Daily Archives: July 11, 2015

Restoring an 1810 German Meerschaum Folk Art Pipe with a Story

Blog by Steve Laug

On Monday, June 29, 2015 after a weekend of celebrating with my parents and brothers in Idaho Falls, I went to visit one of my favourite pipe hunting haunts when I come to town. There weren’t any pipes on the three floors of the antique mall but before I left I asked the sales clerk if he had any pipes that somehow I had neglected to see. He said that there were not any on the floor but he had a few in a bag at home and if I would come back on Wednesday he would bring them with him and we could make a deal. Wednesday when I went back he had a bag of old pipes that are shown in the photo below. The top pipe is a Kaywoodie Apple with a three hole stinger. Tthe stem below it comes from a WDC Wellington but the pipe itself was missing. Next to it was an oval shank meerschaum with lots of bling on the shank and the bowl top. It had a broken tenon in the shank and would be an easy one to make a stem for. The third pipe down was a Bakelite stem and base but was missing the bowl. The bottom one was quite interesting to me. I had not seen one of these before intact. It was a meerschaum bowl with a wind cap and brass shank end. The stem itself was long with bark on the bottom portion and then hard wood ending with a woven hose and stem that was also wooden with bark on the portion next to the hose.Ger1

Ger2 I asked the sales clerk where the pipe had come from hoping that he would know the story behind this old meerschaum. It turned out that he knew a lot about the old pipe. I had belonged to his grandfather who was a German immigrant to Idaho Falls. The two meerschaum pipes were his. He had brought them with him when he came from Germany. He was brought over to be the beermeister for the Eagle Rock Brewery which only had a short life – 1896-1898. His own father (the sales clerk’s great grandfather) had purchased the pipes new in Germany and smoked them throughout his life. He had passed it on to his son, the brewmeister who smoked the pipe throughout his life even after the brewery closed. The sales clerk’s father had passed it on to him with the story of the pipe. The carved date on the pipe fits well with the four generations – 1810. I love these old stories behind the pipes I refurbish.Ger3


Ger5 The bowl had a few little nicks in the meerschaum but none were detracting. The meer had a nice patina that was all over the bowl and shank. The carving on the bowl was a dog set in a background of carved bricks and wood making up a wall. On the front underside of the bowl was carved the year 1810. Someone had rigged some brass wire around the stem and the ring on the shank to keep the stem inserted in the bowl but it was very loose. The stem portion was in great shape on the bottom part up through the hose. The hose itself was dried out and had some cracking in the surface. The top portion, the stem was dry but had been chewed and there were tooth marks in the surface.Ger6 The wind cap was badly oxidized and the top of the rim was oxidized and covered in thick tar. I was not sure if it was silver or brass under the black of the oxidation. The inside of the cap had a heavy tar buildup that was like rock. There was a very thick cake that went to the bottom of the bowl and there was some unburned tobacco in the bottom 1/3 of the bowl. It was a bit of a mess and would take some work to bring it back to life and usability.Ger7

Ger8 I paid the clerk $40 for the lot and headed home to my parents. I put newspaper on the kitchen table and went to work cleaning up the bowl. I did not have a reamer with me so I used a sharp knife with a short rounded blade to ream out the carbon/cake in the bowl. I took it back to the meerschaum walls so that there was no cake left.Ger9 I scraped as much of the buildup on the inside of the wind cap and the rim as was possible with the tools that I had with me.Ger10 I put the pipe away carefully in my bag to be carried back to Vancouver. When I got home I worked some more on the pipe. I started by working on the hose portion of the stem. I gave it a thick coat of rubber cement to fill in the cracks and to provided the flexibility that was originally present when the pipe was made.Ger11

Ger12 I sanded the bit portion of the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the tooth damage and reshape the button.Ger13 I cleaned out the inside of the shank and stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and isopropyl alcohol until they came out clean. I used the brown tarred pipe cleaners to touch up the nicks on the bowl and shank.Ger14 The entire stem had a coat of varnish on it that was peeling on the centre portion. I wiped down the entirety with acetone on a cotton swab to remove the varnish coat.Ger15 I sanded the stem with 1500-2400 grit micromesh pads to smooth out the wood and minimize the tooth damage.Ger16 I removed the brass wire that held the stem to the shank and cleaned out the groove that had been carved in the bark of the lower portion. I put it in a pipe rest and took the next photo to show the look of the pipe at this point in the clean up process.Ger17 I scrubbed the wind cap with silver polish tarnish remover until the silver below all the black began to shine. The next photos show the silver beginning to shine through with each successive cotton pad.Ger18


