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Saturday, July 15, 2006

Why Experimentation is Good

Today's blog post was meant to be all about my recent adventures with my sandblaster - adventures which have now reached a happy conclusion thanks to surprising intervention by no less than both the European distributor and the American manufacturer of the equipment. I now find myself with a greatly fixed & repaired cabinet, working vacuum, and also a much better sandblasting media to work with. The whole story will be in the next post, but for now I am going to tell the tale of the first product of this revitalized sandblasting procedure, Ligne Bretagne Collector #31.

For starters, like most LB Collectors, this was meant to be a Talbert Briar - and not just any Talbert Briar, but a showcase piece in several ways. I have a box of perhaps twenty of the largest, ODA+ sized, massively long Algerian blocks that I have ever seen. I'm talking about fist-sized blocks that are as long as DVD cases (and in case anyone inquires, no, I'm sorry, but I don't use any of these blocks for special orders - I hoard them greedily for my own personal projects). This pipe was intended to, well, "show off" a bit... to be impressive to those in the know with how centered the airhole drilling was despite the great length of the shank (due to normal bit wander with small airhole bits, it's often as much luck as skill to get the drilling correct on a very long-shanked pipe). The original shank was a good 4cm longer than it is currently.

So, the mortise is drilled, the airhole is centered at both ends, and all is well. I look forward to producing one of my very, very few-ever "plus size" Talberts which will sell for a 500 €+ pricetag. Unfortunately, when I mounted the pipe to flatten off the end of the shank, disaster struck. The great weight of the pipe over-torqued the mount and the pipe split off the rod, breaking a big chunk out of the shank on one side of the mortise.

Argh!!

So, there I was, picking up this ruined, formerly eye-popping Canadian-shanked bulldog from the floor, watching another big chunk of work get thrown out the window. I wondered if it would be possible to salvage the pipe, not as the wild piece it was but as a more "normally" proportioned Danish-ey style. The problem that immediately presented itself can be seen in the pic drawing - the original airhole and mortise were drilled at such angles that, while they were centered, it would be impossible to drill a new mortise with the airhole centered in the bottom.

At this point I would normally have been forced to throw the pipe away, because I don't make Talberts that won't take a pipecleaner all the way through. However, by happy chance, I had recently been doing some experiments aimed at finding solutions to just this problem, and it seemed like a perfect opportunity to use my new trick again.

I drilled the new mortise. Drat! It wasn't perfectly centered to the airhole - I knew the airhole would be high in the bottom, but it was even off a touch to one side (drilling the mortise after the airhole and trying to get it centered is a much stickier problem than simply drilling the mortise and starting off your airhole drill in the bottom center). But, my magical new guided tenon airhole could make short work of that problem, and with a bit of fiddling, I produced another stem featuring a gently curved airhole through the tenon - It tilts upwards to meet the offset airhole in the mortise and cleaners slide through with nary a problem.

There was a little debate about how to finish it, but even though it came out very nicely, I knew I didn't want to put the Talbert stamp on anything with an off-center airhole (Knowing full well that, despite the elegance of the fix and how neatly it works together, someone, somewhere, would one day pick the thing up at a pipe show and exclaim, "Gee, that Talbert guy sure didn't know how to drill, did he?"). So, it became one of the nicest Ligne Bretagne Collectors ever to bear the name. I know some folks will balk at what they see as a high price for a Ligne Bretagne, but as I look at it sitting here on my flat desktop, perfectly balanced on its rounded bottom point like a little craggy scorpion with tail upraised, I know there's no way I'd take a penny less. If anything, it will probably end up in my own collection !

So now that the story is told, I want to add my own sad goodbye to Bo Nordh, recently departed. I know everyone has probably already seen this on the various pipe forums, but I haven't posted elsewhere about it simply because I didn't know what to say, it's such a blow to the pipe world. I never got to meet Bo in life, which I really regret, so I'll smoke a bowl for him tonight - the man who made this stuff look so easy!