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pipe finish

derekb's picture

pipe finish (post #108552)

I just finish building a pipe out of purple heart and walnut and now am wondering what type of finish to use.  Mineral oil?????  Or what????


Let me know


Fixthispleas's picture

(post #108552, reply #1 of 7)

For spoons, forks, spatulas, bowls, and anything else that lips or food will touch, I mash a few walnuts pieces and grind the pulp into the wood.  After a few sessions of this over 20 - 30 minutes, I brush off the nut pulp and let it cure for a few days.  You could also use walnut oil from a gourmet store.  After 3 or 4 walnut oil applications, I let it dry for a week or so and steel wool and buff to a sheen.

I've never liked mineral oil finishes much.  Mineral oil doesn't polymerize (dry) and soaks out into everything it touches.  A co-worker finished a cutting board counter top with mineral oil years ago.  Now, any paper left on it turns translucent with oil overnight!

Lots of others will suggest non-toxic finishes.

JohnWW's picture

(post #108552, reply #2 of 7)


I'm not sure about the purpleheart, but walnut is well known for containing chemicals that can be toxic to humans, animals and even other plants.  Walnut shavings, for instance are very toxic to horses and should never be used for barn bedding.  

Purpleheart is used in applications where some decay resistance is useful, so I suspect that it also contains chemicals that might be toxic.  Dry walnut doesn't generally cause a problem but I'd be very careful about smoking a pipe made from walnut or an exotic like purpleheart, the charring of the pipe's bowl might release some things you don't ever want to inhale.

If you had a bad reaction it could easily put you in the hospital and there wouldn't be a lot that the doctors could do beyond pain relief. A really bad reaction could get you a tracheotomy and time on a respirator.  You could be out of commission for weeks and might suffer permanent damage to your throat and mouth. 

There's a new posting here on Knots concerning a nasty skin reaction a guy and his wife had while cleaning up a downed walnut tree, it for sure would make me think twice about smoking a pipe made from walnut.

John W. 

John White Shop Manager for FWW Magazine, 1998 to 2007

jonsherryl's picture

(post #108552, reply #7 of 7)

John, I'd agree that the worst of the two woods here is walnut. It contains two very potent extractives; juglone, which is a natural herbicide with laxative properties...and also ellagic acid, which is a sedative. But as a recovering pipe smoker, my biggest concern with walnut is that it would "flavor" the smoke in a distastefully bitter way.

I suspect it would only become dangerous if the smoker had a very high (allergic) sensitivity to juglone...which isn't likely, but also not unheard of. The daughter of a friend of mine is deathly alleric to juglone and even a few walnuts in a cookie or cake is a ticket to the hospital for her.

As for the ideal wood for pipes, much can be said for genuine Algerian briar...better still is; meerschaum...although, if smoking pleasure outways asthetics, there's nothing wrong with a corn cob. Once the pipe is broken in, the burning tobacco is actually cradled in a crucible of tobacco it's pretty much isolated from whatever material the pipe is made of.

...And that brings us to the key point here. Tobacco belongs to the nightshade family (Solanaceae)...You should only wish the toxicity of the wood in the pipe was what you really had to worry about...But then, maybe Derek is burning hemp in his...which probably isn't quite so unhealthy. :O) 

Edited 7/28/2003 7:03:58 PM ET by Jon Arno

lostarrow's picture

(post #108552, reply #3 of 7)


Seems like you should be questioning the toxins in the smoke as well as the toxins in walnut and purpleheart. If one don't get you the other one's gonna.

Be not afraid of going slowly.  Be afraid only of standing still.   chinese proverb
Be not afraid of going slowly.  Be afraid only of standing still.   chinese proverb
GeeSeaWhy's picture

(post #108552, reply #4 of 7)

Last time I turned a piece of purpleheart, I had spots like mosquito bites all over my arm from the splinters. I certainly wouldn't put that in my pipe and smoke it.


RANGERP75R's picture

(post #108552, reply #5 of 7)


   Once upon a time I smoked pipes. I bought rather good Dunhills, etc. in briar. What you will find is most good pipes do not come with a finish at all. Most cheap pipes have varnish or what-ever that will burn and deteriate off. The good pipes finish is attained over time. The pipe is warm and the natural oils from your hand will darken it to a beautiful, warm natural color. It just takes time. Pipe smokers usually don't get in a hurry.


Proud member of the :  "I Rocked With ToolDoc Club" .... :>) 

jonsherryl's picture

(post #108552, reply #6 of 7)

Derek, taking the toxicity of tobacco into consideration, it probably wouldn't matter much if you went down to the local gas station and picked up some used 10W30.

...But I think a light coat of bee's wax would be your best bet in this situation. It might have some trace amounts of royal honey in it, which is known to promote longevity.

(seriously, I DO think bee's wax is your best choice's what I used to use on my pipes, back when I thought I was immortal.)