The sad fact is that they are always dirty and in dire need of TLC. I suppose it's sort of like a mechanic's car: they never have time to fix there own.
Like most pipe smokers that I know, I have an old favourite, not necessarily a looker, and not one that you would like to show off. But damn, does it smoke like a dream!
Mine I made years ago when somebody brought me a piece of African blackwood. Like with all new pipe making material, I made a pipe to try it out personally. And somehow it became my Monday to Friday "working" hours pipe. Except for smoking really well, I think part of the love is because it is just a pipe. It is no-nonsense, not particularly beautiful, is at home in dirty places and don't mind a bit of rough playing. Sort of like the girlfriends that you liked to hang out with in younger days, but definitely did not want to be the mother of your children.
So Old Faithful was getting really disgusting and I decided to give him a wash, so to speak. Here is a photo of the bowl. Lovely cake that I got started there, hey? You'll also see chipmarks on the rim, the result of dropping it on paving.
The stem doesn't look much better either. Lots of teeth marks. I'm a clencher you see (especially when the boss is in a bad mood!). It is the 3rd stem, by the way.
First off is reaming. For this sad case I don't use the reamer, but go straight to a bowl bit. Don't try this at home kids! African blackwood is extremely hard, and I've found that you can really leave the barest minimum thickness of cake in the bowl.
And here's a close-up of the tenon and mortise. Nasty stuff.
The top of the bowl I actually just sanded down a bit, to get rid of all the build-up and gunk. You'll probably see the sanding marks left on the rim in the photo below. The airhole was cleaned and sanitised with a pipecleaner dipped in alcohol. And then the pipe was waxed with tripoli and polished.