Tag Archives: Pipe reamers

A Pair of Gift Antique Pipe Reamers From Kenneth to add to my collection

Blog by Steve Laug

Yesterday I had a great visit with Kenneth Lieblich on my front porch. We enjoyed some Seattle Pipe Club Tobaccos – Potlatch (his) and Deception Pass (mine) while looking at some of his latest acquisitions. He had picked up some very nice pipes in the last little while from sellers here in the Vancouver area. He also pulled out two interesting old pipe reamers from his bag that he had brought for me to add to my collection. The one on the left is stamped MADE IN FRANCE on both sides of the handle. There was also an adjustable screw on the top that expanded and contracted the reaming head to fit a variety of bowls. The one on the right side is stamped PERRY’S [over] HEDGEHOG [over] PIPE REAMER on one side and on the other is it stamped HEDGEHOG [over] a filigree [over] PIPE REAMER [over] MADE IN ENGLAND. The second one is not adjustable as the first one is. Both have the look of Medieval Instruments of torture rather than simple reamer to remove the cake. The first reamer (the one on the left above), the French Made one is significantly smoother than the Hedgehog. It is made by perforating the metal around the head. The perforations were lifted slightly and would work to scrape off the cake on the sides of the bowl. Interestingly the head is not sharp on the fingers of my hand when I held it. It was made in such a way that once inserted it was turned clockwise it would remove the cake in the bowl. The adjustment screw on the top adjusted the diameter of the head to match the walls of the chamber and the depth to which it would remove the cake in the bowl. The second reamer (the one on the right above), the Terry’s Hedgehog Made in England is quite a bit rougher than the French one. The cutting head is made by perforating the metal around the head. The perforations were lifted higher than the French one and would work to scrape off the cake on the sides of the bowl. Interestingly the head is very sharp when held in the fingers of my hand. It was made in such a way that once inserted it was turned either direction in the bowl it would remove the cake in the bowl. The cutter could not be adjusted to the diameter of the bowl and it was quite rough in it stripping back of the cake. It is not one that I would use very often on any of my pipes without damaging the walls of the bowl.  You can see from the photo that it is wider at the bottom the reamer than at the top.I leaned the two reamers together to capture a photo of the end of the reamer. The larger of the two is the French Made one. You can see from the photo that it is split in the middle and when the screw is adjusted it expands. The head of the Hedgehog has the two sides tightly closed and it is not adjustable. I also took photos of the two from the top to show the butterfly handles. These two will join my box of pipe reamers and reaming tools once I have it back when our basement is fully restored and returned to normal. These are two nice additions. Thank you Kenneth for the gift.

Sometimes when you buy an estate there are bonuses

Blog by Steve Laug

I negotiated the purchase of a lot of pipes from a fellow who contacted me about his father’s estate pipes. His dad had left behind 25 pipes, two pipe racks and some pipe paraphernalia that he would send along as well. I had no idea what to expect in terms of the paraphernalia but I looked forward to seeing what he packed. I had the package shipped to Jeff in Idaho. When the box arrived my brother took pictures of the box as he opened it. It was well packed with lots of padding to keep things from being damaged in shipping. He removed the paper packing material and inside everything was individually wrapped in bubble wrap. After he removed the packed pipes and the racks there was a small cigar box that was held closed with an elastic band. It was a hinged cedar box that was stamped Medalist Naturales Mild Clear Havana. I could not wait until he opened the box.He removed the elastic band and inside an interesting assortment of pipe parts and tools. There were quite a few reamers of different brands and some other assorted items. I could see a humidifier tab that you could put in a pouch or jar, a small brush with a wooden handle and what appeared to be two small plastic containers – one with a label that looked like it had a number 5 on the top and the other a number 7. There were also some Comoy’s Stingers in the box and a boxed KleenReem Pipe Reamer. Jeff included a few photos of the opened box from different angles before he unpacked to give me a feel for what might be in store.Jeff removed the lid off the plastic box that held the KleenReem Pipe Tool. The pipe reamer rested in a formed sponge that was originally form fitted to the reamer. The sponge had disintegrated into pieces and was the tool itself was formed into the hatching on the tool.Jeff wiped off the debris from the items in the box and laid them out on the table. There were four zipper pouches for Amphora X-tra Holland pipes. There was the Kleen Reem box that had the instructions on the inside. He removed the various pipe knives from their cases and added them to the collection.I wrote him and asked him to identify the various reamers and items on the table. He sent me a list of the items with their names. I have inserted numbers in the photo below to match the list below. (The KleenReem Pipe Tool is not shown in the photo below.)

