Tag Archives: Gourd Calabash pipes

A Dirty Gourd Calabash Brought Back to Life


Blog by Steve Laug

When my brother Jeff saw this pipe he went for it. He picked it up May of 2018 from an online auction from Lusby, Maryland, USA. This pipe appeared to be in rough shape. The meerschaum cup/bowl was full and top was filthy. It had definitely seen better days. Jeff seems to be drawn to the Gourd Calabash pipes so he continues to pick them up. There is no identifying stamping on the pipe – not on the bowl, gourd, shank or stem. It is unidentifiable. The shape and composition reminds me of many of the Pioneer Calabash pipe I have worked on but this one remains a mystery. The meerschaum bowl had a chip in the lower edge and was dirty with a thick cake and tobacco debris inside. With the bowl removed the calabash interior was also quite dirty with buildup of tars and oils. There was a heavy overflow of lava on the edges and the rim top that made it hard to know if the rim edges were damaged. The grime and dirt had been ground deeply into the finish of the gourd exterior. The briar shank extension was lifeless and dirty looking. The stem was calcified and heavily oxidized and was a mottled brown in colour. There was light tooth chatter and marks on both sides of the stem near the button. Jeff took some photos of the pipe before he did his cleanup. You can see from the photos the issues that we would be dealing with in the restoration of this pipe. The next photos show the bowl and rim top. You can see the cake in the bowl and the overflow of lava and grime on the top. You can also see the likelihood of damage to the rim edges but also that it is impossible to know what it would look like once it was clean. The photos of the stem show a mottled appearance from the oxidation and some light tooth chatter and marks on both sides of the stems.   Jeff took a photo of the chip on the meerschaum cup and the joint of the briar extension and the gourd. The joint between the extension and the gourd does not align and there is an edge on the top and bottom where they don’t match up.   Now it was time to work on the pipe. Jeff had worked his magic in cleaning up this pipe. He scraped the bowl clean with a Savinelli Fitsall pipe knife. He scraped the rim top with the edge of the knife to remove the lava coat. He scrubbed out the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the exterior of the gourd exterior bowl, the meerschaum bowl, rim and shank with a tooth brush and Murphy’s Oil Soap to the oils and tars on the bowl, rim and shank. He worked on the interior of the gourd at the same time. He rinsed it under running water. He dried it off with a soft cloth. The cleaning of the stem raised more oxidation in the vulcanite. He put it in a bath of Before & After Stem Deoxidizer to remove the oxidation. The tooth marks and chatter looked pretty good at this point. I took photos of the pipe before I started.  I took photos of the condition of the rim top and stem before I started working. The rim top is pitted and scratched and the inner edge of the rim is rough and damaged. The stem has light oxidation remaining and some tooth chatter and marks on both sides near and on the button.   I took the meerschaum bowl/cup off the gourd and the stem from the shank to show the parts. It is a great looking gourd that has a well curved shape. The briar shank extension also looks very good. The underside of the meerschaum is darkened but otherwise in excellent condition.  I started my work on the bowl by dealing with the damage on the inner edge of the rim top. I was able to smooth it out and preserve the roundness of the bowl. I was happy with the results that will become clearer in the photos of the polishing of the bowl with micromesh sanding pad. I set the meerschaum bowl aside and turned to work on the shank extension. I sanded the joint of the briar and the gourd with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the transition without damaging the shank or gourd. I wanted to remove the lip on the top side of the briar and the underside of the gourd. Once finished it looked and felt much better.  I rubbed the gourd down with Before  and After Restoration Balm to clean and rejuvenate the  gourd and give the calabash and briar a fresh look. I used some Vaseline to rejuvenate the cork gasket in the gourd. I rubbed the Vaseline into the cork, let it sit for a while and repeated the process until the cork came alive and was more elastic than it was when I started.When the cork had absorbed the Vaseline and was soft once again I pressed the meerschaum bowl into place in the calabash. It fit snugly in the bowl and looked very good.  I was able to polish out the majority of the scratches in the meerschaum and the patina in the meerschaum rose to the surface or the bowl. I set aside the bowl and turned my attention to the stem. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-12000 grit pads. I polished it further with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both fine and extra fine.     I really enjoy finishing the work on a pipe because I love the final touches that make it sing. I put the Gourd Calabash back together and lightly buffed the bowl with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave the gourd and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. It is fun to see what the polished meerschaum bowl looks like with the smooth finished gourd and the black vulcanite stem. This richly finished Gourd Calabash is light weight and ready for you to load up a tobacco of preference and enjoy smoking it. Have a look at it in the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 6 inches, Height: 3 ½ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 2 ½ inches, Chamber diameter: 1 1/8 of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 56grams/1.98oz. This is one that will go on the Meerschaum Pipemakers section of the rebornpipes online store shortly. Thanks to each of you who are reading this blog. 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.     

