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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.