Tag Archives: Polishing Meerschaum

Restoring and Repairing a Carved Sultan Meerschaum Pipe


Blog by Steve Laug

This is another of those pipes that I have no idea when or where it came from. With Jeff and my penchant for picking up pipes where ever we go it could honestly be from anywhere. As for the when, that is and will remain a mystery. This is a carved figural meerschaum Sultan Head Bent pipe with an acrylic (Bakelite) stem. The pipe has no identifying stamping on the shank or stem and even on the shank end when the stem is removed. It is a dirty pipe but the bowl was surprisingly clean. The rim top had some lava and darkening around the inner edge but otherwise looked very good. There was a lot of dust and debris in the carving around the turban and the beard. The creases around the neck and eyes were also filled with dust and debris. The shank showed three hairline cracks on the top and right and left sides. None were big or deep but they were present. My guess is that they came from over tightening the stem on the shank. There were also scratches on the shoulders and collar forming the shank. The taper stem was in very good shape with a minimum or tooth chatter and marks on the top side near the button. The button edges were in excellent condition. It was overclocked slightly and that would need to be dealt with. Here are some photos of the pipe when I brought it to the work table.   I took a close-up photo of the rim to show the condition of the rim top, bowl and the inner edge of the bowl. You can see the inside of the bowl and note that it was quite clean. The rim top looked good with some darkening and developing patina on the inner edges. The stem was in decent condition.      I removed the stem from the shank and took a photo of the flow of the pipe. The pipe was going to look good once it was cleaned and polished.I have circled the hairline cracks in the photos below. They are quite light but in reality they are visible, I can also see the on the shank end with the stem removed. I went through my bands and found a thin profile brass band that had a slight cap that would go over the shank end. I used some clear super glue on the band and on the shank end and pressed the band in place on the shank. The fit was good and it should provide a cushion for the stem and tenon protecting the stem from being overturned. A side benefit was that the slight thickness of the band corrected the overclocked stem. I took photos of the pipe with the stem in place to give you a sense of what the pipe looked like. I scrubbed the exterior of the bowl with a tooth brush and undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap to get the grime and debris out of the grooves and carving. I rinsed it with running water (keeping the water out of the bowl and shank) and dried it off with a towel. With that the outside was clean and definitely looking better… progress!    I cleaned out the mortise, shank in the briar and airway in the stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and 99% isopropyl alcohol. The pipe was dirty with lots of tars and oils. I polished the meerschaum with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down after each pad to remove the sanding debris.   I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the meerschaum with my fingertips and a horsehair shoe brush to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth and shoe brush to raise the shine. The following photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process. It is definitely looking better and I am very happy with the results. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads and wiping it down after each pad with Obsidian Oil. I wiped it down a final time with Obsidian Oil when I finished.        This Carved Sultan Head Meerschaum Figural with a Bakelite taper stem turned out to be a great looking pipe. The features of the face and the beard as well as the wraps of the turban look really good. The amber coloured Bakelite stem also turned out very well. The thin brass band adds a nice touch to the classy look of the pipe. I polished stem and the bowl lightly with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel and the finish just popped and came alive. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Clapham’s Beeswax Polish 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 pipe took on life with the buffing. The developing patina on the beard, turban and shank work well with the polished amber coloured 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 ½ inches, Height: 2 ½ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches wide x 1 ¾ inches long, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The interesting old Meerschaum Sultan will be going on the rebornpipes store shortly. If you are interested in adding it to your collection let me know. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over another estate pipe.

A Change of Pace Restoration – an SMS Meerschaum Bent Ball


Blog by Steve Laug

I have been working through Bob Kerr’s estate for several weeks trying to finish up the remaining 12 pipes. I decided this morning that I needed a bit of a change of pace. I have been working on a lot of fine old briar pipes and thought a good meerschaum would be a change. I looked through the various cased figurals that I have to work and on and rejected each on as just not what I was looking for at this moment. I went back to some older pipes I have boxed here in the queue and found a black cased meer. From the case it looked like at least a ball/apple shaped pipe. I opened the case and immediately the pipe had my attention. It was exactly what I was looking for to work on next. It is an SMS Meerschaum ball with an amber coloured acrylic stem. Overall the pipe looked to be in decent condition. I wrote Jeff for the pre-cleanup photos and some history where it came from. Seems that pipe came to us from an auction in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was a dirty pipe but not too badly scratched. There was a thick cake in the bowl for a meerschaum with some lava overflow on the inwardly beveled rim top. There was some good patina developing around the shank and bowl. The stem was pretty but had some tooth marks and chatter all around the button. The stem came off the tenon end leaving the tenon in the shank of the pipe. Not sure what was happening there. Jeff sent me the photos of the pipe in the case and out of the case before he started his cleanup work. Jeff took a photo of the bowl and rim top to show the condition. It is hard to see the depth of the bowl but there as a cake lining the walls. The inwardly beveled rim top shows a thick lava coat and also some nicks and damage to the outer edge of the rim.He took some photos of the heel and sides of the bowl to show the developing patina as well as the dirty and grime on the bowl sides.   The next two photos show the brand stamping on the inside cover of the case and in the round inlaid stem logo. It is made by SMS and is a Handcarved Meerschaum from Turkey.The next photos show the condition of the stem. You can see the tooth marks and chatter on both sides ahead of the button. It was rough to the touch. Jeff took a great photo of the tenon and stem connection. It appears that the tenon has come unglued from the stem end. I am not sure whether the tenon is a classic threaded tenon screwing into the shank or whether it is a push tenon. Once I work on it I will know.I had some faint recall of the make but could not remember his name so I turned to pipephil’s site (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-s9.html) for some help. I found a quick note on the founding of the SMS brand which was the USA import brand for pipes made by Samil Sermet and his wife Beth. There was also a link there to the company website.I clicked on the site link (http://www.smspipes.com/) to get a bigger picture of the brand and the makers. I quote the section of the site marked “About Us” and quote the following:

Welcome to SMS Pipes!!

We are proud to present a wide selection of premium smoking pipes. SMS Pipes features Turkish Block Meerschaum, supplied exclusively by SMS Meerschaums, and Italian Briar, supplied by Lorenzo of Italy. All the pipes offered by SMS Pipes meet or surpass our exacting “Standard of Excellence.”

