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



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



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



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


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






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


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

  1. upshallfan

    Stem work is definitely the weak point on CAO meerschaum pipes. I guess they just have the time to finish them properly. With just a little work, you now have a great looking meer!


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