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Calabash Pipes


Ted
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 Ted
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Per a request from @Lee I am going to post a mostly random selection of calabash gourd pipes from my collection. I have posted pictures of others in the “Show us your newest pipe” thread as well as the “Rare tobacco related object” thread.  There is a lot that I won’t get into right now, but will cover in questions, if any.  I will start with my all time favorite that is currently awaiting me finding time to refurbish it.  I will post that process down the road when I do.  This is a Brebbia gourd calabash that I have smoked heavily for about eight years.  I can’t necessarily say what makes it my favorite, probably the way it feels holding it and it smokes great, but I’ve never had any calabash smoke poorly.  In the photos I’m including a standard/common size Savinelli pipe that I grabbed for scale.  Feel free to ask me any questions and I’ll do my best to answer.

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Ted
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 Ted
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Big pipes. I like big pipes and these are about as large as they get. In this group is a Butz Choquin that I smoke daily, an Egro, a Big Ben and an Andreas Bauer.

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Juan José Pascual Lobo
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The Savinelli 904 you use for size reference was one of my favorite shapes thirty years ago. Today I don't smoke them.

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Ted
 Ted
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That’s cool, it’s probably about that old too. I’ve never smoked that one, it was just the closest pipe when I reached for one. I do like the shape of it. It has crossed my mind to fit a churchwarden stem to it, but I have far too many projects waiting. 

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Ted
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 Ted
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Pioneer calabash pipes. Pioneer was the last company to mass produce gourd calabash pipes, I believe they ended production in the late 1980’s, but I’m not sure of the exact date. My very first calabash was a Pioneer I bought in 1984. I went into a Hill and Hill Tobacconist and they were setting up a table covered with them. I was ecstatic. I picked out the best one I could find in the bunch and I smoked that pipe a lot. Although I had been smoking a pipe for a little while, It was truly the beginning of my pipe smoking journey.

 

These are the ones you will see most commonly in the used/estate market and they still show up unsmoked as the two at the top here are.

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nach0
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Is the same pioneer that makes electronic gadgets now??

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Ted
 Ted
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No, I don’t believe so. 

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Ted
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 Ted
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Here are some smaller antique ones.

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Lee
 Lee
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Are these, with the metal rim, any better do you think? Does gourd ever get damaged from the heat?

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Ted
 Ted
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This style pretty much ended by the 1920’s, although I have seen a few made as curiosities. As far as using them, they are definitely inferior. The biggest issue with them is that the bowls are glued right into the gourd and are not removable. It makes cleaning difficult, but the major issue is that since gourds collect moisture so well, these take a long time to dry out and over time, that weakens the gourd and cracks and holes develop. As collectibles or occasional users they are fine, but also keep in mind they are all about at least one hundred years old+ now. Also no, the gourds don’t get damaged from the heat. 

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Ted
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 Ted
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This is an unsmoked Pioneer with the bowl out so you can see the cork lining that secures the bowl. I use cork grease on my pipes (pictured). I often see people saying to use Vaseline but I don’t personally recommend it from my experience.

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nach0
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Does all calabash requires this grease to works fine?

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Ted
 Ted
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No, many people use their calabash pipes and never grease the cork. It’s just a small thing that can be done that will help the cork stay flexible and reduce wear from removing the bowl over time. It’s basically a preventative maintenance step that will have the cork last longer and perform its best. 

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Lee
 Lee
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Cork grease has been ordered, ready! I want the best for my new pipe! 😄

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Nick R
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Those are some of coolest pipes I have seen- thank you for sharing! I don't have any gourd calabashes but I would love to get one. I have a calabash shaped briar and it smokes amazing. Is there anything in the shape that makes them smoke so well?

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Ted
 Ted
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Thanks! I’m not sure if the shape plays a role in how they smoke. They definitely don’t all smoke the same. The biggest factors I have noticed are vent hole size on the bowl and the size of the hole in the stem combination. 

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nach0
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Calabash are so classy, you have a amazing collection Ted, sad i don´t feel like it matches with me, too big and i like to clinch the pipe, so i just admire the art.

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Ted
 Ted
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They definitely aren’t for everybody. I know of a few people who own one or two and say they are the best smoking pipes they have ever encountered, but the size and difficulty in clenching cause them to only smoke them rarely. I don’t clench pipes so that is a non issue to me. I’m also an unusually tall person so big pipes to most people just seem normal size to me. 

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Lee
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 Lee
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With Ted’s guidance, I avoided buying an overpriced vintage calabash and found something more reasonable. I’ve just ordered this genuine gourd, block meerschaum pipe with sterling silver spigot. By Danish standards, it was reasonably priced, after I made a reduced offer that was accepted. Advertised at $475, bought for $400. Still not cheap. But, such pipes aren’t. Bought on eBay from Turkey.

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Lee
 Lee
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The meerschaum bowl.