Samil & Beth Sermet – SMS Pipes is family owned and operated extension of SMS Meerschaums, founded in 1980 by Samil Sermet and his wife, Beth. SMS Meerschaums is recognized nationwide as a trusted supplier by nearly 500 retail tobacconists. SMS Pipes promises to continue the philosophy embraced by SMS Meerschaums and provide premium smoking pipes that are:

    Distinctive… each pipe is carefully selected for its uniqueness, quality and reliability.

    Affordable… a wide range of prices makes owning a fine pipe possible for everyone.

    Collectable… the timeless beauty of each pipe will be treasured for generations.

Key to the success of SMS Pipes is our dedicated staff. Based in the USA and Turkey, they maintain contact with our exceptionally talented pipe carvers and case makers and perform all the daily business activities described below:

 Samil Sermet, a native of Turkey, is the buyer for SMS Meerschaums. His hometown is Eskisehir, Turkey, where a majority of the meerschaum pipe carvers live and have their shops. Samil makes a buying trip to Turkey each year and has a close working relationship with all the carvers. He is responsible for sales analysis and placing the orders necessary to maintain adequate stock in the warehouse. (samil@smspipes.com)

Beth Sermet, office manager of SMS Meerschaums, processes all orders. Even though Beth was born in Iowa, she is fluent in Turkish after living in Turkey for several years and knows all the carvers. The owners of Lorenzo Briars work closely with Beth to assure ample supply of their premium pipes. Beth also personally selects and photographs all the pipes shown on SMS Pipes. (beth@smspipes.com)

Mert Sermet, son of Samil and Beth, manages the daily operations of SMS Pipes. He is in charge of processing and shipping all orders. Mert has in-depth knowledge of every aspect of pipe manufacturing both in Turkey and Italy. He will personally respond to any comments, questions or concerns you may have about SMS Pipes by e-mail. (mert@smspipes.com)

Emel Sagtekin, Samil’s sister, is responsible for quality control and shipments of pipes to SMS Meerschaums from Turkey. Since 1988, Emel has personally checked thousands of pipes. She evaluates each pipe based on strict criteria set by SMS Meerschaums and selects only the pipes that meet or surpass our high standards.

SMS Pipes provides a wide variety of services for our customers. Although the inventory on SMS Pipes is reserved for Internet sale only, it is possible to have a selection of similar pipes sent “On Approval” to any tobacconist listed on the site. Membership in the SMS Collectors Society provides additional amenities for those interested in collecting our pipes. Our Master Carvers can be commissioned to carve custom pipe designs by special arrangement. We also offer repair and re-waxing services for all SMS Pipes.”

We are happy to have the opportunity to serve you. We hope your time spent with SMS Pipes is enjoyable and worthwhile.

Now I had a clearer picture of the brand and the makers. I knew that pipe was made after 1980 when the company began. Now it was time to work on the pipe itself.

Jeff cleaned the meerschaum with his usual penchant for thoroughness that I really appreciate. Once he finished he shipped it back to me with many of the other pipes that we have purchased or are working on for various estates. He 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 briar and the lava on the rim top. The finish looks very good with good looking grain around the bowl and shank. Jeff scrubbed the stem with Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the grime on the exterior. When the pipe arrived here in Vancouver for the second stop of its restoration tour it looked a lot better. I took photos before I started my part of the work.  I took some close up photos of the rim top and stem to show the condition they were in when they arrived here. There was some slight darkening on the back edge as well as some scratching and nicks around the outer edges.     I took a photo of the pipe with the stem removed to show the overall look of the pipe. It is really a nice looking pipe. I will need to work on the tenon and see what is going on with it as a part of the restoration.I decided to work on the tenon first. I examined it with a bright light and a lens and could see that it had originally been glued in place in the stem. What I was not sure of at this point was whether it was a push tenon or a threaded one. I used a pair of needle nose pliers to check the connection. It did not wiggle like a push tenon and it turned so I had my answer – a threaded tenon. I unscrewed it from the shank and took a photo.I roughened the smooth surface of the part of the tenon that would be glued in the stem with a needle file. Once it was sufficiently rough enough to provide some bite when glued into the stem I painted the end of the tenon with all-purpose white glue and inserted it in the stem. I ran a pipe cleaner through the airway to make sure it was clear and wiped off the excess glue around the threaded end of the tenon. I took a photo of the pipe with the proper tenon connection! Now it only needed to cure before I put it back together again. I set the stem aside and worked on the bowl and rim top while the glue cured in the tenon repair. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the damage to the outer edge of the rear part of the rim top and to minimize the darkening. I polished the rim top and bowl with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding it with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down with a damp cloth after each grit of sanding pad. It is starting to really have a shine by the last sanding pads.   With the bowl polished it was time to wax the meerschaum. I heated it over a candle flame and rubbed it down with Clapham’s Beeswax Polish and let the wax sit and absorb into the meerschaum. Once it had cured I buffed it with a cotton towel and raised a rich shine in the surface of the meerschaum. The wax brought more of the patina to surface and the buffing highlighted. I filled in the deeper dents in the acrylic with clear super glue and set the stem aside to let it dry after a few moments I sprayed it with an accelerator to harden it. I sanded the repairs with 220 grit sandpaper to blend them into the surface and then started polishing the surface with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads to remove the scratching in the acrylic stem. I wet sanded it with 1500-12000 grit pads and then gave it a buff with Before & After Pipe Stem polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. I buffed that off with a cotton pad. After each sanding pad and each polish I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil to preserve and protect the stem.    I put the pipe back together and gave it a buff on the wheel with Blue Diamond polish. I use a light touch on the acrylic as too heavy a touch can cause the heat to damage to acrylic. I gave the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a soft cloth to deepen the shine. I put it back in the case and took a photo of the pipe in case.I took photos of the finished pipe to show the shine and the patina around the bowl. The reddish amber acrylic stem looks very good with the deepening colour on the shank and the bottom of the bowl. With time the contrast will grow richer and deeper to a thing of beauty. The finished SMS Bent Ball fits nicely in the hand and I think it will feel great as it heats up with a good tobacco. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 ¼ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¾ inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. If you are interested in carrying on the legacy of this pipe it will be going on the rebornpipes store shortly. You can send me a message or an email to let know you are interested. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. This is an interesting estate to bring back to life.

