Tag Archives: OxiClean bath

My Courtship of a Comoy’s Pebble Grain Panel Brandy

Guest Blog by Robert M. Boughton
Member, International Society of Codgers
Member, North American Society of Pipe Collectors
http://www.roadrunnerpipes.biz (Coming soon)
Photos © the Author

For there are moments in life, when the heart is so full of emotion,
That if by chance it be shaken, or into its depths like a pebble
Drops some careless word, it overflows, and its secret,
Spilt on the ground like water, can never be gathered together.

― From “Priscilla” in The Courtship of Miles Standish (1858), by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), U.S. poet and author

I suppose I should consider myself fortunate to have had many such moments in life as Longfellow described, and can only hope to be blessed with frequent more, yet when each occurs, the awareness never fails to strike like a suffering pleasure. Call me a sentimentalist, or a romanticist as were the poets who influenced Longfellow, or make of it what you will.

Several years ago, when I first began buying up numerous fine examples of restored pipes by my friend and mentor, Chuck Richards, I fell in love with the beautiful Comoy’s Pebble Grain Panel featured in this exercise in refurbishing. As I might as well admit at this point, my reaction to the coloring and fine pebbles adorning the panels and the unusual shapeliness of the pipe itself was as the great American poet described. Many other works of art created for the enjoyment of pipe tobacco, some of which I have had the pleasure of acquiring and quite a few more remaining on my wish list, affected my sensibilities (in the philosophical sense) in a similar manner.

Still, the persistence of my attraction to this singular pipe has never lessened. Perhaps this reaction was a result of the fact that, in a moment of largess, I promised the special pipe to a friend who prefers cigars but was interested in taking up the fairer form of smoking – and on frequent occasions since then, I have been able to appreciate its allure, albeit in the hands of another man.

With that chemistry in mind, I have on a few occasions, with permission from my friend of course, again held the full-figured darling in my own appreciative embrace to ensure that she has been given the care and respect deserved. I am happy to report that the lovely creature has received excellent if frequent attention.

That said, and recognizing that when I first cleaned the Comoy’s a few years back for my friend, Mike Brasel, I knew even less about restoration and refurbishing than I do now, I knew I could make the lovely pipe better than when I gave it away. If anyone detects a touch of regret in those last words, it is only because… well, it’s the truth! There. I got that confession out of the way. I also had taken no photos of the pebble grain before I turned it over to the care of Mike, and concluded that one easy way to correct that mistake was to get it back in my hands long enough to give the pipe a little needed cleaning. Machiavellian? Somewhat. Sneaky? Definitely. Regrets? None.

My primary solace for the loss of the pebble grain is two-fold: other than getting to see it on a regular basis, I can observe its regular upkeep. I knew Mike was in the good habit of running bristly cleaners through it but had no idea he must do so after every smoke until I at last was able to convince Mike to entrust me with the Comoy’s a few days ago. He actually paid me for a sweet, vintage Kaywoodie Signet bent smooth billiard I restored about a year ago (my first experience cleaning a pipe properly with a retort). I believe it dates to the 1960s if not a little earlier. Mike therefore had a substitute to use in the other pipe’s absence.

The reason I chose the Comoy’s for Mike in the first place was his comment that he had been unable to find a big, thick, sturdy enough pipe that would never overheat at a price he could afford. I knew the pebble grain would be perfect for his needs and fit his personality at the same time. But based on his standards for appreciating the thick-skinned Comoy’s, I was surprised and more than a little concerned when he picked the Kaywoodie from my restores available for sale. Nevertheless, while enjoying his first bowl of McClellands 2015 Christmas Cheer in his new Signet, Mike told me it smokes great and is easier to control without holding. The photo below was snapped just as he was about to remove it from his mouth.

Mike trying out his Kaywoodie the first time

Mike trying out his Kaywoodie the first time

Mike’s new pipe

Mike’s new pipe







Comoys9 AN ASIDE
I see Mike at our local tobacconist almost every time I’m there, and for the most part he smokes the cigars he still loves. On occasion, I’ll even buy one and light it up myself. It’s true, I enjoy a good candela on special occasions, in particular when I can get my hands on a genuine Havana, which is a treat I have savored only five times: twice on trips to visit my mother when she lived in Cozumel, Mexico; once with another onto which I slipped a Nicaraguan band and smuggled back to the States (although the Customs agents at the border picked it right out from the little humidor box I handed them, which otherwise had legal varieties, and smiled at each other before letting me get away with my attempt at subterfuge); again with a gift from a former co-worker in grocery store deli merchandising, this one being, I was certain, a fake – until I held it and noted the unique paleness and skin-like suppleness of the green wrapper, and the last that I bought from a friend in England who was a true gentleman to mail to me along with three more I purchased for Mike and a couple of other cigar aficionados I know. All of the Cubans I’ve smoked required hours to finish and left me with an almost illicitly pleasant, light-headed giddiness.

