Tag Archives: rewaxing a meerschaum

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!

Sprucing Up a Meerschaum Teardrop Lattice Billiard

Blog Dal Stanton

I just completed an Aldo Velani from what I’ve called the St. Louis Lot of 26 (See: Refreshing a Saucy Italian Aldo Velani Trio Bent Apple) and the next pipe in queue is also from this Lot.  The Meerschaum just above the giant Champion Churchwarden’s bowl is on the worktable now.  My son, Josiah found this lot in an antique shop in St. Louis where he was studying.  He sent me a text here in Bulgaria about his find with pictures.  We went in together to purchase the lot with the provision that my son’s part of the purchase would be for me to pick a pipe out of the lot as a Christmas present from him.  I chose the giant Champion Churchwarden!  Other pipe men and women have chosen other pipes from this lot of treasures which are posted in the online collection, For “Pipe Dreamers” Only! .This is where Jeremiah, from the state of California, saw the Meerschaum and commissioned him back when my wife and I were enjoying the Black Sea during our summer R&R.  I appreciate Jeremiah’s patience as his pipe worked up the queue!  Here are more pictures taking a closer look at the Meerschaum Teardrop Lattice Billiard. There are no markings on the pipe.  The size of the Billiard shape is Length 5 5/16 inches, Height 1 5/8 inches, Rim width 1 1/8 inches, Chamber width 3/4 inches, Chamber depth 1 3/8 inches. What is unique about this Meerschaum Teardrop Lattice design are the size of the tear drops, or the egg-shaped carvings – they are large.  The fine circular scallop carvings are in comparison, small and tight.  The Meer is set-up with a basic push/pull tenon which appears to have a crack in the mortise insert (pictured above).  The tenon insert is worn and discolored.  The pipe itself appears to be in great shape in need of cleaning.  The chamber has some carbon build up which is not needed or desired in a Meer chamber.  One of the great things about Meerschaums is that they do not need to rest between uses as with briars.  There is a bit of the coveted patina developing around the scalloped shank and climbing toward the back of the bowl.  This is good.  This brief description from Meerschaum.com that I’ve previously cited is helpful to understand the nature of Meerschaum:

Meerschaum is a very rare mineral, a kind of hard white clay. Light and porous structure of the pipe keeps the smoke cool and soft. The pipe itself is a natural filter which absorbs the nicotine. Because of this peculiarity, meerschaum pipes slowly change their colors to different tones of gold and dark brown. This adds an esthetic enjoyment to its great smoking pleasure. The longer a pipe is smoked the more valuable it becomes due to the color change. Today many old and rare meerschaums have found a permanent place in museums and private collections.

