Posts tagged ‘arango’

Meerschaum Ideas That Did and Didn’t Work

I had originally titled this “Homemade Pipe Bombs,” but I thought that’d be in bad taste, and I’d get Googled by a swarm of 15-year old’s. Today, we’re going to take a look at a bunch of homemade pipe remedies that both worked and didn’t work.

I’ll start with something that did work. Cleaning meerschaum’s are a challenge in itself, but the simplest thing I’ve made that’s been really helpful was a toothbrush cut down to about 2 1/2″. It lets me scrub out the meerschaum without damaging the inside. It also preps the pipe for something that I’ll cover later.

Before you try any of these other meerschaum remedies, I’d suggest trying a beater meerschaum, something simple that isn’t a collector’s piece, and you’re more interested in smoking your meerschaum than in preserving it’s pristine state.

One of the worst things I’ve done came from the Internet. The idea was to accelerate the coloring process of the meerschaum. The idea was to coat the meerschaum in beeswax using cotton swabs or something like them, allow the wax to solidify, then heat the meerschaum with a heat gun, melting the wax off. It accelerated the coloring alright, but it also stripped the finish off of the pipe.

Since I don’t have carnuba wax or something like it, and a buffing wheel, I bought Paragon Pipe Wax, which doesn’t require a buffing wheel, and managed to restore the finish. I think meerschaums are immersed in these arcane wax mixtures that are hard to replicate, so the Paragon finish was much easier to apply and a simpler solution.

What’s important to know about a meerschaum is that you don’t want any cake to build up in it. Cake is good for briar pipes but very bad for meerschaums. If cake starts to build up, gently scrape the inside of the bowl. Do not ream it, or hack at it until you reach pure meerschaum.

I’ve read all sort of wacky ideas to keep the inside of your meerschaum clean, including alcohol swabs, not using alcohol swabs, antibacterial wipes, not using antibacterial wipes, using nothing, using this, and using that. Honestly, the possibilities are ridiculous. I decided to use something designed for pipes, and specifically designed to remove excessive buildup: Arango Pipe Spray. The way I use it is to spray all of the inside of the pipe surface, then use a couple of facial tissues to wipe the bowl out. You can also use the Arango Pipe Spray to spray out the inside of your stems. Ive noticed that even after using pipe sweetener to clean out the stem, when I use the Arango, a lot of gunk still comes out of the stem. Under no circumstances should you get the Arango on the outside of the pipe.

Another idea to accelerate coloring was to put the meerschaum in a jar with a lid, or a plastic container with a lid, and to blow smoke from another pipe into the container and seal it. I didn’t notice much of a difference, except my pipe stunk. And it make sense that it wasn’t terribly effective. Meerschaum colors as the tar and nicotine are leeched from the inside of the pipe. By attempting to color it from the outside, the finish would act as a barrier from the smoke blown inside of the container. I’m now interested in getting a coloring bowl and seeing how that works. Another product that looks interesting is Meerschaum Antiquing Compound.

Next stop, Briar Ideas That Did and Didn’t Work…

Paragon Wax For Pipes

A quick review of Paragon Wax for the Pipe.  I chose this product because it has a higher melting point than carnuba, it’s harder than carnuba, and it can be polished without using a buffing wheel. Also, it can be used on meerschaum.

You get 1 ounce for $10, which looks like a very small amount, but you don’t really need that much to do the job. You apply just enough to create a filmy glaze on your pipe, let dry, then hand buff.

I used a microfiber cloth to polish the pipes. The wax itself is a grainy texture when you apply it, and not recommended for rusticated bowls. I also wouldn’t use it for detailed, ornate meerschaum. They have another product, Halycon II for those.

I do use Arango Briar Pipe Wipe, so my briar pipes aren’t real dingy to start with. The Paragon Wax did a nice job of shining them up. I’m no expert, but they looked like they had a much stronger polish than what the Pipe Wipe left. I did have one pipe that I was really interested in. The finish had chipped and cracked away as it’s a favorite frequently used pipe, and I am a klutz. There, I said it. Klutz. I’m frighteningly familiar with the sound of a pipe bouncing off the ground. Anyway, while it did do a great job polishing the pipe, alas, the scars of battle remained on the pipe, and the damage to the finish looked about the same.

That brings me to my meerschaums. I have two smokers, and one decorative. I don’t touch the decorative, don’t ask me to, it’s my big skull pipe you’ll find elsewhere in this blog. One of the smokers is a Kirsten bulldog and the other a simple egg meerschaum. The Kirsten is charred from my many attempts to light the dang thing with a lighter instead of a match. The egg meerschaum was the victim of the Internet.

Here’s the explanation about the Internet thing: When I had smoked the egg meerschaum for a while, it didn’t seem like the meerschaum coloration process was happening fast enough. I’m a very impatient person. So digging on the ‘net, I found a couple of methods for accelerating the coloration process. While I won’t go into what I tried, I will tell you that I ended up completely removing the meerschaum’s finish. The surface was not glossy at all. If you’re a meerschaum user, you know what the finish of a new meerschaum should feel like. I don’t give a good description here, but let it be said that I did completely screw up the finish.

I bought the Paragon for the express purpose of trying it on my meerschaums. I tried the egg meerschaum first, following the directions. Yes, I RTFM’d this time. Anyway, almost immediately, an awful stain spread across the bowl. I flipped out, and took extremely, extremely fine grit sandpaper to the stain. I figured I had already ruined the bowl, it didn’t really matter. Once the stain was gone, I tried it again, and a new stain appeared. Again, I took some sandpaper to it. I did it a third time, and the same thing happened. Disgusted, I set the pipe aside.

I decided to try the Kirsten as I think it’s made of pressed meerschaum dust instead of carved meerschaum, so the meerschaum wouldn’t color anyway. Again, figuring it was a lost cause, I tried sanding the rim a little to take away the scorch marks. I applied the wax just to the rim of the pipe, waited, polished, and was surprised to see that the finish looked new. What I hadn’t removed with the sandpaper was still there, but the finish still looked like it had just been applied. Wow!

I happened to glance over at the egg meerschaum, and the ugly stain had vanished. What the heck?! I rubbed off the glaze, amazed to see how shiny the meerschaum became. The stain was gone, and while it didn’t look new, the finish look great. I decided to try applying a second coat to see what happened.

I put the wax on, and again, the pipe developed ugly stains. Then I watched the pipe, and the stains faded within a few minutes. I shined it up again, and it looked even better! I don’t know if the stain appeared appeared because of the near complete lack of finish or what, but it seems I had panicked hastily. Even the areas where I had sanded looked great.

I’ve applied numerous coats to my meerschaum and the finish has improved each time. And I might be wrong, but the coloration process looks like it’s accelerated a little. Maybe in drying, the glaze pulled the nicotine outwards. I don’t know, but like I said, knowing the complete disaster I had started with, I’ve been amazed with the results.

So that’s my experience with Paragon Wax.

I’d post pictures of the pipe, but I don’t have a good “before” picture so it’d be kind of pointless. You’ll just have to take my word for it.