How to Polish Pipe Stems

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Usually used to smoke tobacco, a smoking pipe contains a long tube, or stem, and a hollow bowel. Whether you purchased or inherited an old or antique pipe, or you simply want to clean the look of a pipe that you use regularly, polishing the pipe stem can revitalize the look and smooth feel of the instrument. With the correct buffing machine and technique, you can polish your pipe stem.

Things You'll Need

  • Oxygen bleach
  • Water
  • Buffer with cotton pad
  • Buffing compound
  • Buffing wax
  • Polishing cloth
  • Unscrew the stem from the main body of the pipe. Grip the pipe stem with your left hand and use your right hand to turn the pipe bowl counterclockwise. Try not to squeeze or use too much force while unscrewing the stem, as you could break the pipe.

  • Cover any logo on the stem with a layer of petroleum jelly.

  • Soak the stem for 30 minutes in an equal mixture of water and oxygen bleach. Do not use chlorine bleach because, depending on the type of material used in the pipe stem, chlorine bleach could damage it. After 30 minutes, rinse the stem with water and let it air dry.

  • Screw the pipe stem back onto the body of the pipe.

  • Turn on a small buffer. The buffer should have a clean and soft, cotton, polishing pad. As the buffer is spinning, apply a gentle, white, buffing compound to the buffer. You can do this by holding the white compound near the buffer and then slowly touching the compound to the buffer so that the buffer gets filled with the compound.

  • Gently polish the pipe stem and bowl. You don’t need to press too hard. Go back and forth on the pipe stem and bowl until it is fully polished. Be careful when you reach areas where the stem meets the rest of the pipe -- where it unscrews -- because it could be an area where the pad might catch in the groove.

  • Finish the polishing with a polishing cloth. If you have a type of pipe stem that can be waxed, such as a vulcanite stem, you can apply a carnauba wax to a new cotton buffer and further finish the stem by gently buffing wax onto it until is shines.

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