Blog by Steve Laug
I have been using Mark Hoover’s Before & After Pipe Stem Deoxidizer and Before & After Fine and Extra Fine Pipe Stem Polishes for several months since I posted the review of those products in September. If you are interested in finding out about this new product, you can read the review at the following link on rebornpipes (https://rebornpipes.com/2017/09/15/a-review-before-after-pipe-stem-deoxidizer-and-fine-and-extra-fine-polishes/). I have gone through the first bottle of the Deoxidizer and have a second one on order. It is a great product that is certainly easy to use and it gives good results. With my previous experience with his products when Mark released a new product it was natural for me to want to check it out.
In a chat on Facebook Messenger, Mark told me about a new product that he had developed. He called it Before & After Restoration Balm. I asked some questions and figured I might try it sometime along the way but did not order any at this point. We did not “talk” long as I had to head out for work. But I continued to read about the product on Mark’s pipe restoration posts on the Facebook Group – The Gentlemen’s Pipe Smoking Society and became more and more intrigued. It seemed to add lustre back to the bowl when applied. Mark never showed his application of the product to the bowl or stem in his posts, he just showed the before and after pictures. It seemed to work very well on sandblast and rusticated finishes and was also effective on smooth finishes. I was not certain what it had to offer that would trump my existing regimen of cleaning and polishing products, but I kept reading his posts. The more I read the more curious I became. After having used his other products and finding them to be helpful I eventually decided that I would pick some of the Balm up when I ordered from Mark the next time.
Product and Cost
I seem to catch Mark most of the time on Facebook Messenger, so I sent him a message and asked him to tell me more about the product. Mark wrote back that he had developed the Restoration Balm primarily for use on briar but that it worked well on stems – whether vulcanite, acrylic or horn. He went on to say that it was formulated to pull the dirt off of the briar as well as polish it at the same time. It includes anti-oxidants to keep the briar from getting damaged from UV rays and water as well as something that enlivens the briar. Well that description intrigued me and I figured with all the pipes I have sitting around me to restore I had nothing to lose. I did not think that there a piece of briar in my boxes did not need a bit of “enlivening”.
The Restoration Balm was available in 2 ounce jars and will clean and costs $12 USD plus postage to your door. A jar of the balm can be used to rejuvenate about 25-30 pipes depending on the finish of the briar. A smooth finish will take less than a rusticated or sandblast finish so there is some variation. It can be ordered from his pen website, http://www.lbepen.com/ though I could not find it listed there. Just send an email to him from his site and he is quite prompt at replying to inquiries. When I ordered my second bottle of the Deoxidizer, I had him also send along a jar of the Before & After Restoration Balm. I paid via PayPal and the product was on its way to Vancouver.
Learning to use the Restoration Balm
I received the package from Mark quite quickly considering it had to cross the Canadian/US border and clear customs. I don’t know what I expected the stuff to look like but when it arrived I was a bit surprised. It was tightly packed in a small square box that the postie left in between my doors. It was sealed very tightly and did not even rattle when I shook it. I had to use a sharp knife to cut through the tape that completely sealed the box before I could even look at the product on the inside. When I finally got the small jar out of the box I was even more surprised. It had the look of white beeswax through the clear plastic jar that held it. It had a similar label to the other products I had purchased – kind of a plain, vanilla label with no real information on it. When I removed the lid there was a seal covering the mouth of the jar.Since there were no instructions included with this product and none that I could find on Mark’s website I decided to use the old noggin and make my own instructions. Those of you who read the previous review of the Deoxidizer might rightly question that tactic but that is what I did nonetheless. After all how hard could it be to rub a product on briar or stem and wipe it off after it had done its work? Other than knowing how long to leave it on the briar or stem it seemed pretty straightforward to me. I opened the jar, removed the seal and found a soft paste product that had a pleasant citrus smell. It was not waxy or hard so it seemed like it would be easy to apply to the surface of the briar or the stem. My Method and Experiment with the Balm
In general terms here is my procedure in using the new product. I am sure if Mark is reading this he may get a chuckle out of it and can correct my misapplication of the product. I rubbed the balm into the briar with my finger tips and found that the product became clear as it was rubbed into the finish. It did not leave hard or waxy residue in the crevices of any of the finishes that I used it on. I rubbed it in and then wiped it off with a soft cotton pad. I found that the pad not only picked up the remaining product but the debris that the product had raised to the surface of the briar. I decided to put the product through some pretty rigorous testing on my end. I generally use Murphy’s Oil Soap to clean the briar and have seen no reason to change that practice so I decided to use a large variety of briar finishes in different condition. Each one was chosen as representative of a typical briar finish and stem material.
A carved finish and horn stem
The first pipe I used the product on was a carved C.P.F briar bowl from the late 1890s to early 1900s. The carvings were curved gouges following the flow of the bowl like flames leaping up the sides and shank reaching to the top. I rubbed the balm deep in the carvings making sure to get every nook and cranny. I after I rubbed it into the surface and the product seemed to almost liquefy I wiped it off with a cotton pad to remove what remained. The pipe had an old Bakelite stem so I used the balm on the stem as well. I rubbed it into the surface of the stem and loved the life that it gave to the Bakelite. Before using the product the Bakelite was lifeless and dull afterward it had the same kind of glow that I get from a good buffing and waxing. This briar and stem were both cleaned previously to remove the lava on the rim top and grime that was over the finish and stem. Even after having cleaned it with the oil soap I was surprised by the debris that came off on the pad.
