

 

cosmicfolklore

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Aug 9, 2013
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Elbo grease. I only rid a few of mine by taking a churchwarden pipe-cleaner and soaking it in alcohol and putting one end of the cleaner in a vise, thread on the stem, and working back in forth like Hell hath no furry.

Just running a solvent down it will do nothing at all.

 

sablebrush52

Preferred Member
Jun 15, 2013
10,466
3,164
I never use bleach. It will pit the vulcanite. Here's what Walker Briar says about bleach:
http://www.walkerbriarworks.com/html/vulcanite_info_.html
Elbow grease or an ozone treatment. You can try using a little bit of toothpaste on a bristle cleaner to scrub the inside of the stem after you have thoroughly cleaned it out with alcohol. For a badly caked up airway, soak a wire pipe cleaner in alcohol, inset it in the stem, and let it sit for an hour before scrubbing. Repeat with many more soaked wire pipe cleaners

 

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tombraider

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Feb 21, 2013
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Either way, it sounds like elbow grease is in order since I can't buy new pipes that are 50 years old :wink:

 

sablebrush52

Preferred Member
Jun 15, 2013
10,466
3,164
Hi Sam,
Well, you stand on one side of the issue, and I, and every professional restorer I've spoken with, stands on the other.

 

mrenglish

Preferred Member
Dec 25, 2010
2,210
39
Columbus, Ohio
The ozone treatment will probably work as sablebrush mentioned. Save you some elbow grease and probably get rid of a lot more gunk. I have never done this but have spoken to several people who have and they were all impressed with the results.

 

sablebrush52

Preferred Member
Jun 15, 2013
10,466
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I'm not going to back down on that, no. Feel free to contact Ronni Bikacsan at Night Owl pipe and Time West. Both of them told me that bleach destroys vulcanite, and, of course, there's the statement at Walker Briar. They also restored a few pipes. So, no.

 

spartan

Preferred Member
Aug 14, 2011
2,964
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Does anyone know the effects, if any, vinegar would have on the various types of stems?
I know there are many ways to use a little vinegar and baking soda to deodorize things, not sure if it would dissolve a stem or not though haha.

 

sablebrush52

Preferred Member
Jun 15, 2013
10,466
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Har har! Arm wrestling! You're on! You're going down Sable!!!
Don't be too sure, Sam, you may have youth on your side, but I have age and deviousness.
The other restorer who warned me off of bleach was the late great Jim Benjamin. He restored several Dunhills for me. Jim said that the problem was that once the bleach got into the vulcanite, there was no way to completely remove it. He said that the reaction could continue for an indeterminate length of time, worse from the inside around the airway.
For me, these warnings are enough of a reason that I use other means to clean up stems.
I didn't say that all restorers shunned bleach, only all that I spoke with.
YMMV.

 

wcannoy

Senior Member
Nov 29, 2012
344
1
Lakeland, FL
Elbo grease. I only rid a few of mine by taking a churchwarden pipe-cleaner and soaking it in alcohol and putting one end of the cleaner in a vise, thread on the stem, and working back in forth like Hell hath no furry.
This.
Except replace the alcohol with a bead of toothpaste. It will act as a rubbing compound to polish the oxidation from the inside of the stem. Just be sure to run some clean, damp pipecleaners through the stem afterwards to remove any toothpaste residue... unless you like a minty tasting smoke!

 

tombraider

Member
Feb 21, 2013
128
0
JD, Congratulations on your superior pipe shopping skills. Either way your advice on my issue was useless.

 

sablebrush52

Preferred Member
Jun 15, 2013
10,466
3,164
Jim Benjamin used bleach.
Then my brains are getting scrambled as I continue to age badly. Which Mike are you referring to, Mike? The other source I cited was Tim West. But clearly there is room in the tent for variety.

You also mentioned Vulcanite and Ebonite as two different things. I've always thought that they were the same material, rubber. What's the difference?

 

pitchfork

Preferred Member
May 25, 2012
3,874
79
Yes they are really the same material, although I do believe the "ingredient structure" of current vulcanite / Ebonite is superior to what once was used.
Generally, I think this is true, if the earlier reference point is c.1950. However, I've found that some pipes from the period c.1895-1920 have much nicer rubber stems than many mid-century pipes. On some BBB and other pipes from that era, the rubber seems more like modern "Ebonite" than anything else.
As for smells, I've also had good luck with baking soda -- even stubborn aromatic ghosts will mostly yield to a couple of baking soda treatments.

 

ejames

Preferred Member
Oct 6, 2009
3,917
1
I never use bleach. It will pit the vulcanite. Here's what Walker Briar says about bleach:
After restoring hundreds of estate pipes, I have only found bleach to have 'pitted' a few stems, and those were on low quality pipes. My assessment is that the vulcanite was already pitted, and of poor quality. I have soaked good quality vulcanite in bleach for up to 48 hours with no ill results, including the 1920 Dunhill I just restored. I was able to even save the Red'd number on the stem with this method. I would say my experience refutes the assertation that bleach pits vulcanite stems(there is no scientific evidence provided, just a blanket statement). Touche and en garde!! [:x]
I agree. I have bleached hundreds of stems,including some pipes that I have been smoking for 3-4 years after bleaching and they have shown NO ill effects! As Mike said the quality of the rubber has a lot to do with it. Poor quality rubber seems to pit more,the good stuff very little. Personally I'd rather sand out the resulting pitting and know that the oxidation is completely gone. Of course you can sand it off completely or buff it off if not to heavy. I hate spending an hour on a stem then take it to the buffer and find that there is still oxidation present.

I don't believe that bleach will soak into the stem and continue to degrade it. Might not Oxy-clean do the same?

When I remove them from the bleach I give them a nice bath with soap and warm water,inside and out, and rinse thoroughly.

But as they say-to each his own, or YMMV.

 
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