This post has been written by a Dutch reader of the blog, AJ Verstraten who contacted me a few weeks ago. Several emails later and we had exchanged a lot of ideas and tips. I thought it would be of interest for others here to read about AJ’s ultrasonic cleaner addition to the process. It was one I had not heard of before so I asked him to write up a piece on it with pictures of a pipe that he put through his process. AJ was graciously willing to write it up and submit it for posting here. Thanks AJ for your willingness to do this. It is great to hear from others about the methods they are using and how they work. The photos are well done and the words well written. Without further ado here is AJ’s article.
Greetings, my name is AJ and I hail from the Dutch city of Dordrecht. I go by the internet name of ‘Bananabox-Ninja’ and I am more easily found under that name then under AJ.
A few weeks ago I broke my knee in a motorcycle accident and it was put in a plaster cast with the instruction to let it rest and heal up. In this time I stumbled upon Steve’s website through ‘Het Pijprokersforum’ a forum of Dutch and Belgium pipe smokers.
As I like to refurbish pipes myself and I had time to kill I went through his whole website and learned many, many new things. In the weeks that followed I tried to get a hold of the things Steve used and tried them myself, like the black superglue and the grinding pads for example. Blown away by how well some things worked out I sent an email thanking Steve for all the tips and asking if he had ever used an ultrasonic cleaner. He replied that he had not but that he was interested to know in the workings and would I like to write about it?
So this weekend I cleaned a pipe from my ‘project-box’ and snapped pictures from beginning to end including the ultrasonic cleaning method I currently use. (The numerical key below the photo identifies the tools in the photo.)
1 – Polishing wheels and waxes
2 – Sanding paper (600 & 1000), sanding pads (1500 to 12000) and modeling files.
3 – Ultrasonic cleaner
4 – Old socks (but clean)
5 – Vaseline and 96% alcohol
6 – Hard and soft bristled pipe cleaners
7 – Q-tips (cotton swabs)
8 – Pliers
9 – Assortment of drills
10 – Senior pipe reamer
11 – Games Workshop paint
12 – Electric motor (0-2000 RPM) with grinding wheel (1500)
13 – Toothpicks
The pipe I chose to work on and record is a nice straight, big chambered Bristol Mat Geante, I presume the Geante is for its size as the chamber is rather big or as we say in Dutch a ‘Speciekuip’ (mortar trough). As far as I can tell Bristol a B-brand from France but I am unable to pinpoint exactly. I personally like the bird’s-eyes all over the left and right side of the bowl.
As you can see the stem has oxidation all over and the bowl itself is rather dull. Not visible on this photo are the 2 bite marks on the stem.
First I cleaned the pipe on the inside with alcohol and pipe cleaners until they came out almost white. If there is a thick layer of tar in the air canal I use the drills to scrape the inside out lightly using drills of various diameters. Tar will give way far more easily than the ebonite or acrylic it is in.
In this case it was not needed as the pipe’s previous owner was very tidy or had not smoked it much.
Then with just water and the grinding wheel I removed the heavy oxidation from the stem, careful not to create a round shoulder or to grind off too much for it to create a ridge.
Now the stem was ready for the ultrasonic bath. This is a new method I have only recently started using and so far I am positive on the results. Using a mixture of 50-50 water and alcohol with a teaspoon of disinfection agent, place the stem in the liquid and let the bath go at it for 8 minutes.
This bath can also heat up to 40 degrees but seeing as ebonite tends to bend back to it’s original shape if heated too much I leave that feature off.
You’ll notice in the last picture that the stem looks almost the same as it went in, however when you pull a pipe cleaner through it, there will be some mild discoloration coming out of the stem.
This method of cleaning is a good way to get the last remaining specks of dirt out of those hard to reach places, I myself was skeptical at first but I was swayed when I pulled the pipe cleaner through it after the bath I found that it did do its job.
It does not however remove oxidation completely, I tried with an unprepared stem and it came out browner than going in.
In the mean time I cleaned some of the soot from the top of the bowl with some spit and the old sock. Especially the part of the sock that fits over your ankle is rather coarse and excellent for this process. The chamber had a nice smooth coal layer in it so I left it in there.
After the bath I gave the inside of the stem few more scrubs with the pipe cleaner and the outside another run with the grinding wheel.
First a pre-polish with brown, followed by white, a coat of carnauba wax and a final buff.