Tag Archives: Gourd Calabash pipes

Refurbishing a Gourd Calabash


Blog by Steve Laug

In the past weeks I finished up some pipes for a guy here in Vancouver and when he came to pick them up he brought some more for me to work on for him. I finished up some of the ones on the worktable so I decided it was time to work on these. The fourth pipe is a Gourd Calabash with a Meerschaum bowl. It is a nicely shaped gourd that makes up the base of the bowl. The meerschaum cup is in excellent condition – a few minor scratches and nicks in the bowl. The shank end is plastic/acrylic and seals the end of the gourd. It is made to fit a bent vulcanite stem. The meerschaum bowl had a thin and uneven cake. The upper half of the bowl was more thickly caked than the bottom half. I would need to ream it to even out the cake. There was some slight darkening around the inner edge of the rim top as well as some scratches and nicks in the top of the rim. The inside of the shank was dirty and needed to be cleaned. The black vulcanite stem had tooth marks and chatter on the top and underside of the stem near the button. I took photos of the bowl and stem to give a clear picture of the condition of the pipe before I started to work on it.I removed the bowl from the gourd bowl. The cork gasket was in tact but dry. The inside of the bowl had some build up of tars and oils on the walls.The bowl was dirty and the rim top scratched and worn. There was some darkening on the top and around the inner edge. There was also some uneven cake that is visible in the photo below. I scraped out the excesss cake with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife to even the cake on the walls of the bowl. I sanded the walls smooth with sandpaper wrapped around a piece of dowel. I worked over the top of the bowl and the inner edge of the rim top with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I removed the most of the damage to the rim top with the micromesh sanding pads. I was able to smooth out the scratches with the micromesh pads. I wiped the bowl down after each pad with a damp cloth. I scraped out the hardened tars on the walls of the gourd with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. This is done with care so as not to dig too deeply into the skin of the gourd. I just wanted to knock off the high spots and smooth it out. I blew out the debris onto a paper. I cleaned out the airway in the stem and shank, the mortise and shank interior with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. I forgot to take photos of this as I was on a roll and moving quickly through the process.I rubbed down the outer surface of the gourd with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the finish with my fingertips and finished working it in with a shoe brush. The balm worked to clean, preserve and enliven the surface of the gourd. I also rubbed some Vaseline into the cork gasket to soften and enliven it at the same time. I really like the effect of the product on the gourd bowl so I took some photos of the pipe at this point. Once the outside and inside of the gourd was as clean as I was going to get it I set the bowl aside and turned to address the stem. I sanded the tooth marks and chatter out of the stem surface with some folded 220 grit sandpaper.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads to remove the scratches in the acrylic. I wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. I polished the stem with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine polishes. I wiped it down with a cotton pad and gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil. I set the stem aside to dry. I put the stem back on the gourd bowl and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. I gave the gourd outer bowl, the meerschaum inner bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. I have four more pipes to finish for him – these are some finds he made while pipe hunting. This is a fun bunch of pipes to work on. I look forward to moving through the rest of them. Thanks for looking.  

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A Simple Restoration of a 1910 Gourd Calabash


Blog by Steve Laug

I received a call from a fellow who lives nearby my house about working on some pipes for him. He happened to be packing them up to send to the US for repairs when he stumbled on rebornpipes. He wanted to know if I could work on them for him. Two were pretty straight forward – 1910 Calabash and a freehand that was his dad’s that he wanted to clean up and send back to him. The freehand was simple – buffing, touching up stain, cleaning the bowl and shank and removing tooth chatter and oxidation from the stem. I finished that one first and then moved on to this calabash. The rest will warrant a blog on each of them to explain the process.

