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Have you ever smoked a meerschaum pipe? A good quality one I mean. Some people think that a meerschaum pipe is only some sort of a decorative object and unsuitable for smoking. What a miss! Let me go one step further, it is a big mistake! An overlooking of such a great product could at least  be described as mischance. If you have not experienced already, you should try one good quality meer pipe to see what I mean. No breaking in, no cake, no resting between smokes, cool and dry smoking are only a few excellent features of a quality meer pipe. Whether you are a beginner or a connoisseur, you sure deserve to have at least one of them in your possession for the pure pleasure of it.

But, there is one crucial thing that you should take extreme care; you must make sure that when youíre buying a meerschaum pipe, youíre buying one thatís made of block meerschaum. Because, only the purist block meerschaum (magnesium silicate, Mg2Si3O8.2H2O) is suitable to make real pipes that deserve the above features. No need to stress on, but we always use that quality for our pipes. As for why prices differ from one pipe to another, itís only because their artistic difficulties vary or some technical changes exist. Other than this, all Altinok pipes are made of same top quality block meerschaum. All are hand carved and we always keep them under guard in their handmade fitted leather case. Set yourself free to shop around and enjoy!

Happy puffing!

Sinan A. Altinok
Owner/Managing Director
Altinok Pipes, Inc.

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Basics About Meerschaum

The noble Meerschaum is unique among pipes. Its mysterious properties make it a perfect smoke and, at the same time, a work of art; a pipe highly prized by the Connoisseur and beginning smoker alike. Meerschaum is a German word meaning sea foam. The geologist knows the light, porous Meerschaum as hydrous magnesium silicate. The pipe smoker knows it as the perfect material for providing a cool, dry, flavorful smoke. The mineral itself is the fossilized shells of tiny sea creatures that fell to the ocean floor over 50 million years ago, there to be covered and compressed over the ages by layer upon layer of silt. Profound movements in the earths crust raised the creamy white stone of Meerschaum above sea level. There men eventually discovered it and created an incomparable pipe from it. The first record of Meerschaum as a pipe dates from around 1723.


How to Know a Genuine Meerschaum Pipe

It has to be paid attention to meerschaum pipes which are not described as "block meerschaum". Such pipes might have been made of meerschaum powder! Surely, those pipes cannot be compared with real block meerschaum pipes in smoking quality by no means. Moreover, they can be dangerous as they can explode while smoking due to their lack of resistance to heat.

An easy test, to make sure if a new (unsmoked) meerschaum pipe is a real block meerschaum pipe, is the so-called tongue test. If your tongue sticks the inner side of the pipe bowl easily which is free of wax, it must have been made of genuine block meerschaum. This is because a real block meerschaum is so porous that it absorbs the dew on your tongue instantly. In this regard, we guarantee that all meerschaum pipes in our online store are made of 100% block meerschaum.


The Major Steps in Creating an Altinok Meerschaum Pipe

1. The Meerschaum blocks are graded into five categories with twelve qualities in each. Grading is based on size, density, color, and homogeneity.

2. Splitting, when the manufacturer receives a shipment of raw Meerschaum it must be split into smaller pieces for fashioning into pipes. A senior craftsman examines it very carefully, calculating precisely where the clumps should be split, much as in the cutting of fine gem stones. The many natural fault lines must be eliminated. As much as 80% of the raw material may be discarded at this stage.

3. Carving the Meerschaum blocks are soaked in water for 15 to 30 minutes to further soften the material Mining Meerschaum is mined in up to 450 feet of clay, sand, and gravel near Eskishehir, Turkey and in Tanzania, Africa.

4. Washing the raw lumps of Meerschaum are washed to remove the dirt and gravel.

5. Grading to a cheese-like consistency before carving. Skilled craftsmen then fashion the Meerschaum into standard shape pipes or the magnificent sculptured pieces so highly prized by collectors.

6. Hand fitting of the stem before polishing, a Meerschaum pipe is fitted with the stem or mouthpiece. In days gone by, stems were made of pure amber. Today, amber-colored lucite is used almost exclusively. Pure amber is fine for collectors pipes, but for the steady smoker, lucite is much better because it is stronger, more resilient, and more comfortable in the mouth.

7. Polishing only the finest abrasives can be used for polishing the soft Meerschaum. This step is long and tedious as too much pressure would mar the smooth finish.

8. Waxing how well your Meerschaum will color is largely determined by the waxing. The pipes are dipped in molten bees-wax at least 2 times for higher protection and proper coloring.

9. Final inspection a specialist carefully examines each finished pipe. The slightest flaw even at this late stage, is just reason for the pipes destruction. Finer quality Meerschaums are protected by a fitted case made for each individual pipe.


Caring for Your Meerschaum Pipe

1. Your Meerschaum pipe requires more careful handling than other pipes. Handle the pipe lightly to avoid rubbing off the wax and to prevent any dirt or oils that might be on your fingers from discoloring the pipe. Of course, you should always take care not to drop your Meerschaum on a hard surface.

2. The bit joins to the shank by a push-pull teflon fitting couple. It is NOT screwed at all. You can take it off easily for cleaning. Only caution should be taken that you should turn it clockwise in either pulling out or pushing in along with a little force. Otherwise, you could cause the fixed part (mortise) in the shank to be unscrewed from its place.

3. Never ream a Meerschaum directly after smoking. It will have been softened by the moisture it has absorbed. Let it dry a day or two before reaming.

4. When using a pipe cleaner, take care not to push the cleaner too far into the bowl. The wire would eventually wear a hole in the heel of the pipe.

5. If you use a pipe sweetener to clean the inside of the shank, be careful that none of it drips on the outside of the pipe.



Meerschaum Pipe FAQ's

What types of tobacco are best for coloring a Meerschaum?

A Meerschaumís color results from the light, volatile oils found in all tobaccos. While smoking a tobacco with a high oil content, such as the Latakia in an English blend, may yield a darker color, your Meerschaum will also color nicely with your favorite tobacco.


How long will it take for my Meerschaum to color?

This depends greatly on the porosity of the Meerschaum, the type of tobacco smoked, and the frequency of smoking. While a better quality Meerschaum will begin to color almost immediately, the complete coloring process is gradual and could take a year or even longer.


Can I smoke my Meerschaum pipe the same way I smoke my briar pipes?

No. One of the fascinating qualities of Meerschaum is its ability to change color from white to golden to a deep reddish brown. This results from the oil in the tobacco and wax on the outside of the bowl. If it is smoked too fast or too hot, the wax may melt down and only the base will color. Do not touch the bowl with your hands when the pipe is warm. The softened wax may cling to your fingers and the pipe will color in blotches. However, some pipe smokers prefer Meerschaum for its smoking properties, rather than for its ability to change color. If the coloring is not of importance, then, of course the Meerschaum can be handled and smoked in the normal manner. Note: Some manufactures produced antiquing or re-wax kits that can be used to touch up a Meerschaum pipe.


Do I have to break in my Meerschaum pipe?

No. Since Meerschaum does not burn as briar does, no protective carbon cake is needed on the inside of the bowl. To the contrary, the cleaner you keep your Meerschaum, the better it will smoke. However, to cure the Meerschaum, you should smoke several loads of your favorite tobacco. Meerschaum is a neutral tasting material and requires the light, volatile oil of several loads of tobacco to give you the mellow taste of which Meerschaum smokers are so fond.

 
 
 
 
 

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