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Thread: Caring For a Meerschaum

  1. #1
    PSU Member Paul's Avatar
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    Caring For a Meerschaum

    Even though I've seen about as many different methods of caring for a meerschaum as there are styles, this is a great link from Altinok Meerschaum Pipes outlining the general care of the White Goddess (for those who are new, curious, or like me, have a lot of time on my hands and just want to read something.

    Caring for a Meerschaum Pipe
    Last edited by Paul; 02-24-2012 at 23:44.
    "I am a mystery wrapped inside of a riddle wrapped inside of an enigma"

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  2. #2
    PSU Member T-Bear's Avatar
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    Ted Haviland

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    The Meerschaum "How-To" thread

    I posted this in another forum in answer to a gent's question about coloring his pipe.
    When meerschaum is soaked in liquid, it softens...almost like a bar of soap. This is how carvers work the stone.They will work a pipe until it begins to dry out, then drop it back in the water and work on another piece. Meers are carved in shifts...........

    Coloring is caused when then pipe absorbs smoke and tars from the burning tobacco. This migrates through the pipe to the outside where it is stopped by the wax coating, holding the color at the surface. If you remove the wax, you allow the tars to continue to the surface of the stone, creating a sticky, nasty mess.
    and this:
    Quality has a lot to do with color, but even high quality meerschaums may not take color quickly, if at all. I have some pipes in my collection that showed some color after only a few bowls, while others are only showing a blush of color after 3-4 years. Meerschaum is a fickle mistress. I smoke my pipes for the flavor and pleasure they give me....color is just one of the bonuses.
    Last edited by T-Bear; 02-23-2012 at 23:10.
    "…You spend years working hard, trying to establish yourself as a professional, but ya get caught with one sheep out of wedlock and poof, it's all over."

  3. #3
    PSU Owner Jesla's Avatar
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    Great Idea!

    I keep mine in it's case unless it's in the pie hole place..... :)
    And a re-wax helps the color show too.....
    Last edited by Jesla; 02-23-2012 at 22:29.
    "what ever turns you on Cup Cake…."

  4. #4
    Super Moderator Markw4mms's Avatar
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    Mark Smith
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    Thanks for posting that Paul! I'm a firm believer of never handling a meer by anything but the stem while smoking it. I'm glad to see they touched on that subject.
    "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."- Benjamin Franklin

  5. #5
    Registered Member simnettpratt's Avatar
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    So that's why my SMS straight Dublin only colored on the base; I smoked it too fast and hot! Thanks ninja! I knew I'd done something wrong, but I didn't know what. Oh, well, it's still a sweet smoke when it's clean.

    PS Hey, I got a second pipe under my name! I guess 25 posts is level 2 at

  6. #6

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    Very helpful. Many thanks!
    The reason people get lost in thought is because its unfamiliar territory

  7. #7

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    I read an article on the Seattle Pipe Club website by Gary B. Schrier, author of 'The History of the Calabash Pipe'. In this article, there was a piece of information I found rather interesting... I think definitively, at least in print, an entrepreneur by the name of George Zorn understood best what meerschaum was all about- and this goes back well over a hundred years to ca.1892. Then, George Zorn & Co., a Philadelphia based importer and manufacturer of pipes and smoking requisites had a retail shop. His business lasted from the 1870's to about 1925. In 1989, S. Paul Jung Jr. reproduced a facsimile of an early Zorn catalog which, in a way, was to predate what the Wally Frank catalog would become in the mid-20th Century. Here then, are Zorn's general tips to the meerschaum enthusiast:

    Avoid handling a warm pipe with the ungloved hand
    Be careful when laying down a warm pipe so as not to leave a spot
    Do not smoke the meerschaum in the cold or draft
    Smoke the bowl down "…to the bottom in order to give them a uniform heat, as, if this is not done, the wax will not withdraw uniformly, and therefore cause an uneven color."
    Never cover or envelope the pipe in a swaddle of chamois as was once so popular: the pipes cannot evaporate and the "dress" can stick causing a muddy brownish color
    Wipe clean your meerschaum with either silk or chamois, anything else
    The cake in the bowl aids in coloring and should be left alone. Ream out will scratch- no cotton. carefully if it gets too thick *
    The last bullet point is what I found interesting. The modern-day guidance with regards to meerschaum pipes is that cake is neither needed or good, so since I began smoking meers I have never allowed a cake to form in these pipes. What got me curious about this belief is a recent old meer that was gifted to me from a good friend. This old meer has the most amazing patina I've ever seen, yet inside the bowl there was at least a nickle thickness of cake built up... a very thick and hard cake. This got me thinking... do meers color better with a cake?