    1. The Aonian
    2. Barker Mfg. Co. Portland, OR.
    3. Richards Shefield England
    4. Cook’s Pipe Reamer Ansonia, Conn. Made in U.S.A.
    5. Pipe Cleaners that come with the KleenReem pipe reamer kit,
    6. Aztec Freshies Clay Moistener Co. NYC.
    7. Maro Stainless Steel Japan (Brown handle)
    8. Four Comoy’s stingers
    9. Made in Czechoslovakia scoop and tamper
    10. Imco’s Pipe Companion Made in U.S.A.
    11. Atmos Pipe Kit Prod. Co. N.Y.11 N.Y.
    12. Atmos Folding Pipe Reamer Made in U.S.A.
    13. Masteromet Stainless Japan
    14. No Name Made in USA file, bottle opener, and knife
    15. Dunhill Stainless Steel Made in England knife and poker.
    16. -17. Comoy’s #7 washers (8), and Comoy’s #5 washers made for Comoy’s Grand Slam pipes.

Looking at all the assorted pipe reamers and knives in the collection I was excited to see what was there. I have a quite a few reamers in my collection but none of these. I did not have many pipe knives at all so I was looking forward to adding them to the collection.

Some Interesting New Additions to my Reamer Collection

Blog by Steve Laug

When I was in Idaho my brother gave me a bag of reamers that he had picked up on Ebay and also one that I had purchased. They are shown in the photo below. From left to right they are as follows: an unused Yello-Bole Self-Adjusting Reamer; two Cook’s Pipe Reamers that are stamped with the name over Ansonia, Connecticut over Made in USA; a smaller Bryco #1169 Hong Kong Reamer; an adjustable Kaywoodie Reamatic Pat. Pending and two British Buttner reamers that are stamped Gt Britain over Tool Steel Hardened and Ground Edges. Both of the Buttner reamers have Patent Apd 29243/45 stamped on the handle near the cutting blades.Reamer1With the pipes my brother had purchased and those we found while in Idaho I was able to use all of these reamers but the Yello-Bole. I thought I would take a few words to document the various reamers and how they worked.

I had never used the Cook’s Reamers or the Bryco Reamer before so to have three of them to use was a unique experience. The Cook’s Reamers and Bryco Reamers are the same reamer. They are one piece of metal that is shaped like a handle with two flattened blades. They act like a spring against the walls of the bowl when inserted. In the centre of each of them a screw is inserted with an adjustable nut. This nut can be turned to adjust the width of the spread of the two blades as it is used. The difference lies in the metal – the Cook’s are made of steel while the Bryco seems to be a softer material. The spring on the Cook’s is very tight and hard while that on the Bryco is very soft and easy to squeeze together. Both work the same way in a bowl. They are inserted either by squeezing and pushing into the bowl or screwed tight and adjusted out until the fit is snug. They are then turned and the blades cut away the cake in the bowl. They worked really well with lightly caked pipes and soft caked pipes and not so well with thick hard cakes.

Reame2Reamer3The Kaywoodie Reamatic Pat. Pending Reamer was in excellent shape – basically unused. Its limitation is pretty straight forward – it seems to be designed to fit one bowl size which I assume is standard in Kaywoodie pipes. I expected the tool to be adjustable from the name and unless it is stuck I am unable to adjust it. There is some movement to accommodate a straight U shaped bowl or a more conical bowl but the width is the same. The blades are sharp and the tool works well on the set bowl size. It makes a good clean cut on the bowl and easily removes the cake. The top nob on the remove turns and once removed reveals a long poker for cleaning out the shank of a pipe.

