Blog by Greg Wolford
Not long ago I was involved in a discussion about what I do when I start restoring an estate pipe. The subject was on removing oxidation from stems so I stated that the first thing I do is an OxyClean bath, soaking for an hour to overnight. One of the folks involved thought I meant that I put stummel and all in the soak and asked what it did to the briar. I explained that I didn’t put the stummel in, only the stem. But this got me wondering what would happen if I put the whole pipe in … this this experiment.
I picked this little pipe up in a lot and thought at first it was just a “toy” but closer inspection showed it had been used by its former owner – a lot. The cake was surprisingly thick and I figured it must have been his short smoke pipe. This unmarked little guy would be my Guinea pig.
I dropped the separate pieces into the Oxy bath and left it overnight, doing no reaming, acetone wipe, or anything else before so. It sat overnight as the OxyClean did its work.
When I returned to it the next day I retrieved the stem first and saw the soak had done its job on bringing up the oxidation. And I was a bit surprised how much oxidation there actually was. But onto more pressing issues: What did the briar look like?
So I reached in and pulled out the stummel and immediately felt the slick, almost slimy feeling that an OxyClean soak gives stems was on the briar, too. I began wiping it dry and noticed immediately that almost all the finish and a fair amount of the stain was gone. There was one patch that didn’t seem to be too effected by the soak, maybe it was not fully submersed; I don’t know.
The next thing I noticed was the cake, or lack thereof. The OxyClean bath had removed pretty much all of the buildup in the bowl and on the rim, which wasn’t to bad to start with. It would most likely not need any reaming after it was dry from looking at it.
So, what do I think about soaking the whole pipe in OxyClean now? I think that of removing the finish and stain are your goal and it has a fair or greater build up of cake/tars, this probably a pretty viable option. I still need to get the rest of the finish off and sand the stem and stummel; it is nowhere near finished. But I am leaning toward this experiment being called a success. Of course after the pipe has dried well and I finish the work on it I’ll have a better idea of what the pros and unknown at this time cons are so more experimentation is needed to say for sure. But at this stage I think I have new weapon to use (really an old one in a new way) for certain situations. Time will surely tell.