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!

Back to Bob Kerr’s Estate – the second of two “Hopeless” Looking Gourd Calabash Pipes


Blog by Steve Laug

After brief foray into restoring a couple of other pipes I am back to Bob Kerr’s estate (his photo is to the left). If you have not “met” the man and would like to read a bit of the history of the pipeman, his daughter has written a great tribute that is worth a read. Because I have included it in over 60 restorations to date I thought that I would leave it out this time. Be sure to check out some of the recent Dunhill restoration blog (https://rebornpipes.com/2020/01/01/restoring-the-last-of-bob-kerrs-dunhills-a-1962-dunhill-bruyere-656-f-t-bent-billiard/)

This is the second of the two Gourd Calabash pipes that he had that were rough looking. The pictures below show what they looked like when I shipped them to Jeff to do his cleanup magic with them. If the first pipe was in rough shape this one was beyond rough. It was horrible. The stem was oxidized. Once again the black plastic/acrylic ferrule was probably the cleanest part of the pipe. The meer cup was absolutely gross. There was a coat of dust, maybe even mold on the thick cake in the bowl. The pipe smelled horrid. The inner edges of the rim were badly chipped and dirty. The outer edges had chips and chunks of meerschaum that were missing. The top of the meer cup was pitted with nicks and scratches. It looked rough. With the cup removed the calabash gourd interior was black with scum and tars and looked horrible. It reeked just like the previous pipe. The smell of old tobacco tars surrounded the pipe akin to the smell of an ashtray overflowing on a pub table… some of you will certainly remember those! The gourd exterior was dirty but surprisingly undamaged. The stem was oxidized and covered with tooth chatter but none of the deep tooth marks I have come to expect from Bob’s pipes. Jeff took the following photos to document the mess!Jeff took some close up photos of the bowl cup to show the condition. Once again the photos capture the visual well but actually the other senses are not even brought into the equation. It was really nasty. The thick cake was growing things! Jeff took several photos of the under edge of the cup and the gourd sides to show the condition of the cup and the gourd. You can clearly see the chips in the meerschaum. The stem once again was surprisingly good for this estate. There were not any deep tooth marks in the vulcanite. We only had to deal with the oxidation and calcification. There no deep pits in the surface of the rubber. The third photo shows it in comparison to the ferrule so you can see how far from black it gone. I don’t think I would have been done with over 60 of Bob’s pipes without Jeff’s help on cleaning them. It was a mammoth task to say the least and they were all extremely dirty and had been sitting since the early 90s in boxes. He does cleaning job and leaves the rest to me. This one was no different. He thoroughly cleaned this filthy pipe in all of it parts. This one was a real mess and I was looking forward to seeing what he had done with this one when I took it out of his box. It looked amazing and CLEAN. He carefully reamed the meerschaum cup with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed out the internals of the gourd and the shank with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until the pipe was clean. He scrubbed the exterior of the gourd with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove the grime and grit. The gourd and meer cup look really good. The stem looked a lot better. Jeff soaked the stem in Before & After Deoxidizer to remove the oxidation on the rubber. The pipe was ready for me to carry on the next part of the process. I took some close up photos of the meerschaum cup and also of the stem surface. I will tell you what; I am absolutely amazed at how good this pipe looks. I wanted to show how well it had cleaned up and what needed to be done. The cup was still in pretty rough condition but it was clean! The surface was pitted and nicked. The inner edges of the cup looked like someone had reamed it with a pocket knife sometime in its history. The bevel was worn and nicked with cuts but there was no darkening. Otherwise it was beautiful. The stem actually looks very good in the photos. There was no chatter or toot marks on the stem surface.  But it too was amazing… the whole pipe is a surprise to me. Looks good, smells good and should smoke well!I took photos of the chips on the underside of the cup on the backside. I took a photo from both sides to show the extent of the damage.I popped the meerschaum cup out of the gourd to check out the interior. It was stunningly clean. The cork gasket was dry but whole. The underside of the cup was stained but it too was very clean.I worked on the rim edge with 220 and 400 grit sandpaper to minimize the damage to the inner bevel. I could not total remove the damage but it certainly looks better than when I started.I polished the meerschaum bowl with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded the edges and surface with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads and wiped the surface down after each pad. The meerschaum really became smooth and took on a deep shine. The pits in the top surface are still present but significantly softer and less noticeable. The inner edge of the bowl looked much better and was smooth. I set the cup aside and rubbed down the gourd with Before & After Restoration Balm. While it was designed for enlivening and protecting briar it works wonders with a piece of dried gourd calabash. I worked it into the surface of the gourd with my finger tips and let it sit for about 10 minutes. I buffed it off with a soft cotton cloth. With the gourd cleaned and polished and the meerschaum cup cleaned and polished it was time to put that part of the pipe back together. I like to rub the cork gasket down with some Vaseline Petroleum Jelly to put some life and elasticity back in the cork. I rub it down with my finger tip and let it sit for about five minute so that the cork absorbs the jelly. Once that is done I can easily insert the cup without fear of damaging the cork. I took photos of the cup in place. You can see the surface of the rim top – lightly pitted but smooth and the chips on the underside in the last photo. This will be a great for someone looking for a deal! With the bowl done it was time to address the stem. It was in pretty decent condition and the oxidation was gone on this one. I started the process by rubbing the stem down with Denicare Mouthpiece Polish. I have found it is a great pre-polish for my use as it shows me areas that I need to work on with the micromesh sanding pads.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped it down after each pad with a damp cloth to remove the sanding dust. I polished it further with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. I finished by rubbing the stem down with some “No Oxy Oil” to protect the vulcanite. I am continuing to experiment with the product from Briarville and tracking how it works so I can write a review of it. I am so glad to be finished with the second and last of these Gourd Calabash pipes. When I received them I was not sure we could get any life out of them at all. This second one also proved me wrong. It came out really nicely and looks really good. It will make a good, inexpensive entry pipe for someone wanting to try out a Gourd Calabash pipe. The look of it makes me think is a Pioneer but no way to be sure of that. It would fit the 1960s and 70s. Like each of the pipes in Bob’s estate I really look forward to this point in the process when it is put back together, polished and waxed. I put the bowl and stem back together. I carefully 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 gourd has character and a deep shine that really came alive with the wax and polish. The meerschaum cup looks good on it and the black of the fancy vulcanite stem is a beautiful contrast to the golden gourd and white meerschaum. This turned out to be a lot of fun to work on thanks to Jeff’s cleanup work. The pipe is comfortable pipe to hold in the hand. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 ½ inches, Height: 3 ¾ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 2 ½ inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. This beautifully shaped Calabash is a great introduction to the world of Calabash pipes. It is a beauty that should last for many more years. It is one that will be on the rebornpipes store very soon. If you are interested let me know. I have a lot more of Bob’s estate to work on of various brands. Perhaps one of those will catch your attention. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. This is an interesting estate to bring back to life.

