Blog by Steve Laug
Jeff picked up this Calabash Lattice Meerschaum with an acrylic stem from somewhere on his travels. It came in a black vinyl covered case lined with Satin in the cover and white fur in the lower portion of the case. The case appeared to have had a sticker on the cover that was long gone. There were no identifying marks in the case or on the pipe itself. It has a brass clasp on the front and brass hinges on the back. It was obviously custom made for this pipe.Jeff opened the case and this was the meerschaum pipe that was inside. It was a nice looking lattice carved calabash bowl that had begun to take on some nice colour. The base and shank were almost amber coloured. The exterior of the bowl was very dirty and had tars and oils ground into the finish. Looking at the top of the bowl you can see how much lava had overflowed onto the rim top. It had filled in most of the fine carvings in the top of the rim around the inner edges of the bowl. I am sure once it was out of the case it would become clear how dirty it really was.Jeff took it out of the case to have a better look at the condition of the pipe. It was a beautifully shaped calabash with lots of promise. It looked like it would cleanup really well and look great when finished. The meerschaum was developing some really nice colour around the lower part of the bowl and shank. Jeff took a close-up photo of the bowl and rim top. There was a very thick cake in the bowl that was hard and uneven. There was thick overflowing lava coming up from the cake over the rim top and filling in the tiny spot and carving on the rim.Jeff took photos of the sides and heel of the bowl to show the carving and colour around the bowl. Jeff took the stem off the shank and took a photo. It appears to be a threaded tenon that screwed into the shank. The first sign of another possibility for me was the thin lip around the end of the tenon. I would know more about that once I had it in hand. The shank end and the tenon were filthy with oils and tars. The internals of the pipe were in as bad a condition as the inside of the bowl and airway.Jeff took photos of the stem to show the general condition of the stem shape. The curve is graceful and the curve great. The photo shows the profile of the stem. He took photos of the top and underside of the stem to show the damage and bite marks on both sides near the button and on the surface of the button itself. It almost looked like it had been wrapped in tape. Having seen the before pictures on this pipe I did not know what to expect when I unpacked the most recent box Jeff sent to me. The pipe was present in the box and I took it out of the box with a bit of fear and trepidation at the amount of work that would await me when I removed it from the case. I put the case on my desk and opened it to see what was there. I opened the case and took a photo of the pipe inside.I was astonished to see how clean the pipe was. The bowl nicely coloured – Jeff had lost none of the patina in clean-up process. Now it was time to take it out of the case and have a look at it up close and personal.Jeff had done an incredible job in cleaning up this meerschaum. He had carefully reamed the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife, scraping away the thick cake on the walls of the bowl. He also scraped the thick lava on the rim top. He scrubbed the exterior of the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove the grime on the bowl and rim. He cleaned out the interior of the bowl and shank with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol until they came out clean. The rim top looked incredible when you compare it with where it started. There is some slight darkening on the inside edge of the bowl and a dark spot on the back topside. He cleaned the stem with Soft Scrub to remove the grime on the exterior and cleaned out the airway with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. To show how clean the rim top and stem really was I took a close-up photo of the rim. The bowl was clean and cake free. The rim top is quite clean and the inner edge of the bowl has all of the lava removed. The stem looks better with the tape removed. The stem looks very good. There are a few deep tooth marks in the surface and the button edge is thin and blackened.I unscrewed the stem from the bowl and took photos of the parts. The tenon appeared to be threaded but I was not sure of that. I would need to do a bit more work on it to be sure.I examined the tenon and decided to unscrew it from the stem. I locked a pair of pliers on the tenon and twisted it to unscrew it. As I did this the friction was not like threads, rather it was like a friction fit. Then it dawned on me what I was dealing with. The threaded portion was the female part of the push tenon that was normally anchored in the shank of the pipe. I pulled it free of the push tenon itself and took a photo of the parts. I breathed a sigh of relief as this was by far an easier repair to make. I would clean up the female portion and anchor it in the shank them clean up the push tenon and that part of the repair would be finished.I set the parts of the stem and push tenon assembly aside and turned my attention to the bowl itself. I cleaned up the inner edge of the bowl with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper.I polished the rim top with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads to remove the blackened spots on the rim top and clean up the top. I wiped it down with a damp cloth to remove the sanding dust. The top looked considerably better. With the rim top cleaned up I turned my attention to the shank and the stem. Once I had removed threaded insert from the stem it opened up an area underneath that was filled with a lot of tars and oils. I cleaned out that area with pipe cleaners, swabs and alcohol. I cleaned up the inside of the shank and the mortise insert at the same time. I was able to get all of the grime removed. I then turned to the stem where there were also some tars and oils still in the airway and in the slot so I cleaned them as well.With everything cleaned it was time to reconstruct the push tenon system. I coated the threads on the mortise insert with all-purpose white glue and threaded the insert into the mortise. I wiped off the excess glue that came out as the insert seated in the shank. I set the bowl aside to let the glue cure and turned my attention to the stem. I started by using a topping board to remove the thin darkened edge of the button. It was quite thick to start with so I knew that to remove a little would not do damage but actually would make the stem stronger.I used a clear CA (Krazy) glue to fill in the deep tooth marks on both the top and underside of the stem as well as to build up the surface of the button to thicken it and smooth out the tooth damage.I reshaped the button surface and smoothed out the repairs with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. I started the polishing with a folded piece of 400 grit wet dry sandpaper.I rubbed the stem down with Denicare Mouthpiece Polish. It is a gritty, red paste with the consistency of red Tripoli. I find that it works well to polish out scratches and light marks in the surface of the stem. I polished it off with a cotton pad to raise the shine.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped it down after each sanding pad with a cloth containing some Obsidian Oil. I finished polishing it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine and buffed it off with a cotton cloth. I gave it a coat of Briarville’s No Oxy Oil to preserve and protect it. I put the bowl and stem back together again and buffed it with a microfiber cloth to raise the shine on the meerschaum and the acrylic stem. The buffing also removes minute scratches in the two materials and adds depth to the shine. I gave the stem several coats of carnauba wax and the bowl multiple coats of Clapham’s Beeswax Polish. The Beeswax Polish is a soft wax that I can apply with a soft cotton pad and buff with a microfiber cloth. The pipe was alive now and looked great to me. It has a great feel in the hand that is very tactile and the patina should develop more deeply as the pipe is smoked. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 ¾ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 2 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. This Lattice Meerschaum Calabash is a beauty that has great patina already. It should only deepen with time. It should make someone a great pipe. It is one that will be on the rebornpipes store very soon. If you are interested let me know. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it.