Tag Archives: Meerschaum pipes

Reclaiming a Uniquely Shaped Cased Bent Opera Meerschaum with a Redmanol Stem


 Blog by Steve Laug

This afternoon I finished a nice little meerschaum apple with a gold rim cap and gold band on the shank and a Ruby Bakelite/Redmanol stem (https://rebornpipes.com/2021/12/25/next-on-the-table-is-a-blinged-out-meerschaum-bent-apple-with-a-ruby-bakelite-stem/). I posted it on the blog and it sold almost before it was on the store. I was contacted by another friend for the same pipe and had to tell him that it sold. I did however have another interesting one in the box that he might be interested in seeing. The pipe was also a meerschaum with rectangular shank, rolled gold band on the shank and a Red Bakelite stem. We purchased of Ebay from Queensbury, New York, USA. This pipe was heavily smoked and needed a lot of work but showed promise. The leather cover on the case was in was worn but still in decent condition. There was some wear on the edges of the case but the hinges and lock worked very well.Don’t you want to know what is inside of this case? Do you want to compare it with the other meerschaum I wrote about? Well… I will get there. Jeff opened the case to show us what the pipe looked like inside. The lining of the case was worn and had a faded green colour to it. There was not identifying stamp on the lid. The rolled band was ornate and filigreed. It really was a beautiful looking older pipe. Jeff took a photo of the pipe in the case. It look like it had been smoked hard and often. The case was filled with chunks of tobacco and ash and the rim top was covered with thick lava. The meerschaum however was really beginning to take on some nice patina – particularly on the shank. Have a look at this beauty!He removed it from the case and really it is the first look of the profile of this interestingly shaped old timer. I would almost call it an Opera pipe but it is a bit big for that. It is however longer and thinner than a standard bowl. Otherwise it is a squashed bent Dublin. It is really filthy but look at the patina on the shank and the rolled gold band on the shank. It is really quite lovely. The second photo below shows the top view of the pipe. You can see the cake in the bowl and the lava on the rim top but do not miss the shape of the bowl. It is a unique one for sure. Jeff took some close up photos of the rim top to show the lava build up and the very thick cake in the bowl. It really made me wonder what the inner edge of the bowl looked like. You can also see some of the scratches on the side of the bowl. It is a mess but… The stem is very nice and actually surprisingly unchewed. There are light tooth marks and chatter on the stem surfaces but nothing deep and the shape is also quite unique. The rolled gold band on the shank is also very ornate.He took some photos of the sides and heel of the bowl to give a sense of the wear and tear on the pipe. You can see it has been a hard worn and greatly used pipe. It must have been a terrific smoker and someone’s favourite go to pipe. I really like the look of the patina on the shank. The mottled reds and browns are very nice. Jeff had cleaned it thoroughly. He had reamed it carefully with a PipNet reamer and cleaned that up with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He worked slowly so as not to damage the inner edge of the bowl. It was a mess. He had scrubbed the exterior of the meerschaum with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and a soft tooth brush. He cleaned out the interior of the shank and airway with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs. He carefully cleaned out the Bakelite stem with clean water and pipe cleaners to remove the debris and oils in the airway and the threads of the bone tenon. I took photos of the pipe when it arrived here. The first two photos show case after he had cleaned it in the process. The third photo shows the pipe in the fitted case The overall look of the pipe after cleaning shows the tiredness and worn look of the bowl sides. The stem on the other hand is quite remarkably unscathed and the bone tenon almost looks new. The pipe is a beauty in the rough and definitely needs some TLC. I took a close up photo of the bowl and rim top to show the condition of the cleaned bowl and rim. You can see the clean bowl and the many scratches and darkening on the back edge and top of the rim. I also took some photos of the stem to show how it looked. It was remarkably clean. Even the tooth chatter and marks were very minor.I unscrewed the stem from the shank to see an almost new looking threaded bone tenon on the stem. Amazingly it was free of damage and had not been over or under-turned in the shank.I decided to start my work on this pipe by addressing the damage to the inner edge of the rim and the rim top. I used a folded piece 220 grit sandpaper to work over both. I was able to remove most of the damage on the inner edge and a fair bit on the rim top with the sandpaper. It definitely is an improvement.I polished the briar and the shank with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I worked on the rim top and make it even better looking. I figured that once I heated it to rewax they would look significantly different (Time will tell). I wiped the bowl down after each pad with a damp cloth. The meerschaum began to shine and the scratches were less intrusive. The photos tell the story!   Now it was time to wax the meerschaum bowl. I melted a block of beeswax and dipped the pipe I in the mix and painted the wax with a cotton swab into the hard to reach spots on the shank corners. I heavily coated the bowl with the liquid wax. I let the wax harden dry then I used the cork as a handle while I heated it with a heat gun. As the wax melted I wiped it off with a paper towel. I let the excess drip back into the container. The bowl began to really take on some patina even though the scratches also stood out more. Those scratches were part of the story of the pipe’s journey. I buffed it with a soft cloth and took pictures of the pipe at this point in the process of the restoration. The wax did its magic and the patina was rich and deep. Even the scratches looked better to me! The pipe is well traveled and the scratches help tell the story. I set the bowl aside and turned to deal with the stem. I polished the Bakelite stem with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped it down after each sanding pad with a cloth containing some Obsidian Oil. I finished polishing it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine and buffed it off with a cotton cloth. I gave it a final coat of obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. It is a beautiful looking ruby coloured stem. This beautiful no name Bent Opera shaped Meerschaum with a Bakelite stem was another fun pipe to work on and I really was looking forward to seeing it come back together again. With the grime and debris gone from the finish it was a beauty and after the waxing with Beeswax the patina was quite nice. The rolled gold filigreed band on the shank is an added bonus. I put the stem back on the bowl and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel.  I buffing it with a clean buffing pad on the buffer to raise the shine. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The rich polished meerschaum on the bowl looks really good with the polished ruby Bakelite stem. It is very well done. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. I can only tell you that it is much prettier in person than the photos capture. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/8 inches x 1 ¾ inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 39 grams/1.38oz. This is truly a great looking Meerschaum. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over another beautiful pipe. This beauty has already been spoken for and is reserved for the next pipeman. I hope to send it out in the mail tomorrow. Thanks for your time.

Next on the table is a Blinged Out Meerschaum Bent Apple with a Ruby Bakelite Stem


