Category Archives: Pipe Related Essays

Short and not so short essays on pipes and tobacciana

A long awaited pipe hunt in Salt Lake City & Surrounding Communities


Blog by Steve Laug

In May, in talking with my wife, Irene it was decided that I would travel to Idaho Falls from Vancouver Canada for my Father’s 91st Birthday at the end of June. I began to search for flights that were both affordable and would not require a lot of transfers to other airports and planes to get to Idaho. The prices were crazy and all included significant layovers on the way there and back. I talked with Irene and pretty much decided this trip was not going to happen this year. I was a bit sad as every visit could well be the last one with age and distance. I went to bed and woke up with a plan. I decided to check on the cost of a flight to Salt Lake City, Utah (about a 3 hour drive from Idaho Falls). The price was literally a third of the cost of everything else I had checked. I called my brother Jeff to see if he would be willing to drive there and pick me up. As we talked we decided to take some time include a pipe hunt! I booked the earliest flight I could which gave me a whole day in Salt Lake and another day to drive through the neighbouring communities back to Idaho Falls – all the while stopping by antique shops and malls scavenging for pipes. We hung up and I booked the ticket. It was set for June 28th which was perfect all the way around. The wait for the date to arrive seemed to take forever.

The morning of the flight arrived and I was on the way! The flight was a short 1 hour and 40 minutes and I was on the ground. Jeff picked me up and he had a plan of attack for the pipe hunt. We decided to visit Jeanie’s Smoke Shop first as it was close to the airport. From there were would visit the antique shops in Salt Lake City and Ogden that day. The following day we would visit Brigham City and Logan. We also would visit small communities between the major stops noted above. We were off on the hunt. I have written about Jeanie’s in a previous blog (include the link here). So I will focus only on the antique shops. We found the Salt Lake shops empty of any pipes that caught our interest and manned by sales staff that had no desire to help us out in our hunt. In fact they were almost offended that we would expect them to have such “filthy” items as estate tobacco pipes. It was like they were saying, “You are in Utah after all and we don’t do such things.” What is funny is that in all the shops we visited we came away from SLC with just one pipe – little Dublin with a red, white and blue band and stamped St Claude, France. We laughed and continued our hunt.

We finished the last of the shops and malls in Salt Lake and headed to Ogden. There was a great shop there that Jeff had previously found some great pipes at. So we set off to see if there were more. The shop was called “The Estate Sale Antiques” and it advertises itself as Ogden’s best antique mall. The Estate Sale Antique Mall was nearly 6,000 square feet in size filled with some of the finest and most unusual antique and collectible items anywhere. The owners Lance and Becky are both life long collectors with a wide variety of knowledge including advertising items, coins, bottles, country store antiques, toys, western memorabilia and jewelry.Lance greeted Jeff like a long lost friend and we were made to feel very welcome in the store. In Googling the shop here is what I found and I have to concur with the description: “Estate Sale Antiques brings together a fantastic group of antique vendors under one roof in the heart of Ogden. With convenient accessibility and plenty of parking, The Estate Sale is a must-see stop on any antique shopping quest in Ogden or even from Salt Lake City!”  The next photos are from theire website and give a pretty good idea of the size and diverse contents of the shop. It was a great place to visit and contained two floors of treasures. Jeff lead me to a corner near the cash register and not far from the front door where he knew there were pipes (It is shown in the second photo above). In fact not only were there ones that he had looked over previously but there were also new pipes as well. We found 8 pipes that we wanted including some real beauties and some old timers. We also found a walnut pipe rest made specifically for holding a gourd calabash pipe and a PipNet pipe reaming set.

