Tag Archives: unplugging a clogged stem

Unplugging a Plugged stem on a Peterson’s 2018 Pipe of the Year

Blog by Steve Laug

On Tuesday this week I received the following email from a fellow here in Vancouver regarding repairing a couple of pipes for him. He wrote as follows:

Hi Steve… You were recommended to me by our good friends at City Cigar (Vancouver).  I have 2 pipes I’d love to have rescued – if possible!  Please let me know if you could be of service.  I’ve attached a few photos.

One is a Peterson 2018 Pipe of the Year, Smooth Fishtail.  Pipe is great – except there is an unsolvable (for myself) blockage in the stem.  I think the filter is damaged.

The other is an unfortunate Savinelli; the actual wood is broken, right at the connection between pipe body and stem.

Let me know your thoughts!  I’d love to regain these to a workable state if possible; they are lovely pipes.

Thanks kindly and best regards, Zak

He included pictures of both pipe for me. It was time to work on the plugged stem in the Peterson 2018 POY. Here is the photo that Zak included with his email. Once I saw the pipe I confirmed that the stem was not sitting correctly in the shank and the finish on the bowl was dirty and needed a little attention. Once I had the stem cleared out I would clean up the exterior of the bowl.I did a Google search for the Peterson 2018 Pipe of the Year to double check the fit of the stem to the shank. It is not fit against the shank in the above photo but in the ones that I found on two different sites (same pipe) the stem was a snug fit against the shank. I have included the links and photos that I found below.

The first photo is from Petersonpipenotes site. The write up there by Mark Irwin is a great read (http://petersonpipenotes.org/2018/01/16/77-first-look-the-2018-peterson-pipe-of-the-year/).The second photo is from and advertising page on the GQTobaccos.com site for the Peterson’s 2018 Pipe of the Year (https://www.gqtobaccos.com/tobacco-pipes/peterson-pipe-of-the-year-2018-smooth/).The pipe I am working on is stamped on the underside of the shank and reads Peterson [over] Of Dublin [over] Pipe of the Year [over] 2018 [over] 47 of 500. The Sterling Silver Band on the shank is stamped on top and reads Peterson [over] Dublin. On the underside it reads Peterson [over] three hallmarks. I have included the Hallmark chart from Peterson below. I have also done a screen capture of the section entitled Peterson Silver Hallmarks.  I am not sure what to make of the information on the band as it does not match the 2018 year on the POY.The photo to the left explains the hallmarks on this Peterson 2018 Pipe of the Year.

The first hallmark on this pipe is what is noted as Hibernia – a seated woman with her arm on a harp. This represents the country of manufacture – Ireland.

The second hallmark is 925 in an oval. It is the standard European Mark or Millesimal Mark which gives the purity or quality of the silver in parts per 1000.

The third hallmark is the Date Letter Code for the year in which the silver was hallmarked. The Date Letter on this pipe band is an italic upper case “G” which according to the chart dates the band to 1992. It is interesting that the band is on a pipe that is a Pipe of the Year for 2018. I am not sure what to make of that conflicting information. Was the band old stock made previously? I am not sure I will ever know that for sure.

I decided that the first thing I would work on was the fit of the stem to the shank. The shank itself was dirty and there was a thick coat of stain on the inside that had tar and oils built up on it that kept the tenon from seating properly in the shank. I took photos of the pipe as it looked when I received it. Compare the fit of the stem in these photos with the fit in the photos of the same pipe above. I cleaned out the shank with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol to remove the build up from the walls of the shank that prevented the stem from seating properly. There was also a lot of stain on the inside of the shank that must have influenced the taste of the smoke.  I smoothed out the ridges on the tenon with 220 grit sandpaper and made it smooth to allow an easy push into the shank.  I put the stem on the shank and took photos of the proper looking 2018 Pipe of the Year.   With the fit of the stem to the shank corrected it was now time to deal with the plugged stem. Zak thought that there was a filter jammed up the airway. My guess, judging on the size of the airway in the tenon and stem was that it was a broken pipe cleaner or even just pipe cleaner debris compacted and blocking the airway. I tried to push a cleaner in from both directions to try and locate the blockage. I was able to assess that it was equal distance from the tenon end and the button end – dead center in the stem, just before the bend.

