Love this photo from the rollout feature Smokingpipes.com did for me, which featured 6 pipes. And earlier that same week, 4 of my pipes were part of the update from Quality Briar . That was a fun and exciting week!
I've been hoping to work with both of these fine retailers for some time, but it had never made sense until this fall, when I finally had a few pipes ahead and was finished with pipe shows for the year. I'm really looking forward to having pipes available through both of them. So now, if you don't see anything you want here on my site under available pipes, please check to see if they having anything that might be of interest to you.
This has been a long time coming, but it's been well worth the weight. I starting scheming on getting a Precision Matthiews PM1236 Lathe back in March of 2009. I had just seen Todd Johnson's when visiting his shop. What a great machine! I thought it would be many years before I could get a machine of this caliber.
In the fall of 2010 I was contacted by the Greater Kansas City Pipe Club about making their Pipe of the Year. We eventually did that in 2011. The plan was to use the proceeds from this project to fund some major workshop improvements, with this lathe being the center piece. You can see more pics of the workshop here.
The Lathe was ordered in April of 2011. It was supposed to arrive in June. Well, June came and went, and no lathe. It finally made it to Quality Machine Tools in September. They finally shipped it in mid November. I set it up and tested it that first week and have been tooling it up this last month and used it heavily over the last few days. I'm very glad I bought it, and would buy it again. In a comparison with other Chinese imports I think it's at the top of the heap, and far less money than most.
If I had lots of money and could justify the cost I would have looked at American, UK, European, or Japanese lathes, but at nearly 10 times the cost those were not an option for me. And after exploring the possibilities I decided I don't have the time or expertise to get an older lathe and restore it. Short of that, or lucking into a very lightly used and well cared for Taiwanese Jet , I can't imagine anything that would make me any happier for what I had to spend.
We're blessed to have three wonderful sons that each smoke pipes. I try to give each of them a pipe for Christmas, and hopefully one for each of their birthdays. Here is the trio of S.E. Thile pipes that found their way into the collections of my sons for Christmas.
Freehand #83, the small blasted egg on the bottom was actually made in 2009 and has been sitting on my desk ever since. It's gone to my middle son, John, who likes an easy clincher to smoke while he works on the computer. This pipe is very light and well balanced. Since I smoke while I work on pipes I'd been wanting to keep if for myself, but since I had yet to pull the trigger I decided it should be his instead and finished it up for Christmas.
Freehand #131, the blasted Volcano with a boxwood accent is a bit different than any other Volcano I've made so far. It is full bent and has a very nice tight ring grain blast. Chris is a new pipe smoker and this is his second pipe. I have to say, it looks great on him! Here he is with his new pipe and the beautiful scarf my wife, Kathy knitted him for Christmas.
Freehand #132, the blasted Apple with a square shank and boxwood endcap has become a very popular shape for me. Daniel, my youngest son, has smoked a pipe for a while and had a few S.E. Thile pipes that were stollen. #132 is the start of his new collection.
What a great show! The Greater Kansas City Pipe Club (GKCPC), after a year off, came back with a wonderful pipe show in late June. Clinton Wells and his team put together a fantastic show. No effort was spared, and I think the club was hoping for a better turn out, and deserved it with all the work they put in. This is a show to watch. It will grow and thrive once they find the right dates and venue. The members of the GKCPC are a great group of guys, with many well educated and sophisticated collectors who own a lot of beautiful pipes, and they're a tremendous hang--what a blast! I had a fantastic show! I sold very well, and had a wonderful time in the process.
Chicago is amazing--it's about as close as you can come to pipe mecca, at least in this country. I missed the show last year, and it was a close call this year too. In the past Chicago has fallen on the weekend before finals at Murray State (my day job), and escaping for the weekend is difficult at best. Next year Chicago is after the semester wraps up, which is perfect! I'm looking forward to having much more time in Chicago next year! In the past I've felt a little lost in the shuffle. This year was a little better in that regard, and I suspect that I've turned the corner and next year will be even better. While my two previous Chicagos were a great time and a huge education, I think my offerings have only just started to be up to the challenge.
