Monday, July 28, 2008

Gearing up for Columbus

With the NASPC show in Columbus, Ohio only about 4 weeks away, I figured it was time I geared up for it and got some affordable stock ready to go with me. The picture here shows a bunch of the stuff that's in the works, including some pre-turned stummels and a couple test blocks from a new batch of briar. I keep all the stuff I'm working on at any given moment in a plastic bin like this until it's ready to go on a pegstand, that way I don't misplace any of it.

That thing on the top is something that I've been experimenting with. Using pre-turned stummels and finishing them by hand is a good way to quickly experiment with stains, finishes, and techiniques. It's also a great way to keep costs down for pipe buyers. The term "hand finished" is something that Trever Talbert has been using for a few years now to differentiate his pipes made from pre-turned stummels from those made completely by hand. He's the one who originally suggested to me that I find a source of these to play with, and has since helped me get on the right path on how to finish drill since these come without a mortis. If you've seen pictures of Trever's workshop, you know it's a treasure trove of old machinery, some of it still a bit of a mystery. A guy like me could spend weeks in there, playing with stuff and figuring things out. It's a royal shame that he's in France and I'm in Rhode Island. Some day, though, I hope to get out there and spend some time geeking out with his tools.

At any rate, the tool I mocked up in that photo is a good concept, but it turns out it was poorly executed. It's designed to hold the shank of the stummel and has a recess underneath where the bowl goes. However, the first stummel I tried ended up with a mortis that wasn't in line with the shank, and despite it being a straight billiard, the airway was out of wack with the mortis bottom. Now, not being one to let something like that slide, I tried again. I figured it had to be because the pipe's shank was ever so slightly tapered, and that might cause it to rest to one side or the other. I lined the holes with cork, hoping that would help, but the next result was just as bad.

After some careful consideration, and lining things up and seeing how they all interacted, I came to a frightening conclusion - my drill press is garbage. I check square on the tool, and it's off by about 2 degrees. Turns out the non-adjustable table on my drill press is off by exactly that amount. Compounding the problem, the quill on my drill press has some serious rattling problems. At full extension, if you grab the chuck and shake, it will move rather freely. I'd say it's time to retire the $99 drill press and go buy another. It's just as well too, since this particular one has been irritating me for about 3 years now.