Dr. Grabow Meerschaum Lined Project

By Al Jones

Recently a member of PipesMagazine.com forum started a contest for the best restoration of a Dr. Grabow pipe. The rules were simple:

cost of the pipe $10 or less,
Must have Original stems with spade
Show before and after pics.
The more hideous you start with the better.

You can view the member entries at this thread:
“What’s Under That Grabow” Contest

Before and after photos can be viewed at the link below. Members can vote for the best restoration, on October 15th.
Before and After Contest Photos

I’ve been very busy lately and we are leaving for New Orleans in a few days, so I decided that there was no time for me to acquire and finish and entry. But, I stopped by a small antique shop near my Maryland work travel on Friday and low and behold, I found this Dr. Grabow for $8. It was a Meerschaum Lined model, and unfortunately, didn’t have the Spade logo as required in the contest rules. Member Dave G messaged me that Meerschaum Lined pipes were made in Italy, and did not have the Spade logo, so that was the original stem. I checked with the contest organizer and he let me in on a technicality!

Since this was my first meerschaum lined pipe restoration, of course I checked on pipes completed by Steve. He had completed a Dr. Grabow Meerscaum Lined pipe, where I confirmed that the model was indeed made in Italy. Steve adds the folowing from his blog entry:

Originally imported from M. Gasparini in Italy for Grabow. Sparta finally figured out how to do them and only imported the “plugs”. Early Grabow Meerschaum lined pipes were stamped Italy with no spade. After 1989 Dr. Grabow got rid of Italy and added the spade.” So, my sense of it being Italian was correct. It also dates this pipe as pre-1989.

Indeed, the bottom of the stem, near the shank does have a faint “Italy stamp.

Below is the pipe as it was found. Rebuilding the chewed button was going to be the biggest challenge. There was one small fill on the front of the bowl.

Unfortunately, when I tried to begin removing the cake, I found that the meerschaum lining was broken in numerous places and crumbling. I decided to just remove the lining. For now, this is just a styling exercise. Later, when I have more time, I’ll look into rebuilding the meerschaum lining. This made the restoration of the briar a bit simpler. I used aclohol and super-fine steel wool to strip the finish. I topped the bowl slightly with 320 grit paper, then up to 1500 grit. I put some superglue in the fill and sanded it flush. The bowl was stained with Medium Brown stain, set with a flame. The bowl was then buffed with White Diamond and several coats of Carnuba wax.

I used black superglue to rebuild the button. The build-up was shaped with a small file. I removed the oxidation with 400 and 800 grit paper, which was also used to finish the button shaping. The stem was then finished with 800, 1,500 and 2,000 grit wet paper. It was then buffed with White Diamond and then Meguiars Plastic Polish.

Below is the finished pipe.

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