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Restoration Techniques

Discussion in 'Pipes' started by Mister Moo, Aug 4, 2010.

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  1. Mister Moo

    Mister Moo Normal Cow Moderator Moderator

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    Restoration is a great hobby that makes someone elses junk into your most pleasing showpiece. There are many easy things you can do to make a bad LOOKING pipe - I mean disgusting - look good. A lot of the tricks and methods are discussed here and there but this would be a good place to put down the things that work for you. And, perhaps more important, there are plenty of things you can do that can turn a poor SMOKER into a pip of a pipe.

    Tell those things you've acutally done to your own pipe with good effect. No second hand mumbo-jumbo hearsay. If you are compelled to mention some CW (conventional wisdom) then call it what it is and be prepared to defend poppycock. I'd value a discussion heavy with "I have done..." rather than, "I have heard..." or, "Everyone knows....". I know there are guys here with shops and lotsa gear as well as hobbiests with a few bristle pipecleaners, some Everclear and a mouthful of spit - it all counts.

    Things you've tried that didn't work out as well as expected are also open for discussion. I'll start with one of each.

    It works:

    Micro Mesh fabric is the stuff. I use fineness from 1.200 to 12.000 to sand wood, remove surface stains and rim burns, take out scratches and polish wood, vulcanite or lucite to glassy finish. Because it is on fabric backing it makes excellent wet-sanding material; it can be washed after use. Find it at woodworker specialty places or online. Beware Micro Mesh on hard foam backing - it can cut into detail that the more flexible fabric-backed stuff won't. I think a patient guy could do a pipe from start to finish with this stuff. It isn't cheap but it is the real deal and a piece lasts a long time.

    It isn't so hot:

    A conventional buffer with a 6" or 8" wheel, even with lowest speed of 1750rpm; loose ends of flannel will eat vulcanite and vanish nomenclature (if you care). Yeah - they work but, "...they'll also bite you in the butt given half-a-second of inattention," (he said, thinking about a recently scarred piece of vulcanite). I thought I could be careful and save a lot of time with a conventional buffer. Maybe I did for a while but, then again, I also launched one piece of briar halfway to Jupiter and, another time, blinked long enough to chew up some prized vulcanite. I gotta say that, in each case, the Micro Mesh miracle ultimately saved the day. But the bench grinder/buffer didn't save any time when it was all said and done. Also, I've been blasting away on my own pipes; if I had launched someone elses prized, irreplaceable briar into orbit I would've felt like a real rookie.
     
  2. Puff The Magic

    Puff The Magic Active Member

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    Micro Mesh is great stuff! Best fine sanding product I know of.

    :roflmao:
    Ed Puff!
    cogito ergo puff
     
  3. ruffinogold

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

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    Well , I'm a bufer guy and have been for a good while . I guess buffing has it's down side like making nomenclature go bye bye [ after many buffings ] and wearing things out in general over time . I've had this baldor for 17 years now and have buffed many hundreds of pipes with it and compounds and wax with little bad effects . Yes , I've tossed a briar here and there over the years which is why you'll see shrouds over the buffing wheels w/ deep shag like material to soften the rare toss and more so to catch fibers that come off the wheels from buffing .I look at it this way , theres always a way to make something better , it's why we're human . The shroud thing takes care of the briar taking off .... plus the way you buff can make a diffrence . I let a customer use the buffer on his own pipe cause he wanted to so what the hell ... well this guy put a ****load of compound on the wheel .. etc ... everything he did was over done cause he didnt know what he was doing .he put a ton of pressure on the wheel ...etc . Again , heres another example, if ya got a ****load of compound on your wheel and you wish ya didnt .. just have a block with sandpaper on it and buff the block to where the compound is off enough .I worked and sometimes still do restore period furniture [ french polish ] and long ago when I was in training with a cool brit named finn we had to recarve some faces and detailed stuff that i was nervous about . He said to me ... john, it's wood , we're human ....we'll win .I'm sure theres other ways to polish a pipe and I'm open to it but I wont poo poo the buffer cause I know many pros that do a hell of a job w/ them and I aint so bad myself.
     
