Cleaning up a 1962 Gourd Calabash Pipe


Blog by Steve Laug

Jeff picked up this Calabash at a local estate sale in Idaho. It is a big pipe – large gourd, with the meerschaum insert and stem in place it is 8 ½ inches long and 5 inches tall. The diameter of the meerschaum cup is 2 ¾ inches and the chamber diameter is 1 1/8 inches. It is a bit different from other gourd Calabash pipes that I have worked on in that is has small flowers carved in the surface of the body of the gourd and in the meerschaum cup. The end of the gourd shank is capped with a plastic/hard rubber end cap and extension that are joined by a metal tube. The stem is acrylic and is a bright yellow colour. Jeff took some photos of the pipe before he started cleaning it. The gourd is in good condition and the overall appearance of the pipe is good. Jeff took some close up photos of the gourd to show its overall condition. You can see the carved flower patterns and small straight cuts around the flowers looking like blades of grass.The rim top had some scratching in the surface of the meerschaum as well as some more carved flower and leaf patterns. The bowl had some darkening around the inner edge of the bowl and there was a cake buildup in the bowl itself.Jeff removed the bowl to give a good look at the inside of the gourd. It was in good condition. Both the inside of the gourd and the underside of the meerschaum bowl had the number ’62 written on them in pencil. This makes me think that it is likely a date mark for the pipe – that is why I date it as a 1962 Calabash. The cork gasket around the inner edge of the gourd was in excellent condition. The cork was dry but otherwise undamaged. The black extension on the end of the shank was connected to the shank cap with a metal inner tube that lines the extension and provides a metal mortise for the stem. The stem was in excellent condition with light tooth chatter on the surface on both sides near the button with a little wear on the top and underside of the button itself.Jeff did a thorough cleanup on the meerschaum bowl, the inside of the gourd and the stem. He carefully scraped the cake in the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He cleaned the internals with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs – scrubbing out the mortise as it was dirty. He scrubbed the exterior of the meerschaum cup and the gourd with Murphy’s Oil soap and a tooth brush and was able to remove all of the oils and dust in the carved flowers on the gourd and bowl. He was able to remove all of the grime from the top of the meerschaum bowl and left it looking very clean. Once he had removed the lava on the rim top and inner edge they were very clean appeared to be good shape. Some of the scratches in the meerschaum were deeper than others and would take some work to smooth them out. He cleaned internals of the stem with alcohol. When it arrived I took some photos of it to show how it looked before I did the restoration.  I took some close up photos of the bowl, rim and the stem to show how they looked after Jeff’s cleanup work. He was able to remove much of the grime and lave on the rim top. There was a little tar around the inner edge but the bowl itself was clean. The stem was in great condition. The Delrin push mortise was clean. It fit well in the metal tube in the mortise. I removed the meerschaum bowl and rubbed the gourd down with Before & After Restoration Balm to deep clean the smooth finish, enliven and protect the gourd. I hand rubbed it with my fingers and buffed it with a horse hair shoe brush to work it into the flower patterns on the gourd. I wiped it off with a soft cloth. The gourd really began to have a deep shine. I took some photos of the bowl at this point to mark the progress in the restoration. I rubbed Vaseline into the cork gasket to soften and enliven it. I rubbed it in, let it dry and repeated the process until the cork was softer.I took some photos of the pencil marks on the inside of the gourd and the underside of the meerschaum bowl. Both of the photos below show the marks and clearly reads 62.I polished out the sanding scratches and marks in the meerschaum with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding it with 3200-4000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. I dry sanded it with 3200-4000 grit pads and wiped it down with the damp cloth after each one. It looked better than before but I still was not satisfied so I buffed it again this time using Blue Diamond. I brought it back to the table and sanded it with the final three 6000-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with the damp cloth after each pad. When I finished with the 12000 grit pad I gave it a final wipe down and set it aside. The final photo showing the underside of the meerschaum cup shows a previous repair that had been done before the pipe came to us. It was a good repair and the chip was smooth and there was no roughness to the outer edge of the cup. I polished out the tooth chatter in the acrylic stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. I buffed the stem using a light touch with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I brought it back to the table and did a final polish with the 12000 grit pad, gave it a final wipe down with a damp cloth and set it aside to dry. I worked over the black plastic end cap and extension with micromesh pads to polish them and remove all scratches in the surface. I gave the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax to protect and polish it. I gave the gourd bowl several coats of Conservator’s Wax and buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed gourd and meerschaum cup with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The polished gourd, the rejuvenated meerschaum cup, black end cap and shank extension work very well with the bright yellow of the bent acrylic stem. The pipe is clean and ready to load and smoke with a favourite tobacco. It feels good in the hand and I would think it be cool, dry smoke. The dimensions of the pipe are: Length: 8 ½ inches, Height: 5 inches, Diameter of the meerschaum cup: 2 ¾ inches and Chamber diameter: 1 1/8 inches. I will be adding this one to the rebornpipes store shortly if you are interested in adding it to your collection. This is a larger pipe and it’s a nice addition to the rack. If you are interested email me at slaug@uniserve.com or send me a message on Facebook. Thanks for looking.

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