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

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


I don't really have the spare time to write anything today, but I wanted to share this silly photo that I made last night while doing more shots of the newest FdP pipes. The pipes look as if they're doing stage dancing - kick those stems up!

Edit: I just thought of two extra items to mention. One is that the P&P site should be going online in the nearer-near future, as opposed to the vaguely-near future. I'll report here ASAP when it does.

Also, in non-pipe news, Emily and I are going to be attending this year's Utopiales science-fiction convention in Nantes at the start of November. If anyone else in our area is going, drop me an email and maybe we can meet up for a lunch or something.

Friday, August 25, 2006

The World Weekly Pipester

Since I have several unrelated items to mention in this post, I'll adopt the handy format of some of our handy supermarket tabloid papers....

Flash!! Bizarre Briar Block found in Mysterious Hoard!
Searchers in the Talbert Pipes briar mountain today found this bizarre ebauchon in a bag of other, more conventional blocks. Interviewed on how it came to be and it's bizarre size and shape, pipemaker Talbert had this to say: "Hell if I know! It's weird. The shank is longer than any plateau block I have, but the thing is so thin you'd never get a bowl out of it unless the chamber was narrow as a pencil. This is what happens you start modifying crop genetics, I say!"

Last Angry Holdout finally caves, Gets MySpace Account
In other news, Pipemaker Trever Talbert appears again - Coincidence? We don't think so...
Officially identified as one of the last remaining curmudgeons who did not have MySpace accounts, Talbert has finally caved. "It was for family and friends", he claims, citing the fact that half the people he knows all have MySpace pages and he'd been repeatedly asked about his own. Regarding his entry into the twentieth century, Talbert comments, "Now, if anyone wants to know about my stupid hobbies or see what some passing fourteen year old has spammed my page with, they can just go here."

More Fumeurs de Pipe 2006 Pipes Sighted!
Seen recently in increasing numbers, this paper believes that these pipes may even now be filtering out into the wild, possibly spreading to your very own streets and villes. Eyewitness accounts report that they're all looking pretty neat, though they do vary a bit from one to the next - expert commentators attribute this to their handmade quality, though other sources cite the legendary eccentricities of their creator for the variations. We can't confirm until someone actually has one in hand, but this reporter believes at least a few of them are already in the mail.

France to go Smoke-Free in 2007?
In a blow to the French spirit of individuality, France expects next year to fall in line behind England, Ireland, and other EU nations in adopting sweeping laws outlawing smoking in public spaces such as restaurants and bars. Fortunately, angry French tobacconists are already planning ongoing protests, and claim they will blockade the Champs d'Elysée with seventy-thousand packages of soggy Gaulloises if the ban goes through. Cowardly as always, the current administration is already backpedaling, and offering concessions in the form of private clubs, separate air-cleaned rooms, and other special dispensations. But will this hold if tough-talking potential president Sarko takes office next year? Stay tuned!

Crazed Herbignac resident responds to Smoking Ban
In our letters to the editor, we find this excited missive from a resident of Herbignac, in the 44. "Smoking bans? In France? By golly, if they're going to make restaurants smoke-free, when are they gonna make them child-free too? I'm sick of hearing those brats cry and squeal, and it's disgusting watching them smear food all over themselves! I paid for a fine dining experience. If other people can get smoking banned just because they don't like it, why can't I ban children in public?? GAAAHHH!!"

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


Stubbies! If my pipes have a common theme, it is usually "long and curvy" - Even my straight pipes tend to be long in the shank and stem. However, I know there are fans out there of short and squat pipes, so I did these two, both of which are shorter-stemmed than my usual, while still having nice group 5-sized bowls. They're both earmarked for Pipe & Pint, but they will be here for at least a week since Larry has to be away from the shop, and I've set them aside to wait until he's back. If anyone on this side of the ocean wants one of them in the meantime, just drop me an email. The short-stemmed cumberland pipe is 299 €, and the natural is 383 €.

