Saturday, 04 September 2010 14:29

A vist with Todd Johnson and Bruce Weaver

Todd at the 36 Grit Wheel Todd at the 36 Grit Wheel

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!

Watching Todd yielded new techniques and refinements to existing ones. Todd is a master pipe maker in every sense of the phrase. Much of what makes a pipe a high grade is attention to every detail, even very small details, which in the end add up to a truly exceptional piece. Todd's pipes are not only high grade pipes, they are works of art as well as amazing smoking instruments. This visit was an education in how pipe making becomes art when it is performed on this level. The mechanics, aesthetics, every aspect of Todd's work is very near pipe perfection.

Bruce has been apprenticing under Todd for the last year or so, and his work, which was already good, has taken a huge leap. I really enjoyed a morning in Bruce's workshop, as well as his hospitality, and the time with him in Todd's studio.

These three days with Todd and Bruce were revolutionary. Pipe making is largely a matter of skill building. Todd introduced me to new skills and helped me to refine others. My eye already sees more discrepancies in design, surface, color, and line than they did before my visit. My hands are gaining skill with each pipe I make, and are capable of finer work.  This process reminds me of developing as a musician. Todd is like the great musicians I have worked with. For great musicians the instrument is mastered to the point where it seems to hardly exist at all--the music flows as if directly from their very soul. Todd's instruments are the tools and materials of pipe making, and the music poring from his soul are pipes.

I'm looking forward to spending more time in Nashville with Todd and Bruce. They are not only great pipe makers, they are wonderful human beings and a lot of fun to be around!

Last modified on Saturday, 04 September 2010 16:32