Back to Bob Kerr’s Estate – the first of two “Hopeless” Looking Gourd Calabash Pipes


Blog by Steve Laug

After brief foray into restoring a couple of other pipes I am back to Bob Kerr’s estate (his photo is to the left). If you have not “met” the man and would like to read a bit of the history of the pipeman, his daughter has written a great tribute that is worth a read. Because I have included it in over 60 restorations to date I thought that I would leave it out this time. Be sure to check out some of the recent Dunhill restoration blog (https://rebornpipes.com/2020/01/01/restoring-the-last-of-bob-kerrs-dunhills-a-1962-dunhill-bruyere-656-f-t-bent-billiard/)

This is one of two Gourd Calabash pipes that he had that were rough looking. The pictures below show what they looked like when I shipped them to Jeff to do his cleanup magic with them. This was a rough looking pipe. The stem was oxidized and in the second picture what looks like a hole in the stem near the turned portion was a thick bead of “goop”. The black plastic/acrylic ferrule was probably the cleanest part of the pipe. The meer cup was absolutely gross. There was a coat of dust, maybe even mold on the thick cake in the bowl. The pipe smelled horrid. The rim edges of the bowl looked bad; the inner one had potential damage to the beveled edge under the grime. With the cup removed the calabash gourd interior was black with scum and tars and looked horrible. It reeked of old tobacco tars akin to the smell of an ashtray overflowing on a pub table… some of you remember those! The gourd exterior was dirty but surprisingly undamaged. The stem was oxidized and covered with tooth chatter but none of the deep tooth marks I have come to expect from Bob’s pipes. Jeff took the following photos to document the mess!Jeff took some close up photos of the bowl cup to show the condition. The photos capture the visual well but actually the other senses are not even brought into the equation. It was really nasty. The thick cake was growing things! A redeeming photo had to be included after those to give a bit of encouragement and hope. This is a shot of the gourd calabash from the underside. The striations in the gourd and the shine on the bottom are quite stunning.The stem actually was surprisingly good for this estate. There were not any deep tooth marks in the vulcanite. We only had to deal with the oxidation and calcification. There no deep pits in the surface of the rubber. The third photo shows it in comparison to the ferrule so you can see how far from black it gone.I can’t begin tell you how great it feels to have Jeff’s help on cleaning up the pipes from Bob’s estate as the 125+ pipes were taking me a long time to do alone. In fact I doubt if I would have as many finished as I do now. Together we have cleaned all of the pipes and have restored over 60. He does cleaning job and leaves the rest to me. This one was no different. He cleaned this filthy pipe with his usual penchant for thoroughness that I really appreciate. This one was a real mess and I was looking forward to seeing what he had done with this one when I took it out of his box. It looked amazing and CLEAN. He carefully reamed the meerschaum cup with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed out the internals of the gourd and the shank with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until the pipe was clean. He scrubbed the exterior of the gourd with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove the grime and grit. The gourd and meer cup look really good. The stem looked a lot better. Jeff soaked the stem in Before & After Deoxidizer to remove the oxidation on the rubber. The pipe was ready for me to carry on the next part of the process. I took some close up photos of the meerschaum cup and also of the stem surface. I will tell you what; I am absolutely amazed at how good this pipe looks. I wanted to show how well it had cleaned up and what needed to be done. The cup was in remarkable condition. The surface was in decent condition. The inner edges of the cup were darkened and there was some debris on the edges of the bevel. Otherwise it was beautiful. The stem actually looks very good in the photos. There was no chatter or toot marks on the stem surface.  There was a little bit of oxidation that I needed to work on in the curves of the stem and turned area. But it too was amazing… the whole pipe is a surprise to me. Looks good, smells good and should smoke well!I popped the meerschaum cup out of the gourd to check out the interior. It was stunningly clean. The cork gasket was dry but whole. The underside of the cup was stained but it too was very clean.I worked on the rim and top of the meerschaum bowl with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded the edges and surface with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads and wiped the surface down after each pad. The meerschaum really became smooth and took on a deep shine. The inner edge of the bowl kept a bit of colour but was also very smooth. I set the cup aside and rubbed down the gourd with Before & After Restoration Balm. While it was designed for enlivening and protecting briar it works wonders with a piece of dried gourd calabash. I worked it into the surface of the gourd with my finger tips and let it sit for about 10 minutes. I buffed it off with a soft cotton cloth. With the gourd cleaned and polished and the meerschaum cup cleaned and polished it was time to put that part of the pipe back together. I like to rub the cork gasket down with some Vaseline Petroleum Jelly to put some life and elasticity back in the cork. I rub it down with my finger tip and let it sit for about five minute so that the cork absorbs the jelly. Once that is done I can easily insert the cup without fear of damaging the cork. With the bowl done it was time to address the stem. It was in pretty decent condition other than a little residual oxidation in the curves of the turned area and on the tenon area. I sanded the surface of the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the remaining oxidation in the stem surface and the remaining oxidation in the vulcanite. I polished it with 400 grit wet dry sand paper.I rubbed the stem down with Denicare Mouthpiece Polish. I have found it is a great pre-polish for my use as it shows me areas that I need to work on with the micromesh sanding pads.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped it down after each pad with a damp cloth to remove the sanding dust. I polished it further with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. I finished by rubbing the stem down with some “No Oxy Oil” to protect the vulcanite. I am continuing to experiment with the product from Briarville and tracking how it works so I can write a review of it.

