Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Red Hot Poker

Blessed Christmas to all and happy feast of St. John the Evangelist. Thank you all for your support throughout my first year as a pipe maker, especially those who feed me ideas and those who purchased a pipe. Several of my pipes have sold through Tewksbury, and I am very grateful to Dave, Brian and Gwyneth of the before mentioned store for all their support and input. I don't know yet what the new year will bring but I look forward to new and refined ideas,

I decided to play around with a bit of a simpler design. This tobacco pipe has elegance in its design and fire in its heart. The red dye I found is so brilliant and striking that it leaps off the pipe and draws the eye in.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Dead Head

The Dead Head tobacco pipe is a fun little pipe one of my brother in laws suggested to me. The image is obviously taken from the Grateful Dead's skull design. It was a great chance to improve my skills with the more precise carving tools.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Lazy Pipe

A good friend of mine challenged me many months ago to create a tobacco pipe with a stem that came up had a full bend in it. I made one out of walnut as an experiment several months ago and have quite enjoyed smoking from it. I have declared it the laziest pipe I have ever smoked as all the weight hangs straight down and I can simply rest the bit on my teeth without having to worry about it falling out my mouth. I have now finally got around to making a similar pipe from briar. The Lazy Pipe is a beautiful pipe which features a peterson stem and my new red dye which has amazing color. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Couple of Experiments

The two pipes I'm posting today are both experimental pipes that I myself have been smoking from. There are three primary experiments on the first tobacco pipe. It is an Apple-wood pipe made from an apple tree my brother in law took out of his backyard. This pipe has a longer stem than a regular pipe, but not as long as a churchwarden stem. Also I used a varnish finish on it instead of a carnauba wax. 

The Second pipe also has three things I'm trying on it. This pipe is a cherry wood pipe, with a squared out tobacco chamber and has been finished with shellac. 

The different woods change the flavor of the smoke at least in the early break in smoking. The apple wood is quite crisp, and the cherry has a bit of a rolling flavor. The downside to these woods is that I noticed the wood already taking some of the burn. Hopefully that will stop or slow as I get the cake built up. 

I like the longer stem. It is a little cooler when it smokes and has a comfortable reach. 

The square tobacco chamber looks great but is a little more tricky to build the cake on. 

I am not satisfied with either finish. The both start to feel a little tacky while I'm holding them but I haven't had any issues with the finishing bubbling from the heat. Next time I'll spray them instead of brushing them on. One issue I had with the shellac was it reactivated the die and spread it around. I'm hoping that spraying it will eliminate the die movement. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

An Ordinary Churchwarden

I have just completed this ordinary Churchwarden that I am quite pleased with. It is a fairly ordinary design but there are a couple places where the briar looks spectacular. I made this pipe because I have been so caught up in odd shapes and interesting designs that I realized it had been a while since I tried my hand at an ordinary pipe. I was pleased to discover that I have improved considerably. 

On another note I just finished putting together a light box (light tent?) for shooting my photos in. The plans for the light box I got here. I still need to get a better light bulb for it and work out all the camera settings but my shots do look much cleaner this way. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Kemble Cup

I have already posted a cup in my It's been a while post. I made this walnut cup for my little sister for her birthday. I have been learning quite a bit about turning on a lathe. The lathe I have is a little metal working lathe from the 1940's that my dad got from a high school because Osha had condemned it to the school's use, the open belts being their primary concern. So I use an odd assortment of metal working tools (which work fantastic with the lucite) and wood chisels. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Shofar

The Shofar is the next in the line of horn tobacco pipes (not because it is made of horn, but just made to resemble a horn in some manner) and it came out amazingly well. I freehanded the twist on my spindle sander and used various tools to add the wavy edge which is smooth but contoured. I left the briar it's natural color and finished it with a buffed carnauba wax. 

I was first inspired to create The Shofar shortly after it was announced that Archbishop Charles Chaput was going to be moved to Philadelphia. I have had many opportunities to know him and have looked on him with much admiration throughout his time in Denver. While the shofar was used in Jewish religious ceremonies to mark joyous feasts including the announcing of a Jubilee Year and other holidays, I carved it as a reminder of a great religious Leader and spiritual father. 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Spoon

The Spoon is another weird pipe I made to try to get a hang for sanding and finishing crevices. All in all a pleasant little 1/4 bent pipe that looks a bit like an egg on a spoon. It was a bit of a learning experience as I dropped it and broke the first stem I made and had to refit a new one. 

I am beginning to feel pretty comfortable with my technique for drilling the various holes. I am not altogether satisfied with the finishing process. Thus far I have been using a buffed on Carnauba wax, which looks great for a short period of time and then starts to look dull. On the first two pipes I made I used a acrylic based polyurethane which I sprayed on and the both still look fantastic. I have been trying to read up on the subject. Pipe maker Stephen Downie speaks of using non wax finishes but won't reveal his secrets. I just recently discovered the blog site of pipe maker Trevor Talbert, and in particular this article which I found to be very helpful. So I think I'll be trying out a couple more finishes, probably at first just on experimental pipes but if it works out then well see them on my other pipes. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Winding Path

The Winding Path is a marvelous churchwarden tobacco pipe inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien's poem The Road Goes Ever On. I have wanted to start playing around with interior contours for a while and this piece of plateaux briar was just asking for it. The indentation and distressing of the path that winds from the top of the bowl to the bottom of the pipe with a small "y" veering off along the stem was a pleasant challenge and a rewarding effect.

