Daily Archives: November 6, 2015

Cleaning up and reworking the stem on a CAO Meerschaum Lace Calabash


Blog by Steve Laug

One of the pipes that my brother in Idaho found was this lace carved Meerschaum Calabash that he bought for me from an auction house near his home. The pipe came in a well made case that was lined with yellow gold velvet. It bore a decal that read CAO in the centre of the circle and around the edges it read Handcrafted of the Finest Block Meeerschaum by CAO. The exterior of the case is covered in black leather with a brass hinge at the top and latch on the bottom edge. The case itself is in good shape with some scuffs on the top and bottom surfaces of the sides. The photo below is the one taken from the advertisement for the auction.CAO3 The pipe is a very well carved meerschaum. The lattice or lace work is very well done. The rim of the bowl had some darkening and tars that would need to be cleaned off. There was a light build up of cake in the bowl. The meer itself was beginning to colour and show some depth of golden brown on the sides of the bowl and the shank. The stem was Lucite but was poorly fit to the shank. It was larger in diameter than the shank and still had sanding and file marks on the stem. The CAO emblem had been pressed into the side of the stem and the Lucite had bubbled around the circular logo. The button was not well cut in the stem and the slot in the end was rough and still had sanding marks and file marks in it as well.CAO4

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CAO7 I took some close up photos of the stem to show some of the scratching and dullness of the stem material, the poorly cut button and the bulging of the stem material around the shank. The shoulders of the stem were rounded rather than flat and the transition to the shank was not smooth to the touch.CAO8

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CAO11 I removed the stem from the shank and sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the rounded shoulders and reduce the diameter of the stem to match the shank. I sanded carefully to keep from rounding the shoulders even more. My goal was to smooth that out and flatten the transition area. I also sanded around the CAO logo to remove the wrinkles or bubbling of the stem under the inset emblem. I also sanded the inside of the slot and the Y shaped flow into the airway in the stem. I sanded the entire stem to remove some of the scratches and to even out the flow of the stem. I also worked on thinning down the edges of the stem and giving it sharper edge.CAO12 I used a blade shaped needle file with a flat face and edge to square up the button angles on the stem surface.CAO13

CAO14 I carefully reamed the cake from the bowl with a pen knife taking it back to the smooth surface of the meerschaum bowl.CAO15 I continued to shape and refit the stem to the shank with the 220 grit sandpaper and a medium and fine grit sanding sponge.CAO16

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CAO19 I cleaned off the tars on the rim with a cotton swab and saliva until all of them were gone. I removed them to reveal a darkening amber colour around the inside of the rim cap.CAO20 I wet sanded the stem with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads and wiped it down with oil to give it a bit of bite before continuing to dry sand with 3200-4000 grit pads. I finished by sanding with 6000-12000 grit pads.CAO21

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CAO23 I lightly buffed the stem with Blue Diamond on the wheel to polish it before giving it several coats of carnauba wax. I hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth and hand buffed the bowl with the same cloth. The CAO emblem is very clear and the wrinkled surface around the emblem is smooth. The rounded shoulders of the stem have been smoothed out and flattened. The cleaned up button edges gave the end of the stem a very sharp look. The slot was smoothed out and broadened. The finished pipe is shown below.CAO24

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CAO30 The final photo is of the pipe in its case. It is picking up the yellow colour of the velvet lining of the case. The photos above show the current colour of the pipe more accurately.CAO31

Refitting an existing stem on a Royal Windsor Prince


Blog by Steve Laug

When I was in Idaho my brother showed me the pipes he had picked up in auctions and from antique shops. He had found three meerschaum pipes and two briars. One of the briar pipes that he picked up in an auction was a Royal Windsor Imported Briar Prince. It was included as part of a sculpture that he bought that he really liked. It was an old man with a cap, glasses and a pipe. The old boy in the sculpture looks lost without his pipe in the photo below. It is finished now and it will go out in the mail tomorrow so he should have it back very soon.Statue1
My daughter took the following photo of the sculpture with the pipe. In her photo the table top looks like a sweater.
12204991_10156170659610654_1169179242_nThe pipe itself is a clean and quite beautiful little pipe with a rusticated finish and some smooth parts similar to the Stanwell Vario line. In looking at it when I was visiting it was obvious the pipe had been restemmed at some point along the way and the stem shank union was poorly executed. There was a bulge to the stem at that point and it also was not round. The right side and bottom of the stem diameter were wider than the shank of the pipe. The taper of the stem on the underside did not work with the flow of the shank. He wanted to keep it for the sculpture but the fit of the stem bugged me enough that I offered to bring it home and reshape the stem for a better fit. It was also badly oxidized so that would also need to be cleaned up. The bowl itself was quite clean and virtually unsmoked. The first photos below were taken after I had started cleaning up the stem. I began reworking the stem without taking photos and caught myself before I had gone too far.cap1

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cap4 I put a plastic washer on the tenon to protect the shoulders of the stem from rounding while I worked on the shape of the stem. I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper to shape and fit the stem to the shank. To me the taper on the underside of the stem did not flow into the shank correctly. I sanded it and removed a lot of material and changed the taper to flow better. I checked the fit often by removing the washer and looking at the stem in place.cap5

cap6 I refined the shape some more and then sanded the entire stem to remove the surface oxidation. I finished this part of the process by sanding the stem with a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge to remove the scratches left behind by the 220 grit paper.cap7 With the shape and fit greatly improved (at least to my eye ;)) I wet sanded the stem with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil and then dry sanded with 3200-4000 grit pads. Another coat of Oil was rubbed into the stem and then I sanded it with the final 6000-12000 grit pads. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and let it dry.cap8

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cap10 I buffed the pipe with White Diamond and then Blue Diamond on the wheel. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax to protect and shine. I buffed it with a clean flannel buff and then with a microfibre cloth by hand. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below.cap11

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