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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Bag Quest 2010

Pipe bags.  One would not think it would be difficult, yet finding decent ones for an affordable price is a challenge for a small shop, since we don't buy in quantities of thousands required to interest the major leather goods factories.  I'm about to begin work on the new Talbert Pipes logo to be embossed into our new leather bags, but thought I would jot down this article as a brief tour through what has gone before.  (I should note that all the discussion below pertains solely to the leather bags that ship with Talbert Pipes.  Our lower grade lines get velvet bags.)

Here is our original leather Talbert Pipes bag, made to my specs starting in 1998 and in use through 2002:

This particular sample is the last one I have remaining from this style - It was a reject due to a mis-stamped logo.  I had these made by a local leather goods producer who sadly went out of business during the collapse of the NC textiles industry over the past ten years.  It's a shame, too, as these were affordable (almost certainly undercharged) and of excellent quality.  I was not keen on the usual two-piece leather bags used by most, and designed this custom bag with side gussets as a way to fit all the unusual shapes I made - Most typical pipe bags were too narrow at the neck to accommodate my larger pipes, and especially my more exotic pipes, so the ability of this design to expand was a handy feature.  It had a lot of nice, high quality features - sealed edges, rings around the string holes, beaded cord ends...  It was just an excellent bag all-around.  For all those folks who like to moan for the best stuff being all gone, this is one case where it is true, as I simply can't find anything like this today for a price I can even begin to manage.

(I should mention here that pipe bag costs, for me, are low on the importance scale.  On the one hand, it is good to put forward a comprehensively high quality package, from pipe to bag, but on the other hand, when I have to apportion costs, I'd rather put a few hundred dollars of extra working time into the pipes themselves, than into buying fancy bags to go with them.  My focus is primarily on quality of product, not packaging.)

The next leather bags we used were these, from 2002 to 2010:

These were made for us by a German supplier once we'd relocated to France.  They were pretty similar to the first generation bags, though they lacked the cord rings and beaded ends.  On the plus side, they were cut a bit better and the fit and finish was more consistent overall (No discards due to bad stamping, for instance).  I tucked a spare stem in there to demonstrate the side gusset in action, showing how the bag can expand to hold larger pipes than normal.  Unfortunately, increasing costs plus the move back to the states have priced these out of our reach - With the dollar-to-euro ratio, these effectively became about triple the cost that most pipemakers pay for their bags, and too big of a bite out of the price of each pipe we sell.  I was reluctant to raise the prices of the pipes to accommodate the bag costs, so that meant going on another hunt for a bag supplier.

Today, after talking with numerous potential suppliers, I think (hope) we've found a good one that will work, both for our cost requirements and our quality requirements.  I am finally abandoning the gusseted bag design in favor of a more traditional look, but the bags will be a good bit wider than previous to allow for easy carrying of my larger pipe shapes.  The leather is heavier than it has been before, much thicker and more durable, and it should be better for displaying and retaining the details of our logo embossing.  Best of all, in my opinion, is the color change - We're shifting from the generic-looking black bags to a much more distinctive deep green, seen here:

Once I work out the logo, all future Talbert Pipes bags from 2010 onwards will be of this design (Assuming all goes well, no problems with the manufacturer, they stay in business, etc).  With any luck, I will have the first batch of them with me on display at the 2010 CORPS show.  Just one more step in the re-establishment and recreation of the Talbert Pipes brand back in the USA again...