New Life for a Small Gourd Calabash with a Porcelain Bowl and a Bakelite Stem


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the table came to us from a group of pipes that Jeff picked up on a recent pipe hunt in Utah. It is an older Gourd Calabash that is in decent condition. It is has a nickel band that has faux hallmarks that identify it as an American made calabash. The gourd portion of the pipe is in good shape other than a damaged spot on the left side toward the bottom of the gourd. It is almost as if the top layer of the gourd had bubbled and peeled. The gourd has a great mix of colours that darken toward the shank end. The cup/bowl portion is made of porcelain rather than meerschaum. It was dirty and had some buildup of tars on the inner edge. The walls of the bowl had a thin cake build up on the surface. The finish was dirty with dust ground into the gourd and some oxidation on the band on the shank end. The taper stem was made of Bakelite and had tooth marks and chatter ahead of the button on both sides. The button edge was worn down and would need to be recut.  Jeff took photos of the pipe to show what it looked like before he started working on it. He took photos of the porcelain bowl and rim top to show cake in the bowl and the lava on the inner edge of the bowl. The edge looked rough but should clean up very easily. The photos of the sides and heel of the bowl show the colours around the exterior of the gourd. It is a beauty under the grime and dust.    The stamping on the nickel band is shown in the photo below. It looks very good and readable. It is a classic set of faux hallmarks that I have found present on American made pipes. Jeff captured the overall look in the first photo followed by some closer photos of sections of the stamp so you can read it.He removed the stem from the shank and took photos. They both show the inset bone tenon in the stem. The alignment in the gourd shank is perfect and the threads in the shank look very good.   There was nothing about the pipe that gave me any clues as to the manufacture of the pipe. It is well made would be a great looking piece once it was restored. I turned to work on the pipe itself. Jeff had carried out his usual thorough cleanup of the pipe. He had carefully scraped the walls of the porcelain bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed the internals of the bowl, shank and stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the externals with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and rinsed the bowl off with running water. He soaked the stem in Before & After Deoxidizer and once it had soaked rinsed it off with warm water to remove the residual solution. He dried it off and rubbed it down to remove any oxidation that was still on the stem. The pipe looked very good when I received it.  I took a photo of the rim top to show the condition. The rim top and edges look very good. The bowl is clean. The stem came out looking quite good. There are some tooth marks and chatter on both sides and some remaining oxidation.   I took a photo of the band on the shank to show the hallmarks. They are as pictured above.I removed the stem from the shank and took a photo of the pipe parts to show what I was working with. It is a nice looking pipe. Since the bowl was in such excellent condition I started the restoration by rubbing the gourd calabash down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the gourd with my fingertips to clean, enliven and preserve the exterior of the bowl. I let it sit for 10 minutes while I worked on the stem. After the time passed I buffed it with a cotton cloth to deepen the shine. The gourd really comes alive with the balm. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I recut the button edge with a file to redefine the sharp edge. I sanded the stem to remove the tooth marks and chatter from both sides with 220 grit sandpaper and started polishing the stem with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. 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.   I rubbed the bone tenon down with Vaseline to lubricate it and make screwing it in easier. This Porcelain Bowled Gourd Calabash is a beautiful little pipe that is in remarkable shape. The Gourd looks very good with the coloration that has happened with it and the amber coloured Bakelite bent taper stem. Combination of colours of the white porcelain, golden gourd, silver coloured band and the amber stem looks very good. The cleaned up really well and it looks good for its age. With the dust gone from the finish and the bowl it was a beauty and is eye-catching. I put the stem back on the bowl and carefully buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax 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 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: 5 inches, Height: 2 ½ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 2 inches, Chamber diameter: 2 inches. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over another beautiful pipe. This one will be on the rebornpipes store shortly if you are interested in adding it to your rack. Thanks for your time.

