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

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Morta Calabash

I've just finished up this Morta Calabash project I've been working on all week.  After that last, very avant-garde calabash design, I wanted to do something in a more classical shape, and also something that was a bit more practical - More compact, more portable, and just plain more rugged.  I've gotten a great deal of enjoyment out of my own little sandblasted meerschaum over the years, but I have not until now made a pipe from this material that I intended for sale.  This is the very first Talbert Meerschaum ever available, and is in fact one of only three in existence at this point (The others being my own and one I made as a gift for a friend).  I shot a lot of photos as the pipe progressed, and here they are collected into a visual presentation of the making of the pipe.  I'll probably print these out in "Suitable for framing" versions for whoever buys the thing, to make a nice little extra.  I've said on occasion that I wish I could afford to keep this pipe or that one, but probably never more so than with this one - I really want this pipe for myself, and I'm going to seriously envy whoever ends up buying it (As I write this, it is still available, and has not yet been posted to the website).

Click each pic to see the full-size (and more readable) image!

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

And the next challenge is...

I've just finished up one longstanding project, to turn all my old pre-drilled blocks that I've accumulated over the years into pipes - I first posted on this subject in blog entry Variations, and in the pic to the left you can see the very last pipe made from those old blocks, a rusticated Ligne Bretagne Collector with a horn shank ring (It isn't on the website yet, but will get posted with the next update).  So, that's one box nearly emptied, and a little shelf space nearly cleared for newer inventory.

What's left now are the other blocks in that box, a pile of small briar chunks that I've also accumulated over the last ten years or so, made up of excellently-grained wood sections cut from larger blocks that had significant flawed areas.  Typically, they were cases where 1/2 or 2/3 of a plateau block consisted of perfect tight grain, and the other 1/2 to 1/3 was bald.  I tend to just saw these down to the usable wood and set them aside for future use...  and then forget about them, leaving them to accumulate.  Here I have a pile of these that need to be used, so they're all getting turned into pipes over the coming month(s) (Except for that one ebauchon in there - No idea HOW that got mixed in, but it needs to go back to the ebauchon shelves).

I enjoy projects like this because they're creatively challenging - None of these are going to make large pipes, and it will be interesting to see if I can even get interesting designs out of them.  The less wood you have to work with, the more limited your options become, but also the challenge is greater to come up with something interesting.  The first Talbert from this stock is already in the works (As seen in my Twitter preview pic from last night) and it looks to be a fun morph of a tall organic shell design.  Some of these blocks just aren't usable for pipes - There are a couple that are simply too small to do anything worthwhile with, and they'll become handmade tampers.  The others, though...  Well, let's just say that the next month should be a good one for Talbert Briar fans who are looking for smaller-bowled pipes.  For a better size comparison, check the pic below, which includes a typical full-size plateau block in the upper left.  You can virtually look at that and see how these smaller blocks were created, via cutting away rough tops and large flawed areas to zero in on the perfectly-grained section within.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

The Comic Strip that Never Was

Once upon a time, I came very close to designing and writing a pipe shop comic strip for this blog.  Coming up with subjects to write about time after time, for the (Good lord) 9 years that this blog has been going, can get to be a hell of a challenge - Most of the article topics I think of, I've either already done or Neil Roan has done better.  But a few years back, I wrote a post called "The Insta-Guide to Pipe Forum Personalities".  It got a lot of laughs and has remained one of my most popular postings over the years since, and has been linked in a fair number of forums (I do hope that my concise definitions of everyone a person can hope to encounter on a pipe forum has proven useful to various newbies, even though today I could add several more character types to the list).

Shortly after, I started thinking that a comic strip might be fun - Something to add some variety to the blog and provide an amusing mirror of our hobby, building off of the character types I'd written about.  While still in France, I doodled a few simple character designs and turned the idea over in my mind a few times.  It would be set in a pipe shop, would feature some simple hand-drawn art, and would revolve around the quirks of the folks in the smoking lounge.

I was reminded of this idea recently when I started work on my own comic strip for my Kentucky Fried Popcorn blog, which is all devoted to movie reviews of the wacky films I enjoy.  I've been sketching out the different characters for the KFP strip and having a great time of it - The little fellow pictured above is going to be the lead, in what I'm setting up to be a culture commentary cartoon set in 1977, when my younger self builds a time machine that allows he and his friends to view movies and broadcasts from other times (and occasionally travel there).  It will be a gentle creation most likely... A touch nostalgic for life at age 11 coupled with opinion on modern life and film.

While the KFP comic project is well underway, the pipe comic project is lost and forgotten, with all the sketches for it trashed sometime before our return from France.  The biggest blockage over there was time - It became rapidly apparent that I was never going to have the free time to sit down and do anything like this, just for fun, when money needed to be made.  But also there was the problem of politics - Namely, pipe world politics, which would have been a difficult and very touchy subject to navigate for one who is part of the business.  When you've worked in it for as long as I have, you see plenty of situations that deserve a good sound mocking via humor, but the downside is that you're almost certainly going to mortally offend someone and that person will be all over the forums flaming you to a briquet.  There were a few people quite offended by the Pipe Forum Personality Guide, so I can only begin to imagine what the reaction might have been had I done regular comics poking fun at the ranting blowhards, the distinguished trivia experts, and the crazy guy who only smokes Captain Black.

I don't have the time for that sort of thing, nor the patience, really - I'm much better at working quietly in the background, just doing my thing, than trying to sooth ruffled egos and cope with public relations once some fellow has had an aneurysm from his frothing conviction that some particular cartoon joke was aimed at him.  I'll stick with Kentucky Fried Popcorn, where I can say whatever the hell I think is funny without worrying about whether it will cost me a sale to my customer base.  But it's a bit sad, too, to think about what might have been, and where the idea might have gone - I do think our hobby could use a humor injection and our own web comic to give us some common ground, so maybe with any luck someone else will pick up the idea and run with it someday.