And so I was somewhat amazed to see from tell-tale signs on the Comoy’s that it had been used far more often than I suspected. The rim, of course, was the first hint, blackened as it was. Then there were the slight dents on both sides of the top of the shank, visible in the third photo above, and some minor scratches on the rest of the wood. However, the most revealing symptoms of frequent use were the general grime on the outer briar and the lip end of the bit. I also discovered, without even removing the bit from the shank, that the thin brass band that had been connected to the bit had come loose.Comoys10


Comoys12 That was a repair I never had to ponder before. Tossing the bit into an OxiClean solution for a nice long soak, I decided to tackle the rim first. I was able to remove the majority of the charring safely with superfine steel wool before shifting to micromesh, using 1800, 2400 and 3200. The rim as shown in the last shot below, I knew, was not finished, but more about that later, in its order.Comoys13


Comoys15 Removing the bit from the OxiClean wash, I rinsed it and with haste, while it was still wet, started micro-meshing, from 1500-12000. There was no need for sandpaper, other than the narrow edge around the tenon where the thin brass band still needed to be replaced. To eliminate the residue of the original adhesive, I made fast work of it with 150-grit paper followed by 320, then micro-meshed all the way through my pack of pads. Not having to sand any of the regular surface of the bit was such an extremely rare event that I was truly struck by Mike’s high degree of care for the Comoy’s. Here is the band before I cleaned it up easily with my steel wool, and after I reattached it with a small amount of Super Glue.Comoys16

Comoys17 Less than a minute’s more work with the steel wool made the tenon opening like new.

I considered the bowl and shank and how to clean them. Six small, thin cotton squares, used two-ply and wetted with purified water, took off much of the dirt with serious scrubbing both vertically and horizontally to get around the pebbles as thoroughly as possible, but that was not enough. With the wood wet, I returned to the three micromesh pads and made more progress, but the task called for something else. After serious consideration, I opted to go all-out with a couple more two-plies using Everclear, again rubbing both directions. At last I found the exact lighter shade I sought.

At this point, I finished the rim, using 320-grit paper with two of the gentlest swipes possible, one around the top and the other covering the rounded inside where it borders with the beginning of the actual chamber. I finished that step with the same micromesh progression as before.

While I still had the 320-grit paper and micromesh pads out, I saw no reason not to tackle the two dings in the shank and the sundry scratches. Again, most of these blemishes were mended with the micromesh. Almost all of the very slight imperfections remaining came off with light, focused application of the 320-grit followed by – you probably guessed – the same three micromesh pads. With an uncommon sense of caution, given that this pipe already belonged to my friend Mike – someone I had reason to suspect I never want to see really mad – I settled for the results I had achieved, except for a quick turn or two of 150-grit paper followed by 320-grit on some excess cake buildup in the chamber, and to clean out the loose soot from the sanding, a wipe with another cotton cloth piece wet with purified water.Comoys18





Comoys23 I only needed a few seconds to consider a retort and dismiss the notion, realizing it would remove too much of the cake that I had promised Mike I would not ruin. But I did dip a bristly cleaner in Everclear and ran it through the shank, turning it briskly as I did so, and saw it came out filthy. After using a dry cleaner that brought out more grime, I repeated the process, still finding some unnecessary old smoke, tobacco and other accreted matter. The third cleaner soaked with Everclear was almost white.

I left the shank as it then was and proceeded to the bit’s air hole, at which point I was amazed to find that one alcohol-soaked cleaner came back with minimal blackness. One more dry cleaner paved the way for another dipped in Everclear, which was clean, ending that step.

The hard parts of the job complete, the time came to open my jar of Halcyon II wax and dip a finger in for a dab of the stuff. The single dab was enough to coat the bowl and shank until they shone with a wet brightness and set it aside for about 15 minutes while it soaked into the smooth rim, bottom of the bowl and shank, and every crevice of the pebbled area.

When I could stand the wait no longer, I carried the two pieces of the pipe into the spare bedroom of my new apartment that I will use as an office/shop when it is furnished. Of course, I had already set up my buffers on their sturdy stand and had only to plug them in for the first time in that setting. I buffed the bit with red Tripoli, white Tripoli and White Diamond, using the clean cloth wheel after each, and wiped it down with a big soft cotton cloth. Setting it aside and taking a deep breath, exhaling slowly, I stuck my left index finger in the chamber and, with complete calm and a firm grip on the precious briar, buffed the Halcyon II on the clean wheel. Rubbing it down with the cotton cloth, I concluded a final run with the carnauba wheel and then the clean buffer was in order.

