Changing things up a bit and restoring a Block Meerschaum from Bob Kerr’s Estate


Blog by Steve Laug

I am continuing to work on the pipes in Bob Kerr’s estate for a while. I am getting closer to finishing restoring this large estate with only about 27 more pipes to do. This is one of three meerschaum pipes that I am working on. I decided to work on it as a change of pace. I am cleaning them for the family and moving them out into the hands of pipemen and women who will carry on the trust that began with Bob and in some pipes was carried on by Bob. In the collection there were 19 Peterson’s pipes along with a bevy of Dunhills, some Comoy’s and Barlings as well as a lot of other pipes – a total of 125 pipes along with a box of parts. This is the largest estate that I have had the opportunity to work on. I put together a spread sheet of the pipes and stampings to create an invoice. I was taking on what would take me a fair amount of time to clean up. I could not pass up the opportunity to work on these pipes though. They were just too tempting. This is a mottled and flumed bent billiard Block Meerschaum and was another fun one to work on. It is a classic shaped pipe with a medium sized bent billiard shape. It will go on the rebornpipes store.

This Block Meerschaum 8 Bent Billiard has a smooth finish with some colour around the top half of the bowl and a flumed top with black! The pipe is stamped on the underside of the shank and reads 8 Genuine Block Meerschaum. The grime and dirt ground into the meerschaum bowl. It had rich finish that was fading from plain meer to darkening toward the rim top. There was a thick cake in the bowl with remnants of tobacco stuck on the walls. There was a thick lava overflow sitting on the total rim top. The inner edge of the rim is dirty and may have some damage under the grime. It was interesting looking meerschaum that was dirty and tired looking. The stem was oxidized and calcified toward the end. It had the characteristic tooth marks that I have come to expect from Bob’s pipes. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he started his cleanup work on it.  He took photos of the bowl and rim top to show the cake in the bowl and the lava build up on the edges of the bowl. It was thick and hard but hopefully it had protected the rim top and edges from damage. It was hard to know for sure from the photos. Jeff took photos of the sides and heel of the bowl to show the condition of the finish. You can see the beautiful grain under the grime and grit ground into the finish. He took photos of the stamping on the underside of the shank. The stamping was readable as you can see from the photos and read as noted above.Jeff took photos of the top and underside of the stem showing the tooth chatter, scratching and oxidation on the stem surface and wear on the edges of the button.The stamping on this pipe was not enough information to go on in terms of trying to find a pipe maker. With over 125 pipes to clean from Bob’s estate I took a batch of them to the states with me when I visited and left them with Jeff so he could help me out. Jeff cleaned the pipes with his usual penchant for thoroughness that I really appreciate. Once he finished he shipped them back to me. This one was a real mess and I did not know what to expect when I unwrapped it from his box. He reamed it with a PipNet pipe reamer and cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed out the internals with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until the pipe was clean. He scrubbed the exterior of the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove the grime and grit on the meerschaum and the lava on the rim top. The finish looks very good with good looking grain around the bowl and shank. Jeff scrubbed it with Soft Scrub and soaked it in Before & After Deoxidizer to remove the oxidation on the rubber. When the pipe arrived here in Vancouver for the second stop of its restoration tour it looked a lot better. The stem still had a lot of deep oxidation. I took photos before I started my part of the work. I took some close up photos of the rim top and also of the stem surface. I wanted to show what cleaned bowl and rim top looked like. There was some serious damage to the inner edge of the rim top. It was chipped and nicked on the left side and the right. It was a bit of a mess. I also took close up photos of the stem to show the light tooth marks and the remaining oxidation on the stem surface.  I took a photo of the stamping on the underside of the shank and it is clear and readable. It is stamped as noted above.   I took the stem off the shank and took some photos to give a clear picture of the pipe from the left side profile. The metal tenon is set permanently in the shank of the meerschaum. The stem was drilled to sit over the top of the tenon.Since this is another pipe Bob’s estate I am sure that some of you have read at least some of the other restoration work that has been done on the previous pipes. You have also read what I have included about Bob Kerr, the pipeman who held these pipes in trust before I came to work on them (see photo to the left). Also, if you have followed the blog for long you will already know that I like to include background information on the pipeman whose pipes I am restoring. For me, when I am working on an estate I really like to have a sense of the person who held the pipes in trust before I worked on them. It gives me another dimension of the restoration work. I asked Brian if he or his wife would like to write a brief biographical tribute to her father, Bob. His daughter worked on it and I received the following short write up on him and some pictures to go along with the words including one of Bob’s carvings. Once again I thank you Brian and tell your wife thank you as well.

I am delighted to pass on these beloved pipes of my father’s. I hope each user gets many hours of contemplative pleasure as he did. I remember the aroma of tobacco in the rec room, as he put up his feet on his lazy boy. He’d be first at the paper then, no one could touch it before him. Maybe there would be a movie on with an actor smoking a pipe. He would have very definite opinions on whether the performer was a ‘real’ smoker or not, a distinction which I could never see but it would be very clear to him. He worked by day as a sales manager of a paper products company, a job he hated. What he longed for was the life of an artist, so on the weekends and sometimes mid-week evenings he would journey to his workshop and come out with wood sculptures, all of which he declared as crap but every one of them treasured by my sister and myself. Enjoy the pipes, and maybe a little of his creative spirit will enter you!

Now on to my part of the restoration of this Genuine Block Meerschaum 8 Bent Billiard. I decided to start by dealing with the damage to the inner edge of the rim. It was in very rough condition as can be seen in the first photo below. I started the cleanup process by using a piece of dowel wrapped with 220 sandpaper to smooth out and round out the bowl edge.I used a spot of clear super glue to fill in the slight divot on the edge and rim top and blended it in with the sandpaper. Once that was finished I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper give a light bevel to the inner edge to minimize the damage.The next two photos show the rim top after my work on it. While it is far from perfect it is much better than when I started working on it.I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads and wiping the briar down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. With the bowl polished it was time to rewax it. I have been using a product called Clapham’s Beeswax Polish – a white beeswax paste wax. I apply it to the meerschaum and then heat the meerschaum with a flame to open the pores in the meer. I let is cool then buff it with a cotton cloth. The photos below show the pipe after the buffing. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I “painted” the tooth marks on the vulcanite with the flame of a Bic lighter and was able to lift the tooth marks to the surface. They were now small enough that sanding them would remove them.I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper and 400 grit wet dry sandpaper to remove the oxidation remaining on the stem and the remaining tooth marks on the surface.The stem was in great condition with light tooth marks and oxidation. I polished the vulcanite with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. I used Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to further polish the stem. This Genuine Block Meerschaum 8 Bent Billiard turned out to be a great looking pipe. The flumed top and the developing patina in the meer makes this a pretty pipe. The polished finish on the pipe works well with the polished vulcanite taper stem. I buffed the stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel and followed that by buffing the entire pipe with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished Block Meerschaum Bent Billiard fits nicely in the hand and feels great. Give the finished pipe a look 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: ¾ of an inch. If you are interested in carrying on Bob’s legacy with this pipe send me a message or an email. I have more to work on of various brands. Perhaps one of those will catch your attention. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. This is an interesting estate to bring back to life.

6 thoughts on “Changing things up a bit and restoring a Block Meerschaum from Bob Kerr’s Estate

  1. David

    This is a gorgeous pipe! Thank you for all your detailed descriptions. I have taken up pipe restoration as a hobby and find tremendous joy from it. Hopefully, some of my pipes will come out as nice as yours!

    Reply

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