The English Calabash That Wanted to Be a Charatan

Blog by Robert M. Boughton

Not even once in a blue moon does a pipe with an uncommon feature – but having no nomenclature other than the county where it was made – find its way into my hands.  The two most recent examples show MADE IN over LONDON ENGLAND on the right shank and did not meet their makers’ exacting standards.  The previous was a Ben Wade celebrating the poker shape with capacious panache, but other than replacing the stem with a smaller, lighter, inappropriate one, there was no way to counter the off-center of gravity and force the poker sitter to sit.  This time it’s a Charatan that looks more akin to a beanpot to me but was called a calabash by the maker.  Had not Steve seen my “beanpot” for what it is, I might have concluded that both pipes began their lives as Ben Wades.  Although Charatan pipes do not include MADE IN, I concluded that the two words were added when the pipe was rejected, maybe to differentiate the rejected from the approved.  Here are two models of Charatan’s Make calabashes from Worthpoint.Based on the seller’s detailed description of the smooth finish calabash, at the first link below, I believe Charatan made these pipes while Dunhill owned the brand (1978-1988). The grain of my pipe is not very good and required a few fills, but I don’t see why it could not have been modified to a sandblasted or relief finish as shown above. Here is mine as I received it. Sanding with 220- and 320-grit paper cleaned it up pretty well. Using 400-, 600- and 1000-grit paper, I was able to give it a first glow. After retorting the pipe, I turned my attention to the stem, which, other than being dirty, looked much better than most. I’ve started giving stems a bath in generic viscous stain remover. So far, I haven’t tried it on a specimen with oxidation, and I doubt it will do more than remove the grime that often goes with estate pipe stems. But I will report back on that.An hour later, I took the stem out of the goop, rinsed it and ran a pipe cleaner through.  Micro meshing it made two small teeth marks stand out.What I should have done was flick my Bic on the annoying little marks, but that didn’t come to me until after I reached the point of no return with another method that’s great on real divots.  Anyway, mixing Super Glue and vulcanite shavings from an old stem that’s perfect for the task was good practice.This method for removing bite marks makes a mess. Cleaning it up took a couple of days of sanding and buffing before the final shots after one more progression of 60-1000-grit sandpaper and all nine micro mesh pads – but the practice and results were worth it.Time to stain.At this point, I would have had only the final wheel buff left.  In fact, that’s what I did.  But the pic I took of the nomenclature revealed a hairline crack just below LONDON, ENGLAND.To mitigate the potential for the crack to spread, I used a touch of Super Glue and let it sit overnight. At least the foul spot was not all the way through the shank. A 120/180 sanding pad followed by a full micro meshing took off the excess dried glue.  I re-stained the effected area with Moccasin Brown and buffed the char off with 8000-12000 micro mesh. I decided to make the rim lighter with 8000-12000 micro mesh, also.Quick wheel buffing of the stem and stummel with Red Tripoli and carnauba on the buffer wheel completed the Charatan’s Make Calabash reject. The best part of this restoration is how close I came with my sweet reject to the stain of a third Charatan’s Make Perfection Calabash I found online.And I didn’t even know it until I copied and pasted the pic from  I look forward to finding a loving home for my poor disadvantaged friend here.


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