This Gourd Calabash was interesting. When I first saw it I thought it had an amber stem but as I worked on it, it became clear that it was a Bakelite stem or some kind of early acrylic. The way the material acted told me that. The stem had tooth chatter and nicks in the surface of the stem. The bowl was dirty and had a pretty thick cake build up on the inside walls. I carefully scraped it back leaving a thin cake on the walls. I think that the inner bowl is clay. The bowl is held in place by a pressure fit Sterling Silver rim cap that is unmovable without damaging the gourd. The silver was tarnished and had scratches and some dents in the surface. The clay inner bowl was plugged at the bottom so that there was minimal airflow or draw on the pipe. The gourd itself was in really good shape with some kind of varnish coat on the surface. The end of the shank was bound with a tarnished Sterling Silver band that had hallmarks and maker marks on the left side. The tenon appeared to be bone and was in great condition with a slight nipple on the end that had a small chip in it. It fit in the shank perfectly and everything aligned well. This would be a fun one to clean up and restore. I took some photos of the rim top to show the scratches and dents in the silver as well as the tarnish on the silver. The dark cake on the wall of the bowl is visible as well. The photos of the stem show the tooth chatter on both sides near the button and some small nicks on both sides.I took a photo of the hallmarks and makers mark on the Sterling Silver band. The hallmarks are clear in the photo below. There is an anchor, a lion, and the lower case letter “l”. The anchor identifies the city of the manufacture of the silver to be Birmingham, England. The lion is the mark for .925 Sterling Silver and the letter “l” is the date stamp. I have included a hallmark chart for dating the pipe. I put a red rectangle around the letter for 1910. It is the same style of “l” and the cartouche that holds the letter stamp matches the photo as well. The maker stamp shows the letters and ampersand as follows: J&H in a long rectangular cartouche. I was unable to identify the silversmith from these marks. I sanded out the tooth chatter and nicks with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper and smooth out the areas that were damaged to blend into the surface of the early Bakelite stem.I polished both sides of the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each pad to clean away the debris from sanding. When I finished I buffed it with a microfiber cloth to raise the shine in the stem. I cleaned out the airway in the stem and the mortise, shank and inside of the calabash with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. The idea on cleaning these gourds is to not let the inside ever get too wet with the alcohol. I worked over the airway in the bottom of the bowl with pipe cleaners and cotton swabs as well after reaming it back with a Savinelli Fitsall pipe knife.I worked on the scratches and nicks in the Sterling Silver rim cap with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500- 2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I finished cleaning the rim top and the band on the shank with a jeweler’s treated silver polishing cloth to give the silver a rich shine and protect it from tarnishing for a while. I polished the gourd with Before & After Restoration Balm and rubbed it into the surface of the gourd. It really brought more life and depth to the finish on the gourd. I buffed it with a soft cloth and removed the excess. I gave the bowl and stem several coats of Conservator’s Wax and buffed it with a soft cloth to raise the shine. It came out really well. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The next two that I have on the table from him are an interesting blowfish that has a very short shank and a stem that just does not work well with the shape and the other is a small, meerschaum cigarillo holder with a broken tenon between the stem and the holder. Thanks for looking.

