Category Archives: Pipe Restoration Product Reviews

Adventures in Cordovan


(Kenneth’s Pipe Incident Report #3)

Blog by Kenneth Lieblich

Here is another installment of my Pipe Incident Reports. The idea, in general, is to provide a brief write-up – focusing on a particular pipe-restoration-related issue, rather than an entire restoration story. Last time was all about lemon-infused isopropyl alcohol. Today’s report is about a colour of stain that I had not used before, but which always intrigued me: cordovan. If you’re not familiar with the term, it refers to a rich shade of burgundy (but with less purple) and is often compared and contrasted with oxblood.Of course, the name of the colour comes from the Spanish city of Córdoba. Córdoba (or Cordova) has had a thriving leather industry since the seventh century AD, and it is this that is most closely associated with the word, cordovan. I referred to my Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. It confirmed this information and added that the first known use of the word in English was in 1591 – in this context, it was simply used as the adjectival form of the city name. According to the Dictionary of Color, the first recorded use of cordovan as a colour in English was in 1925.I expected this colour to be quite red and that accounted for my previous hesitation in using it. Certainly, the bottle of Fiebing’s Cordovan Leather Dye appeared a bit redder that I would have liked, but an opportunity presented itself to try it out on a pipe. I own Fiebing’s oxblood and I’ve used it before, but it was time to try something different…

The pipe I’m using for this experiment is a handsome paneled billiard. It has no markings on it whatsoever, so I don’t know its origins. I acquired it in a lot of pipes that arrived from France, but there were some non-French pipes in that lot so I can’t be sure that it’s a French pipe. In any event, the pipe is unsmoked, never used. And so, I decided that this was the perfect candidate for me to try out my cordovan dye. The briar was raw and unfinished, so it would take the stain well. As you can see, the briar had some water stains on it and the pipe was generally dusty and dirty, despite never having been used.To give the dye the best chance of succeeding, I cleaned the stummel with Murphy’s Oil Soap. This removed all the stains and made the stummel nice and clean. I also used a can of compressed air to blow out any dust from the draught hole and chamber.The stem was also new but was clearly dirty from sitting around untouched for years. I cleaned it with a couple of pipe cleaners and then polished up the stem with all nine of my MicroMesh pads. Next, I had to address a couple of issues in the briar. As the photos show, there are some cracks in the wood that I need to tackle. Upon close inspection, fortunately, the cracks are quite shallow and do not meaningfully affect the integrity of the pipe.One of many techniques that I learned from Steve is to use a micro drill bit to stop any briar cracks from lengthening. So, I took one of my micro drill bits – and it is really tiny – put it in my Dremel, and drilled minuscule holes at the end of each crack. Of course, I followed this up by filling the drill holes and cracks with cyanoacrylate glue and let it fully cure. Once cured, I sanded it all down with my MicroMesh pads. Time to try the cordovan! As I mentioned, I expected cordovan to be quite red. In fact, it was a beautiful, rich, brown colour – I suppose at the brown end of burgundy. I flamed it and let it set and then coated it again with dye and flamed that too. I was pleasantly surprised at how attractive the colour was. However, I was equally concerned that I had made it too dark by staining it twice, so I decided to lighten it. Fortunately, this dye is alcohol-based, so I used isopropyl alcohol to wipe down the pipe and remove excess stain. I am very pleased with the results. I polished the pipe on my bench buffer with White Diamond and carnauba wax which made the pipe look all the more lovely.   Cordovan turned out to be an excellent addition to my palette of colours for pipe work. As I mentioned, I expected it to be much redder than it turned out to be, and that originally precipitated my hesitation in using it.   I am pleased to announce that this pipe is for sale! If you are interested in acquiring it for your collection, please have a look in the ‘Pipes from Various Countries’ section of the store here on Steve’s website. You can also email me directly at kenneth@knightsofthepipe.com. The approximate dimensions of the pipe are as follows: length 5⅝ in. (143 mm); height 1¾ in. (45 mm); bowl diameter 1⅛ in. (29 mm); chamber diameter ⅞ in. (22 mm). The weight of the pipe is 1⅛ oz. (34 g). I hope you enjoyed reading this installment of the Pipe Incident Report – I look forward to writing more. If you are interested in my work, please follow me here on Steve’s website or email me directly at kenneth@knightsofthepipe.com. Thank you very much for reading and, as always, I welcome and encourage your comments.

A Comparison Review – Briarville’s No Oxy Pipe Stem Oil and Obsidian Pipe Stem Oil


Blog by Steve Laug

Several months ago I received and email from Rich at Briarville about a new product he had developed called No Oxy Oil to help deal with oxidation. He offered me a bottle of the oil to experiment with and wanted to get my feed back on the product. I wrote and asked him how it compared with Obsidian Oil which I have used for quite a few years now. His response was interesting to me in that he said his product contains all food grade ingredients which he stated was not true of Obsidian Oil. He also said that it was proven effective in combatting oxidation and preventing damage to the stem by UV rays. I thought it would be worth experimenting with for comparison sake. Both products are similarly priced so price point was not the issue for me. I was looking at effectiveness and usability.