I began my work on the obstruction by using a small drill bit and turning it into the clog without pushing the clog further up the stem. I was able to pull out some of the debris using that method but I did not push it as I did not want to move it up the stem. Once I had it drill I used a pipe cleaner to drip some acetone on the blockage. I repeated that from both ends of the stem and let the acetone sit and work on the blockage. I was hoping that it would dissolve any tar or oils that held the plug tightly in place in the stem.I was hoping to unplug it without heating and straightening and rebending the stem with my heat gun. After the acetone had soaked on the plug for a while I used an unfolded paper clip to push and pick at the plug. I inserted it from both ends and worked on the blockage.  After working the block over with the wire I was able to break through the blockage. The airflow was very constricted but at least there was some air. I cleaned the airway with a pipe cleaner and alcohol, working on the clog from both directions. I used the wire to pick away at the edges of the plug and loosen it. The pipe cleaners push out what the wire had loosened. In the next photos you can see the pile of darkened pipe cleaner debris that I was able to work out of the airway. I worked on the stem with pipe cleaners and alcohol until the airway was clean and the airflow was no longer hampered.    With the stem finish I cleaned up rim top and beveled rim edge and then I rubbed the bowl and shank down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the bowl sides and shank with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The Balm did its magic and the grain stood out.  I buffed the Sterling Silver band with a jeweler’s cloth and removed the tarnish coat. This nicely grained Peterson 2018 Pipe of the Year with a Sterling Silver band and an acrylic taper stem with an inlaid silver P is a great looking pipe. The briar around the bowl is clean and really came alive. The rich brown stains gave the grain a sense of depth with the polishing and waxing. The grain really popped. I put the acrylic stem back on the bowl and carefully buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel using a light touch on the briar. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished Peterson is a beauty and feels great in the hand and looks very good. 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 ¼ inch, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 54grams/1.90oz. The pipe will be going back to Zak along with the Savinelli I finished earlier. He will see them in person soon, so he can enjoy them both again. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it.

Working on Paresh’s Grandfather’s Linkman’s Zulu

Blog by Steve Laug

As I mentioned in my previous blog, Paresh, my friend in India reached out to me over Whatsapp to talk about a few more of his Grandfather’s pipes. He was confident in working on many of them but there were a few that he wanted me to try my hand on. His wife Abha would ream and clean them for me so I would be able to start with a relatively clean pipe. The second pipe was a Linkman Zulu with a vulcanite stem. It was in rough condition when Paresh and Abha started working on it. They reamed the thick hard cake with a KleenReem pipe reamer and clean up the exterior of the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap. They also cleaned the interior with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. The pipe was in very rough condition. The sides of the bowl, the rim top had been beaten up heavily. There were gouges all over the sides and rim top of the bowl. It was a mess and it was very dirty. The stamping on the shank read Linkman’s over Dr Grabow with a silver shield next to the stem/shank junction. On the underside of the shank it was stamped De Luxe over Bruyere with a shape number 9700. On the left side of the shank it was stamped PAT. No. 1896800. The stem was oxidized but in decent condition. I took photos of the pipe to show its condition when it arrived. The tenon is the patented threaded Linkman shovel stinger apparatus. It is a single unit rather than an inserted stinger as in later models. The top of the stem has a Linkman propeller logo.I took some close up photos of the damage on the bowl to give a better idea of what I was working with on this pipe. The rim top was a real mess with nicks, chips and damage under a coat of tars. Paresh and Abha had left the cake in the bowl to me to work on because of the other damage to the pipe. The stem was in pretty decent shape with a few tooth marks and chatter on both sides of the stem near the button and some oxidation. The bowl was a real mess and it would be a challenge. I took photos of the stamping on the top, bottom and left side of the shank.I checked some of my usual sources to get some information on the brand and how it fit into the Linkman/Grabow hierarchy. The first link I checked was the Pipephil logos and stampings site. I include the link as follows http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-l4.html. I quote as follows.

