Tag Archives: cleaning tars from bowl rims

Four Pipes Restored – #1 Charatan Special Shape 44


Blog by Al Jones

Recently a friend asked me to restore four pipes that came from the estate of a family friend . This gentleman, from Ohio, had previously gifted me two wonderful GBD’s from this same estate. So, I was more than pleased to restore this quartet for him to enjoy.  From research into this group of pipes and my two, I belive they were purchased from the old Smokers Haven in Ohio.

First up on the bench was this massive Charatan Special billiard. I’ve seen these Specials before, but they almost always have a saddle stem. This one has a lovely tapered stem. The pipe is 7″ long and at exactly 100 grams, a hefty hunk of briar. This one is a shape 44 and has the Lane stamp.

Paired with a 4K Castello to give you a perspective on the size of the pipe:


Each of these four pieces had a heavy layer of grime on them (as did the two GBD’s in my collection) and a very thick layer of tar on the bowl top.  The had some small tooth impressions that lifted out with some heat.

The tars on top came off with some light scrubbing. I soaked the stem in a mild Oxyclean solution to remove some stubborn oxidation. I stayed away from the “CP” stamp. It is light, but visible. I did not soak the bowl on this one, just gave it a light reaming. The owner smoked all of these pipes very hot and did a fair bit of damage to the inside of the bowl.  I was afraid to remove the cake filling that was filling in the crevasses. With a little use, the cake should build over these spots and the pipe should still have a long life, the briar is still very thick all over. There were a few dents on the bottom of the bowl. They lifted out nicely with an old kitchen knife held over a propane torch and a wet cloth.

After soaking the stem, the oxidation was removed with 1500 and then 2000 grit wet paper.  I then moved to using the last three grades of Micromesh sheets (6000>8000>12000).  The stem was then buffed first with Tripoli and then White diamond rouges.  A final buff with Blue Magic Plastic polish was the final step.

The tars on the bowl top were removed with a very mild solution of water and alcohol as I didn’t want to lighten the stain.  As the heavy layer was removed, I switched to plain water on a cloth.  The bowl was buffed with Tripoli, White Diamond and then Carnuba wax.  The briar really cleaned up nicely.

The finished pipe is a very regal looking piece.


I’ll detail the other three pipes from this estate in future essays.

Al Jones, aka Upshallfan

A Reborn Kaywoodie Relief Grain Billiard


I went to work on this old timer Sunday afternoon. I had picked it up on a recent trip to the US for a visit. It has an amazing blast that is deep and craggy. The pictures give a bit of an idea how beautiful the grain is but in hand it is an amazing tactile experience. It is very rugged yet the ridges are smooth to the touch. The bowl still had tobacco inside and a hard cake inside that was uneven. The rim of the bowl was coated with tars and oils that filled all the grooves of the blast to the point that they were smooth. They were also running down the front of the bowl along the outer lip of the rim. The stem was badly oxidized and over-turned so that it would not line up when tightened. The stem was amazingly bite free and only had a minimum of tooth chatter so it would be easy to work on. The finish was in good shape but was dirty. This one would take more work on the stem than the bowl. ImageImageImageImage

I cleaned out the old tobacco with a dental pick and then reamed the bowl until it was bare wood. The cake was too uneven to leave much behind. I then used pipe cleaners and cotton swabs dipped in isopropyl alcohol to clean out the shank and the inside of the bowl. To scrub down the bowl I coated it with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and used a tooth brush to scrub it down. I scrubbed the rim with a brass wire tire brush. I wiped the bowl down to remove the soap and then reapplied it to the rim and continued scrubbing until the grooves of the blast were clean and visible. I also used a micromesh pad 2400 grit to polish the metal band on the shank and the face of the metal tenon. Once that was finished I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem.

I put the stem on the pipe and buffed it with Tripoli to remove the oxidation that would easily come off. Then I heated the 4 hole KW stinger with my heat gun and realigned the overturned stem. Once it cooled I took it back to the worktable to sand on the stem. I used 240 grit sandpaper to break up the oxidation and bring the surface back to a matter black. I was careful around the inserted KW emblem as they are fairly thin. I then used 400 and 600 grit wet dry sandpaper to finish the initial cleaning. Once the stem is fairly smooth, no tooth chatter, no more oxidation then I use the regimen of micromesh pads to sand it to a polished look. This time I added three new grits of pad to the process. I normally have used 1500-6000. This time I added 7000, 8000 and 12000 to the mix and the shine is remarkable. I finished by buffing it quickly and lightly with White Diamond and then gave the stem several coats of carnauba and the bowl several coats of Halcyon II Wax. ImageImageImageImage

A Compendium of Methods for Cleaning Bowl Rims


Blog by Steve Laug

I started a thread on Smokers Forums in May of 2011 to find out the different methods that other pipe smokers there use to remove the tars and gunk from their pipe rims. I have used several different methods that vary depending on the degree of tars. I am speaking here of tars and the oily hard blackening on the rim and not burns or char. I started the thread by listing with a brief explanation the five different methods that I use either singly or in combination. Over the course of the past year others have responded with their variations on the theme. The majority of responders said that they use the first method either solely or as their most prevalent method.

