Tag Archives: Gourd Calabash pipes

Cleaning up the last of the five Gourd Calabashes


Blog by Steve Laug

Well, I have come to the end of restoring the five gourd calabashes that my brother and I picked up on my recent trip to Idaho. This final one is very similar to the previous one that I cleaned up. I think it may also be a Pioneer Gourd Calabash but I have no way of proving it one way or another. The gourd on this one is a bit longer and has a slightly different bend than the previous one. The shank cap and extension is identical. The stem is different and it may well be a replacement. The pipe had been lightly smoked as is evidenced by the internals of the bowl and shank. However, it has been roughly handled. The bowl was darkened and scratched and there were chips missing on the outside edge. Fortunately they were not too deep and could be addressed but they were present nonetheless. This calabash was externally in the worst shape of the five but as I looked it over I could see that there was a lot of promise left in it and the bowl could be polished and smoothed out. The next four photos show the condition of the pipe when I brought it to the work table. I took the pipe apart to get a look at the parts. The inside of the gourd was surprisingly clean. In fact it looked barely smoked. This made me wonder if the bowl was not a used replacement bowl from another pipe. The cork gasket was also new and had been replaced. It was dry and hardened but still had not cracked or broken. The top of the bowl was in rough shape. There were some scratches and the burn marks were all around the inner edge of the bowl. I took a close up photo of the bowl top and edges to show more clearly the kind of damage that would need to be addressed in cleaning this one up. You can see the nicks on the inner edge of the bowl and on the top. The burn marks went all the way around and out into the surface of the bowl. The scratches on the top are visible and many. The second and third photo below show the nicks in the out edge of the bowl. It looked to me that the bowl had been dropped some time in its life. There were two missing pieces and there were also a lot of scratches all the way around the outer edge of the bowl. I sanded out the as many of the scratches as possible with 220 grit sandpaper. I smooth out the missing chips on the edge of the bowl and reshaped the rounded edge of the bowl so that the chips were no long visible. I polished the meerschaum with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I buffed the bowl with Blue Diamond to polish it to a shine. By the time I was finished most of the scratches and damage had been repaired and the bowl looked far better. I greased the cork with Vaseline to revitalize it and soften it. I rubbed it down and let it absorb before giving it another coat. Once it had been absorbed the cork was softer and more flexible. The bowl seated very well when pressed into place.I waxed the gourd with Conservator’s Wax and buffed it by hand with a soft cloth. I repeated the process and after buffing it with the cloth hand buffed it a final time with a microfibre cloth.I pressed the bowl into the gourd and it fit really well. The next two photos show the polished bowl and gourd. The pipe is already looking far better than it did when I started the refurbish on it. There is a shine to it now.I cleaned out the shank, the mortise and the airway in the stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. It was remarkably clean which made me more certain that the pipe itself was unsmoked and a used replacement bowl had been added later.I polished the unused stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads. I buffed the stem with red Tripoli to remove the light oxidation and then finished dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I gave the stem repeated coats of Obsidian Oil after the first set of pads and the buffing and after each set of three pads after that. I gave it a final coat after the sanding with the 12000 grit pad and then set it aside to dry. I gave the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I removed the bowl and carefully buffed the gourd with a clean buffing pad to raise the wax shine on it as well. I put the pipe back together and hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe looks really good now that it is finished. You would be hard pressed to find the damaged areas on the bowl sides and the scratches on the rim top look really quite good. The bowl has a light patina that remained after I waxed it with beeswax. It is a beauty and will serve someone well. It will be available on the rebornpipes store shortly. If you have been looking for a gourd calabash this one may well fit the bill. Thanks for looking.

