Category Archives: Product Reviews

A Review – Before & After Restoration Balm


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.

Background

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.

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A Review – Before & After Pipe Stem Deoxidizer and Fine and Extra Fine Polishes


Blog by Steve Laug

Before I write a review of a product I commit myself to use it for at least a month on a variety of pipes that have the issues that it was designed to address. I figure that during this time I will either have good reason to reject it as not helpful or to be sold on it enough to add it to my normal pipe cleaning and restoration routine. I clean and refurbish quite a few pipes each month so a product that says it will do such and such a job better deliver or it goes into the waste can. I don’t have time for products that do what I already can do at least as well with what I have.

So committed to giving the product a solid trial, I purchased a small bottle of the Pipe Stem Deoxidizer and a jar of each of the Polishes. I have to admit up front, that I purchased this product with low expectations. I fully expected it to fit the “I already have products that work this well” category or that it would not deliver at all. I have tried a lot of stem polishes and deoxidizers over the years and they sit in the drawer wasting away with neglect. I was dubious from the start with this one, but I was committed to varying my routine and trying it out.

I begin the review with a little background information on the product, the cost and a few added instructions. I include the latter category because I missed it the first time around and it almost caused me to miss out on using a product that works well.

Background

I became acquainted with the Before & After Pipe Stem Deoxidizer and Polishes from posts on Facebook. For several months, I followed the work of Mark Hoover on the Gentlemen’s Pipe Smoking Society group on Facebook. He posted some of the most oxidized stems and then posted what they looked like after he used a product that he developed originally for working on pens. I kept reading and looking and just did not bite. I have used many different people’s concoctions for removing oxidation from stems and really none of them actually did it any better than a lot of elbow grease and time. But there was something about the work he posted that caught my eye and kept me looking. I think the thing that hooked me was that he did a stem and his product cleaned up the stem and left the logo stamp intact. It did no harm the paint in the stamp and it did not need any protection on the stamp before the product was used.

Product and Cost

I wrote Mark using Facebook Messenger and asked him about the product and its availability in Canada. He wrote back almost immediately and said that he had shipped quite a few bottles to Canada and had no difficulties with it. He had some available in two different sizes – 8 ounces and 16 ounces. He said that each bottle had slightly more than the label said as he overfilled them. He said that each bottle would do quite a few stems depending on the level of oxidation. He figures that an 8 ounce bottle will do at least 15-20 stems heavily oxidized stems. The less oxidation on the stems the greater the number of stems that can be done.

The cost of the product was $20 USD for an 8 ounce bottle and $40 USD for a 16 ounce bottle. He also sold a Fine and an Extra Fine Pipe Stem Polish. The price of each jar of the polish was $12 USD. He said that a jar of polish can take care of between 40 and 50 stems. He said that it was available on his pen website, http://www.lbepen.com/ and that there were instructions for using it on the home page of the pen site. The product is label as Hard Rubber Deoxidizer on the site but it is the same thing. We wrote a few messages back and forth and we struck a deal. I quickly made a payment via PayPal and the product was on its way to Vancouver.

Added Instructions

Once I made the order Mark wrote and suggested I pick up a few items to have on hand when the product arrived.

1. Mineral oil, as it is what he used to clean the stem after using the product. He also added that I not use water as it is not good for rubber (that is already a given for me). He used medical grade mineral oil as all the impurities have been removed.

2. Old T-shirts to use as rags for cleaning the stems.

3. An airtight container for the product as it will dry out if left open. Use the product as it is when it arrives, just pour it into the container.

He added some additional notes that I also found helpful.

1. The product is reusable and can be left in the airtight container. He did say that eventually the product will not work as well of course and should be replaced.

2. He suggested that I could soak around 10-15 at a time as it will save on the product that I need to use.

3. If the stems are very oxidized put them in for about 45 minutes, pull them out and rub them down then put them back in.

4. For very minor oxidation they might only need to soak for 15 minutes.

Learning to use the Deoxidizer – or before using, read the directions.

I received the package from Mark quite quickly considering it had to cross the Canadian/US border and clear customs. When it arrived, I tried using it by painting it onto lightly oxidized stems and found that it made no significant difference to my work load. Using it the way I was merely added one more step to my process of dealing with oxidation. I used this method for almost a month. I applied the deoxidizer to the stems with a cotton pad and scrubbed the stems repeatedly trying to remove the oxidation. I was less than impressed with the product at this point and laid it aside for a month. It sat on the corner of my work table irritating me for the month.After a month of misfires due to my lack of reading the instructions, I was ready to pitch the product in the can and call it a bust. It just was not delivering what I saw in Mark’s posts. Even on the lightly oxidized stems, it did not deliver. However, because I had spent the money and had the product in hand I decided to contact Mark. I am after a cheap skate and I had spent money on this stuff. I wrote and asked him some follow-up questions regarding how he used the product. I figured that I had nothing to lose.

