Daily Archives: June 25, 2020

Restoring & Restemming a Celtic Craft Block Meerschaum from Bob Kerr’s Estate

Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe I have chosen from the four remaining pipes from Bob Kerr’s Estate is a Genuine Block Meerschaum with a damaged stem. This is the last of Bob’s Block Meerschaum pipes that I have to work on. (Bob’s photo is to the left). If you have not “met” the man and would like to read a bit of the history of the pipeman, his daughter has written a great tribute that is worth a read. Because I have included it in most of the restorations of the estate to date I thought that I would leave it out this time. Check out some of the recent Dunhill restoration blogs (https://rebornpipes.com/2020/01/01/restoring-the-last-of-bob-kerrs-dunhills-a-1962-dunhill-bruyere-656-f-t-bent-billiard/).

This Meerschaum is stamped Celtic [over] Craft on the left side of the shank. On the underside it is stamped Genuine Block Meerschaum. Over that on the shank end was stamp GT at the top and below the stamp read N14 which is probably the shape number. The fancy vulcanite stem is oxidized, calcified and has a large chunk missing from the underside of the button and stem. From the damage it looked to me like it needed to be replaced. The exterior of the bowl is grimy and dirty. The black flumed top was worn and tired looking on both the rim top and the shank end. There is a thick cake and lava overflow on the rim top. It is thick enough that it is hard to know if there is any damage on top and edges but it looked like there was some damage. Jeff took photos of the pipe to show its general condition before he did his cleanup.   The exterior of the pipe was very dirty – grime and grit ground in from years of use and sitting. This one was obviously one of Bob’s favourites. The rim top was covered with a coat of thick lava that overflowed the bowl. There was also some damage on the rim top and edges of the bowl. The bowl itself had a thick cake with flecks of tobacco stuck in the cake on the sides.  Jeff took photos of the sides and the heel of the bowl to give a better feel for the condition of the bowl. It is dirty but the rustication is interesting. The next photos show the stamping on the sides of the shank. The left side is clear and readable and reads as noted above. The stamping on the underside of the shank was also clear and readable as noted above. Jeff also took photos of the stem shank connection with the stem in place and the stem removed. The tenon was metal and inset in the end of the stem. The shank end was filthy and worn.  The stem was dirty and extremely oxidized, calcified and had tooth marks on both sides ahead of the button. It was missing a large chunk of vulcanite from the underside of the stem and button.   I have not heard of the Celtic Craft brand but the way it was made and the stamping style and placement on the pipe and the finish on the pipe was identical to the look and feel of the block meerschaum pipe that restored earlier – a BELT (https://rebornpipes.com/2020/06/11/restoring-a-heavily-smoked-belt-meerschaum-peterson-like-pipe/). I turned to that blog to check if it was possible that the CELTIC CRAFT pipe was made by the same company. While there was nothing definite I am convinced that it is made by the same company. I quote from that blog:

The BELT brand is not one that I am familiar with. I have never heard of the brand in my years of doing this work. I decided to pause before I started my part of the work on the pipe and see what I could learn on the web. I looked on Pipephil’s site and could find nothing listed. I did the same on Pipedia and initially found nothing either. I did a google search for the brand and low and behold the brand came up under Danish Pipe Making Companies under the heading London Meerschaum (https://pipedia.org/wiki/London_Meerschaum). I quote the brief article below as taken from Jose Manuel Lopes book.

“London Meerschaum made some pipes under the name of BELT or THE BELT, I had this confirmed by Bonds of Oxford St. who have 5 smooth bowl versions in stock at the time of writing, these look very similar to standard system full bent Peterson Meerschaums, the smooth versions have silverware stamped L&JS {Les & Dolly Wood, Ferndown} and has Belt and Genuine Block Meerschaum stamped on the bowl. I have seen 1 rusticated version with the same silverware and 2 of which I own 1, have gold plated ware with no hallmarks and are also stamped Belt and Genuine Block Meerschaum. Both smooth and rusticated have P-Lip type stems though the air hole is not on top but at the end as with most non Peterson P-Lips that I have come across. I do not know when London Meerschaum ceased trading but I can say from the one Belt that I own, it’s a very fine pipe and not cheap, well over the £100 mark when new.”