I am so glad to be finished with the first of these Gourd Calabash pipes. When I received them I was not sure we could get any life out of them at all. This one proved me wrong. It came out really nicely and looks really good. What came out is a beautiful golden Gourd Calabash. The look of it makes me think is a Pioneer but no way to be sure of that. It would fit the 1960s and 70s. Like each of the pipes in Bob’s estate I really look forward to this point in the process when it is put back together, polished and waxed. I put the bowl and stem back together. I carefully 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 gourd has character and a deep shine that really came alive with the wax and polish. The meerschaum cup looks good on it and the black of the fancy vulcanite stem is a beautiful contrast to the golden gourd and white meerschaum. This turned out to be a lot of fun to work on thanks to Jeff’s cleanup work. The pipe is comfortable pipe to hold in the hand. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 7 inches, Height: 3 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 2 ½ inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. This beautifully shaped Calabash is a beauty should last for many more years. It is one that will be on the rebornpipes store very soon. If you are interested let me know. I have a lot more of Bob’s estate to work on of various brands. Perhaps one of those will catch your attention. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. This is an interesting estate to bring back to life.

Restoring an Old Cased Set of Aristocrat Meerschaums – Part 2


Blog by Steve Laug

I finished the first pipe in the cased set of meerschaum pipes and holders made by Aristocrat (https://rebornpipes.com/2019/07/21/restoring-an-old-cased-set-of-aristocrat-meerschaums-part-1/). This set included a straight billiard, a bent billiard a cigar holder and a broken cigarette holder. All were smooth meerschaum with red Bakelite or Redmanol stems. All had bone tenons directly screwed into threaded mortises in the meerschaum. There was no stamping on the pipes and holders or the stems. The box itself was covered in what looked like alligator skin with brass hinges and clasps. On the inside the case was lined in an off white preformed velveteen fabric. There was a corner ribbon across the left side of the lid that read Aristocrat. The straight billiard had been smoked pretty heavily and there was a cake in the bowl and the rim top had a thick lava coat. The exterior of the bowl was dirty. The stem had tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button. The second pipe – the bent billiard was unsmoked but dirty with dust and debris of time. The cigar holder had been lightly smoked and there were tooth marks and chatter on in near the button. The cigarette holder was broken and two parts and the stem remained. There was a missing piece from the front of the holder. It was unused and broken.  I took photos of the case and the pipes and holders before I started my work on it. Now it is time to work on the cigar holder. I took photos of each of the pieces in the collection. I cleaned up the straight billiard on the left side of the photo above and have written the blog on it (https://rebornpipes.com/2019/07/21/restoring-an-old-cased-set-of-aristocrat-meerschaums-part-1/). Give the blog a read and you will see the story of the restoration. The next piece I chose to work on was the Aristocrat Cigar Holder shown in the photos below. It had also been smoked – lightly but still it was used. There was some darkening in the bowl and the stem had a lot of  tooth marks and chatter on both sides at the button.I am leaving the information on the brand in case you have not read the background info in the first blog. From what I could find on Pipephil’s site I found a listing for Aristocrat linking it to John Redman Ltd. in England (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-a7.html). The site says that it was an export brand from the company. In looking at the various stampings in the photos below I found that the Aristocrat stamping on the ribbon on the case above matches the second and third photo below.The photo below was a link on the site that took me to a photo of the John Redman LTD. and British Empire Pipe Com on Westland Place, Hackney, London, England. I think it is a nice historical touch to be able to include the photo.I turned to Pipedia (https://pipedia.org/wiki/John_Redman_Ltd./British_Empire_Pipe_Co.) to see if I could learn a bit more about the company. I quote the full article below:

John Redman Ltd. and British Empire Pipe Co. Other lines include Aristocrat, Buckingham, Buckingham Palace, Canberra, Captain Fortune, Dr John, Golden Square, Redonian, Richmond (not Sasieni), Twin Bore.

From these two sources it appears to me that this set of meerschaum pipes and holders was made for export by John Redman Ltd. I am not sure of the date as neither source gave clues to that information.

Given the information that I have in hand, I decided to start the restoration work on the cigar holder as it was the second piece in the set that had been smoked. I decided to continue experimenting with a new product from Mark Hoover of Before & After Products. This one is a product he labels briar cleaner and it has the capacity of absorbing grime and dirt from the surface of briar. I decided to try it out set of meerschaum pipes and holders. I rubbed the meerschaum tip down with some of his Briar Cleaner to see how it would work in this setting. In speaking to Mark he noted that the product is completely safe to use. The main product is even FDA approved edible. I rubbed it onto the bowl and rim top with my finger tips and worked it into the grime and grit on the bowl. I let it sit on the pipe for about 5 minutes before I rubbed it off with a microfibre cloth. I rinsed it under warm running water to remove the residue. I was pleasantly surprised by how clean the surface on the bowl looked when I was finished. Since the cleaner had worked so well on the other meerschaums I decided to try out the Restoration Balm on this meerschaum cigar holder as well. I rubbed the bowl down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the meerschaum and let it sit for a short time. I buffed it off with a microfibre cloth to bring it some life. Once again I was very surprised at how well it worked. I sent Mark Hoover a note about this experiment. He was pretty amazed at the results and said he had not thought of using it for meerschaum but was not surprised as it was made to absorb grit and grime from the surface of meerschaum. I cleaned out the internals of the airway in the cigar holder and the stem. I used alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners to remove the grime. There was not much grime and it cleaned up quickly. I set the meerschaum holder aside and worked on the stem. I sanded the tooth chatter and marks on both sides of the stem with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper and polished out the scratches from the sandpaper with a folded piece of 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry out.I wet sanded the stem with 1500 -12000 grit micromesh pads to polish it. I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil on a cloth after each sanding pad. After the 12000 grit pad I wiped the stem down a final time with Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. I put the meerschaum holder and stem back together. I polished the cigar holder with Blue Diamond to remove the remaining minute scratches in the briar and the Bakelite. I gave the holder and stem several coats of Conservator’s Wax and buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. It polished up pretty nicely. The contrast of the beautiful clean meerschaum with light colouring of age and the polished red Bakelite/Redmanol stem looked amazing. This older, beautiful, well made Meerschaum Cigar Holder will only get better with age. The finished holder is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 2 5/8 inches, Height: 1 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 3/4 inches, Chamber diameter: 1/2 of an inch. This is the second piece from the Aristocrat set in the photos at the beginning of this blog. The restoration of the remaining pieces in the set – the other pipe and the broken cigarette holder will be shown in future blogs. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me. Cheers. 

