The Handcarved Turkish Block Meerschaum Pipe
Turkish Block Meerschaum has been renowned since the 1600s as the incomparable material for the
world's finest smoking pipes. Meerschaum is lightweight, incombustible and very porous.
It gives the truest taste of your tobacco, while providing a cool dry smoke. The purest form
of meerschaum is found in underground deposits in central Turkey near the city of Eski?ehir.
The raw meerschaum must pass through many hands before it becomes the world's finest smoking pipe.
Excavated by experienced miners, raw meerschaum is found scattered through clay deposits in
clumps of varying sizes and quality. Meerschaum, also known as hydrous magnesium silicate or
sepiolite, is found at depths from 50 to 450 feet. With the help of modern hydraulic equipment
and electricity, raw meerschaum is extracted from greater depths than previously possible.
Though mining meerschaum is very labor intensive, it provides supplemental income for the farmers
who are miners during the winter. In the future, a reliable supply of raw meerschaum is a growing
concern as the number of miners decreases and earthquakes increase in the region.
Trimming & Grading
Raw meerschaum blocks have a hard outer crust of clay and embedded stones, which must be chopped and
carved away to expose the white interior. The size of a block may be reduced by as much as 50% during
the trimming process. The irregularly shaped blocks are sized and stored in plastic bags to maintain
their natural moisture.
The grading of meerschaum is based on size, density, color and homogeneity.
Most of the carvers buy block meerschaum directly from the mine operators.
Competition for the limited number of large blocks is very keen and they sell at a premium price.
Shaping & Carving
An experienced carver tries to utilize as much of the block as possible. Using a cleaver and saw,
the carver cuts the block into a rough pipe shape. The shape of each block determines the stem angle
and bowl size. Years of experience aid the carver in deciding what theme is best for each block. Like
all sculptors, each master carver has developed a unique carving style. Even though general themes exist,
each carver puts his own interpretation into the details.
The bowl is kept moist to keep the knife cuts clean. As the sculpture develops, the carver must dip
the meerschaum into water periodically to restore surface moisture. Since meerschaum sticks to the tool,
the carver rhythmically alternates between carving and cleaning the blade. The bowl is constantly turned
in the carver's hand. Some portions of a figure are even carved upside down! The end result is a wide
variety of beautifully carved meerschaums to please all tastes.
Sanding & Waxing
After the tobacco hole is hand-drilled, the bowl is dried for several hours in an oven to remove excess
moisture before the draw hole is drilled and mortise is tapped. The appropriate stem is fit to the shank and
the entire bowl hand-sanded by a specialist. The sander uses a variety of materials to achieve a velvet smooth
finish without distorting the symmetry or destroy the carver's details.
Next, the stem is removed and the porous meerschaum is dipped in a hot liquid beeswax mixture. Not only does
the beeswax harden and protect the exterior from soil, but it also enhances the coloring process. After the
excess wax is wiped off and the bowl cools, it is buffed to a beautiful hand-rubbed finish.
The stem is polished and re-attached. The finished pipe is given its final inspection and sent to
the case maker.
A custom fitted case adds the final touch and protects the beauty of each meerschaum pipe.
The core of each case is wood, which has been skillfully shaped to the exact dimensions of each pipe.
The exterior is covered with durable vinyl and the interior is lined with soft velvet.