We settled out bill and went for a visit to the town of Layton where we found one more pipe. It was an interesting Italian made pipe with a rusticated finish that had been sandblasted over the rustication. It had an oval shank and an unusual shape. The shop was managed by a group of very friendly seniors (meaning a bit older than my 65 years). We enjoyed the stop even if all we took away was one pipe. There were lots of others there but nothing that caught our collective eyes and called out for restoration. We called it a day and headed back to Salt Lake City for dinner at the Red Iguana – a restaurant that is famous for its Mole dishes.We had a great meal and waddled to our hotel. I spread out the haul on the desk top and took some photos. It was a good day pipe hunting. I included the day’s haul along with the tins of tobacco I had picked up at Jeanie’s Smoke Shop for the photo. These included a tin of Dunhill Flake, Capstan Blue, Dunhill Durbar and a tin of Royal Vintage Latakia No. 1 made by Mclellands. The pipes included from left to right – a Rossi Rubino, Schoenleber billiard, Irwin by GBD Canadian, a no name Meerschaum Apple, 2 Duncan Aerosphere Billiards with pearlized stems, a Kaywoodie Relief Grain 18S, an Ansells of Washington DC Prince, a St Claude Americana Dublin, and an Italian Made unique.Not a bad haul for the day.The next morning we got up early and after a good breakfast at the hotel continued the pipe hunt. We drove to Brigham City and went to several shops. There was an interesting mall in an old Residential School that was well laid out. Despite the horrendous history of the treatment of aboriginal peoples the place had been cleaned up and redeemed. There were aboriginals working in the shop and it seemed to be a great place to work. We found one pipe in the cabinet toward the front of the shop. The first photo shows the layout of the shop. Jeff found the meerschaum in the display case in the centre of the photo. The second photo shows the pipe that Jeff picked up – a nicely carved lion’s head meerschaum that was in the original box and in pretty decent condition. We left the shop with pipe, put it in our bag of finds and headed to our next stop in Logan, Utah. Logan is a nice looking town with wide boulevards and several antique shops. Other than finding an old Medico Brylon pipe we almost came away empty handed. However we went into a large Antique Mall on the main street and talked with the seated clerk. He did not seem interested in helping much until we got talking about pipes and I gave him a source for tobacco. He said they did no have any pipes in the shop and then I happened to see a pipe case over his shoulder. I asked about it and he said he thought it was empty. I reached for it and low and behold it was not empty after all. Inside was strange looking pipe like nothing I had ever seen before. The inside of the cover had a sticker that read Oriental Frischen Socket Pipe. I turned it over in my hands and found that the pipe had a screw in meerschaum bowl that was threaded into the base. The base appeared to be made of Bakelite and the stem seemed to be cast into the shank of the pipe. We made and offer and added one last pipe to our collection.We went back to the car and headed to a final shop that had no pipes. We were a bit hungry so we decided to visit a cheese factory nearby. We bought some cheese curds to snack on and something to drink. The pipe hunt came to an end and we headed for Idaho Falls. It was a great time pipe hunting with my brother. It has been a long time since I took a trip for the sole purpose of stopping at every antique shop on the journey and sleuthing through their stock for the hidden or not so hidden pipe treasure. I thank my brother for taking time out of his “busy” retirement to come and pick me up and take me to some of his favourite hunting spots. We had a ball. Thanks for giving this a read.

 

 

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What Is It About A Preben?


Blog by Norman Skiba

For 50 years now I have been enjoying and observing that there is something special and magical about Preben Holm pipes. I have always loved his pipes.  Looking back, I can say that I have owned more Preben Holm pipes than any other pipe maker – period.  Overall, they are unique; some wild and some are quite tame and reserved, by his standards.

To me – there is something that I have struggled, and still fail, to describe regarding the overall smoking experience of a Preben Holm pipe.  I have mostly had fine to superb smoking Preben’s, and I have had a few that were ok, and also a few rare ones that just had issues: predominantly a bad gurgling.  Yet even the few bad or not-so-good ones all had this Quality and taste and smoking experience across the board with the best of them.  There is a consistency there that I struggle to explain.  This character/taste/sensory experience that makes it a Preben.  After a week of straight meerschaum smoking I had a bowl this morning in a Preben and it was marvelous.  I look forward to another bowl out of the Preben tomorrow before I head out to the top vineyard to get my nets on.  (I did the side vineyard after the bowl this morning.)  So, again, these experiences make me wonder and question just what it is that makes the Preben’s so unique?  What is it about the nature of the briar he uses that are so different and special unlike any other pipe maker.   And no, I am not just talking about Danish pipe makers.  I mean all others that I have ever smoked or owned.  There is something about his pipes that make me still love the pipe and pipe smoking (with my favorite tobacco as a partner in all of this), and briar.  After all of these years I still cannot put my finger on that special dynamic.  Yet I am in awe when I light up one of his pipes.  They are not only beautiful in so many ways; but they smoke so sweetly and with a subtlety to them.  So, what is it about a Preben?