1. Saliva on a cotton cloth and rubbing until clean. This works very well for lightly tarred bowl tops. It also works for more heavily tarred as well but I have found other methods that are less labour intensive and work better for me.

2. Mr. Clean Magic Eraser wetted and wrung out until it is damp not dripping. This works quite well. I wipe it and then dry and repeat until it is clean. If you use too much water the finish can be damaged and will need to be redone.

3. Murphy’s Oil Soap undiluted on a soft cloth or a soft bristle tooth brush. This works for hardened tars quite well. I dab it on with the cloth, work it in with the brush and let it sit for a few minutes before wiping off and repeating. I do not use water with this at all as I find that the addition of water has removed stain for me.

4. Micromesh sanding pads dipped in water. This is a method I have been experimenting with quite a bit lately and find that with care it works quite well. I say “with care” because you want to sand through the hardened tars and not through the finish.

5. An alcohol bath – if I plan on refinishing and restaining the entire bowl I soak it in an alcohol bath using 99% ISO and letting it sit for several hours. I am not specific on the time as it seems to vary per bowl. After soaking I remove it from the wash and wipe it off. I sand it with micromesh pads before restaining.

The people who responded to the original post wrote with a lot of good ideas that are as varied as the individuals who use them. Many who responded stated that their primary method was the use of saliva/spit and a soft cloth to clean the rims. They use various things to apply the saliva – pipe cleaners, cotton cloths, cotton socks, paper towels, napkins and denim jeans. Others responded with additional methods that they use to clean hard to clean bowl rims (rims that the saliva and cloth method do not do enough). The different ideas/methods below show the creativity and patience of pipe smokers as they address maintenance and refurbishing tasks. I have sorted their methods into two broad categories below:

Scraping tools and sanding tools

I have organized these methods in terms of tools and sanding materials that are used on the rims. From the information provided some people heat up the bowl before using the tools and others work on the bowl while it is cold.

  1. 0000 steel wool is used to scrub the top of the bowl rim.
  2. Large flakes are removed with a custom built tool – a piece of hard plastic that comes from the handle of a gallon milk jug. Any stiff plastic will work well and does not scratch the rim.
  3. A drill with a cloth buffer chucked up and Tripoli.
  4. A buffing wheel and Tripoli.
  5. The orange and brown Revlon nail files laid flat on the top of the bowl rim and in a circular motion lightly sand the rim until it is nice and smooth. Once finished cover with a few layers of wax.
  6. Clean the pipe inside and then smoke it. At mid-bowl, with the pipe hot, cover the rim in saliva and scrape it off the tars with a small fiberglass paddle, like that used for auto body work.

Scrubbing compounds and tools

The assortment of scrubbing compounds and tools is quite varied. Some of the materials used were surprising to me but they are tried and work according to the individuals who use them. The rationale that is given makes sense to me so I would suggest you join me in giving them a try.

  1. Hot coffee on a soft cloth. The combination of the heat plus slightly acidic coffee seems to work well in tar removal without removing stain.
  2. Tea bags – dampen a paper towel with the used tea bag and scrub away. Tea has surprisingly great cleaning qualities, especially for oily substances.
  3. Smoke the pipe and wipe the rim down with baby wipes while the bowl is still warm.
  4. Saliva and a soft cloth is my primary method with the addition of a small amount of ash for the really tarred up bowl tops. I lay the wash cloth on a hard flat surface and rub the pipe on it, keeping the bowl rim flat.
  5. A heat gun to heat the deposits and then remove them with a rough rug and saliva. Then very gently buff the rim with Tripoli to remove the rim darkening if it’s not burned.
  6. Sand it carefully with 220 grit sandpaper to loosen the charred area and then use Goo Gone rubbed onto the surface with a Qtip or cotton swab. The Goo Gone seems to penetrate the charring and after a few minutes then remove it with a paper towel.
  7. A microfiber cloth wetted with water and rubbed on the surface of the rim.
  8. Smoke the pipe and then scrub the rim with a toothbrush. Then apply a dab of Old English and polish the rim to a decent burnish.