In other news, the first FdP pipe will be shipping out tomorrow to its new owner! I have started finishing and photographing the pipes, and am emailing the various people who requested one with pics of what is available, in order of the list that I have. I'll just go from person to person, one at a time, until everyone has a pipe they like. This will probaby take at least a month or more, to get everyone. Here is a photo of one of the earliest pipes finished, a higher grade than average due to an extremely dramatic sandblast (Most of the blasts will probably be 187 € TTC):

Thursday, August 17, 2006

FdP Pipes

The FdP pipes are underway! I just put seven through final stage boiling last night, along with two others that were cut to be FdPs but didn't work out (In both cases, I had the blocks not quite centered enough to allow the FdP pipe's wide flat bottom). So far I've had three discards, and just one of this bunch looks to be a smooth - I'm prone to think that I'll end up doing orders for smooths totally by hand, in order to maximize the chances of getting a flawless block. We'll see how it goes. I know they're pretty uninspiring to look at now, but I hope they'll be a good bit more interesting when I start finishing them this weekend and next week.

In other news, the Talbert Pipes website now has a Search page! This will allow searches of the entire website, including all the catalogs, galleries, resource area, and both blogs' archives. I hope it will be helpful, especially to those who might come looking for some page they remembered reading two years ago, and now can't find without endless clicking. I've added a link to the Search page to the links to the left, also, for convenient searching from the blog.

Entertainment-hungry pipemakers, and any other music fans, I've found a neat site to play with -
Anyone who's made pipes fulltime, or even seriously part-time, knows what I speak of when I mention monotony... While the carving and shaping is exciting and fun, and the finished products are joys to hold, there are many hours of dull repetition in every pipe. The handcutting of the bit, the filing, the sanding, the sanding, the sanding... Having something to listen to during this work is crucial for the sanity. I favor audiobooks. I love music too (The FdP pipes were all drilled and cut during an all-day George Thorogood fest for maximum *Barhah*!). The problem with music is the over-use factor - Once you've gone through your collection for the fortieth time, it can get grinding. is a neat idea in internet radio - You create your own radio stations by entering a band or song style that you like. The site then searches its music archives for similar music based on vocals, styles, tempo, etc, and creates a radio station for you stocked with tunes by the band in question plus endless new songs from groups you've never heard of - complete with titles, links to band pages, etc. It's a great way to get lots of free new music that you're actually very likely to enjoy, unlike the radio! Hook up a pair of wireless headphones, and I'm all set for another ten hour stint of sanding Grendel claws.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

The Naked Pipe

Today's photos show a couple of new Talbert Briar sandblasts in a way that usually only I ever see - totally unfinished. Even unstained blasts are normally finished by wax or shellac. Until these two, I have never offered for sale any pipe which was not somehow waxed or protected. However, these two pipes can be regarded as a test offer, to see what buyers think. The beauty of leaving the pipes unfinished is that it showcases the detailing of my sandblasting better than any finish could - the minute details are laid bare in such a way that only the most flawless pieces can actually be left without some sort of stain or finish, as the tiniest defect will become obvious this way.

Due to Blogger's image size limits, the thumbnail pic here links to a scaled-down image - nicely-sized for viewing, but smaller than the original. To see the full hi-res photo in all its 4 meg glory, go here.

I've noticed in recent years that some makers and marques were selling unfinished pipes - that is to say, pipes without a surface treatment, not pipes that were not completed! ;) I have resisted this because of what I consider good reasons - wood needs a finish or it can become rather ugly. The open wood absorbs oils from handling very quickly and the color begins to darken and change on the outer edges, coloring where it is handled most. This can give a splotchy, dirty appearance (especially if the pipes are handled with dirty hands!), and while a brand-new unfinished pipe may look beautiful, I am always mindful of how a pipe will look a few years down the road. However, I've spoken to a few collectors who love unfinished pipes for this very reason - they like watching them darken and think of the oil absorption as patina. After a recent chat with my friend Erwin on the subject of a new pipe he'd just bought (unfinished), I figured I would put the question to my buyers and see what they thought.

Thus, these two pipes are both for sale - direct sale, for the moment - and the buyer can choose which he'd prefer, to leave the pipe as it is (totally unfinished) or to apply a thin wax & shellac as normal, changing the color to the usual pale gold/blond of "virgin" finishes. I'll get to individual notes and prices in a moment, but first I'll reiterate the pluses and minuses of leaving them unfinished:

The Good: It shows off the sandblasting detail better than any waxed or shellacked finish. Pinpoint detail is amazing.

The Bad: They'll both gradually turn brown as they are handled, and it won't be like the gradual darkening that results from smoking (that is, even), it will be uneven and splotchier where the bowl is handled the most. Mindful owners may need to rotate the pipes in their fingers to keep the coloring consistent.

