Cleaning up an Austrian Aonian Gourd Calabash

Blog by Steve Laug

I went to work on the second of the gourd calabash pipes that my brother and I found on a recent visit to Idaho. This one is an older Austrian Made Calabash. It is stamped Aonian on the left side of the gourd shank. Also stamped on the gourd just below the silver band are the words “Made in Austria”. The silver band is stamped “Sterling Silver” over “Made in Austria”. The stem, gourd and the silver band are original. The unsmoked bowl is a replacement that probably came from Tim West over at JH Lowe. The gourd is one of the most beautifully shaped that I have seen over the years of cleaning up these pipes. The gourd was in great shape, the stem was lightly oxidized with a small tooth mark on the underside of the stem next to the button. I took the pipe apart to check out the internals of the gourd. The inside of the gourd was darkened but otherwise it was clean. The cork was dry and stiff but bowl had otherwise it was clean and new. It was obviously replaced when the new meerschaum been added. The top of the gourd was smooth. The mortise area of the shank of the gourd was solid and clean.The silver band was tarnished and also it was loose. The stamping on the band is visible in the photos below. It is simply stamped Sterling Silver Made in Austria. You can also see the stamping on the gourd itself next to the band. It reads Made in Austria. On the left side of the shank it is stamped Aonian in script right into the gourd. The band was loose on the gourd shank. The glue had dried out and when the stem was removed fell off the gourd. I took the band off and cleaned the gourd underneath with a little alcohol on a cotton pad. I sanded lightly on the dark ring that had built up in front of the band until was minimized.I wiped the gourd down with a damp cloth. I dried it and gave it several coats of Conservator’s Wax being careful to not get wax on the unfinished shank end of the gourd. I buffed the gourd by hand with a microfiber cloth to give it a shine and protect it.I wiped the end of the gourd clean with a damp cotton pad in preparation for regluing the band in place. I used a dental spatula to apply some multipurpose white glue all around the clean end of the gourd. Once it was covered I lined up the stamping on the left side of the shank and pressed the band in place. I cleaned out the inside of the gourd with a dental pick, cotton swabs, pipe cleaners and alcohol. I picked out the remnants of carbon that were there and also cleaned out the dust and debris. The mortise was very clean and took very little work.  I ran a few pipe cleaners through the airway in the stem to remove any dust or debris. It did not take much before the pipe was clean internally. I rubbed the cork gasket down with Vaseline to enliven and soften it. I let the grease be absorbed into the cork and gave it a second and third coat. Once it had dried I pressed the meerschaum bowl back into the gourd.I sanded out the small tooth mark on the underside of the stem with 220 grit sandpaper until it was gone. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each set of three pads and after the last pad gave it a final coat, rubbed it into the vulcanite and set it aside to dry. I buffed the stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel to remove the remaining scratches in the rubber. I gave the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I polished the silver band with a jeweler’s cloth to remove the tarnish and give it a shine. I gave the bowl several more coats of Conservator’s Wax and buffed the entire pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It is a beauty and it will also join the previous pipe for sale on the rebornpipes store. Thanks for looking.


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