Well, the Cobfoolery blog is here to support your efforts to improve and/or modify the venerable Missouri Meerschaum (MM) corn cob pipe.
Why would someone want to "mod" a cob? Good question, and I'm glad to see that you are still with me.
There are several mods and a few reasons why, off the top of my head:
- Replacement of the Mouthpiece (or "bit" as MM calls it) to either an acrylic or hard vulcanized rubber. Many pipe smokers find that the standard O.E.M. mouthpiece is a little light/weak, and if they tend to clench the pipe they can crack or deform. Vulcanized rubber replacement mouthpieces are known for their long life and their comfortable mouth-feel, while acrylic mouthpieces are available in many unique colors and styles. Vulcanized rubber bits for Missouri Meerschaum pipes are available HERE from Aristocob
- Apply a finish/stain/veneer to the cob. While it is true that the original US Patent that was granted to the founder of Missouri Meerschaum was for the plaster-filled and lacquered finish that is found on may of MM's pipes today, some folks desire a different look or feel for their pipes. This can range from simply smoothing the original surface with a light sanding, all the way through encapsulating the cob in a veneer of paint, clay or plastic. MM offered painted cobs in the 1960's and while they were fashionable, purest found that they lost much of their cool-smoking properties and were slow to dry-out following smokes.
- New wood shanks. The shank on a corn cob pipe is the hollow wooden piece that enters the cob near the bottom of the chamber, and provides a transition to the mouthpiece. On wooden pipes this is usually incorporated into the same piece of wood as the bowl itself; but on a corn cob pipe the shank is a separate piece. Some smokers desire the shank to be installed at a different angle, while others are out to lengthen or shorten the shank. We've seen mods from everything from long churchwardens to short "nose warmers". Another reason for a custom shank is to incorporate individualized species of wood. Stock MM shanks are made from birch, and many "cob-modders" (I just made that up) are using woods like cherry, maple and even briar.
- Modifications to the shape of the cob. Cobs can be shortened, shaped and sculpted using a bandsaw, scroll saw, lathe or hand tools to effect the smoking characteristics as well as for style. For example, a thinner bowl will feel warmer to the touch, but that transference of heat provides the smoker with a cooler smoke. Additionally, the shape of the cob and the position of the shank can have a huge effect on the stability of the pipe when clenched between the teeth. A classic example of this is the pipe that was commissioned by General Douglas MacArthur.
- Modifications to the ferrule. From the Latin viriola, meaning "small bracelet", a ferrule is a ring used for fastening, joining, sealing or reinforcement. Ferrules are found on many hand tools, like chisels, where the tool steel is driven into a wooden handle and where the ferrule prevents the end of the handle from splitting. On pipes ferrules are often made from precious metals like gold and silver, or are turned from a complimentary acrylic. Stock Missouri Meerschaum pipes feature a stamped-steel ferrule.