Blog by Steve Laug
I sent off this old lattice meerschaum to Ronni Bikacson for him to do a Blueprint Conversion. He describes the processes he uses on his web site as follows:
“This process combines two of Ronni’s processes that make this pipe a much better smoking pipe. The first is the “Blueprint” technique – this process involves opening the draft bore of a pipe for smooth smoking. Rather than gouge out huge bores in the shank, I strive to equalize the bore diameter from bowl to bit. This includes redrilling the shank to 3.5 or 4mm, drilling the stem to 3.5mm as far as possible and then hand finishing the bore to an open slot at the bit. Each pipe is treated as an individual system; no “one size fits all”. I also make special mortise sleeves that help a pipe cleaner pass all the way without stem removal. The result is a smooth, dry smoke without having to fight a pipe cleaner afterwards.
The second is the “Bulletproof Shank Repair” – this process eliminates the need for bands on cracked or broken shanks. All repair is performed internally with either Delrin, stainless steel, or carbon fiber sleeves. I pioneered this technique in 2003 and have continually worked to improve the efficiency and durability of this repair.
A combination of the two above techniques has resulted in the “Blueprint Conversion” for meerschaums. The old “plumbing” is removed from the shank and replaced with a new sleeve that is bored to align the different draft angles between stem and shank. The stem is Blueprinted and fitted with the appropriate tenon. The result is a world class smoke that will accept a pipe cleaner without disassembly.” http://www.nightowlpipeworks.com/home/index.html
So I sent this pipe off to Ronni. The first series of three photos show the pipe as it was when I received as a gift from a friend. The stem I believe was a replacement and it did not fit well. The diameter of the stem at the shank was larger than the shank and it still had many file marks on it. The tenon was narrow and the draught on the pipe was very tight. The airway was constricted and narrow. A pipe cleaner would not fit through the stem.
The next two photos show the internals of the pipe. The first is the small tenon with a very small airway and a tight draw. The second is the mortise – which is the same size as the tenon and the airway at the end is narrow like the end of the tenon.
When I sent it to Ronni and I asked that he also make a new stem for the pipe. He crafted one out of acrylic with a white acrylic band between the black of the band next to the shank and the black of the saddle stem that he made. The contrast with the colouring meer was a nice touch. The first four photos show the marbleized black acrylic with grey and silver highlights.
This last photo shows the new internals. Ronni opened the shank and inserted a new Delrin insert and made a stainless steel tenon with a wide open draw. The pipe smokes incredibly well now with little effort. I cannot recommend Ronni highly enough for his blueprinting process for meers. It is well done and for me changed a mediocre smoker into a smoking machine!
Blog by Steve Laug
This small lovat needed restemming and also a restain on the bowl. It was pretty clean when I took it out of the box of bowls that I have here for restemming. The finish was shot and most of the stain was worn off. The bowl was clean, just dusty. The rim was nicked and dented and would need to be topped. Here is a picture of it when I took it out of the box. I matched a stem from my can of stems to it. It is a nice little Lovat and is stamped Nu-Old over London Made on the left side of the shank. On the right side it is stamped with its shape number – 66. The Nu Old pipes were made by Civic Pipes in London.
I fit the tenon to the bowl and then shaped the saddle to match the shank diameter. The stem needed a bit of work to smooth out the casting marks and the roughness of the surface. I sanded it with medium grit emery cloth to remove the marks and general roughness of the stem. Then I followed up with 240 grit sandpaper and 400 and 600 grit wet dry and water to remove all the scratches and marks. I polished it and did a final sanding with micromesh sanding pads 1500-6000 grit. I then turned my attention to the bowl. I used acetone on a cotton swab to remove the remaining finish on the pipe. This took repeated washing with the acetone to get the bowl to be clear of the original remaining finish. When I was finished with that the bowl was uniformly a light reddish hue. I topped the bowl with my sanding board and then polished the bowl with micromesh pads. Once it was finished I wiped it down with isopropyl alcohol before giving it a new stain with oxblood. I gave this one several coats of stain to give a good coverage, flaming the stain between each coat. Once it was finished I buffed it lightly with Tripoli to open up the finish and show the grain. I then polished it with White Diamond and gave the whole pipe several coats of carnauba wax which I buffed with a soft flannel buff.