The M. Linkman and Co. was established by Louis B. Linkman and August Fisher in 1898. The company closed down in the 1950s and the Dr Grabow branch was sold to Henry Leonard and Thomas Inc.

I then went to the Pipedia website to get some more details and information. There was also a photo of Linkman that I thought added a nice touch to the work I was going to do on this pipe. Here is the link from the site if you want to check it out in full. https://pipedia.org/wiki/M._Linkman_%26_Co.

The name is often said to stand for Mary Linkman & Company. Mary Linkman was the mother of Louis B. Linkman, originator of the Dr. Grabow pipe. This Chicago company produced meerschaums and briars both.

BACK IN 1898, two ambitious young men reached the momentous decision to go into business for themselves. They were Louis B. Linkman and August Fisher. From the time they were in knee pants they had worked for a pipe jobber in the mid-west.

Diligently saving a portion of their earnings, they accumulated a few hundred dollars, and in 1898 formed a partnership under the name of M. Linkman & Company. They opened a small shop on Lake Street, Chicago, employed two additional people, and started to manufacture pipes. {The article never mentions what the “M” stood for, or the reason for the name chosen.}

In 1890 {? — 1899, perhaps?} another young man, Anton Burger, who had also been employed by a pipe jobber in the mid-west, approached them and was taken in as a partner. M. Linkman & Company proceeded as a partnership; the business developed rapidly through the untiring efforts of these men in producing quality pipes and rendering good service to their customers.

The business continued to grow, and in 1907 M. Linkman & Company was incorporated with Louis B. Linkman as president, August Fisher, vice-president, and Anton Burger, secretary and treasurer. In 1914, Richard J. Dean, who had joined the firm in 1911 was appointed general sales manager.

The business was growing and expanding rapidly, and the executives soon realized the quarters in the Wells Street Bridge Building were inadequate, so in 1922 Linkman built a modern three-story reinforced concrete building at the corner of Fullerton Avenue and Racine, housing one of the most complete and modern pipe plants in America.

I finished by doing a Google search to find the US Patent Search site so that I could see if there was a patent document on file there for this patent number. http://patft.uspto.gov/netahtml/PTO/srchnum.htm. I entered the patent number and found a patent filed by L.B. Linkman for the pipe on April 11, 1932 and granted on February 7, 1933. I include that below. I decided to clean up the bowl interior before I addressed the damage on the outside of the bowl. I reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer starting with the smallest cutting head and working up to the second head which was the same size as the bowl. I reamed the cake back to bare briar to see if there was any internal damage to the bowl. I sanded the inside of the bowl with a piece of dowel wrapped with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the bowl walls and the inner edge of the rim. I sanded the rim top with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the damage and reshape the inward bevel on the rim. I wiped down the surface of the briar with alcohol on a cotton pad to clean off the grime. I filled in the damaged areas around the bowl and on the rim with briar dust and clear super glue. I sprayed it with an accelerator (that is why it appears white in the following photos). The extent of the damage is very clear in the photos below. I started to sand the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper to begin to smooth out the repairs. It would take a lot of sanding to smooth out the filled areas. The patches were rock hard. The photos that follow show the progress of the sanding. I polished the sanded briar with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down with a damp cotton pad after each sanding pad. The briar took on a shine and the filled spots though dark were better than all of the damage present before. To help hide the repairs on the bowl I decided to stain it with a dark brown aniline stain. I applied the stain with a folded thick pipe cleaner, flamed it and repeated the process until I was pleased with the coverage on the bowl. The photos below tell the story. Once the stain had dried, I wiped the bowl down with alcohol to make it a bit more transparent without making the repairs stand out. It is a tricky balance to work out as too much transparency reveals all of the blemishes while not enough makes it opaque and lacklustre. Once I polish the pipe I will know if I did enough or too much… time will tell. I forgot to take a photo of the stem before I put it in the Before & After Deoxidizer overnight and forgot about it. Today after lunch I remembered it and took it out of the mix. I wiped off the excess and ran it under warm water to rinse off the mixture. I was unable to run water through the stem so I dried it off to have a look. It looked better but it was absolutely plugged tight. That generally means there is something like a pipe cleaner broken in the stem but I would need to take it apart to tell for sure.I tried several different ways of opening the airway. I tried to push stiff pipe cleaners through the stem from the button. By measuring the length of the pipe cleaner with the stem I could see that the blockage was in the stinger itself. I tried pushing a straightened paper clip through the blockage from both ends – the button and the airway in the stinger. Nothing worked. I heated the stinger and tried again with the paper clip and again no luck. It was time to move forward. I heated the stinger with a lighter to loosen the tars holding it in place. Since it was a 1930 era pipe I figured it would be a threaded end the stem. Sure enough, once it was heated I unscrewed from the stem.

