Primer on Tobacco Pipe Stems Smoking Pipe Stem Replacement
by Ric Farrah
The two most common materials used for tobacco pipe stems are acrylic and vulcanite, also known as Lucite and Ebonite respectively. These are considered the brand names. While there are advantages to both, Briarville gives our clients the choice as to which material is used when replacing a broken or severely damaged stem.
So Which one to choose?
If you wish to give your pipe some new flair and stray away from the traditional, highly polished black stem. acrylic is the way to go. Pictured is a Joe Case Dagner Slayer with a red and black acrylic stem. The advantages of acrylic pipe stems are color variety and unlike vulcanite, acrylic does not oxidize. The disadvantage to acrylic is plastic. Some pipe smokers do not like the feel of a plastic stem while smoking. Another disadvantage to acrylic is being more fragile than vulcanite. Acrylic is more susceptible to cracking or breaking if your pipe is accidentally dropped.
There are disadvantages to vulcanite as well. Lack of color choice is one. While you can get some variation with Ebonite rod, the choices are few.
Pictured is an example of a stem made from black/orange Ebonite rod stock. Black/Red and Black/Turquoise are also available.
Another disadvantage to vulcanite is oxidation. Vulcanite is a hard rubber and will oxidize if left unattended. This typically is not a problem for hobbyists who enjoy maintaining their pipes. An inexpensive solution to keep your vulcanite stems oxidation free is Obsidian Oil available in the Briarville Store.
Here’s an example of an oxidized stem with some teeth “chatter”. Often oxidized stems that look like the one pictured can be fully restored at around half the cost of a new replacement stem.
Briarville offers both vulcanite and acrylic replacement stems. In keeping your costs down we primarily use pre-formed blanks that must be fitted to your pipe. Pre-formed blanks are stems that resemble the original stem and are machined locally to an exact fit and polished to a mirror like sheen. Our blanks are of the same high quality as bulk stock but are more economical because they are less labor intensive than cutting a stem from scratch. However, all colored Ebonite must be cut from scratch using rod stock.
Pictured is an acrylic “Fancy” stem blank being machined to fit a Preben Holm freehand.
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