Studying every angle of the briar while I rubbed it with the cloth, I was a tad disappointed that the waxing and buffing process had made it almost as dark as it started. I had wanted to finish with a lighter shade of wood and a high sheen of wax, but decided against another coat of Halcyon II.Comoys24






A few words about why the first three photos of the finished Comoy’s Pebble Grain have a different background: when I went to the tobacconist to see if Mike was there, he wasn’t, and I sat down to enjoy a bowl while I took the pipe out for what I thought would be a final quick exam. I was horrified to see what appeared to be bad blemishes on the right side of the bit and shank, and on the top and bottom of the bit. Fortunately, I had my cotton cloth with me and discovered that the problems were only smudges of excess wax. And so I wrapped the rag around the entire pipe and gently turned it round and round for five minutes or so, while I puffed away at one of the tobacco samples on hand.

When I at last stopped rubbing the pipe, I handled the pipe as I would if I were checking out a new purchase, and found no more smudges. Relieved, I wiped it quickly one last time before taking the pictures of the first three angles again.

Knowing I couldn’t take it home with me, I put it back in the leather pouch I included for Mike, so that he could carry it with him with added protection, and left the Comoy’s of which I remain so fond with Chuck at the counter.Comoys31 Cheers, then, old gal.

Experimenting with Alternative Oxidation Removal Techniques

Blog by Greg Wolford

I’ve recently been involved in a conversation about removing oxidation on stems with steel wool. I have to be honest, at the first mention of steel wool being used on a stem made my jaw drop (literally, almost dropped my pipe). But these guys are long time pipe smokers and restorers so I didn’t just brush off the information.

They said that using 0000 steel wool, dampened with water, removes oxidation much more efficiently than miracle erasers, Bar Keepers Friend or any micro mesh/sandpaper treatments. The increased efficiency also reduces the time invested I am told, which makes sense and is appealing.

So I decided to try an experiment on two old stems. These stems weren’t in terrible condition but had some oxidation to them and they were nothing too valuable if I made a real mess of them: they are expendable so they became my test subjects.


I soaked them in a room temperature OxiClean bath for about four hours or so; I had to leave the house for a while so I made sure the water wasn’t too warm and left them to soak while I was gone. When I got home I washed them with dish detergent and a scrubby sponge until they no longer felt slick: about 2-3 minutes. They were the. Left to air dry on a drain board overnight.


Yesterday morning I went out and bought some supplies: a package of 0000 steel wool and some 400 grit wet/dry sanding sticks; the sticks, or pads, remind me of short wide emery boards.

I took a piece of the steel wool and dampened it and began to rub the stems. Every few minutes I would wipe off the stem on an old towel, rinse out the wool, and go back to rubbing. It took very little time to remove the signs of oxidation and the stems were much less matte finished than they usually are after initial sanding. So I turned my attention to the stem with the stinger to work on the chatter.

I used the new 400 grit pads to wet sand on the chatter, going back and forth, wiping and rinsing as I had with the wool. These pads seem like they will be very useful in getting into that hard (for me at least) to get bit area and is why I bought them to begin with. They did, indeed, reach into that area much more easily and they took out the chatter fairly fast. That area was now more matte than the rest of them stem so I went back to the damp steel wool. In a few minutes the shine came back up even across the stem, which actually surprised me.

The whole process, not including the soak and dry time, took less than 15 minutes; I was again impressed.


Will steel wool scrubs replace all the sanding and micro mesh polishing? I don’t think so. Will it reduce the amount of time and effort spend making an old stem look new again? I believe it can. I expect to explore with more stems just how effective this process can be and how much sanding and polishing can be avoided using the steel wool. One fellow said he can go straight to the buffer after the wool scrub. On some stems that may be a possibility but I think on most it won’t. Any chatter or deep marks I think are still going to require sanding. And if you have a rough stem after the oxidation is gone I think it’s still going to need sanding, too. But this is a (new to me) technique that I think needs more investigation and experimentation, one that potentially reduce the amount of time and labor spent on many stems, letting is be more productive overall.


Stem after using 400 grit pad and 0000 steel wool to remove chatter and bring back up some shine.

(Photo of the stem at the point I stopped along with the 400 grit pad I used and the packaging it cam in. By the way,  my local Hobby Lobby has begun to carry a rather large line of Micro Mesh and Alpha Abrasives products. The prices are competitive and the selection good so if you have a local Hobby Lobby it would be worth your while to see if they are carrying these items in your area, too.)

New Selection of Micro Abrasives at Hobby Lobby