News from the Pipemaking Workshop with the Funk.
Talbert Pipes Website - Kentucky Fried Popcorn - My Web Comic.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Darth Pipemaker

Is this thing not hilarious? I've been suffering from an annoying chronic cough for a while, and after various checks and x-rays pronounced that my throat and lungs were perfectly healthy, my doc has narrowed it down to an allergic reaction, possibly to either a new stain or a new type of ebonite we've been working with. The treatment is dual - I'm now on anti-allergy meds and will be making much more use of a respirator in the workshop. I had to find one that was rated for gases, just in case, and the search turned up this thing at Maison du Tournage. It was so ridiculous looking that I had to buy it immediately. Weird though it may appear, it's actually quite light and decently comfortable to wear, enough so that I'm tempted to wear it around the house just for shock effect. It's going to be fun greeting visitors at the door in this thing. Hannibal Lector meets Darth Vader, that's me!

Other than that, nothing much newsworthy today. We've finished a beautiful, bird's-eye-covered pencil-shanked Ligne Bretagne billiard here, but I just haven't had the free time to photo and post it yet. The blowfishies have been keeping me too busy! Here's a "Monster" blowfish being done for one request - It's as big as my three jaw chuck!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Fantasy Blowfish

Biz News - Three more new Ligne Bretagnes are up, these three all being unstained panel designs in squat, wide shapes. I finally have a decent stock of Ligne Bretagnes on the site! That will probably be all of them for now, as I need to work full-time on these blowfish requests in-house. If anyone out there has a specific desire for a Talbert blowfish, please email me now while I'm working on a bunch of them together, and I should be able to do one for you fairly quickly.

To finish off the "Making of" photos from the last blog post, here are some pics of the finished pipe, my "Fantasy Blowfish". I'm pleased with the shape, and the blasted portion looks pretty terrific. It is, yet again, a new effect in sandblast finishes for me - or rather a modification of some previous techniques to produce a better result. I was really pleased to be able to achieve such color contrast on the sandblasted side without having to resort to buffing or otherwise compounding smooth the outer edges of the surface. I have no idea if this pipe will turn up in the catalog or not - It's being made as one of a few blowfish variants for a request, so it will depend on whether the collector picks this one or not.

The unusual stem styling is a visual cue I've used on several pipes before. Now I'm off to make a couple rather more conventional blowfish, but here are some more pics of the unusual one to sign off with:

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Blowfish Madness

Biz News - I've been continuing to post new Ligne Bretagnes to the catalog for the past week. I can't remember if I even announced the last update or not, but have a look, as there are probably new pipes there. I've got two more of these pear shapes finished and sitting here waiting to be posted, but that will have to wait till I get this blowfish done.

I've been working on a pile of blowfish shapes lately, and as one of the buyers asked for pics of the process, I thought I might as well post them here, just for general entertainment value to see the steps a pipe goes through from start to finish.

So, like all pipes, it starts off as a block of wood and some drilling measurements:

Once the piece is successfully drilled, the shaping starts. I'm working on several variations of blowfish shapes, from the mild to the wild, as one of the orders asked for a "distinctly Talbert blowfish". That's what we're looking at here. It's actually going to share some visual characteristics with a Fantasy Bulldog shape I made a couple years ago.

Granted, it looks pretty ordinary so far, but that will change. I wanted a block where the grain flowed across at an angle, to work well with the combination of smooth and sandblasted elements I'm envisioning. Here it is with a stand-in stem to serve as a visual balance guide:

Now it's time to start the real stem for the pipe, made from black ebonite:

One can already see that it isn't going to be a very traditional blowfish. I particularly want my Fantasy Blowfish to be organic, as blowfish shapes have the unique ability to look spectacularly ugly if done too symmetrical and constrained (Flashbacks of Princess Leia headbuns!). Here's the first of what will be multiple stages of black staining for the contrast on the smooth part of the pipe:

And most of it already sanded back off:

And finally, the pipe in its last photo, showing a lot more of the shape detail. Everything will get refined but most of the remaining work is "slog work" - ie, many hours of sanding and bit filing and sandblasting. I'll post more pics as it (and the others) progress.

Friday, February 15, 2008

A Truly Excellent Tobacco

Biz News - I've posted five new Ligne Bretagnes in the past two days - Check them out in their catalog page. One has already sold before I ever posted any notice, but there are still some very nice pipes available.

