News from the Pipemaking Workshop with the Funk.
Talbert Pipes Website - Kentucky Fried Popcorn - My Web Comic.

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...

Grendel's Mother - sneak preview

I probably shouldn't post sneak previews but here is one. People keep asking me when I'll post the next Halloween pipe, and my only answer is, "As soon as I can finish sanding this thing smooth". This pipe is the mother of Grendel, from the Beowulf story, based on some sketches I did back in 2000 when I did the orignal Grendel pipe. I had meant to do them together but was too fried after hand-sanding Grendel, so this one got put on the back burner for a while.