Daily Archives: December 5, 2016

In With a Roar – A Lion’s Head Meerschaum

Blog by Steve Laug

In one of the boxes of pipes that my brother sent me there was a brown leather pipe case that was in good shape. There was some scuffing along the edges of the case but the latch and the hinges were in excellent shape. I love a good mystery and certainly this brown pipe case offered up a good one. Fortunately solving this mystery was very simple. All I needed to do was to press the latch on the front of the case and I would know what was inside. I was curious to see what was inside of the case. The shape hinted at a figural pipe and I was pretty sure it was a meerschaum.lion1I pressed the latch and the case popped open. Inside was a nicely carved lions head staring out at me. The head was turned toward me and the carving was well done. It looked at me the same time I was looking at it. It seemed to have a snarl coming out of its wide open mouth. The large curved fangs were opened and appeared to ready to bite my hand when I reached for it. The lion was well carved – the shape of the head, the open mouth, the fangs and the look of a roar were very realistic. The ear on the right side looked really good with no chips. The meerschaum was developing a patina on the jaws and the shank. It was beginning to darken. The stem looked to be amber but I was not sure at this point in the examination. The last inch of the stem to the button had been broken off and was still in the case.lion2I removed the pipe from the case along with the broken tip of the stem and took some photos of the pipe. My brother had cleaned up the externals and the airway in the shank and the stem. He had reamed the bowl and cleaned the soiled surface of the figural. There was a small chip missing from the bottom edge of the right ear. It is hard to see unless you are looking for it. The rim was clean and solid with no chips or dents. The inner edge of the bowl was also clean with no damage. The fur and whiskers on the big cat were also well carved and the patina was beginning to develop in the deeper grooves of the carving.

I examined the stem more closely. I looked at the edges on both sides of the break on the stem and I was sure that I was dealing with another Bakelite stem rather than an amber one. The break looked clean and there was no splintering like I have seen in broken amber stems. It also had a plastic like feel when I probed it with a dental pick. The feel of the material was definitely not amber. The stem could be made of “Amberoid” that was used in making stems before Lucite was invented. The last photo in the series below shows the pipe after I had taken it apart. A threaded bone tenon held the stem on the pipe when screwed into the threads in the end of the shank.lion3 lion4 lion5I wiped off both sides of the broken stem with a cotton pad that was dampened with alcohol. Once it was clean I used clear super glue to glue the two pieces back together. I then used the amber super glue to fill in the gaps around the repair. I also used it to fill in the tooth marks on the top and the underside of the stem. The next series of photos show the repaired stem before I sanded it smooth.lion6 lion7 lion8I cleaned out the inside of the airway in the stem to remove any debris from the repair and also to remove the last bit of darkening I had seen in the stem when it was apart. I used pipe cleaners and warm water so as not to damage the Bakelite with alcohol. I had learned the hard way long ago that alcohol can cause a Bakelite stem to craze – not always but it certainly did on the one I learned on.lion9I have a jar of Clapham’s Beeswax Polish in my restoration kit that I have used over the years to polish meerschaum figurals. It is a white beeswax paste that easy to work into all of the carved grooves in the meerschaum and polishes well. I applied the wax to the bowl with a qtip and my finger and once it was dry I buffed it with a shoe brush.lion10 lion11The next series of photos show the pipe after I buffed it with the brush. I love the frontal look of the lion’s head.lion12 lion13 lion14 lion15 lion16I sanded the stem repair with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the ridge that was over the repaired area. I sanded it until the repair blended into the surface of the stem on both sides. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each set of three sanding pads. After the final set of three pads I gave it a final coat of the oil and set it aside to dry.lion17 lion18 lion19The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. I lightly buffed the bowl with a clean buffing pad and gave the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I also buffed the stem with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine on the meer. I have found that a newly waxed meerschaum will darken after the bowl has been smoked for a while. The spotty appearance of the finish will gradually blend into the patina of the bowl. Thanks for taking this journey with me.lion20 lion21 lion22 lion23 lion24 lion25 lion26 lion27 lion28


Against a Stump – A CPF Best Make Horse Meerschaum

Blog by Steve Laug

I was on a work trip in Alberta when I received an email from a woman named Nancy who picked up my email address from the blog. She wrote to tell me about a pipe that had come into a thrift store she worked at. Here is the first email I received.

