Blog by Steve Laug
Back home after the first day at work in 2019. It was a long day and I need the down time to relax and unwind so I made my way to the basement workshop. My wife and kids know my habits and that after a day of talking I am talked out – used up my verbal quota and need down time. Of course they are also convinced that working on pipes is an illness but at least it keeps me out of their way! Tonight I feel a lot like Spencer in the photo below. He is pacing around me this evening having missed me today. So I am still working under the watchful eye of my buddy and Shop Foreman, Spencer. He has seriously enjoyed having me at home with him the past two weeks. His life is pretty much laying on a blanket by my feet while I am fiddling with pipes. At 14+ years old my fiddling does not faze him much him, he just wants to make sure I stay put with him in the basement. He snoozes, comes over to me now and then to smack my leg and beg for a treat and then retreats to nap again. He really is company in the shop and keeps me mindful to get up and move around now and then.Tonight I am working on a meerschaum that came in the lot. It was by far in the best condition of the five pipes but was still dirty. It came in its own unmarked case. It is a well carved figural of Bacchus, the Greek god of wine, in a well inebriated pose suggestive of having enjoyed his wine. There is no stamping on the shank or anywhere on the pipe. The stem is amber coloured acrylic and is in decent shape. It has a threaded tenon and screws directly into the shank. It is the fifth and last pipe that came to me in a lot of five pipes that I bought from a pipeman in Florida. The other pipes in the lot were the two Mastro de Paja and the two Savinelli Autographs that I have already restored. I decided to work on this final pipe and be finished with the lot. It is a change of pace from all the briar pipes that I have been working on these past weeks. It is shown in the bottom left side of the photo below.I had the fellow in Florida send the pipes to my brother Jeff in Idaho for the cleanup work. He does a great job and expedites my restoration process a lot. He took the following photos of the pipe before he worked his magic on them. The first photo gives a frontal view of Bacchus and gives you a feel for the quality of the carving and craftsmanship on this meer. The pipe is dirty but the meer is undamaged. There is some colouring starting to happen around the grapes and vine on the top of the bowl.Like his other pipes in this collection this Meerschaum must also have been a terrific smoker because the bowl was pretty caked and the shank and stem were dirty. The lava flowing over the rim top was light and there was some darkening from lighting on the edges of the rim and top. It really was a mess and the cake was hard from sitting. The Florida pipeman had laid aside his pipe some 15-20 years earlier and it had been in storage. It was going to take some work to clean out that bowl and be able to see what the rim looked like underneath the layer of lava. The next two photos give two different exposures and views of the top side of the pipe.The rest of the bowl looked dirty but the carving was quite well done. Jeff included a photo of the beard from the underside that shows the intricate carving of the hair and shaping of the beard and chin of Bacchus. The pipe was dusty but the case had protected it very well. The rich amber coloured acrylic/Lucite stem was in decent condition. It had a threaded nylon tenon or connector that screwed directly into the shank of the pipe. It was dirty, was scratched and had tooth chatter and damage to the stem surface. The button looked like it had some damage and tooth marks on the sharp edge but I would know more once it arrived in Vancouver.Jeff cleaned the pipe with his usual thoroughness – carefully reaming the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and cleaning up the remnants with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed the internals of the bowl, shank and stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the exterior with dish soap and a soft tooth brush to clean off the dust and grime on the finish. The rim top looked very good under the thick lava coat. There were just a few nicks and scratches to deal with. The inside of the bowl itself looked great. The stem was in great shape other than a bit of tooth chatter. I took photos of the pipe when it arrived here. You can see the developing patina on the grapes, leaves, vine and beard… it is going to be a beautiful pipe as it darkens. I took some close up photos of the rim top, bowl and stem to show what they looked like after Jeff’s cleanup. It is a startling difference. The rim top still has some darkening that will need to be dealt with while not damaging the developing patina around the rim top. The stem was dull and there were tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button.I polished the rim top and the area around the inner edges of the bowl with micromesh sanding pads to remove the scratches and to remove the remaining dark areas and tar – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the rim top down after each pad to remove the sanding dust and get a sense of the how the finish was developing. The photos show the progress. With the rim top cleaned, polished and still showing a lot of patina I set the bowl aside and worked on the stem. I wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads. I was able to remove it. I dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads to polish it further. I wiped it down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. I finished polishing the stem with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine polishes. I wiped the stem down with a damp cotton pad afterwards and buffed it with a soft microfiber cloth. I lightly polished the stem with Blue Diamond to polish out the scratches in the acrylic and raise a shine. I hand buffed the meerschaum bowl with a microfiber cloth to polish it. I gave the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I carefully buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. The contrast of the beautiful developing patina on the white meerschaum with the polished amber colour Lucite/acrylic stem is quite stunning. The carved figural of Bacchus is well done and looks very good. This is another beautiful pipe that is for sure. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 3/4 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 2 ½ x 2 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 of an inch. I will be putting the finished pipe on the rebornpipes store shortly. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me. It was a great break away from the briars that await me. Cheers.