The Gourd Calabash shape takes its name from its similarity of shape to the original calabash pipes, though today they are two entirely different pipes.
The first thing you probably think of when you hear the term calabash or think of the gourd shape is Sherlock Holmes, who was represented by the actors William Gillette and Basil Rathbone, as a calabash pipe smoker. This pipe shape definitely calls to mind the England of old, dark nights, damp nights, and roaring fires.
Today’s calabash pipes generally have a meerschaum or porcelain bowl set inside the bowl. Meerschaum being the famous soft white clay found only in Turkey. The pipe is considered by a lot of pipe collectors to be quite the treasure because of how much labor and time is put into creating these beautifully shaped pipes. Real gourd calabashes are extremely expensive and today most calabash shaped tobacco pipes are made from elegant woods like mahogany.
The gourd calabash shape consists of a large sloping downward curve that swiftly curves back up to where the bowl will ultimately sit. Below the bowl, in what would be the shank of the pipe, there is an air chamber that makes it possible for the smoke to mellow out, cooling and drying as it travels up the shank and stem into the mouth where the flavor of the tobacco can be thoroughly enjoyed.
The gourd calabash shape pipe is generally a large pipe. It’s not a pipe that you can easily carry about with you for general smoking purposes, but when settled in at home or a friend’s house, you can count on it making a well-enjoyed experienced. To fill the pipe correctly you will want to fill the bowl with your tobacco of choice, lightly tamp down and then fill again. You’ll continue to do this until you’ve reached the adequate amount of tobacco. You may even want to suck lightly in the stem to ensure that the air flow through the stem hasn’t been obstructed.
To light the calabash most prefer to use a match, letting the head of the match burn off before moving the match in a circular motion over the tobacco while making short, quick draws on the tobacco pipe to attain an even burn. For novice smokers it’s important to remember that the match should never touch the pipe itself. Over time, if you have a meerschaum bowl inside the calabash, the tobacco will begin to leave a natural stain that gives each pipe its own unique patina.