Restemming a Small Porcelain Bowled Gourd Calabash

Blog by Steve Laug

In my box of bowls, collected over the years I had this small gourd calabash pipe with a ceramic cup insert. Somewhere along its journey someone had broken the tenon off in the shank. I was looking at it this morning and was drawn to it. There was something about the little calabash that was attractive. The golden shank extension and the white porcelain cup looked good. I imagined what it would look like with a black stem and figure it would be a good one to fiddle with while I waited for calls that I was expecting. To start off the work I would need to remove the broken tenon in the shank. There are multiple ways to do that but first I tried to pull it with a screw twisted into the airway but it would not budge. I removed the porcelain bowl from the gourd and set it aside to work on later. I did not drop it by accident. I used my cordless drill and a bit the same size as the mortise and slowly drill the broken tenon out of the mortise. It did not take long before it dropped out of the mortise in pieces as shown in the photos below. I went through my can of stems and found one that I thought looked good with golden coloured shank extension and gourd. It is a fancy stem that is paneled once passed the saddle.The tenon was a little large for the mortise so I used a Dremel and sanding drum to start the process of taking down. I noticed that the tenon was not centered on the stem so I used a rasp to bring it back to center and remove the excess vulcanite. I sanded it smooth with a folded piece of 220 sandpaper and fit it on the shank. I took photos of the look of the stem at this point. I would need to give it a slight bend before it was finished, but I liked the look of it.I set the gourd and stem aside for awhile and turned to work on the porcelain bowl. It was a dirty mess with lava on the rim top and a thick cake in the bowl. I removed the lava on the rim top by dry sanding it with a 1500 grit micromesh sanding pad. I was able to remove all of the build up and get it back to the porcelain finish underneath.I scraped out the cake in the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife and took it back to bare walls. The bowl and airway at the bottom were in excellent condition. I scrubbed the internal of the bowl and the exterior of the cup and rim top with a tooth brush and some dish soap to remove the grime that had build up and leave the bowl clean and fresh smelling.I cleaned up the inner edge of the bowl with a folded piece of worn 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the nicks in the edge. When I finished it looked better.I polished the porcelain cup top with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the cup top down after each pad with a damp cloth to remove the dust and debris. The cup really took on a shine.The gourd was quite clean inside. I wiped it out with a paper towel to remove the debris. I used some Vaseline petroleum jelly renew the cork gasket around the inside of the gourd neck. I worked it in with my fingertips and let it sit until the dry cork had absorbed the jelly and was more elastic.I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the gourd with my finger tips to enliven, clean and protect the surface. I let it sit on the gourd for 15 minutes then buffed it off with a soft cloth. The gourd really came alive with the product. I put the porcelain cup back on the gourd bowl and took pictures of the pipe at this point in the restoration and restemming. I set the gourd and cup aside and turned my attention to the stem. I put a slight bend in the stem using my heat gun. The photo below shows the bend. The angle of the bend makes the pipe level in the mouth.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.  This Delicate Looking Small Porcelain Bowled Gourd Calabash is a great looking older pipe. I have no idea of the age of the pipe but I have had it in my box of bowl for probably15-18 years and I have no memory of where I picked it up or when. It is a great looking pipe that came out looking even better with the newly fit stem. The finish on the pipe is in excellent condition. The white of the porcelain cup works well with the orange/brown of the gourd, the golden shank extension and the polished black vulcanite fancy stem adds to the mix. With the grime gone from the finish and the bowl it was a beauty and is eye-catching. I put the stem back on the bowl and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel being careful to not drop or damage the bowl or gourd. I gave the gourd and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel 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 Porcelain Bowled 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: 6 ½ inches, Height: 3 ½ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ½ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 42grams/1.48oz. It will soon be added to the Ceramic and Meerschaum Pipes section on the rebornpipes store. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over another beautiful pipe. Remember we are not pipe owners; we are pipemen and women who hold our pipes in trust until they pass on into the trust of the next generation.

1 thought on “Restemming a Small Porcelain Bowled Gourd Calabash

  1. Rick

    Impressive as always. It’s fortuitous that I came across this because I have a calabash with a problem that could well turn into the one yours had before you repaired it. The stem is just totally stuck in the meerschaum shank. Is it safe to put meerschaum and calabash in a freezer in hopes that it will remove it? I have done so w/ briar but haven’t worked w/ other materials before. I had a briar with the same problem that the freezer didn’t fix but alcohol finally loosened the stem but I’ve heard you should never use alcohol on meerschaum so I’m at a loss.


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