Blog by Steve Laug
I received an email from Andrew saying that he had a pipe he wanted to send my way. It was my kind of shape – a Rhodesian. He said that it was an odd pipe in that on the bottom of the bowl it had a slightly inset circular divot. The round inset was almost like a poorly made plug on the bottom of the bowl, or one that had shrunken with time. He thought that it would be a great challenge for me to do a repair on it. The stamping on the pipe shank was Briarmeer 175 ED Canada.
The brand was one I had not heard of before. And since I am in Canada I wanted to try to figure out where the pipe was made and what the plug was about. The name seemed to suggest that it was a meerlined pipe or at least included meerschaum in some form or fashion. Yet when I emailed Andrew about it he replied that there was no meerschaum lining present in the bowl. Instead it was just a nice looking briar pipe with the strange, misfit looking round plug on the bottom of the bowl.
This would require some research to see what I could find out. I went online and searched for any information that I could find regarding the brand. I wrote to the trademark attorney who was listed as the representative of the brand and received a very cryptic answer that was not helpful at all. I did learn however that Briarmeer pipes were made by Briarmeer Pipes Limited, 226 Park Street, Brockville, Ontario. The business was no longer present at that address and did not show up in any Brockville Business Directories available online or through the Yellow Pages .I searched the Canadian, American and British patent sites hoping to find a patent registration for the pipe but was not able to find one. I found a trademark registration document from the US patent office that showed that the brand or trademark was registered in the US in 1973. The document pictured below gives that information as well as the Canadian Registration Number 180,805 and that it was registered in Canada on January 21, 1972.
Using these registration numbers I searched both the Canadian and US patent records but could find no patent information available. From the public records it appears that the Briarmeer Company went out of business sometime in the late1980’s or early 1990’s and the name became public domain.
I was able to find out through further digging that the pipe is a variation on what Kaywoodiedid with its famous Carburetor.Kaywoodie had drilled a hole in the bottom of the bowl and inserted a metal airhole to introduce air into the bottom of the bowl to enhance burning of the tobacco. In the Briarmeer the drilled out area in the bottom of the bowl was significantly larger.It had been drilled out and a meerschaum disk inserted in the resultant hole. The draw hole was to be perfectly centered at the bottom of the bowl. From what I could find out the idea of using the meerschaum insert came to a Canadian engineer about 30+ years ago. He reasoned that the meerschaum bottom of the bowl would allow for a drier and cooler smoke while the briar would be sturdier than the meerschaum for the walls of the bowl.Now I knew what the inset on the bottom of the bowl was and where the Meer portion of the Briarmeer name came from.
I decided to see if I could hunt down some photos of the pipe. I had not noticed them before and did not figure I would find many available. I was wrong. I found quite a few clear photos online that showed the novel meerschaum insert with clarity. In all of the photos it was clear that the insert sits inset into the bottom of the bowl and there is a variance in the external bowl bottom and the depth of the inset meerschaum disk. I have included four of the photos I found to show the insert in the exterior bowl bottom. Some of the photos show a new and unsmoked pipe and other show an estate pipe. All have the pipes show the same variation in the depth of the bottom of the bowl and the depth of the meerschaum disk.
I also learned that the American Company, Briarcraft who made the Smokemaster pipe also made a pipe with called the Briarmeer Acadian. The Briarcraft version of the pipe was a meerschaum lined pipe and was stamped with the Briarcraft logo, a B in a diamond on the shank and on the stem.However, the pipe I was gifted was not a meerschaum lined briar and it did not have the B stamp on either the shank or the stem. The stem appears to be original and the stamping on the shank clearly says that the pipe is Canadian made.
The pipe from Andrew arrived and it was indeed one of my favourite shapes. The finish was a little dirty and the rim had some carbon build up. The stem was oxidized and had some tooth marks on the underside of the stem near the button. There was also a darkened spot like a burn mark on the underside of the shank near the insert. There were several fills in the grooves of the rustication but I was fairly certain that when I restained the pipe they would be hidden. The meerschaum insert looked to be in very good shape from the outside of the bowl. Inside was caked with a fair amount of carbon and the insert was not visible looking into the bowl.
Upon closer examination it was evident that there was a crack in the shank on the right side that ran at an angle from mid-shank toward the back of the bowl shank union. The crack did not start on the bottom of the shank but rather started midway up on the right side of the shank and ended near the top middle of the shank. It was very clear under a lens that it was present. The next two photos, though slightly out of focus show the crack. It runs across the rustication pattern mid-shank.
I cleaned out the crack with a dental pick to remove the buildup of grime that filled it. The grime was evident through the lens. Once I had it clean when I viewed it through the lens I used superglue to repair the crack. Fortunately the crack did not go all the way into the airway. I checked the inside of the airway with a penlight and it was smooth and flawless. The repair externally would remove the visible damage.
I left the superglue to cure overnight and in the morning used the dental pick to clean out the grooves of the rustication and sanded the smooth portions of the briar surface with 220 grit sandpaper and then medium and fine grit sanding sponges. The photo below shows the repair after sanding and shaping.
I wiped the surface of the bowl down with acetone on cotton pads to remove the damaged finish and enable me to blend in the patch when I restained the pipe. I scrubbed the rusticated rim of the bowl with the pads as well and was able to remove the carbon build up.
I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper and a medium and fine grit sanding sponge to remove the oxidation. I sanded the tooth marks on the underside of the stem near the button and was able to remove them.
I wiped the bowl down a final time with acetone, being careful not to scrub the insert with it. Once it was cleaned off I stained it with a dark brown aniline stain applied with a cotton swab. I avoided the meerschaum insert as I did not want to have the stain penetrate the meerschaum. I flamed the stain and reapplied it. I flamed it again and reapplied it again. After the final flaming of the bowl I set it aside to dry.
When the stain had dried I buffed it with White Diamond on the buffer to even out the stain and give it a shine. I also applied a coat of Halcyon II wax to the rusticated surface and hand buffed the bowl with a shoe brush. The next four photos show the bowl after the buffing and waxing.
I worked on the stem with my usual group of micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads. I then buffed the stem with red Tripoli and White Diamond before going back to the work table and dry sanding with 3200-12,000 grit micromesh pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil and let it soak into the vulcanite.
I buffed the finished pipe with White Diamond and then gave it multiple coats of carnauba wax. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The meerschaum disk inset into the bottom of the bowl is an interesting touch. I look forward to loading up a bowl and giving it a test run very soon. At the very least this is a great piece of tobacciana that still leaves a bit of mystery unsolved.