School me on Gourd Calabash Pipes

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sablebrush52

The Bard Of Barlings
Jun 15, 2013
19,765
45,326
Southern Oregon
jrs457.wixsite.com
If there are pin holes around the top of the rim, then it had a silver cap. If there are none, then it did not.

These pipes were definitely sold with a meerschaum lining and no silver band or cap - I've seen the advertisements and catalog pages for them.

Just check for the pinholes.
I’ve only seen them with a cap, or a meerschaum bowl that covered the entire top. Never seen one that left the unfinished gourd top open.
I would love to see a catalog illustration for something like this. Meerschaum lined briars are another thing altogether.
 
Jun 9, 2018
4,050
13,060
England
If there are pin holes around the top of the rim, then it had a silver cap. If there are none, then it did not.

These pipes were definitely sold with a meerschaum lining and no silver band or cap - I've seen the advertisements and catalog pages for them.

Just check for the pinholes.
Yeah, i've seen them in old catalogues. I had a quick look on Google and I couldn't find anything but i've definitely seen them advertised with a meerschaum lining and no silver cap.
 

Egg Shen

Lifer
Nov 26, 2021
1,074
3,570
Pennsylvania
This is mine, 1908 British unknown manufacture. It seems the bowl is fixed, not an insert. I never considered what hoopla might be involved with cleaning this. Are you saying that the non-tobacco side of the bowl will get filthy and is a pain to clean? If So, any tips for dealing with that?

I love this thing and would like to keep it optimum. Also is it too delicate to scrape away the cake on the tobacco side? Would I be better off swabbing it with a 50% alcohol solution instead?
 
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Briar Lee

Lifer
Sep 4, 2021
4,836
13,904
Humansville Missouri
This is mine, 1908 British unknown manufacture. It seems the bowl is fixed, not an insert. I never considered what hoopla might be involved with cleaning this. Are you saying that the non-tobacco side of the bowl will get filthy and is a pain to clean? If So, any tips for dealing with that?

I love this thing and would like to keep it optimum. Also is it too delicate to scrape away the cake on the tobacco side? Would I be better off swabbing it with a 50% alcohol solution instead?

The nature of these gadget pipes is the inside of the gourd below the bowl insert is hollow.

They are cool smokers because the principle is like a thermal mug you carry in your car, the insides are hollow.

Pipe cleaners (which are much later than when these were made anyway) can keep the airways open but gunk and goos and tars condense on the inside of the hollow gourd.

Some of the old ones colored oxblood red like Algerian briar as a result of tars soaking through the gourd.

IMG_6790.jpeg


But mine has to have been coated on the outside with the best grade of spar varnish that existed in 1910. It hasn’t colored or checked or aged on the outside at all, and hopefully the same is on the inside.

IMG_6786.jpeg

The only way to clean the hollow insides of this type is to pour booze or other cleaning liquids inside and let them sit and then repeat.

Mine took about a week before vodka came out clear.

Reaming the insert is as easy as reaming out any bowl chamber, and mine was flat on top so I could sand it down with steel wool.

I’ve read somewhere all these were made from gourds that were grown someplace in the British Raj of India.

India bans the export of the gourds on occasion, why I have no idea.
 
Last edited:

Egg Shen

Lifer
Nov 26, 2021
1,074
3,570
Pennsylvania
The nature of these gadget pipes is the inside of the gourd below the bowl insert is hollow.

They are cool smokers because the principle is like a thermal mug you carry in your car, the insides are hollow.

Pipe cleaners (which are much later than when these were made anyway) can keep the airways open but gunk and goos and tars condense on the inside of the hollow gourd.

Some of the old ones colored oxblood red like Algerian briar as a result of tars soaking through the gourd.

View attachment 281065


But mine has to have been coated on the outside with the best grade of spar varnish that existed in 1910. It hasn’t colored or checked or aged on the outside at all, and hopefully the same is on the inside.

View attachment 281066

The only way to clean the hollow insides of this type is to pour booze or other cleaning liquids inside and let them sit and then repeat.

Mine took about a week before vodka came out clear.

Reaming the insert is as easy as reaming out any bowl chamber, and mine was flat on top so I could sand it down with steel wool.
Thanks, but wouldn’t soaking it in booze break down the gourd? This sounds scary. It’s just a vegetable…wouldn’t this expedite its decay? Or is this how everyone does it? And how strong abv are you using? Thanks!

I actually like the oxblood patina, but do they taste foul when they get like that?
 

Briar Lee

Lifer
Sep 4, 2021
4,836
13,904
Humansville Missouri
Thanks, but wouldn’t soaking it in booze break down the gourd? This sounds scary. It’s just a vegetable…wouldn’t this expedite its decay? Or is this how everyone does it? And how strong abv are you using? Thanks!

That’s why I suppose they put excellent spar varnish inside the gourd, or at least mine hasn’t discolored or checked or aged any at all in 114 years. It looks spanking brand new.

Raising the pipe gourds used to be a cottage industry in South Africa. Maybe it still is.

Here’s a facinsting article from reborn pipes on restoring a 1907 Calabash.

 
Last edited:

Egg Shen

Lifer
Nov 26, 2021
1,074
3,570
Pennsylvania
That’s why I suppose they put excellent spar varnish inside the gourd, or at least mine hasn’t discolored or checked or aged any at all in 114 years. It looks spanking brand new.

Raising the pipe gourds used to be a cottage industry in South Africa. Maybe it still is.

Here’s a facinsting article from reborn pipes on restoring a 1907 Calabash.

