Tag Archives: polishing a meerschaum cup for a gourd calabash

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! 

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Restoring the last of three Jobey Gourd Calabashes with a Briar Shank Extension


Blog by Steve Laug

As I have mentioned before my brother Jeff has really gotten good at finding Gourd Calabash pipes when he is pipe hunting. He picked up this batch recently. I posted about the large calabash in the middle of the right hand column recently and it is available on the rebornpipes store. It is by far the largest of the five calabash pipes that he found. The second one I am working on is the pipe at the bottom right of the photo. It is another unique looking Calabash to me in that it is a nicely shaped gourd with a briar shank extension on the end of the gourd. It bears the Jobey brass oval logo on the side of the briar extension. The third of the calabash pipes that I worked on was a second Jobey calabash. It is the one on the bottom left of the photo below. As I mentioned before, when I first looked these Jobey calabashes I wondered if any of them had the Jobey system tenon that I have come to expect on Jobey pipes. However, this was not the case on any of the three Jobey Gourd Calabashes in the bunch. All of them have the mortise drilled in the briar extension and is made for a push stem. Once again, I had never seen Jobey Gourd Calabashes before learned that they were probably made by Wally Frank. Here is the link to the first of the pipes I worked on – the one circled in red in the photos below:  https://rebornpipes.com/2018/01/09/restoring-a-full-bent-jobey-gourd-calabash-with-a-briar-shank-extension/. Here is the link to the second of the three circled in blue: https://rebornpipes.com/2018/01/28/restoring-the-second-of-three-jobey-gourd-calabashes-with-a-briar-shank-extension/. Today I am working on the third of the Jobey Calabash pipes and the fourth of the lot. It is the pipe on the top left of the photo below.

Once again Jeff took some photos of the pipe before he did his cleanup work on it. The photos below show it in the condition he found it in on one of his hunts. The gourd was dull looking and generally dirty. It had spots of sticky label material on the sides of the bowl. The briar shank extension was also dull and lifeless looking and there was a gummy substance in the brass logo on the shank extension. The meerschaum bowl on this pipe was light weight and appeared to be block meerschaum. There was a thick cake in the bowl and the rim had a coat of lava that went almost all the way around the inner edge of the chamber onto the rim top. The chair leg style stem was oxidized and dirty. There were tooth marks and tooth chatter on both sides of the stem at the button. The next photo shows the condition of the meerschaum cup. The cup of the meer was had some lava overflow from the bowl on the inner edge and top. There is also darkening around the inner edge of the bowl and cake in the bowl.The next two pictures show the condition of the underside of the bowl and the tars and oils on the walls of the gourd. The underside of the meerschaum cup was dirty but in good condition. The cork gasket on the inside edges of the gourd was in good condition but dried out. It needed some grease to liven it up.The briar shank extension was dirty and there was debris around the outside of the oval and in the letters stamped in the brass.The stem had light oxidation and tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button. It also had the same price tag glue on the top and underside of the stem.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 ground into the gourd. He was able to remove all of the lava and overflow 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 cleaner than I expected. The scratches in the meerschaum were quite shallow and would be easy to polish 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.   He did a great job of cleaning up the rim top including the tars and lava. The bowl is clean and smooth with all cake removed. The photo below shows the condition of the bowl and rim at this point. The inner edge of the bowl is clean but there is some wear and damage to the edge. The stem had cleaned up nicely with relatively little oxidation. The tooth marks on the top and underside along with the chatter were still present.I took the bowl off the gourd to have a look at the inside of the pipe. The gourd was very clean. The cork gasket was dry but that could be remedied easily enough. The mottled appearance carried through to the inside of the meerschaum bowl and can be seen in the photos.I used my fingers to rub the gourd and briar extension down with Before & After Restoration Balm to bring life to both and to remove any residual dust or dirt in the surface of the calabash. I wiped it off with a cotton cloth and buffed it with a shoe brush. The next few photos show the gourd at this point in the process. I used some Vaseline petroleum jelly to lubricate the cork gasket and soften it. I have done this for years and I really like the effect of the jelly on the cork. I used 1500 grit micromesh sanded off the spots along the surface of the meerschaum cup where it sat against the cork and the top of the gourd to ensure a smooth fit.I checked the pliability of the cork gasket, rubbed a little more Vaseline into it and put the bowl back on the gourd. The fit of the cup against the gasket was snug but not hard to insert. It was perfect. The pipe was beginning to look finished. The shine on the gourd and the rim looked good. The briar extension had its own shine as well. I took the cup off the gourd and polished it with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down after each sanding pad with a damp cloth to remove the sanding dust. I buffed the cup with a microfiber cloth to polish it. I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the tooth marks and chatter on the top and underside near the button. The rest of the stem was in decent condition. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil at this point and let it sit for a little while.I cleaned out the airway in the stem with pipe cleaners and alcohol to remove any residual bath and also the sanding dust from the work on the stem surface and tooth chatter.I polished the vulcanite stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil between each sanding pad. After using the 12000 grit pad I buffed the stem with Blue Diamond to give a deep and rich shine. I polished the stem with Before & After Pipe Polish using both the fine and the extra fine product. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. Normally at this point I put the stem back on the bowl and take the pipe to the buffing wheel to work it over. This time I took the parts to the buffing wheel. I gently buffed the meerschaum cup and rim with Blue Diamond to lightly polish the meer. I carefully buffed the gourd base and briar shank extension with Blue Diamond being cautious about the pressure I put on the gourd. I buffed the stem with Blue Diamond to raise the gloss on the vulcanite. I took the pipe back to the work table and gave the gourd multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax. I gave the stem several coats carnauba wax. I buffed the parts of 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. The dimensions of the pipe are, Length: 9 inches, Height: 3 ½ inches, Diameter of the cup: 2 ½ inches, Diameter of the chamber: 7/8 inches. I will be adding this one to the rebornpipes store shortly if you are interested in adding it to your collection. Thanks for looking.

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.