Unorthodox Thoughts and Actions on the Care and Waxing of Meerschaums


Blog by Norman Skiba

This is written with all due respect to the late Meerschaum master Fred Bass.  I have tried to read all I could by Fred, and I have learned a lot; however, some things are maybe a bit over the top for me and my life.  His knowledge and skill about caring and reworking meers is also most impressive, and again, way beyond my means and knowledge and needs.  So after recently picking my way through more than half of the stuff I have collected by Fred (writings, thoughts, and comments he has made in relation to others on a smokers forum), I have been pondering as well as observing what I do when smoking and caring for my meers.

At the outset, I must say that I am quite anal about my meers.  I never touch the bowls – hot or cold – and I handle them with an old clean piece of white t-shirt that is multi folded so it is not just single thickness.  When cleaning or filling the pipe I always touch the pipe with this material.  I use as many cleaners as I need depending on the bowl, the pipe, and the fact that my tobacco of choice is a very heavy English Latakia blend.  I use a clean pipe cleaner after the bowl is emptied.  I smoke anywhere from 2-4/5 bowls before they are taken apart for better cleaning. Again it really depends – I am being generous in my 5 bowl total. I usually smoke 2 bowls back-to-back.  Then maybe another bowl or two the next day. I then would clean it.  Between the 2nd and the 3rd bowl I usually run a clean pipe cleaner with the end dipped in vodka to clean the funk out of the stem. Makes the next bowl or 2 a nice smoke – not from the vodka, but from the light cleaning it offers.  A tasty smoke as opposed to a funky off tasting smoke.  I then take the pipe apart and clean it out. After I do a bowl or two in a day I also twist a paper towel into the bowl chamber to wipe out the remnants.  I also do this when I do a good pipe cleaning.  I use regular pipe cleaners and maybe a heavy pipe cleaner for the actual shank along with Q-tips.  I Have never used a shank brush but have thought about getting a few, but after 45 plus years of meers it seems to work for me  the way I have been doing it so why change. As an old deceased friend of mine used to say re: Linux which we both run – ‘If it is not broke then don’t fix it; and if you can’t fix, then don’t break it!’  So once again, this seems to be the original premise behind my thoughts on this little bit of prose.  I never used Everclear even though Fred and others use it – it always seemed to me that a cheap vodka worked nicely, so why change it.

I learned and practiced 45 years ago to hold meers by their stems and not touch them.  I have pondered just handling them in various ways; however, I never made the plunge.  With good waxing they are sticky.  I also am ‘into’ the coloring of the meer.  So why taint it with my fingerprints and smeers.  It makes it tough as an old fart with 30 yrs of crippling arthritis throughout my body and with fingers and hands that are all bent out of shape – literally.  And swollen.  So I am so very careful and have come close to an accident or two.  (I actually dropped a beautiful fine smoking Preben years ago – lucky – no dent at all on the briar, but the stem snapped.  It hit a clump of grass and dirt.  Mike Myers of Walker Pipe Repair did a super job in replacing the stem with a similar or same stem – I do not remember the specifics now – and it also was a very speedy job too.  He expedited the fix for me.)  So they are more fragile as such.  When tamping the tobacco and especially when cleaning the ash and funky tobacco out if that be the case at the end of a bowl – be very careful to not hit the edge of the bowl when tamping or use the edge of the bowl to pry the leftover tobacco out.  I accidentally hit the edge ever so lightly with the tamper on a signed I. Baglan Bacchus I had years ago and a chip was out of the rim.  I cried!  Man I did not want to do that.  I was so upset and eventually just went with the flow.  So – Be Careful!  Aesthetically – that just blows it.  The smoke will still be whatever the smoke was before the nick happened.  Just been there and done that!