I begin the restoration of this Meerschaum by disassembling the component parts.  This helps with the cleaning.  I also plan to replace the push/pull tenon.  With the help of a pair of needle nose pliers, the push/pull components are easily removed.Taking the stummel in hand, the chamber has moderate carbon cake build up which will be removed.I don’t use the reaming kit with Meerschaum because it produces too much indiscriminate torque on the Meer chamber wall.  A more gentle and strategic approach is the use of the Savinelli Fitsall tool.  I’m able to scrape the chamber walls with the tool in a way that removes carbon buildup but is mindful of the Meerschaum.Following the wall scraping, the chamber wall is sanded with 240 grade paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen.  This does a good job of removing the last vestiges of carbon build up.  A Meerschaum chamber does not need a cake protection like a briar chamber.An inspection of the chamber after cleaning looks good.  The Meer is still colored but it is clean and smooth to the touch.Cleaning the external surface of the Meerschaum starts with the rim which has lava caked on it, especially on the aft quadrant where most of the lighting occurred.  Using undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap, I begin on the rim to soften and break up the lava without damaging the scalloped rim carvings.  I am patient to allow the solvents to break up the cake on the rim.  I also gently utilize a brass wired brush on the rim but most of the scrubbing is done with a bristled toothbrush.  I use the toothbrush to clean the rim as well as work into all the carvings of the bowl.  I take the bowl to the kitchen sink and continue cleaning with a cotton pad and toothbrush under warm water.  Not pictured is something I tried for the first time.  I have a Soft-Scrub product here in Bulgaria called CIT which has a gentle bleach and abrasion composition.  I put a small amount on a cotton pad and continue to work on the rim’s darkened condition.  After a thorough rinsing with warm water, the stummel returns to the worktable.I’m very pleased with the cleaning results. The stummel will lighten more because it’s still damp from the cleaning. The rim cleaned up very nicely.  One blackened area remains on the extreme edge of the aft rim quadrant.  Later, I may be able to clean this with very strategic sanding. The patina gathering at the bowl/shank crook remains through the cleaning. Moving now to cleaning the internals, I use cotton buds and pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 95%.  I also employ a small dental spoon to scrape the internal walls of old oils and tars.  The more excavated, the faster the cotton buds can clean.  In time the buds emerge in a lightened state and the job is completed.It took no time to dispatch the internal cleaning of the acrylic stem.Focusing now on the stem repairs, I like the brown tone acrylic.  It will clean up well.  The stem bit has significant biting damage to both upper and lower bit that will require patches from the start.  The button is damaged as well.  It appears this stem was the victim of mauling, not just biting.  There is also what appears to be a burn on the side of the stem – that’s the only thing I can think it would be. It is rough to the touch so sanding should help this blemish later.I use regular CA glue to fill the compressions on one side first.  An accelerator is also used to hold the glue in place and to quicken the curing process.After the CA glue cures, I use the flat needle file to remove the excess patch material and to shape and refresh the button lips – both upper and lower.  The first two pictures are the upper.Next the lower.Next, with the filing completed, I continue to sand with 240 grade paper on the upper and lower bit.From the bit, I also sand the entire stem and focus on the burn or blemish on the side of the stem.As I look at the mark on the side of the stem, I believe now it’s simply a blemish in the acrylic.  It is not just surface but seems to go deeper.  I can only sand it out as much as possible.After sanding with 240 paper, I transition to wet sanding the entire stem with 600 grade paper then the 000 grade steel wool fine tunes the acrylic stem – it’s looking great.Transitioning now to the full regimen of micromesh pads, I wet sand with pads 1500 to 2400 and follow with dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  Between each set of 3 pads Obsidian Oil is applied.  I like the fire in this acrylic stem. I want to strategically sand the burn spot on the extreme back of the inner rim edge.  I use a very light 240 grade paper and follow with a dry 1500 micromesh pad.I think it looks good.  The darkness is not erased but it is reduced.  To enrich and encourage the coveted patina in the Meerschaum, the age-old approach is a beeswax treatment.  Using a hot air gun, the beeswax in the Mason jar is heated until it liquefies.  I also heat the Meer bowl with the gun and then apply the liquefied beeswax to the stummel – painting thoroughly all the nooks and crannies of the sculpting.  During the painting process, I have the hot air gun propped in such a way as to continue to blow hot air on the stummel as I’m painting it.  This helps to keep the wax thin and it is more easily absorbed into the porous Meerschaum.After the stummel is thoroughly coated in beeswax, I put it aside for the stummel to cool.After cooling, I buff the stummel with a microfiber cloth to remove excess wax and to raise the shine.  The Meerschaum literally drank in the beeswax!I decided earlier to replace the old push/pull tenon system with a new set.  The shank acrylic fitment and the stem tenon both screwed in with no problem. When I tried inserting the tenon into the shank receptor, the fit was very tight – too tight to fit without me being nervous about cracking something.  To remedy this, I hand turn a drill bit just a bit larger than the hole and it bores out a slightly more comfortable fit.  This works like a charm. With the stem and stummel reunited, after mounting a cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel and set the speed at 40% full power and Blue Diamond compound is applied only to the acrylic stem.  Following the compound, after wiping the stem with a felt cloth to clean it of compound dust, the same procedure is followed with another cotton cloth buffing wheel and carnauba wax is applied to the acrylic stem.  After this, the entire Meerschaum Teardrop Lattice Billiard is hand buffed to raise the shine.

The design of this Meerschaum is a classic carvers’ template in this genre of pipe.  The patina on the Meerschaum has a good start with the honey honed hues which complement beautifully the fire waves of the acrylic stem.  Jeremiah wanted to add a Meerschaum to his growing collection, and he will have the first opportunity to add this Teardrop Lattice Billiard from The Pipe Steward Store benefiting the Daughters of Bulgaria – women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Thanks for joining me!

A Face Lift for a Battered Old Meerschaum Bulldog – Robert M. Boughton

Guest Blog by Robert M. Boughton
Member, North American Society of Pipe Collectors
Photos © the Author

“Age should not have its face lifted, but it should rather teach the world to admire wrinkles as the etchings of experience and the firm line of character.”
— U.S. author Clarence Day, 1874-1937

I agree that facelifts in most cases are attempts, nothing more than vain at best and narcissistic at worst, by those with money to burn to avoid the inevitable, and often enough have undesired effects the recipients deserve. However, in the case of a very battered and generally abused meerschaum pipe, as with some people who have suffered at the hands of others, at least a bit of a makeover is in order. This holds true with a bulldog, the animal breed of which many coarse or misguided folks think lacks beauty in the first place.

