Baccy Pipes

A BIC lighter and Oxidation


I thought i would share this tip i use often . I picked this up from rebornpipes:

Here is the original post

I use it mostly around buttons on pipes that i  have restored and smoke often .When the dreaded oxidation starts to reappear around the button i use the” lighter trick ” as ive come to call it .


Blog by Rob Hardy and Steve Laug

A BIC lighter and Oxidation

Thanks to a serendipitous discovery by a friend of mine, Rob Hardy (incoinnu on Smokers Forums), who also does refurbishing as a hobby we have worked out a very different method of dealing with oxidation on vulcanite stems. The long term effects of the procedure are still in the process of being worked out though it is hard to imagine any long term effects as the heat is not left on the surface of the stem for a significant amount of time at all. The short term benefit is pretty astounding.

This is what he wrote regarding his new process with my additions and after thoughts. “Those of us who love refurbishing have spent too many hours trying to remove oxidation from vulcanite stems. We all longed for some magic solution that would reverse the process of oxidation. We have tried one or all of these products in our efforts to fight back the dreaded green brown, noxious discolouration of the stem – Oxyclean, sodium hypochlorite solution from 1-12%, Armorall, Armorall Tire Foam, olive oil, stem oil, automotive lens cleaner, eye of newt, toe of frog, etc. These liquids served to either soften the oxidation or disguise it. None of them remove the problem and under a strong light or magnification it was still there. Many of us have sanded using a variety of sandpaper grits both dry and wet, micromesh sanding pads or paper, and toothpaste with micro abrasives until our fingers were sore and raw. The overall effect of this process served merely to level the surface of the stem until the oxidation would be sanded away. It is very effective but also very time consuming. Over time the shape and sharp angles of the stem are changed. There had to be a better way of dealing with this that was still effective and less labour intensive. I was fortunate to be able to purchase a lot of 17 estate pipes from my local B&M, over half of them had heavily oxidized stems. After refurbishing the Savinelli Punto de Oro that was in the lot I was considering taking up refurbishing as a new hobby. I then started on the Dunhill and K&P Peterson. The Peterson was cleaned and reamed and was ready for the stem work. There was a minute tooth mark near the button that I wanted to remove so I was using Steve Laug’s technique of applying heat to the indentation to raise the dents. Usually I do this after I have removed the oxidation and work on a clean stem. This time however, for who knows what reason the stem had not been clean at all and was an oxidized mess. To raise the tooth dent I applied the heat from a BIC lighter with the flame 1/2″ from the stem. The indentation lifted…AND THE OXIDATION DISAPPEARED! Wow! I could not believe my eyes so I continued for the length of the stem and it worked – the oxidation was gone. I used short strokes with the flame of the lighter and wipes with a wet paper towel. After each wipe the paper towel came out with yellow stains. This seemed too good to be true. Out came my jewellers’ loupe for closer examination. I had to see this close up and personal. Under the magnification I could see that the heat had evened out the surface of the vulcanite and pitting and oxidation were gone. There was only BLACK vulcanite. I stayed up until one o’clock in the morning sanding the stem up through 8000 grit micromesh. I left the waxing until this morning. This stem now looks like it did when it left the factory over 60 years ago. I was and still am amazed at the results. I had to try it again this morning on a Stanwell stem. I used the same technique with the lighter and the wet paper towel. I used a lot of caution around the logo, covering it with a wet paper towel to protect it while heating with the lighter). It took only ten minutes to clean the stem of the oxidation! What a difference in the amount of time it took to clean this stem. It is cleaned and now ready for sanding and buffing. I tried it on a third stem. I moved over the stem with the lighter, six seconds per inch of stem, before wiping with a wet paper towel. Again the towel came out with the yellow colouring of the oxidation and all that remained behind was the black vulcanite. Each of the three stems took little time to clean and all that remained to finish them was to sand and smooth and then buff and polish.” Here are just a few important pointers that Rob and I have learned in the process:

  1. Do not leave the flame in one spot, keep it moving – burning vulcanite stinks and you will ruin the stem.
  2. Use a slow 1″ side to side sweep with the flame half an inch below the stem. Repeat until the stem is completely black and then sand.
  3. As the flame moves across the surface there is a light sulfur smell that is given off as the oxidation burns.
  4. In sanding the stem use a variety of grits of sandpaper (400 and 600 grit wet dry and higher grits if you choose) then micromesh pads or paper (1500, 1800, 2400, 3200, 4000, 6000) before buffing with Tripoli and White Diamond. I have also used 0000 steel wool and found that it is a good first step before the wet dry sandpaper is used.


4 thoughts on “A BIC lighter and Oxidation

  1. I have yet to give this technique a try. Thanks for the tip. On the flipside, If you want to make oxidation nearly impossible to remove, boil the stem…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Neat post. Sounds plausible and easy. If my memory doesn’t fail me, I will try this on the next pipe project. Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Your Welcome Wayne
    I hope it works for you on your next project.


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