Blog by Steve Laug

We finished up around the tree and our Christmas Breakfast so now there is a quiet time before we eat again. I decided that a snowy Christmas day in Vancouver demanded the right pipe to be worked on so I think I chose appropriately. We bought the pipe I chose at an auction from a fellow in Los Angeles, California, USA. Though it is not shiny white and new looking it is a meerschaum ball/apple/ornament with a gold rim cap and shank band that are quite blinged out and beautiful. The bowl had a thick cake and there was a light lava overflow on the rim. The gold coloured rim cap looked good underneath the lava and oils. The exterior of the bowl and shank was smooth and starting to develop some colouring on the shank and sides. The finish had a lot of scratches and some dark spots on the bottom side of the diamond shank near the band. The pipe did not have any stamping on the shank or band. The rim cap had some nicks and dents in it but they did not detract from the beauty of the pipe. The shank band was also scratched but not dented. The Bakelite (Redmanol) stem was in excellent condition with light tooth marks on the surface in front of the button. I expected the stem was screwed onto the shank but that would be revealed soon enough. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he started his cleanup work. Jeff captured the condition of the bowl and rim top with the next series of photos. You can see the work that is ahead of us in the photos. The cake is very thick and heavy. The rim looked like it might have some damage on the top and inner edge of the cap. The photos of the stem show the shape and the top and underside of the stem. It is dirty and there is some gummed stickiness on the underside where there must have been a price sticker. The tooth marks and chatter was very light on both sides. Jeff took some great photos of the sides of the bowl and heel showing what is underneath the developing patina and the scratches in the surface of the meerschaum. It will be interesting to see what happens as the pipe is cleaned and restored. He removed the stem from the shank. You can see the threaded tenon end in the shank of the pipe and the wide open airway in the stem. It looks to me that there is a push tenon in the shank and the threading was for anchoring it in the stem. I took it out of the box of pipes and looked it over. It was amazingly clean. Jeff carefully reamed it with a PipNet pipe reamer and cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed out the internals with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until the pipe was clean. He scrubbed the exterior of the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove the grime and grit on the meerschaum and the lava and oils on the rim top. The bowl looked very good. He scrubbed the stem with Soft Scrub to remove the grime and rinsed it off with warm water. It came out looking far better. Now it was time for me to do my work on the pipe. I took photos before I started my part of the work. I took some photos of the rim top and stem. The rim top is clean but you can see some of the dents in the gold cap. I am afraid that they will remain a permanent part of the pipe’s story. The bowl itself looks very clean. The close up photos of the stem shows that is it very clean and the tooth marks are visible.The way the stem lined up with the shank made me wonder about the tenon system that was used. From Jeff’s photos it looked like the threaded portion sticking out of the shank was part of a push tenon system. If that was true then I truly believe that someone had replace the original bone tenon on what I think is actually an older pipe with a new push tenon system. The stem has an orific opening on the end and it is definitely made of Bakelite. I unscrewed the stem from the shank and then pulled the tenon free from the shank end. It was indeed a push tenon. I took a photo of the bowl and stem to give a sense of the proportion of the pipe. It is a classic looking apple for sure.I polished the briar and the shank with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I worked on the two dark spots on the underside of the shank and was able to determine they were not burn marks but rather spots that had taken on a dark patina.I figured that once I heated it to rewax they would look significantly different (Time will tell). I wiped the bowl down after each pad with a damp cloth. The meerschaum began to shine and the scratches were less intrusive. The photos tell the story!   Now it was time to wax the meerschaum bowl. I melted a block of beeswax and dipped the pipe I in the mix and painted the wax with a brush into the hard to reach spots on the shank corners. I heavily coated the bowl with the liquid wax. I let the wax harden dry then I put a cork in the bowl to provide a handle while I heated it with a heat gun. As the wax melted I wiped it off with a paper towel. I let the excess drip back into the container. The bowl began to really take on some patina and the dark spots changed in colour. I buffed it with a soft cloth and took pictures of the pipe at this point in the process of the restoration. The wax did its magic and the patina was rich and deep. Even the scratches looked better to me! I set the bowl aside and turned to deal with the stem. I polished the Bakelite stem with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped it down after each sanding pad with a cloth containing some Obsidian Oil. I finished polishing it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine and buffed it off with a cotton cloth. I gave it a final coat of obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. It is a beautiful looking ruby coloured stem. This beautiful no name Bent Apple shaped Meerschaum with a Bakelite stem was another fun pipe to work on and I really was looking forward to seeing it come back together again. With the grime and debris gone from the finish it was a beauty and after the waxing with Beeswax the patina was quite nice. I put the stem back on the bowl and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel.  I buffing it with a clean buffing pad on the buffer to raise the shine. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The rich polished meerschaum on the bowl looks really good with the polished ruby Bakelite stem. It is very well done. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. I can only tell you that it is much prettier in person than the photos capture. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 4 ½ inches, Height: 1 ¾ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 inch, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 35grams/1.23oz. This is truly a great looking blinged out Meerschaum Bent Apple. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over another beautiful pipe. I will be adding it to rebornpipes store in the Ceramic and Meerschaum Pipes section if are interested in adding it to you collection. Let me know by email or message. Thanks for your time.

Breathing Life into a well carved Meerschaum Bent Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

I have finished restoring quite a few of the pipes in this collection that we purchased from the older gentleman. He sent me the photos and I was amazed at what I saw. You have seen many of the pipes that he had. These included Dunhill, BBB, Orlik, Barclay Rex, a cased Ben Wade, an H. Simmons all briar, Hardcastles and some Meerschaums. There were also some assorted others that I will get to in the days ahead. It was a great collection.

The next pipe I have chosen is a worn and dirty looking Bent Meerschaum Billiard. It is the first [top] of the three meerschaum pipes in the photo above. There was a thick cake in the bowl and the rim top and edges were told buried under a thick coat of lava. It was filthy both inside and out. The shape probably caught my eye because it is quite lovely even under the grime and wear. The stem is yellow acrylic and it is chipped and damaged. The exterior of the bowl had a lot of debris in the rustication around the bowl. The stem had tooth chatter on the top and underside near the button. This was another well loved pipe that obviously been a good smoker!

Jeff took some photos of the Meerschuam Bent Billiard before he worked his magic in cleaning up the pipe. It is a an interesting pipe with a lot of potential and what appears to be some great grain under the grime and debris of the years. Jeff took photos of the bowl, rim top to show the thickness of the cake in the bowl and the thick lava on the rim top. The rim top and inner edge are so thickly covered that it is hard to know their condition. All of the issues will become clearer after the clean up. He took photos of the top and underside of the acrylic stem showing the tooth chatter on both sides and the chip out of the underside of the stem on the right.   Jeff also took some photos of the threaded metal tenon in the shank and the threaded inside of the stem to show the appearance and condition of both.Jeff took photos of the sides and heel of the bowl to show the condition of the rustication. You can see the beautiful shape of the bowl and some interesting patterns in the meerschaum even through the dirt and debris of many years. This unstamped Meerschaum Bent Billiard is an interesting looking pipe. There appears to be a JW written on both the face of the shank and stem. Because the old gentleman that we bought the pipes from intimated that he purchased his pipes at the Manhattan Barclay-Rex store I would imagine that he may have purchased this one from them as well. I was unable to pin down any information regarding the date this pipe so it was time to move on and work on the pipe.

Jeff carefully cleaned the pipe. He reamed it with a PipNet pipe reamer and then cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed out the internals of the shank, stem and shank extension with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until the pipe was clean. He scrubbed the exterior of the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove the grime and grit on the briar and lava on the rim top. The finish looks much better and has a deep richness in the colour that highlights the dimensions of the rustication. The edges looked good otherwise. He scrubbed the acrylic stem with Soft Scrub to remove the grime and oils on the stem. When the pipe arrived here in Vancouver I was amazed that it looked so good. Here are some photos of what I saw. I took some close up photos of the rim top and the stem surface. The top and inner and outer edge of the rim showed some darkening/heavy tars and damage. The stem had tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button.I removed the stem from the shank and took a photo of the parts of the pipe. I started my work on the pipe by polishing the smooth rim top with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped the bowl down after each pad with a damp cloth to remove the sanding debris. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the bowl and shank with my fingertips 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 filled in the large chip on the right underside with clear CA glue, layering it on to repair both the stem ahead of the button and building up the button. I set it aside to cure. Once it cured I sanded it smooth with 220 grit sandpaper and started the polishing with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. 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 and is smooth but the repairs show! With the bowl and the stem finished I put the beautiful Meerschaum Bent Billiard 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 smooth and carved finish is a great looking. The dimensions of the pipe are – Length: 6 inches, Height: 1 ¾  inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of this large pipe is 1.27 ounces /36 grams. This Meerschaum Bent Billiard is another great find from this collection. It is much more beautiful in person than these photos can capture. I will be adding it to 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.