A Sea Rock rusticated finish and vulcanite stem
The second pipe I used the product on was an Italian made Canadian with a very rough sea rock style finish. I previously had scrubbed the bowl and shank with soap to clean off the finish. I restained it with a dark brown aniline stain and flamed it. So this use of the product was more of a rejuvenation than a cleaning. I rubbed the product deep into the grooves of the finish with my fingers working it into the briar. I want to get it into the depths of the rustication. I worked over the finish with a tooth brush to spread it evenly. I let it sit for a bit and then polished off with a soft cloth. It really did enliven the briar and add depth to finish. This time it did not clean as much as polish the briar. It gave a wax like polish to the briar. I rubbed the vulcanite stem down as well. It was a new stem that I had fit to the pipe but the product worked well to shine and protect it too.
A soft rusticated finish with a Lucite stem
The third pipe I used the product on was an Italian made Churchill’s Black Friar 407 Poker with a very soft rusticated finish. I previously had scrubbed the bowl and shank with soap to clean off the grime from the finish. I did not do a restain on the pipe so the use of the product was more of a rejuvenation than a cleaning. I rubbed the product into the grooves of the finish with my fingers working it into the briar. I want to get it into the depths of the rustication. I worked over the finish with a shoe brush to spread it evenly. I let it sit for a bit and then polished off with a soft cloth. It really did enliven the briar and add depth to finish. With the good condition of the pipe the product worked to polish the briar. It gave a wax like finish to the briar. I rubbed the Lucite stem down as well to try out the product on that material. While it did not absorb into the plastic it did work well to shine and protect it too.
A craggy sandblast finish with a Lucite stem
The fourth pipe I used the product on was an Italian made Oom Paul with a combination finish of sandblast and rustication. It had both very rough sea rock style carving with ridges as well as lighter sandblast style finishing. The combination of blast and rustication seemed like a natural challenge for the product. I previously had scrubbed the bowl and shank with soap to clean off the finish. But I wanted to see what the product did on this finish. I rubbed it deep into the grooves of the finish with my fingers working it into the briar. I want to get it into the depths of the rustication. To work on the combined finish I used a tooth brush to spread it evenly in all of the high and low spots. I let it sit for a bit and then polished off with a soft cloth. It really did enliven the briar and add depth to finish. It left the briar with a wax like polish. I rubbed the Lucite stem down as well. I know that the Lucite will not absorb the polish but it did give it a shine and protect it too.
A sandblast finish with a vulcanite stem
The fifth pipe I used the product on was a Frankenpipe that I put together from an Italian made Brebbia Dublin bowl, a piece of bamboo and a Lucite spacer and a vulcanite stem. The bowl had the Brebbia deep rustication Lido finish. In many ways is like their iceberg finish with very sharp edges and deep crevices. I previously had scrubbed the bowl and shank with soap to clean off the finish. I chose not to restain the bowl but to touch up the nicks on the rim and edges with a stain pen. I wanted to try the product on the four different parts of the pipe – the briar, the bamboo, the Lucite space and the vulcanite stem. In many ways it was more rejuvenation than a cleaning. I rubbed the product deep into the grooves of the rusticated finish on the briar with my fingers, working it into thoroughly into the briar. I wanted to get it into the depths of the rustication. I worked over the finish with a tooth brush to spread it evenly. I let it sit for a bit and then polished off with a soft cloth. I rubbed it into the finish of the bamboo and polished it with the cloth. I did the same with the Lucite spacer and the vulcanite stem. The product worked well on all of the materials in this pipe. It really did enliven the briar and add depth to finish. It gave life to the bamboo and the Lucite and rubber. When polished, it gave a wax like finish to the pipe. I was really pleased with how well it worked on this pipe.
A mixed sandblast/smooth finish with plateau – vulcanite stem
In my ongoing experiment with Mark Hoover’s Before & After Restoration Balm I am using it on this mixed finish Rungsted pipe. It would be a good test of how it works in the transitions between the smooth and sandblast portions as well as on the plateau on the rim and the shank end. I worked it into the sandblast portions with my fingers and rubbed it on the smooth portions. I wiped it down with a cotton pad to see if it pulled out the dirt. It worked very well on all the different parts of this bowl. I also rubbed the turned stem with the product and found that it gave it warmth and polished feel.
A smooth finish with a vulcanite stem
The final pipe that I used the product on was by far the easiest one. It was a smooth Octogonal Heritage square shanked sitter made by Kaywoodie. I had used the product on rusticated, sandblast, carved and mixed finish pipe but this was the first smooth pipe I worked on with it. As usual on all of the other pipes, I rubbed it into the finish on the bowl and shank with my fingers. I wanted to make sure to work it into the finish. I rubbed the bowl and shank down with a cotton pad to see if it pulled out the dirt. It seemed to work very well and brought some more dirt from a pipe that I had previously scrubbed with soap. I rubbed the vulcanite stem down with the product as I had before and found that it added life and warmth to the hard rubber stem and the inset logos on the side.After putting the Restoration Balm through a workout on a variety of finishes and stem materials for the past two months I am pleased with the product. It does bring the dirt to the surface of the briar making it easy to clean out the deep grooves. It also does a great job rejuvenating the briar and the stem materials. I recommend the product with no reservations. There are no other products like it that I am aware of so it has its own niche. It is non-toxic and does not damage the finish on the briar or the stamping or logos on the stems. It has given me something different to use on those heavily rusticated and sandblast bowls. It works well on the surface of plateau briar. I would not say that it has saved me any time as it is an additional step to my restoration process. I think that it is worth the investment I made in it so I will continue to use it. I will keep a jar on hand in my tool box of polishes and waxes as it has found a place there that is unique. Thanks Mark for taking the time to develop these products. They fill a niche that nothing else comes close to.
If you would like to order some of the Before & After Restoration Balm you can do so on his website, http://www.lbepen.com or you can send a message on Facebook to Mark Hoover.