Ger20 I took the next set of photos to show the look of the bowl and cap after polishing the silver.Ger21


Ger23 I used 0000 steel wool to clean up the inside of the wind cap. The tar was thick and some of the silver had deteriorated. I was able to smooth out the surface of the inside of the cap but it left some dark areas on the cap.Ger24 The tenon end of the stem was very loose in the shank and needed a little creativity to make a snug fit. As I looked at the inside of the shank it appeared that it had originally had some sort of gasket that was glued to the inside of the mortise. I cut a small strip of cork to fit in this area of the shank. I cleaned out the shank with alcohol and then coated the outside of the cork piece with white glue. I used a dental pipe with a flat spatula end to press it into the shank. When the glue on the cork dried I inserted the stem to have a look at the finished fit. It was perfect.Ger25

Ger26 I rubbed down the long stem with a light coat of olive oil to bring more life to it. I stained the long stem with some Danish Oil and cherry stain to protect the wood.Ger27

Ger28 I rubbed the silver cap and rim with a silver polishing cloth to give it a final polish. It really combines nicely with the brass ring around the end of the shank and sets off the darkening meerschaum bowl.Ger29




Ger33 I hand buffed the stem and bowl with a microfibre cloth to raise a shine and polish it a final time. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It turned out far better than I had expected when I picked it up at the antique mall.Ger34









NEPAL PROJECT PIPE SALE 14 – Reworking Someone’s Repair on an Ehrlich Billiard

Blog by Steve Laug

This is the fourteenth pipe from the box of pipes that I was gifted by a good friend of mine with the instructed purpose of cleaning them up and selling them with all of the proceeds going to the aid of earthquake victims in Nepal. Once again all funds raised will all go to the SA Foundation, and organization that has worked in Nepal for over 15 years helping provide recovery, housing and job training for women who are victims of sexual exploitation and trafficking. The ongoing earthquakes (over 300) that continue to shake Nepal have left much in ruins. The SA Foundation Project there was able to find new housing for the women and help with staff as well. Every dollar raised from the sale of these pipes will go to the work in Nepal.

This one is an Ehrlich billiard stamped Enrlich over Imported Briar on the left side of the shank. The stem still bears the E in a circle stamping and on the underside reads ITALY. There is no shape number on the sides or underside of the shank. It may well have had one prior to the previous repair that had been done but I could see no sign of it.

Over the years I have had to rework many of the first pipes that I repaired and restored. Some of them were simple fixes that came with time and experience. Some of them were unfixable without some major reshaping. This time around the pipe that I am working on came with lots of issues that were not my own making. They were the issues that someone else made in fixing this pipe. It had a cracked shank and a restoration band. The previous repairer had glued the shank and then proceeded to sand down the shank to fit the band rather than using a band to fit the shank. The band was slightly small in diameter and did not match the shank above it. It had the characteristic “bulge over the belt” look that came to me in middle age. The sanding down of the shank also went too far in that with the band in place there was a large gap between the shank and the band all the way around the pipe. The edge against the part of the shank that remained was crooked and rough. It showed above the band when it was in place and also held the band at an angle. The band would not stay in place and was being held there by the stem.

The rim had been topped but not enough and there were still gouges on the outer edges of the bowl. The bowl was reamed but not all the way to the bottom of the bowl and the airway was very constricted where it entered the bowl. The finish was spotty at best and had a coat of varnish over the stain. There were some obvious fills in the bowl that really showed up through the spotty stain. Overall the bowl looked worn and uninviting. It certainly would not be a pipe that called to me from my rack. The stem was oxidized and dirty as well as been covered with deep scratches over the length from the band to the button. The tenon had also been taken down slightly so its fit in the shank was loose.Ehrlich1



Ehrlich4 When I removed the stem the band fell free and I was able to examine the repair to the cracked shank that had made banding necessary to the previous repairer. You can see the angles of the cut against the shank that had been done by sanding that kept the band from seating on the shank straight.Ehrlich6

Ehrlich7 I cleaned up the edge of the cut on the shank to make the band sit straight and then heated the band with a lighter to expand it to sit straight on the shank. When it was heated I pressed it against a hard surface and felt it slip into place. There was no need to glue it at this point as the gap between the shank and band was too big to connect the too.Ehrlich8


