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

Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Today's pic is a little mini shot - a preview of what the photos for the Talbert Pipes online catalog will look like in the future. Since our current camera and lighting capabilities seem to have ruled out the old-style "white background" photos, I had to cast around for a bit to settle on a look that would be decent for the overall layout of the site. While drop-shadows for pics are probably as hackneyed as everyone using the Papyrus font, it at least adds a little relationship between the photo and the page, rather than having them simply lie flat. One thing I am very pleased with is the superior color accuracy that I'm getting using the grey backgrounds - No more cases of a pipe being four different colors in four different photographs! So, not all transitions are bad.

Alas, I cannot say this in regards to the new Orlick-produced versions of the faithful Dunhill tinned tobaccos. This is quite annoying, because I am among the first people to ignore or chuckle ruefully at that vast swath of humanity that can't stop complaining about how the "old version was always better". (Doesn't matter what it is, what subject, what decade... "Dial telephones were better than pocket-sized wireless phones because..... well, because!") I usually feel sad for these folks that can't accept that things do change, and I want to stress that I'm not writing about the Dunhill transition as a whinge about the good old days... but it will probably come off that way anyway. I've now had the opportunity to sample an entire tin of both the new Nightcap and the new Elizabethan, and alas, I am sorry to say but these will no longer be taking places as regulars in my tobacco cellar. It isn't that they are bad blends - both are light, mellow, and Nightcap in particular has a pleasant sort of creamy quality to it. It's that they have become nondescript blends, to me at least. I would not hesitate to recommend either of these to a new pipe smoker - I think they would be ideal starter blends. However, I'll repost here what I recently wrote on alt.smokers.pipes:

"What puzzled me was how identical the blends looked side by side - the bright ribbons are a bit brighter in the newer stuff, but otherwise it would visually appear to be the same mix. I tried two bowls side by side - one Murray's and one Orlick - in clays to test my perceptions. The funny thing was, on first light they were very similar to me - for about the first fifth of the bowl I could barely tell them apart. But as the Murray's version smoked down, it had a very rich sort of raisin/fig flavor to it that was absent from the Orlick version, which just remained soft and creamy. It seemed odd because, to my tongue, the rest of the tobacco (the "wrapping" of the flavor, as it were) was much the same. The Orlick just seemed to be missing that bit of Fig Newton note in the flavor. Odd."

Which leads me to wonder if my European friends know what Fig Newtons are... I can't recall if I've seen any in stores here or not. In any case, as regards the Dunhill tobaccos by Orlick, my opinion is simple - both Nightcap and Elizabethan have had their corners and rough edges filed off. They've lost their intensity, their kick, and their love-it-or-hate-it style to emerge as polished, well-rounded performers who will likely be pleasant to all and loved by few. Considering how much I like a bit of spice stirred into the mix, count me as less than enthused with this particular bit of progress.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Snow at Chez Talbert

No pipe pic today, sorry! Instead, I offer this imposing photo of the Herbignac church taken this afternoon as we went for a walk in the snow. There are more pics to see over in our American Pipemaker in Brittany blog. I will resume our regularly scheduled pipe pics at the next entry, but for the moment I am playing in the snow.

In lieu of any insightful pipe commentary from chez nous today, I suggest reading this excellent editorial over at the Clairmont Institute.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Another Rameses, sort of

Here is another variation of the Rameses shape, recently sold direct to the collector who requested it. This one is much more to my personal tastes - Not at all a slavish or even loose copy of the original, but instead a creative departure using the basic design template for a very different result. I did this pipe with two goals in my mind. I wanted to have fun with the styling, instead of worrying about accuracy or copying as I had with the other versions, and I also wanted to trial-run some ideas I've been nurturing about a future project.

Blogger was apparently down most of yesterday, for those who may have had trouble accessing this blog. I kept checking their site and it continually read "Down for service, for thirty minutes" for most of the day! But all seems well now.

