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2006 Talbert Meerschaum Volcanopoker, UNSMOKED 

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 Price: $SOLD
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The quick story - I've recently gotten hold of a large cache of my older pipes as part of a generous gift to help us pay my wife's cancer surgery expenses. Over the next weeks, I'll be gradually posting them as I get them cleaned, inspected, etc. Many of these pipes are NEW and UNSMOKED and have been part of a display collection, sometimes for as much as 20 years!

A lot of the backstory of this pipe is tied into the story of its briar twin, #2006-1TB. I did not intentionally go into it trying to make a pair of matching pipes, but I'd done so many smaller versions of this basic shape for the FdP POTY project that I was curious to see how it could be enlarged and "amped up" with more time and materials. And here, the materials were key - I'd been contacted by a fellow who was running a meerschaum mine in Somalia. Getting meerschaum out of Somalia was difficult, as you might imagine, but he was looking for buyers who could export and resell the stuff in quantity. He sent me a huge chunk of the stuff to work with and I still have most of it. I do an occasional pipe from it every year or two or three, but it's a challenge to work with and unfortunately "African meer" has a poor reputation in the hobby so it's not a great material candidate to make high-end pipes from. Which is unfortunate, because it smokes GREAT. I've still got my first pipe I made from that block myself, and am still smoking it regularly after 12 years.

It works similarly to Turkish meerschaum, which is to say, you can leave it in water and it will become soft and soapy and easy to shape, but the material is much more granular and gritty than Turkish meer - Have a look at the close-up photo above of the smooth bottom of the pipe for an easy example. It does not sand smooth like Turkish, but instead smooths out to a surface more like a granite counter-top, flecked with texture. I realized early on that it just wasn't going to make a traditional Turkish-style meerschaum pipe, so instead I went in a different direction and started working with sandblasting the stuff. It blasts excellently (once you find the right media), producing an extremely rough, pitted, craggy surface like coral or moon rock. I included more close-ups than usual above because I wanted to showcase what the texture looks like up close.

It does color - Mine has turned gradually amber-brown over the years with use. It's also virtually indestructible, at least from heat damage - You can't smoke it too hot, it will never burn out, etc. Being essentially stone, the surface also doesn't scratch easily from banging around the office and such. In general, it presents a strange dichotomy - You can't make a really "pretty" pipe from it and as African meerschaum, folks will probably always look down their noses at it, and yet it's possibly the best smoking pipe material I have worked with and makes an ideal "hardworking" pipe in so many ways, plus sandblasted meers are virtually unknown so it's quite a rarity in the pipe world.

All this makes it even more special that this pipe has gone 12 years without being smoked! We sold it to a collector back in 2006 and that was the last I heard of it, till he returned it to us this year to help with our fundraising efforts to pay for Emily's cancer surgery. So, someone out there now has the chance to buy a *brand new* 2006 one-off, a Talbert Meerschaum.

 

PS - This pipe and #2006-1TB would make a wonderful set. They look perfect sitting here on my desk together, being so similar in shape, to the point that I'm willing to offer a $150 refund/rebate to anyone who buys both together, just to keep them together. Purchase both pipes and as soon as I receive the payment, I'll spin $150 back around back to you. Just think of the tobacco comparison fun to be had between the different materials!