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Thursday, December 29, 2005

Je suis malade

First, I must pass along my apologies for not updating the blogs more this week. Right now I am typing this with a 104 degree fever, and am pretty dizzy and loopy, so I will probably be absent for at least a couple more days (Doctor visit is tomorrow). In the meantime, since several people expressed interest in the Gerard Prungnaud clays discussed in the David Field video, here is a pic of a very nicely elegant one.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

PipeCast, with David Field and Trever Talbert

I have finally finished the editing and production work on our little video interview with David Field. It is 45 minutes long (I hope not 45 minutes too long..) and mostly what we do is chat about pipes, the world of pipe collecting today, the process of making pipes, and the future of pipes as a business. The idea was to make the sort of informal chat that one might see at a pipe show, but make it available by video to those folks who don't have the proximity or leisure time to attend pipe shows. It may very well be boring, so be warned! We didn't have a mic, so the sound quality is from the video camera's mic - not the best, in other words (Be prepared to fiddle with your volume a lot). If anyone enjoys this, I would eventually like to make more (assuming there is demand) and gradually make them a bit more professional in production... but, as always, that is time and money into the future. My vague model is the tech talks at TWITCast, and what I would really like to do is to link up pipe professionals from around the world via webcams and Skype, and assemble an ongoing series of entertaining pipe chats. Unfortunately, I know that no one is going to bankroll this project, so it will likely remain just a daydream. At best, I expect to make the occasional mildly-entertaining production like this one, when I have the free time to do them.

Once again, I am distributing the larger video via BitTorrent. For those unfamiliar with BitTorrent, it enables fast file-sharing that is easier on bandwidth than direct download from a server - One first downloads the torrent file (a small info file) and opens it in a BitTorrent program, which monitors the availability of the file on the net and downloads from every source available until the download is complete. Today is the first day of seeding, so expect downloads to be slow at first, but gradually increase in speed as more seeders enter the picture. For info and FAQs on BitTorrent, try Demonoid and the Official BitTorrent page. This video is 715 megs in size, and 45 minutes long. I had to keep the resolution at half-screen just to keep the size that small! Download the torrent file HERE

Once again, I have also made a smaller version for the bandwidth-impaired. The small file is in RealPlayer format and weighs in at 33 megs. The quality is about what one would expect from a 45 minute video compressed into 33 megs of space - tiny, blurry video - but as the main point of the file is the audio chat, perhaps it will serve (Just be prepared to turn your speakers up and listen to a good amount of hiss). Download the Real file HERE

Monday, December 26, 2005

Working, working

Today's update is just a quick little snapshot I took from our video interview with David Field. This is my current big blog project, and I will be posting a BitTorrent link within the next couple of days if I can manage it. It should make a nice little after-Christmas surpise!

Other than this, not much to say today - the big post is over on our American Pipemaker in Brittany blog.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Closing for Christmas (Mostly)

Today's pic is Talbert Yule Pipe #10 from the 1999 set - My personal favorite of the bunch. The bands on these were a good bit of work. I bought solid brass rod and cut the sections, then drilled and turned them on our metal lathe to create the designs, which were then decorated by hand-carving.

Today will be 100% housecleaning and tidying. We are closing the business for vacation from now until the 27th - During that time, I won't be answering business emails unless they are urgent for some reason. Since we only have one pipe in stock right now, I doubt I will have reason to get much email, but we will still ship if somebody buys our last pipe. Other than that, it is relaxation time!

I do not plan to update this pipe picture blog while we are vacationing. I will, however, have a special treat when we return - the 45 minute pipe video chat with David Field. I've copied the video to the hard drive now and still need to cut and edit it and add titles, which I plan to do after our vacation time, so I should have it ready to post between the 27th and the start of January.

Monday, December 12, 2005

The Bishop

While we race around madly cleaning and tidying, here is something else from the archives. Since "More archive pics" was one of the poll requests, I'll be posting some older stuff until I can finish the David Field video. This particular pipe is from either 98 or 99, I can't remember, and is (as far as I know) still in the collection of Jeff Folloder. The shank fitting is a bit of an optical illusion - the briar shank is one solid piece, but I turned the shank and stem together to make it resemble some sort of military-mount fitting. I really liked this shape, and probably should do another like it someday.

BTW, the pipe drilling torrent downloads seem to have run their course, with 55 finished downloads of the 240 meg file (A whopping 13200 megs of transfer!). There hasn't been anyone leeching in a couple of days so I've stopped seeding. This should be certain to prompt a load of requests for re-seeds from people who missed it the first time ;)

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Camera Dancing, and Poll Finals

I mentioned in yesterday's entry that we had a challenging time trying to get the camera's timer to work (We eventually suffered the humiliation of having to dig out the manual). Today's pic (Click for the full-size version) is a compilation of some of my attempts to get the thing to work... and this is with the various shots of my feet or the ceiling edited out.