Let me know where you are! If you haven't put a pin in our Frappr Map yet, please do so. I see in our site traffic logs that we get lots of hits from China, Japan, and all across Asia, yet the Frappr map is currently almost exclusively European and American. Let's broaden our ethnicity, please :)

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Redesign (and Invisible Pipes)

Sharp-eyed visitors may notice that the site has changed a wee bit. This was not intentional, but was rather a really stupid mistake on my part. I was doing some manual editing of the HTML code in the template, and managed to accidentally cut - and save - half of the page code without realizing it. So, I was forced to install a whole new template, which erased the modifications of the last one. The links to the left have changed, mainly because I can't remember all of the various sites I was linked to before. I've filled in the ones I remember - Please let me know about any I've forgotten. Otherwise, I am pleased with the new look. It's probably cliched, but I think it works well for a pipe site.

Today's picture is an example of my output of "invisible" pipes - that is, pipes that never reach the website. I recently made three sandblasts in variations of Bo Nordh's "Rameses" design for an order. I always try to make multiple versions of the pipe requested in any order, so the buyer can have a selection to choose from and so I can have some extra pipes left over to post for sale on the website. In this case, however, the buyer bought all three examples! So, no Rameses pipes will be appearing for sale after all...

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Mystery Pic

Here's a little pic I put together, featuring an upcoming pipe. That's all I can say for now, but I hope you will enjoy the hints.

On a totally different topic, I am trying out Google's AdSense for this blog so we may all be seeing some "interesting" semi-related ads. I'm going to be very curious to see what Google's little robots think my entries are related to as they scan and scurry around - I expect to see lots of ads for piping companies!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Pipe Market Future, pt 2

Today's pic is a photo of a rod of acrylic that I cast for myself back in the US, when I still had easy access to acrylic casting supplies. I call this material "Sargasso", for obvious reasons, and it makes a very attractive stem when coupled to the right pipe.... the challenge is in finding the right pipe! But, this has nothing to do with the bulk to today's post, which is the continuation of yesterday's article about the possible future of the pipe market, as imagined by an email contributor. Here are Gary's ideas:

I think access to a good pipe shop is important. I don't think I would have seriously gotten into it with out stumbling across McCranie's when I was about 42 years old. It also helps to be able to handle different pipes, feel the textures and shapes, to begin learning what fits you best. Only then have I been able to do much internet buying and make solid purchases. And I have bought a lot through the internet and quite a few on-site at McCranie's. I think it might be important for pipe shops to re-envision themselves. They perhaps should not all look like going into someone's club house. That still feels too cliquish too me. Have you seen the store front for Neat Pipes? Wow! It is open and inviting and modern. It feels like you could come in and browse without getting looked over for approval by a bunch of "old guys" sitting around smoking. It looks accessible. I think this is important to think about.

It might be worth a shot for some big pipemakers to try some carefully designed ads showing a different "story" about how pipesmoking may be enriching and alluring. I'm thinking Esquire. GQ. A lot of men's magazines spend a lot of pages showcasing "what's cool". They appeal to a desire for nice things. High-end pipes are nice things. But whether such ads in such magazines would be cost effective-I don't know. But there needs to be someway to get new images of pipesmoking and really fine pipes out before a more diverse market of men who perhaps have never even thought about it because of old images of 1950's Dads or nerdy beardy guys (I'm beardy but not nerdy). But smart and self-confident is good. Think Sartre and his pipe.

(The problem here is one of money. Even the big names like Dunhill and Butz-Choquin lack the sort of financial resources to regularly advertise in such publications - or at least they are unwilling to do so - and smaller players are priced completely out of the picture. There are friendlier venues like P&T magazine available, but again, we have the problem of preaching to the choir)

Women and pipesmoking? Well, that's even tougher. I would want to hear from some women pipesmokers and I do not know any. But I can't help but wonder if there are a few specific subcultures of women who also could be drawn to it. I just don't know which and I do not know what the "story" would be that would make pipesmoking an appealing experience for them. Or if most pipe designs are in fact not appealing to women. For some reason I think yours, especially the more diminutive Mortas might be appealing. Very cool pipes. I don't have one yet.

There is also something appealing about a pipe with a bowl size that doesn't seem to expect you to smoke a big bowl full. A smaller bowl actually fits pipesmoking as savoring rather than consuming. I do also like the weight and heft of larger pipes because they just feel good in my hands even though it may take me 2 days to finish a bowl.