The photo below shows the culprit – a really stinky broken off pipe cleaner jammed in the stinger. The pipe cleaner was almost the length of the stem as well so it was clear that I was merely sliding by the jam with the stinger in place. With a pipe cleaner that old and worn I was worried I would just break off more in the stinger. I heated the stinger with the lighter and then carefully wiggled the pipe cleaner free of the stinger. The second photo shows the culprit freed from the stinger. You can also see that some of the fluff on the cleaner had come off inside the stinger and left it plugged. I could still not blow air through the stinger. (I have circled the ‘fluffless’ pipe cleaner end in the second photo below.)I tried to push through the clog with the paper clip pictured above, twisting it into the threaded end but was not able to break through. That left only one option for me. I chucked a 1/16 inch drill bit in my Dremel, set the speed to 5 and slowly worked my way through the rock hard plug. It took some doing to work it through the plug but I worked it back and forth until the airway was clean and I could blow air through it. I ran pipe cleaners soaked in alcohol back and forth through the stinger and removed all of the grit and tar that had built up around the plug. It was pretty nasty stuff. But after it was said and done I had a clear and clean stinger. I cleaned out the inside of the stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. Once the stem was clean I checked it with a light for more potential problems inside. It was clear and spotless.I lightly greased the threads on the stinger and turned it back into the cleaned stem. I aligned it with the mortise in the shank. The stem was getting there. I still needed to work on some oxidation but it looked a lot better and I could blow through it easily. I polished the vulcanite stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. (I polished the metal stinger as well at the same time.) I gave it a final coat of oil and set it aside to dry. After staining the briar and wiping it down with alcohol, I touched up the repaired areas with a Black Sharpie Pen and blended in by rubbing it. I have been using Before & After Restoration Balm after staining to further blend and clean the briar. The product works to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I hand rubbed it with my fingers, working it into the exterior of the pipe. I wiped it off and buffed it with a soft cloth to polish it. The pipe really began to have a rich shine. I took some photos of the bowl at this point to mark the progress in the restoration. I carefully polished bowl with 3200-12000 grit micromesh sanding pads. I polished the stem with Blue Diamond to polish out the remaining small scratches. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and lightly buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. The transparent dark brownish red stain worked really well with the black vulcanite stem. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 inches, Height: 1 3/4 inches, Outer diameter of the bowl: 1 1/4 inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ inches. This is the second of the three of Paresh’s Grandfather’s pipes that he sent me to finish. I will set it aside and when the others are finished I will pack them up and send them back to India. I look forward to hearing what he thinks of it once he gets to load it with his favourite tobacco and carry on the pipe man’s legacy of his Grandfather. Thanks for walking through this restoration with me as I worked over this beauty. 

This Poor Old Kaywoodie Chesterfield had seen better days

Blog by Steve Laug

I received an email from Jim, the same fellow who sent me the Yello-Bole that I refurbished for him. I wrote about it in an earlier blog (https://rebornpipes.com/2016/11/10/breathing-life-into-a-huge-kbb-yello-bole-3068c-bent-billiard/). I have included the gist of his email and the photos he sent me because any of us who try our hand at pipe repair have found ourselves in similar situations. One simple thing going wrong can quickly compound into a second and a third thing going wrong and leave you with a mess on a pipe that at first glance should have been a simple cleanup.