I did a bit of research with Google and found the photo on the left of the leaflet that was included in the boxed reamer. It is hard to read but I think the details are as follows. A. Removable Plunger Knob unscrews to reveal a 2 ½ long Shank Pick. B. Plunger Stem Depresses to activate cutting blades. C. Knurled Plunger Grip gives positive leverage. D. Self-Adjusting Cutter Blades made of stainless steel. Litho In USA. This leaflet gave me what I needed to use the tool well. I would never have known about how the various parts worked.

The British Buttner Reamers are not new to me. I have used these for years and they are a good work horse reamer to keep the caked tamed in the bowl. They work well in a moderately to lightly caked bowl but are pretty useless in a thick caked estate bowl. They are adjustable and can be used in either a conical or U shaped bowl with ease. If you don’t have one I suggest you pick one up for the regular maintenance of your bowl.

The unopened Yello-Bole Reamer has some interesting marketing phrases on the package. It reads New! For Pipe Smokers! on the top of the package. Directly under that is the usual Yello-Bole stamping. It follows with the title Self-Adjusting Reamer and $1.49 in a circle. On the sides of the reamer the package reads Fits All Pipe Bowls and Chrome Plated Steel Handle. Underneath the reamer it reads Tempered Steel Blades Never Need Sharpening. Then in small print is written – Distributed by Yello-Bole Sundries Co. Brookhaven, NY 11980 Made in Japan. I am very tempted to open the package and give the reamer a try but have not done so yet.

All in all these are some nice additions to my reamer collection. They are all new or barely used to they come to me in great shape.

Got a New Pipe Reamer – A Savinelli Pipe Knife

Blog by Steve Laug

I don’t know how long I have been looking for a Savinelli Pipe Knife but I have had an eye out for one for quite a while. Not too long ago I found this one on eBay and asked my brother to put a bid in on it for me. He won the knife. It came in the mail today. I unpacked the box of pipes he sent and in the lot was this beauty. It has a triangular stainless steel blade that is sharp on three edges. The point is slightly angled inward and neatly fits the bottom a bowl. The blade was dirty with some dried oils and carbon. It did not take too much to clean it up and freshen the cutting edges on the blade. The blade is stamped Savinelli with the Shield logo next to the name. Next to the handle it is stamped stainless steel. I lightly sanded the blade with 1500-2400 grit micromesh to polish the steel and also to clean up the edges as there were small nicks in the blade. Sav1The handle on the knife is round where the blade enters it. There is a small round piece of acrylic that separates the blade from the briar handle. The body of the handle is sand blasted briar and is oval and fits neatly in my hand. There is a smooth round band of briar next to the acrylic end so the contrast is really quite beautiful.Sav2 Sav3 Sav4 Sav5I am looking forward to putting this knife to good use on the next pipes I work on. I can’t wait to see if it is as good to work with as many have said. But you know what? Even if it isn’t it is still a beautiful looking, well made tool.

A gift pipe reamer that looks like an instrument of torture – A GBD reamer

Blog by Steve Laug

I was gifted this old GBD Pipe reamer by Mark Domingues recently. (Thanks Mark for the great gift.) I have added it to my collection of pipe reamers. It is a frightening looking tool that for all appearances could be an instrument of torture rather than a pipe reamer. I have to say I have tried it out and I would think seriously before using it again to ream a bowl. The spikes and points are sharp like the teeth on a cheese grater. This one was unused which is amazing for a tool of this age from the 50’s. It is stamped on one side of the handle with the GBD logo in an oval over the PAT. NO. 22411-09.
GBD Reamer
On the other side it is stamped with the GBD Logo in an Oval over MADE IN ENGLAND. The reamer is made out of Sheffield Steel with the spikes hardened against damage and to promote efficiency. It measures about 5.6cm by 3.6cm.
In researching the background on the reamer I found that original patent on the reamer was for a Terry’s “Hedgehog” Pipe Reamer. It bears the same patent number and is essentially the same tool. In the 2 photos below I have put the two reamers above and below each other to show how they are the same. The Hedgehog is pictured with a Euro coin and an American 25 cent piece to an idea of its size. On the opposite side the Hedgehog reamer has the same PAT. NO. 22411-09 stamping. It appears to me that the reamer design is identical between the GBD and the Hedgehog.