Internet merchants might try designing their sites with more easily accessible knowledge for beginners and promote good books to that effect. Really good multiple angle photos of pipes for sale helps a lot. You do that well. I also like what does and the little blurbs he writes about each pipe. I've bought several from him and returned several too. He never hassles me and I appreciate that or I just wouldn't bother. Sometimes the way a pipe looks and the way it feels in reality does not match for a person. It just goes with the territory. I also like the email notifications from you and others. Important. It reminds me to think about pipes again. And if I see one I really like-well, I'm hooked. I think pipesmokers must all be a bit obsessive-compulsive, maybe.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Pipe Market's Future

Today's pic is a photo of the excellent logo for Breton "Mutine" beer - one of the very few Breton beers I've had that is not half bad! Their brown beer is actually pretty decent.. not quite on par with the Rogue Imperial Stout that a kind soul sent me for Christmas, but very drinkable nonetheless.

I recently received a long and thoughtful email from a fellow named Gary in the US, responding to some of the discussion I had with David Field in our pipe video chat (Which is no longer being seeded on BitTorrent, BTW). I thought I would post his comments in below, and see what readers thought of his ideas about the future of the pipe collecting market. His letter was fairly long, so I will split his text over the next couple of days:

I watched most of your video chat with David Field. I was interested in your discussion about the future of pipesmoking and the nature of current pipe buyers in the larger context of public health issues regarding tobacco. I have felt ever since then that I wanted to add my 2-cents worth to the discussion because, perhaps, I may be the type of customer which the future market will belong to, for better or for worse.

I believe my first real interest in pipes evolved out of reading The Lord of the Rings in high school. That was when I bought my first pipe—a little squat Rhodesian Kaywoodie at an Eckerd’s Drug store back when they had a whole display of pipes. I believe I understand you are from Lexington , so perhaps you know of what I speak. And I bought some Amphora there too. That was about all I knew. Even then I smoked very seldom and really had little idea how to do it well. Then in college I bought another pipe and tinkered with it some. Every few years I’d get either one out and of course my tobacco was dry by then so I’d buy some more—I didn’t know about humidifying tobacco either. I did not know any other pipe smokers. Well, years and years passed. Then about seven years ago I accidentally came upon a real pipe store in Charlotte —McCranie’s. Not a mall store like I’d seen before but a real shop with smokers sitting around and high grade pipes for sell. I was instantly smitten by the aroma of the place and, having never seen high grade pipes, marveled at the quality of their craftsmanship, the beauty of the different finishes, and the great diversity of shapes. I saw a 1999 Castello Pipe of the Year which I fell in love with—it was $795—which was just unbelievably expensive. But it was beautiful. I wanted it but did not buy it. I bought something else real cheap—to start off with—a generic no-name Italian pipe. Then, most importantly, I discovered Frog Morton under Todd McCranie’s guidance and learned about latakia blends and for the first time ever I found a tobacco that I really liked.

Ok, to make a long story shorter: Over these past seven years I have spent well over $5000 on Castellos, Dunhills, Ashtons, Michael Parks, you, and a variety of others. I have spent more than I should have. I am not wealthy. I am gradually figuring out the shapes and finishes I really like. So I’ve sold probably half of what I’ve bought over these years and I have become much more particular about what I buy. Now, here’s the deal: I still smoke very irregularly. In the winter maybe every other week; in the summer maybe once a month. I take seriously the health concerns about the addictive qualities of nicotine and don’t want to go there. I try to be healthy. But I like to smoke occasionally because:

1. I enjoy the beauty of these pipes—what other art can you fiddle with in your hands, hold—and stick in your mouth too?!

2. I like both the smell and taste of latakia blends.

3. I enjoy the solitude of pipesmoking—it is relaxing. Sometimes I read with it

I have no intention of ever becoming a daily smoker. I have no interest in hanging out in pipe shops and smoking—I am just not inclined to hang out like that anywhere with a bunch of guys. But I have benefited a great deal from having a good tobacconist to learn from. I have also bought pipe books which have helped me understand better the fundamentals of pipe and tobacco care. Very important.