In other news, there are some new pipes on the site for the first time in quite a while. This will probably be the last catalog update until late december or, more likely, early January, because we plan to take off a week for vacation while my parents are here. For those who are interested in such stuff, the new Talbert Briar (the Seahorse, seen in the "Making of" video) can be seen here, and there is also a new morta and a very nice new Ligne Bretagne.

I am closing down the little poll I have been running for the past week. It has been useful and educational - thanks to everyone who voted! With 51% of the vote, the biggest request was for more videos, and I hope to have a lot more fun stuff coming in the future. The next biggest vote, at 27%, was for no changes at all... surely a good sign! The distant third and fourth requests, tied at 7% each, were for more older archive photos (No problem!) and for more interactivity, such as a discussion forum. I've voiced my doubts about the viability and usefulness of a forum before, but I am not ruling it out. While David Field was here, we discussed a project that would virtually demand a dedicated forum, so I expect something to come crawling out of the woodwork sometime in the coming year.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

RD Field

Hectic, hectic few days recently. We had a surprise visit from David Field and his wife, who are vacationing in Europe. Virtually everyone in the pipe biz knows David, and he is a fine fellow. What folks will really enjoy is that, after we all went out to dinner and stuffed ourselves with crepes, we came back here for a little tobacco and wine, and filmed our first "pipe video podcast" (or vidcast, really) - an informal, top-of-our-heads question-and-answer session between Davd and myself on many subjects pipe-ish. I'll be posting the video here as soon as I have time to edit and assemble it, though there is no telling when that may be with my parents arriving from the US next weekend. In the meantime, here is a hard-fought (We struggled with the camera timer for a good ten minutes) group shot from last night.
Emily asked the girl to cut her hair short when she visited the salon yesterday, and got her request - returning home somewhat shocked and sporting a buzz cut on par with 80's Annie Lennox.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Torrent Fun

Well, I said it was an experiment... Apparently that first try was a trackerless torrent. I have re-made the torrent file, this time using as the tracker, so let's see if this works a little better. Download the new torrent file HERE

Big Video Experiment

I'm going to try an experiment now, suggested by a helpful fellow in FumeursdePipe, and see if I can distribute the big video file via BitTorrent. This is the first time I have ever tried to make a torrent file for something to upload, so please be patient if it doesn't work - and also, I can't guess how many people may try to download this file so I don't know how much speed we'll actually get. As with all torrent files, please leave your torrent window or program open as long as you can once the download has completed, because your complete file will function as a seed to all the other folks who haven't finished the download yet. If you're not familiar with BitTorrent, please do a little Googling for info (Translation - PLEASE don't bug me with inquiries wanting to know what it is, where to get it, how to install it, etc). My personal favorite torrent client is ABC - "yet Another BitTorrent Client", which offers the easy ability to manage multiple downloads, limit bandwidth usage, etc.

Download my torrent file for the full-size pipe drilling video HERE

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Drilling a Talbert Briar

I have finally finished assembling the pipe drilling video. It covers, from start to the end of drilling, the methods I use to shape and drill Talbert Briars. I also, on occasion, drill using my lathe or drill press, but the majority of my drilling is done as it shows in the video (and anyway, lathe and drill press drilling are well-known and dull subjects for videos). I hope it will be interesting!

The video is 16 minutes long and can be downloaded in a 114 meg AVI file here or, for those with slower connections, in a 15 meg RealPlayer file here. Even the bigger file is a half-size video - I found that encoding a full-size 640x480 AVI produced video files of at least 250 meg or more, and I simply don't have the bandwidth to handle lots of people downloading a 250 meg file. However, if anyone has a site and the bandwidth to spare, I would be happy to host it elsewhere - just get in touch by email.

(As an aside, I really shouldn't have to post this but I know I'd better - Yes, it would be an imposition to write the file to CDs and mail out discs. I know that otherwise I'll get an email box full of letters all starting with, "Hi, I'm Joe Pipemaker. I enjoy your blog and really don't want to impose, but could you put that big video file on a disc and mail it to me?" What Joe Pipemaker doesn't realize is that there are thirty-four other amateur pipemakers all writing me with the same thing! So, not to be rude, but no. I do hope that someone will provide the free bandwidth for hosting the big file and it will be a moot issue anyway.)

The pipe in the video is the Seahorse shape previously previewed. It isn't for sale yet - it is one of a set that I'm doing for a collector's request, and after he's picked his favorite, I'll post the rest to the site for sale. I'm fond of the shape - like the first couple of Ibex designs I did, it looks a bit odd from this or that angle, but I intend to make many more like this and refine the design as I go.

