this is about pipes, not xmas

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this past tuesday (?) i went into the pipe store to look at some lighters they'd ordered. i'd gone in a few weeks before to look at lighters and they'd had a style i liked, but only in one color. they were ordering more and told me they'd call me when they came in. i took about a week to make it into the store from when they called me, and they'd already sold all of them except the color i'd already seen. so i ended up buying a pipe for my brother for his birthday/xmas. and some tobacco samples, a portable folding pipe stand, 3-in-1 pipe tool, pipe cleaners, and a cheap lighter. (i didn't post that earlier since he might have read it before he got the present.) i also found out they were having a 20% off sale the whole week. all of this is build-up to my new pipe story...

so on thursday i went by and bought myself a pipe -- a barling balmoral 1/2 bent apple (if i recall correctly) -- as a present to myself (at 20% off). i also bought a wood stand for two pipes (i was scared if i bought one for more pipes i'd feel a constant urge to fill it up). when i bought the pipe the saleswoman said she was going to take it into the back and polish my stem. (and there was much guffawing by audiences on later re-telling. minds in the gutter, i tell you.) after leaving, i took out the pipe and admired it. i then put it to my mouth...the stem tasted horrible -- like a mixture of rancid plastic and rusty metallic death, or something very nasty at the least. i thought maybe it was the polish, so i wiped it off a few times and tried again. same thing. i also noticed the stem was discolored. (though almost not at all in two strips on the underside.)

the next day i took it into work, where in the afternoon i decided to try cleaning it. i took the stem off, took it into the kitchen and tried cleaning it off. this did something -- it made the stem more discolored. after drying it off, the taste was still there, but much less intense. at this point in my ownership of the pipe i'd removed the stem about half dozen times. i pushed the stem in, and when i went to pull it out the next time the tenon (the part that connects the stem and shank) came off in the shank. it's not supposed to do that.

later that day, i went online and did some investigating and determined the problem with the taste/discoloring was probably oxidation. the two strips of almost no discoloration...which i realized were where the tags had been...were because light is important in oxidation and they were covered by the tags. it also seemed like one side had more discoloring than the other, probably due to which side had been down. i think my peterson has a lucite stem, while the new one i bought is vulcanite. i've not had a problem with the peterson (an ebony 1/2 bent billiard with a p-lip, i think), but lucite stems are harder and don't oxidize (either at all, or at least not like vulcanite).

there are numerous suggestions and techniques on the web for dealing with oxidation (and many people tauting one method while deriding others as neutral or bad), but the tenon coming off was a bigger problem. i was feeling like i'd bought a dud -- even though i really liked the shape, look, feel, etc. of the new pipe...and barling is supposed to be a decent brand.

after work, i headed over to the shop and talked to them about the problems. they agreed the taste was oxidation, but they said the tenon should not have come off like that. they offered to return it for a replacement or send it off to their repairman for a lucite stem instead (at no charge to me). since the stem has a barling logo embedded in it, i decided to try the replacement route. hopefully it will work out and i will have a better experience with the replacement. i should know something within a week or two.

i'm still a rank amateur with pipes and i've got no one teaching me, so i'm sort of having to figure this all out on my own. one thing i've definitely learned -- an oxidized stem tastes brain-numbingly horrid. and from the web i've learned: since it's like rust on metal, the only way to get rid of it is to sand off or chemically remove the vulcanite that has oxidized. once removed, protect the good vulcanite with wax or something to retard or stop future oxidation. now i know. (and as we all know, knowing is half the battle.)

1 Comment

I totally guffawed.

... mmmmmm ... rusty metallic death ...

I think you need to go here:
http://www.pipementors-r-us.com
They have this thing where you can type in your zip code and it will locate a pipe mentor in your area. Hopefully that will help.

No, not really - I made it all up. :P

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