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In Praise of Lacquer

Discussion in 'Pipes' started by Kiowapipe, Jun 28, 2011.

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  1. Kiowapipe

    Kiowapipe Active Member

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    As I sit here smoking my old Grabow, I'm thinking about how well the lacquer finish on it seems to work. I know that lacquer is looked down on by many as being the finish of baskets and cheapies, but after years of abuse this old Omega is still the shiniest pipe I own (except around the rim where I spilled some alcohol once :rolleyes:). I have to say that I'm very impressed with the performance of lacquer as a pipe finish and I don't know why it's not used more often. I suppose that in the event of scuffs, dings and scratches a wax finish would be easier to repair, but I think the durable gleam of lacquer might be a worthwhile trade-off for that. Even my most expertly waxed and buffed pipes don't stay shiny for long unless I'm extremely careful about handling them. I've also heard the argument that lacquer doesn't 'breathe,' but I honestly don't give much weight to that. I've never noticed any issues there myself, and as an abstract proposition it doesn't make much sense to me. Seems to me that pipes dry from the inside out, not all the way through the bowl walls.
    Wax is a great finish too and I'm not saying that lacquer is better, just that lacquer seems to have some good properties and I think it could be used more often.
     
  2. t-bear

    t-bear Well-Known Member

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    I have a few lacquered pipes that smoke great. I think it's a matter of perception...lacquer has been bad-mouthed so long that it has become a truism. I don't personally see any smoking difference between the lacquered and non-lacquered pipes, however, once they get chipped or dinged, the look like crap...one of mine sure does! LOL
     
  3. WillH

    WillH Active Member

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    I got in big trouble on the issue one time in another place and time! I'll just say if you're happy with the pipe and it smokes well for you! GREAT! That's what its all about!

    Personally it's not a breathing issue as it is a temperature elimination issue. I'm connivence some finishes turn the pipe into a thermos an don't allow heat to escape as I personally like it to! Just seems with slow burning tobaccos some highly finished pipes just keeps getting hotter as the smoke goes along especially toward the end.

    If you got it smoking for you enjoy!

    Will
     
  4. dmkerr

    dmkerr PG- free since '83! Moderator

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    Rightly or wrongly, I think of lacquer as a sealant, and that's the last thing I want surrounding a heat-emitting device... unless I'm trying to keep the heat in.

    Then again, for all I know, there are many types of lacquers, some of which seal and some that don't. And the object is to enjoy the pipe rather than make me comfortable! ;)

    At any rate, that's where lacquers bad name comes from... again, rightly or wrongly.
     
  5. Kiowapipe

    Kiowapipe Active Member

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    Doesn't Sas say that keeping the heat in is a good thing? Isn't that why he favors thick bowl walls?
    Although I have no idea whether lacquer contains radiant heat any better than wax anyway.
     
  6. Arkie

    Arkie Active Member

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    It seems eventually the lacquer flakes off in spots or get scratched. Then I strip all the lacquer off and wax it. However, if I really like the shape of a pipe and it has beautiful grain I will buy it regardless of its finish.
     
  7. ruffinogold

    ruffinogold Ruffinogold-Mayor, I.R.G.E.--At Large. Mayor

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    I have a Grawbow Lark that I striped , sanded , stained and waxed . It had such a grain but it smoke poorly [ hot ] , which is why I refinished it . It smokes like the cats meow since . What does that mean ? Nothing really . If you like em like that ... go for it . I dont care for the look of laquer .... the shine on it looks fake , imo . I like the idea of a finish that dissipates .
     
  8. Mike Pomery

    Mike Pomery Active Member

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    I have a Peterson Irish sea which has a sort of varnish/laquer finish. Heat has caused a few small bubbles to appear, which are rather annoyingly permanent. It is one of the best looking pipes I own, but it is not one that will keep that title for a long time I think.
     
  9. dmkerr

    dmkerr PG- free since '83! Moderator

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    Maybe. He and I would strongly disagree on that if he does. Perhaps heat dissipation is why I prefer meerschaum and that's why they smoke cooler than briar. Diff'rent strokes, I guess. I think the burning tobacco is hot enough without heat dispersion.
     