In regard to waxing: I do not and never have melted wax and plugged the bowl’s airways and dipped it.  For me; not going there.  I have also read numerous times that wax, and I guess they are all different, have certain flash points that will become flammable.  I am not sure how many people have had such a negative experience, but i do not want to go there either.  Some never apply wax or rarely.  I apply wax quite a bit and as Fred says it becomes a ritual in a sense.  Wax protects the block of meerschaum as well as aiding in the coloring.  CAO in the 1970’s used to sell a whitish wax in a lip balm applicator.  I now use 100% pure beeswax that I get from Mohawk Valley Trading Company in Utica, New York.  https://www.tenonanatche.com/beeswax.htm The olfactory Quality is wonderful and when you apply it to the pipe the aroma is really nice.  I have bought from them 2x and no problems ever.  I used to apply it from the bar; however, I recently read that Fred pours his own and he then cuts the thinner small sheets into diamonds or triangles.  So I recently just randomly cut them into various triangular looking pieces and found that the edges and the pointed areas can aid in applying was to complex carved pieces — like eyes, beards, nooks and crannies, and florals and lattice work unlike the bar. (So you see – an old dog CAN learn a new trick.)  I am glad I read that.  It makes a big difference.  Fred tends to rub off the excess wax and maybe even pick out the excess wax from places; and I have done, and still do the opposite.  I tend to get wax chunks into the eyes and beards etc. and as I smoke and warm the pipe – especially after a couple or few bowls – the wax starts melting and running down into other areas.  I leave what I can and after numerous smokes it soon is absorbed into the block.  Since I smoke Latakia – you do get black particles and dust on certain places on the top of the pipe from filling.  Some gets wiped off with the white cloth and other I just let go.  I may try a soft toothbrush in the future but maybe not.  Fred also uses Everclear on the outside of his meers.  I never have.  But he knows what he is doing, I am just trying to take care and use and enjoy my pipes and be as diligent as I can.  Maybe if I was younger and know what I know now, and had a cheaper pipe to experiment with I would develop more aspects to care and cleaning and maintenance.  But that is the way it goes.  I also have not painted wax on a pipe either.  But as Fred says, on 3D complex lattice pipes that seems to be a good way to apply wax to the intricate hard to get areas.  I also have read about smoking chambers.  Not for me. Why make it more complex?  Smoke the pipe, and clean it, and wax it, and let the pipe color as it is going to color.

Years ago I also heard of blowing the smoke onto the pipe to aid in coloring.  I used to do it, but now I smoke it and that is it!  Lastly – one overlooked aspect of smoking a pipe – briar or meer – is admiring and looking at the piece and studying and taking pleasure on what the pipe maker/carver has offered for your pleasure.  I think many people look at the beauty of a pipe and that is that.  It seems as isolated from the actual smoking experience. Pipe is empty and you like at and admire it.  You purchase it because it is so nice.  Others see it or you show it off and that is just what it is. But it is an isolated experience that is fine as it is, but it is not integrated into the actual art and experience and pleasure of smoking that pipe with your favorite tobacco.

So sit back and light up a bowl and enjoy the complete experience of a pipe. And don’t forget to wax.

Addendum: I wanted to add that I, and Fred also smoke the pipe and apply wax to it as the pipe is smoked and warm. As the pipe warms the wax will become soft and easier to apply, even to the not so warm or colder areas. He also cold waxes it too from what i have read. I have tried it a couple of times but hesitate to do that. At the end of the bowl(s) he empties the ash and residual tobacco and then he uses the warm pipe to keep applying the wax while it still is warm and you can then tip the pipe – clean of ash, etc. – and wax the underside areas of the pipe not easily done while the embers are still in the pipe and burning.

