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Saturday, November 25, 2006

FdP Pipe Adventures

Today's pipe photo is an entertainingly weird morta churchwarden done on the sidelines of the FdP pipe work. I'm not quite sure what will become of it yet - I had a request several months ago for a smooth morta that was "not a pot", but odds are that this is a bit more unusual than the fellow had in mind. In any case, it will most likely go to Pipe & Pint if he doesn't get it, nor anyone else buy it direct. It seems very seasonal, somehow, though - Something to smoke beside a Christmas tree and a crackling fire.
Edit: Indeed, the fellow ended up buying a different morta from me, so this churchwarden is available - The price is 225 € HT, or 269 € with VAT if one lives in the EU.

The FdP pipe adventures continue! I've just finished another five and emailed various folks, and I hope to shortly have at least three more of the larger, plateau briar versions with the natural plateau tops to offer on the newsgroup. By my count I've got about eight or nine more to do, depending on how the current sales go. As expected, several of the fellows who requested pipes have simply vanished - no reply emails, no contact - so I've crossed them off the list (Merciless, yes, but I just don't have the time to try and chase people down). The schedule has had to be accelerated a good bit in order to get all the pipes out by Christmas, since I really don't want to still be working on these things during the holidays. Right now I'm pretty much working on the schedule of - Email photos, wait one day, and if there's no reply, email them to the next fellow.

The only real sticking point remaining are the horn stems, which are nearly exhausted. I think I have perhaps three or four usable stems left, unless I can somehow modify some of our other horn stems to a saddle shape (reshaping a tapered stem to a saddle can be done, but it's a lot of extra work and it requires a really thick saddle stem to allow proper shaping of the round portion of a saddle.... which just means some digging through the horn stems will be required). But, most folks have been happy to get ebonite stems instead, so all seems OK there.

On another subject, Blogger has upgraded my account to their new Blogger Beta, which seems much more reliable to post with, but also seems to have produced the unfortunate effect that my archive links don't work now. One can still backtrack through the postings by clicking on individual post titles, but the 'October 2005, November 2005, etc' links no longer work. Grrr. No idea what caused this, but I don't have the time to hunt through their help FAQs now - it will just have to wait a few weeks.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

More Sandblasting Variance

Today's pic is a funny photo I took of one of my pipes and one by Paul Bonaquisti. It's a classic example of just how much sandblasted surfaces can vary, when you toss in all the variables of different media, different tools, different ways of handling the tools, and different briar. Paul's pipe is the one on the left - Emily bought it as a birthday surprise for me at the CORPS show back in 99 or 2000, I can't recall which. It, like mine, is unstained, but it's had at least six years of regular smoking to darken the color of the wood to its current state. The Dublin on the right is mine, a pipe just finished for a special order, and one I'm really proud of because it gave an excellent blast - Usually briar with rings this tight is very resistant to any sort of depth, but this one came out pretty well. At the moment I am waiting to hear back if it is sold or not; otherwise I will either post it to the catalog or send it to Larry.

I've told people before that half of why I can do good sandblasts is that I usually pick briar for its sandblasting qualities before I even start a pipe - that is, I'll intend for the pipe to be a blast going in, and purposefully choose a block of briar that will provide a good blast. That's why the Dublin above was such a pleasant surprise - I really didn't expect it to do so well. Once you know what to look for, it's fairly easy to sand off the sides of a briar block and see the shadows of the age rings in the wood. They're visible almost as shadows, faint ripples of tone shift running perpendicular to the direction of the grain. Blocks like Paul's are the best choices, with good wide rings, because the more space there is between rings, the deeper the blast can usually go and the more easy it it to precisely aim the blasting nozzle. Tight rings like mine displays are a more difficult nut to crack, and in truth they usually produce underwhelming sandblasts - typically being fairly shallow though quite detailed. Finding a block that is soft enough between the rings to allow any depth to the blast, even when they are this tight, is a rare wonder indeed!

Thursday, November 09, 2006


Before I ramble about today's pipe pic, let me mention that the Talbert Nosferatu, one of the more outstanding examples of my very first set of Halloween pipes, is now relisted on ebay. This poor pipe has had a time - first the auction was sabotaged by someone who's since been banned from ebay, and then the listing was refused by an ebay employee for being "drug paraphernalia"!! Truly, we live in strange days.

Today's pipe photo is the latest Moebius Bolus, done for a special order dating back several months at least. I don't know if it is sold yet - haven't heard back from the fellow who ordered it - so for the moment it is lurking patiently on my desk. It's a fantastic piece, with an incredible sandblast, but I can't take that much credit since the briar was extremely blast-friendly. It did make me think of saying a couple words about revisiting pipe designs, though.

Unfortunately, the problem is that I'm not sure what to say!

On the one hand, doing version after version of a design can often improve the original concept, whittling away rough edges here and there, and tweaking the positive aspects to turn a good shape into an excellent one. It's an evolutionary process that often sees the latter copies looking much more attractive and polished than the earlier examples.

However, there is a flip side to this - Often this process of polishing can also smooth down the very rough edges that give a design vitality, transforming it from a flawed-yet-dynamic original to a very civilized later version that has lost the sense of energy in the design. There is a fine line between smoothing away the wrinkles to create a more attractive result, and smoothing away the wrinkles to create a more dull result. I'm pleased that this particular Moebius Bolus is still plenty strange looking, and I can only hope that, as I make others, the evolution of the shape will be positive!