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Breathing New Life into a No Name Gourd Calabash


Blog by Steve Laug

Having finished the first three gourd calabashes that my brother and I picked up on my recent trip to Idaho I move on to the fourth one. I purposely left the fourth and fifth pipes for last because they came to me in used condition. The bowls and gourds are original. I am not convinced that the stems for either one is original but I will probably never know. The gourd on this one is in great shape. It is significantly lighter in colour and weight than the previous three. The calabash does not have the patina that age and time adds to it. The shank end is made of plastic and includes a cap that covers the end of the gourd and an extension that forms the mortise for a push tenon. It appears that the shank extension is inserted with a plug and glued into the calabash end. I took the pipe apart and took the photo below.  The stem was oxidized and there were tooth marks and chatter on the surface of the stem at the button on both sides. The meerschaum cup/bowl had been used. There was darkening on the underside of the bowl and the inside of the bowl had some darkening from smoking. The top of the cup was scratched and nicked from being knocked against hard objects. There was some tar and smoke damage on the inner edge of the rim and the top.The inside of the gourd had been cleaned and showed little wear and tear. There was a new cork gasket on the top inner edge of the gourd. It was dry and hard but undamaged. The shank extension had been well drilled as a mortise for the push tenon stem. It was plastic and was in excellent condition. I took a close up photo of the meerschaum bowl. You can see the darkening from the lighting of the pipe and the scratches in the surface of the bowl top. The inside of the bowl is darkened. The second photo shows the underside of the bowl. It is also slightly darkened. Overall the bowl looks to be in decent shape. The stem on this one was well used. It was oxidized and the tooth marks and chatter were on both sides near the button. Of the four calabashes I have worked on to this point this one has the most used stem. None of the marks are too deep so it should not take too much work to smooth things out.I started by working on the meerschaum bowl. I sanded out the scratches and marks with a well-worn piece of 220 grit sandpaper and then polished it with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded the bowl top and edges with 1500-2400 grit sanding pads. I dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I buffed it with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel to polish out the remaining scratches. When I finished polishing the bowl I gave it several coats of beeswax polish and buffed it with a soft cloth and a shoe brush.I rubbed the cork gasket down with Vaseline to soften and enliven it. I let it absorb into the cork and repeated the process until the cork was soft.I waxed the gourd with Conservator’s Wax and when it dried I buffed it and gave it repeated coats of wax. I buffed it with a shoe brush and then with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. I cleaned out the mortise and the inside of the shank and stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. It did not take too many swabs or cleaners to remove the debris in the gourd and the stem. Inside was in far better condition that the outside of the shank and bowl. I sanded out the tooth chatter and the tooth marks with 220 grit sandpaper until the surface was smooth. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each set of three pads and gave the stem a final coat of oil after the last pad. I set it aside to dry. I buffed the stem with Blue Diamond to polish out the last of the oxidation in the grooves of the stem and also to polish out the remaining scratches. I buffed the gourd and the stem with carnauba wax and a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I avoided buffing the plastic shank extension and merely buffed it by hand with a microfiber cloth. I buffed the entire pipe by hand with the microfiber cloth. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It is a smaller pipe than the others I have posted and is comfortable in the mouth and the hand. It will soon join the previous three calabashes on the rebornpipes store. Feel free to contact me if you are interested in adding this one to your collection. Thanks for looking.