The unknown brand I will discuss, clearly a fine Turkish block example, is one of those exceptions. For reasons which will be obvious it resembled a dog that had been in a fight. I received it as part of a lot of eight from eBay that I purchased in large part because I saw the poor bulldog alone among all of the briars, and upon closer scrutiny with the magnifier observed it was filthy and somewhat oddly colored and had horrible scratches all over its once smooth, white, pristine body. Some unknown carver trying to eke out a living as his father and generations before him had done likely made it without even a signature of any sort, as is unfortunately all too common among Turkish crafters due to the central nature of humility in Islamic beliefs.

This unfortunate meerschaum was in about as bad shape as I had ever seen any pipe I still wanted to buy. I thought, if not I, then who? There were others of more merit in the lot, but that one cried out to me. Then again, I do have a sizable collection of meerschaums and knew I would be more than happy to keep that one if things didn’t work out restoration-wise. A former roommate told me many years ago that I am attracted to strays, and although he said it with sarcasm I told him he was right. I see nothing wrong with that trait. By the way, I also tend to root for the underdog – although not as often in organized sports– such as the bull versus the matador. Nothing pleases me more than seeing a jerk in a pompous outfit, with all kinds of helpers, gang up on a bull and find himself gored and bleeding out. But that’s just a dark part of me.


I have had fair success restoring meerschaums, including the following befores and afters: Robert1 Robert2 Robert3 Robert4And so I figured I would give this poor ol’ dog a shot:Robert5 Robert6 Robert7 Robert8 Robert9 Robert10 Robert11Despite the deplorable condition of the bowl and rim, I knew from the past that they would be the easy part of this job, so I tackled them first. I reamed the bowl and then used #800 micromesh to smooth it out. Surprisingly, with a light touch and a piece of 400-grit paper, I took the blackness right off of the rim and didn’t hurt the coloring at all. There were a few dings that rubbed out easily with #1000 micromesh.

The hard part, I knew and remember already indicating, but it bears repeating, was to remove as many of the scratches and other blemishes as I could with a minimum of damage to the nice if oddly distributed color on the outside of the bowl and shank. The spread of yellow and orange, not to mention the lack of any shine to the meerschaum, suggested over-hot smoking of this delicate if strongly shaped and named pipe. That conclusion would seem to be a no-brainer given horrendous caking within the bowl and cooking of the rim. And somehow I doubt the maker never treated it with beeswax or something else, yet it was as flat as could be.

My experience with washing the outside of a pipe with distilled water in general is that it seems to give a brighter light on the job at hand by removing all of the filth that has built up over time smoking any pipe. I could see this one was going to be worse than most, but nothing prepared me for the indefensible groping with dirty hands by whatever anti-aficionado of pipe smoking who had abused the bulldog with apparent joyful perversity. Why, I even had to scrub the muck out of the trademark groove beneath the rim! The result was not one or two, but three small pieces of cotton cloth spent and blackened with the physical dirtiness of some variety of pipe lecher.

Therefore, with the highest care, I applied stronger use of the #1000 micromesh to the seemingly endless scratches and other stray marks, like signs of skin cancer, that were everywhere. When I had stopped and resumed again time after time, finding more and more marks upon this wonderful pipe, I was at last as satisfied with the results as I knew I would ever be.

Then I used more stem cleaners and pipe freshener than I had ever expended on a single pipe, let me just say that, to sanitize the stem, shank and bowl, and by the end of it I have to admit only the stem came out perfectly clean. But I knew it was sanitized and ready to smoke one good bowl of tobacco, so I chose my own blend of burleys, Oriental, perique, a touch of Cavendishes and a bit of Virginias including red cake that I call Sneaky Rabbit (and which will soon be a house blend at my favorite tobacconist) to smoke the pipe once.
True enough, I wanted to know how this unusual bulldog smoked, but my main reason for lighting up a pipe I intend to sell and therefore knew I would have to give another quick clean was to heat the meerschaum enough to melt beeswax from a bar evenly over the outer area. I swear to it! I had researched online different processes for accomplishing this necessary completion for previous restorations, and the method I described had worked before so I knew it would again.

And so, once the smoking enjoyment had reached a high enough degree, I began applying the beeswax as described, and it worked just as well as I was certain it would. I took my last puffs of the pipe and cleared out the ash with care quickly before rubbing the beeswax vigorously into the meerschaum with a big soft cotton cloth.

The stem, despite the awful damage inflicted on the meerschaum, to my great surprise was in okay shape and only need some sanding and micro-meshing to prep it for a spin on the wax wheels.

Here are the final results:Robert12 Robert13 Robert14 Robert15 Robert16 Robert17 Robert18CONCLUSION
This was a work of love, and I know the results are a little rough around the edges. But I was determined throughout the process to assure that no more damage than had already been perpetrated against this pipe be made. It is already up for sale, but if nobody ever buys it, I know it is safe in my possession.