Restoring an Austrian Made GS 1957 Gourd Calabash


Blog by Steve Laug

We always have an eye out for Gourd Calabash pipes so we can pick them up and restore them. This one is a pipe Jeff picked up on an online auction in Georgia. We had no idea of the maker but liked the shape of the gourd, the black shank extension and amber coloured Bakelite stem. The finish on the gourd was very dirty with dust and grime. The bowl had a thick cake but the rim top was quite clean. The rim top had some darkening on the inner edge and there was a chip in the meerschaum on the inner edge. There were also scratches in the meerschaum cap of the bowl. The inside of the bowl looked undamaged under the cake so it was a good pick up. The underside of the cup and the outer edge were also clean and undamaged. The stem is Bakelite and has tooth chatter and light tooth marks on both sides near the button. The surface of the button looks very good on both sides. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he started his cleanup work. The conditions noted above are evident in the photos. Jeff took close up photos of the meerschaum cup from various angles to show the general condition of the bowl and rim. The first photo shows the thickness of the cake in the bowl and the chip on the inner edge. I have used a red arrow to point out the chipped edge. It shows more clearly in the second photo. There are some deep scratches and gouges in the surface of the cup around the rim top. There appears to be little damage to the outer edge. The photos give a clear picture of the bowl cup and rim edges. Jeff took the meerschaum cup out of the gourd and took photos of the underside of the meerschaum and the inner edge of the gourd. What it reveals is some very fascinating information. The first photo below has the initials GS over the date 1957. The second photo shows the number 85 which I am assuming is the production number or possibly the shape number of this particular bowl. The third and fourth photos show that inked stamp Austria on the edge of the gourd next to the cork gasket. Now I have a bit of information to go on and do some detective work on the maker! The photos of the stem show the condition of the stem on both sides. The first one shows the tooth marks and chatter on the top of the stem and on the button. The second photo though out of focus still shows the same tooth chatter. Both side have some calcification on the surface.The tenon on this one is aluminum and the mortise is lined with what appears to be a thin piece of fiber. Very hard to tell. The fit of the stem is very snug and there is little slop to it. The aluminum tenon also potentially points to war years manufacture.I looked up Austrian Made Gourd Calabash pipes that have a GS stamp and the year 1957 on the gourd. It was a long shot but I thought there may be some information available. There were some links to Strambach Meerschaum pipes and Gourd Calabash pipes but the maker was Robert Strambach. That was a dead end. I looked on Pipedia and on Pipephil and again there were no leads. Another possibility was that the pipe was purchase in 1957 by GS. I guess I will chalk this up to the ongoing mysteries of pipe maker identification.