A No Name Cumberland Shank Gourd Calabash


Blog by Steve Laug

The third Gourd Calabash from the five that my brother and I picked up in Idaho is an interesting one. I have no idea of the age though the gourd looks similar in age and patina to the previous two pipes. It is certainly a little older than the next two on the work table which look to be Pioneer Gourd Calabashes. This one has been obviously restored and repaired sometime in its long life. The repairman added an interesting touch to the pipe. There is a Cumberland shank extension that is connected to the end of the gourd and gives the old style pipe a touch of another century. The Cumberland has a mortise drilled to take a push stem and it is really well made and well attached. It appears that the repairman used a tube to connect the gourd and the shank extension so it is a very solid repair. The stem and the meerschaum bowl is the only part of this pipe that is both new and unsmoked. I took the pipe apart to have a look at the parts. The Cumberland shank extension was oxidized and dull and really did not show the red striations along its length very well. The stem was also oxidized and dirty. It is interesting that the stem was a little dirty on the inside so I am guessing that it was pressed into service on this pipe from a stem can like my own. The internals of the bowl have some darkening and tars on the walls of the gourd but it has been well cleaned. The externals of the gourd are really in great shape and there is a nice patina to the calabash.The inside of the gourd bowl is in good shape. There is some darkening but it has been well cleaned out. There is a new cork gasket installed around the inner edge of the rim of the gourd. It is dry but is in good shape. I took a picture of the mortise drilling in the Cumberland as well. It is a great piece of craftsmanship. The next photos show the beautiful striations in the Cumberland that are hiding beneath the oxidation. The repairman who put this shank extension on the gourd made an interesting choice to use Cumberland. Nicely done.The old freehand stem was lightly oxidized but was otherwise in great shape. There were not any tooth marks or chatter on the surfaces of the stem. The button and slot were in great shape.I started polishing the Cumberland shank extension with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed the Cumberland down with Obsidian Oil after each set of three pads. After the final pad I gave it a final coat of oil and let it dry. I ran a pipe cleaner dipped in alcohol through the airway in the shank and the stem. I cleaned out the mortise with cotton swabs and alcohol. The pipe was amazingly clean. The stem had a little debris in it but it was not too bad. I rubbed Vaseline into the cork gasket to enliven it and lubricate it. I repeated the rubdown until the cork was soft and pliable again. When the cork had absorbed the grease I pressed the Meerschaum cup into the gasket and it was a smooth, snug fit.I gave the gourd several coats of Conservator’s Wax and hand buffed it with a soft cloth and a microfiber cloth. The wax gave the gourd a real shine. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to polishing the stem. I wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads and dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil after each set of three pads and then gave it a final coat of wax after the 12000 grit pad. I set the stem aside to dry. I buffed the stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel to take out the last bit of oxidation and scratching. I gave the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a clean buffing pad to give the stem shine. I put it back on the pipe and gave the shank and bowl several more coats of Conservator’s Wax and hand buffed the entire pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The shine of the Cumberland looks really good between the rich golden yellow of the gourd and the black of the stem. It is a beauty. This one will join the previous two Calabashes on the rebornpipes store very soon. You might consider adding this one to your rack. It is a beauty. Thanks for looking.

Cleaning up an Austrian Aonian Gourd Calabash


Blog by Steve Laug

I went to work on the second of the gourd calabash pipes that my brother and I found on a recent visit to Idaho. This one is an older Austrian Made Calabash. It is stamped Aonian on the left side of the gourd shank. Also stamped on the gourd just below the silver band are the words “Made in Austria”. The silver band is stamped “Sterling Silver” over “Made in Austria”. The stem, gourd and the silver band are original. The unsmoked bowl is a replacement that probably came from Tim West over at JH Lowe. The gourd is one of the most beautifully shaped that I have seen over the years of cleaning up these pipes. The gourd was in great shape, the stem was lightly oxidized with a small tooth mark on the underside of the stem next to the button. I took the pipe apart to check out the internals of the gourd. The inside of the gourd was darkened but otherwise it was clean. The cork was dry and stiff but bowl had otherwise it was clean and new. It was obviously replaced when the new meerschaum been added. The top of the gourd was smooth. The mortise area of the shank of the gourd was solid and clean.The silver band was tarnished and also it was loose. The stamping on the band is visible in the photos below. It is simply stamped Sterling Silver Made in Austria. You can also see the stamping on the gourd itself next to the band. It reads Made in Austria. On the left side of the shank it is stamped Aonian in script right into the gourd. The band was loose on the gourd shank. The glue had dried out and when the stem was removed fell off the gourd. I took the band off and cleaned the gourd underneath with a little alcohol on a cotton pad. I sanded lightly on the dark ring that had built up in front of the band until was minimized.I wiped the gourd down with a damp cloth. I dried it and gave it several coats of Conservator’s Wax being careful to not get wax on the unfinished shank end of the gourd. I buffed the gourd by hand with a microfiber cloth to give it a shine and protect it.I wiped the end of the gourd clean with a damp cotton pad in preparation for regluing the band in place. I used a dental spatula to apply some multipurpose white glue all around the clean end of the gourd. Once it was covered I lined up the stamping on the left side of the shank and pressed the band in place. I cleaned out the inside of the gourd with a dental pick, cotton swabs, pipe cleaners and alcohol. I picked out the remnants of carbon that were there and also cleaned out the dust and debris. The mortise was very clean and took very little work.  I ran a few pipe cleaners through the airway in the stem to remove any dust or debris. It did not take much before the pipe was clean internally. I rubbed the cork gasket down with Vaseline to enliven and soften it. I let the grease be absorbed into the cork and gave it a second and third coat. Once it had dried I pressed the meerschaum bowl back into the gourd.I sanded out the small tooth mark on the underside of the stem with 220 grit sandpaper until it was gone. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each set of three pads and after the last pad gave it a final coat, rubbed it into the vulcanite and set it aside to dry. I buffed the stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel to remove the remaining scratches in the rubber. I gave the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I polished the silver band with a jeweler’s cloth to remove the tarnish and give it a shine. I gave the bowl several more coats of Conservator’s Wax and buffed the entire pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It is a beauty and it will also join the previous pipe for sale on the rebornpipes store. Thanks for looking.