Wow! – How Sublime


Blog by Norman Skiba

In a way, this is a tale of 2 pipes.  A somewhat synchronous event possibly.  At the outset, I must say that this is based on my experiences, observations, and opinions.  Others will have theirs.  I am a huge Preben Holm fan.  Period.  I have owned more of his pipes than any other pipe maker.  I also have had a number of Celius and P. Holtorp fan pipes – also from the Danish School.  To me, there is just something about the old briar that Preben used that offers this warmth and taste that so many other pipe makers cannot come close to.  What kind of briar and the age of what he used I have no clue, and maybe his old workers and Poul Winslow may know.  But to me, there is just something about that ‘gestalt’ if you may, that just makes it for me.  I also love meerschaums and have had a number of nice meers over the decades.  It turns out that I now own 2 briars and 3 meers  – nowhere near as extensive as in the past, but just a perfect number for my later years’ needs.  I now have more meers than briars.  I love meerschaums more now than ever before, but I love the briars too, so I am not exclusive.  I sincerely believe that they both have a ‘warmth’ in their own unique way – and I do not mean ‘heat’ – I mean a personal, almost friendly or intimate sort of dimension to their smoking Quality.  Some pipes have that Quality and others do not.  That is a main characteristic, to me, of a great smoking pipe and experience.

Yesterday morning I had 2 bowls in a new estate Preben Holm that is ghosted with possibly a Virginia of some sort.  Nothing I would smoke and there is a taste I am not into, so I wanted to smoke a couple more bowls to try to get that taste out of it.  I think maybe another 20 bowls of a heavy Latakia blend and that will start to evolve to what I like.  I tend to smoke more meers than the Preben, and they too are new pipes, so that is the reason I am still working on that extra taste in the pipe.  Well despite a bit of that extra taste from a previous owner and tobacco – I had 2 really nice bowls in that Preben and the smoke was great – it smoked nicely and the taste generally was nice.  No re-lights and just a smooth smoke.  2 bowls back-to-back was an extremely pleasurable experience.  I then proceeded (after about a 10 minute break to swap out the pipes and make another pot of coffee) to smoke 2 bowls in a new meerschaum Bacchus that I have smoked more than the Preben.  So it is going through the ritual christening, if you may.  It has been smoking quite nicely and sometimes really nicely.  However; today, both bowls were just wondrous!  What a smoke!  What a taste and aroma.  An interesting note was that I did notice that I got more taste and more aroma that was more true to the tobacco when I smoked the meer right after the briar than what the briar had to offer.  And as I just stated, the smokes out of the 2 bowls of the briar were also wonderful.  Just different in many ways.  Getting back to the meer – the experience was so beautiful that it was hard to believe that 2 different pipes – 4 bowls – back-to-back – and they were all wondrous!  What are the chances?  The 2nd bowl also had another rather unique experience: toward what was normally the end of the bowl – it just kept smoking and smoking and smoking.  I thought – man this should have finished a while ago – when will it be done?  (Not that I wanted it to end; one just kind of knows the bowl and the length of a pipe and tobacco.)  Anyway, this just seemed like the never-ending bowl.  I got easily an extra 20′ smoke on that 2nd bowl of the meer.  Again, as in the briars, no re-lights were needed.  The experience I had yesterday morning was just so magical I was in awe of the experience.  Maybe unconsciously I was transported to the magical world of The Shire and puffing on Longbottom Leaf or Old Tobey of the Southfarthing.  How Sublime Indeed!

Meerschaum Care and Cleaning


Blog by Fred Bass

This article is a combination of various posts and emails that Fred wrote on the topic. He combined them into this piece and sent it to me for safe keeping. With his death I think it is important to make this articles available to the community. — Steve

For me, I believe that Steve has hit upon the root of the issue in regards to an earthy taste. To deliver a smoke’s full potential, a clean pipe is best. Before I smoke a new Meerschaum, I clean it with Everclear, a shank brush and pipe cleaners. There will be a lot of dust in the pipe from the milling of both the block and the bit, if it is hand cut. The first few smokes will burn off the wax. Many find this brief period not to their liking. This same event occurs after a pipe has been rewaxed. I guess I’ve done it so many times that it no longer bothers me.

The next part to this issue is to follow up every smoke with the proper cleaning. By doing this, I have no need to dedicate a pipe to a blend as I experience little to no taste carry over. It is best to be diligent in preventing any cake build up. A sharp, blunt tipped knife is best used to scrape this off. This is just the opposite of Briar pipes, where cake build up is good. The problem is that Meerschaums will develop a black tar like plaque that can impart a bitter taste to the smoke. There is much difference of opinion on the points I’ve touched on. I can only speak to what works for me. My observations suggest that by keeping the Meer clean, you stand a better chance of having the by products of combustion contribute to the coloring that many Pipesters seek with their Meers. When I reclaim an estate Meer that has been abused, it takes several cleanings between smokes for the pipe to flush itself and finally deliver the best smoking experience. The pipe is a filter. Like any other filter, it can become saturated and not be able to function effectively.

