Tinderbox, while diminished from its glory days, still has a web site.
This is the conventional wisdom I learned about meerschaum pipes nearly fifty years ago:
The Major Steps in Creating a Meerschaum Pipe
1. MINING - Meerschaum is mined in up to 450 feet of clay, sand, and gravel near Eskishehir, Turkey, and in Tanzania, Africa.
2. WASHING - The raw lumps of Meerschaum are washed to remove the dirt and gravel. assist you in selecting the Briar pipe that's just right for you.
3. GRADING - The meerschaum stones are graded into five categories with twelve qualities in each. Grading is based on size, density, color, and homogeneity.
4. SPLITTING - When the manufacturer receives a shipment of raw Meerschaum it must be split into smaller pieces for fashioning into pipes. A senior craftsman examines it very carefully, calculating precisely where the clumps should be split, much as in the cutting of fine gem stones. The many natural "fault lines" must be eliminated. As much as 80% of the raw material may be discarded at this stage.
5. CARVING - The Meerschaum blocks are soaked in water for 15 to 30 minutes to further soften the material to a cheese-like consistency before carving. Skilled craftsmen then fashion the Meerschaum into standard shape pipes or the magnificent sculptured pieces so highly prized by collectors.
6. HAND FITTING OF THE STEM - Before Polishing, a Meerschaum pipe is fitted with the stem or mouth-piece. In days gone by, stems were made of pure amber. Today, amber-colored Lucite is used almost exclusively. Pure amber is fine for collectors' pipes, but for the steady smoker, Lucite is much better because it is stronger, more resilient, and more comfortable in the mouth.
7. POLISHING - Only the finest abrasives can be used for polishing the soft Meerschaum. This step is long and tedious as too much pressure would mar the smooth finish.
8. WAXING - How well your Meerschaum will color is largely determined by the waxing. The pipes are dipped in molten bees-wax as many as 8 times to ensure proper coloring.
9. FINAL INSPECTION - A specialist carefully examines each finished pipe. The slightest flaw even at this late stage is just reason for the pipe's destruction. Finer quality Meerschaums are protected by a fitted case made for each individual pipe.
I’ve dug out my meers, and I appreciate them more than I did before I read this thread.
At 3 grams of tobacco a day, sometime close after Memorial Day (Decoration Day in Ozark American) I should have Jack colored a bit and need another pound of Creme Brulee.
So far this is a right pleasant New Year’s resolution to keep.