While most pipe lovers will always have the bulk of their collection made up of pipes carved from briar wood, there are other options out there that offer a lot of additional options. Meerschaum is the second most popular type of pipe on the market and is among the most highly collected due to their extremely decorative nature and their smooth, satisfying smoke. While it is quite different from the briar wood pipes most are familiar with, there are still certain steps that must be taken to properly care for meerschaum pipes.
For starters, understand that you don't have to break in a meerschaum. There is no caking to speak of and the need to gradually break in the pipe isn't present. You'll get a smooth smoke right from the first time. You'll still need to remember a few things, however.
For starters, clean your pipe only when cool. Start by removing the shank by pulling outward as you turn the shank. Be careful not to apply too much pressure when you do so. Once you've removed the shank, start off by reaming thing bowl. However, take care during this process. Meerschaum pipes don't cake like a briar one, so you won't end up with much cake to remove. A very light reaming will be all that is needed, if that.
The shank will need to be cleaned, however, in order to eliminate buildup that can clog the shank. Run a standard pipe cleaner through the shank and turn it as you do so, first in one direction and then in the other. Two to three passes with a pipe cleaner will be more than sufficient. If you're one of the many smokers who like to use a pipe sweetener, use the sweetener during the last pass of the pipe cleaner.
The final step is simply to wipe down the outside of the bowl with a cloth. Avoid using cleaners, and stick with either a dry cloth or one that has only been moistened with a bit of water.
As long as you'll follow these basic care directions on occasion, your meerschaum pipe will provide you with years of smoking pleasure. Many smokers feel that they're actually a bit easier to care for than briar pipes since there are fewer steps to the process and no real issue regarding the cake buildup. While you'll probably want to add pipes made from both materials to your collection, there's certainly a lot to love about meerschaum.