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Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Best Advice I've Never Gotten

The sun is out here! C'est bizarre. The skies are blue and clear and everything. This is so strange and startling that I tried taking some pipe photos today by natural lighting..... with mixed results, as you can see, but as these pipes are also destined for P&P, I wasn't too worried about making showcase photos for them. If anyone wants to buy this bamboo-shanked Talbert Briar direct, it's available this weekend, but will probably ship out Monday. It's a grade 2B, 437 € - a great big thing with plenty of "splash". I have no idea why, but I just wanted to make a flat-bottomed freehand that would balance on its base and generally be a good sitter. The stem is a custom color of cast acrylic, and is a bit thicker than my norm, as this material can be more fragile when cut too thin (Meaning, I hope no one buys this pipes, thinks, "This bit is too thick! I'm going to file it thinner.", and then does so, and then promptly bites the bit off) I find it plenty comfortable as it is, though, it's just on the thicker side.

I've also got a nice bamboo-shanked Morta Classic on hand, but I think it may be sold. Time will tell... Also, I just spoke with Larry again about the long-delayed Pipe & Pint website and it appears to be an active project again. With any luck, I may have good news to post on it in coming weeks.

There is a thread on the Pipemakers' Forum titled "Best Advice You've Gotten", posing the question of what is the best advice anyone has given you during your pipemaking career. I can't answer it easily, though, because I have no single "best". I've gotten a lot of excellent advice from more pipemakers than I can easily count, on all sorts of subjects, but sometimes the best advice I learn from is the kind that isn't given, but experienced. For instance......

There was the time that I cast an amber acrylic of my own, and filed it very thin, and sold it.. and it came back within a year, bitten through. That was good advice about the survivability of a fragile material when sent into the world in a fragile state.

And then there was the pipe I kept to smoke myself, early on, because it seemed to have a fairly thin wall. I wasn't sure if it would be OK to sell. This was a wise decision, because within two bowls the thin area began to turn actively darker until I had a round black spot on the bowl exterior. That was good advice on what constituted workable bowl wall thicknesses.

When I was learning to cast acrylic, there were several times when I added too much catalyst to the mixture, resulting in too much heat, resulting in beautiful plates of colored acrylic that were totally filled with a hundred cracks and splits internally. This was like flushing $50 bills over and over.

I inherited a lot of horn stems when I purchased this business & workshop. They all seemed thick at the bit to me, so I made one for myself and filed it down to what seemed like a proper thickness level. On the first smoke, I put a tooth through it. That was good advice on the reality that sometimes what may seem to be bad crafting may actually be needed compensation for limitations in a material or a design.

And of course, Emily just recently got some very good advice about how important it is NOT to hold your file in your hand by the pointy end.

I envy people who can learn from rote text - I've never been very good at it. I learn best by doing, by working, and by getting my hands dirty with a project and seeing first-hand what works and what doesn't. If I sit and read a set of instructions, I don't retain it very well unless I go and do it immediately. I guess the fumbles are just my natural way of learning, because I certainly don't forget them!

Oh, and the best advice I've ever given? "Wireless headphones" And I can follow that up with another secret magic pipemaker tip - http://www.icebergradio.com/. When you're doing this round the clock, all day, every day, it doesn't take long before you listen your way through your entire CD collection until you're sick of it... and then your audiobook collection... and no one wants radio commercials or obnoxious DJs (a breed which needs to be actively exterminated from the human gene pool as soon as conceivably possible). Discovering Iceberg internet radio was a god-send - Piles of channels of free internet streaming radio grouped into handy commercial-free themes. I spend at least a third of my workshop time grooving to the Drifters and others on one of the many 60's channels. Metal? Would you like death metal, hair metal, black metal, speed metal, or the roots of metal? There are classical stations. A neat Celtic station. Even a horror-themed program that's updated weekly! It's really a wonderful thing, and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for workshop entertainment to carry you through that third hour of fine-sanding.....