Hitting the dead end, I turned my attention to the pipe itself. Jeff had cleaned the pipe with his usual penchant for thoroughness that I really appreciate. He carefully reamed it with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife, scraping the cake and grime out of the bowl. He scrubbed out the internals of the gourd and shank with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until the pipe was clean. He scrubbed the exterior of the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove the grime and grit on the gourd surface. The gourd looks to be in great condition once it is cleaned. Jeff scrubbed the internals and externals of the stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. When the pipe arrived here in Vancouver for the second stop of its restoration tour it looked very good. I took photos before I started my part of the work. I took some close up photos of the rim top and also of the stem surface. The bowl and the rim top look good. The inner edge of the rim is clean and you can see the chip and nick on the right side of the photo.  There was some wear in the finish on the rim top.  I also took close up photos of the stem to show how clean the stem was. There were light tooth marks on both sides of the stem.  I took the cup off the gourd to show the interior of the gourd and the underside of the meerschaum cup. You can see the marking on the cup and the bowl and gourd are very clean.There were some very deep gouges around the flat platform of the rim top and the bowl itself. It almost looked like these were caused by the lathe when the bowl was turned. I filled them in with clear super glue. The chip on the inside edge of the cup was ragged. I mixed some meerschaum dust with clear super glue and filled it in so it would be smooth. I know that it won’t colour the same as the rest of the bowl but it will not be ragged and splinter either. I opted for smooth and safe. I sanded it smooth with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper and started polishing it with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. I wiped down the surface with a damp cloth. The repairs looked very good. I wet sanded the meerschaum cup with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped the bowl surface down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad to remove the sanding dust. Once I finished the cup looked pretty nice. I wet sanded the gourd with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped the bowl surface down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad to remove the sanding dust. Once I finished the exterior of the gourd was clean and it shone. I rubbed the bowl down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the gourd with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. Mark Hoover’s Balm is a product that I have come to appreciate and one I use on every pipe I have been working on. I rubbed Vaseline into the cork gasket to bring life to the material. I let it sit and the Vaseline absorbed into the cork softening it and adding elasticity.I put the cup back in the bowl and it worked perfect with the softened cork. The fit was snug and perfect. I took photos of the pipe at this point to show the progress. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each sanding pad with Obsidian Oil. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. Once I had finished the polishing I gave it final coat of oil and set it aside to dry.   I am excited to be on the homestretch with this old 1957 Gourd Calabash pipe. This is the part I look forward to when it all comes back together, polished and waxed. I carefully and gently polished the gourd bowl by itself and the meerschaum cup separately with Blue Diamond. I carefully polished the Bakelite stem on the wheel with a very gentle touch. I gave the gourd and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I 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 pipe polished up pretty nicely. The completed pipe looks really good with the white of the cup, the black of the shank extension and the amber Bakelite stem. This Gourd Calabash was another fun pipe to work on thanks to Jeff’s cleanup work. It is one of those gourds that is just the right shape, compact and well bent and looks great. The combination of the parts really makes the pipe look attractive. It is another comfortable pipe to hold in the hand. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 ¼ inches, Height: 3 ½ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 2 ½ inches, Chamber diameter: 1 of an inch. This is another nice older calabash that will be going on the rebornpipes store soon. If you are interested in purchasing it and carrying on the trust let me know. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. This is an interesting estate to bring back to life.

Back to Bob Kerr’s Estate – the second of two “Hopeless” Looking Gourd Calabash Pipes


Blog by Steve Laug

After brief foray into restoring a couple of other pipes I am back to Bob Kerr’s estate (his photo is to the left). If you have not “met” the man and would like to read a bit of the history of the pipeman, his daughter has written a great tribute that is worth a read. Because I have included it in over 60 restorations to date I thought that I would leave it out this time. Be sure to check out some of the recent Dunhill restoration blog (https://rebornpipes.com/2020/01/01/restoring-the-last-of-bob-kerrs-dunhills-a-1962-dunhill-bruyere-656-f-t-bent-billiard/)