The advertisements for Obsidian Pipe Stem Oil are clear that it isn’t a wax or a cleaner. It was specifically designed to help keep vulcanite, ebonite or Cumberland stems from oxidizing, and help keep them looking newer for longer. In addition to conditioning and sealing the pores of the vulcanite, thus resulting in much less oxidation, Obsidian also contains small amounts of organic quality UVA/UVB protection. It is also billed as being great for new pipes or freshly buffed pipes and slow down the frequency of having to buff the stem to remove the green/gray oxidation that occurs on rubber based stems.

I have used Obsidian Oil on my stems as part of the process of restoring pipes. I put a few drops on a cloth reserved for it and rub down the stems with it. I never put a lot of the oil on the surface as I do not like to leave any kind of coat on the stem. I wipe it on and wiped it off within a few moments as it seems to absorb into the surface fairly quickly. I also find that doing it this way it leaves no residual taste on the stem surface but still works to protect the stem from the harmful UV rays and slows down oxidation.

I have ready many comments since the product was released both singing its praises and questioning its value. I have found that when it is used after cleaning and buffing a pipe it delivers what it promises. It does not remove oxidation that is already present and it actually never promised that in its advertising. It is a preventative and protective product that slows down further oxidation rather than a cleaning or polishing product that removes oxidation. If it is used with that expectation clearly understood I find that the product works very well. If it is applied with expectations of removing oxidation it truly is useless – even though it was never intended to be used in that manner.

Armed with over a years of experience with this product (in both its testing period and since its release) on my own pipes and the pipes that I repair and restore I was ready to try out the new product and compare it with Obsidian Oil. The questions that I began with were very simple. Would the No Oxy Pipe Stem Oil prove to be superior to Obsidian Oil or would they be equally effective? Would they be in essence the same product made for the same usage and be equally effective? Would the only real difference be the “food grade” components used in the Oxy Pipe Stem Oil vs. the organic UVA/UVB protection that is used in Obsidian Oil? My methodology would be simple. I would work with the product for a few months and see what would happen. I would use it the same way I used Obsidian Oil – my adaptation to the process and see how it works.

Here is the press release concerning the No Oxy Pipe Stem Oil.

Ok so here is the latest news. I am a retired pharmacist with an extensive background in chemistry. Through the years working at Briarville I have invented a superior pipe stem oil that we have used on thousands of pipes. It is all natural, food grade, antioxidant, and UV protectant. Shelf life is 5 yrs. Some of our clients have tried it and loved it! I have been asked by many to market this product. Your wish is my command! So here is our new No Oxy Pipe Stem Oil. Our first batch will be available to anyone on our email list for $10.99 with free shipping for 25ml bottle and a free buffing cloth. Ingredient list provided for those who ask. No secrets here. Just a superior product that will keep your stems looking new. Just place a drop on your vulcanite or ebonite stem after each use and keep your stem looking great. Rub on and buff with included cloth. This product will not remove oxidation but will keep new oxidation from forming. Try it and see for yourself what others have been raving about. I will post a video on it soon. If you’re not on our email list, go to our briarville.com page and sign up to get this special release of our new product. Any questions feel free to email me at rich@briarville.com

Now on to the comparison and the review. Both products promise the same thing – while they will not remove oxidation from a stem they will both keep new oxidation from forming. So dispense with any illusions of a softer and easier way of removing oxidation from your stems. This product not only will not do that but it was not made for that. Lets walk through the products as they arrived.

Comparison of packaging and instructions

Both of the oils came with almost identical directions. Obsidian Oil was very specific in terms of how the oil was applied. After smoking the pipe it was to be wiped clean of saliva or debris from the smoker (in other words it needed to be clean). A few drops of the oil were to be applied to the stem and rubbed in. After 30 minutes, wipe the stem with a soft cloth and store as usual. Each 15ml bottle should last for many months/years with regular use.

No Oxy Oil was also very specific in terms of the use of the oil. I assume that the necessity of having a clean stem, newly wiped down was presumed. The instructions just said to place a drop on your vulcanite or ebonite stem after each use and keep your stem looking great. Rub on and buff with included cloth. There is no time frame mentioned for leaving the product on the stem like there was with the Obsidian Oil.

The packing of both products was also similar. Both were clear cobalt blue glass bottles. The Obsidian Oil came in a 15ml bottle and had a nipple/dropper built into the top of the bottle under the screw on lid. This made it easy to apply and also was good for a klutz like me who is prone to knock things over on the desk. If that happens with this bottle – and it has for me – the product stays in the bottle and does not drain out. Obsidian Oil costs $12.50USD per bottle on Amazon.

No Oxy Oil came in a 25ml bottle and had an rubber bulb eye dropper built into the lid. To use it you unscrew the lid and squeeze the dropper to load some of the product. Place the drops on the stem surface and rub it in with the cloth. It is not quite as easy as the Obsidian Oil applicator which measures a mere drop. This product requires that you carefully place a drop on the stem and then put the dropper back in the bottle. I have to remind myself to screw on the lid so as not to knock it over and spill it all over the desk top. No Oxy Oil costs $11.99 per bottle on EBay.