“So I have a Kaywoodie Chesterfield pipe – the first pipe I ever obtained – and it is in need of serious attention.  I bought it at Barclay’s in Upper Arlington, Ohio from their Estate Pipe display, and I really like the pipe.  However, about three days ago, I was cleaning it, and got a tapered pipe cleaner stuck in the bit.  As I was pulling the cleaner through, the thicker end jammed itself well inside the bit as I attempted to draw the thinner end through the lip.  I apparently pulled too hard, and the end of the pipe cleaner broke off, leaving the remainder of the cleaner fully trapped in the bit.  In my idiocy, I tried various strategies to dislodge the cleaner which eventually led to my doing further damage to the bit in the form of a split down the center of the underside of the stem latitudinally.”

“…I know this particular pipe is not terribly valuable or even rare.  However, I am kind of a sap, and the pipe has a measure of sentimental value in that it is the first pipe I got, and I picked it because it reminded me of the pipes my dad smoked when I was a kid.  I am hoping you can give me some good news in the form of a means to remedy my stupidity.”

He sent the next three photos to show me his pipe and his travail. The first is one of the overall view of the pipe. Though it is hard to see in this photo the bowl has some very nice grain. I will take some pictures of the bowl and the finished pipe once I have finished the repair.chest1He took a photo of the end of the shank. His caption read: “You cannot see the thicker end of the pipe cleaner because it’s stuck way in there…” Indeed the pipe cleaner was stuck in the stem. It was jammed in the stem 1 ½ inches from the button with a bit showing through the jagged split in the stem and about two inches in from the shank end of the stem.chest2The last photo he sent shows the underside of the stem with this caption: “….And this is what you get when a dummy tries to ameliorate a situation that is beyond his ken.” It was a jagged split that looked awful in the photo below.chest3I had him send the pipe to me so that I could see what could be done. A stem repair in its own right that large is a fair bit of work but it could be done. The pipe cleaner jammed in the airway was an altogether different issue. I needed to have a look to see what I could come up with to remove the jam from the airway in the stem. I could not be sure until I saw it and tried.

The package arrived in Canada a few days ago and I opened it to find he had included the large Yello-Bole that I mentioned above and the damaged Chesterfield. The Chesterfield is actually a stunning pipe. The grain on the bowl, the finish and the nickel ferrule all combine to make a beautiful pipe. The bowl was in great shape and required no cleaning or repairs – just a buff to polish it. I can certainly see why Jim was attached to it. He was willing to have a new stem fit to the shank but I really wanted to see if the original Kaywoodie stem could be salvaged.

I took the next series of photos to show the damage to the stem underside. I needed to straighten the stem out to properly work on it. I traced the angle of the curve on the back of the letter that Jim sent along with the package so that I could recapture it once I finished the repair. I used a dental pick and tweezers to pull as much of the pipe cleaner and wire out of the damaged area on the stem. I found as I worked on the damaged area that several chunks of a small drill bit also fell out giving testimony to one of the ways Jim had tried to remove the jammed pipe cleaner. I was hoping to be able to pull all of it out this way but it continue to break and come out in small pieces until I was unable to reach any more with the pick and the tweezers.

I used a drill bit on my cordless drill and turned the straightened stem onto the bit from the shank end. My thought was that perhaps the drill bit would seize a piece of the pipe cleaner when I backed it out of the stem. It worked to a degree but it would not bring out the last 1 ½ inches of broken pipe cleaner. I was stuck. I needed some time to think through my options and try to figure out how to address the problem. I laid the stem aside and worked on the Yello-Bole while I pondered my next moves with the stem.chest4While I was working on the Yello-Bole I had a thought that maybe putting the stem in the freezer for a bit might work. My thinking was that when I removed it the contraction and expansion of the vulcanite and that of the pipe cleaner would be different enough that the pipe cleaner would drop out of the shank. At least that is what I dreamed would happen. A few days went by and I had some late nights at work and the stem sat in the freezer for a lot longer than I had anticipated. Needless to say when I finally took it out of the freeze it appeared to have made no difference. The pipe cleaner did not simply fall out of the airway as the stem warmed.