This is the second of the two Gourd Calabash pipes that he had that were rough looking. The pictures below show what they looked like when I shipped them to Jeff to do his cleanup magic with them. If the first pipe was in rough shape this one was beyond rough. It was horrible. The stem was oxidized. Once again the black plastic/acrylic ferrule was probably the cleanest part of the pipe. The meer cup was absolutely gross. There was a coat of dust, maybe even mold on the thick cake in the bowl. The pipe smelled horrid. The inner edges of the rim were badly chipped and dirty. The outer edges had chips and chunks of meerschaum that were missing. The top of the meer cup was pitted with nicks and scratches. It looked rough. With the cup removed the calabash gourd interior was black with scum and tars and looked horrible. It reeked just like the previous pipe. The smell of old tobacco tars surrounded the pipe akin to the smell of an ashtray overflowing on a pub table… some of you will certainly remember those! The gourd exterior was dirty but surprisingly undamaged. The stem was oxidized and covered with tooth chatter but none of the deep tooth marks I have come to expect from Bob’s pipes. Jeff took the following photos to document the mess!Jeff took some close up photos of the bowl cup to show the condition. Once again the photos capture the visual well but actually the other senses are not even brought into the equation. It was really nasty. The thick cake was growing things! Jeff took several photos of the under edge of the cup and the gourd sides to show the condition of the cup and the gourd. You can clearly see the chips in the meerschaum. The stem once again was surprisingly good for this estate. There were not any deep tooth marks in the vulcanite. We only had to deal with the oxidation and calcification. There no deep pits in the surface of the rubber. The third photo shows it in comparison to the ferrule so you can see how far from black it gone. I don’t think I would have been done with over 60 of Bob’s pipes without Jeff’s help on cleaning them. It was a mammoth task to say the least and they were all extremely dirty and had been sitting since the early 90s in boxes. He does cleaning job and leaves the rest to me. This one was no different. He thoroughly cleaned this filthy pipe in all of it parts. This one was a real mess and I was looking forward to seeing what he had done with this one when I took it out of his box. It looked amazing and CLEAN. He carefully reamed the meerschaum cup with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed out the internals of the gourd and the shank with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until the pipe was clean. He scrubbed the exterior of the gourd with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove the grime and grit. The gourd and meer cup look really good. The stem looked a lot better. Jeff soaked the stem in Before & After Deoxidizer to remove the oxidation on the rubber. The pipe was ready for me to carry on the next part of the process. I took some close up photos of the meerschaum cup and also of the stem surface. I will tell you what; I am absolutely amazed at how good this pipe looks. I wanted to show how well it had cleaned up and what needed to be done. The cup was still in pretty rough condition but it was clean! The surface was pitted and nicked. The inner edges of the cup looked like someone had reamed it with a pocket knife sometime in its history. The bevel was worn and nicked with cuts but there was no darkening. Otherwise it was beautiful. The stem actually looks very good in the photos. There was no chatter or toot marks on the stem surface.  But it too was amazing… the whole pipe is a surprise to me. Looks good, smells good and should smoke well!I took photos of the chips on the underside of the cup on the backside. I took a photo from both sides to show the extent of the damage.I popped the meerschaum cup out of the gourd to check out the interior. It was stunningly clean. The cork gasket was dry but whole. The underside of the cup was stained but it too was very clean.I worked on the rim edge with 220 and 400 grit sandpaper to minimize the damage to the inner bevel. I could not total remove the damage but it certainly looks better than when I started.I polished the meerschaum bowl with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded the edges and surface with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads and wiped the surface down after each pad. The meerschaum really became smooth and took on a deep shine. The pits in the top surface are still present but significantly softer and less noticeable. The inner edge of the bowl looked much better and was smooth. I set the cup aside and rubbed down the gourd with Before & After Restoration Balm. While it was designed for enlivening and protecting briar it works wonders with a piece of dried gourd calabash. I worked it into the surface of the gourd with my finger tips and let it sit for about 10 minutes. I buffed it off with a soft cotton cloth. With the gourd cleaned and polished and the meerschaum cup cleaned and polished it was time to put that part of the pipe back together. I like to rub the cork gasket down with some Vaseline Petroleum Jelly to put some life and elasticity back in the cork. I rub it down with my finger tip and let it sit for about five minute so that the cork absorbs the jelly. Once that is done I can easily insert the cup without fear of damaging the cork. I took photos of the cup in place. You can see the surface of the rim top – lightly pitted but smooth and the chips on the underside in the last photo. This will be a great for someone looking for a deal! With the bowl done it was time to address the stem. It was in pretty decent condition and the oxidation was gone on this one. I started the process by rubbing the stem down with Denicare Mouthpiece Polish. I have found it is a great pre-polish for my use as it shows me areas that I need to work on with the micromesh sanding pads.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped it down after each pad with a damp cloth to remove the sanding dust. I polished it further with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. I finished by rubbing the stem down with some “No Oxy Oil” to protect the vulcanite. I am continuing to experiment with the product from Briarville and tracking how it works so I can write a review of it. I am so glad to be finished with the second and last of these Gourd Calabash pipes. When I received them I was not sure we could get any life out of them at all. This second one also proved me wrong. It came out really nicely and looks really good. It will make a good, inexpensive entry pipe for someone wanting to try out a Gourd Calabash pipe. The look of it makes me think is a Pioneer but no way to be sure of that. It would fit the 1960s and 70s. Like each of the pipes in Bob’s estate I really look forward to this point in the process when it is put back together, polished and waxed. I put the bowl and stem back together. I carefully gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I 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 pipe polished up pretty nicely. The gourd has character and a deep shine that really came alive with the wax and polish. The meerschaum cup looks good on it and the black of the fancy vulcanite stem is a beautiful contrast to the golden gourd and white meerschaum. This turned out to be a lot of fun to work on thanks to Jeff’s cleanup work. The pipe is comfortable pipe to hold in the hand. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 ½ inches, Height: 3 ¾ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 2 ½ inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. This beautifully shaped Calabash is a great introduction to the world of Calabash pipes. It is a beauty that should last for many more years. It is one that will be on the rebornpipes store very soon. If you are interested let me know. I have a lot more of Bob’s estate to work on of various brands. Perhaps one of those will catch your attention. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. This is an interesting estate to bring back to life.

