Posts tagged ‘stem’

Walker Briar Works Stem Restoration Kit – Review

I recently bought Walker Briar Works Stem Restoration Kit, and I thought I’d share a little with with you.

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You get two 1.5 oz. jars, one of the wax, and the other of the cleaner.

The only complaint I have is that other than the brief instructions on the label, you have to go to the website to get more detailed instructions.


100911 Briar Works 1

Now, this was a totally unfair test. This pipe isn’t the victim of oxidation. It’s actually a new pipe stem that I dropped into a cup of coffee. That’s me, grace in motion.


100911 Briar Works 2

Following the online instructions, I rubbed the stem with the cleaner until the stem felt smooth. Prior to this, the stem felt like, uh, something like sandpaper.


100911 Briar Works 3

I decided to try the heavy duty clean as instructed on the website. Here I have the cleaner smeared on and left to dry for 30 minutes.


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This is what the stem looked like after I wiped the now dried cleaner off.


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I applied a new coat, and following the instructions, rubbed it in with a clean cloth until the cleaner was completely off.


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This is the initial application of the carnuba wax. A little bit of hand buffing and this is what it came out like.


Honestly, I did a half-assed job, just because I wanted a single attempt at this thing. With more work, I’m certain I can get it to it’s original black.

I’m very pleased with the product.

The Cheap Pipe Experiment

Let me preface this by saying I’m a pipe smoker, not that I smoke pipes. At least that’s how I see it. A person who smokes a pipe may smoke once a month, once a week, maybe once a day. A pipe smoker almost always has a pipe dangling from his lips, and a surrounded by a sweet smelling cloud of tobacco for as much of the day as possible.

So I abuse my pipes. I smoke a single pipe all day, letting it cool off between smokes, and then rotating to another pipe the next day. I have 7 “live” pipes that I rotate through. I say “live” because I have a few pipes that are barely hanging together thrown into a desk drawer should there be some ungodly emergency, and all my other pipes mysteriously disappear. Hey, it could happen.

Anyway, like I said, I abuse pipes. I’m a chimney, I drop them; you know, everything they tell you not to do. But I do clean them inside and out, even reaming them and sweetening them when I need to.

Still, I punish my pipes, and they’re kind of expensive, between $50 and $80 on the average. I do have one horribly expensive pipe, a meerschaum skull, but I never smoke it. Considering the damage I wreak, I decided to muck about with cheap pipes, not estate pipes, just to see what happens under the kind of conditions I put one through.

090402 Cheap Pipe 01So, the pipe you see here ran me about $18. There are cheaper, but you don’t know what they’re made of (I’ve smoked a weird, plastic like pipe once that ran me about $5). This is the basic briar with a vulcanite stem. No maker’s mark, just a stamp saying it was made in Italy, so I call it my “frah-gee-lay” pipe (see A Christmas Story). You can click on these images to see a larger view.

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090411 Cheap Pipe 01Now, remember, I smoke a pipe all day, but only once a week. Let’s take a look at this pipe a week later. Here you’ll see that the finish has started bubbling, creating air pockets underneath. In one corner, the finish has already chipped off a small amount. You can also see that the stem has already discolored. Again, you can click on the images to see a larger view.

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091818 Cheap Pipe 01So again, I wait a week, and smoke the pipe all day. At this point, the damage is extremely visible. Every place the finish bubbled, has now chipped open from handling. Okay, I kind of chipped at the edges so they’d look smooth, but on the whole, the damage is just from handling.

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Again, the key here is that I didn’t expect it to handle the abuse well, and that wasn’t the point. I just wanted a cheap pipe, regardless of how bad it would eventually look. You can’t beat a new $18 pipe with a stick just because it looks ugly. As long as the briar and stem remain intact, I’m perfectly happy with it.

090412 Cheap Pipe 01I thought I’d share with you one more cheap pipe. This is a meerschaum-lined pipe I got off of eBay for something like $7.  My rotation on this pipe was a lot harder, and it payed the price. You can see the damage to the bowl. The edges of the meerschaum lining have broken off, I’ve managed to actually smoke the pipe hard enough to destroy the bottom of the meerschaum, and the bowl itself is cracked. This pipe lives in my “if-every-pipe-on-the-earth-disappeared” junk drawer, ’cause, you never know…

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So how have my more expensive pipes held up under the same brutal handling? Virtually no damage to the finishes, except where I’ve dropped them, and minor discoloration to the stems.

So here’s my point: I wouldn’t recommend smoking any really expensive pipes unless you’re a collector. I’ve seen $5,000 pipes that would never touch my lips. I’d never buy them, but I sure as heck wouldn’t do much more than dust them once in a while. The range of $50-$80 is reasonable as good pipes go, and will survive regular use very well. But still, a really cheap pipe still smokes well, despite how it ends up looking, and isn’t that the bottom line?

Of course, one week later, I ended up buying another $80 pipe. Hey, it was my birthday!

Meerschaum Stem Replacement

I have a Meerschaum I really like to smoke. Not a collectable, not some delicately handled pipe, not fancifully carved; just a pipe I enjoy smoking. It’s been dropped who knows how many times, scratched up, and been the subject of strange experiments involving heat guns and beeswax. Basically, it’s a beloved beater.

That being said, for the second time, I managed to drop it directly on the lip of stem, breaking the lip. Nasty sharp edge. It’s not like a tough vulcanite stem.

Stem ReplacmentSince I’ve been through this before, I ordered a stem replacement from Cup O’ Joes, but after ordering it, I wish I had seen the one from Tobacco Barn as it’s much less expensive.

On getting my replacement stem, I had to carefully unscrew the existing stem tenon “receiver” from the shank portion of the pipe. See that “carefully?” Well, I managed to break the shank. Duh!

Okay, there’s no easy way to repair a broken meerschaum. Most say to give it up. On the more laborious side, there’s a recipe using powdered chalk and the white of an egg. Now mind you, I told you at the start that this is a pipe I enjoy solely for smoking, and it’s already worn and torn, so I used the fastest, least attractive fix I could think of: superglue gel. The gel is ideal for porous surfaces. Mind you, it leaves a glorious scar across the repair if you’re less than careful…uh, like me. It’s not worth the investment of replacing the pipe (although I do plan on eventually replacing one of my briars with another simple meer) and the damn thing still smokes beautifully. I touched up the scar with a special paint marker I bought for a Halloween project a few years ago, so it blends with the shank.

So I finally carefully screwed the “receiver” into the repaired shank. Voila, good as…well, it works. And the shank? Just another scar that says, “I love you.”

Okay, that just sounded wrong on so many levels.