Vulcanite vs Acrylic Stems.....Which do you Prefer?

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paulfg

Preferred Member
Feb 21, 2016
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Corfu Greece
I dont get the "more maintenance" for vulcanite.If its not oxidised to start with how many times a year do you need to maintain it?
Nearly all of my pipes are vulcanite stems ranging from 1906 to 2019 and all I do is give them a wipe after I finish smoking and put them back in the cupboard.Job done.
I find the silver ring on the pipe requires more polishing than the stem

Mind you I also have 8 Peterson system pipes and dont find cleaning the well a problem either:)
 
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cosmicfolklore

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Aug 9, 2013
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Helena, Alabama
I have a Viprati bulldog with a white acrylic stem that is cracking from the mortice up and a Radice dublin that is cracking from the bit down. Neither of these have ever been used much, just cracking of their own accord.

I prefer the feel of vulcanite on my teeth, as acrylic feels too hard against my teeth. But, I haven't been a Nazi about making sure every pipe I get is devoid of acrylic. But acrylic just seems more fragile to me. I've also never had a vulcanite stem shatter when dropped just the right way.

I have never had an oxide problem, as I keep my stems wiped down before racking them, and all of my pipes get good use.

But, as I've said, I am not dogmatic about it, but just if I saw a pipe I loved and had a choice between vulcanite or acrylic, I'd take the vulcanite.
 

Merton

Senior Member
Jul 8, 2020
389
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Boston, Massachusetts
In the past I was more enthusiastic about acrylic. However, while I still like most acrylic stems, as I get older I now have more appreciation for rubber stems. With regard to Italian makers setting the pace for acrylic stems, Radice now makes, for about $30 more, an (E) line of pipes with very well made and nicely colorful Ebonite stems. Even their acrylic stems are more tapered than other makers. While I love my Castellos, the contrast between the radice stems and the Castello stems is sometimes jarring. I believe that Federico Becker also uses Ebonite (and beautiful and very hard briar). However, while I have only had three, each came with a no extra charge whistle.
 

cosmicfolklore

Preferred Member
Aug 9, 2013
25,963
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Helena, Alabama
In the past I was more enthusiastic about acrylic. However, while I still like most acrylic stems, as I get older I now have more appreciation for rubber stems. With regard to Italian makers setting the pace for acrylic stems, Radice now makes, for about $30 more, an (E) line of pipes with very well made and nicely colorful Ebonite stems. Even their acrylic stems are more tapered than other makers. While I love my Castellos, the contrast between the radice stems and the Castello stems is sometimes jarring. I believe that Federico Becker also uses Ebonite (and beautiful and very hard briar). However, while I have only had three, each came with a no extra charge whistle.
Yes, Beckers are still vulcanite, at least on mine they are. Scarlotta and a few other Italians also are sticking with vulcanite. I think it is less national and more just some pipemakers are finding acrylic easier to work with. Neerups, Nordings, and a few other Danish pipemakers are mostly making just acrylic stems now also.
Acrylic is also easy to have mass produced for the makers... I believe. Seems like I have read that injection molded vulcanite comes across really cheap looking... not 100% sure on that, but... it was a thought.
 
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maduromadness

Senior Member
Jan 3, 2014
332
1,649
California
I could never get on board with softy bits. Hated the way they look on the pipe. They felt akward and knowing they collect my drool required more work than a simple T-shirt wipe down for cleaning after a smoke. My worn down teeth definitely need all the cushion they can get. Regardless of the material my canines always leave their presence once I clamp down. When I got over caring about teeth marks life became easier, and if I really value the pipe then it's simply no clenching...those tend to be the big non clenching pipes anyway. If its light then I almost consider it a crime not to clench. You begin to appreciate the difference in button detail and craftsmanship. Heck even stem taper.
 

kcghost

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May 6, 2011
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Most of the guys in the KC pipe club don't have a preference but those that do hold to their preference with the zeal of a zealot.
 
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tkcolo

Member
Apr 30, 2018
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Granby, CO
I have never had an oxide problem, as I keep my stems wiped down before racking them, and all of my pipes get good use.
I don't understand this. New and used, high quality and low quality, and of all ages. All my vulcanite stems have turned yellow. (I am a clencher) I have diligently wiped mine down with obsidian oil, every time. They are in a room with secondary sunlight, but no direct sunlight, ever.

I can turn one hazy, then brown, then greenish yellow pretty darn fast. No weird cleaners or anything. I am in CO at 8400', when the average humidity is 2%. Is there some better class of stems that hold up better?

Vulcanite feels much better, but it's WAY too much work, and I can't stand brown or yellow stems. So, I just use acrylic. Doesn't hurt my teeth, but I'm sure it will someday.
 
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cosmicfolklore

Preferred Member
Aug 9, 2013
25,963
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Helena, Alabama
I don't understand this. New and used, high quality and low quality, and of all ages. All my vulcanite stems have turned yellow. (I am a clencher) I have diligently wiped mine down with obsidian oil, every time. They are in a room with secondary sunlight, but no direct sunlight, ever.

I can turn one hazy, then brown, then greenish yellow pretty darn fast. No weird cleaners or anything. I am in CO at 8400', when the average humidity is 2%. Is there some better class of stems that hold up better?

Vulcanite feels much better, but it's WAY too much work, and I can't stand brown or yellow stems. So, I just use acrylic. Doesn't hurt my teeth, but I'm sure it will someday.
Some swear by those oils. I never use that crap, because in my experience they just eat up the polish and speed up oxidation. I merely will hit mine with a polishing cloth with some elbow grease and keep mine brand spanking new. But, putting an oil on the stem will gloss the surface, making them look good for a few smokes, but if you looked at the surface of the vulcanite with a high powered magnifier, you'd see that it just pits the hell out of the stems.

If you are going to put anything on them, and I don't suggest putting anything on them, but if you are just hell bent on it, Renaissance Wax is the best. It is kind of pricey, but one small container of it will last a lifetime. You would merely need just a fingertip dipped into it, rubbed on, and completely removed the wax with a clean rag.
 

tkcolo

Member
Apr 30, 2018
239
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Granby, CO
Some swear by those oils. I never use that crap, because in my experience they just eat up the polish and speed up oxidation. I merely will hit mine with a polishing cloth with some elbow grease and keep mine brand spanking new. But, putting an oil on the stem will gloss the surface, making them look good for a few smokes, but if you looked at the surface of the vulcanite with a high powered magnifier, you'd see that it just pits the hell out of the stems.

If you are going to put anything on them, and I don't suggest putting anything on them, but if you are just hell bent on it, Renaissance Wax is the best. It is kind of pricey, but one small container of it will last a lifetime. You would merely need just a fingertip dipped into it, rubbed on, and completely removed the wax with a clean rag.
Hmm... That explains it. Thank you. Vulcanite feels much better in your teeth. Do you clench?
 

cosmicfolklore

Preferred Member
Aug 9, 2013
25,963
29,707
Helena, Alabama
Hmm... That explains it. Thank you. Vulcanite feels much better in your teeth. Do you clench?
I would suggest getting a jeweler's polish cloth also. The inside white part has a micro polishing compound worked into the fibers. Use that first to remove the oxides. Then use the darker outside part to add a microscopic infused wax to the stem.

If your pipes are really oxide'd over, you would want to first use a set of micro-mesh pads. Use them from most aggressive down to the highest polish, then from there the polishing cloth will be all that you'll need.

I really hope that helps.
 

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