Back to Bob Kerr’s Estate – the first of two “Hopeless” Looking Gourd Calabash Pipes


Blog by Steve Laug

After brief foray into restoring a couple of other pipes I am back to Bob Kerr’s estate (his photo is to the left). If you have not “met” the man and would like to read a bit of the history of the pipeman, his daughter has written a great tribute that is worth a read. Because I have included it in over 60 restorations to date I thought that I would leave it out this time. Be sure to check out some of the recent Dunhill restoration blog (https://rebornpipes.com/2020/01/01/restoring-the-last-of-bob-kerrs-dunhills-a-1962-dunhill-bruyere-656-f-t-bent-billiard/)

This is one of two Gourd Calabash pipes that he had that were rough looking. The pictures below show what they looked like when I shipped them to Jeff to do his cleanup magic with them. This was a rough looking pipe. The stem was oxidized and in the second picture what looks like a hole in the stem near the turned portion was a thick bead of “goop”. The black plastic/acrylic ferrule was probably the cleanest part of the pipe. The meer cup was absolutely gross. There was a coat of dust, maybe even mold on the thick cake in the bowl. The pipe smelled horrid. The rim edges of the bowl looked bad; the inner one had potential damage to the beveled edge under the grime. With the cup removed the calabash gourd interior was black with scum and tars and looked horrible. It reeked of old tobacco tars akin to the smell of an ashtray overflowing on a pub table… some of you remember those! The gourd exterior was dirty but surprisingly undamaged. The stem was oxidized and covered with tooth chatter but none of the deep tooth marks I have come to expect from Bob’s pipes. Jeff took the following photos to document the mess!Jeff took some close up photos of the bowl cup to show the condition. The photos capture the visual well but actually the other senses are not even brought into the equation. It was really nasty. The thick cake was growing things! A redeeming photo had to be included after those to give a bit of encouragement and hope. This is a shot of the gourd calabash from the underside. The striations in the gourd and the shine on the bottom are quite stunning.The stem actually was surprisingly good for this estate. There were not any deep tooth marks in the vulcanite. We only had to deal with the oxidation and calcification. There no deep pits in the surface of the rubber. The third photo shows it in comparison to the ferrule so you can see how far from black it gone.I can’t begin tell you how great it feels to have Jeff’s help on cleaning up the pipes from Bob’s estate as the 125+ pipes were taking me a long time to do alone. In fact I doubt if I would have as many finished as I do now. Together we have cleaned all of the pipes and have restored over 60. He does cleaning job and leaves the rest to me. This one was no different. He cleaned this filthy pipe with his usual penchant for thoroughness that I really appreciate. This one was a real mess and I was looking forward to seeing what he had done with this one when I took it out of his box. It looked amazing and CLEAN. He carefully reamed the meerschaum cup with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed out the internals of the gourd and the shank with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until the pipe was clean. He scrubbed the exterior of the gourd with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove the grime and grit. The gourd and meer cup look really good. The stem looked a lot better. Jeff soaked the stem in Before & After Deoxidizer to remove the oxidation on the rubber. The pipe was ready for me to carry on the next part of the process. I took some close up photos of the meerschaum cup and also of the stem surface. I will tell you what; I am absolutely amazed at how good this pipe looks. I wanted to show how well it had cleaned up and what needed to be done. The cup was in remarkable condition. The surface was in decent condition. The inner edges of the cup were darkened and there was some debris on the edges of the bevel. Otherwise it was beautiful. The stem actually looks very good in the photos. There was no chatter or toot marks on the stem surface.  