I did some more digging and found that they also made one for Dr. Plumb pipes. It is stamped Dr. Plumb’s in script on one side and has the same patent information on the other side. That is not surprising as Dr. Plumb is a seconds line from GBD. But the research I did makes me believe that the Terry’s Hedgehog reamer was manufactured and stamped for a variety of pipe companies and used as an advertising gimmick.
I have no idea when the sales card in the next photo was made but it gives an idea of how the Hedgehog tools were marketed by Cadogan. These are the Dr. Plumb’s version of the tool.
I also found this modern version of the reamer that is still available today. It is clearly not as well made as the original and the two halves are not joined in the same manner. Even the spikes on the new one do not look as well made or as sharp.
Hopefully this little piece on the Hedgehog Pipe Reamer, no matter what the stamping or age, has sparked your interest in this piece of pipe history. It certainly has joined the ranks of other pipe paraphernalia that I have in my collection. I will keep an eye for more of the older versions that bear different pipe marks on the top of the reamer.

Another Instruction Manual for Kleen Reem Pipe Reamers

As I was going through some of my collection of pamphlets and brochures in a drawer this afternoon I came across this Instruction Manual for Kleen Reem Pipe Reamers. It is the second one that I have. Both are very different in design and layout and seem to be from a different era. I enjoy looking at this kind of tobacciana so I thought I would pass it on to others who might also be interested in such things.






My Pipe Cleaning Ritual

Over the years I have cleaned up a lot of badly abused estate pipes that the previous owner utterly smoked to death. I have seen bubbles in the varnish of the outer bowl coating on varnished pipes. I have seen darkening on the sides of the bowl from smoking with oily hands. I have seen rims caked with a thick coating of tar to the point of being 1/8 inch thick rolling down the sides like lava. I have seen cake so thick that I could not stand a pipe nail in the bowl. I have seen bowls that are cracked down the sides from having the cake and briar expand at different rates and the cake being so thick that there was nowhere for it to go but out. I have seen burned out bowl bottoms that followed over reaming of the pipe. I have seen airways so plugged that I could barely pass a paper clip through it. I have seen gunk so built up at the shank stem junction that it is bubbling out of the joint with thick hard grime. I have seen buttons and slots so plugged that the airway is a small hole that would make smoking the pipe like sipping through a coffee stirrer. I am sure that I could go on and on with more of those horrendous descriptions that make me shake my head in wonder at how a pipe could get that bad without the pipeman paying any attention to the degradation of the smoke. But I will not go on. Rather I want to turn my thoughts to a solution and some prevention.

I have come to the conclusion that for a pipe to get as bad as the ones that I have cleaned and restored it would not happen overnight but that it would take a gradual almost unnoticeable process to get to that point. A failure to clean the pipe after each smoke and a periodic more thorough cleaning leads to an accumulation of tars, moisture and dottle in the pipe and shank. These combine to make a slow but consistent deterioration of the pipe. I have seen a pipe at its worst and at its pristine first smoke and have developed my own cleaning ritual to keep my pipes smoking clean and dry. It is that ritual that I am writing about in this post. It is a cleaning process that occurs before, during and after each smoke and has become an almost rote pattern for me.