Recommissioning a Sculpted Gourd Calabash for a Man Serving His Country


Blog by Dal Stanton

Last year, when my wife and I were in the US for some months for our periodic furlough reconnecting with friends, family, and sponsors of our work in Bulgaria, I was also trying to connect with pipes –  I love the search!  As I’ve done many times before, I was trolling through the eBay offerings.  I came across a listing for a lot of pipes, which the seller described as:  Huge Lot Of 66 Smoking Pipes Pre-Owned Pre-Smoked and Deeply Loved.  The further description was that the Lot of 66 was a donated item, that the collection belonged to one owner, and they repeated that the collection had been “Loved”.  There were several other pictures providing break downs of the overview below.  As you might expect, I started going through the pictures to see what I could see – the seller said that they were not pipe people, they did not know the brands nor the specific histories.  This is always a good sign – treasures could be lurking in the mass of 66 pipes!  I could see very easily one OBVIOUS treasure – a Gourd Calabash.  Well, I did the math, determined a budget, and with my wife’s blessing, went to the auction block and I won – which surprised me.   There turned out to be several treasures in the Lot of 66 which will gradually make their way to The Pipe Steward worktable to be restored and recommissioned to benefit the Daughters of Bulgaria, helping women and girls, and their children, who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  I toted the Lot of 66 back to Bulgaria with me (thanks to a very patient wife!) and now the Sculpted Gourd Calabash is now on the worktable.  What prompted the Calabash’s retrieval from the ‘Help Me!’ basket was a text message I received from a man who said he was looking for a Meerschaum pipe and a Calabash.  Brian had met one of my colleagues in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, and through their conversation, he discovered that I restored pipes and that he had a bucket list of sorts, of pipes he was trying to acquire while in Europe for a short work stay.  Brian and I began to text back and forth, and I told him I did have a Calabash and a few Meerschaums.  He was able to look at the Sculpted Gourd Calabash on The Pipe Steward site in the ‘For Pipe Dreamers Only’ section – unrestored pipes that folks may commission. We agreed on the Calabash and since he was leaving Bulgaria soon, I went to work straight away on his ‘Bucket List’ Calabash along with the other projects on my worktable.  Only later, as we continued to text each other, did I discover that Brian was an Airforce serviceman from Washington State and lives on a farm where he and his wife provide foster care for children.  He said he was on a short military training exercise in Bulgaria.  My sense of appreciation grew – not only for the service to his country, but their care and concern for children.  I also discovered that Brian has become very interested in pipe restoration and may give it a go!  So, to work on the Calabash.

One of the discoveries I made when I looked at the Calabash for the first time in hand – what I could not see in the pictures, was that the gourd was sculpted – a very interesting and attractive design that both adds an unexpected ‘fresco’ of sorts on the gourd, and also a different, tactile feel.  On my worktable here in Sofia, Bulgaria, I take pictures of the Sculpted Gourd Calabash to chronicle his condition. The first thing that draws the attention to this Gourd Calabash after the sculpted design is taken in, is the sheer size of the pipe.  From the end of the Meerschaum cup to the end of the fancy push tenon stem is just at 9 inches!  The cup is 2 ¾ inches wide and the cup chamber is 1 3/8 inches deep. The pipe has no markings to reveal its origins.  The gourd is generally in good shape and carries with it the normal signs of age – nicks and scrapes on the gourd surface.  The surface shows the latent shininess of former finishes which look like blotches in the pictures above – these need to be removed.  When I investigate the inside of the gourd I see dust and loose particles that need to be cleaned.  The cork gasket which forms the connection between the Meerschaum cup and the gourd is in good shape but is dry. On rebornpipes, one of Steve’s best practices is to apply a little petroleum jelly to the gasket to condition it and to create a renewed seal.  I’ll try this out as well.  The cup itself is solid but sports some small chips on the top, near the chamber opening.  There are also nicks and scratches revealing the bumps and bruises he’s collected along the way.  I’ll work on sanding these out.  The push tenon stem has significant oxidation and tooth chatter.  The shank extension is made of plastic and is scraped up a bit on the end, but it should clean up nicely.

