Blog by Steve Laug
The next pipe on the work table is a pipe that is shrouded in mystery. Jeff bought the pipe from an antique store back in October, 2017 in Bozeman, Montana, USA. It is a well carved rusticated Meerschaum Opera pipe. The rim top and shank end are smooth and are stained shiny black. The sides of the bowl and shank are carved with a bark like finish that is very tactile. It is stained with blacks and brown stains from the bottom of the bowl and shank up toward the rim edges. The stem is a tapered vulcanite stem with a lot of oxidation on the surface. The left side of the stem has a elephant stamp an the underside is stamped KENYA. The tenon is a threaded metal stinger that screws into a metal mortise lining on the shank. The pipe is stamped on the left side of the shank in a smooth panel and reads 9 Genuine Block Meerschaum. It is clear and readable. Jeff took photos of the box that the pipe before he started working on it. He took photos of the bowl, rim top to show the thickness of the cake in the bowl and the light lava coat on the rim top. The inner edge had some darkening and some build up of tars and oils. All of the issues will become clearer after the clean up. He took photos of the top and underside of the stem showing the light tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button. It is quite oxidized and the stamping was hardly visible at first glance. Jeff also took some photos of the stamping on the left side of the shank and the left and underside of the stem to show the readability of the stamping. It read as noted above. Jeff carefully cleaned the pipe. He carefully reamed it with the smallest cutting head on a PipNet pipe reamer and then cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed out the internals of the shank and stem with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until the pipe was clean. He scrubbed the exterior of the bowl with a Gentle Dish Soap and a tooth brush to remove the grime and grit on the meerschaum and light lava on the rim top. The finish looks better and has a deep richness in the colour that highlights the dimensions of the carving. There were no chips or cracks in the carving and the sharp edges looked good. He scrubbed the stem with Soft Scrub to remove the grime and oils on the stem. When the pipe arrived here in Vancouver it was clean but the stem was oxidized and needed more work. I took some close up photos of the rim top and the stem surface. The top and edges of the rim looked very good. The rim had shiny black finish that looked really good with the finish on the bowl. The stem was oxidized and had light tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button.I took photos of the stamping on the shank and stem. They are clear and readable on both the stem and the shank side.I removed the stem from the shank and took a photo of the parts of the pipe. I is quite a nice looking pipe.I started my work on the pipe by working some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the bowl and shank with my fingertips and a horsehair shoe brush to clean, enliven and protect the smooth surfaces of the meerschaum. 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 set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I scrubbed it with Soft Scrub all purpose cleaner to remove the oxidation and calcification on the stem surface. I was beginning to look better. I sanded the tooth marks and chatter smooth with 220 grit sandpaper and started the polishing with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. I touched up the stamping on the left side of the stem and the underside with white acrylic fingernail polish. I applied it with the dauber in the bottle and scraped off the excess with a worn 1500 grit micromesh pad. The left side of the shank had what appears to be an elephant and the underside clearly reads Kenya.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! With the bowl and the stem finished I put the unique rusticated #9 Genuine Block Meerschaum Opera pipe 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 bowl with a horsehair shoe brush to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The carved surface of the bowl and shank is a great looking. The dimensions of the pipe are – Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 1 ¾ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ½ inches x 1 inch, Chamber diameter: ½ of an inch x ¾ of an inch. The weight of this large pipe is 1.13 ounces /32 grams. This Rusticated Meerschaum Opera Pipe is another great find. It is much more beautiful in person than these photos can capture. I will be adding it to the Meerschaum Pipe section of 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.