Here’s my point: I don’t think there is any getting around the health issue now. I do think the future of pipesmoking, at least if you want to grow the interest, is to somehow market it as something of a delicacy. Like a really fine glass of port which you wouldn’t want to drink just every day but have, say, on the weekend. And definitely marketing the beauty and craftsmanship of these pipes is important. It will appeal to guys like me who for whatever reason like fine woodwork. And there needs to be some kind of larger context communicated. For me, pipesmoking still brings associations of books, contemplation, writing, and yes, still LOTR. The “story” of the 1950’s Dad who smoked a pipe with his slippers—that never worked for me. It would help if somehow pipesmoking could be associated with being sexy or cool but I don’t see that being possible—it would just be weird to even try. Pipesmoking to me is about sitting in your favorite chair, perhaps near a fireplace, with book or pen in hand, with cool or cold weather. It feels like home. It feels like art. Stuff like that.

I'll break off here for today, and continue the posting of Gary's email comments later. I think he is spot on in his belief that the future of pipes is as a luxury item, but at the same time I believe that this is a subtly dangerous approach, because if the middle market and low-end market collapse completely (Which they seem likely to do), they will take the high-end market down with them. More to come!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Talbert Briar Preview

Today's pic is a small preview of some upcoming Talbert Briars. Both of these were made for an order, but I don't know which one the buyer will pick (and there is still a third to finish). But, whichever ones remain will be going up on the website catalog, along with two other, original designs. These are all "Talbert-esque" variations on the Bo Nordh 'Rameses' shape, done in deep sandblast style.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Yes, This is Filler

... At least, until I have time to add some more to the IMP interview. I found this group pic in sifting through my archives of past years. This was taken in 2003, our first full year in Brittany. It's funny to look at now because we were so unfamiliar with all the new workshop tools, and so limited in what we could reliably do, that the majority of our work that year was quite conservative! Except for the morta Serpent, this is a very traditional bunch of pipes, but at least it has nice variety - one Classic-grade morta, one Signature-grade morta, one bamboo-shank Talbert Briar (center), one rusticated Ligne Bretagne Collector (right), and one standard-production Ligne Bretagne shape 11 (left). And check out those cool morta pipe-rests...

Monday, January 16, 2006

PipeChats, with IMP Meerschaum

I had not expected to be posting this so quickly! I emailed Mustafa Akkas of IMP Meerschaum today to ask about doing a short interview and question & answer session, and he answered all of my initial questions within hours. I hope to send some more questions soon, when I have the time to think of them and write them down (Suggestions are welcomed!).

Now, a short history and disclaimer. I am not at this time a dealer in IMP meers, though I have been in the past. Like many briar fans, I had a very low opinion of meerschaums for years, largely down to what I perceived as their poor smoking qualities - gurgles and clunky stems. By chance, I discovered IMP back in 2002 and tried the first meer that ever impressed me. They had interesting shapes (more classical and Danish than "big carved heads") and more importantly, they smoked excellently - possibly due to their briar-like stem & mortise construction, instead of the usual teflon screw-in fittings that curse so many meers. In short order, I went from owning zero meers to owning eight, and now I have something like fifteen - all IMPs. I liked them so much that I stocked them for resale in our old retail shop, but I stopped being a retailer when we closed down that portion of our business to sell 100% our own pipes. Today, if one wants an IMP, an excellent source is, but they are sold in a side variety of online and retail tobacconists'. I should also point out that I don't receive any kickbacks or payment for doing these interviews, and have no vested interest in promoting anyone in particular - I simply pick those industry folks that I know personally, and can write or call for some quick comments.

Please keep in mind that Mustafa is not a native English speaker, though he does a heck of a lot better en anglais than I do in French! Without further preamble, here is the first part of my chat with Mustafa Akkas of IMP:

Trever: To get this interview started, tell me what your role is in IMP pipes, and a little bit about the carver(s)?

Mustafa: I have been working for IMP since 2000 but officially 2002 as a trade & project manager but that might be changing in the near future after my uncle’s (Owner of IMP Pipes) death. We currently have two carvers and one secretary in our workshop. My youngest uncle called Mr. Mustafa Albayrak is the main carver in our workshop now. We are also looking for another quality carver instead of my uncle.

Trever: When did IMP pipes get started as a business?

Mustafa: We have been running this family business since 2000.

Trever: Do you have a goal for IMP, or any kind of "identity" that you feel makes your pipes unique among other meerschaum brands? Do your carver(s) work towards any particular style in designs, or any special thinking in engineering? I've noticed that many of the original IMP designs looked very Danish, for instance - more like Danish briars than the usual meerschaum carved heads and such.