(I received this email from my friend Erwin, which I'm posting with his permission as it deals with this cleaning issue: "Trever, in your blog you stress the fact that an "unfinished" pipe tends to get dirty very quickly. (and I don't mean the normal darkening). True. But if you have potential customers who are worried about this dirty look, you can reassure them. From time to time, I cork the chamber of my unfinished pipes and then I scrub them with a brush, soap and water. The patina stays, but the dirt is gone. And after rinsing and drying with a towel, the wood dries up in only a minute or two. So this kind of pipe that seems quite difficult to take care of, actually is very easy to clean. ")

Now, as to the pipes...

The ring-grain pot shape IS SOLD - is one of the better sandblasts I have done. The photos tell the story. The ring grain, and the level of detail of that grain, is exceptional. It has a cumberland acrylic stem - a softer blend of acrylic which I personally love, with swirled and mottled colors similar to cumberland vulcanite but milder in contrast. It is an average size pipe, probably goup 4, though it looks rather small in comparison to the big & burly Dublin. Graded 4B and priced at 530 euros, it is one tick below being the highest grade of sandblast I conceivably manufacture (and to date I have not made a grade 5).

The Dublin pipe IS SOLD - is a burly beast, with a large bowl, thick walls, lots of "meat" around the bowl, and even a thicker bit than usual, ideal for those prone to heavy clenching. It is a pipe meant to be smoked! It also offers a beautiful, flawless display of unfinished grain which would be dazzling on its own and only seems lesser here in comparison to the stacked grain of the pot. It is a grade 3B and costs 408 euros.

Buyers, let me know what you prefer, a finish or no finish! Here's your chance to determine just how your new pipe will look. And everyone else, please click on Comments below and leave a message as to whether you'd prefer an unfinished pipe or not - I'd like to see a running vote on how many would be interested in such pipes and how many would not be. (Please don't email me your prefs - leave them as comments - as I want to have the votes all in one spot for easy reference in future).

For the time being these pipes are for sale direct. If they don't sell during the next week or so, however, I will finish them and ship them on to Pipe & Pint, as I need to get started on the FdP pipe soon and I don't want them hanging about in the workshop for a long time.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Why I Never Answer the Phone

Today I have a quick photo of four new Ligne Bretagne Canadians that I just finished to send over to Pipe & Pint. I particularly enjoyed sandblasting these, even thought they couldn't be blasted very deeply. Nonetheless, I am still finding our media "revision" to be fun to work with, although the cabinet's new foot pedal valve has already (!) begun to act very stiffly, wanting to stick unless the line is fully pressurized. Looks like I'll lose another hour taking it back apart and greasing it, I suppose...

Check out the close-up pic of the very pretty horn stem on that natural Canadian - Very nice. The bit itself is as thick and bluntly-cut as all of these horn stems are, but it's hard to beat for beauty of material. If anyone is interested in buying one of these direct, before they go to Pipe & Pint, get in touch quick, as always - We'll probably put them in the mail in the next day or two.

France's country code is 33, and our phone number is That said, one should not expect to catch me by telephone easily. I felt I ought to post something because, it being vacation month, I've gotten more calls recently from people wanting to know if they can stop by for a visit while they're in the area. Or to be more precise, more calls have turned up on the answering machine, because I filter calls ruthlessly. Unless I am expecting a call, I never, ever pick up the telephone.

It isn't from lunacy or tinfoil-hat paranoia, though I have my quirks. No, the reasons I never answer can be listed as such:

1. Usually the calling number is blocked. Our machine shows us numbers, and if it's blocked, it's probably phone spam. I detested telemarketers in the US and I have absolutely no desire to try to deal with one in a foreign language, who won't even understand the rude things I'd say to him. So, no identifiable number, no pick-up.

2. If it isn't a blocked number, it's probably a call in French. I am quite proud to say that I've had, this year, several phone calls in French which I have actually understood - a stunning accomplishment, since French without visible body language is much harder to decipher. One must picture me here hanging up from a call entirely in French... very simple French, granted... and then sitting back looking quite stunned and surprised, like a hedgehog that's just sneezed out a live octopus. I don't expect to understand French calls, so I am still startled when I can. But, that doesn't mean I wouldn't rather have Emily do the français whenever possible, because she's so much better at it and she can handle all the things I can't follow, like big numbers. So, if she's not around, the machine gets the call.