Tools Needed:

  1. Pipe Cleaners – tapered, bristle and regular or extra fluffy pipe cleanersImageImage
  2. Alcohol – High % Isopropyl (I use 91% and 99% when I can get it) or grain alcohol
  3. Shank brushes
  4. Cotton swab – either generic or q-tips – these are soft cotton bolls attached to a length of cardboard or wooden stick.
  5. Cotton pads (I use women’s makeup removal pads that are found in most drug and dollar stores. These are multipurpose and work well on rims, stems etc.) Image
  6. Pipe reamer – I have written elsewhere on this blog about the two reamers I use the most, the Senior/Kleen Reem Pipe Tool and the PipNet T handle and interchangeable blade heads. I also have a large assortment of other reamers that I have collected over the years.ImageImage
  7. Battery Terminal Brush – I find that this brush is soft brass bristle and is ¾ inch in diameter and works well to give a quick swipe of the bowl. Image
  1. Pipe tool or pick – I personally use a dental pick that I picked up at a tool shop and it is a versatile tool for cleaning shanks and bowls. O-Ring picks can also work well. ImageImage

Before going into the process of cleaning my pipes and the methods I use I thought it would be a good idea to speak about resting your pipes. I have learned over the years to smoke a pipe throughout the day and then set it aside to rest. I have quite a few pipes so this is easily done. I move through about seven pipes a week and set them aside to dry out and air. I set them in a rack or upright on my desk bowl down so that the moisture in the stem drops to the bowl and air dries before I smoke it another day. I have a seven slot rack that holds the pipes for the week and after smoking I clean and return them to the rack. This is often called a smoking rotation. When I first bought a pipe I smoked it until it tasted awful and then set it aside and bought a new one. I have since learned that if I want to optimize the smoking characteristics of any of my pipes I rest them between smokes. Some folks carry this even farther than I do and smoke a pipe once, set it aside and pick up another. I do not do that and have chosen to smoke the same pipe throughout a given day before setting it aside to rest. It has worked well for me.

I have broken down my cleaning ritual into four distinct parts: before a smoke, during a smoke, after a smoke and then the periodic cleaning I do weekly or monthly. I will describe the each part of my ritual.

Before A Smoke

Every time I pick up a pipe to smoke there is a routine that has become part of the process for me. I blow through it make sure the airway is open and the run a pipe cleaner, either bristle or regular, through the stem to dislodge any leftover ash and pieces of unburned tobacco. I will the fold the pipe cleaner into a U shape and run it around the inside of the bow to remove any loose pieces of tobacco or pipe cleaner fuzz from the bowl. Once I have done that I gently tap my pipe on the palm of my hand and then proceed to pack a bowl as usual. This has become second nature to me whenever I pick up a pipe. It is so much a part of my ritual that when I am looking for estates in antique malls and flea markets that my wife reminds me not to put it in my mouth to blow through it until I have cleaned it! This process has kept me from loading and lighting a bowl with detritus in the airway.

During a Smoke

After cleaning and repairing many blackened and charred rims I am almost anal about how I light my pipes. When I use a match I hold it about a ½ inch or more above the bowl and draw the flame into the tobacco. I am careful to not let the match sit against the rim lest it burn it. When I use a lighter I do the same and keep the flame over the tobacco. If the rim begins to darken or get a bit of buildup you can usually remove it by moistening a cotton pad or swab with saliva and gently rubbing the rim of the pipe with it. I have found that doing this while the pipe is still warm facilitates the removal of the grime. As it heats it softens. If you pay attention and keep the rim clean and are careful when you light your pipe you will eliminate the cause of the charred, blackened rims so common estate pipe finds.

When I am smoking I am also paying attention to the taste of the pipe. If it gets to the point that the smoke is sour, bitter or off from what you normally experience with the pipe and tobacco you will want to do a more thorough cleaning. However, I find that this is quite rare when I keep the interior of the bowl and stem clean after each smoke.

After  a Smoke

Once I have finished a bowl of tobacco I empty out the remaining ash. I also insert a pipe cleaner and clean out the shank and stem. I will often dampen the end of the cleaner in my mouth before inserting it in the button. I extend it into the bowl just a short distance as I do not want to wear a slot in the bottom of the bowl. I am primarily concerned with cleaning the airway at this point. I also work it from side to side in the slot and pay special attention to getting the edges of the slot clean in the button. This is something I also picked up from my refurbishing. I find that the slot will often fill along the edges and gradually close off so I work the pipe cleaner from side to side to keep the button and slot clean. I remove the cleaner and fold it in a U and swab out the inside of the bowl to remove ash and loose pieces of tobacco that did not burn. I tap it lightly against my hand and then use a second cleaner to remove any leftover moisture from the inside of the pipe and stem.