Mustafa: Yes, we do have a goal as a company. Our main goal is “giving a better reputation to meerschaum”. As we all know meerschaum used to be “tourist souvenir” in Turkey and there was not so much quality and detail in past meerschaums at all. We have been trying so hard to change meerschaum’s bad reputation, this is why we called our meerschaums “new generation meerschaums”. I do create some new designs as well as Danish and Italian Designs. We also try to create some marginal designs when we have time to spend on it. I think this is the difference between us and other meerschaum suppliers.

Trever: Is there anything about the public image of meerschaum pipes that you dislike ? Any "popular opinion" of meerschaums that you would like to change ?

Mustafa: Yes, as I mentioned before we really would like to give a new vision to our pipes. I personally do not like typical meerschaums cause they look so cheap and ordinary. We also aim to be competitive with briar companies, not with other meerschaum suppliers. We hopefully will be reached our aims as long as we produce well-balanced and well-engineered pipes in the future.

Trever: I think that IMPs are an exceptional value for the money in their price range . Do you have any plans to expand either upwards or downwards in price - either by introducing a cheaper line or perhaps introducing some very high-end meers?

Mustafa: As you know, we used to produce just standard pipes when we start this business but since 2004 we also have started to produce B-Class Meerschaum pipes for Canadian Market which are cheaper than standard pipes. We have also been producing some exceptional High-Grade Meerschaum Pipes since last year such 18K Golden Edition and Limited Edition Pipes for US Market.

Trever: The pipe business today is wrestling a lot with traditional business models - creators/distributors/retailers versus direct sales. What's your preference, and why?

Mustafa: I actually prefer to deal directly with retailers but that depends on the market that might change, especially European Market and US Market. We also have been selling our products directly from our website but we are not expecting a great deal of financial income with this. This would not be more than a hobby or making a good reputation.

Trever: On another topic, like me, you are a foreigner in a strange country. People often ask me what I like the most, or least, about France, and I find this really hard to answer because there is too much to sum up in one or two quick statements. But, just at random, tell me some things
you really like about living in the UK , and some things you really don't like .

Mustafa: It is very usual question for me (I bet for you as well). I do meet lots of people every day and most of them ask this question to me after asking my name -)))). I really do not know what to say. I have been living here since 2002 and I really like it here. The weather might be really annoying sometimes in UK and UK is a lot more expensive than Turkey if I compare. I do miss my family and Turkish foods, except that I have been happy in UK so far but I do say “I wish I was in Turkey ” sometimes or I also say “It’s a good job I am in UK ”. I am just struggling between two cultures most of the time.

(I know the feeling......)

And that's all for now - Look for more PipeChats in future!

Tomorrow is Yesterday

Here is a little sneak preview of upcoming pipes. This one was done for a special request and is probably already sold (haven't heard back yet), but otherwise may be appearing on the site catalog within the week, along with some other bamboo-shank mortas. This is also a look at what our catalog photos will be looking like in future - Very much like how they looked back in 2000!

Emily and I have spent the last two working days wrestling with our new digital camera, trying to achieve similar results to the old one. What we have learned is that our previous camera has been "Wal-Marted", which is to say, it has bigger numbers and a cheaper pricetag, and has exceptional capability for doing the twenty-five most common photo needs of the average Joe... but has lost a great chunk of its customizability in the process. Aside from insanity-inducing quirks like defaulting to its highest (and web-useless) resolution every time it is turned off (The old one held its res settings through power cycles), it proved to be appallingly bad at taking good photos on white backgrounds. Everything went to an orange tint, despite using decent photo lights, and with pipes like this one, we had the choice of the bowl being solid black or the bamboo shank vanishing into white-out.

(I should probably add here that this is not to be taken as a plea for photography help. I've occasionally mentioned photo troubles before, and this often brings in many well-meaning emails from helpful folk trying to offer advice along the lines of, "If you want to solve your photo problems, what you need to do is get a Nikon model XLR-9000 or equivalent, at least seven studio-quality 2000 watt photo lights, a color-neutral backboard, and a phased photon-inversion bypass field for your lens." The problem, of course, is that I have to solve my photo problems using exactly what I have on hand, which is a simple $200 digital camera, a plant gro-light bulb, and a cut-apart cardboard box for a display, with colored construction paper taped to it. If I had the money to buy "real" camera stuff... Well, there are many more important things it would get spent on first anyway...!)