Restoring an Old Cased Set of Aristocrat Meerschaums – Part 1


Blog by Steve Laug

After working on the pair of Turkish Meerschaum pipes I wrote about earlier I decided to keep working on meers (https://rebornpipes.com/2019/07/21/cleaning-up-a-pair-of-no-name-turkish-made-meerschaums/). The next thing on the table was a cased set of meerschaums that included a straight billiard, a bent billiard a cigar holder and a broken cigarette holder. All were smooth meerschaum with red Bakelite or Redmanol stems. All had bone tenons directly screwed into threaded mortises in the meerschaum. There was no stamping on the pipes and holders or the stems. The box itself was covered in what looked like alligator skin with brass hinges and clasps. On the inside the case was lined in an off white preformed velveteen fabric. There was a corner ribbon across the left side of the lid that read Aristocrat. The straight billiard had been smoked pretty heavily and there was a cake in the bowl and the rim top had a thick lava coat. The exterior of the bowl was dirty. The stem had tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button. The second pipe – the bent billiard was unsmoked but dirty with dust and debris of time. The cigar holder had been lightly smoked and there were tooth marks and chatter on in near the button. The cigarette holder was broken and two parts and the stem remained. There was a missing piece from the front of the holder. It was unused and broken.  I took photos of the case and the pipes and holders before I started my work on it. I took photos of each of the pieces in the collection. The first set of photos shows the smoked straight billiard. The second set of photos shows the unsmoked bent billiard. The third set shows the cigar holder. The fourth set shows the broken cigarette holder. All four of the pieces were dirty, some more than others but all needing work.From what I could find on Pipephil’s site I found a listing for Aristocrat linking it to John Redman Ltd. in England (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-a7.html). The site says that it was an export brand from the company. In looking at the various stampings in the photos below I found that the Aristocrat stamping on the ribbon on the case above matches the second and third photo below.The photo below was a link on the site that took me to a photo of the John Redman LTD. and British Empire Pipe Com on Westland Place, Hackney, London, England. I think it is a nice historical touch to be able to include the photo.I turned to Pipedia (https://pipedia.org/wiki/John_Redman_Ltd./British_Empire_Pipe_Co.) to see if I could learn a bit more about the company. I quote the full article below:

John Redman Ltd. and British Empire Pipe Co. Other lines include Aristocrat, Buckingham, Buckingham Palace, Canberra, Captain Fortune, Dr John, Golden Square, Redonian, Richmond (not Sasieni), Twin Bore.

From these two sources it appears to me that this set of meerschaum pipes and holders was made for export by John Redman Ltd. I am not sure of the date as neither source gave clues to that information.

Given the information that I have in hand, I decided to start the restoration work on the straight meerschaum billiard. Only this pipe and the cigar holder had been smoked in the set so I figured why not start with the most smoked pipe – the most smoked billiard. I took close up photos of the bowl and rim top as well as both sides of the Bakelite stem to show the condition that the pipe was in when I started. The bowl had a thin cake from top to bottom. There was a thick coat of lava on the surface of the rim – heavier toward the back than the front but all around. The stem was clean but had tooth chatter and light tooth marks on the top and underside ahead of the button.I used a 1500 grit micromesh sanding pad to start the rim top cleanup and sanded the outside of the bowl to start the cleanup process.I reamed out the cake in the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. I took the cake back to bare meerschaum. I sanded the walls of the bowl with a piece of dowel wrapped with 220 grit sandpaper until they were smooth.I decided to continue experimenting with a new product from Mark Hoover of Before & After Products. This one is a product he labels briar cleaner and it has the capacity of absorbing grime and dirt from the surface of briar. I decided to try it out this pair of meerschaum pipes. I rubbed the bowl down with some of his Briar Cleaner to see how it would work in this setting. In speaking to Mark he noted that the product is completely safe to use. The main product is even FDA approved edible. I rubbed it onto the bowl and rim top with my finger tips and worked it into the grime and grit on the bowl. I let it sit on the pipe for about 5 minutes before I rubbed it off with a microfibre cloth. I rinsed it under warm running water to remove the residue. I was pleasantly surprised by how clean the surface on the bowl looked when I was finished. Since the cleaner had worked so well I decided to try out the Restoration Balm on the meerschaum as well. I rubbed the bowl down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the meerschaum and let it sit for a short time. I buffed it off with a microfibre cloth to bring it some life. Once again I was very surprised at how well it worked. I sent Mark Hoover a note about this experiment. He was pretty amazed at the results and said he had not thought of using it for meerschaum but was not surprised as it was made to absorb grit and grime from the surface of a pipe. I cleaned out the internals of the airway in the shank and the stem as well as the mortise and the entrance of the airway into the bottom of the bowl. I used alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners to remove the grime. It was surprisingly clean for a pipe that was as heavily smoked as this one was. I set the bowl aside and worked on the stem. I sanded the tooth chatter and marks on both sides of the stem with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper and polished out the scratches from the sandpaper with a folded piece of 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry out.I wet sanded the stem with 1500 -12000 grit micromesh pads to polish it. I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil on a cloth after each sanding pad. After the 12000 grit pad I wiped the stem down a final time with Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. I put the bowl and stem back together. I polished the pipe with Blue Diamond to remove the remaining minute scratches in the briar and the Bakelite. I gave the bowl and stem several coats of Conservator’s 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. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. The contrast of the beautiful clean meerschaum with light colouring of age and the polished red Bakelite/Redmanol stem looked amazing. This older, beautiful, well made John Redman Ltd. Meerschaum straight billiard with a Redmanol stem will only get better with age. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 1/4 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/4 inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. This is the first pipe from the Aristocrat pipe set in the photos at the beginning of this blog. The restoration of the remaining pieces in the set – the other pipe, the cigar holder and cigarette holder will be shown in future blogs. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me. Cheers. 

