Blog by Steve Laug
On a recent trip to Idaho to visit my parents, brothers and families I had the opportunity to go with my brother Jeff on a pipe hunt. We visited some of the shops where he has developed a relationship with the owners and had good luck on pipe purchases in the past. We visited a shop that belongs to the daughter of an old pipe man who I have known through business for quite a few years. I have purchased pipes and tobacco from him in years past and Jeff and I have bought a few estate pipes from him in recent years. On this trip we stopped and visited with his daughter a bit and had a look through her shop. Her dad had a few pipes there and a few sealed tins of Velvet Pipe Tobacco. These sealed tins still had the tax stamp on them and someone had the foresight to wrap a piece of duct tape carefully around the seal to keep the air out of the tin. I had to have one of those. There was one pipe that caught my attention – an oval shanked Meerschaum Canadian with an amber coloured acrylic stem made by SMS in a black vinyl covered case with a tan velour lining. I brought both the tin and the pipe to the counter and the daughter called her dad to let me dicker with him on the price.
We had a great conversation and caught up a bit regarding the past year for both of us. He is in his 80s and I always enjoy the conversation we have on all things pipe. I don’t think I have ever seen him without a pipe in his mouth and a wreath of smoke around his head. I expect that is what he looked like on the other end of the phone. We came to an agreed price for the pipe and tin. He always starts high in terms of price and I low ball him. We go back and forth and both end up feeling like we made a good deal. We said our good byes and I handed the phone back to his daughter. I paid the bill, said our good byes to his daughter and headed out to the next antique shop on the docket for the day.
I took some pictures of the pipe case to show its condition before I started my restoration work on the pipe. The faux leather case is in pretty good condition – just a few scuff marks but the edges are smooth and there is no peeling happening with the covering. The golden/tan velour interior is also in good condition – a little dusty and a few flakes of tobacco left behind in the fabric. It should clean up nicely as well. The pipe inside was in pretty decent condition. There was a cake in the bowl and some rim darkening and lava overflowing over the back of the rim. The bowl and shank had a lot of scratches and nicks in the finish with a bit of “road rash” on the bottom edge of the left side of the bowl. There were also some colour developing on the long shank of the pipe and some odd spotting around the top of the bowl. It was patina developing but it was spotty and strange – I have never seen that kind of colouring on a meer before. The stem was in good condition but had tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button. The stem had a threaded tenon that screwed into and inset in the shank. It aligned perfectly. The SMS brass logo was set in the top of the stem and had been covered with a spot of clear acrylic to make it smooth and even with the surface of the stem. It should clean up well with a few character marks from its journey through the hands of different pipe men. I took some close up photos of the bowl, rim top and sides of the bowl to show the scratching and general condition of the pipe. The nicks and scratches on the left side of the bowl are visible in the second photo. The colouration process on the pipe is also visible through the scratches. The tooth marks and chatter are visible in the photos of the stem. They are predominantly around the button area on both sides. There are also some scratches and nicks on the sides and close to the shank/stem junction.I have to say how spoiled I have become when it comes to cleaning up pipes before I can do the restoration work. Thank you Jeff for the great work that you have been doing behind the scenes at rebornpipes. It is times like this when I have to clean up a pipe before I begin working on it that I am reminded of how much you do before I ever get the pipes. On this one I began with the cleanup work. I reamed the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife and took out all of the cake on the walls.I unscrewed the stem from the shank and wiped down the tenon with a damp cotton pad to remove the tars and oils in the threads on the outer edge of the airway. Afterwards I cleaned out the mortise and the airway in the shank and stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners until it was clean.I sanded out the tooth chatter and marks with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. I also sanded out the nicks and marks further up the stem sides and near the shank/stem union.I worked over the stem with micromesh sanding pads. I polished out the sanding scratches and marks in the amber acrylic – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit pads and wiped it down with damp cotton pad after each one. When I finished with the 12000 grit pad I wiped it down a final time and dried it off. I set the stem aside and turned my attention to the meerschaum bowl. I polished the meerschaum bowl and shank with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads to remove the damage of the scratches and nicks in the bowl. I was able to remove almost all of the surface scratches (leaving behind only those that add character) and most of the heavy damage to the marks on the lower left side of the bowl. I dry sanded the bowl and shank with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the rim down after each pad with a damp cotton pad. I put the stem back on the bowl and carefully worked the pipe on the buffing wheel with Blue Diamond to further polish the bowl and the shank. It really brought life to the meerschaum. I also buffed the acrylic stem at the same time and worked it to a shine. I gave it several coats of Conservator’s Wax and buffed it with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine in the meerschaum. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are: Length: 6 1/4 inches, Height: 2 1/4 inches, Diameter of the bowl: 1 1/2 inch, Diameter of the chamber: 7/8 inches. I will be adding this one to the rebornpipes store shortly if you are interested in adding it to your collection. It is an unusual shape in my opinion and it will make a fine meerschaum addition to the rack. If you are interested email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or send me a message on Facebook. Thanks for looking.