Breathing Life into a Hexagonal Meerschaum with a Bakelite Stem


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the work table came to me from one of our estate purchases. Between us we pick up quite a few pipes for restoration. I try to work them into the restoration queue so that I can keep them moving. This next one is a smooth hexagonal block meerschaum pipe with a yellow Bakelite stem. The there is no stamping on the pipe. The finish had a lot of grime ground into the smooth finish on the bowl and there was definitely some patina developing in the shank, heel and one side of the bowl. The bowl was caked with a light lava coat on the top of the rim. The edges looked to be in good condition. There were a lot of scratches in the meerschaum on all sides and the top of the bowl. The stem was in dirty and had tooth chatter and marks on the top and underside near the button. There were not markings or a logo on the taper stem. It had promise but it was very dirty. Jeff took some photos of the pipe before he started his cleanup work.   He took photos of the rim top and bowl to give a clear picture of the thickness of the cake and the overflow of lava on the rim top. He also took photos of the top and underside of the stem to show the chatter and tooth marks. Otherwise the stem is quite clean.  Jeff took photos of the sides and heel of the bowl to give a picture of what the meerschaum looked like. It is a well carved hexagon. Jeff had cleaned up the pipe with his usual penchant for thoroughness. He 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 soaked the stem in Before & After Deoxidizer and rinsed it off with warm water. I took photos of the pipe once I received it.  The rim top cleaned up really well with the lava coat removed. The inner and outer edge of the bowl looked to be in excellent condition.  The panel on the left side had some darkening and a few stain spots. The stem surface looked very good with a few small 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 stem is tapered and narrow.Now it was time to do my work on the pipe. I polished the scratches in the meer and the rim top, sides and shank with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads and wiping it down after each pad with a damp cloth.  I rubbed the bowl and shank down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the bowl sides and shank with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect the meerschaum. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine.     I rubbed the bowl down with Clapham’s Beeswax Polish. I let it dry on the meerschaum and then buffed it off with a soft cotton cloth. It really adds some depth to the finish.  I set the bowl aside and turned to work on the stem. It was in good condition and the tooth marks were light so I figured they would polish out fairly easily. I polished the Bakelite/amberoid stem with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. I used Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to further polish the stem.        This Hexagonal Meerschaum Billiard with a Bakelite/amberoid stem is a great looking pipe now that it has been restored. I put the stem back on the bowl and carefully buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel using a light touch on the briar. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel and followed that by buffing the entire pipe with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished Hexagonal Meerschaum 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 ½ inches, Height: 1 ¾ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 inch wide x 1 ½ inches long, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. If you are interested in adding this pipe to your collection send me a message or an email. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. There are many more to come!

Renewing a Treasured Swan Neck Meerschaum, a Gift from Treasured Friends


Blog by Dal Stanton

I’ve been eyeing this pipe on my side desk for some time.  It has been calling to me and I decided today to respond.  It came to me as a gift from dear Bulgarian friends, CC and Svetly.  CC, is a nickname for Svilena. CC came into our lives as a translator in the context of our work here in Bulgaria with the Daughters of Bulgaria – women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  She translated various manuals and training modules from English into Bulgarian which were used in a recovery program for women who were seeking a new life.  In time, our relationship with CC expanded as she helped us with translating for various teams who had come to Bulgaria to learn more about our work.  Eventually, her husband, Svetly came into our relationship sphere as well.  Truly, a renaissance man of faith, Svetly is an author of books and composer of songs and is a good singer himself!  Then, their three children became known to us – young adults and gifted much like their parents.  One child specifically, Ellie – to me, ‘El’, came into our lives in a special way and has been living with us for the past few years while she completes her university program here in Sofia studying Chinese culture and language.  Our lives are richer here in Bulgaria because of friends like CC and Svetly.

One of the wonderful pastimes of CC and Svetly is their love of collecting things by going to bazaars, antique markets and outdoor flea markets where they find unsuspecting treasures and either fashion or repurpose them for their personal use or they resell them at a profit.  On several occasions during their treasure hunts, The Pipe Steward has benefited from pipes they have found ‘in the wild’ and donated to be restored benefiting the Daughters of Bulgaria!  Then there are other occasions, where their pipe treasures are specially directed to me as gifts.  One such treasure is awaiting restoration – an 11 1/2-inch French Churchwarden which belonged to Svetly’s father.  My deal with El is that when I restore her grandfather’s Churchwarden, she will be the first one to try it out on my Man Cave balcony where pipe fellowship is allowed!  Another treasure from Svetly and CC that found me was the Swan Neck Meerschaum now on my worktable.

CC had texted me some days earlier with pictures of the Swan Neck Meerschaum perched atop her computer. She had found it in a huge outdoor flea market called the ‘Russian Market’ near Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second largest city where CC and Svetly live.  She had already acquired the Meerschaum and was hoping that I could help with valuing it so that it could potentially be resold at a profit.  These pictures she sent were my first views of this unbelievably graceful pipe – an Egg shaped bowl held out elegantly by a long flowing Swan Neck shank. There were no markings on the pipe or on the ancient case that held it.  The only information CC had from the seller at the Russian Market was that he had acquired the pipe from an antique dealer in France. Looking at all the pictures she sent we batted around questions regarding the age of the pipe and the stem’s composition – was it amber or Bakelite or something else?

My final summation to CC was that it was difficult to date with any certainty, but I believed the pipe to be an older vintage because of the stem material, the fact that it had an orific button and that it was replete with amazing patina. I gave her an idea of what I would ask for it in The Pipe Steward Store and said it was a very collectable pipe which would be welcomed into anyone’s collection.

Later, when the pipe unexpectedly arrived at my home with El, I thought CC wanted me to take a closer look to help value it.  However, El corrected me making sure I understood that her mom and dad wanted it to be mine.  Oh my….  My task now is renewing this treasured Swan Neck Meerschaum, a gift from treasured friends.  Realization that it was intended as a gift for me immediately resulted in doing a smiling selfie with El and Swan Neck Meerschaum on display and sending it to Svetly and CC with many thanks!

When the pipe finally arrived on my table, I took a closer look at it as well as the original case.  The hand-crafted original case is itself an amazing artifact.  My understanding from many trips to Istanbul, Turkey, talking to vendors in Meerschaum shops at the Grand Bazaar, is that each Meerschaum pipe has its own unique case fashioned for it.  Why?  Generally, each pipe is unique because of it being hand carved.  The surface of the case is leather fitted over a wood shell.  The sides of the case are worn, thin and bare. The case clasping lock and hinges appear to be brass.  The clasping lock is attached to the wooden frame with amazingly tiny nails, not screws.  It is apparent that the case is old and has held up well though showing its age.After flipping the case over, I look more closely at the spring action clip that locks the case.  When the case is closed, the short bar of metal is pushed back as it navigates the interlock bracket below and then snaps in place to close holding the case together.On the backside of the case, the hinges are also held in place with the minuscule nails.The lining inside is worn but holds its beauty.  The red crushed velvet lining, according to my wife, is fashioned to line the internal surface to protect and cushion the Meerschaum inside.  You can tell by the picture below that the side that is up-side-down is the side that holds the pipe when the case is opened.  Its velvet still has some color and is thicker where the pipe lays than the other side. After examining the case, my curiosity was piqued and I searched the internet for something that might give me more understanding of Meer cases.  I found this exceptionally helpful link dated January 18, 2015, in a PipesMagazine.com discussion thread asking the question, ‘Where do you get Meerschaum pipe cases made?’  My understanding of case making was altered after reading this! ‘Woodsroad’ posted this:

The old cases appear to be carved from a block of wood, carefully upholstered in leather. It would seem that there are more than a few trade secrets and special skills involved to get the fit and finish as nice as they did. Some of those old cases are works of art in and of themselves, with beautifully fitted interiors and expertly covered in leather. Follow this link [no longer works] to a transcription of an interview done in 1977 with the widow of a Boston meer carver. It seems, at the time, that carvers bought the case then carved the pipe to fit!  The following excerpt begins on page 6.

Q: So the cases were made before the pipes were… before the stems were put on?

A: Oh, yes. If he wanted a case to fit the pipe, he’d have to have the case down first and have the stem made like that. That’s quite the trade. In most cases, all blocks of wood, they are all solid wood. That’s all cut by hand. There used to be case makers, you can’t get a case maker today. There’s nobody around who makes cases anymore. If they did make them, why they’d charge so much it would be impossible to use them on a pipe.

Q: Who were some of the people who used to make the cases? Do you remember any of the names?

A: Yeah, but they’re all dead now. They were from down New York there. There was a Mr. Beck that I used to know, and he is dead now and his family is all dead now. I used to chum around with his daughters.

Q: Were there several pipe carvers and they all knew each other, or …?

A: Oh, yeah, there used to be a lot of them around… not pipe carvers, I would say, but… like one would make the case, one would cover the cases, one would put the lining in, one would cover them with the leather on the outside, you know. That was all… sort of a family affair, I guess. They used to live here in Jamaica Plain. A whole lot of them lived around handy so they would see one another and they would go down to the pub and have a glass of beer or something.

So, the pipe is made to fit the case, not the other way around as I’ve understood!  If this Meerschaum pipe could talk AND if this Meer case could talk, what a story they would tell!  I cannot say with certainty, but the case seems old enough with its characteristic to be from the early 1900s – only a guess based upon a feel!