Hello Steve, I volunteer at a thrift store & we received this pipe as a donation. I knew it was too old & precious to sell for a few dollars. It’s in pretty rough shape with cracks but still beautiful in its additional case. It is a horse leaning against a tree stump with a long stem that looks like Bakelite. Is this something you would want to have & restore? I can send pictures if you’ll give me an email. Thank you, Nancy

I wrote her back and asked to see the photos of the pipe. She immediately replied and sent me the following three photos. It looked like the pipe may be a CPF Best Make Meerschaum. The case appeared to have been the original for the pipe.cpf1 cpf2 cpf3After looking at the photos on my cell phone I wrote her back and made an offer on the pipe. She quickly responded with the following email:

Yes, that sounds good. The money will go to Assistance League of Yuma. We are a non-profit, all volunteer organization. There are 120 nationwide. We have Operation School Bell which provides 3 new outfits, shoes, books, hats, etc. Just to let you know where the money will go. 😍 I would love to see a picture of the pipe when you are done. I’m so glad to find a good home for it & that it will be restored. Thank you! Send me your address & I will get it ready to send. Thx, Nancy.

I finished the 2 week trip in Alberta and the day after I returned the pipe arrived. It was far bigger than I expected from the photos. Somehow in my mind it was a typical carved meerschaum pipe but when I opened the box it was quite large. It is 8 ½ inches long, 3 ½ inches tall, with an outer diameter on the bowl being 1 ¾ inches and the bowl itself being 15/16 inches in diameter and 2 ¼ deep. It is a handful.

The condition was better than I expected. The cracks in the meerschaum were on the surface of the horse and the right side of the shank. I was expecting more open cracks but these were tight and seemed to be almost a spidering from the spots where the carved horse was connected to the bowl. The center of the back had tiny cracks radiating down the front and rear haunches of the horse and the place where the rear hooves were connected to the shank had a crack radiating both directions. These cracks on the shank also continued around the bottom of the bowl and shank. Fortunately none of them were deep and really added to the aged look of the pipe.cpf4The left side of the shank and bowl (a carved stump) was in excellent shape with no cracks. The rim of the pipe had some darkening and a buildup of tars and oils on the top back side of the rim. There was a light cake in the bowl that would be easily removed with a pipe knife. There was some dust and debris in the grooves of the stump and the mane and tail of the horse.cpf5I took a close up photo of the top of the bowl to show the cake in the bowl and the condition of the rim top. On the back side of the bowl there is a branch extending toward the stem that has the horse’s tail attached to it.cpf6The condition of the Bakelite stem was a bit worse than I expected from the photos. It had a lot of tooth chatter and tooth marks that extended from the button for about an inch up the stem. It was rough on both sides of the stem. The button was also worn from tooth marks. There were a lot of tiny spidering cracks all over the surface of the stem that gave me some concern as I examined it. Time would tell if these would be more than a surface issue.cpf7The case was in rough shape though solid. The leather cover was worn off the wooden case but the hinges and clasp were still solid. The interior of the case had a worn faux fur lining that was almost worn away. I could still read the gold embossed logo in the top of the inside case – the CPF logo in an oval over an unfurled banner reading Best Make. The case was obviously made for the pipe so it gave me the needed information that this was a CPF meerschaum. Since I am a big fan of older CPF made pipes I was excited to see that this was one of them.cpf8I sanded out the tooth marks and chatter on the stem from the button forward. With the sanding dust present on the rest of the stem you can see the spidering cracks on the rest of the Bakelite stem.cpf9I sanded the shank end as well because there were chips missing from the edge of the stem where it sat against the shank. Again the spidering cracks are visible with the sanding dust.cpf10I cleaned out the airway in the stem and the shank with pipe cleaners and water. I also reamed the bowl with the Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife.cpf11There was a Bakelite spacer on the shank as well that I unscrewed and cleaned up. The threaded tenon is integral to the shank. The next photo shows the three parts of the pipe.cpf12The stem had been held in place on the tenon with a packing of twisted paper. The threads in the stem had been stripped and worn over the years. The threads were still present in the stem but were very worn. I built up the tenon end with some clear super glue to allow the stem to grip the threads on the tenon.cpf13I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove as much of the spidering cracks as possible. Many were just on the surface. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each set of three pads and after the final set gave it a last rubdown and set it aside to dry.cpf14 cpf15 cpf16I carefully scrubbed the surface of the meerschaum with a soft tooth brush and warm water to remove the dirt and grime. I polished the meer with micromesh sanding pads. I started with 1500-2400 grit pads and was able to remove many of the surface scratches and blemishes as well as the tarry build up on the rim of the bowl. I continued to polish it with the remainder of the micromesh pads from 3200-12000 grit to bring a shine to the patina of the bowl.cpf17I buffed the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel carefully working around the horse. I lightly buffed the stem as well. I gave the bowl a rubdown of beeswax and hand buffed it with a shoe brush. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. I am expecting that the coloration of the meer will come back to the surface once the pipe is smoked. Thanks for journeying with me.cpf18 cpf19 cpf20 cpf21 cpf22 cpf23 cpf24 cpf25 cpf26