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Lee
 Lee
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Juan José Pascual Lobo
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Hope you tell us your first impressions soon!

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Juan José Pascual Lobo
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I love the decoration of the bowl.

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Ted
 Ted
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I’m happy for you that they accepted your offer! It looks like it’s going to be a great pipe. I also look forward to hearing your experiences with it. 

By the way, a brand new calabash pipe will suck the life out of your first smokes even more than a straight meerschaum pipe as it absorbs tobacco juice and oils, but in my experience it’s even faster than a regular meerschaum to get “broken in”. 

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Juan José Pascual Lobo
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You mean they don´t need a break in the way used to break in a briar?. First smokes with 1/4 of te bowl, then 1/2 of the bowl, then 3/4 ...

Is it possible to smoke them at full capacity from the very first smoke?, An estimate of how many smokes they need to be complete broken in?

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Ted
 Ted
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They don’t need to be broken in like a briar, you just start loading them normally from the first smoke. Like meerschaum pipes, at first these pipes will absorb so much moisture from the tobacco that the first two to three smokes can be nearly flavorless. Each bowl is better as you go. By the third to fifth smoke, the pipe will have absorbed enough of a layer of tobacco juice and oils where it will start smoking like it should. I’ve never had one take more than five bowls to be smoking great. 

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Juan José Pascual Lobo
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Thank you. I was never interested in calabash, but after your teaching I´m sure more than one of us is having interest in them.

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Ted
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By the way @Lee, unless you absolutely hate your new calabash pipe, which I can’t even imagine, you will probably want to start keeping an eye out for a calabash pipe stand. Here are some I have. 

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nach0
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i got myself thinking in how would be a calabash pipe stand..... now i have the answer.... everything concerning calabash seems works in a different world. Really captivating.

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Lee
 Lee
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Yes, thanks! The thought had crossed my mind. I’ll start looking for one. A pipe like this definitely needs a stand, for practical reasons and to have it displayed. It’s a work of art! 😄

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Ted
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I like to have some on display at all times. Aside from the fact that I like to look at them, when I have people (non smokers) over they are always very curious and interested in my calabash pipes. Most people have never seen one in person and they are generally fascinated by them, which I enjoy. 

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Ted- in the picture with the pipes in the display stands I was wondering if you could tell me about the pipe on the far right. I recently obtained one of these. I do not know anything about the maker of the pipe. It is in really good shape. It does appear that the previous owner may have super glued the bowl into the gord. I am not 100% sure of that yet. I picked it up for $25 dollars! I am just getting into buy and smoking estate pipes. Any information you can shared would be wonderful. I love your display stands! 

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Ted
 Ted
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Sure, the maker on that one is Orlik. However, I have others that are unmarked that are almost identical. One I know is an early Pioneer, since I have the box with it, circa 1940’s to early ‘50’s I believe. It’s nearly impossible to be sure who made them unless they are marked. That look, with the wooden connector and black Bakelite stem usually dates to the 1940’s give or take. If it’s got an acrylic stem, it’s much newer. 

I have often faced the question of glued bowl or insert stuck to old cork. Every method of getting the bowl out either way could mean damage that will need to be repaired. Usually they will need new cork, which can go smoothly or really difficult. Sometimes the bowl will break, requiring a new bowl, which they are available.

My urging would be that unless you plan on the pipe being a regular smoker, don’t bother trying to remove it. If it’s just stuck on old cork. I have had ones that came loose from just smoking them a few times, the moisture in the smoke freed them. In each case when that happened, the cork was fine and no repairs were needed. 

Stuck bowl or not, it sounds like you snagged a great deal  

I hope this helps a little and feel free to ask any other questions. 

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Thanks for the information.  I was thinking the same thing as far as trying to remove the bowl. If it loosens up great but I will not risk removing it.  I have to learn how to tell the difference between Bakelite vs acrylic stems. I am glad I found this site so I can learn more about pipes and pipe smoking. 

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Ted
 Ted
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Cool. Post an introduction, there’s a really great group here!

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nach0
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nice piece my friend!!

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Lee
 Lee
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Cheers mate! 👍

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Lee
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 Lee
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The good news is my new calabash pipe arrived! 😊

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Lee
 Lee
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The bad news is there’s a small chip on the edge of the bowl.

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Lee
 Lee
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And what looks to be a crevice, or crack (?) inside the bowl.

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Lee
 Lee
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What do you think?

Worth asking for a replacement bowl?

I’ve informed the seller on eBay, so I’ll see what they say.

Damn! I was really looking forward to testing it! 😢 

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Lee
 Lee
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Also, it isn’t very straight when you look along its length, even though I’ve tried various ways to align it.

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Lee
 Lee
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Am I being too fussy?

Or, should I expect better for $400?

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Lee
 Lee
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The sellers are being very understanding and have offered to make me a new bowl!

