Blog by Steve Laug
The next pipe I chose to work on came from an auction back in May of 2018 in Beaumont, California, USA. It came in a nice burgundy leather case with a cream coloured lining. The case is marked on the outside and reads FINEST CULTURED AMBER on the front edge and MADE IN AUSTRIA on the back edge. Those two stamps caught my attention. I always have an eye out for Austrian Made Meerschaums and the Finest Cultured Amber made me wonder what that was.Inside the case the lid was stamped as well and bore the AB logo with Genuine Block Meerschaum around the letters. It is also stamped Hand Made. The case is fitted to a beautiful lightweight meerschaum billiard with what the case describes as a Cultured Amber Stem. I was looking forward to working on this one and potentially adding it to my own collection as it is quite stunning.Jeff took the pipe out of the case and took a photo of it. It is quite clean. The rim to has some darkening and a bit of tars/lava on the back inner edge of the bowl and some developing patina around the rest of the rim top. The stem is very clean with light tooth chatter. The swirls in the stem are rally quite beautiful and very unique to Bauer Meerschaum pipes. He took photos of the rim top and the stem to show the condition. You can see the issues on the rim top and stem as I noted above. There are also some light scratches on the rim top itself. It should clean up quite well. Jeff took a photo of the side and heel of the bowl. Even though the picture is a bit out of focus you can see the graceful lines of the pipe. It is probably the lightest meerschaum I have worked on. Everything about is speaks to the classiness of this beauty.To confirm the that the logo is indeed from and Andreas Bauer pipe I did a quick Google search and picked up a few pictures of his pipes in their cases that show the same logo and markings on the case lid. My thinking about the logo was confirmed through this quick check. I also found one smaller photo that showed the markings on the exterior of the case. Both the Made in Austria stamp on the back edge and the Finest Cultured Meerschaum stamp on the front of the case. The interior stamps also matched the one that I was working on. It was interesting to also note that in all of the photos I looked at in the search had the same kind of stem composition as the one that I was working on today.
I wanted more information on the brand and also some help in understanding what the Finest Cultured Amber stamping meant on the case. I was familiar with Amber but not the concept of Cultured Amber. It made me think of the difference between Cultured Pearls and Natural Pearls. I wondered if this was similar.
I turned to the first link given on Google to the estate pipe section of smokingpipes.com (https://www.smokingpipes.com/pipes/estate/misc/moreinfo.cfm?product_id=204496). The link took me to tall billiard with a description by Eric Squires that gave me some information on the Cultured Amber stamp. I have included the photo and the description below.Bauers are known for being particularly high quality meerschaums. They are also known for having a curious stem material, “amberoid”. It looks like very nice acrylic, but it takes a static charge like natural amber. That latter aspect is easily explained, as amber itself was one of the main ingredients used to create amberoid. This Billiard is one of only three Bauers I’ve ever personally seen, but three has been enough to notice something else about the stems: despite their material being amber-based, they don’t seem to suffer from the usual wear of pure amber, such as crackling and cracking. – Eric N. Squires
Thanks for the information Eric. It seems that Bauer developed an “Amberoid” or man made amber that looks a lot like acrylic but is like natural amber takes a static charge. He also notes that the material wears better than natural amber.
Another pipe on smokingpipes.com had some more information on the brand in an intro by Bear Graves (https://www.smokingpipes.com/pipes/estate/misc/moreinfo.cfm?Product_ID=46253). I quote the pertinent information below and have made it bold.
Founded in Vienna in 1908, Andreas Bauer quickly developed what would become the single largest producer of meerschaum pipes up until the second Word War. In most “normal” planes of existence, there is supposed to be a trade-off between quality and quantity, but (evidently) the word never got to Andreas Bauer; at the very height of their production they were raking in Gold Medals for excellence and design (such as the one they were awarded at the 1937 Paris World Exhibition).
Then, or now, to own a Bauer meerschaum is to own an iconic meerschaum, the likes of which have never been surpassed… –Bear Graves
I then turned to Pipedia (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Andreas_Bauer) expecting to find a lot of information on the brand but was surprised by the brevity of what I found there. I quote from the site in full below.