In today's pic, Robot is helping me show off a recent tobacco that caught my attention. As one might imagine, I sample a lot of pipe tobaccos each year - I experiment crazily enough on my own, plus pipe friends from all over the world send me the occasional package of tins to try. This sounds like great fun, and it is, but it does have one side-effect - One gets jaded.

After the tenth year and millionth new blend, they do start to meld together, with each new English pretty much tasting just like all the others, with only slight variance in smokiness. This isn't to say I'm bored with them, it's simply that it becomes that much harder for any single blend to really stand out and catch my attention. However, this tin of Gawith's Balkan Flake did just that.... Damn, what a great tobacco!

"Deliciously Cool" is, for once, a completely accurate statement - I don't think I've met a tobacco that was this bite-free and smooth on the tongue since 1792. But this is sooo smooth... The best I can do is describe this as the Guinness Stout of pipe tobaccos - Rich, thick, almost chocolatey, and so flowing and lacking in harsh edges that you barely even realize you're smoking it. All you experience is this pleasantly full beer-like flavor. Really excellent - After finishing my first tin, I know I'll be seeking out more of this in future. Definitely a ten.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

11pm on Sunday Night and Still Working

Biz News - One new, semi-churchwarden Ligne Bretagne was just posted to the catalog.

Today's pic shows the work of this week - at least, what little work managed to happen around the continuing adventures with the new laptop. Today's fun? Enabling the laptop (Windows XP) to print on the upstairs Officejet printer, shared via the desktop system (Ubuntu) over the wireless network. Whee. Working like a charm now, though. It's amazing how old this all makes me feel - Emily is now able to send documents through the air to a wireless network talking to a completely different operating system, and print her documents on a printer not connected in any physical way to her laptop... and also via a Linux OS!

(This reminds me, I need to write an entry for the long-quiet "Life in France" blog comparing expat life with switching operating systems... a fairly apt comparison in many ways. For the record, I still find both France and Ubuntu to be pretty darned groovy, despite the occasional confusing differences in style. Most of the confusion derives from the strange way that the file systems of les fran├žais are arranged - I keep telling my French friends to 'del' and they keep replying 'rm'? Thankfully, Ubuntu is usually a lot tastier than Windows was...)

Above are pictured some pipes that will soon be shipping to a new dealer, who will be promoting my pipes to the Russian markets and, of all things, to the high grade collector market in Israel. I've really been enjoying internationalizing my business these past months, and continue to hope that someday I'll get lucky and have the chance to visit some Czech or Shanghai pipe club someday! The pictured pipes are not available for purchase - in fact, they'll be going into a box shortly, but I will soon be posting links and info on my website for the new dealers I'm working with.

Whew. I think I'd intended to actually write about something tonight, but that's enough writing for 11pm on a Sunday - time to go collapse and check out the new Supernatural, methinks!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Back in Action

Well, after several days of total manic computer set-up, we are finally finished and the laptop is fully loaded with all the needed software and off and running. Em is downstairs now working on it as I type this. It's going to be a wonder having two computers in the house (Time to check into multi-player games? Assuming there ARE any that can be played between Windows and Ubuntu, anyway.... probably some online games...).

I've got a hellish stack of piled-up "To Do's" that includes several days' worth of emails, PMs, and forum messages to answer, plus a lot of un-done book keeping here, but if all goes well I should be back in the workshop shortly, and back to actually making these little wood pipe things that we sell...

Friday, February 01, 2008

A Three Pipe Problem

No pipe news today, but there IS news of import - After a hard drive screw-up cost us our Windows disc, we finally bit the bullet and bought a separate laptop for Emily, to put all her accounting records on, so we're not dependent on one computer. It just arrived, and this means that the website is going to be quiet for probably a few days as we work to install everything we need onto the laptop. This is a bit more complex than it may sound, as we'll have to re-activate our accounting software (in French), replace our old ADSL ethernet modem with a new wireless model that can handle multiple connected computers, figure out how to make that work in French, and install something like 500 patches, firewalls, and other safeguards needed to keep a freaking Windows computer operating in relative safety. Not to mention transferring a bajillion files off the current computer and getting an XP system and an Ubuntu system to happily talk to each other. In French.

Think kind thoughts for me....