Mark was gracious and highlighted what he had written to me before. He reminded me that the instructions were on his website. I ashamedly acknowledged that I had not read the instructions – something my wife and daughters will tell you is a common malady of mine. I immediately went back and reread his instructions. I printed a copy off his website so I had a hard copy. I found an airtight container and poured the Deoxidizer solution into it. I read that Mark said to maximize the solution by putting in multiple stems at a time to soak. I thought I would push it and put in a whopping five stems. 😉

I followed the instructions religiously this time so as not to repeat the earlier fiasco. He said to leave them in the solution for 45 minutes so I did just that. After 45 minutes, I removed them from the bath. I wiped them down with an old cloth and ran pipe cleaners through the airway to clean them. I had no mineral oil so I used some 99% isopropyl alcohol and it worked really well to remove the sticky solution from the stem. I rubbed the stem quite vigorously to remove the solution from the surface and found that it did a great job of removing the oxidation. The lighter the oxidation the more quickly it came off and left the stem clean of oxidation.

I did a bit of experimenting with the product, took five of my more heavily oxidized stems, and left them in the container of solution overnight. I come from the school of “if one pill is enough then more is better, right”. In the morning, I did not quite know what to expect. I opened the air tight container and peered inside. I was not sure if I would see my stems dissolved into blobs of rubber or worse yet still horribly oxidized. I fished them out of bath and was surprised at how black they looked and at how brown the solution in the container was. I rubbed them down with a cloth and if you were there, you would have heard my exclamation of surprise. The oxidation was gone and the stems were black. They were a little dull but they were black. The ugly oxidation was gone. Even more interesting was that several of them had embossed logo stamping on the stem side. The product did not damage the stamping at all and when I wiped the stems down the embossed stamp remained unscathed.

Okay, at this point I was beginning to get the picture. I could have saved a lot of frustration if I had read Mark’s instructions. This product worked like a champ. It removed the oxidation with little effort on my part other than wiping down the stems and rubbing them dry. I cleaned them before I put them in the solution as part of my routine. After discovering that the product worked that well I started putting in 5-7 stems at a time. At this point I have soaked close to 30 stems in the solution. It is beginning to turn brown but it still works very well. I intend to push it to the limit and see exactly how many stems I can run through the solution before it begins to fail.

After putting the Deoxidizer through a workout for the past two months I am pleased with the product. I recommend the product with no reservations. It works better than any of the other products I have used. It is non-toxic and does not damage the stamping or logos on the stems. It has saved me quite a bit of time and while the stems soak, I can restore the bowls. It is worth the investment I made in it. I intend on ordering a larger jar of the Deoxidizer so I have it on hand when the current batch fails.

 Before & After Pipe Polish – Fine and Extra FineI ordered a jar of the Fine and Extra Fine Pipe Polish at the same time I ordered the Deoxidizer. I decided to use them as Mark intended them to be used. On his website he describes the polishes. I begin this review of the polishes with his own description (on the website he speaks of using the polish on pens but the same polish is used for stems as they were designed for use on rubber).

Though these polishes are specifically designed for hard rubber and celluloid they do work well on other types of pen plastics. All of our polishes are made using the highest quality products.  These products are designed to not only recondition your pen but also to provide a layer of protection. All of the products used in these polishes are non-toxic and environmentally friendly.  There are two different polishes. Fine and Extra Fine. We recommend both as some pens will show more wear then others. Often one will work on a pen using the Fine polish and finish with the Extra Fine. The polishes are be sold in 2 ounce jars. The cost is 12.00 per jar. The number of pens one can restore will of course vary depending on the wear that each pen shows. I have restored from 75-150 pens per jar.

I have been using the polishes to polish the stems that come out of the Deoxidizer bath. They work very well and because they are not heavily gritty they do not scratch vulcanite or acrylic stems. They also dissolve quite quickly leaving a light oil on the surface of the stem which can be rubbed in with a cotton pad or cloth. I use the Fine Polish first and apply it to the stem with a finger and then scrub the stem with a cotton pad to polish it. I wiped it down and remove the oil on the surface. I use the Extra Fine Polish next and repeat the process.

I have found that the two polishes each remove residual oxidation from the stem that the Deoxidizer leaves behind. Often this oxidation cannot even be seen with casual observation. It shows up when I look at the cotton pads I am using. The pads always come out with the residue of the dark, grey-black polish and a lot of brown oxidation around the edges. The polish goes a lot further than the Deoxidizer. As Mark said on his website regarding pens, I can affirm regarding stems. I have used the product on over 60 stems so far and I have a lot of polishing compound left in each jar.

Mark also has a Hard Rubber Balm that I have not tried. I think it will be in my next order to get a feel for how that product works on the pipe stems. Over all I am very pleased with Mark’s products – the Deoxidizer and the Fine and Extra Fine Polishes. They deliver what he promised they would deliver and in doing so have made my work on stems a lot easier. They are a significant contribution to the pipe refurbishing tool box. You should really try some out and see for yourself. Thanks Mark.

His website is www.lbepen.com and the product can be ordered from the site or you can send him a message on Facebook to Mark Hoover.