In any case, after roughly eight hours of fiddling with settings and trying different lighting arrangements, we had to confront the unpleasant fact that the new camera simply isn't going to be able to take properly-colored white-background photos for use in site catalog pics - at least not using the lighting that we have. Thus, it's yesterday again tomorrow - It does a very good job with neutral grey backgrounds and even manages some pretty good balancing between black morta and bright bamboo, so future website catalog pics are going to look like the one posted above. I'll miss the "Floating in White Space" look, but I think the new pics are sharp and informative and that will have to do.

In other news, I hope to gradually start posting some interviews with pipe industry folks here, and the first will be along shortly - a question-and-answer session with Mustaffa Akkas of IMP Meerschaum Pipes.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Lathe-less Poker

Back in 2000, my lathe went out for some forgotten reason (I honestly can't remember now - I think the belt broke or something), and I was left having to do my drilling on the drill press and all the shaping by hand again. This posed a nasty problem in regards to working time, because while one can turn a perfectly round poker or billiard in a matter of minutes, getting the shape rounded with only a Dremel and files was a considerably more lengthy experience. Not to mention challenging! It was a constant task of, "Is it round? Check with circle guide. Adjust here and here." The difference was obvious in my working time - where normally I could make a simple pipe like this in six to eight hours, this particular pipe took nearly thirteen hours of labor to finish. To add insult to injury, it then proceeded to sit unsold for several months - an experience which led me to avoid doing white-stemmed pipes ever again, since nearly every one had proven very slow to sell.

Friday, January 13, 2006

File Hosting via zUpload

Just as an experiment, I thought I would try one of the free file hosting services to distribute our videos. zUpload comes well-reviewed, so they're the first test-run. This should be easier than distributing the files via BitTorrent, as it saves the techno-phobic from having to install a BT client and learn to use it. I can't predict what the download speeds will be like, but we'll try it and see. For the first test, I have re-posted the "Making Of" video for our Ligne Bretagne "A" Series pipes. Just click the download link HERE and it should take you to the zUpload page, where you "Click here to download file" and your download begins. If this works out to be easier, I'll post all the future videos this way.

We're on Frappr

I've set up a Frappr map for all the visitors to our Pipe Blog. I am continually amazed at the geographic dispersion of our visitors when I check the page stats, and I thought it would be fun to have a regular map available that would show where some of our regulars are. It only takes a minute to add yourself, so if you have the time, please go to our Pipe Blog map, scroll down to the entry for"Add Yourself", and fill out the 3 lines needed to stick a "virtual pin" in our world map. And if you have the time, add a photo and a comment too!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Today's Workshop Music

I had the idea to try this, and see if anyone enjoyed. Music plays a big role in what I create, and I pick my working music to match my mood and the direction I want the work itself to go in. I will try to update this page frequently, adding new items at the top, to post just what I'm listening to in the workshop at any given moment. Note that the link to this page is now over on the right under "American Pipemaker in Brittany", so it will be easy to check this entry on any visit to the site.

Today's Music:

Voices from the Edge, audiobook by Harlan Ellison, interspersed with The Truth (with Jokes), audiobook by Al Franken - My brain isn't strong enough for the full unabridged force of "Voices from the Edge", a collection of some of the best of Harlan Ellison's stories, so I've mixed in alternating chapters of Al Franken's "The Truth" to lighten the intensity level. Which is especially cranked up, considering that Ellison is doing his own reading, and frequently gets so wound up in it that he sounds like he's pacing in fast circles and screaming into the mic. I grew into Harlan Ellison. When I was younger, I found his work too depressing and acidic, and the man himself seemed rabid. With time and years, though, I have become more depressing and acidic, and I now enjoy his stories a good bit, and appreciate his outlook on his job, life, and art a hell of a lot more. His recent interview with Stanley Wiater on the Horror Channel's "Dark Dreamers" was so hilarious that I recorded it for posterity.

Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way, audiobook by Bruce Campbell - "Groovy" He even has a pipe in the front cover photo. What more could anyone want? Note - This is not a self-help book, parody self-help book, or anything biographical. It's an actual fiction novel written by Bruce Campbell, that happens to star Bruce Campbell.

