Cleaning a Bristol Mat Geante – by AJ Verstraten (AKA Bananabox-Ninja)

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.)

These are the tools I tend to use in the cleaning/refurbishing of a pipe, currently I have some tools on order and they have not come in yet.
001 Tools LR

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.
002 The Pipe LR

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.

003 Set up LR

004 Half way LR

005 Full LR

Using the sanding paper wrapped around a file I removed the hard to reach oxidation on the mouth bit.
006 Filing and sanding LR

007 Sanding wrap LR

008 Sanding result LR

And afterwards to fill the bite marks using the superglue, q-tips and toothpick.
009 Superglue LR

010 Filled SG LR

011 Sanded SG LR

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.

So as an extra step I find it a great addition to my cleaning process.
012 Sonic cleaning fluids LR

013 Turn on LR

014 Waiting LR

015 Sonic done LR

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.

Then I started polishing with the wheels and the waxes.
016 Polishing LR

First a pre-polish with brown, followed by white, a coat of carnauba wax and a final buff.

The end result as you can see below:
017 Pipe done LR

16 thoughts on “Cleaning a Bristol Mat Geante – by AJ Verstraten (AKA Bananabox-Ninja)

  1. Jeff B Young

    Ultra-sonic was a great idea. I’ve used a vibrating cleaner with ground walnut shells,
    corn meal and other slightly abrasive particles to clean the corrosion from metal items,
    Your account may make me brave enough to try it on a pipe bowl and/or stem.
    I’ve visited your country and loved it. I hope to visit Belgium too, but my dutch friends
    tell me their tobacco and chocolate are terrible and the girls aren’t nearly as pretty
    as the ones from Holland.

  2. Mark Domingues

    Great job saving an old pipe! I too will look for an ultrasonic machine. I wonder if you used the Oxyclean solution instead of water/alcohol?

  3. Dave

    Thanks AJ for your well documented article. The use of the ultrasonic cleaner is new to me, and is very interesting. The pipe turned out beautiful. Thanks again for sharing this with us.

  4. upshallfan

    From one “AJ” to another, well done! What excellent pictures and shop setup, all very tidy! I love the vise mount motor. You did a great job on the pipe and the write-up.

  5. Greg

    I, too, live learning of new methods folks are coming up with and using. This ultrasonic cleaner is a very neat idea. I wonder if the untreated stem’s oxidation was loosened by the treatment? Maybe this is a way to make the final removal of oxidation a bit easier? The pipe came out wonderfully overall as well!

    1. Bananabox-Ninja

      Hi Greg,
      I can confirm that there is some loose oxidation that will come off the stem.
      I noticed it the most on the stem face, it was slightly brown still before placing it in the cleaner and it is now perfectly black.
      Thanks for the comment.

      1. Greg

        Thanks for the confirmation. And thanks for sharing this idea. I reckon I’ll be looking for an ultrasonic machine at flea markets and yard sales now!


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