With the case fully appreciated, I take some pictures looking more closely at the Swan Neck Meerschaum.  If it is true that the cases are made first and then the pipe follows, the carver of this Meerschaum probably did a double take when he saw the case’s long flowing channel carved out for the shank and stem!  When I first laid my eyes on this pipe, adjectives that came to mind trying to describe the feel of the pipe were, ‘majestic’ or ‘stately’ or ‘elegant’ or ‘graceful’.  The pipe is not diminutive.  The length is 6 1/4 inches, the Egg shaped bowl height: 2 ¼ inches, rim width: 1 1/4 inches, chamber width: 7/8 inches and the chamber depth is an ample 1 7/8 inches promising a bowl packed with my favorite blend with a lot of time to reflect about life, faith, family and friends!The patina has developed over the entire stummel with a warm honey or butterscotch yellow.  The surface has interesting dark spots that don’t appear to be normal patina but a different kind of spotting – I’m not sure.  As I look at the surface, I also see something I don’t normally see on Meerschaums.  The pictures above and below show the reflection of the light on the bowl surface.  There appears to be a varnish-like coating covering the Meerschaum surface.  I’ll need to check this out. The rim has a heavy cake of lava flow covering it and the chamber is also showing a moderately thick cake.  I’ll clean the carbon cake to liberate the Meerschaum underneath.  Meerschaum pipes need no cake protection as do briar pipes.  This is one of the reasons Meerschaum pipes are unique – one can put them into service repeatedly without resting the pipe.  Lock, load, and go again!The stem is the traditional ‘yellow’ of Meerschaum pipes.  The Orific button possibly helps with the dating of the pipe.  Orific buttons, or ‘rounded’ are dated from the late 1800s to when they generally phased out in the 1920s when they were replaced predominantly by straight slotted buttons.The norm also during this period was that the tenons or connectors of the stummel and stem were made of bone, not acrylic or plastics.  I unscrew the stem and examine the threaded connector.  I see that the threaded part of the connector screwed into the mortise is thread tightened.  After unscrewing the connector from the mortise I take a picture of the connector and the thread used to help tighten the fitting.  From initial appearance, my thought was that it is plastic or a hard rubber, but the texture is rougher.  I’ll clean it and see what I can determine! When texting with CC about the value of this vintage pipe, the obvious question came up regarding the material out of which the stem was made?  On the fly as we were discussing this, we came to the consensus that the stem was probably made of Bakelite but we weren’t sure. Bakelite (fenolic resin) is a plastic compound that was called ‘compressed amber’ by the Ottomans produced between 1907 and 1928 (See LINK). I need to seek more information about confirming the composition of the stem.  Looking at the condition of the stem, both the upper and lower bit show some significant tooth compressions around the button.  These will need to be addressed.  There is also an interesting chip on the lower side of the stem facing.  This chip causes me to question our original thought that this stem is made of Bakelite – I’m not sure, but does Bakelite chip like this? With the question of the composition of the stem in the fore, a simple search on the internet comes up with several sources of information of tests that help determine the composition. Most of these sites are concerned about those who collect jewelry.  Both amber and Bakelite are among today’s valuable collectibles.  Of course, genuine amber is of more value and articles are full of warnings about vendors passing off an amber look-alike as the genuine item.  As a result simpler ‘field’ tests have been devised that help one to determine with greater certainty what the composition of a piece of jewelry is when one is at an antique store or an outdoor flea market!  Two sites I found especially helpful that helped me to determine that this stem is indeed amber and not Bakelite.  Two sites I found especially helpful and both were catering more toward the jewelry crowd, not the pipe stem crowd (See: Jewelry Magazine and ‘How to Detect Fake Amber?’ at Nammu.com)!

To give an abbreviated version of my discovery process, I first tried the smell test which in one article I read, is a way to determine if the material is indeed Bakelite, which in today’s collectables market is a valuable commodity.  The test is rubbing a portion of the material with one’s thumb until the heat buildup caused by the friction, causes a chemical (formaldehyde) odor that one can smell by putting the nose next to the hot spot on the material tested.  There was definitely an odor emitted by the Swan Neck’s stem when I rubbed my thumb sufficiently to generate the telltale odor.  Conclusion – so this is probably Bakelite.

The next test I tried was a ‘make-shift’ semichrome test (see table on left from Jewelry Magazine).  I used the silver polish that we have on hand which was the closest thing we have on hand.  With a degree of uncertainty as to whether the liquid I was using would do the trick, I put some silver polish on a cotton pad and rubbed a small portion on the underside next to the stem facing – not wanting to try this test in a more visible place.  If the material is Bakelite, yellow should come off on the cotton pad as some of the resin is drawn from the surface.  My results were negative – no yellow hue was showing up on the cotton pad.  Conclusion, maybe, not Bakelite – the test was a bit unreliable.

Another subjective test I read was that Bakelite and other synthetics tend to have more uniformity than natural amber. What is amber?  From the same Jewelry Magazine article:

Baltic Amber is a fossilized form of resin that was secreted by trees of tropical and semi tropical forests.  Baltic Amber is mostly formed by the resin of coniferous trees, as well as by the resin of tropical trees.  There are a lot of counterfeits of amber that are sold as genuine ambers.  These counterfeits can be: compressed amber, Bakelite, katilin, recolored ones, copal and plastic. 

So the idea is that since amber results from natural processes, that there will be imperfections visible, bubbles, lack of uniformity of color.  Hmm.  Definitely no uniformity in the Swan Neck stem. At this point, my thinking has switched to confirming the possibility that it is indeed amber.  The nugget that convinced me that the stem was amber was discovered as I read more about testing FOR amber.  I discovered that the heat test with the thumb ALSO produces an odor when done on genuine amber, but of a very specific odor – a pine scent.  With my first hat testing try, I was simply trying to dial in an odor, period.  I repeated the test and the scent of this stem is definitely pine not chemical formaldehyde!

I did one more test for confirmation of amber.  The floating test is done with dissolving 8 to 10 teaspoons of salt in a glass of water and to see if the item floats.  The article described the chemical composition of amber and the resin, etc., that makes it float and fakes sink.  The results are revealed in the picture below!After the stem floated, I immediately texted CC with the news of the amber stem’s confirmation and offered to give the pipe back to her.  Since she was working in the garden of her and Svetly’s new home in the village, she sent an audible message in reply, laughing and saying that giving the pipe to me now was only sweeter!  Stem mystery solved.