Refreshing a Lattice Work Meerschaum Bent Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

I really am enjoying working on the last batch of pipes that my brother sent me. He does such a great job reaming and cleaning them that I have a fun job of bringing life back to a clean pipe. The next one up on my work table came in its own black vinyl (leather-covered??) case. From the outside the case looked like it contained a large apple shaped or round shaped pipe. The brass latch on the front edge and the hinges on the back were in great shape. There was a circle on the top outside of the case that looked like it had originally had a sticker logo on the outside of the case. It had long since disappeared and left its imprint on the surface of the case. The black case looked promising and made me wonder what was going to be inside. Jeff said he had picked this one up at an auction and it was in great shape.I opened the case and inside it was lined with golden yellow coloured velour. Nestled in the base of the case was a nice looking lattice meerschaum pipe that I think some would call and egg but to me was a bent billiard. The stem was a red acrylic with a Teflon/nylon push tenon and a nylon mortise insert. There was some light tooth chatter on the top and underside of the stem near the button on both sides and a small chip mid button edge on the outside.I took the pipe out of the case and took pictures of it before I did my polishing and clean up on it. It really looks good. Other than the chatter on the stem and the chip in the top of the button the rim top had some darkening and light build up. Jeff had reamed the bowl and scrubbed the exterior of the pipe with a soft soap. He had also cleaned out the mortise and airway in the shank and the stem. It was very clean. I took some close up photos of the rim top and the stem. You can see from the rim top that there was some darkening along the back edge of the bowl. There is some colouration happening on the top and underside of the shank and on the bottom and sides of the bowl. The rim is also taking on colour. It should not take too much work to clean off the darkening. The stem had some chatter than is visible around the button on both sides as well as a small chip that is visible in the photo of the top side of the stem.The thickness of the button lent itself to topping it slightly. I used the topping board and put the surface of the button face against the sanding board. I worked it against the sanding board and remove the chip that was on the face of the button. I filled in the remaining portion of the chip with clear super glue and set it aside to cure.I sanded nicks and the tooth chatter on both sides of the stem. I reshaped the button and blended the repair into the rest of the button surface with 220 grit sandpaper. With the sanding and reshaping there was sanding dust in the airway on the stem so I cleaned it with alcohol and pipe cleaners. I also cleaned off the white nylon push tenon. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit sanding pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I finished polishing it with Before & After Pipe Polish using both the fine and extra fine versions. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. I polished the rim top with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I polished the sides of the bowl and shank at the same time with the pads. I the polished stem with Blue Diamond to polish out the remaining small scratches. I buffed the bowl with a soft microfiber cloth. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Clapham’s Soft Beeswax and the stem several coats of carnauba wax and buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed the entire pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 6 ½ inches, Height: 2 1/4 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 3/4 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 inches. I will be adding it to the rebornpipes store shortly. If you are interested in adding it to your collection send me a message or an email to slaug@uniserve.com. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over beautiful lattice meerschaum.

Refreshing a NOS, Large, Long Shank Meerschaum Sultan


Blog by Steve Laug

My brother Jeff was contacted by a fellow in Scotland who had a couple of meerschaum pipes that he wished to sell. This was one of them – a large, long shank, full bent, carved Sultan head with roses carved at intervals along the shank. It was in unsmoked, new old stock condition. The bowl is pristine and other than a few scratches so was the exterior. The shank and bowl have some colouration to it that I think must be due to the original waxing the bowl received when it left Turkey. The stem was an amber acrylic that had dulled over time but did not have any tooth marks or scratches. It had an orific opening in the button. On the right side of the stem near the shank/stem junction it is stamped Made in Turkey. The tenon is a threaded metal with a stinger apparatus integrated into the unit. There is also another metal stinger apparatus attaching the shank extension to the shank coming out of the bowl. I have never seen this type of connection in a meerschaum but I am sure others of you might have. The airflow seems unrestricted when either sucked on or blown through. It is a well carved pipe that needs polishing and simple cleaning. I took some close up photos of the carving and the bowl. The airway enters the bowl at the bottom in the middle. The rim top shows a scratch near my thumb. It is unsmoked as can be seen by the first photo. The second photo shows the carved Sultan head from the front. It is well executed and carved.I took the pipe apart and took photos of the various parts from different angles to show the carving on the shank and the bowl. The rose pattern on the shank extension and the details of the beard are well carved. The metal stinger connector on the stem and the shank extension are visible as well. The diameter of the stem does not match the diameter of the shank so that the pipe cannot be used in a shorter configuration. Scrolling through the photos below gives you a good idea of the condition of the pipe and the details of the carving. I took some photos of the acrylic stem to show its condition before I started to polish and restore the pipe. It is amber, almost butterscotch coloured acrylic with some interesting patterns in the swirls. The threaded metal tenon is a single unit so to remove the stinger would entail clipping the ball off the end of the threaded tenon. I am not willing to do that and will leave it intact.I ran some pipe cleaners through the stem to remove the debris of time in the airway and button. What came out was some dust from the original drilling that was the same colour as the stem material. Otherwise the stem was very clean and unsmoked.The tenon was slightly overclocked so I gave it a coat of clear fingernail polish to build up the threads so that when it was in place in the shank it aligned properly.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. Some wet sand with all the pads but I have found that generally just wet sanding with the initial three grits is sufficient to remove the deeper scratches. The rest of the pads further polish the stem material. I polished the shank extension with micromesh as well. I sanded the smooth portions with 1500-12000 grit pads to raise a shine. I lightly went over the smooth surfaces of the roses to polish them. You can see the shine develop through the photos below. With the rest of the pipe polished it was time to turn my attention to the bowl. I wet sanded all of the smooth portions of the rim, the Sultan’s turban around the top portion of the bowl and the shank and collar of the pipe. I carefully worked on the cheeks and forehead of the carved face with the micromesh to shine it as well. I gently polished the smooth surfaces of the rosette on the turban and the beard of the figure with micromesh pads. The photos below show the developing shine on the bowl. This large, carved figural meerschaum is a real beauty with well carved features of a sultan head on the bowl flowing into the shoulders on the shank. There is a shank extension with roses carved around the round tube and diagonally up the sides. There are rustic portions in between the first two rings of roses. The shank then transitions to a smooth portion for about an inch, another ring of roses and then a smooth shank up to the end where there is a metal insert in the tenon to separate the stem from the shank. The stem is a screw in type with a metal stinger. The material is an amber acrylic that is in great condition. The unsmoked bowl and smooth rim top is in perfect condition. The acrylic stem is high quality and shined up well. I carefully buffed the bowl by hand using a shoe brush and waxed it with Conservator’s Wax. I buffed it again with the shoe brush to raise the shine on the meerschaum and acrylic. I hand buffed the entire pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The new old stock meerschaum is slightly coloured from the wax and sitting but it is unsmoked and ready to break in. The dimensions of the pipe are: Length: 11 1/2 inches, Height: 3 inches, Outside Diameter: 1 3/4 inches, Diameter of the chamber: 3/4 inches, Chamber Depth: 1 ¾ inches. This large meerschaum will fit really nicely into the collection of any meerschaum collector. I am still deciding whether to smoke it or sell it on the rebornpipes store. If you are interested in acquiring it let me know by email to slaug@uniserve.com or send me a Facebook message. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me.