The poll voting has slowed, but I will let it run for another few days at least. At the moment, 51% of the votes are for more videos, so today's post should make people happy! The second choice, at 28%, is for no change at all - encouraging, to say the least. 10% voted for more interactivity, such as a discussion forum. I'm not sure about this - I know one could be integrated into the blog via a side menu, but I don't really know what purpose it would serve, since there are already so many pipe-related messageboards that the community has fractured into a hundred splinters. The Pipemakers Forum would seem to cover everything related to pipemaking already, so I'm not sure what a forum would be about. Also, for those who did not realize it, the blog itself functions as a messageboard - just click the "Comments" link below to leave your feedback about anything that is posted. Others can see your messages and respond, and I try to answer all the ones I can. If anyone has other ideas of what interactivity I could offer, please get in touch!

Friday, December 02, 2005

Video Soon

There probably won't be any updates for the next couple of days while I try to finish the Seahorse and get the other Rameses shapes done. With luck, the next blog posting will be a "Making Of" video for the above pipe. We shot a lot of footage yesterday through the whole process of roughing it, getting the shape, marking the drilling lines, and doing the whole drilling process. In the meantime, here is another little pic of the Seahorse, this time marked with all of its lines of drilling.

Thursday, December 01, 2005


Today's pic is a work in progress photo, taken just a moment ago, of something that started life as a special order. I had a request from a regular collector for a version of the Bo Nordh "Ramses" shape, so as usual I picked out a selection of blocks and set to work on my own variation of the design. I am not the guy to do straight copies of other people's work - for one thing, I think it's distasteful to copy someone else exactly, and for another, it just isn't fun. Spending all my time looking back and forth to a set of photos and measurements is too annoying to do on a pipemaker's salary, so I let my imagination have full rein. This pipe, however, went considerably further afield than usual! I knew the block wasn't suited to a Rameses but it still looked interesting, so I chose to see what I could make with it... The building blocks of the original design are still there, but the end result is so different that I'm giving it a name of its own - "Seahorse". We've been making some video footage of the creation of this pipe, and I hope to either post one complete video or post several in installments, assuming that the pipe doesn't have to be discarded at some point.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Polling Time

I've just set up an account with a simple polling service, so I have to test it out. Give me feedback!

Jolly Old Saint Nick

We've just spent an entire day wrapping and packing all of our Christmas gifts, so forgive me if I'm stuck in a holiday frame of mind. The pipe shown here is another older Talbert, one which very nearly became the model for a Christmas pipe set. I really like white stems - I'm one of those odd few who enjoy both stems and pipes in unusual colors, but in this case the material worked strongly against me. My white acrylic rod is very hard and very different in consistency from the other colors, and drilling it is a serious challenge. It is terrible for overheating, melting into the drill flutes, and snapping drill bits - I bet I went through four bits just getting this stem drilled! So, with that sort of hassle to deal with, white stems never became a part of any Yule pipe set, and this pipe, the "Nicholas", remains a one-off. The silver band was another bit of hand-craftsmanship - I bought it in tube form in the US and did the decorative ring turning and hand carving myself. I still haven't had the time to search for a good supplier of silver here in France. I'd like to start using it again, but as always, the language is a barrier between finding a good silversmith who can do custom work.
In other news, and speaking of unusual colors, I just posted a solitary green Ligne Bretagne today. Also, for those who may be interested in picking up one of the older Sebilo morta pipes, my friend Nicholas Stoufflet (of the FumeursdePipe club here in France) has one on ebay now - see it here.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Very Early Talbert

Here's another bit of Talbert Pipes history. I made this pipe as a special request for a lawyer in Hawaii, who contacted me immediately after I won the P&T carving contest back in '98. He wanted to get a pipe from me for a particular reason - he knew Paul Perri, the pipemaker who had helped me get started, and wanted a sample of work from his student! This was in many ways one of my earliest "real" pipes, by which I mean that it was both creative and practical. The reason I opted to post the picture, however, was just to point out the stem, which is all one piece. Now, any sane pipemaker today would drill the shank extension apart from the twisted stem section, then fix them together once all the shaping of the spiral stem was done, but I cut the whole thing from one section of rod stock, without turning (I did not have a lathe at that time). I remember it being quite a bit of work to get the shank extension section properly round and flat across the face, while carving the spiral section without making any gouges in the flat extension face. Beautiful piece of wood, though, colored with a light staining strained from dark tobacco leaves.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Shank Inlay Rings

