Daily Archives: December 27, 2021

Reworking a Messy Hack Job on a Stem of a Lace Carved Meerschaum Dublin


Blog by Steve Laug

I am kind of on a meerschaum restoration binge so I thought I would have a look at my box of meerschaums to restore. I pulled out this nice looking lace carved Dublin meerschaum with a great patina. Jeff received an email from a fellow early in January, 2018 who lived in Los Fresnos, Texas, USA. He told us that he had a few pipes that had been his grandfather’s and he was selling them off for the family. This pipe was one of those. We love to pick up pipes with a bit of the back story attached so we did it. The exterior of the pipe was dirty but still quite beautiful. The bowl had a thick cake in it and there was lava on the rim top. It was obviously a well loved and oft smoked pipe. The stem was a mess with what looked like a reshaping done with a pocket knife that had left all kinds of hack marks and cuts in the surface. To my thinking it was done by the previous pipeman who had customized it to his liking for a more comfortable fit. The push tenon was old and tired and the threads holding it in the stem were stripped so that it was a very loose fit and would need to be replaced. The pipe had potential but would need a lot of work to bring it back. The stem would take the most time as I would need to smooth out the damage and reshape it properly. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he went to work on it. He took photos of the rim top and included different angles to capture condition of the bowl and rim top. You can see the lava build up on the rim top carving and edges as well as the thick cake in the bowl. He also took some photos of the stem to show the hacked condition of the acrylic and what would need to be done to reshape it. Jeff took some photos of the heel of the bowl and side to give a sense of the patina already yon this beauty. The under bowl (inside the lace) has really darkened and adds depth to the carving. Very nice! Jeff had cleaned the pipe thoroughly. He had reamed it carefully with a PipNet reamer and cleaned that up with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He worked slowly so as not to damage the inner edge of the bowl. It was a mess. He had scrubbed the exterior of the meerschaum with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and a soft tooth brush. He cleaned out the interior of the shank and airway with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs. He cleaned out the hacked acrylic stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners to remove the debris and oils in the airway and the threads of the push tenon. Once it was clean the thread no longer held the tenon in the stem. I took photos of the pipe when it arrived here. It has real potential to be a great looking pipe. I took some close up photos of the bowl, rim top and both sides of the stem to show what they looked like before I started my part of the work. They are quite clean but the stem particularly is very roughly carved.I went through my jar of tenons and found a push tenon that was close to the original size of the one that had been used. The threads on the stem end fit perfectly but the push tenon portion was slightly too big. I would need to reduce the diameter slightly to get a perfect fit.I used a small flat file to flatten out the ridges and waves in the top and underside of the stem. I also used it to recut the button and sharpen the edge for more definition. A lot more shaping work to go but it is going to work well.I fit the push tenon in the shank portion and it was smooth and snug but removable by my fingers with little problem. I thread it in the stem portion and tightened it. I would put the stem on the shank to further shape the stem.With the stem in the shank I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to further shape the stem and to remove the deep gouges and file marks from the previous pipeman’s work on it. It began to take shape with each pass of the sandpaper. With the shaping on the stem basically finished and the rough sanding done I decided it was time to bend the stem to match the flow of the bowl. I heated it with a heat gun until the acrylic became flexible. I carefully bent it while on the pipe to make sure that the bend was not angled to either side. I wanted to take care of one of the shaping issues that I noticed in my work. The stem was tweaked slightly toward the right side. I knew I could not do much to change that but I could minimize it a bit in the bending. I bent softened stem to the right angle and cooled it quickly under water to set the bend. I took photos of the newly bent stem to show how it looked. I wanted the bend to reflect the bowl angles. I wanted the pipe to sit in the mouth with the bowl flat rather than angled down. The bend I put in worked to achieve that perfectly. I was also happy how the bend actually did minimize the rightward tweak of the stem. It looked much better. With the bend correct I went back to some final shaping of the stem surface. I worked on it with 220 grit sandpaper to get the shape I wanted. While not perfect it is a vast improvement from where it was when we purchased it. Once I had that I started the polishing of the stem with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. It was starting to look really good!I polished the newly shaped acrylic stem with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped it down after each sanding pad with a cloth containing some Obsidian Oil. I know Obsidian Oil does nothing for acrylic but I have found that it removes the small particles left behind by the polishing. I finished polishing the surface with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine and buffed it off with a cotton cloth. I gave it a final coat of obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. It is a beautiful looking variegated brown/copper/gold acrylic stem. This Lace Carved Meerschaum Dublin turned out to be another fun pipe to work on and I was excited to see it come back together. With the grime and debris gone from the finish it was a beauty and the patina was quite nice. I chose not to rewax it because of the intricate lacework of the carving. I did not want to fill it in. I put the stem back on the bowl and carefully buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The rich polished meerschaum on the bowl looks really good with the polished variegated acrylic stem. It all came together better than I expected. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. I can only tell you that it is much prettier in person than the photos capture. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ½ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 37 grams/1.31 ounces. This is truly a great looking Meerschaum. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over another beautiful pipe. I will be putting it on the rebornpipes store in the Ceramic and Meerschaum Pipe Section. If you are interested in the pipe send me an email or a message. Thanks for your time.