I’m still not happy about the spigot joint not being straight though.

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Lee
 Lee
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UPDATE: The seller is being very fair about it. They’ve offered a $100 refund, or any one of their other pipes for half price.

I think that’s a fair offer, don’t you? What would you do?

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Lee
 Lee
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I’ve decided to take the offer of $100 refund. That makes the pipe very reasonably priced, even with a few minor flaws. The seller has also agreed to replace the bowl if it cracks after use, which is unlikely.

So, what should I smoke in it first? Something with a strong flavour, I think. The new meerschaum will absorb most of the flavour.

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Ted
 Ted
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Hey Lee, 

Unfortunate details but it seems the seller wanted to make it right. I highly doubt the bowl would crack but it’s good to know they will send you a new bowl if needed. 

As far as the bend at the attachment of the stem, there are two things. First, very few calabash pipes are exactly straight. Being made from a plant gourd, the pipe maker usually has to work with what they have. This is normal. However, the stem mounting can also have been attached at an off angle which would be a quality of manufacture issue. I can’t tell from the photos which it is. Here is a photo from that angle of the Butz Choquin I smoke regularly. You can see there is a noticeable angle which follows the natural curve of the gourd. 

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Ted
 Ted
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In some ways I find the natural, imperfect plant part used to make these as part of their charm as opposed to the perfection of a machined piece. This is something that I didn’t even think to discuss when I made the original post, but I’m glad it came up here. 

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Ted
 Ted
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As far as what to smoke first, I follow the same rule I have with meerschaum pipes. I pick something familiar, something that I know what to expect in flavor and I keep smoking that in it for each smoke so that when the pipe is starting to smoke like it should and I have passed the initial super dry smokes I can tell for sure. 

I don’t find the type of tobacco matters, unless you were smoking something like Vincent Manil Semois or some other tobacco that is smoked bone dry. 

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Lee
 Lee
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I’m happy with it! 😊 Sure, it has some minor imperfections. But, they don’t detract from the quality of the smoke, which is what matters. I can even see the imperfections as part of its charm, especially when I consider the final price I paid 😊

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Juan José Pascual Lobo
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Take the refund and enjoy your calabash.

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ThinkinPipe
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Where do you find this style of Calabash? For some reason when I look, I find the shape, but not the gourds with the cups.

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Lee
 Lee
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I posted a link higher up in this thread.

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Lee
 Lee
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Ted
 Ted
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Gourd calabash pipes show up occasionally on websites like Smokingpipes and Tobaccopipes made by noted pipe makers, but that is uncommon, new ones are a bit rare. The best resource is eBay, Where both new and used ones show up and of course the website that @Lee gave. When doing searches online or on a site, try: gourd calabash pipe. 

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Ted
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From @Lee’s experience, thought I would expand a bit on my experiences with calabash pipes and share what I am dealing with on one right now. 

First off, I believe one must be a bit of a pragmatist to really enjoy calabash pipes. As discussed the gourds are natural plant parts and subject to variations. Also since they are no longer mass produced by anyone, fit, finish, etc. can vary widely. 

I believe that the most reliably made and finished pipes are the Pioneers. Since they were mass produced, the quality control was excellent. Not saying they are the best pipes, but they often win on that point. 

Then often when I have bought pipes that were only smoked a couple of times, I usually instantly find the reason they didn’t get used.  This is the case with the most recent one I acquired. In the last few days I decided to put it in into regular use. This one. 

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Ted
 Ted
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The reason I believe it was only smoked once and then put away is that it had a faulty connector that was used to attach the stem. One end of the connector wasn’t fully open and it was difficult to draw through the pipe. I’m sure that one bowl the original owner smoked was not a pleasant smoke. 

I personally prefer pretty free airflow on my calabashes and will often modify them in a couple of ways to improve them for my preferences. 

With this pipe, I repaired the connector to what it should have been when new and decided to give the pipe a try. Although it was okay, it was just okay. This is the biggest issue I have with some of this style connectors, the hole in them is too narrow and the restrict the airflow far too much. 

I am going to remove this connector system completely and replace it. I see no advantage in choking the airflow at the connector, quite the opposite. 

After I’ve replaced the connector I’ll smoke it some and then decide if I want to modify the vent hole on the bowl. It’s all a bit of work and fiddling right now, but when I’m done I’ll have a pipe that’s tuned to smoke exactly how I want it. 

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Joseph
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That actually sounds like a fun process to me. 🤠

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Ted
 Ted
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It used to be a lot more fun for me than it is now. Unfortunately with experience comes the knowledge of everything that can go wrong too. But in reality I do get a very special kind of satisfaction from reaching that point where I have a pipe smoking perfectly. And I do enjoy tinkering with things 🙂

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Joseph
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Really?! We couldn’t tell. 😝🤣🤣🤣

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