• Eşkisehir / Turchia

Meerschaum is a German word describing a soft mineral , which literally means ‘sea foam’. alluding to the belief that it was the compressed whitecaps of waves, just as it is said in mythology for the goddess of beauty – Aphrodite. It is of an opaque white or cr’am colour and when first extracted is soft and easily marked, but it hardens on exporuse to the sun or when dried in a warm room or in a furnace. To polish the pipes is very important. The polish must be good quality.

Most of the Meerschaum for commercial use is obtained from Asia Minor, chiefly from the plains of Eskisehir , Turkey , where it occurs in a small rounded lumps , in alluvial deposits which are extensively worked for its extraction. The extracted lumps are first scraped then dried, again scraped and then polished with wax. The rudely shaped Meerschaum is then taken into workshops, where it is skilfully carved by hand into beautiful pipes, or turned and carved into cigarette and cigar holders and articles of adornment.

Meerschaum is one of the major reasons for the fame of Eskisehir. It contains Magnesium(Mg) and Hydrosilicade in it’s structure. Magnesium doesn’t make it strong and the hydrogen and oxygen don’t make it cool. It is the crystalline structure; the arrangement of the magnesium, silicon, oxygen, and hydrogen atoms in a rigid crystalline structure that makes sepiolite (the clay mineral that is identified by pipe smokers as meerschaum) so good for smoking. Eskisehir has the purest and whitest ,most easy to engrave Meerschaum in the world. Meerschaum deposits of the highest quality are found only in one place in the world – in the small city of Eskisehir in central Turkey. And here the deposits are confined to an area of only 4 square miles. It comes in other masses in various sizes and round. Because it is less dense that the water, it floats on the water. It is soft when newly –extracted and feels like soap but, it hardens overtime. It is also called ‘white gold’ because of it’s colour.

Mined with hand tools, and by men trained in this singular family tradition, meerschaum is excavated at depths ranging from 200 to 300 feet. The miners wash the raw meerschaum lumps and sort them into 5 categories according to quality. Each of these 5 categories is further divided into 12 qualities according to size, colour porosity and homogeneity of the mineral.

Nearly 300 years ago, the first meerschaum pipe was carved by hand. And today, these unique pipes are still carved by hand. The carver, a craftsman of unique ability and long experience, examines each piece of meerschaum, calculating the lines of cleavage along which it should be split. The split block-meerschaum is soaked in water for 15-30 minutes until the material achieves a cheese-like consistency. Working with the softened material, the carver determines the rough shape of the pipe before the bowl and draft hole are bored. Like all fine hand-crafted articles, no two meerschaums are alike. The carved meerschaum goes into a kiln at high temperature, a process that removes all moisture from the mineral. The shank is threaded and fitted with a stem. After meticulous polishing with the finest grade abrasives, the meerschaum is ready for waxing. Though there are many different wax formulas, beeswax alone yields the rich colouring associated with the finest meerschaums. Melted and then bleached, the beeswax is ready to receive the pipe itself. The subtle differences in colour and tone among pipes are intentional, achieved by careful dipping of the pipes a specific number of times.

Meerschaum is the most flavourful and beautiful pipe you can own. Meerschaum – one of the most porous substances found in nature – acts as a filter, absorbs tobacco tars and nicotine, and yields a most satisfying smoke. Meerschaum smokes cool and dry with a flavour unrivalled by any other pipe. As it ages, meerschaum colours a rich honey-brown, improving both in appearance and taste.

Meerschaum Pipes – with a minimum of proper care – will last for a lifetime. They will not burn out as briars do.

A meerschaum is an investment in smoking pleasure. As beautiful as meerschaum is to the eye, its true beauty must be experienced. A meerschaum is made to smoke. Hold it. Enjoy its light weight and silky feel, its distinctive taste, its ripening to a mellow golden-brown. Justly deserving its reputation as the “aristocrat” of pipes, the meerschaum is not meant for the connoisseur alone. All pipe smokers can appreciate the unique pleasure of meerschaum.

Don’t be afraid to handle or hold your meerschaum with clean hands. Remember, you purchased a meerschaum primarily for your smoking pleasure. The “added” pleasure you derive from a meerschaum is watching it colour as you smoke it.

The conventional wisdom on this topic is that handling a meerschaum while warm removes the beeswax coating on the pipe, which highlights its colouring. While this is true, only the purist – the smoker far more concerned with the look of his pipe than his own smoking pleasure – need worry about it.

Do take care when removing the stem of your meerschaum by pulling it and twisting it CLOCKWISE while supporting the shank with the fingers. Replace the stem by pushing it and twisting it CLOCKWISE also. Twisting counter-clockwise could unscrew the tenon, and doing so repeatedly can strip out the shank. A little care here will be repaid through a lifetime of smoking pleasure.

Don’t tap your meerschaum against a hard surface. If you tap it in your palm, be sure to support the shank firmly with your hand. This is sound advice for briar pipe smokers also. To empty a meerschaum, tip it upside down, and if the ash doesn’t fall out on its own use a pipe tool gently to loosen it.

Don’t let a cake develop in a meerschaum. Therefore do not worry about “breaking in” your meerschaum. Meerschaum pipes, unlike briars, do not burn and hence need not be protected by a carbon cake. Besides, the meerschaum is softer than the cake and it may crack very easily, since the cake expands with heat faster than the meerschaum does. You can ream it out, but you’ve got to be very careful in the process–the reamer will remove meerschaum faster than cake, so you’ve got to watch for spots where you’ve reamed away the cake and stay away from those.

It is not recommended to use pipe sweeteners in meerschaum pipes. The porous mineral will be soaked with the sweetener causing it to lose its functionality.

Do clean the cake or residue inside the bowl of your meerschaum. Use a sharp-edged, blunt-ended tool. Avoid digging into the heel of the pipe when cleaning the graft hole by not allowing the pipe cleaner (NOT liquid cleaner) to extend too far into the bowl. Do not use alcohol to clean the bowl of a meerschaum pipe. The meerschaum is WET and SOFT in the heel immediately after a smoke.

Smoke your favourite blend in your meerschaum. Each pipe will colour differently.

Look the Reportage 2010, “How to make a case for pipe“.




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