    Here's another bit of historical perspective on Meerschaum Pipe care...

    For a more recent viewpoint, here's one of the articles that I wrote for not long ago...
    I'm currently working on another one, as this is a huge area of information....
    Last edited by Fred Bass; 04-29-2012 at 17:27.
    Student and Devotee of the White Goddess
    Just another Old Codger in Texas...

  8. #8

    Here is what Beth Sermet of SMS Meerschaums had to say in response
    to my question about re-waxing Meerschaums. Thanks Beth.

    Rewaxing a Block Meerschaum

    Preparation: 100% beeswax cakes -- confectionery quality
    Old towel or cloth -- to prevent hot wax from
    dripping or spattering onto other surfaces
    Hair dryer -- multiple temperature and fan settings
    Cotton swabs -- for brushing the melted beeswax
    Polishing cloth -- soft white terry cloth towel or
    white flannel

    STEP 1: Use a hair dryer set to hot temperature setting, but low air speed.
    Heat the beeswax cake to consistency of lip balm.
    Hold the pipe by the stem. Smear onto the bowl directly from the beeswax
    cake like lipstick. Do not touch the bowl with your fingers during any of
    the steps..

    STEP 2: Continue to heat the a section of the surface of the bowl until the
    wax becomes liquid. Use the cotton swab like a brush to paint the area with
    a coating of wax. Push molten wax into crevices and hard to access areas.
    The swab may unravel as it absorbs excess wax. Coat the entire bowl surface
    evenly. CAUTION: Try to prevent wax from dripping into the tobacco hole since
    it will leave a bitter taste.

    STEP 3: Heat the bowl again to allow complete absorption of the wax. Set
    the pipe down on the towel to cool.

    STEP 4: After the bowl cools to room temperature. Buff the surface to a
    high gloss using a towel first then the flannel cloth for the final buffing.
    If the surface is tacky, too much wax is on the surface. Heat this area
    again and remove excess wax with a cotton swab and buff again.

    STEP 5: Repeat when the surface becomes soiled or dull. Excessive waxing
    may cause too much wax accumulation (tacky surface and dripping
    Student and Devotee of the White Goddess
    Just another Old Codger in Texas...

  9. #9
    PSU Member drdca's Avatar
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    Interesting. I wonder why she didn't suggest just reboiling the pipe in a beeswax bath like they do during initial construction?
    Cheers, Dallas

    I believe that pipe smoking contributes to a somewhat calm and objective judgment in all human affairs - Albert Einstein

  10. #10

    From Fred (as the server took a dump last night and he couldn't post it)

    Waxing meerschaums by immersion presents challenges to the experienced carver who is working with new pipes and doing the same to used pipes can present a few more issues. Knowing when to pull the block out of the wax bath is not something that present day carvers are willing to discuss, along with what compounds they put in their was. Factors involved include: density of the block, the components added to the wax, the style and size of the pipe and the degree of experience, or lack of, in working with flammable liquids. It is easy to wind up with a chamber and draft full of wax if the pipe is left too long in the bath, which happened to a friend of mine. One thing that needs to be stressed is to first remove all of the plastic and make sure the pipe is bone dry. The high temperatures will deform plastic and the presence of moisture can crack the block. Waxing by immersion is not recommended for used pipes primarily because you can wind up loosing resident patina development that might have taken years to happen.

    The commonly held belief that meerschaums are initially waxed by immersion is not necessarily true in all cases. In the past, when cheap labor was available, many pipes were dipped in the wax bath, but today the more efficient time management practice of spraying these wax concoctions has become increasingly more common. Many of the low grade block, pressed block, clay and Plaster of Paris pipes get sprayed with paraffin since it costs less. This topic is one I'm researching for a new article that compares finishing techniques from the past and into the present. Here's a bit more information in an article I wrote back in 2010, which you might enjoy. It is a popular topic.


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