Breathing Life into a Badly Damaged Hardcastle Cased Meerschaum Egg


Blog by Steve Laug

I have finished restoring all two pipes from the collection of pipes that we purchased from the older gentleman. He sent me the photos and I was amazed at what I saw. You have seen many of the pipes that he had. These included Dunhill, BBB, Orlik, Barclay Rex, a cased Ben Wade, an H. Simmons all briar, Hardcastles and some Meerschaums. There were also some assorted others that I will get to in the days ahead. It was a great collection.

The next pipe I have chosen is a worn and damaged cased Hardscastle’s Meerschaum Egg. It had a flume around the top and down the outer edges of the bowl. It is the bottom pipe of the three meerschaum pipes in the photo above. There was a thick cake in the bowl and the rim top and edges were buried under a thick coat of lava. It was filthy both inside and out. The edges of the bowl on the top and down the sides was chipped and damaged leaving large gouges out of the sides of the bowl. The shape probably caught my eye because it is quite lovely even under the grime and wear. I think that the Hardcastle’s name made me want to try to redeem this old pipe. I have never worked on a meer like this one with this kind of damage. The stem is vulcanite and was in far better shape than the bowl. It had tooth marks and chatter on both sides ahead of the button. This was another well loved pipe that obviously been a good smoker!

Jeff took some photos of the Hardcastle’s Case and Meerschaum egg with the lovely patina  before he worked his magic in cleaning up the pipe. It is a an interesting pipe with a lot of potential and what appears to be some great grain under the grime and debris of the years. The first three photos show the case, the pipe in the case and the stamp/logo decal on the inside of the lid that read Hardcastle’s Made In London.         Jeff took the pipe out of the case and took photos of it to show the damage to the bowl sides.Jeff took photos of the bowl, rim top to show the thickness of the cake in the bowl and the thick lava on the rim top. The rim top and inner edge are thickly covered with lava and there are large chips in the meerschaum on the rim top and on the outer edges and sides of the bowl. It really is a mess and it will be a challenge. He took photos of the top and underside of the vulcanite military bit stem showing the tooth marks and chatter on both sides. Jeff also took some photos of the Sterling Silver ferrule on the shank end to show the oxidation and condition.Jeff took photos of the sides and heel of the bowl to show the condition of the bowl and damages around the top edges. You can see the beautiful shape of the bowl and some interesting patterns in the meerschaum even through the damage, dirt and debris of many years. This Cased Hardcastle Meerschaum Egg is an interesting looking pipe. Because the old gentleman that we bought the pipes from intimated that he purchased his pipes at the Manhattan Barclay-Rex store I would imagine that he may have purchased this one from them as well. I was unable to pin down any information regarding the date this pipe so it was time to move on and work on the pipe.

Jeff carefully cleaned the pipe so as not to damage it further. He reamed it with a PipNet pipe reamer and then cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed out the internals of the shank, stem and shank extension with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until the pipe was clean. He carefully scrubbed the exterior of the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove the grime and grit on the exterior of the bowl and rim top and lava on the rim top. The finish looks much better and has a deep richness in the colour that highlights the patina in the meerschaum. The damaged edges and rim top looked rough and will need some special attention. He soaked the stem in Briarville’s Pipe Stem Deoxidizer and after a soak of several hours rinsed it off. He scrubbed the vulcanite military bit with Soft Scrub to remove the residual oxidation. When the pipe arrived here in Vancouver I was amazed that it looked so good. Here are some photos of what I saw. I took some close up photos of the rim top and the stem surface. The top and inner and outer edge of the rim showed some darkening/heavy tars and damage. The stem had tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button.I took some photos of the cleaned damaged areas around the rim top and sides to show how they looked when I received it. I would need to figure out a way to address this in my restoration. I needed time to think through the options. I set the pipe aside for a few days to ruminate on the process I would use.I removed the stem from the shank and took a photo of the parts of the pipe. After thinking through my options I decided to try to fill in the chipped and damaged areas with a mixture of Plaster of  Paris. It dries hard so once it was applied I set it aside to let the repairs harden and cure. I was not sure if it would work but I thought it was worth a try. I mixed the mud and filled in the chipped areas with a dental spatula. I apologize for the mess I made in the mixing process but it really was a pain to manage it. I let it sit for 48 hours to cure. Once the repairs cured I sanded it lightly with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth it out and blend it in. While I worked on it chunks of plaster fell out. The repair had not bonded to the meerschaum so I had to come up with a different plan. I topped the bowl and collected the sanding dust. I filled in the chipped areas with clear CA glue and sanding dust from the topping. Once it cured I sanded the repairs smooth and blended them in around the top edges of the bowl all around the top.Once I have the edges smoothed out and the rim top also smoothed out I decided to stain the rim top and the flumed area around the top outer edges of the bowl with a combination of Black and Walnut stains. It did a great job masking the repaired areas. I still needed to sand the flume to make it less uniform. I polished the smooth rim top with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped the bowl down after each pad with a damp cloth to remove the sanding debris. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the bowl and shank with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I let the balm sit for 15 minutes and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process. 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 Obsidian Oil. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil. It looks significantly better and is smooth but the repairs show! With the bowl and the stem finished I put the beautiful Hardcastle’s Straight Egg with a military bit back together and buffed it lightly on the wheel using Blue Diamond to give it a shine. I gave the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the wheel. I buffed the pipe with a horsehair shoe brush to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The smooth and rusticated finish is a great looking. The dimensions of the pipe are – Length: 5 ¼ inches, Height: 1 ¾ inch, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of this large pipe is 1.09 ounces /31 grams. This Hardcastle’s Straight Egg is another great find from this collection. It is much more beautiful in person than these photos can capture. I will be adding it to the rebornpipes store soon. If you want to add it to your collection it will make a fine smoking addition. This is another pipe that has the possibility of transporting the pipe man or woman back to a slower paced time in history where you can enjoy a respite. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me.

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