Is it a meerschaum? Looks like one, feels like one, but….


Blog by Steve Laug

Not too long ago I received an email contact from a fellow, Craig on the rebornpipes blog. He sent me the following message: I was recently given a bag of pipes… Literally, a BAG of 20 or so pipes that are 50+yrs in age and VERY used. I was wondering if you would have time to either Skype or FaceTime with me, and go through what I have in order to determine which are worth sending to you to have them refurbished. If you would be so kind, I’d really appreciate it. I was interested in seeing what he had been given so we arranged a Facetime call. I was in Idaho with my brother so we both sat in on the call and had a look at his pipes. It was literally a big bag of pipes – all thrown into a plastic grocery bag with no rhyme or reason. The bag was filled with many no name or low end drug store pipes. There was really nothing stellar in the lot except for an old WDC Campaign pipe and maybe a Grabow Starfire. We went through the bag via Facetime and excluded most of the pipes. The amount of work necessary to bring them back was not worth the price. However, we picked some of the lot that were worth cleaning up for sure as they would make nice rack additions for a budding rotation. There were five that we pulled to work on.

  1. A No Name Meerschaum that looked interesting
  2. A Dr. Grabow Starfire 39 that had great grain
  3. A WDC Campaign underslung pipe
  4. A Wally Frank Bulldog marked Natural Unvarnished lacking a stem
  5. A leather clad billiard marked R20 and bearing a shield

With that he packed up the pipes and through in the rest of the bags for me to scavenge parts from and put the box in the mail. It did not take too long for it to arrive in Vancouver and when it did I opened the box and had a look. Here are pics of what I saw – there were two bags inside. One bag held the discards for the scrap pile and the other held the five pipes he wanted restored. I chose to work on the No Name ?Meerschaum? first. It was very dirty and he was not even sure it was a meer. He thought it might be a painted pipe but I wondered about it. When it arrived I checked it out and the inside of the bowl that was visible looked like meer and the shank end with the threaded tenon looked like meer. From the look of the rim I wondered if it was not a pressed meerschaum – in fact it probably was. The bowl had a cake in it – not too thick but bothersome and the rim to had some darkening and some tan spots. The bowl was extremely dirty on the outside and there were black scuff marks on both sides. There were scratches and nicks on the bottom of the bowl. There was no stamping or identifying marks on the pipe. The stem was soft acrylic or plastic. There were tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button. The exterior was dirty and dull looking. The slot had tars built up reducing the size of the slot by half. The pipe smelled like Half and Half tobacco – kind of that anise smell that clings to a pipe that has smoked that blend. I took close up photos of the bowl and rim top as well as the stem. The rim top had some overflow on the inner bevel and there was some odd coloration on part of the rim. It was almost as if the top coat of polished meer was compromised but it was hard to know. This area made me wonder about whether I was dealing with painted briar. The stem was another story – it was in decent shape with tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button. There was a metal tenon like a spear tip on the end of the stem. It was very dirty.I used a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife to clean out the cake and tobacco remnants from the bowl. As I worked on it I was even more certain that the tobacco of choice to the person who had smoked the pipe in the past was Half and Half.I polished the meerschaum bowl with micromesh sanding pads. The way the bowl acted with the micromesh and the sanding dust that came off on the pads it seemed to point to meerschaum. There was one spot on the underside of the bowl that had the same coloration as the rim top. The rest of the bowl cleaned up nicely and the black marks and surface scratching disappeared and was replaced by a shine. I wet sanded with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanded with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down after each grit with a damp cotton pad to remove the dust. The more I worked with it the more I am convinced that I was dealing with a pressed meerschaum pipe. It acts like pressed meer and feels like in the hand. I repaired the deep tooth marks on both sides of the stem with clear super glue. Once the repair had cured I sanded them smooth with 220 grit sandpaper to blend them into the surface of the stem. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. After each pad I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil. When I finished with the last pad I gave it a final coat of the oil and let it dry. When I finished polishing the stem and it dried I put it back on the bowl and took it to the buff. I gently buffed both the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond. I did not want to damage the bowl and the plastic material of the stem is very soft so I did not want to make more work for myself with it overheating and melting. I gave the bowl and stem several coats of carnauba wax and buffed them with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. This is the first restoration of the pipes Craig sent me. I look forward to the rest of them. I think he will enjoy this one when I send it back. The finished pipe is shown below. Thanks for looking.

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4 thoughts on “Is it a meerschaum? Looks like one, feels like one, but….

  1. Pingback: rebornpipes

  2. Pingback: Craig’s Pipes #4 – Restoring a Dr. Grabow Starfire 39 | rebornpipes

  3. Pingback: Craig’s Pipes #3 – Restemming and Restoring a Wally Frank Natural Bulldog | rebornpipes

  4. Pingback: Rejuvenating a Leather Clad Billiard | rebornpipes

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