Cleaning up a Bit of a Frankenstein English Gourd Calabash


Blog by Steve Laug

This old Gourd Calabash had been reconditioned and brought back into service somewhere along the way in its long life. This lovely Calabash is a combination of things old and things new. It has been reconstructed from parts like Frankenstein. The Gourd is old and bears the stamp “LONDON over ENGLAND” on the left side of the shank at the bottom of the curve. The old silver band appears to bear hallmarks under the tarnish but I will know more once I clean it up. Those are the only two old parts that remain of the original pipe. The rest of the pipe is relatively new. The meerschaum bowl is a new replacement bowl. The shank end of the gourd has been fitted with a round wooden plug that has been drill to hold the tenon. The stem is also new and has been tapered at the shank end with a bevel and fits perfectly in the wooden plug. The next four photos show what the pipe looked like when I brought it to the worktable. I took the pipe apart to check out the interior of the gourd. The meerschaum bowl was new and had the size on the underside. It was marked the same way as other bowls I have purchased from Tim West at JH Lowe. This one is marked 24.5. The fit of the bowl in the gourd is snug with no play. The wood plug on the shank end was stained and had been inserted into the gourd. The oxidized silver band held the plug in place against the shank of the gourd. The stem was high quality vulcanite with minimal oxidation and no tooth marks. It appeared to unsmoked like the new meer bowl.There is a new cork gasket that is glued in place on the inside of the top edge of the gourd. It is a replacement cork and was in perfect shape. It was dry and would need to be lubricated with some Vaseline to enliven it again. The inside of the gourd was clean in the top half and there were some concretized tars half way down the interior.I used a dental pick with a flattened blade to scrape at the hardened material on the inside of the gourd. I knew that I would not be able to remove all of it but I could at least smooth it out slightly. I scraped and dumped the carbon on a piece of paper for an easy disposal. I ran some pipe cleaners through the shank of the gourd to remove the dust that I had generated. After a few cleaners the gourd was clean. I blew it out to remove any dust that had remained. I rubbed the cork gasket down with some Vaseline to soften the cork and enliven it. I have found that this works really well to give back some elasticity to the cork and softens it. I wiped it down and let the cork absorb the Vaseline before putting the bowl back in place.I wiped down the gourd with a damp cloth and then gave it several coats of Conservator’s Wax and buffed it by hand. The gourd was stamped on the left side “LONDON” over “ENGLAND” as shown in the photo below.The silver band was tarnished, pitted and dented. I could see letters on it but with the tarnish they were illegible. I polished the silver with a jeweler’s cloth and took the following photo to capture the stamping on the silver.After polishing I could make out some of the stamping on the silver band through a lens. It is stamped STERLING about the middle of the band. Above that is the makers mark – kind of a banner with some unreadable letters and then the letters JD in boxes. Next to that mark are three cartouches with an Anchor, a Lion and a lower case “l” that dates the silver to 1910. (I have included the Birmingham Hallmark chart below). Whoever had fashioned the wooden end plug had done a great job. It fit down into the shank of the gourd and then up through the band and provided a mortise for the replacement stem. The draught from the plug into the shank and up the gourd was wide open.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. As is my usual practice I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each set of three pads and gave it a final coat after using the last pad. I set the stem aside to dry. I buffed the stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel to remove any remaining scratches and gave it multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise a shine on it. I put it back in place on the gourd and gave the gourd a final coat of Conservator’s Wax and hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth. I hand buffed the silver until is shone. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It is the first of five gourd calabashes that my brother and I picked up when I was down on a recent trip to Idaho. Keep an eye open for the rest of them in the days ahead. I plan on finishing them all and posting them here and then for sale in the store. Thanks for looking.