Refurbishing a Gourd Calabash


Blog by Steve Laug

In the past weeks I finished up some pipes for a guy here in Vancouver and when he came to pick them up he brought some more for me to work on for him. I finished up some of the ones on the worktable so I decided it was time to work on these. The fourth pipe is a Gourd Calabash with a Meerschaum bowl. It is a nicely shaped gourd that makes up the base of the bowl. The meerschaum cup is in excellent condition – a few minor scratches and nicks in the bowl. The shank end is plastic/acrylic and seals the end of the gourd. It is made to fit a bent vulcanite stem. The meerschaum bowl had a thin and uneven cake. The upper half of the bowl was more thickly caked than the bottom half. I would need to ream it to even out the cake. There was some slight darkening around the inner edge of the rim top as well as some scratches and nicks in the top of the rim. The inside of the shank was dirty and needed to be cleaned. The black vulcanite stem had tooth marks and chatter on the top and underside of the stem near the button. I took photos of the bowl and stem to give a clear picture of the condition of the pipe before I started to work on it.I removed the bowl from the gourd bowl. The cork gasket was in tact but dry. The inside of the bowl had some build up of tars and oils on the walls.The bowl was dirty and the rim top scratched and worn. There was some darkening on the top and around the inner edge. There was also some uneven cake that is visible in the photo below. I scraped out the excesss cake with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife to even the cake on the walls of the bowl. I sanded the walls smooth with sandpaper wrapped around a piece of dowel. I worked over the top of the bowl and the inner edge of the rim top with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I removed the most of the damage to the rim top with the micromesh sanding pads. I was able to smooth out the scratches with the micromesh pads. I wiped the bowl down after each pad with a damp cloth. I scraped out the hardened tars on the walls of the gourd with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. This is done with care so as not to dig too deeply into the skin of the gourd. I just wanted to knock off the high spots and smooth it out. I blew out the debris onto a paper. I cleaned out the airway in the stem and shank, the mortise and shank interior with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. I forgot to take photos of this as I was on a roll and moving quickly through the process.I rubbed down the outer surface of the gourd with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the finish with my fingertips and finished working it in with a shoe brush. The balm worked to clean, preserve and enliven the surface of the gourd. I also rubbed some Vaseline into the cork gasket to soften and enliven it at the same time. I really like the effect of the product on the gourd bowl so I took some photos of the pipe at this point. Once the outside and inside of the gourd was as clean as I was going to get it I set the bowl aside and turned to address the stem. I sanded the tooth marks and chatter out of the stem surface with some folded 220 grit sandpaper.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads to remove the scratches in the acrylic. I wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. I polished the stem with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine polishes. I wiped it down with a cotton pad and gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil. I set the stem aside to dry. I put the stem back on the gourd bowl and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. I gave the gourd outer bowl, the meerschaum inner bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. I have four more pipes to finish for him – these are some finds he made while pipe hunting. This is a fun bunch of pipes to work on. I look forward to moving through the rest of them. Thanks for looking.  

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