Restemming and Restoring a Heavily Smoked Meerschaum Bacchus Figural


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on my table was a filthy meerschaum carved figural. Jeff believes that we got this meerschaum on 07/30/2019 from an online auction in Oceanside, New York, USA. It had some golden brown patina developed under the thick dark grime and tar on the face and leaf had of the figural. It also cover the rim top and the grapes on the shank. There was a thick cake in the bowl and a heavy build up of lava on the rim top. It really was a mess. The carving on the figural was very well done as were the leaves and grapes that made up the headdress. The stem was a replacement I believe as it was a soft acrylic that did not fit very well. Someone had fit the stem with a push tenon but the shank was threaded so it was a poor and sloppy fit. It was dirty and the airway was almost clogged with tars and oils. The surface of the button on the end had been chewed through and there were holes on both sides. Long and short of it the stem would need to be replaced yet again. Here are some photos Jeff took of the pipe before he started his clean up work on it. It has a lot of potential and a lot of promise. Time and work will tell!He took photos of the bowl to clearly show the facial features of this well carved meerschaum. The features are really well done and the details are quite remarkable. The pipe should clean up really well and look quite amazing. It is certainly worth restemming. He took photos of the bowl from the side to show the carving details on the leave and grapes along the side of the bowl and shank. Even those details are quite well done.   Jeff took a photo of the heel of the bowl. It was flat and the bowl sat as a sitter with the stem removed. It also has some scratches and nicks in the surface and debris in the carved swirls of the beard.The rim top and bowl were filthy. There was a thick cake on the walls of the bowl and a heavy overflow of lava on the rim top and top of the headdress. It was black, heavy and quite thick. The replacement stem was a disaster as well with major holes in the top and underside of the stem at the button and on the button itself. The photos of the stem show the odd placement of a push tenon in the stem end even though the shank is threaded. You can also see the split in the top side and the chewed end of the button and hole I the underside.  Jeff did a remarkable job on the cleanup of this pipe. He reamed the bowl carefully with a PipNet reamer and cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed the surface and crevices of the carved figural with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove the grime and leave behind the patina. He rinsed the bowl with warm water and dried it off with a clean cotton towel. He cleaned the internals of the bowl and shank with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners to clean out the built up tars and oils that were present there. We through away the stem as it was very unusable. When the pipe arrived here it looked amazing and the features and the patina in the meerschaum is beautiful. I took photos of it when I brought it to the table this morning. I would need to restem it but it would be worth it.    I started my work on the pipe by working on the darkening and damage on the inner edge of the rim. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth it out and clean it. The finished edges looked much better.I went through my can of stems and found several that looked like they would work. I settled on gold/amber fancy turned acrylic stem that had a bone tenon in place. It would look great but had a few tooth marks and chatter on the top and underside of the stem.   I filled in the tooth marks on the button edge and surface of the stem on both sides with clear CA glue. I set it aside to let the repairs cure. Once they had cured I reshaped the button edges and top with a small file. I smooth it out further and reshaped it with 220 grit sandpaper. I started the polishing with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper.   I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down after each sanding pad with a cloth impregnated with Obsidian Oil. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. I gave it a final rubdown with Obsidian Oil and set it aside to cure.    I set the stem aside and polished the meerschaum with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down after each pad with a damp cloth to remove the sanding dust. I worked some Clapham Beeswax Salad Bowl Finish into the meerschaum carving on the bowl. It is a combination of Mineral Oil, Beeswax and Carnauba Wax that works very well on waxing a bowl. I buffed it briskly with a cotton cloth to raise a shine and the bowl looks very good. Once again I am excited to finish a pipe that I am working on. I put the nicely patinaed Bent Bacchus Meerschaum back together and buffed it with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Clapham’s Beeswax and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad and hand buffed it to raise the shine. It is fun to see what the polished bowl looks like with the patina colouring the meerschaum on the smooth and the grooves of the carving. Added to that the polished golden acrylic fancy saddle stem worked to give the pipe just the right touch. It is light and well balanced. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 ½ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ½ x 2 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 86 grams/3.03 ounces. It is a beautiful pipe and one that will be on the rebornpipes store in the Ceramic and Meerschaum Pipes Section. If you are interested in adding it to your collection let me know. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this pipe. Thanks to each of you who are reading this blog. I remind us all of the fact that we are not pipe owners; we are pipemen and women who hold our pipes in trust until they pass on into the trust of the next pipeman or woman.

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