I'll start by posting a few questions I answered in another thread:
1. Looking at reamers, it seems like both the senior and the Castleford are a good idea. The downside to the senior is the bottom of the bowl does not get worked properly, and the Castleford only works for standard shaped bowls, but works great for the bottom. So which one should I start with, assuming both were available? Personally, I like neither. I EXCLUSIVELY hand ream my pipes. I am a proponent of reaming but In some old estate pipes, its impossible to get a smooth ream with tools. Most estate pipes are from some guy who was never told about "dime thickness" or any of the things pipe hobbyists know. They just put tobacco in and lit it. So a lot of times youll have patchy cake or chipped cake. I take a knife and then a fine rasp and spend a few hours making the inside perfectly smooth. The smoother the better because a smooth cake will be a better foundation for future caking. A jagged or patchy cake will cause faults to form in your cake which will lead to structural problems.
2. Whats the best method to remove old varnish or wax. I think for smooth pipes, sanding, but what about rusticated pipes? Personaly, all finish removal is done with acetone (nail polish remover). Thats all I'll ever use. Finish stripper used for furniture is MUCH too rough for the finish on your pipe. I've actually noticed it bleaches your grain making the bullseye and flame much less intricate. Acetone takes longer but you'll be left with a much prettier bare wood. Many of my pipes have been acetoned and then re polished because the grain is already so beautiful. Anytime I have to use a different method of finish removal, staining often is needed.
3. Whats the best way to clean bits? TOOTHPASTE. If the bit is as green as these letters, take a little drop of metal polish (I use brasso) and mix it with the same amount of toothpaste you usually use to brush your teeth. I actually use a toothbrush a few times and really massage it into the bit just like you're brushing your teeth, with a brush and water. Then dry it off after it turns to a dull black and take toothpaste and a rag (no water this time) and "paint" the stem with paste. Then take the rag in your fist wrapped around the stem and rub up and down the stem as quickly as possible. The heat and friction will put a BEAUTIFUL shine on your stem. Then rub some vaseline into the stem with a rag for future protection.
4. If you had to think of a cost effective newb kit that you would put together, what specific products would you use or buy? Brasso, cheap white toothpaste, good pipe cleaners (this is one area you should NEVER skimp. but some good cotton bristled, cotton, and cotton tapered cleaners) a bunch of good rags, acetone, feibings leather dye (if you decide to restain anything) whatever you want to use for a finish (be it carnauba, tung, mineral oil etc) and most importantly, ultrahigh grit steel wool. Buy the stuff with the most zeros (0000 if possible). This will be important for a final smoothing before you put the ending finish on. I use steel wool more often than anything else in my artillery.
5. I understand that before using your top coat of wax you should use a first set of wax or prep? What would this be? Would this come before or after staining? After staining. Finish is the very last step. If you choose to use wax, buff it on then buff off with 0000 steel wool. Do this 1-3 times (depending on how OCD you want to be) then do your final wax coat.
6. Do you have a preferred stain brand/type? Whats the best way to apply it? I'm a feibings guy. I stain it like anything else then buff until I see a grain I like. I think it looks really pretty if you put feibings black then buff, then dark brown and buff. It REALLY brings out the grain becasue the stain makes the grain super dark.
7. I do not have a bench grinder or polishing wheel, but I do have a dremel, what attachments would be best? I have a dremel too. Unless youre rusticating or reshaping, I don't feel like you have any reason to use a dremel. And I probably wouldnt recommend it for waxing either. If you can find a powerdrill, use that. Bolt it to something then use vicegrips to keep it at the desired speed. Put your buffing wheel in the bit hole.
8. What have you found to be a good hole/crack filler? Honestly, I use whatever I finish with. The whole reason people do multiple layers of wax is to fill small holes. Now I know everyone wants to make a perfect pipe but I think the little pits and stuff are like beauty marks on a pin up girl. they show character and life in the wood. The pipes personality, if you will. So i don't worry too hard about putting filler in the holes. Let the wax take care of it. Eventually it'll wear down and youll begin to see a little dimple there. When that happens, I just refinish it again!