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Friday, August 31, 2007

New Stuff



Biz news - (Third repeat today, sorry, but I'm trying to keep this from getting buried as I add more articles) New pipes are up! There are new Talbert Briars and new Ligne Bretagnes. There were also a couple of new mortas, but they both sold almost immediately. I'll be very curious to hear what people think of the new smooth Talberts, and somebody should pounce on LB #07-32 very quickly as that is one extremely neat finish for the money.

I mentioned earlier that I'd spent most of August experimenting instead of making pipes. This connects back to my last post about Open Source Pipemaking.. I came home with a lot of new ideas to try. Conversations with Danish and German pipemakers offered some interesting new techniques in finishing, and I couldn't resist spending some time slicing up briar discard blocks to test these ideas in combination with each other, and also in concert with new sandblast finishes. I think this may influence my future work, or at least I hope so - I've just posted some new, high grade smooths to the catalog that I'm quite proud of, but unfortunately I've sometimes had to fight a bit with "typecasting" when selling smooths before. I like making them, but a lot of buyers seem to want to only come to me for dramatic sandblasts, and smooths can end up sitting unsold (I continue to boggle over why the Suscinio didn't sell immediately, and is still here three weeks later, when it is simply a magnificent piece of briar). I do hope I can sell more smooths - I'd hate to be stuck making nothing but sandblasts, because I know I'd come to resent the work in short order.

The photo above is of one set of tests - different methods of achieving those wonderful stark black grain contrasts. There are actually four different methods in play there. From left to right, the first is a deep orange over black, the second is a bright yellow over black, the third is just black contrast stain with no top color, and the fourth utilizes a wood coloring method I've sometimes used that simulates aging, with contrast stain applied on top. Expect to see any and all of these finishes appearing on pipes in the future!

I haven't forgotten sandblasting, though:



My intention is to marry my own techniques for sandblast staining with some of the tricks picked up from round-table chat at Rheinbach to produce some new and unique sandblasted finishes. Here are three examples in the photo, midway along their trek, with dark brown, black, and mahogany contrast stains applied. They'll each be getting a final coloring to check compatibility and appearance, and eventually the results of this work will be appearing in the catalog as brand new finishes. (FWIW, the left block is contrast dark brown intended to mate with a yellow top coat, the center is contrast black to mate with an orange top coat, and the right piece is mahogany contrast to mate with a pale yellow tint to create a really nice golden orange blast finish

But there's no need to wait, as there are already pipes posted using some of these methods... This Ligne Bretagne, for instance!
What I love about this look is that it creates extra contrast and drama in the surface of the blast texture, even on pipes that have shallower blasts (A frequent problem on some of the thinner-walled Ligne Bretagne stummels). In this way, I can give a 100 € pipe a finish comparable to a 500 € pipe in a way that's economically feasible, which makes everyone happy. It may not have the actual physical depth of a Talbert Briar blast, but it has a richness of color and contrast that make it stand out, IMO.

My pipes are changing in other ways - Recent buyers can probably attest that I've been gradually changing my bits, with the latest ones being considerably thinner and with much deeper V slots in the mouthpieces. I think this is an improvement. Also, this latest catalog update brings another odd change - the look of the pics themselves. Previously, I would simply brighten the shots and white-airbrush over any background details, but for the latest pics I've used Photoshop's "extract" feature to remove them completely from their backgrounds. Goods and bads... The colors are MUCH truer in the new pics, but it takes longer and the edges sometimes end up wonky. Time will tell.