Breathing Life into a Cased Orlik Gourd Calabash with a damaged Amber Stem


Blog by Steve Laug

I have finished restoring all but this last pipe from the collection of pipes that we purchased from the older gentleman. He sent me the photos and I was amazed at what I saw. You have seen many of the pipes that he had. These included Dunhill, BBB, Orlik, Barclay Rex, a cased Ben Wade, an H. Simmons all briar, Hardcastles and some Meerschaums. There were also some assorted others that I will get to in the days ahead. It was a great collection.

The last pipe I have chosen is a Gourd Calabash that is in a black case. It is stamped on the left side of the Gourd and reads Orlik. The silver band is also stamped Orlik Sterling. It has a meerschaum bowl in gourd that is dirty and has a thick cake in the bowl and a thick coat of lava on the rim top. It is pictured above in the photo I received from the old gentleman. It was filthy both inside and out. I think that the Orlik stamp on the calabash and the case made me want to try to redeem this old pipe. The stem is amber and was the problem with the pipe. It had been broken in half and repair. That repair held. There was also a repair to the amber about an inch from the button. The the ½ inch ahead of the button was also chipped and seemed to be cracked. This was another well loved pipe that obviously been a good smoker!

Jeff took some photos of the Orlik Gourd Calabash with a Meerschaum Bowl and amber stem before he worked his magic in cleaning up the pipe. It is a an interesting pipe with a lot of potential and what appears to be some great grain under the grime and debris of the years. The first five photos show the case, the Real Amber stamp on the case next to the clasp, the pipe in the case and the stamp/logo decal on the inside of the lid that read Orlik.    Jeff took the pipe out of the case and took photos of it to show what it looked like. If you look closely at the stem you can see the crack in the amber and the damage on the button end. You can also see the thick lava coat on the top of the meerschaum cup.Jeff took photos of the bowl, rim top to show the thickness of the cake in the bowl and the thick lava on the rim top. The rim top and inner edge are thickly covered with lava. The meerschaum has some patina developing. He took photos of the top and underside of the amber stem showing the cracks and chips on both sides. The stem is a mess that will take time to repair. Jeff also took some photos of the Sterling Silver band on the gourd and the inset tenon that is in the shank end. The tenon is dirty and the silver oxidized.Jeff took photos of the sides and heel of the bowl to show the condition of the gourd bowl the patina on the meerschaum cup. You can see the beautiful shape of the bowl and some interesting patterns in the meerschaum even through the damage, dirt and debris of many years. This Cased Orlik Gourd Calabash is an interesting looking pipe. The meerschaum bowl has developed a patina and the damaged amber stem looks very good with. Because the old gentleman that we bought the pipes from intimated that he purchased his pipes at the Manhattan Barclay-Rex store I would imagine that he may have purchased this one from them as well. I was unable to pin down any information regarding the date this pipe so it was time to move on and work on the pipe.

Jeff carefully cleaned the pipe so as not to damage it further. He reamed it with a PipNet pipe reamer and then cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed out the internals of the shank, stem and shank extension with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until the pipe was clean. He carefully scrubbed the exterior of the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove the grime and grit on the exterior of the meerschaum cup and rim top and lava on the rim top. The finish looks much better and has a deep richness in the colour that highlights the patina in the meerschaum and the gold of the gourd. The chipped and cracked end of the amber stem came off while Jeff cleaned it. He wrapped it in a paper towel and shipped it to me in the bowl. He cleaned the internals of the stem with alcohol and carefully scrubbed the amber with Soft Scrub to remove the grime on the amber. When the pipe arrived here in Vancouver I was amazed that it looked so good. I took a photo of the parts of the bowl and stem. I took some photos of the bowl and meerschaum cup. The rim top looks very good after the clean up though it is spotty. I polished the smooth rim top with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped the bowl down after each pad with a damp cloth to remove the sanding debris. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the bowl and shank with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect the gourd and meerschaum. I let the balm sit for 15 minutes and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem repairs. I greased a pipe cleaner with Vaseline and slid it through the broken piece and into the larger part of the stem. I put some clear super glue (CA) on each portion of the broken stem. I pressed the portions together and let the glue cure. I slid the pipe cleaner out of the stem and filled in the cracks on the top and underside of the stem. I sanded the repairs on the top and underside of the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the repairs. I started to polish the stem with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped it down after each sanding pad with Obsidian Oil. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil. It looks significantly better and is smooth but the repairs show! With the bowl and the stem finished I put the beautiful Orlik Gourd Calabash with Meerschaum cup and an amber stem back together and buffed it the bowl and cup lightly on the wheel using Blue Diamond to give it a shine. I hand buffed the amber stem by hand. I gave the stem multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax. I buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finish on the gourd and meer is a great looking. The repaired amber stem looked very good. The dimensions of the pipe are – Length: 5 ¾ inches, Height: 2 ¾ inch, Outside diameter of the bowl: 2 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: 1 inch. The weight of this large pipe is 2.08 ounces /59 grams. This Orlik Gourd Calabash is another great find from this collection. It is much more beautiful in person than these photos can capture. This is another pipe that has the possibility of transporting the pipe man or woman back to a slower paced time in history where you can enjoy a respite. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me.

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