  4. tsgourley

    tsgourley Member

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    The good:

    Emory boards! I wanted a mangeable way to remove tooth marks from old vulcanite stems, and I had the idea to start with one of those. I used the more abrasive side first, switched to the finer side, and then did my nails afterward (ok, just kidding about the nails). After using the emory board I switched to four different grades of steel wool and the stem was shiny, black, and didn't have any tool marks or scratches. In a word: beautiful and ready for final buffing!

    The bad:

    Wal-Mart (and I'm sure lots of the mega home stores) sell these foam sanding blocks in various grits. I bought a couple to sand down the stain off a pipe and it was horrible. The grit didn't last long, the foam felt more like a sponge and didn't really do anything I wanted it to do. I switched back to conventional sandpaper and my dremel with sanding discs to complete the job.

    The ugly:

    Just my ol' mug.
     
  5. Njemt527

    Njemt527 Member

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    The one thing that has really worked for refurbishing my pipes, in all honesty, is patience. Up untill about 10 or so months ago I had none, and for some odd reason I started acquiring it. Then I took to pipe smoking, and had to learn it even more to save my tongue. Plus, if you take your time, wood can be very forgiving if you don't take chunks out of it. The process is trail and error.

    I use sandpaper starting at 220 and work my way up to 1200. I've been trying to find some micro mesh samples somewhere, but no luck. I'm going to have to bite the bullet and order it I guess. I use tandy or febings leather die with great sucess, and the 4oz bottle goes a really long way. I was quite skilled at using a grinder before I started this hobby, and use one for all my pipes I bought a speed controller for mine, it will take it from mach 4 to crawl. I got it from harborfreight.com. Its called a router speed controller. But it'll work on any ac or dc brush type motor. Best of luck to you all!
     
  6. BigFlatBrook

    BigFlatBrook Member

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    I picked up pipe smoking within the past year after a long hiatus and have been building a collection. I have, at this point, bought 17 estates and restored them, as it's the cheapest way to build a working collection of briar.

    My tip that "works" is well-known and discussed a lot on the internet. I've become a believer in the bleach treatment for oxidized vulcanite stems. I was reluctant to do this at first, but turned to bleach as a last resort on an otherwise good pipe.

    Overnight bleaching does a great job on oxidation and it has to be the most effective way of sanitizing. Bleach is nasty stuff and will dissolve vulcanite so I monitor the progress for awhile. The roughness of a vulcanite stem after a bleach treatment is caused by the fact that some of the vulcanite has been dissolved away. Bleach will also dissolve aluminum, so I haven't applied this on Grabows or other pipe stems that have integrated aluminum parts (and don't plan to).

    In some cases, the stem will sizzle quit a bit in the bleach and it may even result a dusty coating over the stem by the next morning. I remove this with Everclear, a rag, and pipe cleaners.

    After the treatment, I rinse the stem with water. If there is still a bleach odor, I resort to Everclear, a rag, and pipe cleaners until the odor is gone.

    I had one stem that I had to treat twice to completely get rid of the oxidation -- it returned after the first bowl or two. One of my favorite pipes at the moment.

    Of course, one wants to restore the appearance of the stem after a bleach treatment. I'm reluctant to use a buffing wheel because some of the stem has already been dissolved away in the bleach treatment, and I want to remove as little of the stem material as possible while still getting a decent appearance. Plus I don't trust myself with a buffing wheel for now.

    I've tried two things so far -- neither of them have been completely satisfactory. I learned about both through internet research -- so nothing is my invention.

    The first thing was Tom's of Maine toothpaste and cue tips. This would probably eventually work, but I don't have the patience for it. Tom's of Maine toothpaste and a soft rag works better for me because I can apply more pressure and get faster results, but still takes too long as far as I'm concerned.

