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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Ligne Bretagne News

I sit down to write today both jubilant and a little exhausted - Tax season is finally over, and the tax nightmare that was our move from France to the USA is now finished.  Nothing like doing two years of taxes at once AND having to figure out which moving expenses count as deductions and how to handle losses across an international line.

I've got two bits of news regarding Ligne Bretagne pipes - One good and one not so good.  Hitting the good first, buyers purchasing LBs starting this week will notice a little improvement - We've got in our first shipment of stamped pipe bags.  Over the past couple of years we've gradually upgraded the entire LB line in various small ways, from improved finishing to improved staining to the move from what started as simple cloth bags and progressed to a nice green velvet bag and now to the same velvet bags embossed with the Ligne Bretagne logo, as seen here:

This move helps further my goal of really establishing Ligne Bretagnes as a quality midrange pipe brand, and less as the red-headed stepchild of Talbert Briars.  BUT...  and there is always a "but", it brings one major problem and that is the bad news.  Part of doing our year-end closeout was running over the price and profit calculations for the various different pipes we sell.  Talbert Briars, Ligne Bretagne Collectors, and Goblins all came out good, but standard Ligne Bretagnes, not so good.  Unfortunately, they are by far the least profitable pipe we make - We're talking about a whopping hourly wage drop for any time spent working on, selling and shipping Ligne Bretagnes.  Given that I like to eat, and am carrying a lot of debts still from our French relocation, I can't afford to allot much of my time to the lowest paid work.  Something has to give somewhere.  Since pipe folks are often keenly interested in production/price/quality equations, I thought I would put the question to you all, and see what the buyers favored.  The choices are three:

*  I can make a lot fewer Ligne Bretagnes.  This means essentially making them in my spare time, or when I just need a change of pace from making Talberts.  Availability would drop off a LOT.

*  I can retain current quality and quantity and raise the prices across the standard line to make the pipes profitable to produce.  This would entail a pretty sizable price hike, bringing them back into the price range they were when priced in euros.  Currently they run $119-$165 on average.  Increasing to an equal profit point would put them at $145-195 average. 

*  I could keep them at the current prices and current output, but scale back the working time invested.  Things that would go away would be multi-layer staining, two tone contrasted sandblasts, etc.  The bulk of our LB labor is in finishing, so it would basically mean doing much simpler stains.  No more golden contrast-stained super bird's-eye fests and that sort of thing.  I'm not willing to compromise the engineering, internals, or fit & assembly, so finishing work is basically the only point of fluctuation.

If you're a pipe buyer, think about the three options above and then vote in the poll below.  Let me know your preference among the three possible options.   And it really does have to be one of the three, too - The only other possibility is to hire someone to help keep production up, and I have no room nor sufficient income to afford to hire an employee.

Which direction would you prefer we take with Ligne Bretagnes?

I look forward to seeing how people vote.

In other news, you've probably noticed that the blog has changed its look! I've been meaning to spiff it up for a long time now, to make it better match the website.  Since we're talking about polls, cast your vote in the poll up in the top right to let me know what you think of the new look.  The two biggest changes are the re-instatement of the comments system, which had been broken for some time, and the new "Popular Posts" category over in the right-hand column, where Blogger will automatically post links to entries I've written that were most visited. 

Thursday, April 07, 2011


I've just posted three new Ligne Bretagne Collectors to the LB catalog.  LB Collectors are, to quote from our website:
Every so often, I produce handmade pipes for the Talbert Pipes line which, for one reason or another, don't meet my standards to become a genuine Talbert. These are typically pipes with some minor cosmetic flaw of some sort, nothing that would impact their function or reliability. In cases where I don't wish to completely discard these "seconds", I will fit them with readymade stems from our Ligne Bretagne stock and sell them as one-of-a-kind Ligne Bretagne Collectors. Each pipe is priced individually based on grain and complexity of design, with prices typically running between $180 and $280.
There will be many more LB Collectors posted this month.  This is not any indication of a sudden run of flawed Talbert briar blocks, but rather of the discovery during tax-time inventory of a box of old blocks I'd previously cut and drilled years ago.   When we were in Brittany, I would often cut and square a block and set it aside to be an LB Collector if it had some visible defect that would keep it from being Talbert Briar quality.  Many of these blocks are even drilled - It's an old drying technique to help ensure a superior first smoke.  Drill the bowl chamber in the block and let it sit for a year or two.  Briar dries at about an inch a year, so air exposure will allow any remaining moisture in the block interior to dissipate and guarantee a clear, pleasant smoke when the pipe is finally finished.

I had all of these piled into a box which we promptly lost when we moved back here, but it turned up the other day during the inventory of our stock for our yearly taxes.  I'd like to try and clear these out to make room for new briar inventory, so look for a run of new Ligne Bretagne Collectors in the next few months.  The pre-drilled ones do present a shape limitation, but I personally find some enjoyment in seeing how much I can vary shapes just by altering the most minor of details.  For instance, have a look at Collectors 4, 5, and 6 - All three of those pipes were done from blocks cut and drilled nearly identically.  But it's possible to tweak the most minor details and create a very different look.  For instance, the join of shank and bowl - It can be tight or thick.  Thick can sometimes look clumsy (Many critics mistakenly believe thick is automatically bad, but actually it's a matter of aesthetics - For instance, it can look just as clumsy for a pipe to have a super tight join that completely kills the harmony of the overall shape).  One of those Collectors has a really tight join, where the shank has been filed in very close so it's a distinctly different shape from the bowl, while the other two utilize smoothly flowing joins where the curvature of the shank into the back of the bowl mirrors the curvature of the underside of the bowl at the front.  Lines - Good pipemaking is all about lines and how to use them.