Since a number of the new Ligne Bretagne pipes shipping to Pipe & Pint have shank inlays of liquid metal in various tints, I thought it might be interesting to show the machine this is done with. This custom-made device allows a shank inlay to be added to any pipe. The motor drives the spinning saw blade, which creates a perfect square cut in the shank. Mounted under the sawblade is a moving carriage similar to a lathe tool carriage, except at the top of the "tool post" - There, rather than a point for a cutting tool, one finds a round hole lined with ball bearings which accepts various mortise inserts of different sizes. I choose the faux tenon needed based on the size of the mortise, fit the faux tenon into the ball bearing socket, and push the pipe shank onto it. Then, the shank is rotated by hand as the carriage is moved inwards onto the spinning blade, cutting a recess of precise depth and size. Once cut, the recess is filled with the liquid metal mixture and allowed to dry. When sanded and finished, the shank has, in effect, a solid metal ring imbedded in the wood, to strengthen it (especially useful for thin shanks) over years of use.
On reflection, this sounds so confusing in print that perhaps I should make a video of this process in future, to better explain it!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Ligne Bretagne 2.0, the Video

After a longer silence than usual, I'm back with a video clip of how our Ligne Bretagne "A" series are made. These are the pipes I referred to in Ligne Bretagne 2.0 - new, custom shapes that we create here using standardized templates in limited runs (Today's opening picture shows some of the first examples). What that means is, I grind and set up a new shape by modifying our cutting heads, and then create a series of pipes using that basic shape. Afterwards, the blades are re-shaped and rearranged to create a new design, and the previous shape can no longer be made (at least not exactly). While we "top" the bowls and turn the shanks by machine, the bulk of the bowl shaping must still be done by hand, allowing for a great variation in pipes made using the same template (as can be seen in the picture - I have so far produced chimneys, pokers, and dublins all from the same "top" cut). I have created another (very crude) video clip which shows the entire process - click here to download (75 meg). This is a compressed AVI file using the DiVX codec. A smaller (22 meg) version of the video in RealPlayer format can be downloaded via streaming video here.

The reason I have been absent for a bit has been because of finishing a large shipment of pipes for Pipe & Pint. We hope to get all of these boxed and out the door today or tomorrow, so they can reach P&P in time for the December shopping season. There are four of these new Ligne Bretagne shapes included. The new series is stamped with an A in a circle (our inside joke being that these are the "American" series, to allow us to make larger LBs for the US market). Aside from the "A" stamping, they are differentiated from the standard-production LBs by not having stem dots - normal LBs are now marked with a liquid metal stem dot for each grade, but the A series are not. This will, no doubt, be confusing until the last of the old, unmarked-but-standard-line LBs are out of the sales cycle. The "A"s are not the only nice pipes in this shipment, though! Here are some preview pics for what will be arriving at P&P in the next couple of weeks:

I should point out that there is nothing wrong with the pipes that have their stems partly-removed - We take them apart for shipping and just leave them lightly tucked together to keep the right stems with the right pipes. That's all for now - Thanks for visiting!

Friday, November 18, 2005


Today's pic is a little something I found in my archives from the early nineties. I found a zipped file on our hard disk that was filled with a lot of my old sketches and drawings, several of which prominently featured pipes. This was before I ever started making pipes, back during my "freehand phase" when I had a real passion for those big, plateau-topped Danish shapes. This was just a very quick sketch, done for fun with pen and paper and then retouched on computer in Paintshop. I miss my pen mouse - that was a very handy thing, and one day I hope to again be able to afford a decent pressure-sensitive pad and scanner, though admittedly there is a great charm to unaltered, unretouched, straight-to-canvas painting that I've come to appreciate more as I get older.

Regarding that touchy subject of copyright, when I post pics like this of mine, I am posting them for free, non-commecial use - that is to say, if anyone wants to use any of these pics to decorate their website or pipe page or whatever, that is fine with me. My only objection is that they not be altered (especially removing my name), and please give some kind of credit. TYK!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Ligne Bretagne 2.0

Here is the very first photo of a project I have been self-educating with for some time now. While Ligne Bretagnes have garnered lots of praise for their smoking qualities, the most frequent request I hear is for larger shapes. Since none of the post-war LB designs are what we would call "large" today, this means bigger pipes must be custom made. I did not want to "farm out" this work to a factory, but preferred to do it here in our workshop. For this, I have done a great deal of experimenting over the past three years to learn ways of using my own hand-shaped cutters to create new, repeatable LB designs.

In the background of the photo, one can see the two cutting heads used. The head on the left turns the pipe's shank, drills the mortise, flattens the end, and countersinks the mortise - all in one step. The head to the right drills the bowl chamber, turns the upper part of the bowl, and flattens the bowl top, also in one step. The photo shows the progress of a pipe through these stages. It begins with an ebauchon (left) and is then drilled and turned to become the partly-finished stummel in the center. Once this is done, the machine work ends and the rest of the pipe must be shaped and finished by hand to create the final pipe.