I don’t take apart the pipe while it is warm as I have heard often enough that to do so will loosen the fit and can cause a cracked shank. I have not experienced that first hand but don’t really want to go through that so I let it cool before taking it apart. It is my habit to take the pipe apart when I do the periodic/monthly cleaning. When I have cleaned the pipe I blow through it to make sure it is good and clean and then use the second pipe cleaner for a final time. I wipe down the outside of the bowl with a cloth that I have impregnated with Briar Wipe or a use a microfibre cloth. I wipe off the bowl and rim as well as the stem and give a soft buff with the cloth before I set the pipe back in the rack or on my desk with the stem up. I generally allow my pipes to rest for 4-5 days before smoking them again.

Monthly or Periodic Cleaning

I find that once a month or every six weeks I break down the pipes I have smoked during that time period and give them a more thorough cleaning than what I do immediately after smoking them. Some folks do this weekly but I have found that the monthly cleaning works best for my schedule and style of smoking. My process is spelled out as follows:

I spread out a clean cotton towel on my desk or work table and carefully remove the stem from each of the pipes I am cleaning. I lay them on the towel next to each other and work my way through the lot doing the same procedure to each one. I dip a regular pipe cleaner in alcohol and run it through the stem, from the tenon to the mouthpiece, pulling it through. If I have cleaned my pipes well after each smoke then it is likely that they will come out pretty clean. There always is a bit of oils and tars on the pipe cleaner that the alcohol draws out better than the saliva I use after the smoke. I repeat this process with a dry pipe cleaner, and then use an alcohol dipped one until the pipe cleaner comes out clean. When it is clean I use one final dry pipe cleaner to remove any moisture then I set the stem aside. I have found that if I continue the same process with several pipe stems before moving on to the bowls I can move the cleaning along more smoothly. Maybe it is part of my “system guy” thing but I find the completion of one part of the task refreshing before moving to the next part of my ritual.

I then move on to the bowl and shanks. I use bristle pipe cleaners and pipe shank brushes that have been moistened with alcohol to scrub the inside of the mortise and the airway into the bowl. I am careful not to push the pipe cleaner too far into the bowl as I have seen in my refurbishing pipes that had this done and the bottom of the bowl was grooved and the wall of the bowl dented by repeated over extending of the pipe cleaner (they are wire in the center and they do make an impact over time). I alternate the cleaning with dry, regular pipe cleaners. I will often use a lot of pipe cleaners to get the shank airway clean. I also use a cotton swab dampened with alcohol to clean out the mortise area and the flat area at the bottom of the mortise where the tenon sits. I have found that the cotton swabs allow you to thoroughly clean the mortise well. I alternate between alcohol dampened swabs and dry ones until they come out clean. I use a cotton pad to wipe off any remaining build up on the rim then reinsert the stem in the bowl before I give the pipe a coat of carnauba wax (if you do not have a buffer you can use Paragon Wax for smooth bowls and Halcyon II for rusticated and sandblasted bowls). I polish the wax either by hand or with a soft buff with a flannel pad. If the stem or bowl has a band I polish it with a jeweler’s cloth or a good silver or metal polish. When the pipe is cleaned and shined I put it back in the rack and let it sit for a day or so to thoroughly dry out before smoking it.

Kleen Reem Pipe Reamer Instruction Booklet

Blog by Steve Laug

I had this instruction booklet for the Kleen Reem pipe reamer in my files and thought I would post it here. It is the best explanation in words and pictures that I have seen for the use of the reamer – regardless of whether it is marketed as a Kleen Reem Reamer or a Senior Reamer. The diagrams are applicable to both.




I Guess I Collect Pipe Reamers

Blog by Steve Laug

One of the side hobbies that came with collecting pipes was the collection of pipe reamers. I love the creativity and inventiveness that went into each one in my collection. I use many different reamers in the process of refurbishing pipes. It seems like I always need one that is shaped a bit differently than the one I am using so I reach into my box of reamers and almost certainly I will have one that fits the bowl size and shape.


