One I have not seen before: A Coloured Basket Weave Meerschaum pipe

Blog by Steve Laug

Jeff and I picked up this Egg shape Basket Weave Meerschaum with a red acrylic stem from a recent trip we took together. It came in a black vinyl covered case lined with rich brown velour in the cover and lower portion of the case. The case was in very good condition with brass hinges on the back and a brass clasp on the front. There were no identifying marks in the case or on the pipe itself. Jeff opened the case and this was the meerschaum pipe that was inside. It was a nice looking basket weave carved egg shaped bowl that had a colouration that neither of us had ever seen before. We both wondered if somewhere along the way it had come in contact with a cloth that had bled stain on the pipe. But the pattern and intensity of the colour was bowl wide and deep in the meerschaum. Looking at the shank end we also saw that it seemed to go even into the internals of the pipe. The exterior of the bowl was very dirty and had tars and oils ground into the finish and was dull. Looking at the top of the bowl you can see the light lava that had overflowed onto the rim top. You can also see the darkening on the inner and outer edge of the bowl. There was a thin cake in the bowl. The stem looked to be in good condition with a little chatter but no tooth marks. Jeff took photos of the pipe to show its condition before he started his clean-up.Jeff took close-up photos of the bowl and rim top from various angles to capture the condition of the bowl and rim top edges. There was a very thick cake in the bowl that was hard and uneven.  There was thin overflowing lava coming up from the cake onto the rim top. Jeff took photos of the sides and heel of the bowl to show the carving and colour around the bowl as well as the darkening that had occurred on the outer edge of the bowl. Jeff took the stem off the shank and took a photo. It appears to be a threaded tenon that unscrewed from the stem. This was the first sign of a problem with the tenon being stuck in the shank. It was not clear what kind of tenon we were dealing with here. I expected a push tenon and that could well be the case.  I would know more about that once I had it in hand. The stem was dusty and dirty.  The internals of the pipe looked quite dirty judging from the tenon end. Notice the colours that permeate deep into the meerschaum on the shank end.Jeff took photos of the stem to show the general condition of the fancy stem shape. The curve is graceful and gentle. The photo shows the profile of the stem. He took photos of the top and underside of the stem to show the light tooth chatter on both sides near the button. Having seen the pipe I did before his cleanup 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 with other cased pipes so as I took each one out and opened it I waited to see this one. When I finally opened a case and this pipe was there I did not know what to expect. The colours left me wondering what to expect so I opened the case with a bit of fear and trepidation at what awaited me inside. 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 was definitely coloured with the bubblegum speckles all around the pipe. It actually looked very good at first glance.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 off the 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 and was able to remove much of the darkening. 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. 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. I took some photos of the pipe as I saw it. 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. There is still some general darkening to the rim top that I would like to remove but it is very clean. The rich Redmanol coloured stem looks very good. The surface and the button edge look really good. There are no issues that are there to address.I removed the stem from the bowl and took photos of the parts. When I first unscrewed it the stem came off the tenon. I looked it over and could see that I was dealing with a push stem system. I screwed it back in place and twisted in the opposite direction and I was able to twist the push stem off the mortise insert. I would clean it up and it should be easy to work with in the future. I decided to address the darkening on the rim top and edges first. I polished the rim top and edges 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 polishing of the rim top and edges had removed the darkening and left behind a light patina. I took photos of the top, sides and heel of the bowl to show what it looked like at this point. Note the carved flower on the heel of the bowl. It is well done and a unique touch on this basket weave style bowl. The bowl was basically finished so I set it aside and turned my attention to the stem. Since it was quite clean I decided to polish it with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I also worked over the staining of the push tenon at the same time. I wiped the stem 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. Even though the stem is acrylic I decided to give 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 hand buffing 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 colours of the pipe came alive and looked great to me. It has a great feel in the hand that is very tactile and an interesting patina should develop as the pipe is smoked. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: 5/8 of an inch. This Coloured Basket Meerschaum is a beauty whose colours make it interesting. When I first saw it I was dubious about the flecks of colour but as I have worked on it I have come to appreciate them. 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.

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