Over my Spring Break in March I had an amazing three day visit to Nashville to see Todd Johnson and Bruce Weaver. Words cannot describe what I learned in those three days. It will take years to apply it all but I'm already seeing progress in my work as a result.
In the photo the masked pipe maker is working on a Bakelite stem at the 36 grit wheel. No, Todd is not that bashful, it's just that Bakelite dust is a bit of a hazard. One wonderful experience was watching Todd work with that 36 grit wheel. He has amazing control with this normally coarse and unforgiving tool. In Todd's hands its capable of extremely fine work. His skill with this and other tools is extraordinary, and of course, so are his pipes!
It's been so long since I posted news to the site--I'm afraid I'm a bit behind. 2010 has been a very exciting year so far! As usual it started with the St. Louis pipe show in February, which is always great fun, and has also served as the yearly marker in my wonderful adventure of pipe making. This year I drove up the day before the show instead of leaving at 4AM the morning of. As well as a little more sleep, this allowed me to take advantage of the club's hospitality suite at the hotel. It was great to wind down after the drive by sharing a pipe or two with friends.
Well, to make a long story short, my back recovered without the need for surgery, and after a brief vacation I’m back to work, and back in the shop. I completed four pipes over my summer vacation--two Bulldogs, a partial blast (Opus 2 #91), and a natural blast (Opus 2 #92), and two freehand pokers, one smooth (Freehand #93) with a black and white ebony end cap, and one blast (Freehand #90) with a boxwood stem insert. The shop has also seen a few nice improvements, including a new insolated garage door with a row of windows! See the Workshop Tour for pictures of the current tooling and setup.
Terrible timing.... Just as my busy work schedule winds down, and intense family activities calm, and I'm finally seeing extended pipe making time looming on the horizon I find I'm laid up with a bad back! Why now? Of course there is never a good time for a bad back... I'll soon be answering the call to make pipes I'm designing and planing now. I'm also channeling my pent up pipe making energy into planning studio improvements, working a bit on the website, sending out a newsletter, and just planning the next round of adventures in pipe making. Certainly time well spent, but I'm really looking forward to putting my hands to briar and ebonite!
The St. Louis Pipe Club hosted another great show Saturday. While I don’t have a long history at pipe shows, St. Louis was the first, and has so far been the most encouraging. It seems to be a good fit in terms of size and clientele, and for the third year running this show has marked my progress.
I absolutely love pipe shows, and I had a great time in St. Louis Saturday. I was hoping to get up there Friday night to enjoy the hospitality and fellowship offered by the club, not to mention getting some sleep, but it turns out I had a gig Friday night, and could not leave for St. Louis until early, very early Saturday morning. Unlike last year, the drive was smooth sailing and I arrived in plenty of time to set up my table.
I'm extremely excited about my new website! Kathy at KT web design has done a wonderful job. She has an amazing eye for color, detail, and placement of unique design elements that draw attention to the important aspects of the site. Her designs are beautiful, focused, easy to navigate, and highly effective. With this new design, updates have gone from a long drawn out chore to quick, easy, and enjoyable--I can now focus on making pipes instead of fussing with the website!
February marks my first full year offering pipes for sale, and my second making pipes. I'm having a great time, and just finished pipe number 48. I'm hoping to carve out more time for pipe making this next year and have a goal of making at least 50 pipes in 2008. Also new this year is participation in the A.S.P Pipe of the Year (POY). The shape for the POY this year is a Belge, which is a new shape for me.
Here is a shot of me visiting with a new friend at the table.
Quinton and the GKCPC focused on attracting North American pipe makers to their show this year, and there were 20 in attendance. It was great to see the variety of offerings, and especially fun to visit and talk shop with fellow pipe makers.
I had several very interesting and encouraging talks. One in particular was with a large retailer that is interested in stocking a selection of my pipes. While so far my production is far too limited to consider this as a viable option for the present, my hope is this will be feasible soon.
It's great to be able to sit, visit, smoke, and share a beverage with friends. We have so few places and opportunities to do that these days, it makes it all the more special when we get the chance.
In a late night stroll amongst the rooms I ran into Jeff Gracik of (J. Alan Pipes) . Jeff's work is very inspiring and he is a huge encouragement. When I grow up, I want to be like Jeff, but I'm nearly twice his age!