These pipes were evidently sold at least as early as the 1950’s. These may have been made by, or are affiliated with Pomeroy & Cooke Ltd., (Pipes, Artisans and Trademarks, by José Manuel Lopes).

One of the readers of that blog responded with the following information. It cleared up the information above and called the information that it was a Danish Company called London Meerschaum into question.

Jambo/Belt was based in Nothhamptonshire, a small town north of London.

In my mind it was a Manx Made African Meer and now the information trail was twisted. It is now purported to have been made in Denmark, or in Nothhamptonshire near London or on the Isle of Man. Confusing and strange provenance for this old meer but I personally lean toward the Manx Pipes Connection. Now it was time to work on the pipe itself.

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 an interesting rustic finish around the bowl and shank. Jeff scrubbed the stem 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. I took photos before I started my part of the work.  I took close up photos of the rim top and the stem surfaces. The rim top looked better but was rough. Some of the surface had been worn smooth. It was clean however and the flumed colour on the rim and shank end had faded with the cleanup work. The stem was another story all together. The metal tenon was good but the threads in the shank were worn so that it would not align. The issue for me was that the metal would continue to wear down the meer and make the fit looser over time. There were deep nicks on all the sharp edges of the diamond stem. The large chip out of the underside of the button and stem was bigger and rougher than I expected. Even though I could rebuild the damaged area I decided that the stem would need to be replaced on this one.    I took photos of the stamping on the shank of the pipe. It is readable and clear. The text reads as noted above.   I took the stem off the shank and took a photo to give a sense of the flow of the pipe. The stem is a bit of a turned freehand stem so I pretty much could use any other turned freehand stem as a replacement.I started my work on the pipe by dealing with the rim top. I used a brass bristle brush to clean up the rim top. I wanted to check out damage to the rim top so the brass bristle brush would remove any remaining grit in the rustication.I used a black stain pen to touch up the flumed top of the bowl, edges and the shank end. The rim top and shank end looked much better.   I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to replacing the stem. I went through my can of stems and found one that would look interesting with the shape of the pipe. It was a new cast stem. I would need to cut off the tenon and drill out the stem for a new tenon.I used the Dremel and sanding drum to cut off the tenon. I had a Delrin tenon that was made to screw into the stem. I found that reversing it and turning it into the shank was a perfect fit. I used a series of drill bits to drill out the end of the stem to receive the smooth end of the tenon. I used the Dremel and sanding drum to remove the excess vulcanite from the stem so that when the tenon was screwed into the shank the stem sat flush in the shank. I glued the tenon in place in the stem with clear super glue and set it aside to let the glue cure.Once the glue cured I turned the stem into the shank and took photos of the pipe as a whole. Still lots of sanding to do but I like the fit of the stem to the shank.   I cleaned up the stepped down stem area on the end of the stem with a needle file to fit in the inset shank end. I also used the file to reduce the thickness of the button. I then heated the stem with a lighter flame to soften the vulcanite. Once it was soft I bent the end of the stem to match the stem that I was replacing. I screwed the stem into the shank and took a photo of the pipe at this point in the process. I am starting to like the looks of this pipe.   I removed the stem from the shank and sanded out the file marks and shaped the button with 220 grit sandpaper and followed that with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper to start the polishing.   I used a potter cutting tool to open up the slot in the end of the button. I wanted to reshape it and open it enough that a pipe cleaner would easily move through the airway.   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.    I rubbed the bowl down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the bowl sides and shank with my fingertips and a horsehair shoe brush to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth and shoe brush to raise the shine. This interestingly finished rusticated Celtic Craft Genuine Block Meerschaum Freehand/Poker from Bob Kerr’s estate looks very good. Even though it is not my personal favourite it must be a great smoking pipe. The finish cleaned up well on the pipe is in great condition and works well with the polished vulcanite taper replacement stem. I carefully buffed the stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Clapham’s Beeswax Polish and 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 Meerschaum fits nicely in the hand and I think the rustication will feel great when it heats up during smoking. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ½ 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.