Blog by Paresh Deshpande
From the heading of this post, it is but natural to infer that this would be the last pipe that Abha, Steve, Jeff and I selected to work on before we bid our farewells, but the on-ground fact is this was selected and work commenced on this pipe after we had completed the restoration of an 1846 made BBB with Amber stem from my inheritance. Here is the link to the write up which was penned by Dal Stanton –
When your life partner supports you in your hobby of restoring pipes and even helps you by doing the dirty work of initial cleaning of an estate pipe, you should be thankful to her and God for the match. And if you don’t want to rock this boat, always acquiesce with their likes and suggestion…I am a wise man too!!
Well, the above musings is the rationale for our owning this pipe in the first place. Abha, my wife, saw this pipe on eBay as I was surfing and she made a passing comment of liking the shape and look of this pipe. Her passing comment was akin to a decision and lucky for me, my bid won. I paid single digit USD for the pipe and a whopping cost of shipping when the pipe reached me about 6 months ago. When Steve and Jeff reached us on a visit, along with other gifts and pipes, Jeff had brought along “Before and After Stem deoxidizer” which I had Mark Hoover ship to Jeff in Idaho, USA to save on the costs of shipping. During one of our discussions, the efficacy of this solution in removing very heavy oxidation from the stem without resorting to any further invasive procedure cropped up. It was then decided to select one of the most heavily oxidized stem from my collection and subject the deoxidizing solution to stringent test. This is, thus, how the Meer came to the fore for restoration and the fact that it was Abha’s choice of pipe, made her happy.
This well made pipe has a beautiful Oom Paul shape with shallow non geometrical concave panels all around. The rim top shows large and evenly serrated surface. The rim top surface appears to have been painted black which has worn out over time. The bottom of the shank is stamped as “GENUINE BLOCK” over “MEERSCHAUM” with #22 on the left, probably the shape code. The underside of the screw-in vulcanite stem surface bears a very faint stamp of “MADE IN TAN…….IA”, could be and logically most likely is, Tanzania!!The lack of any distinguishing maker’s stamps on the bowl makes it impossible to date and comment upon this pipe. The stamping on the stem points to this pipe as being made in Tanzania, probably by Amboseli? All that I can say is that this a beautiful, well made pipe that feels nice in the hand.
INITIAL VISUAL INSPECTION
This is virtually an un-smoked pipe with no cake in the chamber. However there are a few scratches on the walls of the chamber. The serrated rim top surface and the rim edges are in pristine condition. The darkened rim top surface points it to have been painted black to provide a contrast with the white of the meerschaum and which over a period of time has been rubbed off. The draught hole is perfectly at the bottom center and should be a great smoker.The stummel surface is covered with minor scratches and one odd very minor chip commensurate with uncared storage and age (??). The stummel has yellowed at some places and appears lifeless being covered in dust and dirt. These issues should not pose any trouble while being addressed. The shank end is clean and air flow is full and smooth. Running a few pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl alcohol should freshen up the shank internals. The main protagonist of the entire exercise is this heavily oxidized stem!! To be very honest, I have not seen a more heavily oxidized stem since the time I was introduced to the art of pipe restoration. Even the gentleman who coaxed/ cajoled me in to this wonderful world, Mr. Steve, was unanimous in his comment of this being one of the many most heavily oxidized stems that he has come across….. And he has seen many!!! The threaded metal tenon is clean and shining almost like new. The air flow through the stem is open and full. Again, one odd pipe cleaner through the stem air way should clean out any traces of dust and dirt that could have lodged itself in the stem.THE PROCESS
Since the aim of selecting this pipe for restoration was to check the efficacy of the “Before and After Deoxidizer” solution, this was also the start point. Jeff ran a couple of pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl alcohol through the stem just to make sure that the air way is clean and open. Thereafter, he immersed this stem in to the deoxidizer solution and let it sit for 6 hours.While the stem was soaking in the deoxidizer solution, Pavni, my younger daughter who loves and specializes in working the chamber walls to a smooth surface, worked on the chamber walls with a folded piece of a 220 grit sand paper to a smooth and an even surface.Once Pavni was through with her work, Jeff took over further cleaning of the stummel. He began by cleaning the stummel and rim top surface with Murphy’s Oil soap on a cotton swab to remove the dust and remnants of the black coloration from the serrated rim top. He followed it up by further cleaning the stummel with a dish washer paste on his finger tip till all the accumulated dirt and dust was removed and thoroughly