First time estate pipe cleaner.

Discussion in 'Need Pipe Smoking Advice? Ask an Old Fart!' started by Jack Match, Jan 20, 2012.

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  1. Jack Match

    Jack Match Member

    Jan 18, 2012
    I've got 10 very nice but really dirty looking estate pipes arriving in about a week. I've never cleaned up an old pipe before but I have been reading a lot of instructions on how to do it over the last few days, so I think I have a fairly good idea of what to do.
    What would be very helpful would be if I wrote down an outline of what I am planning to do and then for somebody who knows what they are doing (you hopefully!) to tell me if I have got something wrong. I would regret not having double checked with the people who have experience first, if I messed it up and ruined 10 pipes!
    So here's the plan:

    Remove the mouth pieces (Put them in the freezer for a few minutes to help loosen them up if they are stuck).

    The mouth piece:
    -Scrape off as much nastiness as I can with fine sandpaper and/or a very sharp knife.
    -Give them a good poke through with a pipe cleaner dipped in vodka.
    -Cover tenons and makers marks with vaseline.
    -Leave them to soak in bleach until they look clean. (The amount of time varies a lot in different instructions. Also, some places say to use diluted bleach or not to use bleach at all, but enough instructions say to use undiluted bleach, and these pipes seem dirty enough, for me to want to use it)
    -Rinse them thoroughly with water and wipe with cloth/brush.
    -Soak in water for a while changing water regularly.
    -Give them another poke through with a pipe cleaner dipped in vodka.

    The bowl:
    -Wash the rims with a damp cloth, right down to the briar, removing any burns.
    -Give them a very thorough reaming almost down to the briar.
    -Fill them with salt. (some say fill the shank too, and I think I will do that just clean it all as well as I can. Unless otherwise advised)
    -Pour vodka in to the salt and leave for a day, maybe more. (again, different instructions say different lengths of time. Some advice here would be great.)
    -Remove all the salt with pipe cleaners and pipe tool.

    As I understand it the pipes should be nice and clean after doing these things, am I right in thinking this? Any corrections or advice anyone can offer would be great.

    The only thing left to do would be to polish them up. The mouth pieces will have lost their shine from the bleach, and the out side of the bowls will be just a grubby as before. The best results I've seen for polishing have been done with a buffing wheel. I don't have one of those, but if I did get one, would the polishes in this kit be the stuff to use? If so can any one recommend a good alternative because that kit seems a bit pricey for what it is. I mean thats not far off the price I paid for all 10 pipes! So any advice about polishing them afterwards would be great too.

    Thanks very much.

    (edited for terrible spelling!)

  2. NBPipe

    NBPipe Member

    Oct 4, 2011
  3. Jay

    Jay Active Member

    Apr 29, 2010

    Your proposed method seems sound with a few exceptions. As these are my opinions taken them as such. On the stem, I would suggest cleaning the airway first, before any bleach soak. I prefer Everclear, I can only access 151 proof, if you can get stronger stuff, do so. Vodka will work, but it is really the alcohol that cuts the tar, more proof, more cleaning action. Be prepared to use a gob of pipe cleaners, use them till they are black and nasty, this will cut down on how many use. Also soak that stem in booze overnight. Remember, it took years to get that pipe dirty, it isn't gonna get clean in a few minutes of scrubbing.

    If these pipes are high end, go gentle with the bleach and be careful of the marking on the stems, the vaseline is a good idea. I usually dilute the bleach at least by 50%. And don't use the scented bleach. let it soak for a few hours, even overnite if it is heavily diluted. It won't look "clean" it will look gray. Try using 000 or 0000 fine steel wool to scrub off the oxidation.

    Pay particular attention to the shank of the bowl--a lot of ghosts can lurk there. Lots off alcohol and q tips here. You can use the salt treatment here but will have to clean it out with alcohol again (I do) to get the salt out. Leave the Salt/ Alcohol in the bowl for a few days, I try to let it evaporate out by itself, time periods vary with temp and humidity of course.

    Keep the alcohol off of the finish of your pipe, it can damage it.

