Sunday, August 2, 2015

Buying a Meerschaum Cutty

You have won the Oi Vay auction or purchased the pipe from that other site called Itchy. You have paid for your purchase by money or credit card and the day has finally arrived when you receive that well wrapped package containing your pipe.

Well before that day even gets here lets start with the questions you should pose to any seller before you even part with any cash. Some can usually be answered by just studying the pictures but here are the main ones. (i) Is the case in good order? Does the case snap shut or is it missing any of the locking furniture? Does the case have hinges or are any of the hinges missing or hanging off, held on by one nail? Remember even I have been unable to find a competent case repairer since at least 1991 and to the best of my knowledge they do not exist unless someone would like to prove me wrong. (ii) Early meerschaum pipes, by which I mean anything made before 1910 will have a double headed screw that is know as a 'tenion' which will screw into the pipes shank and the stem is screwed onto the seated and protruding threaded part.

This is where things become tricky as the shanks of these pipes were threaded and careless maintenance, stupidity etc can cause these threads to wear so that the 'tenion' is no longer seated in the shank or will rotate or can be removed by just pulling the stem. This in itself is not a deal breaker as any competent Meerschaum repairman such as Ric at Briarville or Tim at J H Lowe can fix these issues by rebuilding the treads. (iii) The next issue is does the stem line up with the 'tenion' and the shank? Most pre-1910 meerschaum 'cutty' pipes had slightly tapered either amber or faux amber stems with a slightly oval button on the end. Due to wear once the stem is screwed into the 'tenion' more often or not the stem will not align properly. Again this is not a deal breaker since a gasket of thicker paper will normally provide the necessary lift for the stem to align properly.

The example above shows the correct stem alignment and tapering with the all to common late Victorian reinforcing ring either added to a damaged shank or sometimes added for for decorative effect. In part 2 I will tell you all you need to know about what to do the minute you open the box and stuff your new friend with tobacco!
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