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Stem Maintenance

For discussion about creating, restoring, modifying, or maintaining tobacco pipes

Stem Maintenance

Postby dogfaceboy » Sun Mar 29, 2015 12:42 am

Bought a used pipe, the tenon is nice and black, but the stem is a grayish green color. I'm new to pipe smoking, hence new to anatomy and maintenance. Is this "discoloring" common? Is there a way to bring the stem back to life, rich and black? Or is this just the way this one will have to stay?
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Re: Stem Maintenance

Postby ratatosk » Sun Mar 29, 2015 1:12 am

Your pipe has a vulcanite stem which is a type of rubber. It's made by mixing sulfur compounds with latex to harden it, the problem is that when exposed to light and air for sustained periods the sulfur will outgas and the discoloration that you see is the result of that. The tenon is nice and black because it has not been exposed.

You can clean it up and different people have different preferences. Many suggest a trip to the grocery store to buy either Barkeepers Friend or Magic Eraser, then applying elbow grease and patience. There are also lots of stem cleaning creams, etc., available and I use one sold by Walker Pipe Repair in Michigan, but that would be kind of pricey to deal with a single pipe.

Once you get it cleaned up, a simple way to retard the process is to just put a light coat of Chapstick on the stem after smoking. There is also a product called Obsidian Oil that does a great job of sealing the surface when used regularly. But the best suggestion is to just keep the pipe in a dark place when not in use. I quit using racks for my vulcanite pipes and keep them in desk drawers lined with cloths.

Other pipes stems are made from lucite and do not present this problem. I generally prefer vulcanite for various reasons, but lucite is much slower to react to light and even then just fades rather than gets nasty.

good luck.
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Re: Stem Maintenance

Postby dogfaceboy » Sun Mar 29, 2015 1:21 am

Thank you for your prompt and thorough response! Much appreciated. I'll do as you suggest regarding cleaning and care and from now on keep her out of direct light. Thanks again.
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Re: Stem Maintenance

Postby dogfaceboy » Sun Mar 29, 2015 1:36 am

Magic Eraser did the trick! Back to black!! Thanks much!!
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Re: Stem Maintenance

Postby ratatosk » Sun Mar 29, 2015 1:55 am

You're welcome. You got off pretty light, sometimes it takes hours to clean these things up.

If you want to take the appearance up a notch, apply some Chapstick, rub it in, then use a piece of pantyhose to buff. You can get one gleaming that way. ;)
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Re: Stem Maintenance

Postby CoastalRyan » Sun Mar 29, 2015 3:24 am

If its minor you can use Meguiars PlastX and a jewelers cloth. Wipe it on liberally and then rub until you start to generate some heat. It will also take out small scratches. If you happen to have a buffing wheel carnuba wax works good to protect it.

PlastX can be found in the automotive section of most Walmarts or auto parts stores.

http://www.amazon.com/Meguiars-G12310-P ... rds=plastx

When I restore the really nasty ones I use alkaline tile cleaner. Let it soak in a cup for ten minutes. Then brush it clean with a soft wire brush. You'll have to sanitize it after this. I recommend Star San then a full rinse even though Star San is rinse free. I'll finish it up with 1500 and then buff the scratches out.
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Re: Stem Maintenance

Postby acaciavet » Sun Mar 29, 2015 3:48 pm

I always use barkeepers friend.Then if you want to prevent it use chap stick on the stem after every smoke.Apply let sit for an hour and buff up!
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Re: Stem Maintenance

Postby KevLa » Sun Mar 29, 2015 3:53 pm

I usually scrape the worst of the residue away with a penknife, then smear a bit of natural sebum (skin-grease) on to the stem. No mink were harmed in the polishing of my pipes :D
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Re: Stem Maintenance

Postby Piperman » Wed Oct 07, 2015 12:37 pm

Magic eraser and Obsidian oil... is that enough to make stem perfect clean, or can I use with these two also Brebbia polish paste!?
Thanks for answers.
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Re: Stem Maintenance

Postby pibemagerie » Wed Oct 07, 2015 7:21 pm

Magic eraser does a heck of a job. There are two cheap alternatives I'd like to propose. The first, is a tooth brush and some toothpaste. The second is a humble women's nail grinder-the paper ones. They do amazing work!
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Re: Stem Maintenance

Postby Dodger » Thu Oct 08, 2015 8:40 pm

Of course if you let it be nobody is likely to put it in their mouth :D
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Re: Stem Maintenance

Postby 4nogginsmike » Mon Nov 02, 2015 4:30 pm

To maintain my vulcanite stems, I use the tried and true, "do nothing." Saves time and worry. Then too, if they turn green as grass, I can admire them as I do grass, which I admire very much!
Pipe smoking: the most cultivated taking of tobacco; a good friend and a sublime addiction; but give me a cigar, too. But so expensive: smoke up and smoke less.
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Re: Stem Maintenance

Postby hooboy » Wed Nov 04, 2015 2:14 pm

LOL
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Re: Stem Maintenance

Postby hooboy » Sat Nov 14, 2015 2:04 pm

Piperman posted ...Magic eraser and Obsidian oil... is that enough to make stem perfect clean, or can I use with these two also Brebbia polish paste!?

Obsidian oil?? I have Never used this , tell me more about it before I purchase some, Thanks
And I like your Avatar or Jeremy Britt , in my opinion, the best actor to ever portray Holmes also this series portrayed Dr Waton as someone other than a Buffoon Like in almost other films made him out to be .Which in the original Doyles writings he was far from a dolt!
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