There are a couple of limitations to this process. I have a finite number of cutting heads and blades, so I am unable to do many different shapes at once. Most likely, I will do a series in one shape, then rearrange the blades and components to do another shape series. Because of this, it will probably be difficult to recreate earlier designs exactly - in some cases impossible, if the blades used have been reground into different shapes. Secondly, the whole affair requires a lot more hand-work, so the resulting pipes are going to be more expensive than the standard Ligne Bretagnes (though still well short of the Talbert Briar price range). Final pricing and grading have yet to be decided. One decision that has been made is what to do with the first set - they are all shipping to Pipe & Pint for their Christmas season!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Things to Do While Waiting for the Workshop to Warm

It's starting to get a little brisk here in Brittany, and we still don't have much of any practical way of heating the workshop. We have a woodstove that we burn our scraps in, but anyone can tell you that woodstoves are not the best sources of quick and efficient heat! We have about as much effect just by turning all our halogen lights on, which is what I've done as I type this. While I had a few moments to kill, I thought I'd try my hand at a very quick bit of stop motion. To view some of my meerschaums "in action", click here. The video clip is in RealPlayer format. The lack of a tripod steadycam mount is rather obvious. Ten points to whoever can identify the little music clip...

Friday, November 11, 2005

Olivier, and not Lawrence

There was recently a thread on Alt.Smokers.Pipes about olivewood pipes, or "olivier" in French. Some love them, some hate them, I think they are beautiful. Those who are curious to see some examples should check out the Spanu catalog here to see some really interesting examples of this unusual wood. I have only tried making one olivewood pipe in my pipemaking career, seen here in a photo from 2001. This was not an attempt to make anything particularly exciting, just a little fun for my own collection - I kept it and smoked it until I had to sell it to help raise money for our move to France. I used a Russian variant of olivewood instead of the more prevalent Italian variety, and it has a unique and different appearance. I still have a large-enough chunk of the wood to make another pipe from, so maybe someday there will be a real Talbert olivewood yet...

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Sam Learned

When we moved to France I had to sell off a sizable chunk of my pipe collection to help finance the trip, and sadly this was one that I let go (The majority of the pipes I kept had sentimental value instead of monetary, which meant that many of my best high grades departed via ebay to raise trip cash). This is a pipe by US pipemaker Sam Learned. One doesn't see a lot of talk or hype about Sam's pipes online, but he does nice work and is a really extremely good fellow. He has developed a consistent and distinctly "American Rustic" look with his "Hunter" shapes like this one of mine. Many more can be seen here

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Perfect Turning, Lathe-free

A lot of people assume that, if you want to make a perfectly-round billiard (or other similar shapes), one must have a lathe. This is not true! With a little creativity in tools, it is possible to do a wide range of unusual tasks with even the most rudimentary machine, the drill press. Shown in this pic is a simple cutter that I used some years ago, which could quickly and easily shave a rough stummel into a perfectly round cylinder. The cutting tool could be moved in and out to any desired size, and the pilot bore insured that the bowl chamber would start perfectly centered to the exterior shape. It was essential to rough the shape to something close to the desired idea beforehand, however, because the cutter did not have the power to shave off heavy cuts. Also visible in this pic is the same long steel rod that I still use today. I simply insert this down the airhole during drilling, and keep two fingers on it as I drill. As soon as it begins to vibrate, I know that the bowl drill has reached the level of the airhole, and I never have to worry about drilling the bowl chamber too deep.

Monday, November 07, 2005

"First Generation" Talberts

For those who might be interested in picking up some of my earliest pipes, there are three available on ebay right now. The full story is on my News page (with links). Two of the pipes, the Bilbo and the Twisted Egg, are the second and third pipes I ever made, respectively. I had a rather weird and different sense of style right from the start, I guess! I think it's funny now to look back at the Twisted Egg and see how much that "look" carried on and grew into things like the Halloween pipes. I can't speak to the craftsmanship on these early pieces - I'd probably be horrified if I went back and examined them now, but they are certainly of interest in a collectible sense. Today's pic is another older pipe, done back in the days when I had no tools to speak of.. This pipe was done nearly 100% with a Dremel. It is a good example of something I would NOT want to repeat (despite the old advert in the pic) because it simply isn't my style of pipe - I hate panels and find styles like this too fussy and grace-less. It's a nice pipe in its own right, but not something that one is ever likely to see appearing in the Talbert catalogs again.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Yule Pipes Past

As we move onwards into the Christmas season, here is a little shot of some Talbert Yule pipes past (from the 2000 set, actually). The one on top was the prototype, and the only one that had the originally-preferred stem material - a sort of marbled white acrylic that was meant to be unique and clay-like in its look, but which instead proved to be a real nightmare to work with. I broke several bits drilling airholes through that rod stock. The material was both brittle and very quick to overheat in drilling, and the melted acrylic would pack the drill flutes, harden immediately, and bang goes another bit. After fighting with the stuff just enough to get one stem made, I switched to the more conventional cumberland for the official series. You can see two of the set here in unfinished form. I was pleased with these and thought they were attractive, albeit fragile in construction, but 2000 was the last year I made a Talbert Briar Yule pipe. I returned with a Ligne Bretagne Yule pipe in 2002 and 2003, but dropped those as well in 2004 because they were just too stressful to have to dive into immediately after finishing the Halloween pipes. Now that the Halloween pipes are on ice, who knows? Maybe there will be more Yule pipes someday...

