Blog by Steve Laug
There seems to be a first time for everything and today I am working on my first meerschaum lined Pioneer pipe. I have had Pioneer Gourd Calabash pipes that have crossed my table with the meerschaum cup and gourd base. They cleaned up nicely and were good smokers. It is a nice sandblasted piece of briar with a well fit block meerschaum bowl insert. The pipe is a square shanked apple. The worst part of the pipe is the poorly fitted saddle stem that does not seem to line up particularly well. The beauty of the deep and rugged sandblast cover that and take the eye off the stem and focus it on the swirling grain highlighted by the sandblast. Jeff took photos of the pipe to show its general condition before he did his cleanup.The stem has some tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button. It is oxidized and very dirty. The grooves of the sandblast are filled in with a lot of dust and debris that hide the real beauty of the finish. The bowl has a thick cake with a heavy overflow of lava on the rim top particularly at the back half of the bowl. The meerschaum bowl insert looks to be intact with no breaks or chips but the cleanup will reveal the truth in that area.The close up photo reveals the cake in the bowl and the lava on the rim top. It is a bit of a mess. Fortunately no one has tried to scrape away the char or the cake and damaged the bowl lining.The next three photos give a clear idea of the beauty of the deep sandblast. The bottom of the bowl and the sides really are quite stunning. The deep lines of the blast reveal the grain on the piece of briar. I am looking forward to seeing what the bowl looks like once it is cleaned and restored. The underside of the bowl is stamped as shown in the photo below – Genuine Block Meerschaum. On the underside of the shank it is stamped Pioneer and the shape number 250. The curled P logo on the stem proved that the stem was an original Pioneer stem. I did a bit of digging to find out more about the Pioneer Pipe Company as my memory of that was a bit foggy. Reading on Pipedia I found that it had been owned by Wally Frank, who trademarked the name Pioneer in 1940. At the time of the application the name was alleged to have been used in commerce in 1925. The company listed its location at 1817 Putnam Avenue, Brooklyn, New York. Pioneer sold Turkish and later African meerschaum through the Wally Frank, Ltd. Catalogs and elsewhere. https://pipedia.org/wiki/Pioneer. The link also included a cover page from a Pioneer Catalogue. I have included that here.I also went to one of my favourite sites; Chris Keene’s Pipe Pages and did some looking at the catalogues he has scanned there. I found a few pages that I have included below. The first is the story of Pioneer Meerschaums. I found it an interesting read but it did not give the link to Wally Frank. The index at the bottom of the included page took me to the inside of the back cover of the catalogue. It shows the meerschaum lined pipes that were available through Pioneer. The shape I have is an apple. There is no reference to a sandblast line or to the shape number 250. It leads me to wonder who made this pipe for Wally Franks Pioneer Company. The link that follows shows the full catalogue. http://pipepages.com/1pioneer2.html I did some more hunting on the PipePhil logo site (reference below) and found confirmation of the address linking the brand to the Wally Frank information above. What it added to the information is that they not only manufactured meerlined pipe but also distributed them. I quote in full: “Pioneer Pipes Co., a Meerschaum and Meerschaum lined pipes manufacturer and distributor. Address (about 1960): 1817 Putnam Avenue, Brooklyn 27, N.Y. Pioneer also used to import meerschaum pipes from the MANXMAN PIPES Ltd factory (Isle of Man, UK) as shown by the markings of this pipe. (See “Man”) Wilczak & Colwell, Who Made that Pipe, mention pipes with this label from Duncan Briars Ltd, Oppenheimer Pipes or Delacour Brothers.” http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-p3.html. I have also included a screen capture of the stamping on the Pioneer pipe shown in the list. It is a similar shape and sandblast to the one I am working on. The difference is the round shank on this apple rather than the square shank on the one I am restoring. The stamping is the same on both pipes.Jeff did his usual thorough cleanup on the bowl and stem. He carefully reamed the bowl back to clean, smooth meerschaum with a Savinelli Fitsall reamer. He cleaned the internals with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs – scrubbing out the mortise as it was dirty. He scrubbed the exterior of the pipes with Murphy’s Oil soap and a tooth brush and was able to remove all of the oils and dust in the smooth finish on the briar. He was able to remove all of the lava and grime from the rim top and left it looking very clean. The inner and outer edges of the rim top were in good shape. He soaked the stem in an Oxyclean bath to raise the oxidation to the surface of the vulcanite. When the pipe arrived I took some photos to show how it looked before I did the restoration. Jeff was able to remove the lava buildup on the rim top and clean away most of the darkening to meerschaum lining. There was still some darkening on the beveled edge of the rim that would probably come off with some work. The stem was deeply oxidized and had tooth chatter and marks on both sides of the stem near the button.I put the stem to soak in a bath of Before & After Stem Deoxidizer for a while to let it do its work on the oxidation. The stem pictured below is a second stem that was in the bath at the same time.When I took the stem out of the bath it was much cleaner. I wiped it down with a paper towel and pushed pipe cleaners and alcohol through the airway to remove the product from the interior of the stem. The aluminum inner tube was also clean and showed some cracking at different points along its length. It would need to be removed if possible. It was also collapsed on the tapered end of the tube.I sanded the stem surface with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the tooth chatter and marks on the surface near the button. I checked out the inner tube and found that the cracks in the aluminum were deep and the tube would need to be removed. As I worked on removing it the tube broke. I was unable to remove it from the tenon as it had been glued in place. I found that there were two deeper tooth marks on the top side that needed to be repaired. I used some small drops of clear super glue to repair the marks. When the glue dried I sanded them smooth to blend into the surface of the stem. I touched up the gold colour in the stamped P on the left side of the saddle stem using Rub’n Buff European Gold. I used a tooth pick to push the product into the stamping. I let it dry for a short time. I wiped down the excess material to show the touched up stem.I worked over the stem with micromesh sanding pads. I polished out the sanding scratches and marks in the vulcanite – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit pads and wiped it down with Obsidian Oil after each one. When I finished with the 12000 grit pad I gave it a final coat of oil and set it aside to dry. I polished it with Before & After Stem Fine Polish and wiped it down. I followed that by polishing it with the Extra Fine Polish. I buffed it with a microfiber cloth to raise the shine.I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to sand out the darkened area remaining on the top of the bowl. I sanded the bevel to remove the damage from the rim top. The photos below show the cleaned rim.I rubbed the bowl down with Before & After Restoration Balm to deep clean the nooks and crannies of the finish, enliven and protect the briar. I hand rubbed it with my fingers to get it deep into the grooves. I let it sit for a few minutes and then wiped it off with a soft cloth and buffed it with a horsehair shoe brush. The briar really began to have a deep shine. I took some photos of the bowl at this point to mark the progress in the restoration. I put the stem back on the bowl and took the pipe to the buffing wheel to work it over. I gently buffed the bowl with Blue Diamond to polish the briar. I buffed the stem at the same time to raise the gloss on the vulcanite carefully working around the repaired P logo on the left side of the stem top. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and the stem several coats carnauba wax. I buffed the entire pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are: Length: 5 1/2 inches, Height: 1 3/4 inches, Outer Diameter of the Bowl: 1 1/2 inches, Diameter of the Chamber: 3/4 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 interesting piece of Pioneer/Wally Frank history and is a comfortable shape in my opinion. It will make a fine meerschaum lined pipe 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.