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!