In the top row from left to right – a KleenReem reamer, an Atlas Rocket, A Rogers Rocket, and bristle brush on a handle. The KleenReem is one of the reamers that I use almost all of the time. It is adjustable and has a built in drill bit that work well in cleaning out the shank. The Atlas Rocket is spring loaded and work in both conical bowls and U shaped bowls. I use it on lightly caked pipes that I am cleaning. The Rogers Rocket is a bit of overkill but works well on U shaped bowls as the blades are adjustable. The steel bristle brush is very good for just knocking off lightly coated bowls and as a finish to bowls that I have reamed.

The second row from left to right – A Hedgehog Reamer, a no name folding reamer, a Dunhill T handle reamer, a spring steel blade adjustable reamer, a GBD reamer. The Hedgehog and the GBD reamer are similar – they are a steel bullet shaped end with a key top that has sharp metal spikes all around it. These two I rarely use as they just seem too brutal. The no name reamer is really nice for narrow conical bowls and reaches to the bottom of the bowl. The spring steel bald reamer is great as an initial field ream of the pipe. The Dunhill T handle reamer I have used to finish a reaming of many pipes. It seems to be sharp and is capable of smoothing out the cake and bowl walls to a nice finish. The spring steel blades adjust to fit any bowl size or shape.

The bottom row from left to right – In the red package is a British Buttner reamer and on the far right bottom is a second one. These two I generally have with me when I am travelling and on the prowl for estate pipes. They work great on pretty much any pipe bowl to give me a good cleaning before I bring them home to the shop. Care must be exercised as they can easily make a bowl lose its round shape if you do not hold it vertically when you turn it. In the centre at the bottom is my favourite reamer – a PipNet reaming set. It includes a T handle and four heads of different sizes that each has four blades embedded in the plastic. These can quickly be changed from size to size and any bowl is easily reamed. They do work best on U shaped bowls.

I think since I took this picture I have picked up several more reamers for the collection but these give the basic idea of what I use in the process of a refurbishment. Keep an eye open for reamers while you are out and about in the shops looking for estate pipes or on EBay looking for pipe lots. You never know what kind of great tool you are going to find. If you have some that are not in the picture above and want to part with them drop me a line or comment on this post. We can work something out!

My choices in Pipe Reamers – a review

Blog by Steve Laug

In the process of refurbishing estate pipes, a thing that I enjoy doing, I use two pipe reamers almost every time I begin the work. Both of them have different strengths or advantages that I have come to count on in the process of using them. They work on the thickest and hardest cake that I have found in these old work horse pipes. I have written of the advantages and weaknesses of both in the review that follows.  

The first of these is readily available on EBay as Kleen Reem pipe reamers. There is also a similar reamer available going under the label of the Senior Reamer which can be purchased at most of the online pipe vendors. The reamer I have is pictured below. It is an adjustable three blade hardened steel reamer. The top is the adjustment knob and as it is turned it opens the blades wider or narrower. The utility of this reamer is that it is able to be adjusted to multiple bowl sizes. The blades remain vertical so that the bowl does not taper. It works very well for cylindrical shaped bowls. The hardened steel does a great job cutting back the carbon of the cake and can be adjusted to allow for different cake depths. The one draw back of this reamer is that it does not do a great job on the heel of the bowl in rounded or U shaped bowls. It is perfect for the conical bowl or V shaped bowl that tapers to a point. In the U shaped bowls I have to finish the reaming by using the second tool below or a piece of sand paper wrapped on a dowel.


The case that the reamer came in is functional and strong. In the bottom edge of the case there is a banded group of cut pipe cleaners.

