Care and Maintenance - Doing it right?

PipesMagazine Approved Sponsor

jmui

Junior Member
May 5, 2015
52
0
Hello all. I have been smoking meerschaum pipes for a while now and own several. Mostly new meerschaum. I would like to describe my process for the care and maintenance from what I've learned through research of what little sure methods of taking care of a meerschaum there are out in the interwebs. I know there is probably not an exact method, but I would like all your critiques and suggestions. Thank you!
1. After each smoke, I put a pipe cleaner through the bit to the bowl (being careful not to hit the heel of the bowl).
2. After each smoke, I use a dry paper towel folded up and twist to clean out the bowl. Does anyone think this may be too harsh for the inside of the bowl?
3. Once about every 30 smokes or so, I clean the stem and shank with alcohol (everclear) and pipe cleaners (bristle and regular).
4. Once about every 30 smokes, I clean the inside of the bowl with paper towels and just a bit of alcohol just to moisten the paper.
5. At this time, take a blunt spoon or knife (dull) to scrape any bits and little cake accumulating within the bowl.
6. I have yet to wax, but I plan to soak my meers in melted beeswax with corks and stem removed.
Please, any comments and feedback welcome.
Jason

 

cortezattic

Preferred Member
Nov 19, 2009
14,402
173
Chicago, IL
From what I've experienced:
Paper towel to clean the bowl is fine for the bowl, but may scratch the rim. Be careful.

Best not to use alcohol on meerschaum, either interior or exterior. Bristle brushes not recommended -- too abrasive.

Soaking in beeswax is unnecessary. Brush the wax on a warm pipe (hair drier is fine) using a natural hair brush.
Check out Fred Bass's article, Slave To The White Goddess, and internal links.
Speaking of related links, read this post (and the whole thread, actually), and follow the links.
Alcohol and meerschaum don't mix.



 

northernneil

Preferred Member
Jun 1, 2013
1,390
0
4. Once about every 30 smokes, I clean the inside of the bowl with paper towels and just a bit of alcohol just to moisten the paper.
I have always been under the impression that you should never use liquids on a meerschaum as it will soften the meerschaum. If you wipe the bowl out with a paper towel right after smoking, I would think that there would be very little need to use alcohol or even a pipe knife for additional cleaning.

 

jpmcwjr

Preferred Member
May 12, 2015
13,529
132
Monterey Peninsula
I use water. Yes, H20, right out of the tap, and paper towels to dry the bowl right after rinsing out. Soft cleaner for the stem and shank. No beeswax, ever.

 

calabashed

Member
May 10, 2015
163
1
@Jason Your cleaning ritual is a lot like mine, only I don't use bristle cleaners after smoking or using everclear. When the meer is at its softest I'm pretty sure even the stiff bristles could dig in to the material. I only use them right before alcohol cleaning in the dry bowl and shank to loosen stuff up a bit. I also wouldn't let anything sharper than the shovel end of a pipe nail near my pipes, you must have a steady hand to use even a dull knife.
Paper towels are by far the best tool to prevent cake building. Opinions are extremely varied about the advisability of everclear. I'm convinced that when used in small amounts just to dampen it does no obvious damage, but I've wondered about microscopically. Wether those tiny pores in the bowl surface might become clogged by a microns thin layer of dissolved meerschaum smeared around by cleaning motion. If so it wouldn't affect smoking but perhaps impede coloring on high quality block carved? I've no way to test this, just a thought I have from time to time while cleaning. Nearly all of my meer stuff is either pressed or a calabash insert where I don't care about coloring anyway.

 

maxpeters

Senior Member
Jan 4, 2010
435
0
I think that heavy puffing, especially when smoking a new meerschaum, will cause the coloring to sink more into the shank area, and very little into the bowl. Repeated smoking afterwards will only cause the coloring to darken in this area. This is because the wax, or whatever coating or polishing compound was used on your pipe, was liquefied by the heat from your first few bowls, and gravitated to that area. That's only a theory of mine though, from several meerschaum pipes I had early on.

I think that sipping and not puffing is good advice for any pipe, but especially meerschaums. But then again, I could be all wrong. Meerschaums are a little mysterious to me. Beautiful, but mysterious.

I also think that artificially coloring a meerschaum is all wrong. But again, that's just me.

The real beauty to me is the actual smoking of a meerschaum over time, and how a quality block, with use, can become a thing of beauty.

 

jpmcwjr

Preferred Member
May 12, 2015
13,529
132
Monterey Peninsula
I would love to hear someone expound on the physics of why wax would actually help in the coloring of the bowl and shank over time. I know wax has been traditionally applied at manufacture, but that helps the pipe not take on fingerprints etc. while it's on display.

 

rottingcorpse

Member
Feb 28, 2015
209
0
I basically have the same routine, except I don't use alcohol in the shank. Alcohol only touches my stem every other smoke. But recently, I have been using hot water instead. I also wax more often. Can you show us with pics one or however many of your favorite meer(s)? I'd love to see them.