    I also have gone the emery board route. I produced a decent result on one stem with an emery board, but it's also a somewhat lengthy process. It was one of those used by beauticians that has four sides and eight different degrees of grit.

    Micro mesh would seem to be way to go for stem polishing.

    I know lots of people use Everclear, rum, or vodka and pipe cleaners, and are happy with that. But stem bleaching is one of the things that makes me feel comfortable smoking an estate, and that's what I currently do.
     
  7. Mister Moo

    Mister Moo Normal Cow Moderator Moderator

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    I have had good results on vulcanite (not quite ready for polishing) by wet-rubbing toothpaste and baking soda with a soft rag or old washcloth. Mrs. Moo is so great - she gives me the old washcloths.
     
  8. Dukeofbluz

    Dukeofbluz Member

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    This thread couldn't of came at a better time, I just got a buffing station set up in the garage. I have been doing a lot of research and ordered a stem restoration kit from Walker Briar Works
    http://www.walkerbriarworks.com/

    There is a lot of good information on their site in the Vulcanite info section.

    The kit should be here soon, so ill try it out this weekend.

    Looking forward to more tips,
    Thank you,
    Duke
     
  9. Dukeofbluz

    Dukeofbluz Member

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    Whats the best wax for the briar?
     
  10. Jay

    Jay Active Member

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    Duke, I've used the walker kit you mention, the bit polish and wax. The way the ad runs is that you rub it a little and poof your stem is shiny. Not entirely true in my exprience with a few stems. I have yet to get that shiny wet look on my stems. Bleach, sandpaper from 220 to 1200, then walker polish and lots of rubbing with an old diaper and still no shine. The ad says it can take an old green vulcanite stem to brand new--I have yet to achieve that with the method.

    But I haven't given up. I will try some other methods described here on the forum and some more elbow grease and see what happens. Micro mesh is starting to sound like an alternative to the buffing wheel. Let us know how the walker polish works for you.

    J
     
  11. Mister Moo

    Mister Moo Normal Cow Moderator Moderator

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    Micro Mesh (1200 - 12000) rubbed wet will remove all oxidation (and nomenclature if you don't pay attention) from a stem and take it to a near-wet look that a little wax or a light olive oil wipe will enhance dramatically. Been to the mall where the girl at the kiosk polishes your thumbnail to mirror finish? Same thing, Micro Mesh, if you take enough steps to remove all scratches; it takes many grades of fineness to do it right. I think the right buffer* and a small collection of wheels and abrasives is great is you're doing dozens of pipes and time matters but anyone with time on his hands would be pleased with 10-grades of Micro Mesh and some Renaissance Wax or Halcyon and a soft cloth.

    *ruffinogold post elsewhere about his Baldor buffer setup; you oughta read it before putting a pipe to a buffer. Also check this out if you love long copy: http://www.pipes.org/article.php?story=20100501080903914
     
  12. ruffinogold

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

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    Wow ! That was alot of really good info on buffing . Anyone interested in getting a buffer or anyone that has one should read it .Killer post MOO :)
     
  13. Longrifle3006

    Longrifle3006 Member

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    I'm a believer in the bleach treatment to de-oxidize vulcanite stems. An overnight soak is what I typically use. It leaves vulcanite with a matte black finish that polishes up well.

    Something that I found that works well for polishing vulcanite and acrylic stems is Brasso. I have used Brasso to restore plastic watch crystals and similar items before, and decided to try it on a few old stems. It woks quite well (IMHO) without breaking your wrist polishing. I apply with a terrycloth towel and rub to a sheen. Just be sure to give the stem a soap & water wash afterward and then apply wax or other protectant if desired.

    Emory boards and nail buffers I hadn't thought of using before. I bet the beauty supply places that you often find in strip malls (usually near a walmart, lol) would carry the micromesh nail buffers. Looks like I'm gonna need to make a foray into unfamiliar territory....
     