To begin the reclamation of the graceful Swan Neck Meerschaum with an amber stem (!) I begin the general cleaning of the pipe.  I start with the stem, using pipe cleaners for the airway and cotton buds for the mortise cavity.  The threaded mortise cavity is full of old dark grime.  I use the buds and isopropyl 95% to work on the grime.  I also use the small dental spoon to reach in to the cavity to scrape the dark grunge wedged in the transition from the mortise and airway.  It took some time, but using a sharp dental probe, I run the point methodically through the threads of the mortise to dislodge the old buildup.  After some time of cleaning, The internals of the amber stem were looking good. Next, I look at the threaded connector that I unscrewed from the mortise to clean.  I unwind the thread which has acted as an expander to hold the smaller connector in place.  I clean the connector with isopropyl 95% to clear the threads and airway of grime.  It seems evident that this connector is not original.  It feels plastic and it doesn’t fit the threads of the mortise diameter and hence, the thread to expand its diameter to grab the thread channels of the mortise.  The connector is the same size as the stem.Well, it all was going so well until it wasn’t.  Disaster.  It has taken me some time to come back to this project because of what happened next.  I was considering how I might provide a better connection between the stem and stummel and I was testing the fit of a push/pull acrylic tenon’s size with the amber stem and the amber broke….  There is no way to describe the shock followed by the deep sense of unbelief and then self-incrimination of asking myself, why I did what I did to cause the break?  I had to walk away from from this project – I couldn’t look at the pieces.  Gradually, this micro tragedy found its way into the broader context of life’s larger problems and tragedies and perspective slowly regains a footing.  I was then able to return to the ‘scene of the crime’ and take these pictures and continue from here. Putting the pieces together again to view the aftermath and to assess the damage and response, produced some moderate hope.  The break can be mended with CA glue and it should blend well.  There is a gap on the button-side of the break where there was shatter impact which will fill with clear CA glue.   The break lines can be mitigated and blended with sanding but probably will remain visible.  The challenge is applying CA glue to weld the pieces together and not fowl the threads in the mortise with glue. I use extra thick CA glue to attach the main piece. I follow with regular CA glue to fill the shatter point gap.  After applying the glue and reattaching the pieces, I set the stem aside for the glue to cure thoroughly.Next, moving on to the Meerschaum Swan Neck stummel, the chamber needs cleaning of the cake buildup which is not needed with Meers.  I use the Savinelli Fitsall tool to scrape the cake from the chamber walls and then follow with sanding the chamber.  I wrap 240 paper around the Sharpie Pen and sand the chamber to clear the carbon buildup.  My aim is to restore the smooth, fresh Meerschaum surface.The chamber looks good.  Moving on!The rim is caked with lava flow and grime. To break up the crusted buildup, I give the stummel a soft topping using medium and light grade sanding sponges.  The purpose is not to remove Meerschaum but simply to clean the rim.The sanding sponges did a great job.  There continues to be some dark spots on the aft part of the rim, but this does not concern me.Next to clean the external surface, undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap works well.  Using a cotton pad, I scrub the external Meer surface.  The soap will not remove patina. This is a unique surface for a Meerschaum.  It’s not like anything I’ve seen before. Next, the internals are cleaned with cotton buds and pipe cleaners wetted with isopropyl 95%. It does not take much effort.Looking now at the rim.  It has cleaned up well with the sanding sponge topping.  To clean it more, I use a piece of 240 piece of sanding paper to remove the black ring around the internal edge of the rim.  Next, the Meerschaum stummel is dry sanded with the full regimen of micromesh pads – 1500 to 12000.  The sanding cleans the surface of the Meerschaum and it shines up wonderfully through the process. I believe that the block of Meer is unique.  The strange coloration in the Meerschaum are not spots and blemishes, but the color of the Meerschaum itself.  The micromesh brings this out very distinctively. I put the stummel aside and turn back to the stem.  The amber break repair has cured well enough now for me to work on the other issues of the amber stem.  The upper and lower bit and button have bite compressions that need addressing.Using regular CA glue, I fill the compressions and use an accelerator to hold the glue in place.  I fill compressions on both the upper and lower bit area as well as on the button.Earlier I had identified a chip on the stem facing that I also fill with regular CA glue and use an accelerator to hold the glue in place and to quicken the curing process.The amber break repair is ready to be sanded.  I’m anxious to see how the break repair will look.  I’m hopeful that the sanding will hide the fact that it happened!  Using 240 sanding paper I sand to remove the excess dried CA glue on the surface.  I also sand the chip fill on the edge which essentially becomes invisible.  I’m pleased with how the repair is shaping up. Next, I go to work on the bit and button.  I start by using a flat needle file to shape the button lip and to file down the patch on both the upper and lower bit.  I follow this by sanding the bit with 240 sanding paper. The stem is looking great.  Next I wet sand the entire stem with 600 grade paper followed by applying 000 steel wool.Next, the full regimen of micromesh pads are applied starting with wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400.  This is followed with dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  Between each set of 3 pads, Obsidian Oil is lightly applied to the stem.  I’m very pleased with the repairs on the stem.  They are all essentially invisible, including the break! Next, to protect and further shine the Swan Neck Meeschaum bowl, I apply beeswax.  With the wax in the mason jar, I warm it with the hot air gun.  As it warms it liquefies.  I then use a horse hair paint brush to paint the beeswax onto the stummel. I position the hot air gun so that it continues to warm the wax as it’s applied to the stummel.  It is easier this way to spread a thin layer over the stummel.  After applying the beeswax thoroughly over the stummel, I put it aside to allow it to cool. When the Meerschaum stummel has cooled, I use a microfiber cloth to wipe off the excess wax and to buff the stummel.  Now in the homestretch.  In light of the amber breakage caused by trying to fit the stem with a new screw in tenon, I’m going with the ‘Olde World’ approach to keep the threaded connector and rewind the thread and screw it into the mortise.  It works well!  I then attach a cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel, set at the slowest speed and gently apply Blue Diamond compound to the amber stem.  After completing this, a felt cloth is used to wipe off the compound dust and another cotton cloth wheel is mounted and carnauba wax is applied to the amber stem alone.  Following this, a microfiber cloth is used to give the pipe a hand buffing to raise the shine.  I do not forget the vintage case.  I brush the interior with a bristled brush and apply a leather conditioner to the exterior.

I love this Swan Neck Meerschaum and the amber stem is the proverbial frosting on the cake.  The stem (and I) survived the tragic break but it is invisible now.  This gift will always be treasured by me not just for the graceful beauty of the pipe itself and for its probable century old vintage, but because of the hearts and hands that gave it.  Thank you Svetly and CC!  You are treasured friends.

Trying out my new friend on my 10Th floor Man Cave balcony with a bowl amply filled with Lane BCA, a great blend for conditioning Meerschaum!