Friday, November 04, 2005

Tube lining, or How to Over-Obsess

Like most pipemakers, I use a lot of my spare time to experiment and see if I can find better ways of making pipes. As with most experimentation, well... It isn't a task for the easily bored or the easily-discouraged. Also, perhaps not a task for the sane, as in cases like this! Most bamboo-shank pipes fit together by steel tubing joining the different pieces internally. Now, steel has totally different heating and condensating behaviour than wood, and I decided to test an idea to see if I could affect this. For this pipe, I drilled out the steel tube and then drilled, turned, and fitted a lining of briar inside the tube - the reasoning being that it would present a seamless wood airhole and avoid any undue condensation on the inside of the steel tube (not that this has ever been a problem in any of the various bamboo-shank pipes I have owned). After a good bit of smoking, the result was that it smoked just like any other bamboo-shank pipe I had - but I did find an imaginative way to add more useless labor hours to the job of making a pipe. File under "Things that Fascinate Collectors and Generate Debate, While being Totally Economically Unfeasible" :)

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Lost P&T Cover

Some time ago, Chuck Stanion contacted me about possibly doing a cover for Pipes & Tobaccos magazine. He asked for a Christmas cover, which seemed a little odd considering that the Halloween cover would have seemed a better fit. But, I did a few rough sketches of ideas and tossed them his way. Unfortunately, the realities of the international move stomped all over the idea - we were talking about this in latter 2001 while planning the November 2001 flight to France to inspect the house and business, and there was simply no way I could have found the time to do a full painted cover. Besides, I doubt I could have rendered the sort of Norman Rockwell-style traditional Santa that the magazine was wanting - that sort of thing just isn't my style. Once the decision to move was reached, I had time for nothing else, and indeed have only now reached the point where I can pause and breathe a little. One day I would like to do some submittals for P&T and see where it goes, but until then, this rough sketch is the last evidence of the P&T cover that never happened.

Monday, October 31, 2005

A Hundred Ways to Make a Pipe

It never ceases to amaze me, the sheer number of variations of engineering that I have seen applied to something as simple as a pipe. Some are elegant and interesting, others crazed, and still more are like this one - way too much thinking applied to a simple purpose, rather like making the wheel with fifteen moving parts and three socket fittings. I can't recall where I got this picture - someone emailed it to me years ago, but I've forgotten who. It is a classic idea of the "Build a Better Mousetrap" thinking (There's no idea so gracefully simple that it cannot be overcomplicated). I've created numerous drain-plug-style pipes like this one, but have never been pleased with the results. They don't seem to realize the hoped-for cooler smoke, and mostly they are just more annoying to try to clean. Still, such designs are fun to look at and think about!

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Electric Santa

Ahh.. The joys of relaxation. I don't realize how wound-up and stressed I can get during the weeks of Halloween pipe work until it's over, and I have the sudden feeling of turning to jello. I haven't updated our blog pages for several days both because I've been too busy finishing the last Halloween pipe work, and then just sort of falling down. But, I suppose it's time to actually start posting stuff again, so here is a little bit of goofiness from the archives of 2000. I painted this as the color label for the 2000 limited series of Yule Blend, a tinned tobacco blended for me in 99 by Greg Pease and only produced for about 40 tins total between 99 and 2000. I was just playing with the airbrush for this pic, which prompted Emily to remark that Santa looked as though someone had just plugged him into 220 volt! And note, of course, that Santa is smoking one of the 2000 Talbert Yule pipes.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

More Sneak Previews

There it is, the pipe we have been waiting for! This is the Hydra, which has been over a year in the making. Tomorrow I will post the web page and photos for it, and set an end date for the auction, but I'm too tired as I write this (11:30pm) and it's time for some popcorn and Vincent Price. Until then, our blog readers and RSS subscribers can see this little preview. While this is the monster that has eaten the last several days in finishing, it isn't the only thing I'll be posting tomorrow - we have four new Ligne Bretagnes finished also.

Here is a little preview of those. There's one NICE sandblast with 9mm filter (and a little story), another chimney blast, and two smooths. I haven't made any of these fat dwarf shapes in a while, so I thought it was time to do more for inventory. I love those shapes - they're just too ridiculous not to like.