The Stupidest Angel, audiobook by Christopher Moore - " Christmas crept into Pine Cove like a creeping Christmas thing, dragging garland, ribbon, and sleigh bells, oozing eggnog, reeking of pine, and threatening festive doom" I have settled into the long hours of stem detailing and am currently enjoying this "seasonal" audiobook - another Christopher Moore classic - about a clumsy Christmas angel who accidentally raises the dead of a small town in response to a child's Christmas wish. The result is a horde of brain-munching, Ikea-craving zombies on Christmas Eve.

TWiTcasts, by Leo Laporte and crew - Now that the pipe-roughing is done, it's time to settle in and spend days in stem shaping, sanding, and general finishing work. I usually listen to music through the design and shaping, and switch to podcasts and audiobooks for all the repetitive detail work. The TWiTcasts are the only podcast I follow regularly (though I also enjoy Catholic Insider). I rely on Leo and the TWiTs, and also on Ars Technica, to keep myself current on everything that is happening in the world of computers, operating systems, gadgets and tech stuff.

The Triumph of Steel, by Manowar - I've been fairly surly for the past week and heavy applications of Yes and "feel good" music haven't helped, so I figured it was time to revel in being pissed-off and crank up the Manowar. My favorite heavy metal band by far, though I enjoy Rhapsody and Iron Maiden too. This was their closest brush to "art metal" - half concept-album telling the story of Achilles. I realize that many folks may consider pipemaking to be too high-brow of a craft to be associated with metal music, but to this I can only say, Manowar is the favorite metal band of none other than Christopher Lee!

Fighting the World, by Manowar - Fun, loud, and aggressive, made back when the band seemed to be at the tipping point between the early raw sound and the later, more polished work.

Louder than Hell, by Manowar - My favorite for a while, until they released "Warriors of the World", my current favorite by far. The opening track on this, plus "The Gods made Heavy Metal", are unbeatable as the perfect music to kick off an energized day of pipemaking.

2003 Yule

As I mentioned over in the Brittany blog, long and complex posts are on hold for the moment while we scramble to get caught up (and I have one very long and potentially contentious post in mind about the Pipemaker's Forum, but I'll need writing time available to handle the inevitable discussion that will raise). Thus, today's photo is a simple quickie - a test shot of one of the 2003 Ligne Bretagne Yule pipes. These pipes were, in many ways, the first beta tests of the new Ligne Bretagne "A" series pipes - that is to say, pipes made using cutters to "top" them to a common template, and finished from there primarily by hand. We had a very difficult time cutting these initial pipes, and didn't resolve our problems until a year later when we invested in some speed-changing pulleys for the big drilling & cutting machine. The 2003 Yule pipes are special in another way, also - they were the last Yule pipes that we produced in any form, under any of our various marques. I seriously doubt that I will make another Yule pipe series in my lifetime.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Works in Progress

Today's pic is our version of Mark Tinsky's popular "Today's Work" posts on alt.smokers.pipes. We're trying to get two specific, immedate requests filled, and also make some extra pipes for the website catalog. The three Talbert Briar stummels on the right are all variations done for a request for something similar to the Nordh "Rameses" shape - which I will readily admit is definitely not my cup of tea as pipe designs go. These three, when finished (if EVER finished - this project has been plagued by problems from the very start, with numerous discarded stummels - two of which can be seen at the top of the pic) are definitely going to be the only Talbert versions of the Rameses shape extant! To the left can be seen two designs of our own - a long and spiky shape that I made from a Rameses reject stummel, and a beautiful sea cucumber design that Emily created. I hope to have these finished and posted within the next two weeks, assuming nothing disastrous happens and I don't end up with another horrendous stomach flu.
In the foreground are some fun & happy bamboo-shank morta Classics, which I'm hoping can be finished also in the next week - I'd love to make a single catalog update of all of these new pipes.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Professionals buy Real Tools - Or Else

