Or Was It?
Iím sure weíve all seen the famous calabash pipe,
by Sherlock Holmes. You know, the curly calabash with itís distinctive
(picture above, and background, from Wikipedia).
The original calabash pipes are made
from the calabash
gourd. The African variety is regarded as the best to use, as the
(usually Greek) calabash gourds rarely have the right shape favoured by
pipe makers and smokers.
part of the calabash pipe is the top, bent stem of
the African calabash gourd. The actual bowl, in which the tobacco is
smoked, is an insert, often of meerschaum or porcelain. Which is
the hollowed out gourd stem, with the aid of a cork gasket.
A ferrule, of wood, or plastic, or
other suitable material,
is inserted into the narrow part of the gourd stem. This is to take the
vulcanite pipe stem which is the part which goes into the mouth of the
If that stem were to be inserted directly into the gourd there would be
chance of cracking or breaking it.
Some calabash pipes are decorated with
silver bands, even a
silver cover around the top of the bowl. So we can see that these pipes
pretty labour-intensive. Making them expensive these days.
Calabash pipes smoke cooler and drier
than many other types
of pipe, because itís construction means that the smoke passes from the
of the actual smoking bowl into the empty space of the gourd beneath,
takes away a lot of the heat and strength of the smoke before it
reaches the smoker.
Now, where Sherlock Holmes comes in.
The construction of the
calabash pipe gives it a low centre of gravity. This allows the smoker
easily hold the pipe in the mouth alone. Actors would take advantage of
property, as it allowed them to depict their character smoking a pipe
leaving the hands free for other ďbusinessĒ. Think of Basil Rathbone
William Gillette, who both played Sherlock Holmes.
In fact Sir Arthur Conan Doyle never
Sherlock Holmes smoking a calabash pipe, and Sidney Paget in his
usually had Holmes smoking a long-stemmed (churchwarden) pipe.
We know that Sherlock Holmes himself
preferred very strong,
harsh tobacco, and would probably never have given the calabash the
day, due to itís mellowing effect upon the smoking mixture.
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