Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Hammer

The hammer took form when I decided to rotate the briar I was working with. Most of the briar blocks are rectangles with a corner cut off at a 45 degree angle. This results in most pipes are longer than they are tall (right now I am not including the stem in the dimensions). The hammer is the opposite, it is taller than it is long.

I did a four step stain using black, red, black and then rubbing down the excess with denatured alcohol to tone down the black.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Mistake Pipe

I was very excited about making this pipe. I liked the idea of bringing the lines off the Diamond saddle stem all the way up to the top of the bowl. I liked the idea of the rim being square with the uneven corners. Unfortunately  I did not anticipate correctly the sweep of the front curves, and so as I was sanding along you might imagine my horror as I discover a hole in the front right curve. The horror increased as I discovered that this was a result of a failure in my own geometry. To fix this problem I carved a small piece of briar to fit against the hole from the inside of the bowl and used epoxy to fix it in place. The front left curve didn't break through but it is very thin. As a result I decide to start breaking the pipe in before finishing the sanding, or the finish.

When the pipe didn't just crack when I finally worked it up to a full bowl, I decided to finish it. I have become rather attached to it and enjoy telling people that it is my mistake pipe.

The black spot is where the bowl cut through the side.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Wizard (or the Whale)

After I made the pipe featured in "The Big Block" I got a lot of positive feed back on it, especially because of the natural burl on the top. This pipe is an attempt to create a similar surface with a wire brush on a less expensive piece of briar. While I was carving this I thought it looked like a cartoon whale that was blowing water our of the hole meant for blowing water out of(I do apologize to all of you lovers of whale anatomy out there. I'm sure I learned the correct word for this at one point but some how it just hasn't  come up much since and thus I have forgotten it), but then a friend of mine thought it looked like a wizard's pipe, and I had to agree. I know that it looks nothing like the pipes from "The Lord of the Rings" movies but I don't think Gandalf would turn this pipe down if it were packed with a nice "Southfarthing"

Once again this is a Briar Pipe. The wire brushed surfaces have been stained with a black stain and the rest is stained with a red mahogany under coat and a brown mocha on top. It has a slightly curved freestyle stem.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Big Block

My last order of briar came with a rather large block of Plateaux briar. This briar is taken from the edge of the root bowl. When looking at this pipe, the lip around the bowl and the lip where the stem is inserted is the natural contour of the root system. All I did to shape it was to brush any of the flaking bark off of it. I then stained that area black. The rest of the body has some of the most amazing straight grain I have ever worked with. That area is stained with a brown undertone and a red top stain. 

Friday, February 11, 2011


This pipe is another briar. It is a fairly simple design but the continuos curves and the taper make it rather elegant. The rim of the bowl is a step stain with black underlaying a Red Mahogany stain, and the rest of the body is stained with just Red Mahogany. It also has a vulcanite stem and is finished with carnauba wax.

This is one of my favorite shapes that I have tried so far.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Crest

At this point I decided to make a go at this pipe making bussiness and finally worked up a crest that I like.  The K and P are for Kemble Pipes. The noose is the tool that was used to kill St. John Kemble. The pipe is the pipe he enjoyed with those men who had come to kill him. Simple but I like it.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Sherlock Holmes

Just as I was finishing the first two pipes I discovered that a friend of mine from the St. John Vianney Seminary was cast to play the character of Sherlock Holmes in the spring seminary production of Sherlock Holmes. When I heard that, I jumped for the chance to make a pipe for him. Sherlock Holmes is probably the best known pipe smoker in the world (although the hobbits also have their place quite near to him, probably coming in second, third, fourth, and fifth). I remember as a kid pretending to be Sherlock Holmes. I was much more concerned with wandering around with the cheap plastic bubble pipe clinched between my teeth than with becoming more intelligent, or solving mysteries or anything like that. I don't even think I had read any of the Sherlock Holmes stories at that point.

This pipe is modeled off of a meerschaum bowl in a gourd. It has been made from briar. The stem is vulcanite. This pipe was my first try at a two step stain. First I used a black stain, sanded it down a little and than put a brown stain over that. It is amazing the different colors you can get by layering the stains. The lip around the bowl I did not stain at all. The pipe has a buffed carnauba wax finish

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Kemble's Gospel

I would like to bring my own experience in connection with the martyrdom of St. John Kemble in order to draw out something about tobacco. The first time I smoked a cigarette was while walking across the country spreading the gospel of life with Crossroads (http://www.crossroadswalk.org/). It was while walking this pilgramage that I saw smoking used as a means to spread the gospel. I remember one occasion specifically. 

We were praying outside of an abortion clinic. Our two sidewalk counselors were having difficult time getting people to stop and talk to them. We all had the blah feeling that you get in your stomach while you're out there. At one point a woman came out to smoke a cigarette. One of the guys who was with us went over and also lit up. She started talking to him just because he was smoking. She had brought her friend in to have an abortion that day. He talked with her for quite a while and by the end she was trying to talk her friend out of the abortion. Although her friend continued on and had the abortion, we were able to give her friend information about post-abortion counseling. 