I am quite satisfied with the interaction between the design and the wood especially as I was able to do away with a blemish by putting it in the distress.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Mountain

I have been working on this tobacco pipe for a while. My initial inspiration was from St. Pier Giorgio Frassati who was an avid mountain climber as well as a pipe smoker. I have many friends who are mountaineers and some of whom are pipe smokers and while I am not much of a mountain climber I am most certainly an enjoyer of mountains. So for a while I have wanted to make a mountain pipe and I was hoping to make it not a volcano pipe like so many are. I feel that I have fairly succeeded. If this mountain was a volcano it seems at least an inactive volcano, like many of the Rocky mountains.

The mountain is a freehand pipe made from Italian plateaux briar with a quite modified ring stem. The trees are etched into the surface and I added intentional nicks and gauges to attempt to mimic natural contours. As I was making this pipe I started liking it less and less but now that I have the finished product I have begun to like it again.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Wizard's Knife

Once again I have revisited my freehand series I call wizards. This briar pipe was made at the request of a friend of mine and so I slightly changed the design specifically to comfortably fit a thumb between the stem and the rim of the bowl as well as adding the knife edge bottom. 

I also turned the stem for this pipe on my lathe from a piece of Lucite rod. I am happy with the result although it took three attempts to get it right. The first stem I ended up making the tenon to small and it didn't fit the pipe correctly. The second stem looked great but broke when I was trying to get it off the rod I was turning it on. The third stem came out wonderfully. 

I'll be posting a couple more pipes this week so keep an eye out for them.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

It's been a while

So it's been a couple of weeks since I posted my last pipe, but do not fear I am not totally inactive. So here is the run down.

I am currently working on three different pipes. One is a commissioned piece in the Wizard series that will be totting a stem I made. The other two are just new designs I wanted to try out. 

I accumulated a 1" wide upright belt sander. This will come in handy to finish forming some of my pipes but will be especially helpful in forming the stems I am starting to create. 

I sold the Sexton's Churchwarden through a tobacco shop. Tewksbury is where I usually go for my tobacco. It's a great little tobacco shop which also sells wine and fly fishing trips. They have several of my pipes on their shelves on commission and it is so exciting to see long time pipe smokers admiring them and now even buying them.

I have turned several cups and several stems on the lathe. It has been great to learn more about turning, as it gives me more options with stems. 

I have made a couple template pipes. These are pipes  I make out of American Hardwoods (cheap) and I smoke to try to work out particularly difficult designs. It allows me to have smoked and cleaned a pipe a customer might ask about. It also lets me sample different wood flavors. 

Here is my first cup and one of my template pipes. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


I have had this Satellite pipe in production for some time now and I am very excited to have finished it. It is loosely modeled off the Cassini Spacecraft. Although I turned the two little thruster engines into one massive engine which makes a fantastic bowl, and the Magnetometer became the Churchwarden like stem. You can take a look at the image I was using to design it here. This is my first pipe to incorporate some metal pieces into it's form. I used hollow brass rod and the mouth bit itself is Briar. The entire stem can be taken off the pipe just like any other pipe. 

I have never seen a pipe of this type before, but another friend of mine is a satellite guidance software engineer and was interested to see what I could do with the idea. I must say I rather like it. 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Gimli's Travel Pipe

Gimli's Travel pipe is a fairly simple sitter, a strong pipe with a wooden stem. The stem is maple instead of vulcanite. The bowl is straight grain plateaux briar. The briar is not stained and the stem is stained with a black stain. This is my first attempt at a wood stem and am quite satisfied with the result. It is also my first pipe with a stem I made on it. 

I call it Gimli's travel pipe, because despite what the movie would have us believe I don't really think that all the Lord of the Ring characters traveled with outrageously long Churchwardens. Sure, those are beautiful pipes but when you're walking for miles fighting with sword and ax, carrying all your own gear  you don't want to bring you churchwarden and risk breaking it. You need an old standard. something strong, pleasant to smoke and nice to look at and preferably shorter than your sword. None would have known this better than Gimli.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Sexton's Churchwarden

It was suggested to me to try my hand again at a Churchwarden. The Sexton's Churchwarden is the result of that suggestion. On this churchwarden I played around with one of the distressing methods I'm working on. It is stained a beautiful deep red.

I have just finished a fantastic book, Lilith by George MacDonald. In it is the character of the Sexton who is Sexton to the Kingdom of Heaven and also happens to be Adam, the first man. The sexton duties is to  take the dead and makes them alive. In a small way a pipe takes dead leaves and makes them alive in a sort of ethereal manner.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Joshua's Horn

My second horn pipe, Joshua's horn is made of plateaux briar. The beautiful straight grain runs down from the natural curve of the briar to a peterson stem. It is stained with black with much of the stain sanded off. The peterson stem lets the smoke out of the top side of the bit which makes it feel cooler since it doesn't hit the tongue directly.

Joshua, I am sure, had one of these in his tent during the siege of Jericho just wishing that tobacco had already been brought over from the New World so he could smoke the inhabitants of Jericho out of their city instead of blowing their walls down.