Handmade Briar Pipes

September 2012 Pipe in Progress

At the NASPC Pipe Show this year, I received a request to make a pipe.  It was the type of commission request I really like because the parameters where pretty vague.  He showed me a few of his pipes to give me an idea of what he liked in a pipe and told me he likes thick walled, sandblasted, decent sized pipes.  The customer also wanted me to use an oversized tenon like I did on a previous pipe if I could work it into the design.  I came up with this blowfish design.  It’s my first attempt at the more traditional Ivarsson style blowfish shape as opposed to the discus shape that some are calling a blowfish.  Here it is sketched out on the block with the drilling lines all mapped out.

The airway is drilled at 5/32″ on a wood lathe as seen below.  The depth is marked and a stop collar is used to prevent drilling too deep.  It looks like it’s spinning really fast but airway drilling is best drilled on the slowest setting.

After the airway is drilled, I flip the block and line up and drill the tobacco chamber.  Since this particular shape is asymmetrical, there really isn’t much benefit to trying to shape any of the bowl on the lathe.

After the tobacco chamber is drilled, I readjust the block to drill the mortise and turn the shank.  As you can see the mortise is oversized at 5/8″ diameter.  On a curved shank, I only just turn a start on the shank as a guide to keep things perfectly round. Turning shanks on a lathe is really only helpful when the shank is perfectly round, straight, and symmetrical.  The shank cap is drilled and rough turned separately out of pre-ban elephant ivory (sorry, I didn’t get any pictures of that part of the process) and fitted to the pipe.  I made a jig that holds the shank ring so I could remove it to check fit and what not and then remount it to make further adjustments on the lathe.

Here’s a closer shot of the roughed ivory shank cap.  There’s still some work to do on it but that will come after I rough shape the stummel.

Here I’ve removed a little excess wood with the bandsaw to make sanding a bit easier.  I could have removed more but since this is my first attempt at this shape I’m relying on my sketch to shape the far side of the pipe first.  Otherwise I would have removed wood around the shank and bowl with the bandsaw also.

Here it is after about 20 minutes of rough shaping with 80 grit on a sanding disc. I’m pretty close to final shape but need to do a little tweeking with 220 grit.  The shank cap is just friction fit at this point.  I won’t glue it on until after staining.

Another photo after rough shaping at 80 grit.

Here is the pipe after refining the shape with 220 grit on the sanding disc followed by a little hand sanding with 180 grit in prep for sandblasting.

Sandblasting went very well.  The grain is well centered and the ring grain is nice and tight.

Here’s a shot for scale perspective.

Stain is applied and the shank ring is now glued in place.  Next step is the stem.

The tenon was drilled and turned on Nate King’s metal lathe.  The rest of the stem was turned, sanded, and buffed on my wood lathe.

Stem rough shaped on the sanding disk and then files.

Stem shaping refined with sandpaper then buffed with red tripoli.  At this point, the button is only rough shaped.  I like to finish the rest of the stem first and then buff with red tripoli so I can get that hard to buff spot on the bit just behind the button without rounding the button too much.

I chose to curve the button a touch to compliment the scooped bowl rim.  I, also, find this button style very comfortable.  I’ve liked this style ever since I purchased a Dunhill with this style stem.  It makes sense really, if you think about it.  The inside of our teeth where we grip the stem is slightly curved rather than straight like the traditional button.

I also added a couple inlays to assist in lining up the stem.  This customer wanted an oversized tenon like I did on a previous pipe.  The added surface tension of the larger tenon makes it difficult to twist the stem without over-stressing it so the dots allow the stem to be lined up without twisting it in place.  Not only does it serve a practical purpose, I think it looks really eloquent.

Stem bent and buffed with red tripoli.  Still need to do a little button refinement then some finishing touches and this one’s finished.

Here is the finished pipe.

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