There was a little bit of oxidation that I needed to work on in the curves of the stem and turned area. But it too was amazing… the whole pipe is a surprise to me. Looks good, smells good and should smoke well!I popped the meerschaum cup out of the gourd to check out the interior. It was stunningly clean. The cork gasket was dry but whole. The underside of the cup was stained but it too was very clean.I worked on the rim and top of the meerschaum bowl with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded the edges and surface with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads and wiped the surface down after each pad. The meerschaum really became smooth and took on a deep shine. The inner edge of the bowl kept a bit of colour but was also very smooth. I set the cup aside and rubbed down the gourd with Before & After Restoration Balm. While it was designed for enlivening and protecting briar it works wonders with a piece of dried gourd calabash. I worked it into the surface of the gourd with my finger tips and let it sit for about 10 minutes. I buffed it off with a soft cotton cloth. With the gourd cleaned and polished and the meerschaum cup cleaned and polished it was time to put that part of the pipe back together. I like to rub the cork gasket down with some Vaseline Petroleum Jelly to put some life and elasticity back in the cork. I rub it down with my finger tip and let it sit for about five minute so that the cork absorbs the jelly. Once that is done I can easily insert the cup without fear of damaging the cork. With the bowl done it was time to address the stem. It was in pretty decent condition other than a little residual oxidation in the curves of the turned area and on the tenon area. I sanded the surface of the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the remaining oxidation in the stem surface and the remaining oxidation in the vulcanite. I polished it with 400 grit wet dry sand paper.I rubbed the stem down with Denicare Mouthpiece Polish. I have found it is a great pre-polish for my use as it shows me areas that I need to work on with the micromesh sanding pads.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped it down after each pad with a damp cloth to remove the sanding dust. I polished it further with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. I finished by rubbing the stem down with some “No Oxy Oil” to protect the vulcanite. I am continuing to experiment with the product from Briarville and tracking how it works so I can write a review of it.

I am so glad to be finished with the first of these Gourd Calabash pipes. When I received them I was not sure we could get any life out of them at all. This one proved me wrong. It came out really nicely and looks really good. What came out is a beautiful golden Gourd Calabash. The look of it makes me think is a Pioneer but no way to be sure of that. It would fit the 1960s and 70s. Like each of the pipes in Bob’s estate I really look forward to this point in the process when it is put back together, polished and waxed. I put the bowl and stem back together. I carefully gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I 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 pipe polished up pretty nicely. The gourd has character and a deep shine that really came alive with the wax and polish. The meerschaum cup looks good on it and the black of the fancy vulcanite stem is a beautiful contrast to the golden gourd and white meerschaum. This turned out to be a lot of fun to work on thanks to Jeff’s cleanup work. The pipe is comfortable pipe to hold in the hand. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 7 inches, Height: 3 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 2 ½ inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. This beautifully shaped Calabash is a beauty should last for many more years. It is one that will be on the rebornpipes store very soon. If you are interested let me know. I have a lot more of Bob’s estate to work on of various brands. Perhaps one of those will catch your attention. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. This is an interesting estate to bring back to life.

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.  

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.