Again, I do not consider myself an authority on Meerschaum pipes. I’m as much a student as the next… All I can offer are my own observations and experiences. To this end, I hope that this helps other Pipesters, so that some benefit may be gained.

Back in my undergraduate days, I saw a pipe in the window of a luggage shop that I just could not get out of my mind. It was an Andreas Bauer from Turkey, after A. Koncak acquired the trademark. It was a simple Smooth Bent Paneled Block Meerschaum that had the lines of the paneled bowl continue into the Amberite plastic bit. It was the first pipe I’d seen with the Delrin mortise-tenon push/pull joint and came in it’s own fitted leather case. Before this my only other Meer had come in a cardboard box. This was no holds barred PAD, so I saved up my $40.00 and caved in.

Things soon started to go wrong. I dropped it. This resulted in a few nicks in the block’s surface, which I thought as obvious as a train wreck, but others did not seem to notice. Not having much experience with Meerschaum, I proceeded to char the rim to where it might seem that a booster rocket had been used to light it. Down at the local pub, things got spilled on it and it seemed like every drunk that came in just had to pick it up when I had it resting in it’s case. Matters got so bad that I became ashamed of how the pipe looked, so I put it in a drawer for many years.

A couple of years ago, I decided that I would put the lessons I’d learned to good use with the resurrection of this pipe. It has been a slow process, involving much Everclear, a shank brush, more than a few pipe cleaners and the patience to repeat the process until the old ghost of blends I’d just as soon forget were exorcised. This did not help the finish nearly as much as the pipe’s smoke. Today, for the second and hopefully the last time, I took the block to task with 600 grit wet sanding in Everclear followed by a rewaxing using Halcyon II. It is starting to look passable. It will never return to it’s original state but it is no longer a pipe I keep in a drawer. With enough time and determination, even an abused pipe can regain some of it’s radiance. Just don’t beat it up too bad.

It is very interesting to read about the use of Murphys oil soap in restoration of a Meerschaum. One of the things I enjoy about pipesters is the ingenuity and diversity of problem solving methods. I guess that my approach is more of an ‘old school’ technique… I use Everclear for both routine maintenance & cleaning. In restoration, I’ve experienced positive results using it on the exterior surfaces. Where serious abuse has left a Meer with rim burn and other finish problems, Everclear used with fine grit wet/dry sandpaper will get results. Even if it looks as though Grandad used a space shuttle liftoff to light up with, with a little time it will resolve. After the cleaning, I’ll use Halcyon II. It does not have the durability of Bee’s Wax but is much easier to buff, so I will do my maintenance in a more timely way. For cake buildup, I use a sharp, blunt tipped knife and scrape it down to the stone surface. For restoration, the use of Everclear, a shank brush and lots of pipe cleaners will help flush the pipe. It may take 6 to 12 cleanings after every smoke to help the Meer unload old ghosts, but it will happen. Restoration of estate Meers is more of a labor of love than anything else. It takes time and effort. In addition to the use of paper shims to correct an overturned bit, I’ve used clear finger nail polish with good results. Some of my older Meers have a Kaywoodie type metal screw joint. A sparing application of clear nail polish, left to dry for a couple of days with the bit in the desired rotation will form a temporary bond that will last for awhile before becoming necessary to repeat. I hope these observations serve to provide good information to pipesters.

These paragraphs offer information on this topic of care and is by no means exhaustive. As we evolve, so does our knowledge & while some things we do remain the same, some things will change. There is plenty of room here for diversity, and it is welcome.

 

Briars vs. Meerschaum:  Right Brain – Left Brain – I Choose the Middle Way!


