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Cleaning Your Pipe

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Cleaning a pipe is, for the most part, a fairly simple task, but it can also get rather involved if more intensive cleaning is required. We'll explain exactly how to clean your pipe so you can enjoy your tobacco without hassle. 

After finishing a bowl, simply remove the dottle from the chamber by using the spoon-like part of a pipe tool, being careful not to gouge the cake or the wood. Then, feed a pipe cleaner through the stem and shank. Every other bowl, it's a good idea to dip a cleaner into Decatur Briar Fresh to keep tar from building up in the airway. If a cleaner will pass all the way through to the bowl without disassembling the pipe, there is no reason to take it apart each time. If the cleaner gets tied up due to a severe bend, or just because of the design of the pipe, you will need to remove the stem from the shank. PLEASE, do not remove the stem while the pipe is still warm. If you do so repeatedly, it will stretch out the tenon and it will eventually become loose. In most cases, the above is all the cleaning routinely required. Once a week or so, it's a good idea to remove the stem, bend a pipe cleaner into a "U" shape, dip it into a pipe sweetener like Decatur Briar Fresh and swab out the mortise to remove any built-up gunk. From time to time, more involved cleaning is desirable. After disassembling the pipe while cold, dipping a nylon shank brush into a pipe sweetener and thoroughly scrubbing the drafthole in the shank will help to avoid souring of the pipe. Acrylic stems require little maintenance, but vulcanite stems, while marginally more comfortable, will occasionally need some  work. After each bowl, a quick wipe with Decatur No-Ox Stem Oil (you only need a single drop on a cloth) will reduce the occurrence of oxidation. Even then, over time the stem may dull. Decatur Haze-Away and Shine-Brite can handle moderate dulling and oxidation without the need for any machinery. If the oxidation is heavier, it should be brought to a repair person for a buffing.

If you want to polish up the briar, the best bet will be to use the Decatur Polishing Cloth, which is impregnated with silicone to add a quick and easy shine.  The shine will not be a high-gloss type. For a more long-lasting shine, Decatur No-Buff Wax will do the job nicely without any hazing from wax buildup. Just wipe on the wax and let it sit for 20 to 30 minutes and wipe off the wax with a soft cloth. If you want a mirror shine, a slow-speed buffer and carnauba wax are required, but this is something best left to a professional, as it takes very little to damage or burn a pipe with a buffer. Even professionals will occasionally press a little too hard on the wheel, launching a pipe across the room. Also, don’t use furniture polish to shine your pipes as the odor will become very noticeable when the pipe gets hot.

Reaming a pipe should be done when the cake becomes about the same as the thickness of a nickel. Using the correct type and size of reamer, slowly cut the carbon back until it’s about the thickness of a dime. Choosing a reamer will depend on how many pipes you will ream in a year. The inexpensive Buttner-style reamer will handle light work, but it tends to bend rather easily. Dan Chlebove of Gabrieli Pipes, who does our estate pipe restoration prefers to use the Decatur Ream-All set, and considering how many pipes he does in a year, it's a safe bet that it will be more than durable enough for your use at home. For oddly-shaped chambers, such as opera pipes (oval chamber), and conical chambers, such as Nording freehands, the Decatur Pipe Knife, with a three-sided blade, is your best bet. It will work on any shape of chamber by laying one of the flat surfaces against the cake, and it will shave out excess carbon with a light rocking motion. With the steps we've shown you here, you can keep your pipes in great shape without spending too much time or effort.
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