I personally like the applicator of the Obsidian Oil over the bulb dropper of the No Oxy Oil. I find it easier to use and more controllable. It is also less likely to be knocked over and spill the product than the No Oxy Oil.

Comparison of the oils

This comparison is not scientific in any way. It does not compare what the products are made of as that is not listed. Rather, I looked at the texture, smell and residual taste of each and give my comparison.

The texture of both oils is identical. They are slick and both give a good shine to the surface of a polished vulcanite stem. Both seem to in some way mask any deep oxidation that has not been removed under the shine of the product as least initially. The smell of both oils is basically neutral. Using both on a cloth they also smell identical and leave the same oily residue. The residual taste on a stem that is treated with both products is interestingly neutral. I have read some who have said that Obsidian Oil leaves a residual taste on the stem that is rancid tasting. I have tried to reproduce that taste on the stems I have worked on and have been unable to reproduce that taste. With the No Oxy Oil I have read of no issues with a rancid or even a residual taste on the stem and have not experienced it over the 3 months I have been using the product. I have not been able to find any taste on a treated stem with either product. In terms of texture, taste and smell both products perform equally.

I applied both oils to the stems following the directions given. One thing I have learned in the process is that both cloths that I used – one of my own for the Obsidian Oil and the one included with the No Oxy Oil – soon became impregnated with the oil and I was able to wipe off the stem with the impregnated cloth instead of new drops each time I worked on a stem. For me this is a bonus as it makes the application much simpler for either product and also extends the life of a bottle of oil.

Using Both Products For Comparison Sake

For a fair sense of comparison it was imperative for me to use the products as specified by the makers. Remember they were not designed to remove oxidation but to protect a cleaned stem from reoxidizing as quickly! To me that is key to remember. They were designed to protect a cleaned stem and slow oxidation. At this point I can speak for Obsidian Oil that it does indeed do this. I have been using it since it came out and it works well to slow down the process of oxidation. I have worked on stems, cleaned, polished and rubbed them down with Obsidian Oil and left them sitting on my work table for months without oxidation reforming. In essence the pipe is in a harsh environment – fluorescent light, ambient light from a window and dust and has remained oxidation free. I have also kept them in a pipe cupboard with the same results. With regard to No Oxy Oil I do not have that kind of history with the product yet, but it seems in the short time I have used it to do the same.

My process with both products has been the same – parallel for the sake of the experiment. I have not varied it at all. I cleaned the stems of oxidation using my normal methods and after the stem is cleaned and buffed I apply the oil to the surface of the stem. I rub it into the vulcanite with the cloth or my finger tips and let it sit. After a short while I buff it off with a cloth. I have a cotton cloth I use for the Obsidian Oil and the cloth that was provided with the No Oxy Oil. Both products give the stem a slick coat on the surface and when polished a deep shine. I have also found that both have the ability to mask light oxidation that will show up through the shine after a short time. Thus cleaning the stem of oxidation is imperative before you set the stem aside. If oxidation shows up in bright light after using either product I go back to the work table and remove the offending oxidation and repeat the process. Once the oil has been absorbed by both products I buffed them with carnauba wax and polished them. There were no issues with either Carnuaba wax or Conservator’s Wax.

Conclusion

Concluding this comparison review of the two products I will summarize what I have found in using them both under identical conditions, with identical procedure and application of the product to vulcanite or rubber stems. I have tried both on acrylic stems in the interest of being thorough. Neither oil is absorbed by the acrylic and the oil has no impact on the acrylic as it does not have the properties of vulcanized rubber. Note that neither manufacturer recommends their product for Lucite or acrylic stems as it was designed for rubber or vulcanized rubber stems.

I have been using Obsidian Oil for several years and have gone through about 3 bottles. I have used it on over 300 pipes. Over time I have developed a rhythm using the product. I have a dedicated cloth that is used to rub down the stem surface with the product. I am pleased with the results of this excellent product. When it is used as directed the results are stellar. I have had none of the negative issues that others have cited online regarding this product. Obsidian Oil produces the results that it claims when application directions are followed.

For the sake of comparison I have used No Oxy Oil for 3 months on half of the pipes I have worked on. I follow the same rhythm as the Obsidian Oil. I have used it on over 30 stems –bent, straight and fancy and have found that the results are identical to those I have had with Obsidian Oil. I am happy with the results of using this product so far. I will continue to experiment with it and test it over time with the same light exposure issues that I have done with Obsidian Oil. I suspect that it will have the same results. To date, No Oxy Oil produces its promised results when application directions are followed.

The bottom line for me is that honestly, I have not found any significant difference between the two products. Both  products achieve the advertised results when used as directed. The caveat for both is that they are best used on a clean or new pipe for protection. NEITHER PRODUCT WILL REMOVE OXIDATION! I will use the product that is easiest for me to obtain here in Canada when I have run out of my current supply. To date that has been Obsidian Oil. I am not convinced to make a change based on the results that I have seen from using the No Oxy Oil over the past three months. With both products achieving the same results at this point I see no reason to shift my brand. Thanks for taking time to read this comparison.