This is my own Hammaraxx Meerschaum pipe that I carved about 10 years ago.
Meerschaum (German for foam of the sea), also known as Sepiolite, has been prised for making pipes producing a cool, dry, flavourful smoke since the mid 1700s.
I already had a couple of meerschaum pipes in my collection and while purchasing some tobacco online, I noticed the store also had ‘carve your own’ meerschaum pipe blocks. I thought, it looked like an interesting project so I ordered one. I have since forgotten how much it was, but I don’t think it cost me much at the time.
I wish I had taken a photo of the original block before I started carving but at least I managed to get a few photos taken during the carving. Unfortunately, they are not the best photos, focus wise, but you can still see the progress from the original shape to the final product from them.
You may have heard it said that artists don’t actually create their finished sculpture, but instead only reveal what was always there by removing the bits that surround it. I fully understand that now. When I hold my finished pipe, I know that it had always existed inside the stone, just as it is now, all I had to do was dig it out. Quite an amazing feeling actually.
Traditional meerschaum carving usually involves soaking the stone in water to soften it up before carving it out. It probably makes it much easier to carve but I didn’t do that. Instead, I carved it all dry using clay modelling tools. Meerschaum stone is quite similar to chalk so it’s actually quite easy to carve when dry.
I didn’t have the final design in mind when I started out, I just started digging at the stone with the intention to let the stone reveal what it had inside. The original block was quite an odd shape but by slowly scraping off little bits at a time, first to bring some symmetry to it, its shape was slowly revealed to me.
As I started evening up the shape of the block some distinct shapes began to appear. A bullet shaped pipe base, a sash, an egg shaped bowl, and a top section which I was still unsure what to do with.
I didn’t want it to be too plain, I wanted some decoration so I added my name in the sash and carved out some hatch work on the pipe base.
Once I had added my Hammaraxx logo to the front of the egg shaped part, it became obvious to me that a guitar would fit nicely in the top section. A Gibson Les Paul decorates the top of the pipe, my guitar of choice. I made the mistake of carving the top machine heads of the guitar out instead of keeping some meerschaum behind them for stronger support and that caused one of them to break off after an accidental dropping.
The final stage, after sanding it all smooth was to fill the holes with cork and soak the meerschaum in melted bees wax to seal it and give the pipe its lovely golden colour then a final polish with a soft cloth.
As you can see from the images of the finished pipe, it has seen quite a bit of use and as the porous nature of meerschaum draws moisture and tobacco tar into the stone it has darkened quite nicely in places.
I’d love to carve more pipes in the future. Every now and then I’ll do a search for meerschaum blocks to carve, but I have not found any available since I bought this one.
One day I’ll get around to making a nice case for it like all my other meerschaum pipes have, I’ll be sure to post some pictures when I do get around to making it.