Restoring an Aged Real Meerschaum Billiard

Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe came to me as a referral by a local pipe and cigar shop. I have not met the owner as he left it in my mailbox for me to work on. The well made leather case has no markings or stampings on it. It is just a nicely made, fitted leather case for a meerschaum. Inside the case the lid had a red and gold seal in the lid and read Real Meerschaum arched over an oval with the words Pure Amber Stem arched beneath it. When I open the case the stink was old and musty like the pipe had been sitting in the back of some old timers drawer. It was not moldy smelling but it had that odd smell that I have come to associate with things stored in a damp basement or attic or maybe an old box of stuff. It definitely was musty! The case is fitted to lightweight meerschaum billiard. I took photos of the case before I opened it and of the pipe inside after it was opened. The case has a red oval logo on the lid that read Real Meerschaum arched over Pure Amber Stem. I was looking forward to working on this one and seeing what was underneath the debris and mustiness of time. I took the pipe out of the case. The pipe inside was filthy with a thick overflowing cake in the bowl that reeked of mustiness. There was a thick overflow of tars/lava on the top and inner edge of the bowl The finish was dirty with sticky grime and dust on the surface and no shine at all. There were some spots of hardened tar on the bowl sides as well. Underneath the filth there was some developing patina around the bowl and shank. The stem was really dirty as well. There was dust and debris o the surface and some light dusting that looked like mildew. The surface was hard and in good condition with no bite marks or chatter on either side. The slot had a thick build up of tars like the rim top. It was hard to know what it looked like under the grime but it had the feel of either amber or an Amberoid. The stem had swirls in the amber like the Amberoid I had found on Andreas Bauer Meerschaum pipes. The stem had a threaded bone tenon that was filthy and would need some work but it was in good condition otherwise. I took photos of the pipe before I started my work on it. I 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.I carefully reamed the pipe with a Pipnet Reamer, followed by a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. There was still some thick cake on the bottom of the bowl that I could not reach or penetrate with the two reamers.I scrubbed the bowl with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap with a tooth brush. I worked on the rim top with a Scotch Brite pad to break up the lava coat. I rinsed it under warm water to remove the soap and grime. I then turned back to do some more reaming of the bowl. There was a hard thick coat of cake on the bottom of the bowl. I used a Kleen Reem Pipe reamer to remove the cake on the bottom of the bowl. I sanded out the inside of the bowl with a piece of dowel wrapped with 220 grit sandpaper. I took the cake back to bare meerschaum. I cleaned out the inside of the shank and the airway in the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. I kept at it until I was able to remove the tars and oils and to minimize the mustiness of the smell of both.I polished the smooth meerschaum with micomesh 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 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 No Name Real Meerschaum Billiard with an 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 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 ½ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 24 grams/ .81oz. One I finish posting this blog I will contact the owner and let him know it is finished. Perhaps I will get to meet him when he picks it up but we shall see. In a time of COVID and E-Transfers it is possible to do business without contact. Ah well! 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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