I laid it aside for the night and went to sleep. I woke up early this morning with an idea. I straightened a length of paper clip that I used as a punch. I slid it into the button end of the stem carefully past the damaged underside until it hit the jammed pipe cleaner. I used a small furniture tack hammer to tap on the bit of paper clip extending above the button. I tapped it maybe four or five times and I felt it begin to give. Encouraged, I tapped it several more times and the pipe cleaner bit fell free of the shank end of the pipe. You can see the broken piece of pipe cleaner below the stem in the next photo. I plugged the damaged area with my thumb and blew through the stem to clear out debris left behind by the pipe cleaner bits. The airway was finally free.chest5I mixed a batch of charcoal powder and black super glue on a patch of cardboard until I had a thick paste. I use activated charcoal capsules for the finely ground charcoal and a medium viscosity super glue for the mixture. I greased a pipe cleaner with Vaseline and slid it into the stem filling in the area on both ends of the damaged spot. I applied the mixture of super glue and charcoal powder to the damaged area with a length of straightened paperclip. I smoothed out the repair with the edge of a paper clip. I sprayed the repair with an accelerator and slid the pipe cleaner out of the airway. I blew through the shank end of the stem and the airway was clear of blockage. I used a clean pipe cleaner to remove the excess Vaseline from the inside of the stem.chest6I used the rest of the mixture to build up the repair and spread it over the surface of the stem, bonding the patch to the solid vulcanite on both sides of the damaged area. The patch was thick and large but I would be able to sand it smooth.chest7Once the patch dried I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth it out and blend it with the surrounding vulcanite. The next two photos show the repaired area at this point in the process.chest8I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. As I worked over the repaired area some of the air bubbles in the mixture of charcoal powder and the glue came to the surface. I have never found them to be big deal as they only need to be lightly filled with clear super glue. I repeated the super glue and sanding process until the patch was smooth. I sanded it with micromesh pads until it shone and after each set of three pads I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil. I gave it a final coat of oil after the last set of three pads and set it aside to dry. The following photos show process of how the repaired area gradually smoothed and blended into the rest of the vulcanite.chest9 chest10 chest11 chest12 chest13 chest14Once the repair was finished and polished I set the stem aside to cure for several hours. I wanted to make sure that the charcoal and black super glue patch was hard. I had visions of it dropping out when I heated the stem and applied pressure to bend it. Once it had hardened bending it was not a problem. I slid a small pipe cleaner into the stem from the button end to keep the airway from collapsing when I bent it. I heated it over a heat gun until the vulcanite was pliable. I bent it to match the pattern on the paper and then cooled it with running water. I repeated the process until I had the right curve to the stem.chest15 chest16I buffed the stem and bowl with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel to raise a shine and polish out the scratches. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed it with a clean buffing pad on the wheel and hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth. The repair to the underside of the stem is solid and smooth. While the repair is visible under bright light it did not stand out while looking at it with the naked eye. Along with that the repair was fortunately on the underside of the stem in the curve. I think Jim will appreciate the repair and the pipe should serve him well. I look forward to hearing what he thinks of the repair once he has the pipe in hand. Thanks for walking with me through the process.chest17 chest18 chest19

My Brother Says this Carved Meerschaum Bowl Reminds Him of Me…

Blog by Steve Laug

Meer1My brother Jeff sent me these photos of an old carved meerschaum that he picked up. He said he had to have it as it was the perfect likeness of his brother. I don’t know if that is a compliment of not but this is certainly an amazing carving. There is no sign of who carved it. The bowl is in really good shape in terms of not having any really bad scrapes or scars in it. There are no chips on the edges of the hood and cowl or on the beard of the old fellow. From the photos it is really hard to tell what size the pipe was but I was intrigued. It looked like it would be fun to work on and with a carved head like that and the supposed likeness to yours truly it was even more of a challenge. I could not wait for it to arrive so that I could begin to work on it.