Saturday's pipe show was great. Pistol Pete's is a great spot for this the show. Lots of folks came through and I had a fine time visiting with everyone who stopped by the table. As usual, I didn't manage to get many pictures, but my new pipe maker friend Mike Brissett snapped the shot of me at left.
I've spent most of that time learning the shape first, drill second method, favored by many of the Danish masters, as well as a few makers of American high grades. The first two were a great education, and I'll enjoy them for my own collection (see placed pipes). I just finished the third "vacation" pipe using this new method this morning. It's Etude #33, a very decent Volcano, which is now available, and currently the featured pipe on the right. This method has a huge advantage for certain shapes. It's easier to follow grain and work around flaws while shaping freehand, without yet having to worry about the drilling. Once the shape is established, drilling is then a mater of working with the shape instead of the shape having to work with the drilling. It's not the be all and end all of methods, but it's a great option, and I'm very excited to have it available now.
Due to the state wide smoking ban in TN, this is the last pipe night at the B&B's Clarksville mall location. Very thankfully, they move into their new digs sometime late this summer or early fall. Until then, no more smoking in the store as of July 1! This is so senseless. With the air filtration they have in there, you could not get even a whiff of smoke outside the back half of the shop, let alone in the coffee bar area at the front of the store. There is simply no way it could have crept into the mall.
First a big thanks to Kirk Bosi shown at left, for sharing his table with me, and showing me the ropes!
4-27.07: It's Here! I received my first large order of Italian briar from Calabria Pipes. It looks excellent. I can't even start to describe how great it is to know I have a decent inventory of quality briar. It arrived in the traditional burlap bag.
I have been hoping, planning, and scheming for two years now and I think it's going to work! If all goes well I'll be at the Chicago Pipe Show in three weeks! By all reports this show is life changing for aspiring pipe makers, and after tasting the much smaller show in St. Louis (where I learned an amazing amount and had a blast) I simply have to do this huge show in Chicago where so many of my heroes, mentors, and fellow pipe enthusiasts will be.
My day job makes the timing of this very difficult in that it's the weekend before finals. I'm hoping to make the tail end of the Friday Pre-Show, but that's optimistic. I'm also hoping to bum a little table real estate for the main show off a fellow pipe maker. When I know for sure I'll post where to look for me. I'm on track to have about 5 pipes ready as well as a few that didn't make the cut to smoke myself. Not many, but it's a start.
Henry Bailey, the tobacconist in residence there welcomed me right off and filled my pipe with one of the house blends (a nice full english) . I lighted up and really enjoyed the smoke, and the visit. I was soon offered a great cup of dark roast coffee, and Henry was kind enough to look over the pipes I'd brought in with me. He seemed quite interested and invited me to set up shop for a day when they're in their new location. Hopefully I can make a variety pipes, some finished, and some in various stages of completion and figure out some sort of portable set up to work on them while there. It would be great to visit with the folks that come in, and perhaps sell a pipe or two.
I'm really excited to find Briar and Bean--a great treasure, and not so very far from home. I'm looking forward to more visits and having an opportunity to show some pipes there later this year. Stay tuned!
Unfortunately it seems most of the great old pipe shops that were fun to hang out in are gone, or drastically scaled back. Pipe shows are great, but they are few and far between. Creating a good hang is where I think the B&Ms could really earn back a portion of our business from the on-line merchants.
Opus #1, The PokerBash Blast. This has been my most popular shape---gratifying in that as far as I know it is unique to me. Etudes 11, 15, and 19 contributed to the development of Opus 1. I have had numerous offers to buy Etude 15, which is no longer available.
Unfortunately for me, it is a rare block of plateaux that lends itself to this shape. It must be tail, and it must yield nice tight birdseye for the smooth top, and ring grain for the blast. The higher grades will also have smooth bottoms ((like Etude 15)
Opus #2, Bulldogs and Rhodesians--theme and variations on a classic shape. I have grown to love these shapes. They have proven to be extremely challenging and formed a large part of my pipemaking education. Etudes 12, 16, 18 (CP 2006), and 20 have all contributed.
Look for more Opus series pipes soon!