Ehrlich10 I removed the stem and filled the gap between the band and the shank with briar dust. I packed the dust in with a dental pick and then put super glue on top of the dust to form a bond and fill the gap. I used a knife to bevel the inside edge of the mortise to accommodate the fit of the stem. I sanded the inner edge and the repair to the shank. The photo below shows the fill and the repair. It still needed to be sanded but the stem fit very well.Ehrlich11 The next photo shows the topping job that had been done on the rim top. You can see the scratches and the rough spots on the outer edge of the rim.Ehrlich12 I re-topped the bowl on the topping board using 220 grit sandpaper to clean it up.Ehrlich13 The next photo shows the re-topped bowl. The edges are all clean and smooth. The spot that looks rough on the back side is a fill that was along the edge.Ehrlich14 I sanded the bottom of the shank to take out some of the bulge against the band. I started with 220 grit sandpaper and then used medium and fine grit sanding sponges to smooth out the scratches.Ehrlich15 With the cleanup on the shank and rim finished I moved on to clean up the interior. I scraped out the bowl with a sharp knife to remove the remaining cake and clean up the bottom of the bowl. I used the drill bit from the KleenReem reamer to open the airway and remove all of the tars that had clogged the airway into the bowl.Ehrlich16 I scrubbed the mortise, airway and inside of the stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol until it was clean.Ehrlich17 In the photo of the stem shown below you can see the scratches that were left in the stem from the previous cleanup.Ehrlich18 I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper and then medium and fine grit sanding sponges to remove the scratches and some of the surface oxidation.Ehrlich19 With the scratches minimized I put the stem in a jar of Oxyclean solution to soak. I let it soak for about an hour and a half and then rinsed it off and dried it with a cloth. I rubbed the stem down with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser and was able to remove the majority of the oxidation.Ehrlich20 I gave the stem a light sanding with the fine grit sanding sponge and then moved on to the micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit pads and then rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil.Ehrlich21 I put the stem back in place and restained the bowl with a medium brown aniline stain. I flamed the stain and set the bowl aside to dry on the cork and candle stand and called it a night. The pipe was beginning to look better.Ehrlich22 I worked some more on polishing the stem. I dry sanded with 3200-4000 grit micromesh sanding pads and then rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil. I continued to dry sand with 6000-12000 grit micromesh pads and then buffed the stem with Blue Diamond on the wheel.Ehrlich23

Ehrlich24 I used Dave Gossett’s additional step in buffing the final pipe. I gave it multiple coats of carnauba wax and then a clean buff on a soft flannel wheel. I gave it a final hand buff with a microfibre cloth before I took the photos below. The pipe is finished and ready for the pipeman who will make it his/her own.Ehrlich25




Ehrlich29 This Ehrlich billiard is a medium sized pipe, basically a Group 4 in Dunhill terms. The grain is quite nice and with the stain the fills blend into the finish quite well. The stain is a medium brown that allows the grain to show through to its advantage. It should make someone a great addition. If you are interested in this pipe email me with an offer at slaug@uniserve.com and we can discuss it. The entirety of the sale price will go to the Nepal project. I will pay the postage so that does not get taken off the proceeds. If you are interested in reading about the SA Foundation you can look at their website at http://www.safoundation.com.

Thanks for looking.

Restoring a Made in London England Saddle Billiard Shape 195

Blog by Steve Laug

I found this small saddle billiard on a recent trip to Idaho Falls. My brother and I went on a pipe hunt in some of the antique malls in the city and the surrounding area. It was one of five that I picked up on that first day. I have circled it in the photo below so that you can see which pipe I am talking about. I apologize for the blurry photo I took with my iPad, but it gives a basic idea of the way the pipe looked. The bowl was caked, the rim was tarred and darkened, the stem was oxidized but in relatively good shape. The stamping on the left side of the shank reads Made in London over England. On the right side is the shape number 195. I have looked in the catalogues for Comoy’s, Barlings and Orlik to see if I can identify the English maker of this pipe but the shape number does not match any of the numbers in the catalogues.Bill1

Bill2 It was one of two pipes that I worked on at my mom and dad’s house. I bought a set of micromesh pads from a local hobby shop that included pads from 1500-4000 grit. I started by sanding the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads. I scrubbed the bowl and rim with a paper towel and cool water to remove the tar buildup. Then I sanded the rim and the bowl with the same grit pads. I was able to remove the tars and darkening quite easily. The rim was undamaged on either the outer or inner edges. I carefully reamed it with a small sharp blade until the inner walls were bare.Bill3