Looking at the photos while I awaited its arrival from Idaho I was curious about the size. I wondered if the pipe might not be a cheroot pipe rather than a full-sized pipe. When I asked my brother about that he assured me that it was too big for that. I forgot to get the measurements on the pipe before he shipped it out to me so that would need to wait until I saw it. The as I looked at the photos I wondered if the bowl in the top of the head was not a colouring bowl. Maybe it was not an integral part of the pipe but an addition that was used to facilitate the colouration of the bowl. I would not know that until I had it in hand. These and other questions ran through my head each time I looked at the photos and really none of them could be answered until I held the pipe in hand. The photos below were included by the original seller. The first gives a front view. The second and third photos show the side views of the pipe.Meer2


Meer4 The case was in two parts in the photos. It appeared to be in decent shape otherwise. When the pipe arrived I was blown away be the size of it. It was a full-sized pipe. In the photo below you can see it next to a regular tooth brush. Later there will be photos of it in my hand it is a big pipe. It appeared that the bowl in the top of the pipe was part of the pipe. It was the most worn part of the pipe. It had tars built up on the top of the rim. There were some small nicks in the surface of the outer edge. The underside of the bowl was dirty and worn and it appeared that the finish was gone. The bowl itself had surprisingly few scratches in the surface. There was darkening and wear where it had been held but it was not bad. The grooves of the cowl and hood as well as those in the beard had a lot of dust and debris in them. The mouth piece was Bakelite and had a slot in the end of the button. There were some tooth marks on the underside. The stem was also slightly overturned. The metal tenon was anchored in the shank of the meer and the stem screwed onto the tenon. It appeared to me that the threads in the stem were worn and that accounted for the overturn.

I scrubbed the surface of the meer with a tooth brush and Murphy’s Oil Soap. I wanted to clean the meerschaum and the grooves but not harm the patina of the pipe. I scrubbed to make sure that all the grime and dust was gone. I worked on the rim to soften the tars and oils there. I scrubbed the underside of the beard and the rest of the pipe. Once it was clean I rinsed the pipe under warm running water to remove the soap and grime. I dried it off with a soft cotton towel.Meer5 The photos below show the scrubbed and dried pipe. You can also get an idea of the size of the bowl in comparison to my hand in several of the photos. I love the expression on the face of the character. The carver masterfully captured the charm and character of the old man.Meer6




Meer7 The next photo, though it cuts off a part of the hood still gives a clear picture of the charm of the old fellow. You can see the amusement in his face and the squint of his eyes. The face makes me wonder what he was thinking about. There is some good colouration on his face, beard and hood.Meer11 I sanded the top of the bowl with a medium grit sanding block to remove the tars and oils and bring it back to the original meerschaum surface. The buildup came off with very little work and the rounded rim of the bowl shone with the colour of a well smoked bowl. I scraped the bowl with a pen knife to clean out the thin cake that was forming on the inside.Meer12

Meer13 The stem was clogged and no air could be blown through it. I used a dental pick to clean out the slot and then tried to push a pipe cleaner through it. The pipe cleaner bent and the clog would not budge. I tried it from both ends of the stem with no luck. I used a straightened pipe cleaner and curved it to the bend of the stem and was able to push it through the clog and poke the debris free of the stem. I ran both bristle and regular pipe cleaners through the airway until they came out clean and the airway was unobstructed.Meer14

Meer15 I sanded the tooth marks near the button on the top and underside of the stem with 220 grit sandpaper until they were smooth.Meer16

Meer17 I wet sanded the stem with 1500-2400 grit micromesh pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil. I dry sanded with 3200-4000 grit pads and gave it a second coat of oil. I finished with 6000-12000 grit pads and then buffed the stem with Blue Diamond on the wheel. I gave it multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a clean buffing pad.Meer18


Meer20 The rich butterscotch colour of the stem contrasts beautifully with the cleaned and aging meerschaum. The old man seems to give a quirky smile saying that his life is good now. He is cleaned and ready to use. The bowl on the top has been cleaned and the airway in the shank to that bowl is also cleaned and blown out with air to remove the debris that may have collected I the bottom of the under bowl. I will have to get some white beeswax and give it a new coat of wax and then buff it to a shine. In the mean time I buffed it with a shoe brush and raised a shine in the meerschaum. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. I am glad my brother sent it my way.Meer21





Meer26 I am not sure what my brother is talking about seeing a resemblance the pipe and me. Do you see any resemblance in the pictures of the two old men? Hmmm makes me wonder what he sees when he looks at me. Now even my kids are calling in my mini-me. Ah well things could be worse.

Thanks for looking.Meer27