    WillH likes this.
  10. 1stGenRex

    1stGenRex Member

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    that's kind of a bummer to hear, as I was eyeballing those, and thinking of picking one up. I still might, but maybe I'll look at other first. This one is looking mighty sexy

    [​IMG]
     
  11. t-bear

    t-bear Well-Known Member

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    Sweet Stanny Rex....go for it! I have 5 Petes...acquired mostly by accident rather than by design. They smoke OK but are not in my regular rotation.
    Back OT....
    A number of carvers will use a variation of the lacquer finish on their pipes. I've talked with a few at pipe shows, and while they didn't tell me "exactly" how, they *did* admit to using a lacquer mixture in their finish.
     
  12. 1stGenRex

    1stGenRex Member

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    I'm just starting off my collection, so I have to have some variety in pipe makers. I've read that Italian pipes have a more "Open" draw to them, compared to Petes. Good or bad, IDK just yet, as I don't know what my preference is yet, but the stem on that thing is pretty awesome!

    Back to the OT.

    If heat retention is a problem with lacquer, then I would imagine that the wax melting off would be a problem with wax, would it not? I would imagine it's hardly noticeable, but it does happen, and I would think that heavily lacquered pipes would have the heat retention problem more than say a pipe that was lacquered, but not as heavily, or with the lacquer diluted somewhat?

    These are all just uneducated guesses, and I'm trying not to be a thread thieve, so if my questions are completely dumb, or off base, just let me know, and kindly school me on what you have gathered with your experiences.
     
  13. WillH

    WillH Active Member

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    1stGenRex,

    The choice is yours. Ultimately most people buy pipes based on how they look. Pipe makers are generally making pipes that they hope will appeal to someone and sell. Briar quality, drilling, bowl interior shape, stem design really mean nothing to the majority of people who buy pipes.

    Example: I have a friend who bought a weed trimmer. I recommended the one I use and he bought one. It didn’t, and doesn’t work for him. He’s constantly having problems. I loaned him mind and took his. I ran his weed trimmer and experienced no problems, zero. He had the same issues with mine he had with his. I discovered he liked the looks of another brand and only bought like mine because I had one. He now owns the one he originally liked and it’s working just fine.

    My personal preference in briar pipes is no shinny finish – wax only. The wax doesn’t come off in your hands. The pipe darkens over time – that’s all (below). Some smokers like shinny pipes and work hard to keep them shinny. Some smokers buy pipes just because they like an unusual stem color – nothing else. I worked with a guy who cleans his pipes completely after every single smoke – and I mean he cleans them completely! All his pipes look nearly new.

    I like my pipes to be a little raunchy and scrape the bowl only now and again – not after each smoke. I do run a pipe cleaner down the stem after each smoke. Use Q-tips and whisky to clean the stem and shank, that’s about is it! A little build up of tar on the rim doesn’t bother me. It’s a personal preference.

    I understand how thermos bottles work and why they are designed the way they are. I also know that I experienced more hot pipes among those that had a hard shinny finish. That's enough for me to tell the pipe maker to just apply a wax finish and nothing else. If a few flaws show – so what! I don’t really care if the pipe smokes my tobaccos well.

    You pays your money and takes your chances.....:cool:

    Will

    Below is a waxed only pipe. As new (bottom) and today (top).
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
  14. 1stGenRex

    1stGenRex Member

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    I fully understand that. With my other hobbies, I'm the kind of person that you described. I shoot paintball photography, and it's a freakin dirty thing to shoot, and cameras get super dirty! Soon after, I clean my cameras with Iso Alcohol and they look nearly new. You'd never know how filthy they were the day before. BUT that's just me, and how I like to do things.

    I can certainly understand that some people would rather spend their time smoking a pipe, instead of cleaning it. And that's the beauty of hobbies like this...you develop your own techniques, and what works for you, and you run with it! Someone may say you're doing things wrong, but if they're not paying for your pipes, or your tobacco, who cares what they think, right?
     
  15. Old Ted

    Old Ted Active Member

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    If I may digress slightly - there seems to be a similar issue with plastered and natural cobs. I'm about to order one or two, and the 'neked' Diplomats are very appealing to me - but reportedly won't last as long as a plastered equivalent?:msty:
    OT
     
  16. 1stGenRex

    1stGenRex Member

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    I'm going to Lacquer over my plastered diplomat, just for giggles :P j/k
     
    Schmitz Bitz and Kiowapipe like this.
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