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Friday, June 29, 2007

Sandblasts = Flawed?

Biz News - I just posted two new sandblasted Talbert Briars last night. One is already sold, but there's a big freehand remaining, and I still have a few Talbert Mortas and Ligne Bretagnes in stock. I doubt there will be many more of either posted in July, as I'll be making almost entirely Talbert Briars for the Rheinbach show.

A number of pipe collectors believe sandblasts are innately flawed, and seconds in comparison to smooths. I don't believe this, obviously, as I very much enjoy sandblasted surfaces, but I'll go one further and say that I think sandblasts are actually more likely to be free of potentially dangerous flaws than smooth pipes are. Yes, they had minor surface pits which caused them to be blasted, but the process of blasting exposes a much greater surface area, especially if it's done deeply, and offers greater chances of uncovering anything dastardly that might be lurking just under that shiny exterior.

Consider the pic above. Yep, I had yet another discard. This was the prototype stummel for the new Walrus shape that everyone else thinks looks like a whale. The stummel seemed very nearly flawless - In fact, it was a close thing as to whether it would be sandblasted or not. The surface only showed a few minor pits that might be eliminated with some sanding. But, I am lazy - I do not hold my tendency to sandblast everything as any great indicator of personal perfectionism regarding briar flaws, but rather a total lack of interest in (and annoyance with) the usual methods required to hide or camouflage the tiny surface spots that appear on almost all briar. I enjoy the process of blasting, and prefer to do it given virtually any excuse. In this case, I unfortunately left the blasting until later. I shaped the stummel, had it fitted with a stem, and it was essentially finished but for blasting and staining when I began to uncover "the flaw" in the sandblasting cabinet. What resembled on the smooth surface a small sandpit defect widened under sandblasting, and also deepened... and kept deepening! You will have to enlarge the photo above to see the problem, and I have a thin red line draw on the picture just under the long black line in the wood - a black fissure which was about 1cm wide and which ran from just below the outer surface to apparently mere millimeters from the bowl wall. The inner bowl wall was perfectly clean and innocent to see, but the wall thickness in the hollowed crevice above was down to about .5cm and the flaw is still clearly visible.

Bleagh.

The irony that the pipe could have been finished as a smooth, showing only the minor dot of the outer part of this fissure, is not lost on me. But again, this makes my point - Sandblasts may be considered "seconds", but they are actually more likely to be free of major defects than smooths can be, because potential problems show more readily during blasting.

In the end, I lost a day's working time but gained a three-dimensional model for future Walruses (Walrii?). I'd love to see a herd of these things together someday.