The Pipe that Might Have Been

I realize that it has, again, been more than a day since the last update, but the push has really been on to get the last Halloween pipe finished. It was supposed to be two, but alas, one fell by the wayside. This one was going to be the sole morta of the bunch, a large handmade goblin-esque piece that was going to feature a flared face that matched the grain. Unfortunately, in the middle of carving, I found this small crack... which kept opening. Eventually it became the fissure seen in the second picture, and when I tested it with a needle, the needle went nearly all of the way into the wood! So, into the wood stove it goes.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Hydra Sneak Preview

"In just seven days,
I can make you
a maaaaaan"
Once this pipe was masked for sandblasting, I could not help but think it reminded me of Rocky from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show". I wonder if the French know about Rocky Horror? It's difficult to imagine it working in translation...
In any event, Rocky Horror had been on my mind lately anyway, first tweaked by our recent class reunion (A bunch of friends and myself went to see RH at the midnight movies on graduation day) and also by my remembering that I had the soundtrack. I've got to say, the soundtrack for this film is fantastic, totally apart from the movie or the craze it inspired, and the song writing is excellent. I've listened to it a couple of times in the workshop lately, so I guess there's a bit of "Hot Patootie" seeping into these latest pipes.

The pipe itself is the long-struggled-with Hydra, which was actually drilled and roughed for LAST year's Halloween pipe set, but was not finished in time. It should make a nice smoke, though, with an extra year's worth of drying and curing - I think I've run this stummel through about a half dozen boilings. Whenever I was boiling a new batch of stummels, I would usually toss this in with them. It will be the green pipe of the set...

Friday, October 21, 2005

Calabash Sandblast

Well, late again - I spent yesterday afternoon and all evening finishing up the four new Ligne Bretagnes I just posted (seen here and here), and did not have time to post a new entry here. For those who may not have caught the news page, the Ligne Bretagnes have a new stem logo now and these are the first four examples of it.

Today's pipe pic is an experiment from 2000. I have a supply of these meerschaum calabash bowls in varying sizes, but I've never really had anything to do with them since I don't have any proper gourds and briar blocks are usually too small to fit a meer cup into. This meer bowl was a smaller one, however, and I decided to give it a try. The resulting pipe was extremely attractive, in my opinion anyway, and probably would have been a great seller on looks alone. I never made any more of these, however, because it was a lousy smoke. Lacking the absorbancy of a gourd, the condensation in the briar chamber under the meer bowl was ridiculously annoying, and it took multiple pipecleaners to get through a single bowl.... and this considering that the bowl was tiny! This is a classic example of why a good pipemaker needs to smoke samples of everything he makes, because sometimes you never know what will work or not until you try it. I think Toren Smith ended up with this thing, though no telling how many hands it has passed through now. Consider it a Talbert Pipes historical oddity ;)

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

At Pipe & Pint

Here are a couple of pics taken back in 2000 at Pipe & Pint, the NC shop I have often referred to. This is a great shot of the counter, with a full case of pipes and a wide selection of pipe tobaccos in both tins and open humidors for sampling. The other pic is of me and my friend Paul Tatum at the store on the day of an in-store show. We set up on the opposite side of the shop, which is one huge wall of microbrew beer. No fools, we...

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Kraken

Here is a sketch I did for a pipe back in 2001. This has become a ongoing struggle, the "pipe that keeps getting away" because of the difficulty of the design and the engineering hassles it would entail. I actually have a large stummel set aside for this pipe, which has been drilled and waiting to be finished since 2002, but I keep avoiding the thing and it keeps lurking. Getting the stem and shank fitting to work while retaining easy pipecleaner passage down to the bowl bottom required some very odd engineering (the airhole is not IN the tenon at all, but connects with the briar airhole lower on the face of the shank). After the long struggle with the Mother of Grendel this year, I know there is no way I will tackle this thing, so I guess it will continue to lurk (probably for years to come) on the "started but unfinished' projects table.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Tobacco Stem

The pipe in today's pics was made as an experiment back in 2001 when I was doing a lot of acrylic casting. It was one of those nutty-yet-intriguing ideas - since I could cast just about anything in with the acrylic mix, what would it be like to cast a stem with tobacco? The stem is simply pure clear acrylic poured into a chopped blend of fine tobacco and stirred. It hardened into solid rods which I then cut and drilled like any other stem material. As ideas go, though, it did not work very well - the tobacco created a very striated and veiny surface on the stem, and bits would keep trying to chip off. It would have worked much better if a clear "skin" of solid acrylic could have been poured over the tobacco section, but then there is the question of how to file and shape the bit and keep it evenly covered with solid clear acylic... In any event, it serves as yet another example of a goofy idea that "might have been something"...