A Beautiful Lattice Meerschaum Lay Underneath the Thick Cake and Lava


Blog by Steve Laug

Jeff picked up this Calabash Lattice Meerschaum with an acrylic stem from somewhere on his travels. It came in a black vinyl covered case lined with Satin in the cover and white fur in the lower portion of the case. The case appeared to have had a sticker on the cover that was long gone. There were no identifying marks in the case or on the pipe itself. It has a brass clasp on the front and brass hinges on the back. It was obviously custom made for this pipe.Jeff opened the case and this was the meerschaum pipe that was inside. It was a nice looking lattice carved calabash bowl that had begun to take on some nice colour. The base and shank were almost amber coloured. The exterior of the bowl was very dirty and had tars and oils ground into the finish. Looking at the top of the bowl you can see how much lava had overflowed onto the rim top. It had filled in most of the fine carvings in the top of the rim around the inner edges of the bowl. I am sure once it was out of the case it would become clear how dirty it really was.Jeff took it out of the case to have a better look at the condition of the pipe. It was a beautifully shaped calabash with lots of promise. It looked like it would cleanup really well and look great when finished. The meerschaum was developing some really nice colour around the lower part of the bowl and shank. Jeff took a close-up photo of the bowl and rim top. There was a very thick cake in the bowl that was hard and uneven.  There was thick overflowing lava coming up from the cake over the rim top and filling in the tiny spot and carving on the rim.Jeff took photos of the sides and heel of the bowl to show the carving and colour around the bowl. Jeff took the stem off the shank and took a photo. It appears to be a threaded tenon that screwed into the shank. The first sign of another possibility for me was the thin lip around the end of the tenon. I would know more about that once I had it in hand. The shank end and the tenon were filthy with oils and tars. The internals of the pipe were in as bad a condition as the inside of the bowl and airway.Jeff took photos of the stem to show the general condition of the stem shape. The curve is graceful and the curve great. The photo shows the profile of the stem. He took photos of the top and underside of the stem to show the damage and bite marks on both sides near the button and on the surface of the button itself. It almost looked like it had been wrapped in tape. Having seen the before pictures on this pipe I did not know what to expect when I unpacked the most recent box Jeff sent to me. The pipe was present in the box and I took it out of the box with a bit of fear and trepidation at the amount of work that would await me when I removed it from the case. I put the case on my desk and opened it to see what was there. I opened the case and took a photo of the pipe inside.I was astonished to see how clean the pipe was. The bowl nicely coloured – Jeff had lost none of the patina in clean-up process. Now it was time to take it out of the case and have a look at it up close and personal.Jeff had done an incredible job in cleaning up this meerschaum. He had carefully reamed the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife, scraping away the thick cake on the walls of the bowl. He also scraped the thick lava on the rim top. He scrubbed the exterior of the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove the grime on the bowl and rim. He cleaned out the interior of the bowl and shank with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol until they came out clean. The rim top looked incredible when you compare it with where it started. There is some slight darkening on the inside edge of the bowl and a dark spot on the back topside. He cleaned the stem with Soft Scrub to remove the grime on the exterior and cleaned out the airway with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. To show how clean the rim top and stem really was I took a close-up photo of the rim. The bowl was clean and cake free. The rim top is quite clean and the inner edge of the bowl has all of the lava removed. The stem looks better with the tape removed. The stem looks very good. There are a few deep tooth marks in the surface and the button edge is thin and blackened.I unscrewed the stem from the bowl and took photos of the parts. The tenon appeared to be threaded but I was not sure of that. I would need to do a bit more work on it to be sure.I examined the tenon and decided to unscrew it from the stem. I locked a pair of pliers on the tenon and twisted it to unscrew it. As I did this the friction was not like threads, rather it was like a friction fit. Then it dawned on me what I was dealing with. The threaded portion was the female part of the push tenon that was normally anchored in the shank of the pipe. I pulled it free of the push tenon itself and took a photo of the parts. I breathed a sigh of relief as this was by far an easier repair to make. I would clean up the female portion and anchor it in the shank them clean up the push tenon and that part of the repair would be finished.I set the parts of the stem and push tenon assembly aside and turned my attention to the bowl itself. I cleaned up the inner edge of the bowl with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper.I polished the rim top with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads to remove the blackened spots on the rim top and clean up the top. I wiped it down with a damp cloth to remove the sanding dust. The top looked considerably better. With the rim top cleaned up I turned my attention to the shank and the stem. Once I had removed threaded insert from the stem it opened up an area underneath that was filled with a lot of tars and oils. I cleaned out that area with pipe cleaners, swabs and alcohol. I cleaned up the inside of the shank and the mortise insert at the same time. I was able to get all of the grime removed. I then turned to the stem where there were also some tars and oils still in the airway and in the slot so I cleaned them as well.With everything cleaned it was time to reconstruct the push tenon system. I coated the threads on the mortise insert with all-purpose white glue and threaded the insert into the mortise. I wiped off the excess glue that came out as the insert seated in the shank. I set the bowl aside to let the glue cure and turned my attention to the stem. I started by using a topping board to remove the thin darkened edge of the button. It was quite thick to start with so I knew that to remove a little would not do damage but actually would make the stem stronger.I used a clear CA (Krazy) glue to fill in the deep tooth marks on both the top and underside of the stem as well as to build up the surface of the button to thicken it and smooth out the tooth damage.I reshaped the button surface and smoothed out the repairs with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. I started the polishing with a folded piece of 400 grit wet dry sandpaper.I rubbed the stem down with Denicare Mouthpiece Polish. It is a gritty, red paste with the consistency of red Tripoli. I find that it works well to polish out scratches and light marks in the surface of the stem. I polished it off with a cotton pad to raise the shine.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 a cloth containing some Obsidian Oil. I finished polishing it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine and buffed it off with a cotton cloth. I gave it a coat of Briarville’s No Oxy Oil to preserve and protect it. I put the bowl and stem back together again and buffed it with a microfiber cloth to raise the shine on the meerschaum and the acrylic stem. The buffing also removes minute scratches in the two materials and adds depth to the shine. I gave the stem several coats of carnauba wax and the bowl multiple coats of Clapham’s Beeswax Polish. The Beeswax Polish is a soft wax that I can apply with a soft cotton pad and buff with a microfiber cloth. The pipe was alive now and looked great to me. It has a great feel in the hand that is very tactile and the patina should develop more deeply as the pipe is smoked. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 ¾ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 2 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. This Lattice Meerschaum Calabash is a beauty that has great patina already. It should only deepen with time. It should make someone a great pipe. It is one that will be on the rebornpipes store very soon. If you are interested let me know. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it.

Redeeming an English Made Flumed Meerschaum Author


Blog by Steve Laug

Over the past two weeks I was traveling in Alberta with my brother Jeff and his wife, Sherry. In between work appointments and presentations we took some time to visit local antique shops and malls. We found quite a few pipes. In a small Antique Shop in Lethbridge we found a few interesting pipes. The first of the ones that I am working from that find is an oval shank meerschaum Author. It has a flumed top and some colouring happening around the bowl and the shank. The saddle stem has a ribbon shaped/bookmark stamped logo on the top of the saddle. The pipe was dirty and caked when we picked it up. The rim top had a little lava and some small scratches in the edges of the bowl. The bowl had a thin cake in it that was hard and dense. The exterior of the bowl and shank are very dirty with grime and oils from prolonged use. The stamping on the underside of the shank below the shank/stem junction was faint but readable and read Genuine Block Meerschaum with an arched Gt. Britain at the stem shank joint. The vulcanite stem was had tooth chatter on the top and the underside of the stem. There were tooth marks on both sides and on the button. I took photos of the pipe before I started the cleanup. I took close up photos of the bowl and rim to capture the condition of the pipe before I started my cleanup work. The rim top had some lava and a few nicks on the inner edge. Other than being so dirty it appeared to be in great condition. The stem was dirty and there was tooth chatter on the top and underside near the button and on the button surface itself. The stem was lightly oxidized.I took a photo to capture the stamping on the underside of the shank near the stem/shank joint. The photo shows the stamping Genuine Block over Meerschaum. Next to that there was an arched stamp that read GT BRITAIN. There was a small nick in the underside of the meerschaum next to the vulcanite stem.While we were traveling I decided to do a bit of work on some of the pipes that we had found. I scraped the inside of the bowl with a sharp knife. I scraped the tars and lava off the top of the rim with the same knife. I took the stem off and you can see the metal tenon set in the shank of the pipe. It is anchored firmly and the stem pressure fit over the top of the tenon.I scrubbed the exterior of the bowl with warm water and some Dawn Dish Soap to remove the buildup of grime around the bowl and on the rim top. I rinsed it well and wiped the bowl down with a clean paper towel to polish the finish on the bowl. I decided to follow up on my initial cleaning of the bowl and shank. I reamed the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall pipe knife to remove the remnants of the cake in the bowl. I sanded the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper wrapped around a piece of dowel to smooth out the inside walls of the bowl.I scrubbed out the mortise and the airway in the shank, the metal mortise and the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners.I polished the meerschaum with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding the bowl walls and rim top with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down after each sanding pad with a damp cloth to wipe of the dust. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the meerschaum with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while 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 sanded out the tooth chatter with 220 grit sand paper and started to polish it with a folded piece of 400 wet dry sandpaper. Once it was finished it began to shine.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped it down after each sanding pad with a damp cloth. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine and buffed it off with a cotton cloth. This is a beautiful Flumed top Block Meerschaum Oval Shank Author with a black saddle vulcanite stem. It has a great look and feel. The shape is very tactile and is a beauty. I polished stem and the bowl with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. The meerschaum had already begun to take on a patina and it came alive with the buffing. The rich mottled browns of the meerschaum colour works well with the polished vulcanite stem. The finished pipe has a rich look that is quite catching. Have a look at it with the photos below. The shape, finish and flow of the pipe and stem are very well done. The dimensions are Length: 5 ¼ inches, Height: 1 ½ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ½ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. I will be adding the pipe to the rebornpipes store shortly. If you are interested in adding this block meerschaum, English made Author to your collection let me know. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over the first of the finds of Jeff and my Alberta pipe hunt.

…And Steve and Jeff Laug bid adios with this restoration: a Block Meerschaum # 22!!!


Blog by Paresh Deshpande

From the heading of this post, it is but natural to infer that this would be the last pipe that Abha, Steve, Jeff and I selected to work on before we bid our farewells, but the on-ground fact is this was selected and work commenced on this pipe after we had completed the restoration of an 1846 made BBB with Amber stem from my inheritance. Here is the link to the write up which was penned by Dal Stanton –

https://rebornpipes.com/2019/05/30/west-meets-east-in-india-to-restore-a-grandsons-treasure-an-1846-bbb/

When your life partner supports you in your hobby of restoring pipes and even helps you by doing the dirty work of initial cleaning of an estate pipe, you should be thankful to her and God for the match. And if you don’t want to rock this boat, always acquiesce with their likes and suggestion…I am a wise man too!!