rinsed it under running tap water. Jeff also cleaned the internals of the shank with q tips and pipe cleaner dipped in isopropyl alcohol. I took over from where Jeff had left and began polishing the stummel with micromesh pads, dry sanding the entire stummel with 1500 to 12000 grit pads. The stummel now has a nice smooth and shiny surface. I wiped the stummel and each pad with a soft slightly moist cloth to remove the meerschaum dust from the surface. Once I was done with the micromesh pads, Steve decided to blacken the rim top surface using a permanent black marker. Since the burning tobacco would not be in contact with the rim surface, this should have no harmful effect while the pipe is being smoked. This darkening of the rim top surface transformed the complete appearance of this Oom Paul as can be seen in the last picture. All the while, the stem was soaking in the deoxidizer solution. At the end of this stage, we got the stem out of the solution only to find that there was not much effect on the oxidation (as can be seen from the picture below) and it was then unanimously decided to let the stem soak overnight. That decided we sat down peacefully for our Single Malt Scotch, pipe smoking and discussing pipes, tobaccos and other things in general. The best part of such times was that Dal, Steve and Jeff ensured that everyone was part of the conversation by discussing and talking on topics wherein my daughters could also participate. My daughters adore these gentlemen!!The next dawn came with the excitement of seeing the result of the fight between the deoxidizer and the stubborn stem oxidation. After a hearty breakfast, we flocked around Jeff, our undisputed expert on cleaning and in use of this solution. Jeff removed the stem from the solution, washed it under running water, blew through the stem to remove any solution that had entered in the stem air way and rigorously cleaned it with a microfiber cloth. We all closely observed the result. Though at this stage, the stem did appear black, but the oxidation was still very much visible.Dal suggested cleaning the stem surface with Murphy’s Oil soap to see if that made any difference. We tried it without much success, though there was some improvement. Next Steve suggested to rub a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration” balm in to the stem surface. Although the stem was now completely black in appearance, we knew that underneath the blackness still lurks the ugly oxidation. We tried cleaning it with isopropyl alcohol and Fine and Extra fine stem polish (both products developed by Mark Hoover). All that has happened is that this residual oxidation was just masked. We kept wondering what is it that Mark does to the stem that they come out shining like they do just after a soak in this solution.When all other ideas and permutations/ combinations failed, I suggested the good old method of using sand paper to remove the oxidation, which incidentally was also the last resort!! This task fell on to the participant who had suggested it in the first place. So there I was, again in my familiar territory of sanding the stem with a 220 grit sand paper and following it up with 400, 600 and 800 grit papers. I followed it up with polishing the stem, going through the micromesh cycle of wet sanding with 1500 to 12000 grit pads. I rubbed a small quantity of Extra Virgin Olive oil in to the stem and set it aside for it to be absorbed by the vulcanite. To finish the pipe, Steve generously rubbed some natural Bee’s Wax in to the stummel surface and set it aside to coat the stummel surface. The prevalent heat here ensured that the wax remained melted and absorbed in the meerschaum! I mounted a clean cotton buffing wheel on to my hand held rotary tool and gave it a nice buffing. I polished the stem, applying carnauba wax with the rotary tool. The pipe, after marrying the stem and stummel looks amazing, to say the least. Have a look at it in the pictures below. The smile on Abha’s face and in her eyes made it well worth the effort and beyond. I wish to make it amply clear here that these conclusions are not laboratory results or a result of sterile and accurate experimentation processes under ideal conditions. This was just a fun filled attempt at attaining the level of finish which our friend Mr. Mark Hoover achieves by just a soak in to this solution. To summarize the findings, we all narrowed down to these followings facts: –
(a) Slight to slightly heavy stem oxidation is very effectively addressed by soaking in the solution of “Before and After Deoxidizing” solution followed by rigorous wipe with a microfiber cloth.
(b) Very heavy/ severely oxidized stem, similar to the one on this pipe, we could not completely remove the oxidation from the stem surface without resorting to invasive processes like sanding with grit papers etc. The oxidation was only masked, but not removed. However, the oxidation had loosened greatly and made further progress easy and rapid. This does save considerable time. It can be inferred that the heavily oxidized stem may be soaked twice for better results.
The outcome of all this is that this is an amazing product and will ease your work on stem. This could form a part of your “MUST HAVE” list while embarking on the journey in to world of pipe restoration.