I begin the restoration of this treasure of the Lot of 66 for Brian’s bucket list by first cleaning the internals of the stem with pipe cleaners and isopropyl 95%.  After this, I add the stem to the Before and After Deoxidizer bath, along with a couple other stems in process. I let the stem soak in the Deoxidizer overnight.  The next morning, I fish out the stem from the Deoxidizer, let it drain off, and wipe liquid and oxidation off with cotton cloth pads wetted with light paraffin oil.  This removes the raised oxidation.  I wipe and buff the vulcanite and put it aside to dry.  The Before and After Deoxidizer has grown in my appreciation for the job it does.  The stem looks great. Turning now to the gourd, I look again inside the gourd and the walls are dark, with some dried tars.  I won’t be able to get it all cleaned, but I take a dental spatula to scrape what I can off.  I put down some paper towel to help in cleanup. I also employ a long-wired shank brush to reach into the gourd and travel the curve.  I do the same thing with a brush through the mortise into the gourd.  This loosens more hardened tars.  After I finish with the scraping and the brushing, I clean the mortise with pipe cleaner and cotton bud dipped in isopropyl 95%.  The internals are as clean as I can manage! Before I turn to the external surface of the gourd, I finish the internal by applying petroleum jelly with my finger to the cork gasket to rejuvenate it.To clean the grime from the gourd surface and in the sculpting crevices as well as to remove the old shiny finish, I use undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap with cotton pads and a bristled tooth brush.  I then gently rinse the gourd using the toothbrush and a very light flow of water – avoiding water getting inside the gourd. I hand dry the gourd with paper towel and let it set to dry thoroughly.  While I had the Murphy’s out, I did a quick clean over of the Meerschaum cup using a cotton pad. After the gourd thoroughly dries, I want to rejuvenate the surface.  Using Before and After Restoration Balm I work the balm into the sculpted gourd with my fingers.  I take two pictures to mark the beginning for comparison. I’m looking forward to seeing what the Balm does with the thirsty, dry gourd!  I was not disappointed – oh my!  The richness of color that exemplifies a classic Gourd Calabash is evident.  Every pipe man and woman hopes to have at least one Gourd Calabash in their collections!  I put the gourd aside to rest and pick up the Meerschaum cup.  I take another close look at the chamber and at the chipping on the cup dome.  I think that the chips are too deep to sand out totally, but I take a piece of 470 grade paper and lightly sand the surface of the Meer cup.  I strategically and lightly sand out nicks on the surface and the bevel of the cup.  I’m not able to remove the deepest divots next to the chamber lip but it looks better. As I sand, I use a dampened cotton cloth to wipe off the Meer dust. Before going further with the Meer cup surface, I take the Savinelli Fitsall Tool and gently scrape the chamber.  The cake is very light, and it doesn’t take much.  I follow by sanding the chamber with a piece of 240 grade paper around a Sharpie pen and then wipe the chamber with a cotton pad and alcohol.  Now I bring the Meerschaum cup through a micromesh pad cycle by wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400 then dry sanding with pads 3200 to 12000.  As I sand, I do not get carried away!  Sanding Meerschaum is a much gentler activity than briar!  As I progress to the latter, more polishing pads, the Meerschaum begins to reflect like glass.  Nice!The next step with the restoration of the cup is to apply bee’s wax to the Meer surface.  Bee’s wax is excellent in protecting the Meer surface as well as encouraging a rich patina.  I have Bulgarian bee’s wax available and I melt it with a hot gun.  When it liquifies, I apply it to the surface with a cotton bud. I also warm the Meer cup with the hot air so that it allows for the more even application of the melted wax.  