Tag Archives: pipe refurbishing supplies

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.


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.

List of supplies for refurbishing

Blog by Steve Laug

I have had quite a number of emails over the past years asking for a list of tools and supplies that I use for pipe refurbishing. I have made a list and broken it down into 4 parts – two dealing with the bowl and two dealing with the stem. The first in each category is what I call field dressing the pipe. It involves the initial breaking down of the pipe and stripping and cleaning it. The second in each category is the finishing.

Refurbishing stems:

1. For the stems – field dressing

– Oxyclean for soaking oxidized stems. I use it to soften the oxidation rather than remove it. It works great. It does not remove oxidation as some have suggested but it does soften it so it is more easily removed.

– a pint jar or container with a lid that can be used for soaking stems (I use an empty Oxyclean container for the alcohol bath and another for the Oxyclean wash.)

– Sanding pads – coarse, medium and fine pads – these are 2″x3″ and about an inch thick. I find that they are firm but flexible. The edges work great against the button.

– 400 and 600 grit wet dry sand paper

– Pipe cleaners – both bristle and fluffy

– Dental pick for getting the corners of the button, the slot and the tenon

– Pliers for removing stinger apparatus

– Small microwave bowl or heat gun to lift bite marks and dents from the stem

– Retort system – available on eBay or from Shield on Smokers Forums http://www.smokersforums.co.uk/

2. For the stems – Finishing

– Sanding pads (see above), 240 grit sand paper and 400, 600 wet dry sand paper and Micromesh pads in 1500, 1800, 2400, 3200, 4000, 6000 grits.

– Buffer with pads – Tripoli, then White Diamond and then Carnauba. These are used after the sanding process. I don’t use a Dremel for this as it can cause ripples in the Vulcanite stem.

– I just started using Obsidian Pipestem Oil on the stems and it is fantastic. I rub it into the stem, let it sit for 30 minutes, polish and repeat.

– I then wax the stem with either Carnuaba Wax, Renaissance Wax or Paragon Wax. The first I apply with a buffing wheel the latter two can be applied by hand. When the latter are used apply them, let them dry and then buff with a soft cotton cloth.

– Soft cloths for hand buffing

– Bright light to identify scratches in the bowls and in the stems

 Refurbishing Bowls:

1. For the bowl – Field dressing

– Jewelers Loop to examine the hallmarks and stamping on the pipe before sanding

– Reamer (I use a Pipnet Reamer that is available from Synjeco. It is also made by Castleford. It is a ‘T’ handle with four different blade heads that fit in the bowl. Very easy to use and maintain roundness of the chamber. I also use a KleenReem or Senior Reamer as well. I have a review and comparison of the two on the blog.)

– Soft bristle tooth brush for scrubbing with the oil soap

– Brass bristle tire brush for use in scrubbing on plateau and in rustication

– 2×3 inch sanding pads of different grits (Coarse, Medium and Fine). I found these at a paint shop/hardware store as they are used in drywall patching and painting. Home Depot carries them as well. These are used to remove the tars and lava on the top of the bowls.

– Murphy’s Oil Soap

– Several soft rags for wiping and application of soap

– 100s of pipe cleaners – fluffy, bristle and thin

– Q-tips cotton swabs – I use these to clean out the mortise area of the shank as well as the sump in system pipes.

– Cotton boles that are used with the retort and also in using them for stuffing the bowl and adding isopropyl alcohol to draw out the tars a oils of old tobacco from the bowl.

– Silver polish for bands – both a liquid/paste application and a polishing cloth that is available through jewelry shops.

– A pint jar/container with a lid for the alcohol bath

– 99% isopropyl alcohol

2. For the bowl – Finishing

– 400 and 600 grit sand paper

– Micromesh pads in 1500,1800, 2400, 3200, 4000 and 6000 grit available online at Lee Valley Tools and other wood working suppliers.

– A knife that can be heated and a cloth that can be wet to use to steam dents from the bowls. You can use a knife – I heat the blade on my gas stove and then use a wet cloth on the dent and apply the hot knife to the dent and the steam lifts the dent. You can also use an iron to do the same with a damp cloth.

– Stains – I use Feibings Shoe dye – aniline based stains that are far cheaper than labeled wood stains. I use Medium and Dark Brown, Oxblood or Cordovan, and Black almost all the time but it is available in other colours as well. Those three match most of the older English and American pipes that I rework.

– Matches or lighter for flaming the stain once it applied

– Rubber gloves for applying stain unless you don’t mind wearing it for a while

– Q-tip cotton swabs or pipe cleaners bent in half for applying the stains

– Soft rags for wiping off stains and applying them

– You can get a polishing kit from Lee Valley that includes three buffer pads, and arbor and attachments for a bench grinder. That is what I have. It also comes with a bar of Tripoli, White Diamond and Carnauba wax in the kit. It will last a long time. I think it is about $70 or less for the kit.

– I also have a jar of Halcyon wax for use on blasts and rusticated. It is applied by hand and buffed off with a soft cloth. They also have Paragon wax for smooths. It is available on eBay for sale or you can Google it to get it – it comes from Fine Pipes.com

You can add other tools to the kit as you want to. I also have a specially cut screw driver for rusticating bowls, a tenon expander, a wood screw that I use to remove broken tenons, a battery terminal brush that fits the bowls, a plumbers 3/4″ wire brush for bowl reaming etc. Necessity is the mother of invention in the process of refurbishing. I am always looking for new tools and ideas.