Breathing Life into a Hexagonal Meerschaum with a Bakelite Stem


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the work table came to me from one of our estate purchases. Between us we pick up quite a few pipes for restoration. I try to work them into the restoration queue so that I can keep them moving. This next one is a smooth hexagonal block meerschaum pipe with a yellow Bakelite stem. The there is no stamping on the pipe. The finish had a lot of grime ground into the smooth finish on the bowl and there was definitely some patina developing in the shank, heel and one side of the bowl. The bowl was caked with a light lava coat on the top of the rim. The edges looked to be in good condition. There were a lot of scratches in the meerschaum on all sides and the top of the bowl. The stem was in dirty and had tooth chatter and marks on the top and underside near the button. There were not markings or a logo on the taper stem. It had promise but it was very dirty. Jeff took some photos of the pipe before he started his cleanup work.   He took photos of the rim top and bowl to give a clear picture of the thickness of the cake and the overflow of lava on the rim top. He also took photos of the top and underside of the stem to show the chatter and tooth marks. Otherwise the stem is quite clean.  Jeff took photos of the sides and heel of the bowl to give a picture of what the meerschaum looked like. It is a well carved hexagon. Jeff had cleaned up the pipe with his usual penchant for thoroughness. He reamed the pipe with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife.  He scrubbed the bowl with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap with a tooth brush. He rinsed it under running warm water to remove the soap and grime. He cleaned out the inside of the shank and the airway in the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He soaked the stem in Before & After Deoxidizer and rinsed it off with warm water. I took photos of the pipe once I received it.  The rim top cleaned up really well with the lava coat removed. The inner and outer edge of the bowl looked to be in excellent condition.  The panel on the left side had some darkening and a few stain spots. The stem surface looked very good with a few small tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button.    I removed the stem and took a photo of the pipe to give a sense of the whole. The stem is tapered and narrow.Now it was time to do my work on the pipe. I polished the scratches in the meer and the rim top, sides and shank with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads and wiping it down after each pad with a damp cloth.  I rubbed the bowl and shank down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the bowl sides and shank with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect the meerschaum. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine.     I rubbed the bowl down with Clapham’s Beeswax Polish. I let it dry on the meerschaum and then buffed it off with a soft cotton cloth. It really adds some depth to the finish.  I set the bowl aside and turned to work on the stem. It was in good condition and the tooth marks were light so I figured they would polish out fairly easily. I polished the Bakelite/amberoid stem 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 Hexagonal Meerschaum Billiard with a Bakelite/amberoid stem is a great looking pipe now that it has been restored. I put the stem back on the bowl and carefully buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel using a light touch on the briar. I gave the bowl 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 Hexagonal Meerschaum 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: 1 ¾ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 inch wide x 1 ½ inches long, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. If you are interested in adding this pipe to your collection send me a message or an email. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. There are many more to come!

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