I prop the cup in a small plastic cup.  As I apply the melted bee’s wax with a cotton bud, the wax congeals very quickly as it cools on the Meer surface.  At the end of the application, the wax is caked on the surface.  It takes some work as I begin removing the excess, congealed wax, using a cotton cloth.  As the excess comes off, it reveals the surface and it buffs more easily.  Finally, with all the excess removed, I use a micromesh cloth to give the cup a hearty hand buffing.  The Calabash’s Meer cup is now ready for a gourd.  It looks good. Now, to the fancy push tenon stem.  The bit is rough with chatter.  I will remove it by using a piece of 240 grade paper.  I also take a flat needle file to redefine the button.  I follow the 240 paper with 470 grade paper removing the scratches left by the 240 paper.  Then, I use 600 grade paper and sand the entire stem to remove rough spots in the vulcanite as well as removing the tracks of the 470 paper.  Finally, I buff the entire stem with 0000 grade steel wool. Following the steel wool buff, I want to rejuvenate the vulcanite.  First, I apply Before and After Fine Polish then Extra Fine Polish to the stem. I work each in with my fingers throughout the stem.  After each application, I wipe/buff the polish with a cotton cloth.  The vulcanite responds well with a deeper black – it looks good.Now to the micromesh pads.  With pads 1500 to 2400 I wet sand followed by 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000 are dry sanded.  After each set of three I apply a coating of Obsidian Oil.  The polished vulcanite pop is nice to behold! Now to the Calabash’s sculpted gourd.  Using the Dremel, I mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel dedicated to Blue Diamond compound.  Using the fine abrasive compound, I sand the smooth gourd areas to bring out more gloss.  I also want to test carefully the application of the compound to the sculpted area which has peeks and valleys.  I’m interested to see if Blue Diamond will also enhance this area.  Using the slowest speed on the Dremel, I work the buffing wheel around the gourd – both smooth and sculpted.  The sculpting is very intricate and the more I look at it the more amazing it is – very nice touch on an already classic shape.  I can work the compound into the sculpting and the results are good.  The surface is shining up well.  I take a picture applying the compound – no small feat with only two hands!  I also run the buffing wheel with Blue Diamond on the shank extension as well as on the unattached fancy stem.No – this next picture is not repeated from above, unfortunately.  In the interest of full disclosure, as I was working the Blue Diamond compound on the stem, I noticed oxidation that I did not see before – or wasn’t as obvious until I started buffing up the vulcanite with the compound.  Well, I’ll spare you all the pictures of starting from the beginning by re-sanding the stem starting with 240, 470, 600, steel wool and the full run of 9 micromesh pads…  Let this picture represent the whole…. Thankfully, back to ‘now’ with the second picture.I give the gourd and stem a quick hand buff with a felt cloth to remove compound dust in preparation for the application of wax.  I mount another cotton cloth buffing wheel dedicated to carnauba wax onto the Dremel.  I increase the speed up to about 40% and apply the wax to both gourd, stem and shank extension – the cup and stem are not assembled.  I find that the compact Dremel buffing wheel allows me to work in a much more directed way.  To spread the carnauba wax over the sculpted, rougher area, I steer the buffing wheel in the same direction as the sculpted valleys.  In this way, the wax does not gum up but continues to spread evenly over the surface and crevices.  As I watch the waxing unfold, oh my!  Gourd skin loves carnauba wax!  After some coats of wax, I use a micromesh cloth to buff up the gourd and stem surface.  I also buff the Meerschaum cup with the cloth.