I find it remarkable that smoking can bring together people with very different ideas. I love the image of St. John Kemble, not just forgiving his enemies (defined as those who were going to kill him), but even enjoying their company over a pipe in his last minutes. Most people would rather curse those who had come to hang them. 

This pipe was my second briar, it was a fun pipe to make. the lip is natural color,  and the body a one step red mahogany stain. 

The stems on all of these pipes have started out as unfinished, preformed vulcanite stems. I take the stem sand it, modify any of the form I want to change, and then I polish them with a compound called tripoli.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Briar

The pipe that I featured at the end of The Kemble Pipe was the second pipe I carved. I carved it from maple and was carving it more or less at the same time as the Magnus Pipe. Before I had even finished those two, I was so excited about making pipes that I came upstairs and told my wife, Kate, "That's it, next year everybody's getting a pipe for Christmas."

Having felt so good about those two pipes I ordered my first briar online from Pimo (http://www.pimopipecraft.com/index.html). I have been quite satisfied with their service, prices and quality. It has been amazing how quickly they fill my orders (amazon isn't always as fast as they have been). When the briar arrived I used the first piece to create a freehand. I also started using an upright bandsaw for the initial shaping. The bandsaw is so much safer than my previous technique. I also switched to a carnauba wax finish. This pipe I left the natural briar color and started experimenting with bending the stem.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Kemble Pipe

As I started carving pipes, being a good Catholic, I started to research saints and tobacco. Pier Giorgio Frassati is the saint best known for smoking a pipe. But I came across several others, including St. John Kemble. He caught my eye because the pipe is not just a part of his life but a part of his martyrdom.

The brief story of his life is posted under the Kemble Pipe crest. What impressed me was the hour of his death. When he had finished his duties to his prayers, which as a priest he had promised to his superior to do faithfully each day, he enjoyed his last drink and his last pipe with the under-sheriff and the governor. These were the men under whom he had been sentenced to death. I would have liked to have heard that conversation. I imagine it might have gone something like this:

St. John: Well this is quite a good tobac'. And the whiskey, cheap but enjoyable.

Under-sheriff: Well I'm glad you approve of our accommodations. This whiskey is the same I take at home. Can't afford anything too nice on my allowance.

Governor: We can't afford much for you damned papist priests. Your constantly sapping our money and resources.

St. John: Don't you mean, us damned papists and our priests, You only stopped being a papists when your father died. Your career, I believe, had something to do with your decision. Keep with the faith and keep paying the fines, always uncertain of what would come next, slowly having to sell your land, one fine at a time. Instead you made your choice, security of land, position, title, ah yes, Governor.

Governor: And I spared you an extra thirty minutes so you could lecture me. Do you know how hard it is to be in constant rebellion to your King.

Under-sheriff: (laughing) What did you just say govn'r? To be in constant rebellion to the King. He's been a priest here, what, at least forty, no fifty years. There's few who've been in more constant rebellion than him.

Governor: Oh, your on his side too I see. And didn't I tell you not to call me govn'r.

St. John: I apologize, I did not intend to lecture. It is not every day one gets to enjoy a pipe and cup with the men who have decided I no longer fit for this earthly tobac' and have taken upon themselves the duty of sending me to where the angels have pipes fit for incense and the whiskey to be drunk by God himself. Why I imagine I shall have a fine time with dear St. Bridget tending to her lake of Beer.

Governor: Is that mockery I hear? How you bloody papists ramble, it is the same with all your hocus pocus.

St. John: Oh dear me, your latin is in shambles, it's "Hoc est corpus meum". And the bloody part is "Hic est Sanguinis Mei" A man of learning like yourself should surely know that. Ah, well, it seems I have come to the end of my pipe and cup is quite empty. Gentleman, the time has come for us to go. Thank you both for these thirty minutes, I will pray for you when I am enjoying heaven.

Magnus Reference

I realized that I gave no information about the pipe itself. The bowl is carved from cherry tinted with a light red stain i had left over from another job and finished to a semi-gloss finish. The stem is vulcanite. The bowl is about an inch and a half deep. The whole pipe probably took me about 8 hrs to make. I will not say how I did the rough shaping of this pipe as it was a very dangerous way and I don't want to give anyone any bad ideas. It is enough to say that I am quite thankful to have all my fingers despite my stupidity. It has been reported to me that it smokes well.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Magnus Pipe

I have begun a new chapter in my life this Christmas as I began to carve tobacco pipes. It all started because we didn't know what to get for my brother in law Josh. We had been encouraging his wife to get him a pipe but she wasn't interested in getting one for him. We asked her if she minded him having one and when she responded that she didn't mind, the gears started clicking. I didn't really have a whole lot of cash to throw down for a good starter pipe so when I found some replacement stems at a local pipe shop for under three dollars I knew I had to give it a try.