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The amazing colour changing meer

Discussion in 'Pipes' started by Puffer Pete, Sep 3, 2011.

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  1. Puffer Pete

    Puffer Pete Member

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    This one has me a bit puzzled. I know meers are supposed to change colour with use, but I actually thought it took more than one smoke for it to happen. I also know that waxing will bring out clour, but the changes happening to this one seem very rapid and very obvious. Any insight into what's happening would be most welcome.
    First of all, here's a photo of the pipe as I bought it. A bit scruffy, but VERY cheap.

    [​IMG]

    After a bit of cleaning up (a wash) and a light sanding to remove the worst of the scratches, it looked like this. Pretty much as I expected it to look.

    [​IMG]

    From here on in is where is starts to get a little strange. At least, it seems strange to me. Unfortunately. I didn't photograph it immediately post waxing, but there is a reason for that - it turned out to be a minor disaster. Somehow, and I'm not at all sure how, I managed to let wax seep into the pipe, 3/4 filling the bowl and totally blocking the bore. The wife thought it highly amusing, asking if I inteded to fit a wick and use it as a nightlight.
    Suffice it to say that the colour had darkened considerably, with the top part being tan, the middle third dark tan and the bottom third the mottled effect seen in the previous photos - but darker.
    Anyway, the wax was dug out, prodded out and wiped out and the decision made to attempt to burn/melt off the residue by smoking the pipe. I chose some tobacco I dislike for the task, Clan, and proceeded to smoke a bowlful. To be honest, apart from the odd time when the wax flavour was particularly strong, there was precious little difference between the taste of the tobacco and the wax.
    During smoking there seemed to be wax 'sweating' out of the pipe, but it did prove that the pipe smokes very well as far as the mechanics of smoking are concerned. What has surprised me is how much colour has vanished from the pipe.
    Here's how it stands now, with an amber stem that I feel suits the pipe better and fits much better than the stem that came with it. So, what do you think? Will the colour come back? Has the wax inside the pipe drawn the colour away from the surface? Will re-waxing bring the colour back?
    The only thing I am sure of is that I now have a pipe that, empty, has a mild honey taste to it.

    [​IMG]

    All and any opinions on the matter would be appreciated. Especially since the wife is complaining that she prefered the colour it was after waxing and is giving me GBH of the earhole over it.

    Pete
     
  2. Bouquelon

    Bouquelon Member

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    Well it at least looks more uniform now. I think it does look a bit better now, but I bet that if you smoke it daily for a few weeks or a month it may burn out even more of the wax and recover some of the dark mottling. All the dark tars are still in there, they just need to work their way out to the surface. I would smoke that pipe exclusively for a while and see what happens.
    I am a bit leery of re-waxing my meers due to how much darkening is seems to do. I tend to prefer the unpredictable gradual color changes that happen from just smoking and resting the pipe.
     
  3. Puffer Pete

    Puffer Pete Member

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    You could very well be right. I smoked it again and, during smoking, it got much darker again. Most of which faded as the pipe cooled.
    So, one smoke after the earlier photo, this is what we have.

    Pete[​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  4. dmkerr

    dmkerr PG- free since '83! Moderator

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    Seems to me the whole process is working exactly as it's supposed to. I'm not sure anyone has a totally accurate perspective on flow dynamics as it pertains to meerschaum coloring, and certainly every pipe colors differently according to the grain (yes, meerschaum has a grain pattern) but what you described is exactly as I would personally expect. Keep smoking and waxing the pipe and it will darken and fade, darken and fade and then just darken. Not smoking the pipe for awhile will also cause the color to fade. A wax job will cause it to darken... and then fade... and then darken. :ohyh:
     
  5. Puffer Pete

    Puffer Pete Member

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    Oh, okay, not strange, and definitely not amazing afterall. I consider myself corrected.:bow:
    It seemed strange to me because my other re-waxed pipes (all African meers) darkened with waxing, but didn't lose the colour when I smoked them. Now, two or three weeks after waxing, they look much as they did once they cooled down after waxing. I was just surprised that a pipe gone so dark after waxing, lost almost all the colour the first time I smoked it.
    This one had 3 smokes yesterday and is halfway through the second smoke today (as Iwrite this) and there is a little colour gradually returning. At least the taste of wax has gone since I swabbed out the bowl with rum. Now I can actually taste the tobacco. I'd written off 3 Nuns as being taseless, but in this pipe it has a pleasant nutty undertone. Even hours after smoking it, I'd lick my lips and want to fire up the pipe again.
    Something else I've just noticed, the pipe didn't need prodding through with a pipecleaner this time - almost no gurgle at all.

    Now that I've de-waxed the inside of the pipe, and stopped worrying about the colour I can appreciate the pipe a bit more. The meer is in exceptionally good condition - no chips around the bowl and a nice solid feel to it. There's also no fear of the bore being too high in the bowl, it's actually level with the very lowest point of the bowl bottom. For some reason, it just screams quality to me (being uneducated as I am in these things). Considering I only paid £5 ($7.50) for this AND two other pipes, it is rapidly becoming my favourite meer in terms of smoking pleasure. Every smoke so far has seen no tobacco left at the bottom of the bowl. In fact, the only way I know it's empty is when it won't relight.
    If I could only have one of my pipes, it would be a close call between this one and my Peterson 302.