Well, the above musings is the rationale for our owning this pipe in the first place. Abha, my wife, saw this pipe on eBay as I was surfing and she made a passing comment of liking the shape and look of this pipe. Her passing comment was akin to a decision and lucky for me, my bid won. I paid single digit USD for the pipe and a whopping cost of shipping when the pipe reached me about 6 months ago. When Steve and Jeff reached us on a visit, along with other gifts and pipes, Jeff had brought along “Before and After Stem deoxidizer” which I had Mark Hoover ship to Jeff in Idaho, USA to save on the costs of shipping. During one of our discussions, the efficacy of this solution in removing very heavy oxidation from the stem without resorting to any further invasive procedure cropped up. It was then decided to select one of the most heavily oxidized stem from my collection and subject the deoxidizing solution to stringent test. This is, thus, how the Meer came to the fore for restoration and the fact that it was Abha’s choice of pipe, made her happy.

This well made pipe has a beautiful Oom Paul shape with shallow non geometrical concave panels all around. The rim top shows large and evenly serrated surface. The rim top surface appears to have been painted black which has worn out over time.  The bottom of the shank is stamped as “GENUINE BLOCK” over “MEERSCHAUM” with #22 on the left, probably the shape code. The underside of the screw-in vulcanite stem surface bears a very faint stamp of “MADE IN TAN…….IA”, could be and logically most likely is, Tanzania!!The lack of any distinguishing maker’s stamps on the bowl makes it impossible to date and comment upon this pipe. The stamping on the stem points to this pipe as being made in Tanzania, probably by Amboseli? All that I can say is that this a beautiful, well made pipe that feels nice in the hand.

INITIAL VISUAL INSPECTION
This is virtually an un-smoked pipe with no cake in the chamber. However there are a few scratches on the walls of the chamber. The serrated rim top surface and the rim edges are in pristine condition. The darkened rim top surface points it to have been painted black to provide a contrast with the white of the meerschaum and which over a period of time has been rubbed off. The draught hole is perfectly at the bottom center and should be a great smoker.The stummel surface is covered with minor scratches and one odd very minor chip commensurate with uncared storage and age (??). The stummel has yellowed at some places and appears lifeless being covered in dust and dirt. These issues should not pose any trouble while being addressed. The shank end is clean and air flow is full and smooth. Running a few pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl alcohol should freshen up the shank internals. The main protagonist of the entire exercise is this heavily oxidized stem!! To be very honest, I have not seen a more heavily oxidized stem since the time I was introduced to the art of pipe restoration. Even the gentleman who coaxed/ cajoled me in to this wonderful world, Mr. Steve, was unanimous in his comment of this being one of the many most heavily oxidized stems that he has come across….. And he has seen many!!! The threaded metal tenon is clean and shining almost like new. The air flow through the stem is open and full. Again, one odd pipe cleaner through the stem air way should clean out any traces of dust and dirt that could have lodged itself in the stem.THE PROCESS
Since the aim of selecting this pipe for restoration was to check the efficacy of the “Before and After Deoxidizer” solution, this was also the start point. Jeff ran a couple of pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl alcohol through the stem just to make sure that the air way is clean and open. Thereafter, he immersed this stem in to the deoxidizer solution and let it sit for 6 hours.While the stem was soaking in the deoxidizer solution, Pavni, my younger daughter who loves and specializes in working the chamber walls to a smooth surface, worked on the chamber walls with a folded piece of a 220 grit sand paper to a smooth and an even surface.Once Pavni was through with her work, Jeff took over further cleaning of the stummel. He began by cleaning the stummel and rim top surface with Murphy’s Oil soap on a cotton swab to remove the dust and remnants of the black coloration from the serrated rim top. He followed it up by further cleaning the stummel with a dish washer paste on his finger tip till all the accumulated dirt and dust was removed and thoroughly rinsed it under running tap water. Jeff also cleaned the internals of the shank with q tips and pipe cleaner dipped in isopropyl alcohol. I took over from where Jeff had left and began polishing the stummel with micromesh pads, dry sanding the entire stummel with 1500 to 12000 grit pads. The stummel now has a nice smooth and shiny surface. I wiped the stummel and each pad with a soft slightly moist cloth to remove the meerschaum dust from the surface. Once I was done with the micromesh pads, Steve decided to blacken the rim top surface using a permanent black marker. Since the burning tobacco would not be in contact with the rim surface, this should have no harmful effect while the pipe is being smoked. This darkening of the rim top surface transformed the complete appearance of this Oom Paul as can be seen in the last picture.  All the while, the stem was soaking in the deoxidizer solution. At the end of this stage, we got the stem out of the solution only to find that there was not much effect on the oxidation (as can be seen from the picture below) and it was then unanimously decided to let the stem soak overnight. That decided we sat down peacefully for our Single Malt Scotch, pipe smoking and discussing pipes, tobaccos and other things in general. The best part of such times was that Dal, Steve and Jeff ensured that everyone was part of the conversation by discussing and talking on topics wherein my daughters could also participate. My daughters adore these gentlemen!!The next dawn came with the excitement of seeing the result of the fight between the deoxidizer and the stubborn stem oxidation. After a hearty breakfast, we flocked around Jeff, our undisputed expert on cleaning and in use of this solution. Jeff removed the stem from the solution, washed it under running water, blew through the stem to remove any solution that had entered in the stem air way and rigorously cleaned it with a microfiber cloth. We all closely observed the result. Though at this stage, the stem did appear black, but the oxidation was still very much visible.Dal suggested cleaning the stem surface with Murphy’s Oil soap to see if that made any difference. We tried it without much success, though there was some improvement. Next Steve suggested to rub a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration” balm in to the stem surface. Although the stem was now completely black in appearance, we knew that underneath the blackness still lurks the ugly oxidation. We tried cleaning it with isopropyl alcohol and Fine and Extra fine stem polish (both products developed by Mark Hoover). All that has happened is that this residual oxidation was just masked. We kept wondering what is it that Mark does to the stem that they come out shining like they do just after a soak in this solution.When all other ideas and permutations/ combinations failed, I suggested the good old method of using sand paper to remove the oxidation, which incidentally was also the last resort!! This task fell on to the participant who had suggested it in the first place. So there I was, again in my familiar territory of sanding the stem with a 220 grit sand paper and following it up with 400, 600 and 800 grit papers. I followed it up with polishing the stem, going through the micromesh cycle of wet sanding with 1500 to 12000 grit pads. I rubbed a small quantity of Extra Virgin Olive oil in to the stem and set it aside for it to be absorbed by the vulcanite. To finish the pipe, Steve generously rubbed some natural Bee’s Wax in to the stummel surface and set it aside to coat the stummel surface. The prevalent heat here ensured that the wax remained melted and absorbed in the meerschaum! I mounted a clean cotton buffing wheel on to my hand held rotary tool and gave it a nice buffing. I polished the stem, applying carnauba wax with the rotary tool. The pipe, after marrying the stem and stummel looks amazing, to say the least. Have a look at it in the pictures below. The smile on Abha’s face and in her eyes made it well worth the effort and beyond. I wish to make it amply clear here that these conclusions are not laboratory results or a result of sterile and accurate experimentation processes under ideal conditions. This was just a fun filled attempt at attaining the level of finish which our friend Mr. Mark Hoover achieves by just a soak in to this solution. To summarize the findings, we all narrowed down to these followings facts: –

(a) Slight to slightly heavy stem oxidation is very effectively addressed by soaking in the solution of “Before and After Deoxidizing” solution followed by rigorous wipe with a microfiber cloth.

(b) Very heavy/ severely oxidized stem, similar to the one on this pipe, we could not completely remove the oxidation from the stem surface without resorting to invasive processes like sanding with grit papers etc. The oxidation was only masked, but not removed. However, the oxidation had loosened greatly and made further progress easy and rapid. This does save considerable time. It can be inferred that the heavily oxidized stem may be soaked twice for better results.

The outcome of all this is that this is an amazing product and will ease your work on stem. This could form a part of your “MUST HAVE” list while embarking on the journey in to world of pipe restoration.

 

Reflections on Turkish Block Acquisition


Blog by Fred Bass

The following was an article that Fred Bass sent me to hold in my files for him. The idea was that he was going to use it some time in the near future for a book he was working on Meerschaum pipes. Sadly that book was not completed to my understanding. It is an interesting short article that also became the base of a discussion on Smoker’s Forum All thing meerschaum group. RIP Fred, you are missed. Give the article a read!