Blog by Steve Laug
About a year ago now I contacted Kevin Skraboly of Kevin Arthur Pipes regarding a commission that I wanted him to make for me. My request was pretty simple in that what I wanted was an apple shaped pipe that had his rusticated finish. I did not specify colour or finish in terms of shank treatments of patterns. I also did not specify a shank extension or the wood that he would use in it. I pretty much left all of the artistry up to him to work his magic.
When the pipe arrived and I have to tell you the shape and finish were exactly what I had in mind when I commissioned it from Kevin. It was and is beautiful. The coral rustication reminds me of cut glass and the rustication of the Canadian carver Michael Parks. The rustication is very sharp and rough in the hand but a very cool finish in terms of the smoking. The bowl and the rim are almost totally rusticated with a thin band that is stained in a reddish stain that goes around the inner edge of the bowl. There is also a thin line of stained briar around the end of the shank. To complement the reddish stain on the smooth portions and the black matte stain on the rusticated bowl Kevin put on a shank extension of thin black Lucite then a nice piece of Box Elder that he stabilized. The overall flow of the bowl and shank is brilliant and the colours are beautifully matched from rim to the end of the shank.
The stem is inset into the shank about 1/32 of an inch. The Box Elder shank extension is a tire like ring that rides on a briar shank that is cut to hold it. The Box Elder has an interesting marbled look to it that is really set off by the black of the Lucite band and the black stain on the pipe. Kevin did an excellent job on the inner mechanics of the pipe with drilling that is perfectly execute from the shank and into the bowl – coming out exactly centre in the bottom of the bowl. The airway and the inside of the bowl were very smooth with no rough spots left by the drill bit in the bowl or shank. There was no bowl treatment or coating so just a good smooth briar.
The stem itself is hand cut out of a swirled red and black Cumberland like Lucite. It is thin and comfortable in the mouth. It has a slight bend to it that gives it a stylized look. It is a saddle stem with a bit of a step down from the ring at the saddle. Kevin did a great job shaping the stem and capturing a shape that really works with this pipe. The stem is nicely finished with the thin ring just behind the cylinder that provides a shift before the taper of the stem flows toward the button. It is a wide slablike stem that looks great with it striations of black that run through the red. The choice of material for the stem matches the red on the rim and the shank and the black on the bowl. The Box Elder breaks that colour flow up in an interesting way. The tenon is Delrin that has been inserted into the Lucite stem for durability and ease of use. The airway is funnelled slightly for a smooth transition from the mortise when it is in place. There is a very minimal gap between the end of the tenon and the base of the mortise. The airway is smooth even where the Delrin meets the Lucite of the stem. There is no lip or rough spot at that junction. The draught is unrestricted and open from the bowl to the tip of the stem. Draught is effortless. The fit of the stem to the tenon is very well done. The button is perfect to my liking and very comfortable in the mouth and teeth. The opening in the mouthpiece is fanned out nicely. The smoke is delivered smoothly to the mouth.
The overall construction of this pipe is very well done. It is light in the hand and in the mouth. It is well balanced and has a great tactile feel when it is cool and as it warms up during the smoking of a bowl.
I have been smoking it for over a year now and after breaking it in with some Balkan blends that I have here it has become a good English/Balkan smoking pipe. It delivered a good smoke from the first smoke and continues to do so. It draws well; the lighting has never been a problem. It seemed to take very little time to break it in and continues to be an effortless smoke.
Thanks Kevin of Kevin Arthur Pipes for delivering a well made pipe that remains a very good smoking pipe even a year later. He continues to make interesting and well made pipes that are available on his website at http://www.kevinarthurpipes.com/ Stop by for a look, order one for yourself, you cannot go wrong with his work.