Bowl Not All It's Cracked Up To Be?

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toobfreak

Preferred Member
Dec 19, 2016
1,365
0
Sorry for the title, this is really an appeal to anyone out there with any thoughts or opinions on what might be happening to the underside of one of my calabash bowls. I bought the pipe last year as an estate, lightly smoked for $71.00 and it has been a wonderful pipe, really my best pipe preferred when smoking aromatics. A few months ago though I noticed a crack had developed on the underside coming from the hole which quickly stained dark with tar from the tobacco. So, keeping an eye on this, it has not spread any further, but since, two smaller and finer cracks have also appeared, no staining, each about 90° apart! Below are some pictures of the cracks:
Top view with original crack at left:

The other two cracks can be seen:

Better view of the original crack:

What does anyone think is causing this? There was no sign of these when I bought the pipe and I don't think I'm doing anything to cause them. No unusual heat, shock, pressure, etc. Could this be from expansion and contraction? I have not had any issue with my other bash bowls. There is no unusual cake built up on the inside other than the regular black film from the smoking of the tobacco. The bottom fifth of the bowl wall is unstained and I cannot see any signs of these cracks on the inside under bright light. I'd estimate the hole is about a half inch long from the bottom of the bowl to the bottom outside and the average wall thickness about a quarter to a third inch thick and the seat of the bowl about 38mm dia. where it fits to the cork.
Could this be pressed meerschaum? How could I tell? It has not hurt the function of the pipe but I would not want it to progress further or lose the bowl to catastrophic failure. Would you just leave these alone? Superglue them? I'd hate risking ruining the pipe with the odor of superglue unless it eventually goes away, then, maybe these cracks are happening for a reason and if I bond them, it might just transfer the stress elsewhere and make the problem worse than it is. Any opinions greatly appreciated.

 

cosmicfolklore

Preferred Member
Aug 9, 2013
17,944
131
You have more than one calabash? Does this one feel heavier than the others? Have you tried sticking your tongue to it?

 

ophiuchus

Preferred Member
Mar 25, 2016
1,205
15
Have you tried sticking your tongue to it?
Before anyone jumps to the conclusion that this is a joke, this is a solid way to test block vs. pressed meerschaum (your tongue, or a wet finger, will stick to block meerschaum). If your bowl was a replacement made with pressed meer, it could be more prone to faults and cracking; it's an aggregate material made with meerschaum chips. (Can't tell by the picture, though; this is only a guess).

 

aldecaker

Preferred Member
Feb 13, 2015
4,413
3
What are those weird grooves in the hole? They look like splines in a propeller hub. I would expect that to be smooth.

 

toobfreak

Preferred Member
Dec 19, 2016
1,365
0
Cosmic - Yes! You don't?
ophiuchus - why would anyone think I'm joking? Yes, I tried sticking my tongue to this bowl and it sticks just the same as my other bowls, that I know are premium block meerschaum.
aldecaker - cannot say. You cannot see those with the naked eye. Looking at the bowl, I can see no signs of discontinuity in the material via chips, but then, I've never seen pressed meerschaum that I know of. I wasn't sure if it was pressed from a powder or how they make that pressed stuff and with what they use to bond it. As to the weight, its weight does not feel out of proportion to its size compared to my other calabash bowls, if anything, maybe a little lighter.
Bottom line, I guess none of you gents have ever seen such a thing happen either or have any idea the cause or what to do about it?

 

aldecaker

Preferred Member
Feb 13, 2015
4,413
3
Never seen such a thing, have no idea as to the cause, and do not know what to do about it. I was just curious about the grooves.

 

ophiuchus

Preferred Member
Mar 25, 2016
1,205
15
... why would anyone think I'm joking?
Heh heh ... not you ... I thought some folk less experienced with meerschaum than with Cosmic's sense of humor might think he was joking about sticking your tongue on it. :lol:
(By the way ... I think your avatar is on fire.)
No I have not seen this before (I only have one gourd calabash, and it's very old and in terrible shape). Even block meerschaum can have unseen flaws that might lead to cracking with changing temperatures. I wouldn't be inclined to put glue in the cracks unless the bowl outright breaks, if it breaks. This might not turn out to be such a big deal.
Now I'll let someone else come up with a better answer. :wink:

 

calabashed

Member
May 10, 2015
163
1
It's actually pretty rare to find block meer in a 'bash, exceptions being antiques from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and some current makers like Fikri Baki. A few others too but the vast majority of what's on the estate market today is pressed. Gary Schrier talks about it in his book, most of what you'll find like Strambach, Butz Choquin, Andreas Bauer, Pioneer etc all made excellent pipes with pressed/cultured meer that usually last for thousands of smokes.
+1 ophiuchus
Unfortunately this just happens with meerschaum sometimes, you had some structural flaws in an area already weakened from being drilled. I read once about mixing crushed meerschaum powder with wood glue to make a kind of paste for re-attaching decorative accents broken off a pipe, but this is right by the draft hole where heat and moisture are greatest. Don't use super glue. I'd also say just continue to smoke it, since the cracks don't run all the way through it might surprise you how long it can last. There are also a few places where you can buy replacement bowls, though these generally require some work to fit a new cork gasket or having the bowl itself turned to fit your current gasket. I remember one site a couple years ago that offered to modify standard replacement bowls to an exact size if you gave them a caliper reading, I'll try to find the link again for you.

 

toobfreak

Preferred Member
Dec 19, 2016
1,365
0
By the way ... I think your avatar is on fire.
Ha! You think so? :mrgreen:
Even block meerschaum can have unseen flaws that might lead to cracking with changing temperatures. I wouldn't be inclined to put glue in the cracks unless the bowl outright breaks, if it breaks.
I guess I would wonder if anyone with a regular meer pipe has had it develop such cracks. ITMT, I'm inclined to agree, no glue for me and I will just keep a watch to see if the cracks spread any further. So far, they seem content to stay as they are.
calabashed - thanks for the input. My largest and best calabash came from eastern Europe and I'd almost bet that it is block meer, a real work of art and perfect in every regard front to back but the pipe in question is my "beater bash", my smallest and least pretty gourd pipe but great for aromatics. The meerschaum is less well finished on the top with little pits here and there but it does seem to have the same stickiness as my other pipes.
I've seen a few places that sell replacement bowls and if this bowl should ever really break, I'd try to fix it. Failing that, I should be able to replace it and turn it down as needed to fit it to my cork. Any other info is appreciated.