    Pete
     
  6. Iain

    Iain Active Member

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    1,615
    I have an old Meer thats covered in scratches and knocks, after seeing this I may have go at giving it a light sanding then rewax just to see what happens. I don't smoke it often and it was only a few quid off eBay so I don't think theres much to lose.
     
  7. Puffer Pete

    Puffer Pete Member

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    It's definitely worth the minimal effort involved, as long as you don't manage to turn it into a nightlight.:eek: I get lots of pleasure from just playing around with these pipes and, as you say, it doesn't have to cost a fortune to end up with a really nice pipe.

    Pete
     
  8. dmkerr

    dmkerr PG- free since '83! Moderator

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    If you ever figure out the science behind the meerschaum coloring process, clue the rest of us in. :D

    Theories abound, as well as personal experience, but there's just not much objective knowledge to be had.
     
  9. Puff The Magic

    Puff The Magic Active Member

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    I've been smokin' meers since the mid-70's and I sort of have a hunch on how they color. They color as they wish! Not so bad ehhhh???

    They do have a grain and color according to the grain and the pattern(s) of the grain. Some start coloring with a mottled appearance where others color so gradually a deeper shade of tan-yellow and further to a deep golden brown to coffee then black (if ya smoked the "tar" outta that one! :) ).

    Most color from the shank and rim (if you fill to the rim especially) first if smoked conventionally (no coloring bowl used).

    Cracked meers smoke fine. Just when the crack becomes "dangerous", don't want a "cherry" in your lap, it's time to get it repaired (glued). Coloring may be effected, may not, yes, :msty:

    Meers do color from both the outside AND inside exposure to pigments (in this case the tars). "Tobacco Shop Patina" is where new meers can be found with a beautiful golden yellow even coloring (if the shop bothered to display 'em in the open rather than just in the case "open", in this case, only one half of the meer gets this..........looks funky!). Now for the interesting part, "Puff's Meer Theory":

    The pigments/tars in the smoke imbed in the pristine "un-waxed" interior meer of the airway (shank) and along the top rim since those two areas primarily get the most smoke exposure. The bowl interior has the leaf to prevent or filter/limit the exposure to smoke during each smoke. The bowl does eventually coat with tars but of much larger particle size (rather than the tiny sizes carried by the smoie) and does not allow further penetration of the smaller particles into the meer Thus blocking coloring of the main bowl areas initially. As the bowl gets warm-hot, the wax melts into the meer, migrating towards the tars in both the bowl and airway (shank) and mixes/dissolves the pigments closest to the wax and the wax then becomes stained. Through consecutive smokes, this process deepens with more staining of this wax. As the pipe cools, the wax migrates back outward carrying the color (tar stained wax) back out. Hence, re-waxing your meer speeds coloring "the stove top" way ;)

    Meers as they're smoked tend to show more color when they're warm-hot and at times have a pink-ish hue (where it's the hottest) and sometimes the warm-hot pipes will show sort of a wet appearance. I believe this is the wax doing this.

    I've recently started smoking a Pete SH "XL" sized meer with a Butera Coloring Bowl and have decided to smoke this combo (meer w/coloring bowl) together whenever I smoke this meer. I've only smoked 3 bowls conventionally and the rest have been with the coloring bowl. The entire pipe is showing an extreme light tan (polar white when new) now.

    Too bad I didn't get two of these Petes to do a side-by-side shootout between coloring bowl vs. conventional.....

    Will have to see how it goes.

    Ed
    Puff
     
  10. Dutchking22

    Dutchking22 Member

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    Was it crafted by a witch? :) Looks nice in the final picture, to me!
     
  11. Bouquelon

    Bouquelon Member

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    I am very new at all this, but I have found a few things that seem to really help. Yes the tar coating of the bowl really seems to slow the absorption. On my I.M.P I noticed early on that is seemed to soak up the oils and such quickly after the smoke session was done and feel dry to touch, but as it got darkened over months of use it would seem to have a sticky dark paste at the end of a smoke and stay more wet in the bowl. So I started removing all the tar/paste sticky stuff right before the next smoke. I carefully scrape and clean the bowl (using a dull knife and very fine emery cloth) down to the point that it is more dark orange instead of black/dark brown. When I do that the bowl seems to be more porous and soaks up the good stuff. Ever since I started doing that every bowl it has really accelerated the coloring of the upper bowl. I am not sure if I will do the coloring bowl method, unless I had a stubborn meer pipe that refused to color. I really like watching the process that happens just from smoking the dang thing. I am anxious to pick out another meer to start coloring since I am happy with where my craggy top I.M.P looks.
     
  12. Puffer Pete

    Puffer Pete Member

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    Sorry if I seem thick, what is this colouring bowl thing?

    Pete
     
  13. soundlzrd

    soundlzrd Active Member

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  14. Puffer Pete

    Puffer Pete Member

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    Thanks, that explains it all nicely.
    Anyway, with about 8 smokes to its' credit, colour is gradually increasing, in a nicely random manner.
    This is how it looks now and, for comparison, the other meer I waxed at the same time. No darkening to mention and nothing has changed with the one smoke it's had. It remained pretty much just as it was immediately post waxing.

    Pete

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
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