Sunday, October 16, 2005

The Silliest Pipe I Ever Made

Before I go further I should apologize for the lateness in getting the new updates posted for this page and for "American Pipemaker in Brittany". The last several days have seen me working non-stop and round-the-clock to finish the most complex Halloween pipe I've done thus far, Grendel's Mother, seen here. After finishing that horrific creation, I felt like posting something whimsical, so here is (in my opinion) THE silliest pipe I have ever made. I nicknamed it "The Slug" at the time. It was done as several experiments rolled into one. I had been doing some fairly radical pipe design sketches, and I wanted to try out an idea to see how well it translated from drawing to reality (answer: wretchedly). Also, I was working a lot with casting my own acrylics for my stems, and I thought that such an ability could be expanded into casting larger bits than one is usually able to make from the standard rods and plates that everyone uses. I wanted to experiment with an engineering idea also - to create a pipe with a large expansion chamber where the smoke could cool and condensate before being drawn upward through the stem, theoretically providing a cooler smoke. As with most such ideas, what it mostly provided were gurgles from all the condensate that it collected during each bowl. While the thing was a technical failure in several aspects (bowl size was limited by chamber, ergo small bowl, plus short mortise, plus heaviness due to lots of wasted wood in the design), I think its greater contribution to the Razzy Awards of pipedom is the fact that it is freaking ridiculous looking - it looks, for all the world, like a tropical fruit punch drink. A friend suggested that I should have put a pair of those little wind-up feet on the bottom instead of the solid base, so the pipe could walk around freely. Here also is my original design, which explains a little better what I was trying to create.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

The Gaffer

Back in the late 90's I made a number of pipes based on Lord of the Rings characters. This was long before the Tolkein mania that the movies kicked off - back in those innocent days I was just making hobbit pipes because I liked the stories, and they were an unusual novelty. I did a number of what I felt were hobbit-themed pipes (thick, round, and short for thick, round, and short people). The one in the photo was tagged "The Gaffer".

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

LB Yule pipes and more Dimiters info

I'm pleased to say that yesterday's post about Juris Dimiters brought in some more accurate and current information on him. He was NOT, as I previously reported, Russian - he is Latvian (I know, I know, I'm American... all those "foreign" countries are the same anyway...;) ) He is also still painting, and still painting pipes. His website is:
Fascinating artwork. I wish I could paint like that!

Today's picture is a promo shot of the 2002 Ligne Bretagne Yule pipes. We did these during our first December in France, which was a really bad idea because we were already more stressed than we should have been. I'm pleased with how they came out, but they were pretty bland as special-edition pipes go. We stopped making Yule pipes after 2003, but they WILL return, in (I hope) considerably fancier form, in some future December.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Pipe Art, literally

Back in the late 90's, I was fortunate enough to be contacted by a Russian artist named Juris Dimiters. I am not certain on the first name - I think it was spelled differently, but I can't remember the exact spelling. At the time, he had a very nice website displaying JPGs of his original oil paintings. He had a wide range of subjects but one entire part of his catalogue was devoted to paintings of pipes - an odd subject, no doubt, but then it's hardly the first time that pipes have been focal points in fine art. The Dimitirs paintings were, ahem, suggestive (to say the least), but I thought they were well done and displayed a fun sense of humor. Unfortunately, a year or two later his website vanished from the net, and today I find no references to the name on Google (which suggests again that my spelling is off, though I have tried many variations on Juris, Jurus, Jorus, etc). I don't know what happened to him, but I'm glad I saved this one picture thumbnail that he sent me, as it seems to be the only remaining sample of his work online.

Monday, October 10, 2005

A photo re-post

Apologies for reposting something that's already been seen, but I wanted to show this again because this new format allows the pictures to be viewed full-size (just click the pic) and this is one which benefits greatly from being able to see it larger. The old 500-pixel-wide limit made a lot of photos unworkable. I also thought this would be a good post for the new archives. To reiterate what I said before, this is the machine I use to drill most of my pipes. I drilled via drill press and lathe for many years, but recently I've changed to shaping the pipes prior to drilling them, which allows for more range of shapes and better use of the grain of a block. The adjustable chuck jaws are soft, and able to conform to most pipe shapes, plus the jaws can rotate, raise and lower, slide from side to side, and even tilt to various angles in their grip. It makes it very simple to chuck virtually any shape (I even drilled the recent "Grendel's Mother" this way) and allows me to use cheap and easily replaceable spade bits for drilling. In the background of the pic one can see several bins full of readymade copper and silver bands, which we use sometimes on our Ligne Bretagne pipes. Also, sitting down on the floor under the shelf is an ancient pulley block, now rusted and dusty but still smooth-spinning. I've got about six of these things tucked under there. I doubt I'll ever do anything with them but one never knows!

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Original Sketch for Grendel's Mother

And here is the original sketch for the pipe below. I dropped the idea of the skull on the back because I thought it clashed with the organic and living look of the fingers, so it has become the toothed mouth of a blind worm, with the stem working as an extended tongue. As one might imagine, my work is particularly challenging to talk about in polite conversation...