A brilliant part of this tool is found under the adjustment knob on the top. The knob can be turned to unscrew it from the main unit. Once it is removed it reveals a drill bit attached to the knob that is designed to clean out the airway in the shank. It can be twisted into the shank to reopened clogged and restricted airways without damaging the pipe. I use the drill bit by itself the first few times through the shank to remove the grime and tars. I then follow up with the pipe cleaners inserted and wrapped up the bit then dipped in alcohol to remove the loosened grime from the shank of the pipe. I have replaced the original ones that came with the kit many times with cut pieces of regular or fluffy pipe cleaners. The diagram below shows the bit inserted in the shank. It also shows the winding of the pipe cleaners on the drill bit that I referred to above.


The picture below shows the reamer as diagrammed with the instruction manual that came with the Kleen Reem kit. The numerals on the diagram are explained in the instructions on the right side of the picture. I use the reamer as a regular part of the cleaning routine I have established for working on estate pipes.


I would recommend either the Senior Reamer or the Kleen Reem Reamer for all those who clean and work on their own pipe and those who do refurbishing of estate pipes. When you purchase it know that you will need another tool or have to use sandpaper and dowel to maintain the heel of the bowl.

The second reamer that is in my refurbishing tool kit is called a Pipnet Reamer. I found this reamer when the one above left me with work to do at the bottom of the bowl. I was searching for a tool that did a better job in that part of the bowl. This reamer has also been packaged and sold in North America under the Castleford name. From my experience while these two versions of the reamer look the same, the Castleford set is not as well made as the Pipnet set. I will comment on that later in this article. Both sets come in a cardboard storage case and include a foam insert with cut spaces for the “T” handle and four heads of different diameters. To use the reamer the heads (tenons) are inserted into a square slot (mortise) on the bottom of the handle and then can be turned into the bowls for a thorough reaming. The picture below shows the Pipnet set that I have. I have reboxed it in an old wooden box that my kids had around. I found that it is a perfect fit and keeps the parts together.


The greatest asset of this tool in my opinion is that the interchangeable heads make it possible to work with a variety of bowl sizes and with various cake thicknesses. On older heavily caked bowls the reaming can be done in stages until it is the cake thickness matches the desired depth chosen by the refurbisher. This also makes it very easy to ream the cake all the way back to the wood or to leave any amount of cake you chooses. The size and shape of the combined handle and heads make it easy to keep the tool vertical in the bowl and avoid over reaming or ruining the roundness of the bowl by reaming at an angle.

Often when I am refurbishing older pipes I use both reamers mentioned in this article to complete the reaming to my satisfaction. I start reaming with the Pipnet and end with the KleenReem or the reverse depending on the bowl shape. I find that the design of the tool allows me to have a good grip on the handle as I turn the blades to cut the cake. I begin with the smallest head and work my way up to the size that brings the bowl to a place where I then use the KleenReem to finish the work.

Each cutting head of the Pipnet tool has four blades inserted into a hard plastic head. They are basically hardened steel “U” shapes that meet at the bottom of the head and go up the length of the head. The cutting head, though obviously designed for “U” shaped bowls, also can be used in conical bowls. Again the reaming process should begin with the smallest head that fits into the bottom of the bowl and then working up the varying sizes of heads until the bowl is completely reamed. The design and shape of the heads is visible in the picture of the Castleford Set below.


In terms of durability I have used the Pipnet set for five years without any damage to the handle or heads. I was concerned when the tool arrived that the stress on the handle head connection (tenon/mortise) when turning it into the bowl would be problematic. When twisted or turned I can feel the give or strain in the plastic junction. In the 5 years I have used the Pipnet set I have not had any problems with this concern. Last year I was given a Castleford set to use as a backup. It looked like it was the same tool at a glance. I broke the handle mortise connection after the first couple of uses. In comparing the two sets I can see that the Pipnet set is made of a heavier/thicker plastic in the handle connection than the Castleford. That is probably the reason that it has outlasted the Castleford.

I purchased my Pipnet on EBay and continue to see sets show up there regularly. It is also available through various pipe and tobacco shops on the web. One or both of these reamers will serve the refurbisher well in the quest for a clean, restored pipe. Take into consideration the strengths and limitations of both and make your choices from an informed position. Enjoy your restoration work.