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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Different Tricks

The pipe in today's pic is another one done to send over to Pipe & Pint, which will probably be going into the post tomorrow or the next day. Larry is going to be getting a lot of boxes over the course of next month!

Back before we moved to France, I mixed a lot of my own acrylic for my stem material, and my favorite stock of my own creation was a dark, seaweed-ey green material I dubbed "Sargasso". I made several pokers this way that I called "Old Sea Captains", which all featured extraordinarily craggy black sandblasted bowls, handcut silver bands, and this dark green Sargasso stem material.

When it was time to move, I had to use up the last of my liquid acrylic stock so I cast two big plates, one of amber and one of Sargasso. Or so I thought! Judging Sargasso was always a problem - What looked too dark in the mold was just right in reality, and what looked right in the mold ended up too bright, as with the stem in today's photo. Rather than the dark, seaweed-filled, murky green that I was trying for, this entire block came out quite bright and clear and really very beautiful - more like crystal clear Caribbean water than anything Sargasso-esque. I still have most of that green plate to use, and have been making stems from it rarely, only when I have a project that seems perfect for the material.

Since I hadn't done a green pipe yet this summer, this was the perfect project!

None of this relates to the "Different Tricks" of the title, however. That's a reference to the engineering of this pipe, which is an alternative way of dealing with a particular pipe design problem. As can be seen in the drawing, the "S" curve pipe presents a serious challenge in drilling. The angle of the airhole must be such that the pipemaker essentially has two choices - drill the airhole high in the mortise and disallow pipecleaner passage, or drill it centered in the mortise through some type of trick drilling, usually involving capping off the shank end to cover the very offset entry point of the airhole bit.

Hell, this is definitely too difficult to describe...

I sum up - Usually, either such pipes won't pass cleaners, or they won't pass drill bits, ie, it isn't possible to run a bit through the shank in later years to ream out the gradually-caking airhole. I've used this alternative method before in pipes I've made for testers, but not in a "real" pipe for sale. Basically, I moved the angle bend into the tenon, so the cleaner could still pass easily, following the airhole through the curve inside the tenon and guiding it directly into the offset-drilled mortise/shank airhole. This way, the shape can be made, the shank can be reamed over time, and there isn't any odd drilling to have to disguise.

The question, as always, is whether buyers will see the offset airhole on the tenon tip and shriek, "This isn't what we know! We fear it!" :) It functions the same as any normal centered airhole, but pipe buyers can be a notoriously conservative lot sometimes...