Broken Pipe Blues

Blog by Joe Gibson (PappyJoe)

I have followed PappyJoe on Twitter ever since our paths crossed on the Country Squire Radio show. We have fired tweets back and forth and not long ago he sent an invite to his blog PappyJoe’s World – Pipe Smoking and other thoughts.  Since then I have frequented the blog and read quite a number of his posts. During my lunch hour at work today I decided to visit again. I read three really interesting posts that I thought would be great to share on rebornpipes. I wrote PappyJoe and asked permission to post these blogs here. This is the first of them. Well worth the time to read. Thanks PappyJoe and welcome to rebornpipes. Without further words from me here is his blog (

This is a cautionary tale about buying “estate” meerschaums at antique/collectible/junk shops…

As mentioned in an earlier post, we like to walk around antique/collectible/junk shops, malls and flea markets.  I also said most of those pipes are overpriced. I’ve seen briar pipe so dirty you would have trouble fitting a toothpick into the bowl and priced upwards of $75. Look carefully and instead of something like a Dunhill or Charatan, you will find a Dr. Grabow or Medico you could have bought just a few years ago at a drugstore. Get real lucky though and you can find a nice briar with 50 or 60 years of age on it that is still worth cleaning and sanitizing. Just inspect them carefully. I once examined a nice looking Charatan that you could run a pipe cleaner though – the bowl that is. It had burned through the bottom.

My Sultan Saxophone meerschaum. The crack is along the base of the turban

The worst offenders seem to be vendors selling meerschaum pipes. I’ve seen figural meerschaum pipes with broken stems and bowls priced at $400. I looked at CAO Sherlock Holmes pipe priced at $350 because it was “signed.” Unfortunately it was signed in big block letters along one side  by someone using a rotary tool. You could still see the tool marks. I passed on both of those.

I do have a Sultan saxophone meerschaum I paid $10 for at a flea market. It has a 3-part stem (one acrylic and two sections of meerschaum) and was unsmoked. I examined it carefully before buying and didn’t see any cracks. But as I smoked it the first time and it got hot, two long cracks at the base of the bowl appeared. I quickly applied super glue to it and it’s been sitting on my shelf since then. It looks nice sitting on display as a $10 piece of art. It is also my first cautionary tale about buying pipes at these shops.

Floral meerschaum in case was only $20

And it brings me to my second cautionary tale. This past weekend we made an overnight swing through southwest Mississippi. At one stop I found an unnamed, never smoked, Meerschaum in its hard case for $20. After carefully examining it with a magnifying glass, I took the stem off and inspected the stummel end. I felt I gave it a thorough examination and other than a musty, moldy, almost mothball smell in the bowl, it looked in great condition. Until I started the cleaning process when I got home.

I removed the stem by gently turning and pulling it with no problem. Next, I inserted a clean and dry pipe cleaner through the airway and then filled the bowl with baking soda to see if that would get rid of the smell and let it set.  A few hours later, I dumped the baking soda and removed the pipe cleaner. Wiped out the bowl with a tissue and then dipped the pipe cleaner in water and ran it through the airway.

The invisible crack appears...

The first crack, before attempted repair

That’s when a crack at the very end of the stummel, where the nylon screw went appeared. Don’t you hate it when that happens? I have five rescued meerschaum pipes. I have cleaned each of them this way. This is only the first one to crack when cleaning. I sat there and watched as the crack around the stummel expanded and a half inch piece fell off.

I hate it when that happens. My first thought was to throw it in the trash.  My second thought was it may be salvageable. The broken part was only part of the threaded stummel so if I glued it back together it might not affect the smoking capability of the pipe. That’s what I was hoping for, anyway.

It wasn’t what I got. After letting it sit for 24 hours, I loaded the bowl and lit it carefully. About five minutes into the smoke, as the tobacco started burning good, I heard a crackle which I first attributed to maybe the tobacco not being dry enough. Then I look at the right side of the pipe and saw another thin, almost imperceptible crack extending from the stummel along one side of the bowl. Then I heard another crackle and saw the crack had expanded around the bowl and up the left side.

The crack expanded around the front of the bowl

Lesson learned? Not really

Nothing can save this pipe, so I gentle pried the tobacco out of it to prevent more damage. It now sits on top of one of my pipe shelves with the Sultan which is also never smoked. Either the pipe had not been cared for properly or the block was flawed when carved. It only takes a drop or two on a hard surface for a meerschaum to crack.

Won’t stop me from rescuing more pipes in the future.

(© J. Gibson Creative Services 2018)


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