Blog by Steve Laug
I picked up two meerschaum pipes – neither bearing any stamping or markings that give a hint to the carver. The one I am working on now is the second one in the two photos to the left. It has a flumed bowl (darkening on the top and the top third of the bowl fading as it goes down the sides. The second third is a bit lighter and the bottom third is natural). It had a metal reverse tenon – the tenon was set in the shank of the pipe and the stem is pushed over that. In this case the stem is similar cheap nylon/plastic as the ones I replaced in the two previous blog articles noted below.
The similarity in tenon and stem setup leads me to believe that I was dealing with the same carver that I noted in the second article above. There I quote a fellow on the Dr. Grabow Collectors Forum who said “They were excellent pieces of meerschaum with bad stems. The bowls were carved by Robert Strambach in Vienna.” Looking at the stems that I kept from the pipes they are identical in look, feel and composition. All three have the casting marks on the sides of the stem and are thin at the button. The difference in this one is that the pipe was unsmoked so the stem had not tooth chatter or damage. It was merely dull and dirty from sitting in someone’s collection for years.
When I received this pipe it was unsmoked. The bowl had darkened from grime and dirt. The fumed rim had a few nicks on the top and inner edge of the rim where the pipe had been knocked about. The meerschaum itself was dirty and had ground in soil on the sides of the bowl and the top and bottom of the shank. There were also a few light spots on the side of the bowl where something had been dripped on the fumed portion and lightened it. I took a close-up photo of the rim and the bowl to give an idea of the state of both. The bowl is darkened from sitting but has not been smoked. The rim has some of the nicks I spoke about on the inner edge and the top.I scrubbed the meerschaum with cotton pads and Murphy’s Oil Soap to clean off the grime. I rinsed the bowl with warm water to remove the soap. I dried it with a cotton cloth.I sanded the bowl with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads to remove some of the scratching on the top of the shank and some of the ground in dirt on the sides of the bowl. I dry sanded with 3200-4000 grit pads. I buffed the bowl with Blue Diamond on the wheel and then gave it several coats of soft white beeswax and buff it with a soft flannel buff. The photos below show the cleaned and polished bowl. I was careful in how much of the patina I removed in the process of cleaning the bowl. I wanted it clean but it still needed to look its age. To polish the dullness of the plastic stem I wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit micromesh and dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I gave it several coats of Paragon Wax and hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth. I put the stem on the bowl and buffed the bowl and stem by hand with the microfibre cloth to give it a shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. This was a simple clean up which is greatly appreciated after the last few hard jobs. Thanks for looking.