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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Collector 32

Happy Halloween! Today's pipe pic is another "wild thing", and as usual it comes with a little story. This is the 32nd Ligne Bretagne Collector grade pipe - at 290 € it is very nearly the most expensive Ligne Bretagne ever made (This pipe is now SOLD - thanks!), and it's also different from other LBs in having an acrylic stem instead of an ebonite one.

The thing is, it was meant to be a Talbert Briar.

I'd picked the block specially because I knew the briar would give a good sandblast, shaped the thing to highlight the grain pattern, and was well on my way to making a really excellent Signature-grade Talbert Briar (costing over 550 €) when a slight drilling slip put the mortise inside the olivewood decor ring off-center to the olivewood ring itself. With the stem inserted, this is invisible, and the airhole still connects perfectly for easy pipecleaner passage.

BUT... I dunno, it just bugged me. I've seen far more expensive pipes with more glaring flaws, but in the end I decided not to stamp it a Talbert, and instead to finish it as a LB Collector. Emily's opinion was that, "Someone's going to get an incredibly nice pipe for the price" and I think so, too - in fact, this is one of the few I make each year that I'm really tempted to keep for myself. The sandblast is simply terrific, and it has a large bowl yet is deceptively lightweight.

Sometimes one will encounter pipe people who question this whole idea of "flawed" pipes - When I first set up my online catalog, I listed both positives and negatives for each pipe I posted. Many collectors appreciated this approach and the candor involved, but others sometimes seemed to miss the point... I've received occasional questions like, "You list these negative points about this pipe. If these are flaws, should you even be selling it? Don't all real pipemakers only sell their very best, and discard everything that isn't perfect?" They seemed to think that I was somehow trying to foist off flawed pipes, without understanding the difference between flaws and flaws. I can pick out flaws on any pipe - any pipe. The real question is whether the flaws are the result of poor craftsmanship, briar faults, or simple minor accidents (as in this case). Every pipe comes with some combination of these three types of flaws, and the real question is how to balance the "perfectness" of the pipe with the price level it's being marketed to.

Which reminds me that someday soon, I need to write an article about how sometimes it's far more important that a pipe have overall verve than a polished mortise interior... but that's for another day!