New Life for a Small Gourd Calabash with a Porcelain Bowl and a Bakelite Stem


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the table came to us from a group of pipes that Jeff picked up on a recent pipe hunt in Utah. It is an older Gourd Calabash that is in decent condition. It is has a nickel band that has faux hallmarks that identify it as an American made calabash. The gourd portion of the pipe is in good shape other than a damaged spot on the left side toward the bottom of the gourd. It is almost as if the top layer of the gourd had bubbled and peeled. The gourd has a great mix of colours that darken toward the shank end. The cup/bowl portion is made of porcelain rather than meerschaum. It was dirty and had some buildup of tars on the inner edge. The walls of the bowl had a thin cake build up on the surface. The finish was dirty with dust ground into the gourd and some oxidation on the band on the shank end. The taper stem was made of Bakelite and had tooth marks and chatter ahead of the button on both sides. The button edge was worn down and would need to be recut.  Jeff took photos of the pipe to show what it looked like before he started working on it. He took photos of the porcelain bowl and rim top to show cake in the bowl and the lava on the inner edge of the bowl. The edge looked rough but should clean up very easily. The photos of the sides and heel of the bowl show the colours around the exterior of the gourd. It is a beauty under the grime and dust.    The stamping on the nickel band is shown in the photo below. It looks very good and readable. It is a classic set of faux hallmarks that I have found present on American made pipes. Jeff captured the overall look in the first photo followed by some closer photos of sections of the stamp so you can read it.He removed the stem from the shank and took photos. They both show the inset bone tenon in the stem. The alignment in the gourd shank is perfect and the threads in the shank look very good.   There was nothing about the pipe that gave me any clues as to the manufacture of the pipe. It is well made would be a great looking piece once it was restored. I turned to work on the pipe itself. Jeff had carried out his usual thorough cleanup of the pipe. He had carefully scraped the walls of the porcelain bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed the internals of the bowl, shank and stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the externals with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and rinsed the bowl off with running water. He soaked the stem in Before & After Deoxidizer and once it had soaked rinsed it off with warm water to remove the residual solution. He dried it off and rubbed it down to remove any oxidation that was still on the stem. The pipe looked very good when I received it.  I took a photo of the rim top to show the condition. The rim top and edges look very good. The bowl is clean. The stem came out looking quite good. There are some tooth marks and chatter on both sides and some remaining oxidation.   I took a photo of the band on the shank to show the hallmarks. They are as pictured above.I removed the stem from the shank and took a photo of the pipe parts to show what I was working with. It is a nice looking pipe. Since the bowl was in such excellent condition I started the restoration by rubbing the gourd calabash down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the gourd with my fingertips to clean, enliven and preserve the exterior of the bowl. I let it sit for 10 minutes while I worked on the stem. After the time passed I buffed it with a cotton cloth to deepen the shine. The gourd really comes alive with the balm. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I recut the button edge with a file to redefine the sharp edge. I sanded the stem to remove the tooth marks and chatter from both sides with 220 grit sandpaper and started polishing the stem with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. I polished the vulcanite with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I used Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to further polish the stem.   I rubbed the bone tenon down with Vaseline to lubricate it and make screwing it in easier. This Porcelain Bowled Gourd Calabash is a beautiful little pipe that is in remarkable shape. The Gourd looks very good with the coloration that has happened with it and the amber coloured Bakelite bent taper stem. Combination of colours of the white porcelain, golden gourd, silver coloured band and the amber stem looks very good. The cleaned up really well and it looks good for its age. With the dust gone from the finish and the bowl it was a beauty and is eye-catching. I put the stem back on the bowl and carefully buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and followed that by buffing it with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished Gourd Calabash is quite nice and feels great in the hand. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. I can only tell you that like the other pipes I am working that it is much prettier in person than the photos capture. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 inches, Height: 2 ½ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 2 inches, Chamber diameter: 2 inches. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over another beautiful pipe. This one will be on the rebornpipes store shortly if you are interested in adding it to your rack. Thanks for your time.

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