    Have fun,

    Spaceboy Tim likes this.
  4. Arkie

    Arkie Well-Known Member

    Apr 1, 2011
    I like Jay's idea of using 0000 steel wool rather than sandpaper. I prefer to use cotton rather than salt because it seems to wick the liquified crud out better but most guys do use salt.

    I let pipes rest a day or two after the treatment in order for all the alcohol to evaporate out. It's likely overkill but pipes certainly need to be thoroughly dry before they are smoked.
  5. IrishRover

    IrishRover Active Member

    May 19, 2010
    +1 on the steel wool. That's what I've used and was amazed at the result
  6. t-bear

    t-bear Active Member

    Dec 21, 2009
    Two things here...and really just "another opinion". Use cotton balls instead of alcohol, and change them every 4-5 hours until they quit leaching tars (don't turn brown). I've heard of dsalt cracking a bowl...never cotton balls.

    On the stem...since you don't have a buffing set-up. go easy on the bleach. cut it at least 50/50 and do your soaks in stages, cleaning after each soak. Bleach will pit vulcanite, necessitating some serious sanding and buffing. I would start with a short (4-5 hour) soak, then move to 4-0 steel wool...coarser will scratch the stem. Consider Briar Works stem polishing kit for your final polishing.

    Start with the cheapest of the your practicing on that one, then move up slowly to the better pieces. Most of all....have fun! Just PAD n TAD, this is habit-forming!
    IrishRover likes this.
  7. Jack Match

    Jack Match Member

    Jan 18, 2012
    Thanks a lot for all your advice, but the ebay seller underestimated himself and the pipes arrived much earlier than expected. Which didn't give you all enough time to reply, but I went ahead with my plan regardless!
    What arrived were 10 of the most foul and grim looking pipes I've ever seen. Stems and shanks full of awful slime and cakes literally thinker than the bowls on a few of them! 3 of them were write offs from the beginning, burned right through with a hole in the bottom of the bowl. I haven't bothered cleaning those bowls, but I've done their stems. Theres one which I don't really know what to do with, its a beautiful pipe with what I think is a horn mouth piece. I might ask for advice in a different thread about this one. Then theres the 6 which I've cleaned up completely, 2 really small 'Made in England's, a Falcon, an Alco, a big old Ogdens, and a nice little liverpool style Pipex. Nothing special really, except maybe the Pipex which is a lovely little thing.
    A good lot for cutting my cleaning up teeth on, what with them not being high end, having different sizes styles and finishes, and them being so filthy!

    Well I more or less followed the plan I wrote in my original post except I used lambs navy rum instead of vodka. And I didn't need the sand paper, I scratched as much off as I could with I knife, gave them an undiluted bleach soak for only about half an hour. Then used a tooth brush, the rough side of a dish sponge (which is a bit like steel wool), and ALOT of pipe cleaners to get them spotless. And its worked really well, they're all clean and usable.

    Only thing left to do is polish them. I ordered a buffing wheel drill bit which should arrive soon. As for the polish, I kept seeing carnauba wax being used while reading up how to do it. I found a wax maker who sells blocks of carnauba wax blended with English bees wax which sounds nice. Hopefully it will work well and the pipes will be as good as new on the outside too!
    After the wax and wheel arrive and I’ve given the pipes a polish I’ll post some before and after photos.

    Thanks again for all the advice.

    Going to ebay now, to find some more dirty old pipes!
  8. Jussto

    Jussto Active Member

    May 5, 2011
    Sounds like you're having fun, and getting things done at the same time!

    Scraping the stem with a knife sounds a little scary to me, but I guess if you're being careful you may be fine.

    If you have a chance to pick up an extra buffing wheel, you could use one for Tripoli (or some similar fine abrasive) before you wax the pipe, this is great for getting a super shine out of both the stem and the briar.

    Have fun and good luck!
  9. desertmoon

    desertmoon Member

    Mar 19, 2011
    My tip would be to do one at a time. Start with the one of the least value and work up. Do not start the next pipe until you are happy with the first. If you find one that stumps you or needs some long term detailed work, stop that one and start another and take it to the finish. You can track your progress and gain ground much more effectively if your skills are focused on one thing at a time.
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