I read and participate a bit at the Pipemakers' Forum, and am occasionally amused at some of the posters' ideas of tool costs. For instance, Ken Lamb makes some of the best pipemaking tools in the business - custom-machined stuff that simply doesn't exist on the open market in other forms - yet I often hear folks deriding his pricing as "extreme" and "too high". For an amateur working on weekends, yes, but it's important to keep in mind that amateurs are not Ken's market (as if the warnings all over his site about not being responsible for beginners chopping their own arms and legs off aren't enough...). Anyone interested in becoming a professional pipemaker NEEDS professional tools - the casual observer might question how Pipemakers' Emporium could charge $600 for a tenon-turning machine when one can buy a tenon-turner from Pimo for $65... Well, start using your stuff hard on a daily basis and you'll find out quickly! The chuck in today's pic was my own lesson in this rule. I started out with this simple $50 chuck on my Jet lathe, unwilling to spend more when this one seemed just fine. In one year of use, I wore out the screws for the jaws completely, to the point that they would no longer tighten. The $50 replacement chuck wore out in seven months. Lesson? If you're going to be living with, and off of, your tools, buy it once and buy it right!

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Craig the Deranged

I was searching through my archive photos for something to post today when I came across this photo taken at TAPS in 2000. The lunatic-looking character is Craig Tarler of Cornell & Diehl, making his best silly face for the camera while Patty and Bob do their best to look respectable. The "open humidor" aspect of US pipe shows is one thing that I miss the most. In France, having open sampling tins is illegal under the byzantine French tobacco laws, so tobacconists can't showcase the wonderful "tobacco bars" that we have in the US, and pipe shows can't have open tobacco sampling. This is another great example of shooting your own foot off just to be different, for no good reason, since open sampling leads to a huge amount of sales (Try a free bowl, enjoy it, and buy two pounds on the spot!). If one can't sample the tobaccos, one is left looking at the pretty tin decorations and trying to judge what's inside based on nothing more than art and hyperbole ("Cool and mellow!"). Fortunately there are good online companies like Synjeco that provide useful descriptions and solid information.

Friday, January 06, 2006

BAC Art Pipes

BAC Art pipesare incredible. These amazingly detailed carvings are the work of pipemaker Bartlomiej Anotniewski of Poland. I was fortunate enough to see the BAC display at CORPS in 2000 and 2001, and I have followed their slow-but-steady success ever since with great interest. I found the carving really exceptional - far better than most of the cheap, poorly-hacked "carved" pipes that one finds everywhere, most of which look more like the weekend projects of whittlers than of real carvers. BAC is an exception, though, and quite an exception - one can see more (and better) photos of Bartlomiej's work here. I think that this paucity of photos is their main problem in online marketing. It's simply difficult to find good pictures of BAC pipes! Those that are presented, are typically only shown in one or two small, poorly-shot photos, so it's impossible to get a sense for how well-done the pipes really are. If one has the opportunity, check out the BAC display at your next show, and I predict you'll be impressed.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Alive again

I am happy to announce that reports of my death were (somewhat) extreme. I am, finally, beginning to claw and crawl my way back into a functional working schedule again, after way too many days of being incapacitated with really miserable stomach flu and high fever. One visit to our village doctor later (He even telephoned us over the weekend to check up on me at home - the Americans will have all fallen out of their seats at this...), and I am more or less back to normal (such as that is). We are kicking off the New Year with some of the new Ligne Bretagne "A" series pipes on the site, just posted today. This post isn't about these new pipes, however, as much as it is about our new digital camera.

Our old camera, which we've been using for all our site photography since the creation of Talbert Pipes, was something of roughly Jurassic era in technology terms, so I must ask forgiveness while I marvel at the new features that have become common in tiny handheld digital cameras since 1996. The story of why we have a new one, and what happened to the old, is told over in today's "Adventures in Brittany" blog entry. Our new one does something different - it takes videos as well. I wasn't looking for this feature, it just came with the camera that I wanted. These aren't "serious" videos like our digital video camera makes, but rather short 5-30 second Quicktime affairs. Enough to catch some interesting stuff, though, and it is considerably handier to transfer a ready-made MOV file from the cam to the blog than it is to copy digital videotape to the computer, then encode it, and then get 100 emails from people who don't like the file format I've chosen :) Since the camera videos are Quicktime-only, no alternatives, there's nothing I can (easily) do to offer varying sizes, but they will all be small anyway. The first little test of this feature can be had HERE - It isn't anything special or very interesting, just me playing with the newly-posted Ligne Bretagnes. But, I do expect it to be the start of more small, quick, "casual" video clips, which will probably become the bulk of the video on the site, leaving the digital videocamera for the longer and more serious stuff like David Field and me drinking Guinness on camera for an hour.