Renewing an old GBD Lattice Work Meerschaum Calabash


Blog by Steve Laug

When Jeff messaged me that he had picked up a GBD lattice meerschaum pipe, I was a bit surprised. I had read the there were GBD meets out there but I had never seen one let alone worked on one. I was excited to see what he had found. He sent photos of the pipe and case before he cleaned it up. The case was covered in brown canvas that had been waterproofed. It was in excellent condition and showed little wear or tear. The brass hardware looked new.When he opened the case, it was lined with a taupe plush fabric. The GBD logo was inside the base just above the inset for the pipe. It read, “Hand carved in Turkey from Genuine Turkish Block Meerschaum” in a circle around the GBD oval logo. The inside of the case was in excellent condition. Sitting in the form fitted case was a lattice meer. It looked to be in good condition and was already picking up a patina on the shank and lower half of the bowl.  The rim top was also lattice work and it had a bit of lava in the crevices and grooves of the lattice. There was a thick cake in the bowl that overflowed on the back inner edge of the bowl. The next four photos give various views of the rim top so that you can appreciate the work that needed to be down on the rim top of the pipe. Jeff took a photo of the side of the bowl and the underside of the bowl and shank to show the colouration – the patina that was already beginning to develop on the pipe. The trick would be to clean up the dirt and grime without damaging the patina.The stem had the GBD rondel in the top of the saddle portion and it was in great condition. There were tooth marks and chatter on both the top and underside of the stem and wear on the button surface. The slot in the button was also very tight and it was almost impossible to pass a pipe clean through the airway without a lot of effort. The nylon tenon was in excellent condition and screwed directly into threads in the mortise of the meerschaum. There was no shank line or receptacle end to receive the tenon. The airway in the tenon was clogged with bits of tobacco and tars so even going through the tenon end was difficult to do with a pipe cleaner. Jeff had to use a paper clip to open the airway in the stem before he could get a cleaner through from tenon to slot.Jeff did his usual thorough clean up on this meerschaum. He carefully reamed it with a PipNet reamer and cleaned up the remnants with a Savinelli Fitsall pipe knife. He scrubbed out the airway in the shank and the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He had to open the airway in the stem with a paper clip before he could get pipe cleaners through. He scrubbed the rim top with a tooth brush and Murphy’s Oil Soap and carefully rinsed it under running water. He dried it off with a soft cloth. The meerschaum in this pipe was very light weight. The swirls and lattice work are quite unique. I have not seen that kind of carving in the past. There were tooth marks and tooth chatter on both sides of the stem. The threaded tenon was in great condition as were the threads in the mortise. The stem was Lucite and was a combination of swirled reds/browns and tans. Whoever carved this in Turkey for GBD did a great job in making a beautiful pipe. I took photos of the pipe when I brought it to my worktable. I like to have a record of what the pipe looked like before I started for comparison once I have finished working on it. I took a photo of the rim top to show what it looked like after Jeff had scrubbed it. The lava on the front right of the rim was gone. The back side lava was gone and what was left was some darkening along the inner bevel of the rim and in the edges of the swirls in the lattice work. He did a great job on it.The stem damage is more obvious after he had cleaned it up. None of the tooth chatter or marks were too deep so they would be fairly straightforward to sand out.To vary my work pattern I decided to start on the bowl on this pipe. I picked at the remaining debris in the swirls of the lattice with a dental pick and was able to remove more of the debris. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to work on the darkening around the beveled inner edge of the rim. I was able to remove almost all of it without changing the shape of the bowl or rim top.I spot cleaned the rim with a damp cotton pad to remove the debris that my work had left behind. With the rim top cleaned up it was time to polish the meerschaum bowl. I started polishing with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads. After each pad I wiped the bowl down with a damp cotton pad. I continued polishing using 3200-12000 grit pads and wiping it down after each sanding pad. I took photos of the bowl after each set of three pads to show the progress of the shine. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I sanded the tooth chatter and marks out of the Lucite with 220 grit sandpaper. It did not take too much sanding to remove the damage to the stem surface and the surface of the button on both sides.I reworked the button and slot using needle files to open up the airway enough to be able to easily push a pipe cleaner through the airway.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 with a wet cotton pad after sanding with each pad. I buffed the stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel and carefully buffed the bowl at the same time. I used a light touch on the bowl and a heavier touch on the stem. I avoided the GBD rondel so as not to damage it. The pipe feels great in the hand. The carving is very well done and the pipe is exceptionally pointing to a quality block or meerschaum. The developing patina is a bonus for whoever adds this one to their collection. The dimensions are Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 2 inches, Bowl diameter: 1 ½ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ inches. I will be adding it to the rebornpipes store shortly. If you want to add it to your collection email me at slaug@uniserve.com or send me a message on Facebook. Thanks for looking.