3. Probably neither of us heard the phone ring anyway. I wear wireless headphones and listen to music and audiobooks on the computer; Emily wears MP3 headphones and listens to audiobooks on her portable player. Thus, neither of us can hear much that's quieter than gunshots, explosions, and giant monster attacks. It isn't uncommon to find that we've got five messages on the machine during an afternoon and have never heard the thing ring once.

4. The call is at an incredibly weird hour. I still get my share of calls from the US at 2 in the morning, after a long day of work when we're both flopped on the couch to watch a quick hour of TV before bed. Given the hours I usually work, when I knock off, I knock off.

5. I have forgotten again and left the phone off the hook for two solid days. Yes, I am that scatter-brained. Our phone, bizarrely, does not have a switch to turn the ringer off, but it does have a switch to take it "off hook". Given the prevalence of late-night calls from overseas, I take it off the hook before bed. And quite often totally forget to put it back on the hook again next morning. We really have gone two days thinking the phone's been awfully quiet before I thought to check the little LED display and see if it said "EXT".

So, what to do if you want to call us and speak to a real human being? Letting me know in advance by email helps, so we'll know to actually listen for rings during a specific afternoon. Otherwise, it's pretty much down to having a recognizable number and being willing to leave a message (I think my friend Juan has figured this out because he always leaves messages and we always grab for the phone, if we actually hear it ring). The odds of the phone being on the hook and one of us being in the house near the phone to hear it ring (at some time when we aren't eating or quit work for the evening) are pretty tiny, so until I can afford a full-time secretary, you probably won't have an easy time reaching us by telephone.......

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Emily makes pipes too

Today's pic shows a couple of new pipes destined for Pipe & Pint. The green one is a bit of a tip of the hat to Will Purdy, as the idea came from his Alchemist shapes. We haven't made a green pipe for a month or so, so it was obviously time.

The title today refers to a fact that seems to still surprise a lot of people - Emily makes pipes also! I was prompted to write about this after a recent visitor expressed surprise all over again when he was shown her work station and told she was an equal contributor in the pipemaking. Oddly, the French seem to have an even harder time with this than the Americans, but then I've noticed that sexism is still stronger and more entrenched here than it was in the states (Em has bristled on a number of occasions at being told, "That is not work for a woman", in totally casual fashion, as if it was not a radically sexist statement).

Despite having made LBs, mortas, and Talbert Briars for four years now, her invisible status continues.

When Dave Field was here, we laughed about it, calling her the best totally-unknown pipemaker working today, but it wasn't all that far from the truth. While I continue to carry the spotlight and present the customer relations face in the form of this blog, website work, and email communication, Emily has gradually moved more and more into pipemaking over these last few years.

When we began, it was a long road - longer than I'd expected, really. Em is quite talented at all things craft-ish, carries an arts degree, and is particularly good at fiber art and jewelry. Thus, we'd both assumed she could learn pipemaking quickly, but alas, her own nitpicky nature stretched the training process out a good bit longer than expected. Where I will learn a new trick and then immediately dive off into trying a dozen variations and deviations from it, Emily prefers to repeat the new trick 50 times until she has totally mastered it, before taking another step.

We found out early on that, due to the quirks of the market, her selling value would be an uphill struggle. At first, I would comment on each pipe as to who made it, but it quickly became obvious that buyers would skip over her pipes and go for mine instead, regardless of comparative quality, apparently preferring mine for name value alone. We didn't have the luxury for slow sales to build an independant reputation for her, so I quickly stopped identifying who made what and suddenly her pipes began to sell again.... once buyers believed that I made them! Sales-wise, over the past two years, I've seen virtually no difference between the enthusiasm and speed with which her work sales or my own. It seems obvious that buyers like her shapes and detailing just fine, they just want to think I made the pipe!

However, Talbert Pipes is a team effort. Our work is so intertwined that it's often hard to say who made what, and many times we will share work on the same pipe or set of pipes. Two heads are far better than one at a job like this - The benefits of having another pair of eyes to judge, critique, and evaluate is essential, and having another head that knows the equipment and materials and can help puzzle out problem solutions can be life-saving. For its first few years of existence, Talbert Pipes was me, but for some years now - and moreso today than ever - Talbert Pipes is Us. A jointly owned and operated workshop where we both do equal work and co-mingle our various strengths and aptitudes to make a superior pipe all-around.

I bring this up because the two pipes pictured today are perfect examples. One was made 100% by Emily, one by me. And I'm not telling which! But I'm so happy with the two of them that if I could afford to, I'd keep them both :D