Blog by Steve Laug
This long stemmed Meerschaum Churchwarden is another one of my brother’s finds at the estate sale in the Boise, Idaho area. He found the case sitting on the table of pipes and pipe racks and has been hunting long enough that I think he must have expected it to be empty when he picked it up to have a look.Those of you who have gone pipe hunting enough know the rush that goes with opening an old leather covered pipe case like this and finding the Churchwarden that the case was made for still resident inside. There are a lot of empty pipe cases selling on eBay daily that give witness to the fact that the case and the pipe that should be inside often have parted company. In this case though when he opened the case I think he was surprised. I certainly was when he sent me a text with the photo. Inside was a smooth block meerschaum pipe with a long stem that was in relatively decent shape. The stem was intact and there were no large nicks or bumps on the bowl sides or shank. The stem aligned correctly with the shank and the whole thing appeared to be functional. These are the kinds of finds right up there with finding that illusive $10 Dunhill that keep me always looking inside cans, boxes and even pipe cases to see if something has been overlooked. You never know what kind of treasure might be hidden awaiting your discovery.
The next photos show what the pipe looked like when he found it and before he cleaned it up a bit to send my way. It is an elegant looking pipe in the photos and even more so in hand.The leather (probably a leather like vinyl) covered case was in great shape. The exterior was not even worn. The polished brass hinges and clasps looked good with the shiny leather. The front of the case had two clasps and next to the left one is the tag reading Made in Turkey. On the back side there are two hinges that are hidden beneath the leather. Four small brass brads hold each hinge in place. The hinges are not sprung or damaged in any way.My brother took a few photos of the pipe in the case to give an idea of what he saw when he opened the lid. The inside was lined with a rich golden coloured soft fabric that protected the meerschaum and held the pipe firmly in place. In the inside top cover there was the SMS logo that reads Handcarved Block Meerschaum Turkey around the stylised SMS. On the left side of the stem is the same logo inset in clear acrylic in the vulcanite. He removed the pipe from the case and you can see the beauty and simplicity of the shape. The shank and the rim edge are starting show some colour with a faint brown hue.He took some close up photos to show the condition of the rim. The bowl had a cake developing in it that went about half way down the bowl sides. The tars had darkened the rim on the back side and the outer edges of the rim had a few nicks and scratches. It would be interesting to see how much of this was surface damage once I had the pipe in hand in Vancouver.He took photos of the underside of the bowl and the sides as well to show some of the spotty dirt and debris that were there. It was hard to tell from the photos if these were merely on the surface or had penetrated the surface and left scratches on the bowl sides and bottom. I would see once I had it in hand. The stem appeared to be in pretty decent shape but the first inch on both sides of the stem at the button had some tooth marks, chatter and calcification. It appeared that the previous owner had smoked the pipe with a Softee Bit to protect the stem from his bite but even that had not kept all the tooth marks off the stem. Perhaps he or she had smoked it, seen the damage and put the rubber Softee on to protect it from further damage.My brother did a great clean up on the stem and shank internals and cleaned out the cake in the bowl with his Savinelli Fitsall Knife. He had removed some of the tars and oils on the top of the bowl and scrubbed the exterior with a soft cloth and Murphy’s Oil Soap. When it arrived in Vancouver it looked far better than it had in the earlier photos. I took the next five photos to record my first look at the pipe as I opened the case and removed it from its nest. I took some close up photos of the bowl, rim and stem to show what it looked like after my brother’s work on it. He had been able to get a lot of the tars and oils off the rim top and had cleaned the sides of the bowl. The second photo shows the SMS logo in acrylic on the left side. The stem showed some oxidation spots and a spot where obviously a label had been glued. He had been able to get the calcification off the stem at the button and also had managed to lift out some of the tooth chatter. The top edge of the button on both sides showed some wear. I started cleaning the exterior of bowl and stem with a green nylon scrubber. It is a great tool that I learned the use of through Troy (one of the contributors to the blog). I scrubbed the exterior of the stem and was able to remove much of the oxidation. I also used it to scrub the rim. I wet the scrubber with tap water to help with the scrubbing and it did a great job on the rim and stem.I continued to scrub the rim with the pad and then shifted to polishing the bowl and rim with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded the entirety of the pipe with 1500-2400 grit sanding pads and dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads. The finished bowl and rim are shown in the next four photos. I was able to remove the tars and the scratches from the bowl and rim and leave behind a polished bowl that still maintained the patina that had begun to develop. I ran a pipe cleaner with alcohol through the stem and the shank of the pipe and as usual my brother had done a thorough job removing the oils and tars from those places.I sanded the tooth marks and chatter on both sides of the stem at the button with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the damaged areas. I was fortunate that none of the tooth marks were deep enough to warrant repairs. I removed all of them by sanding the stem.I wet sanded the stem with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads and dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each set of three pads. After the final rub down I set the stem aside to dry. I buffed the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel and gave the stem several coats of carnauba wax. I gave the bowl a few coats of Clapham’s Beeswax Polish (a white beeswax polish) and buffed bowl and stem with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfibre cloth to put the final touches on it. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It really is a nicely made meerschaum and the fact that it is a Churchwarden is bonus. The weight of the pipe and the feel of it in the hand will make this pipe a winner. Thanks for looking.