Andreas Bauer of Vienna was probably the most famous brand manufacturing Meerschaum pipes – the best of the best. But prior to 1990 Bauer merged with Koncak Meerschaum of Eskisehir / Turkey. Today Strambach of Vienna is the last of all the Austrian Meerschaum manufacturers.
I found some more information on Worthpoint that was included with a pipe that was being sold (https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/andreas-bauer-block-meerschaum-hand-1778055263). For the most part it confirms what I had learned to this point. I quote:
Andreas Bauer Company Andreas Bauer of Vienna was probably the most famous brand manufacturing Meerschaum pipes – the best of the best. The company was founded 1906 in Vienna, Austria by Andreas Bauer. In 1942 Ernst Bauer became head of the company up to 1971. In 1972 the company was sold to the family Mrstik. In 1990 Bauer merged with Koncak Meerschaum of Eskisehir / Turkey. Bauer Meerschaum Pipes are something very special to smoke. Meerschaum has the characteristic to reabsorb humidity, thus permitting a very cool and dry smoking, furthermore Meerschaum has a very low specific weight, allowing to build very light. This pipe is made pre-merger and dates from 1982. In the late 1970’s early 80’s Bauer used a replication for their amber stems, Cultured amber (Acrylic, Amberiod). Back in the Golden days, Bauer Meerschaum pipes were fitted with fossil amber bit on a bone tenon. “It’s unlikely that pipes of this quality will ever be produced again” Fossil amber application made the smoking of their pipes a very fragile object. Their new adopted stem material still gives the same amber effect and offers the smoker a more robust pipe, that you will enjoy for many years.
With that information I have come to believe that this pipe was made during the late 1970s and early 1980s prior to the merger with Koncak. It is from the period when Bauer used the Cultured Amber stem material that they had come up with. Now it was time to work on the pipe itself.
Jeff had cleaned up the pipe with his usual thoroughness. He carefully 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 cleaned the stem Soft Scrub cleanser and rinsed it off with warm water. I took photos of the pipe 3 years later when I finally got around to working on it. First the case and then the inside of it. It really is a beauty to behold. I removed the pipe from the case and took some photos of the pipe. I am quite stunned by how beautiful it was after Jeff’s cleanup. I would not need to do a lot of work to bring it back to full beauty. Just a clean up and possible a rewaxing would bring it to life. The rim top and inner edge of the rim looked very good with some slight darkening on the rim top. The stem surface looked very good with some very light 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 has a white nylon integrated tenon that fits snug in the shank. The stem is absolutely gorgeous with the swirling material.I polished the smooth meerschaum with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I worked on the darkening of the rim top at the same time. I wiped the bowl down after each pad with a damp cloth. I wanted it to be as smooth as possible before I rewaxed the bowl. I heated some beeswax in a small metal pan with my heat gun. Once the wax was melted I coated the meerschaum with the liquid wax both by dipping the bowl in it and painting the rest of it with a paint brush. I put a cork in the bowl for a handle and used the heat gun to melt the wax on the bowl and wiped it off with a paper towel. I polished it with a soft cotton cloth to raise the shine on the meerschaum. I was really happy with the way the pipe had turned out. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I polished out the chatter and faint tooth marks with micromesh sanding pads. I dry sanded it with 1500-12000 pads and wiped the bowl down after each pad with a cloth and Obsidian Oil. I finished polished it with Before & After Fine and Extra Fine stem polish. I wiped it down with the cloth and Obsidian Oil one final time and set aside to dry. This Andreas Bauer Hand Made Meerschaum Billiard with a Cultured Amber Taper stem is a beautiful pipe. With the addition of the beeswax the meerschaum took on a slightly darker patina. The polished light weight meerschaum that shines through the polished finish is stunning. I put the stem back on the bowl and carefully buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished Bauer Meerschaum 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 inches, Height: 1 ¾ of an inch, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 26 grams/ .92 oz. I have been keeping my eye open for a Bauer Meerschaum Billiard for a long time so this one will stay with me. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. There are many more to come!