Is it Really Block Meerschaum?

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Wheels

Lurker
Mar 19, 2024
46
121
Orange county, California
I bought this little pipe mail order in the early 60’s. It was advertised as being genuine block meerschaum. I paid $5.95 plus shipping for it. I was making about $4 an hour at the time.

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Today I got to wondering if this thing really is block meerschaum. So, I did some research, and one of the main differences between molded meerschaum and block is weight. Molded is a lot heavier. I found a web site that said that the specific gravity of block meerschaum is somewhere between .988 and 1.279.

OK. All I have to do is measure its specific gravity and that’s just its weight divided by the weight of an equal volume of water. So, I removed the stem and weighed the bowl and it was 28.9g. To get volume I just needed to put it in a measuring cup and fill with water to one cup, remove the pipe and see how many ml the water drops. One ml = one gram. To my surprise, if floats. Its specific gravity is less than one and it really is block.

I didn’t let it soak. I pulled it out and dried it right away. And I’ll let it dry really well before smoking it again.
 

dottlejockey

Part of the Furniture Now
Not a bad wage for the 60s! 29 grams is nice and light. I have a little meer apple that is quite chunky and doesn't seem to color. I got it for less than $50 quite a few years back and believe it to be pressed. Never did much investigation. It smokes well, cleans easy and fits my hand just fine. No worries. Enjoy the pipe.
 

dingdong

Can't Leave
Apr 2, 2024
436
4,003
Jakarta, Indonesia
In my experience, real block meerschaum is so porous so even when smoking, the outer bowl feels slightly sticky as it heats up (hence the colour change after time, with tobacco smokes filling the porosity). pressed meer is likely more dense, and with the glue to hold it together, certainly less porous.
 
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pylorns

Lifer
Aug 20, 2013
2,130
401
Austin, Texas
www.thepipetool.com
The truth is there is not a lot of pressed meerschaum out there - it takes a lot to make pressed meerschaum and it was usually linings and calabash bowl inserts.

https://pipesmagazine.com/blog/pipe-collecting/meerschaum-the-past-and-present/

Every block meerschaum has many quality grades. We “MeerQueen” classified them in 6 grades. Below 4 (1-2-3) are bad quality. Lower quality 1-3 are heavier and they don’t smoke well as they do not absorb the nicotine well. Because of that, the meerschaum pipes of that lower grade do not color in a proper way. They may even crack like bad examples of pressed ones.
Grade 4-5 is good.
Grade 6 is the premium one (which is used only by 2-3 companies, and by very few artisans).
Pressed ones are generally heavier than grade 4-5-6 blocks.
It is difficult to know if you have a pressed one or grade 1-2-3 block as they have the same features. Today, mostly bad meerschaum pipes are made by grade 1-2-3 grades of block meerschaum.
In the past, we saw good examples of pressed ones and they were made of grade 5-6 block meerschaum pieces. But they were mainly produced for calabash bowl inserts and meerschaum linings and souvenirs.
So about this rumor about no longer getting pressed meerschaum?
Today there is no pressed meerschaum. Producing a GOOD QUALITY pressed meerschaum needs a good technology and a very big facility that you can not imagine.
What happened to all the pressed meerschaum manufacturing?
We had a modern and technological system for this but we closed these facilities.
Aside from pressed meer no longer being manufactured, everything else is good in the industry right?
Today most of the master carvers are retiring. Just a few talented young carvers are coming up. Unfortunately, Meerschaum art is about to die. A few years ago we were seeing many composition designs, dragon styles, and very detailed works. Nowadays, we mostly see classic shapes. In the past carvers spend 2-3 days for only one pipe. Now most of them are working on simple and easy models they crank out quickly.
 

Wheels

Lurker
Mar 19, 2024
46
121
Orange county, California
I repeated the measurement to get a numeric value. I was wrong above about the dry weight. It's actually 21.2g. Because it bobs to the surface, I measured its volume differently. I filled the measuring cup to a reference value and then used a wire to push the pipe under. The level rose by 25ml. So, the specific gravity of this pipe is about 21.2/25 or about .85.

The pipe felt a little sticky when it came out, probably the bees wax. I don't know if this causes any damage to the pipe. So far it seems OK. But if you try this, your results may be different. Do at your own risk.
 

johnnyflake

Starting to Get Obsessed
Jul 29, 2023
159
297
83
Henderson, Nevada
The fact that the bowl does not seem to be coloring very well, I would suggest that it is Pressed Meerschaum. Found this online:

Meerschaum pipes are fascinating! Let’s dive into the differences between block and pressed meerschaum:

  1. Weight: Block meerschaum pipes tend to be heavier than pressed ones. If you can compare the weight of a known block meerschaum pipe to another, you’ll get a sense of whether it’s block or not1.
  2. Texture: Lick your finger and touch the inside of the unsmoked bowl. If it feels sticky, it’s likely block meerschaum. If it doesn’t, it’s probably pressed. Keep in mind that this method might not work as well on used pipes2.
  3. Density and Patination: Pressed meerschaum pipes are made from scraps mixed with a bonding material and then pressed into blocks. These pressed blocks have higher density and won’t patinate or absorb color like block meerschaum. Block meerschaum is considered superior due to its quality and resistance to moisture degradation34.
Remember, the highest-quality meerschaum typically comes from Eskisehir, Turkey. Happy smoking!
 
Jan 28, 2018
13,389
143,544
67
Sarasota, FL
Well, I've been a member of plenty of forums where contrarianism seemed to be the only thing that kept them going, so fair enough.
I wasn't attempting to be difficult, I simply didn't understand the need to know. Sometimes, ignorance is bliss. I also believe the only way to tell for certain if his.Meerchaum is block, or not, would be to slice it into pieces for examination. This seems counter to any logical level of curiosity.

You shouldn't assume my pragmatic approach to life is an attempt to be contrary. You should direct your passive aggressive BS elsewhere.