Bill4 I dry sanded the stem and bowl with 3200-4000 grit micromesh sanding pads.Bill5 I did not have any higher grit micromesh pads with me. I gave the bowl and stem a light coat of olive oil and hand buffed it with a microfiber clothe to raise a shine and took the next series of photos to show where it stood after this process. Once I took it home and gave it a buff on the buffer and several coats of carnauba wax this would be a beautiful little billiard in the English tradition.Bill6




Bill10 I brought the pipe back to Vancouver and gave it a quick sanding with 6000-12000 grit micromesh pads and then buffed the stem and bowl with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave it several coats of carnauba wax and then a quick buff with a clean flannel buff. I finished by trying out what Dave Gossett spoke of and buffed it by hand with a microfibre cloth until the finish glowed. The finished pipe is shown in the next series of photos.Bill11




Bill15 I took a few photos in a pipe rest that my daughters found on a second trip to the antique malls. It is a golden coloured cocker spaniel similar looking to my dog Bailey that died a year ago after 14 years as a member of our family. The photos give a good view of the grain on this beautiful little billiard.Bill16




Waxing & Buffing Made Easy

Blog by Dave Gossett

This originally appeared on Pipes Magazine forums. Dave wrote and gave me the link. Here is the link to the original post Dave made if you want to read it in that context as well as the responses there. http://pipesmagazine.com/forums/topic/waxing-amp-buffing-made-easy I thought his work on the LHS pipes that you have all read and your comments on his buffing methods warranted posting it here as well. – SL

I’ve received several messages asking how I wax and buff pipes, so I took a few photo’s to show how it’s done.

My ancient buffer gave out a while back and since then I’ve been using a 3450rpm one speed. A variable speed buffer is preferable. Mistakes or loss of concentration at this speed are unforgiving.

(left is the wax wheel/right is the metal wheel)Buff1 I have waxed at least 20 pipes with this block of carnauba, and you can see just how little it takes to get a nice shine.Buff2 Start with a buffing wheel that is clean and has never been used with any compounds etc. Using a screw driver blade, fluff the wheel with the flat edge. Run a block of pure carnauba from left to right on the spinning wheel for 1 second with easy pressure so that the wheel is not overloaded with wax.

Here is the briar prepped and ready to wax.Buff3 I always keep my index finger inside the bowl while using the buffer. This usually prevents the pipe from being launched into floor at mach speed. I said usually. Lessons learned the hard way. Always keep your flat edges pointed away from the rotation, such as the rim or diamond shaped shanks.

Applying the first coat
This is pretty straight forward. Don’t worry about getting an even coat or making it shine. For the first coat, you’re just covering the all the briar. It will look uneven, cloudy, and have streaks. When the wax is wearing thin, give the wheel another quick 1 second zip with carnauba and continue on. Light and gentle pressure is the key to waxing. All the wax is in the top loose layers of the fabric. Never press hard and dig into wheel.

After the first coat. Still cloudy and uneven.Buff4

Buff5 Second run on the wheel

For this, I don’t apply any more wax to the wheel. Use the flathead screw driver and fluff the wheel again before starting. Gentle pressure is the key. Think of spreading warm butter on toast. Always keep the pipe moving. Don’t hold it in one spot, and try not to let the pipe bounce on the wheel. You’ll start to see the ripples and cloudiness fade away. At this point don’t worry about getting the mirror finish yet, just concentrate on thinning the wax ripples and getting an even coating. It will still look a bit cloudy.

Somewhat shiny and slightly cloudy.Buff6

Buff7 Here is where the micro fiber cloth comes into play. This makes a huge difference in the final outcome of the finish. Give the briar good rub down with the cloth and a hand buffing.

Once more on the wheel.

This time I use a clean buffer wheel that has never had anything applied to it, marked the “finisher.” I have all the different buffer wheels labeled for each purpose. Wax, Compound, metal (sterling, aluminum), etc.

After the finisher, one final rub down with the microfiber.Buff8

Buff9 If I’ve left anything out or didn’t convey any of the process clearly, just ask me to clarify. Everyone has their own way of doing things and there is more than one way to skin a cat, but this is what works for me. Through trial and error, I have condensed what I’ve learned into the most simple and effective way of achieving the best results.