I am very, very pleased with the results of this Sculpted Gourd Calabash.  The design created on the gourd surface attracts the eye and holds it.  The smooth gourd ‘bands’ below the Meerschaum cup and over the gourd shank, connecting to the shank extension, create a symmetry that works well.  The Meer cup looks good.  It carries some of the former scars and cuts – a sign of the Calabash’s history.  I’m glad that Brian will take good care of this Calabash as he returns to the US after his tour of service in Bulgaria.  I appreciate his service to his country and that his bucket list Sculpted Gourd Calabash benefits the Daughters of Bulgaria, women and girls (and their children) who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Thanks Brian and thanks for joining me through this restoration! 

Cleaning up a 1962 Gourd Calabash Pipe


Blog by Steve Laug

Jeff picked up this Calabash at a local estate sale in Idaho. It is a big pipe – large gourd, with the meerschaum insert and stem in place it is 8 ½ inches long and 5 inches tall. The diameter of the meerschaum cup is 2 ¾ inches and the chamber diameter is 1 1/8 inches. It is a bit different from other gourd Calabash pipes that I have worked on in that is has small flowers carved in the surface of the body of the gourd and in the meerschaum cup. The end of the gourd shank is capped with a plastic/hard rubber end cap and extension that are joined by a metal tube. The stem is acrylic and is a bright yellow colour. Jeff took some photos of the pipe before he started cleaning it. The gourd is in good condition and the overall appearance of the pipe is good. Jeff took some close up photos of the gourd to show its overall condition. You can see the carved flower patterns and small straight cuts around the flowers looking like blades of grass.The rim top had some scratching in the surface of the meerschaum as well as some more carved flower and leaf patterns. The bowl had some darkening around the inner edge of the bowl and there was a cake buildup in the bowl itself.Jeff removed the bowl to give a good look at the inside of the gourd. It was in good condition. Both the inside of the gourd and the underside of the meerschaum bowl had the number ’62 written on them in pencil. This makes me think that it is likely a date mark for the pipe – that is why I date it as a 1962 Calabash. The cork gasket around the inner edge of the gourd was in excellent condition. The cork was dry but otherwise undamaged. The black extension on the end of the shank was connected to the shank cap with a metal inner tube that lines the extension and provides a metal mortise for the stem. The stem was in excellent condition with light tooth chatter on the surface on both sides near the button with a little wear on the top and underside of the button itself.Jeff did a thorough cleanup on the meerschaum bowl, the inside of the gourd and the stem. He carefully scraped the cake in the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He cleaned the internals with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs – scrubbing out the mortise as it was dirty. He scrubbed the exterior of the meerschaum cup and the gourd with Murphy’s Oil soap and a tooth brush and was able to remove all of the oils and dust in the carved flowers on the gourd and bowl. He was able to remove all of the grime from the top of the meerschaum bowl and left it looking very clean. Once he had removed the lava on the rim top and inner edge they were very clean appeared to be good shape. Some of the scratches in the meerschaum were deeper than others and would take some work to smooth them out. He cleaned internals of the stem with alcohol. When it arrived I took some photos of it to show how it looked before I did the restoration.  I took some close up photos of the bowl, rim and the stem to show how they looked after Jeff’s cleanup work. He was able to remove much of the grime and lave on the rim top. There was a little tar around the inner edge but the bowl itself was clean. The stem was in great condition. The Delrin push mortise was clean. It fit well in the metal tube in the mortise. I removed the meerschaum bowl and rubbed the gourd down with Before & After Restoration Balm to deep clean the smooth finish, enliven and protect the gourd. I hand rubbed it with my fingers and buffed it with a horse hair shoe brush to work it into the flower patterns on the gourd. I wiped it off with a soft cloth. The gourd really began to have a deep shine. I took some photos of the bowl at this point to mark the progress in the restoration. I rubbed Vaseline into the cork gasket to soften and enliven it. I rubbed it in, let it dry and repeated the process until the cork was softer.I took some photos of the pencil marks on the inside of the gourd and the underside of the meerschaum bowl. Both of the photos below show the marks and clearly reads 62.I polished out the sanding scratches and marks in the meerschaum with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding it with 3200-4000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. I dry sanded it with 3200-4000 grit pads and wiped it down with the damp cloth after each one. It looked better than before but I still was not satisfied so I buffed it again this time using Blue Diamond. I brought it back to the table and sanded it with the final three 6000-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with the damp cloth after each pad. When I finished with the 12000 grit pad I gave it a final wipe down and set it aside. The final photo showing the underside of the meerschaum cup shows a previous repair that had been done before the pipe came to us. It was a good repair and the chip was smooth and there was no roughness to the outer edge of the cup. I polished out the tooth chatter in the acrylic stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. I buffed the stem using a light touch with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I brought it back to the table and did a final polish with the 12000 grit pad, gave it a final wipe down with a damp cloth and set it aside to dry. I worked over the black plastic end cap and extension with micromesh pads to polish them and remove all scratches in the surface. I gave the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax to protect and polish it. I gave the gourd bowl several coats of Conservator’s Wax and buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed gourd and meerschaum cup with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The polished gourd, the rejuvenated meerschaum cup, black end cap and shank extension work very well with the bright yellow of the bent acrylic stem. The pipe is clean and ready to load and smoke with a favourite tobacco. It feels good in the hand and I would think it be cool, dry smoke. The dimensions of the pipe are: Length: 8 ½ inches, Height: 5 inches, Diameter of the meerschaum cup: 2 ¾ inches and Chamber diameter: 1 1/8 inches. I will be adding this one to the rebornpipes store shortly if you are interested in adding it to your collection. This is a larger pipe and it’s a nice addition to the rack. If you are interested email me at slaug@uniserve.com or send me a message on Facebook. Thanks for looking.

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.

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.