Blog by Norman Skiba

I have seen this discussion and argument in the past and even in the present on various pipe smoking forums.  New threads, old threads – they are all the same.  Personally I am kind of bored with the various arguments.  I have smoked both briar and meerschaum’s pretty much from the start.  In the 60’s and 70’s there was a lot of myth about pipes, briars, tobacco, and meers.  And there still is a whole lot of myths about these various things.  Many people that contributed to this plethora of facts, and opinions, and just downright incorrect information were either ignorant of the information, ego-driven to show their pedanticism, opinionated with an enough-to-be-dangerous knowledge, and people that in this case never smoked either briars or meerschaums, or smoked briars or meerschaums that were of decent smoking Quality to even begin to make a comparison as to the briar or meerschaum discussion at a credible level of discourse.  The creation of myths and biases still continue to this very day.

As stated earlier, I have been fortunate to have smoked both briars and meerschaums pretty much from the beginning of my pipesmoking journey.  Most people, if not all of the people around me were briar smokers and briar master pipe makers.  Most probably never smoked or owned a meer, and if they did, they never smoked it enough to make an educated opinion – just an opinion.  A lot of the myths and information that I learned, and I bet, most people in similar situations have learned are biased and twisted information,  some true – some partially true, and some just off the wall in any sense of possible truth.  As neophytes – how do we know what is credible.  The blind leading the blind.

As an old guy who has been around this journey into pipes and tobacco, I have to say that I have worked hard and went broke to have 3 nice pipe collections in my life.  2 of the collections were extensive and the last in my close to the end of life is extremely modest, but exquisite.  The first 2 collections had both briars and meers, but the predominant pipes were briars. (The types and kinds of pipes are a whole ‘nother story that may be pursued in another little blurb.)  I have always loved the meers – for aesthetical reasons, smoking Qualities, and the artistic carving and coloring experience for example. (Just like the shape and finish and grain of briars) They were nice pipes and smoked wonderfully.  I did notice a difference, yet I could not at the time explain it as such.  Again being surrounded by briar people I may have had some slant on that – i.e. an opinion or observations of this briar vs. meerschaum dynamic of the smoking Qualities that they offered.  This last tiny collection is predominantly meerschaum at the moment – 4 meers and 2 briars (I may get 1 more briar in the future due to my love of pipes and the briar made by a deceased famous pipemaker.)  But that would still make:  meer 4 and briar 3.  I have understood late in life during my sannyasin period as espoused in Hinduism, that 5 pipes are nice – 6 – 7 OK – and No More.  Now you may ask – ‘Why do you go from 5 – 6 or 7 pipes?’  Due to my love of Latakia and a wife who has asthma – I am forced to have to smoke outside and when raining or cold/very cold in my cold small shed.  I need some briars to smoke in the freezing cold where meers are technically possible to crack or shatter so the need for an extra briar or two.  I must say that the briars that I do have are wonderful pipes and wonderful smokers so I love them and do smoke them in the summer too.  Even if I lived in Bali where the weather is pleasant all year, I still would own my briars.  I love wood and I love grain.  But I have fallen deeply, in my old age like never before, for the White Goddess!  I have always had, and smoked, and loved meers; so this is nothing new; however, the Passion is just so Intense at this stage I cannot explain.  The meers I am smoking more during the summer/warmer weather because I love smoking them, and not just because of the weather.  Today for example, I had 3 bowls in the morning in a meer and later on when I took a break after working all morning outside, I smoked an old relatively conservative Preben Holm.  It was wonderful.  There is a difference, in a sense, in the briar experience and meer.  I have struggled to define it for decades and I just cannot.  However, the difference is not ‘a one is good and the other bad’ sort of difference that one thinks exists.  Maybe the term is characteristic(s)?  Maybe it will always be elusive and not definable.  It is so abstract – yet one knows it when it is understood/experienced.  It may just not be graspable in an ideational way or in word play.  It just must be experienced and appreciated each for what they have to offer.