Being that I don’t know how it’s finished I think i’ll not risk the alcohol soak. Thanks
 
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runscott

Lifer
Jun 3, 2020
1,059
2,299
Washington State
I’ve only seen them with a cap, or a meerschaum bowl that covered the entire top. Never seen one that left the unfinished gourd top open.
I would love to see a catalog illustration for something like this. Meerschaum lined briars are another thing altogether.
I've been digging around and haven't been able to find the old set of catalog pages I saved off of ebay. I had around 50 pages from various catalogs a guy was parting out, from ~1910-15. Hopefully I did not lose them on an older computer. Maybe some of the pages are still on ebay?

As expected, the cheapest gourd calabash in the catalog pages was the meer-lined, no cap. Then meer-lined with cap, then meer bowl insert. The one with no cap looked 'wrong', but silver's expensive and the cap shouldn't have helped the smoke. I'm almost certain I also saw a no-lining silver cap with a meer bowl insert, but that could be faulty memory.

I don't think I have any where the silver cap was glued on without pins, but it makes sense that they would exist, as the caps were attached with plaster (or similar paste), so maybe that would have held them on indefinitely. At least one of mine was in trashed condition with a meer lining, no cap, no pins, and no mark/line along the outside of the top that would have indicated a cap had been removed. When I repair any capped pipes now, I just use a plaster mixture to fill the gap between the rim and cap.
 

runscott

Lifer
Jun 3, 2020
1,059
2,299
Washington State
This is mine, 1908 British unknown manufacture. It seems the bowl is fixed, not an insert. I never considered what hoopla might be involved with cleaning this. Are you saying that the non-tobacco side of the bowl will get filthy and is a pain to clean? If So, any tips for dealing with that?

I love this thing and would like to keep it optimum. Also is it too delicate to scrape away the cake on the tobacco side? Would I be better off swabbing it with a 50% alcohol solution instead?
Last night I finally got the meer bowl out of my 'AB' Andreas Bauer calabash. There was very little odor before cleaning. But when I got the bowl out, it was seriously nasty underneath and STUNK. Basically, I do the 'soak and repeat' method that @Briar Lee suggests, quitting when it stops stinking. But this new 'smell under the bowl' finding makes me wonder how much I'm accomplishing.

I scrape off the cake on the inside of the bowl, but you have to be very careful as you get to the actual meerschaum, as it's not like a normal meer bowl where the hole is protected somewhat against the back part of the chamber. On the calabash they go straight down and there's no support behind the hole. If you handle a few of these you'll notice that on some, that hole looks to be about ready to fall apart, so you have to be careful. The hole on the bottom of a meer insert is very safe to clean - much more sturdy than the meer at the bottom of a meer-lined pipe.
 

OzPiper

Lifer
Nov 30, 2020
5,830
31,011
71
Sydney, Australia
Last night I finally got the meer bowl out of my 'AB' Andreas Bauer calabash. There was very little odor before cleaning. But when I got the bowl out, it was seriously nasty underneath and STUNK. Basically, I do the 'soak and repeat' method that @Briar Lee suggests, quitting when it stops stinking.

Just think years of foul tobacco “juice”, ash and bits of tobacco dropping through the hole.
A bit of a chook run 🤮

I cram in a few cotton balls and fill with alcohol.
Leave for a day and repeat until the cotton balls come out clean

Thanks, but wouldn’t soaking it in booze break down the gourd? This sounds scary. It’s just a vegetable…wouldn’t this expedite its decay? Or is this how everyone does it? And how strong abv are you using? Thanks!

I use an eau de vie (clear, unsugared peach brandy) @ 60 proof
No harm done to the gourd that I can see
Leaves a lovely residual odour that dissipates after 1 smoke
 

runscott

Lifer
Jun 3, 2020
1,059
2,299
Washington State
Just think years of foul tobacco “juice”, ash and bits of tobacco dropping through the hole.
A bit of a chook run 🤮

I cram in a few cotton balls and fill with alcohol.
Leave for a day and repeat until the cotton balls come out clean

I use an eau de vie (clear, unsugared peach brandy) @ 60 proof
No harm done to the gourd that I can see
Leaves a lovely residual odour that dissipates after 1 smoke

Hey, I caught the pink run this year ... with one accidental Chinook! ... and it was a LOT more fun :ROFLMAO:

Just finished cleaning up the meer insert. I like the 'brandy' idea for cleaning the gourd!

Someone tried to glue the bowl on with something that is now like rubber. I scraped it clean and will now have to replace the cork lining. Otherwise in nice shape and I already know it's a good smoker.

HN1os2L.jpg
 

OzPiper

Lifer
Nov 30, 2020
5,830
31,011
71
Sydney, Australia
Just finished cleaning up the meer insert. I like the 'brandy' idea for cleaning the gourd!

HN1os2L.jpg
That cleaned up well
You will notice a huge difference
Happy puffy

Just think years of foul tobacco “juice”, ash and bits of tobacco dropping through the hole.
A bit of a chook run 🤮
Sorry, please excuse the use of Aussie slang
Chook = chicken
Chook run = chicken coop 😁
 

runscott

Lifer
Jun 3, 2020
1,059
2,299
Washington State
That cleaned up well
You will notice a huge difference
Happy puffy


Sorry, please excuse the use of Aussie slang
Chook = chicken
Chook run = chicken coop 😁

That's hilarious - I figured you were a salmon fisherman and were using some strange slang for 'Chinook'. It kind of made sense because sometimes the fish are trying to get back to their hatchery using very thin streams that are basically a bottleneck where you can't miss.

We had a huge pink salmon run this Fall and I kept around 20. I was 0-fer on the lesser King and Silver runs.

I'm still trying to figure out what pipe I don't mind losing while standing in the rivers.
 
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