February 1, 2009

This is about general considerations that have served me in decisions about purchases. It’s not an exhaustive guide, but more a line of thought brought by Buyer’s experience in the Meerschaum trades. I buy Pipes to smoke, so I don’t buy antiques.

I’ll start with new Turkish Block Pipes. Going from the starting point of looking at the works of favored Carvers, I’ll look at Pipes until one calls me. The best Carvers use the best block, which is the most important point of judging a Pipe’s quality. High grade Turkish Meerschaum is light in weight, is very porous, has no inclusions or deficits and has a pearl like translucent quality. It does not look like chalk. High grade Block will provide a cool and dry smoke, in addition to coloring well. Lesser grades will produce smoking experiences of less quality…, which is not to say that this is bad since a cheapie Meer will provide a better smoke than many other materials.

You are more likely to encounter Pressed Meerschaum (a composite of Meerschaum chips & epoxy) with No Name Meers and products of disreputable Carvers & Name Brands. High Grade Carver specific Pipes cost more, but you will have a Pipe that the Carver will take care of, should anything go wrong. This is an important consideration since Meerschaum is a product of nature and can possess flaws that become noticed only after the Pipe is smoked. These are Pipes that mean less to the Carver than the importance of his reputation, so you get a Pipe that is the best the Carver can produce. Bad news travels fast and reputation is everything in this cottage industry.

Other considerations, such as size, artistic merit and how well the Pipe fits into your world are worth consideration. The established Carvers will want premium price for their work, but there is never a question of quality. It’s a good idea to confirm that the picture you see is that of the Pipe that you want and whether a Case exists or is yet to be made. If the Pipe & Case are yet to be made, then determine how long it will take to be shipped to you. These same issues are best understood by both Buyer & Seller on commissioned Pipes as well. You can establish the quality of the Block and the color & material of the bit prior to payment.

When I’m evaluating a Pipe from an upcoming Carver, an estate Pipe or from a Retailer that I’ve not dealt with before, I first try to establish dialogue. No dialogue, no deal. If the estate Pipe Seller has little knowledge about his/her Pipe, I’ll still try and get information on the Pipe’s condition, type of connector joint and dimensions. The estate Seller should discuss the Pipe in the pre-sale encounter or I don’t bid. Sometimes, I discover that the Seller doesn’t know that the Pipe is a fraud, which is frequently the case with ‘Andreas Bauer’ and ‘Paul Fischer’ Pipes, in my experience. If you watch the Meerschaum markets, you will find promising Carvers who have yet to become well known. These Carvers will discuss their art with you and the prices can be very reasonable, as many will have just severed ties with Retailers and have started selling direct to Buyers. If there is something that you don’t see, then ask questions. Since I buy Meerschaums from the internet,

I ask a lot of questions. If the photos are poor quality and/or the Seller’s not answering your questions, then don’t put the coin down. I’ve touched on some of the major considerations involved in my own experiences, which are not offered as expert information. Instead, I’ve started this dialogue for all to share and participate in. I know little about the Antique market and just a bit about the African Block Pipes.

Another aspect of purchasing new Meerschaum Pipes, where some real bargains can be found, is the upcoming source of new Carvers. These are artisans that have been selling to Retailers and have established a degree of excellence, that promises to continue improving with time. At some point, they decide to break out on their own and start selling direct. They are trying to create a name for themselves and will use top quality Block as they attempt to establish a reputation with their art. The Pipes that are posted for sale will be the best effort that the Carver can produce and the prices will be lower, as there is no middleman to pay. Customer satisfaction will be the primary concern for these Carvers as they attempt to increase their market. This is a good time to get in on the action, since in time, as their work becomes more widely acknowledged for it’s superior quality, the prices will increase. This market is apparent to those who follow the Meerschaum trades. For the inexperienced, it is best to seek direction from more seasoned Pipesters and those that have access to the current markets. If you know what to look for, you can find some outstanding quality Pipes that appeal to your individual tastes, at very reasonable prices.

The Estate Meerschaum market is related to this in many ways, but there are differences. The first consideration that should be taken into account is the Pipe’s condition, and how much $$ it will cost to bring it into a smokable condition. This is not about Antiques, as they are more for Collectors than they are for those who buy Pipes to smoke. You should consider the cost of repair as the hidden total cost of the Pipe. If repairs have already been done on the Pipe, are they professional quality (?) and are they effective (?) are questions you should find out prior to purchase. Does the Seller know the Pipe’s legacy. Is the Pipe indeed what the brand designation on the case claims it to be, or is it a mediocre Pipe that has been put in a case of known reputation, in order to sell it for a higher price? If your plan is to continue to develop the Pipe’s Patina, does it look like the Pipe has been taken care of or did Uncle Charley use a blow torch to light it? Abused Meerschaums can be brought back to part of their former glory, but this takes time and the Patina is the most difficult to preserve and/or restore.

These are the basics, but by no means are they the whole story of either the Estate market or the newly initiated Carver direct seller. It is a good start on these issues and leaves room for the contributions of others, which is welcome.

Time for a Meerschaum – A Fancy Gold Push Stem on a Meer Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the table is from a guy in New York that hunts for pipes for Jeff and me. This is a no name meerschaum billiard with a push tenon and mortise. The stem is acrylic and is a swirled golden Lucite. The pipe was one of the cleaner ones that have come our way. There was very little cake in the bowl and just some slight darkening on the rim top and on the inner edge on the left side. The bowl is almost unsmoked it is so clean with a little darkening from one or two bowls being drawn through it. The inner and outer edges of the bowl are flawless without any damage areas as is the top of the rim. The acrylic stem was in excellent condition with light tooth chatter around the button. It is a fancy turned stem the kind that I have seen on freehand pipes before but it actually looks very good with the meer. It hearkens back to the days of amber stems. It is well made and has a very comfortable button and slot. The stem is thin enough that it is comfortable in the mouth as well. Jeff took some photos of the pipe before he started working on it. He took photos of the rim top to show how clean the bowl was. You can see the fresh meerschaum on the walls of the bowl near the top. There is no cake in the bowl and there is no lava on the rim top.He took a photo of the right side and heel of the bowl to show how clean the externals of the meerschaum are. It is really quite pristine.When Jeff took the stem off the bowl the mortise unscrewed from the shank. He took some photos of the stem with the threaded mortise in tow. The first photo shows the inside of the shank and how clean it is. The third photo shows the threaded mortise with the push tenon inside of it. It will need to be pulled off the push tenon and threaded back into the shank. The golden acrylic stem was in excellent condition other than light tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button. The button was in excellent condition.Jeff had already cleaned up the pipe before sending it to me. He had wiped out the bowl to remove the debris and dust in it. There was no need to ream it as there was no cake. He scrubbed the exterior with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to clean off the grime off the finish and to see if he could remove some of the darkening on the left side of the rim top. He cleaned up the internals of the shank, mortise and stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol to remove any remnants of the few smokes that had been run through the pipe. When it arrived here in Vancouver it was a very clean pipe and really left little to do but work on the stem. I took photos of it before I started my part of the restoration. I took photos of the rim top and the stem to show how clean and almost pristine they were when they arrived. The bowl was spotless and ready to smoke. The stem had some tooth chatter and light marks on the top and underside near the button.I sanded the button and the stem with 220 grit sandpaper and 400 grit sandpaper to remove the tooth chatter and tooth marks.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each pad with a damp cloth after each pad. I gave it a coat of Conservator’s Wax when I was finish and once it dried buffed it off with a soft cloth. I put the stem back on the pipe and the pipe to the buffer. I carefully worked it over with Blue Diamond to polish meerschaum and the acrylic stem. I gave the stem several coats of carnauba wax and buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. I love the way that the buffer brings a shine to the pipe. I was happy with the look of the finished pipe. The photos below show what the pipe looks like after the restoration. This is a beautiful meerschaum that has not really been broken in. It should colour nicely as it block meerschaum.  The shape of the white bowl and the golden fancy stem are very elegant. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 ¾ inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 3/8 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 of an inch. This pipe will soon be added to the rebornpipes online store. If you are interested in adding a virtually new meerschaum pipe to your collection let me know. This one should be a great smoker. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me on another beauty!