  14. Barako

    Barako Member

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    I've also had good results with metal polish to remove the greenish oxidation from vulcanite stems. Carnauba wax and hand buffing after restores the shine. The brand I use is Glo metal polish which I guess is similar to the Brasso stated above by Phil.
     
  15. Mister Moo

    Mister Moo Normal Cow Moderator Moderator

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    After three years of service to the security of our nation (regular army) was complete I swore, amongst other things, I'd never touch a can of Brasso again. 36-yrs later I am true to my oath. :)

    I get hives just thinking about it. It is less toxic than I would have imagined.

    http://www.pbp-services.com/coshh-sheets/Reckitt%20Benckiser%20-%20Brasso%20Liquid.pdf
     
  16. gunsmoke

    gunsmoke Member

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    Walkers polish works well for light oxidation. For really bad brown green stems i sand them starting w/ 500 & working my way up to 1200 in 4 steps then finish w/ Walkers polish then buff w/ white rouge then carnauba then dry buff w/ a very fluffy wheel. They come out like black mirrors.
    I don't know what bleech does to the inside (air hole) of your stem but i don't think it can be good.
     
  17. BigFlatBrook

    BigFlatBrook Member

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    Occasionally I see a full bent on ebay where the stem doesn't seem to match the pipe. For awhile, I thought these pipes did not have their original stems. But now I think it must be that bent stems start out life as straight stems and want to return to their original shapes. And if a full bent has been in storage the stem straightens out a little until it no longer has the right shape.

    I won one of these pipes on ebay, and it turned out to be surprisingly easy to re-bend the stem to the proper shape. The recommendsd methods worked very well for me. It was a vulcanite and not an acrylic stem.

    First, I stuffed pipe cleaners into the stem -- 3 pipe cleaners to be exact because I was concerned about keeping the smoke channel open. Then I held the middle of the stem over the flame of a sterno chafing dish warmer. The stem became pliable right away.

    The trick is to have a bowl of tepid water handy and dip the stem into the water while holding it in the shape you want. In my case, the stem stiffened up immediately and held its shape.
     
  18. Mister Moo

    Mister Moo Normal Cow Moderator Moderator

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    I have beached dozens of vulcanite pipestems with only good* results. From what I see on the outside, I believe bleach has far less effect on the airway of a stem than bristle pipecleaners. Negligable, I would say.

    * for those interested in trying bleach on an oxidized stem please be aware that it will absolutely remove color from dots or other stamped nomenclature. I have one Brakner estate with original stem - unfortunately, the classic green dot was bleached to bright white by a previous owner. I have read that applying Vaseline over such nomenclature before bleaching is suitable protection but I have never tried it myself so I can't swear to the effectiveness. I keep meaning to try Vaseline and bleach but the right (or should I say wrong) pipe has not yet come along for testing.
     
  19. Longrifle3006

    Longrifle3006 Member

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    OK I was nearby, so I went into a SALLY Beauty Supply to check out emery boards. I came out with a 4-sided nail buffer (sponge type) that is supposed to work on both natural and acrylic nails. The sides are 400, 800, 1000, and 4000 grit abrasive. I tried it out on a small bite mark in an acrylic stem on an estate pipe I recently acquired. The 400 grit side did fairly well in taking the bite mark out, and as I worked to the finer grits with patience, it appeared that the shine left by the finest grit was very close to the factory finish on the stem. As with other things, YMMV, but I think this item has earned a place in my maintenance and restoration kit.
     
  20. Mister Moo

    Mister Moo Normal Cow Moderator Moderator

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    Calibrated aluminum oxide grit is the schizz; use enough gradations from coarse to fine and you can polish anything except peanutbutter. On fabric backing these abrasives can be used wet and, when loaded with grit/grime/grunge, can be washed for longer life and much-improved reuse.

    Beware coarser grit hard-backed abrasives for taking crisp edges off buttons, for flattening surfaces and edges, etc. You may also find wet sanding offers better results - not sure how emery boards handle soap and water.
     
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