Thursday, July 03, 2008

Pipe kits and supplies

In recent months I've been asked by folks if I could help them source some harder to find supplies and materials - especially ones that simply aren't available in smaller quantities. The number one thing they're looking for? Pipe kits.

A pipe kit is a pre-drilled block of briar with a stem fitted to it. It's really the most difficult part of making a good smoking pipe, and the area where craftsmanship and a little "engineering" come into play. All the holes have to be lined up just right, the airway in the briar has to meet the airway in the stem just right, and the stem has to have it's slot cut so that airflow is unimpeded. There's lots of little nuances and subtleties that go into this part of pipe making, and you have to have a feel for detail. It sounds like a lot of time and effort, but if you've got your workflow down and you've developed a feel for your tools, it doesn't really take too long and the payoff is enormous. Unfortunately, drilling a block of briar is best done on a drill press or a lathe, and fitting a stem can be lengthy process without a lathe as well. And if you don't have room for these tools, drilling a block of wood can be a daunting undertaking.

Once the holes are drilled and the stem fitted, the rest can be done with files and sandpaper in the absence of any kind of power tool. It can be slow going, but not impossible, and and the slow steady progress can be relaxing and therapeutic. With some time, and a little luck, a pipe is born!

A couple weeks ago I started offering pipe kits on eBay. I decided to offer mine with a twist since, let's face it, there's a lot of outfits out there offering pipe kits. As mentioned above, I make sure the airway is well crafted, the tobacco chamber and airway meet correctly, and that the stems I fit have been reworked internally to provide an enjoyable smoking experience. On some pipe kits, I even turn the top of the bowls to provide a head start in keeping everything symmetrical and even. Not the entire bowl, mind you, I don't want to be dictating someone else's vision. Only about the 1/8 to 1/4 inch of the top is turned, just to give a guideline for folks.

Unfortunately, they've proven so popular that I can't really keep up with demand. When they're available, you can find them, along with some "garage sale" type stuff, here:
I'm also going to add them to my site soon, so keep an eye out.

In other news, the knives are finished and ready for photos. And I have an interesting experiment in pipe finishes to show off as soon as I polish the stem. Stay tuned!