In a post I made on an old thread on a forum recently regarding the briar vs. meer argument (edited and expanded here):

I do say that the meers do smoke drier and cleaner in many respects. I have had some meers that were sweet as in smooth and easy to smoke and enjoy and a few that were maybe a bit brutal if that be the word. Some had a warmth and a dimensionality to the smoke and the taste. I have had some briars that were – yech!  I have also had some briars that have that warmth that I mentioned for the meers.  Again – maybe the meers take a few bowls of a tobacco when new to achieve a warmth that is inherent in it – the pipe itself.  Even briars need to be broken in as such.  Again, each pipe, whether briar or meer can be special or a loser. I find the more I smoke the meers and they develop and are good in their way – the warmth and the taste of the tobacco opens up and improves tremendously.  Funny – similar analogies to briars.  No real answers here, just observations.  It boils down to a good pipe is a good pipe and one that isn’t may not ever be!  Briar and meer!

I choose the Middle Way of Buddhism.  Briar AND Meer.  Enjoy!

 

 

Flow Dynamics in Meerschaum Coloring – A Theory


Blog by Fred Bass

Here is another reflective piece by Fred Bass that I had in the files saved on my computer. I think it is time to resurrect this discussion. Anyone with contributions, thoughts or comments please note them below… thanks. – Steve

I’ve been giving some thought to the issues of flow dynamics as they relate to Meerschaum coloring. With little else but the most rudimentary exposure to scientific thought on flow principles long ago, my grasp of this concept is weak. Still, it seems a topic of interest to both myself and others. I offer these thoughts in the hopes that others will take some interest. The combination of burning tobacco and beeswax cause Meerschaums to color over time. OK, so what’s going on? It seems that heat will cause the wax to migrate into the Block. Continued heating/cooling cycles will cause the wax to migrate in a progressive manner, but at some point, the wax evaporates. This process works like a wick to the by-products of tobacco combustion and draws them into the Block, where they accumulate, in a progressive result of color, that changes character over time. If I understand it, this is the process that results in the patina that Meerschaum smokers prize. Is this what’s going on? Do I have a cogent theory in this line of thought?

An interesting observation to add to this is that Meerschaums that have been smoked for long periods of time, without rewaxing, may not demonstrate a well developed patina. When such a Pipe is rewaxed, it will quickly display colors. Like all coloring in Meerschaums, the repetition of rewaxing in concert with smoking the Pipe, will eventually produce coloring that does not quickly fade.

I believe that I’ve addressed the path of wax dissipation. Continued heating/cooling cycles will cause the wax to migrate in a progressive manner, but at some point, the wax evaporates. This process may account for wax loss, but certainly some will also be lost to friction on the Pipe’s surface. I’ve not taken any additives that the Carver may choose to mix in with the wax or the porosity of the Block into account.

Smoke from the tobacco smoking is giving the brown color, that is certainly a factor. The heat and the moisture of the tobacco are also involved. The Pipe’s shank usually starts to color first, as it is the site of major condensation via cooling, of the tobacco being smoked.

I agree that the wax protects the outer surface of the Pipe, which is not to say that it doesn’t migrate into the Block. As I understand it, the Carver blocks off the Pipe’s draft & the bowl, so that the wax does not get into the Pipe, but this is done to avoid having the first few smokes taste like burning wax. I also agree with you about the wax not being the coloring agent for the Block, but instead, it serves to wick the by-products of the smoke along it’s migration routes. The point that has me stumped, is the quick color shown by waxing Pipes that have not been rewaxed, but have been smoked. This suggests that some part (or all) of the nicotine, tars & moisture are already in the Block from smoking, but do not display this coloring as fast, if left without rewaxing. Even if the wax’s role is to wick and protect, how does it contribute to the Pipe’s color. Your idea of the wax serving to seal the Block from loss of these smoke by-products may be a demonstration of this idea. It is an interesting puzzle.

I’ve been turning this bit of a puzzle over in my mind, as it seems that it will not let me rest. Perhaps the wax, the heat and the burning tobaccos also interact chemically. This would explain how rewaxing a Pipe, that has been smoked for a long period of time, will produce coloring with a rapid permanence more dramatically than a Pipe that has been smoked less that has been rewaxed. It is also quite possible that the Meerschaum itself plays a part in this chemical interaction. I suspect that this has all been thought of before, and tested by Carvers. Such knowledge would enable a Carver’s work to stand apart from the competition, and not likely to be widely known, as with anything in the Meerschaum trades. So much is lost to us in the guarded history of the Carver’s art. 😉