Thursday, July 24, 2008

Sandblasted bamboo

Today's post has a bit of an unusual pipe as the subject. This little gem is an experiment all around, and grew out of a little free time I had a couple months ago. For being an experiment, it sure is a sweet pipe!

For starters, the bowl is actually a complete mistake. I was making an apple shaped bowl for a pipe that was designed to have a long shank, but when I was turning the top of the bowl on the lathe, I swung the chisel the wrong direction while not paying attention, and knocked the entire shank right off the bowl. Now, normally a mistake like that would have ended up embedded in the wall on the opposite side of the workshop, but for some reason I just took it off the lathe and set it on the shelf behind me. There is sat for over a year until I came along one day and thought about trying to salvage it. And since I was going to try and salvage it, I figured that it would be a good time to try some other experiments I've been meaning to undertake.

Now, clearly I used bamboo, but what's a little unusual is that I chose to sandblast it instead of leaving it smooth. As a result, I didn't have to use the cleanest and most uniformly colored piece of bamboo on my supplies shelf - perfect for an experiment, and especially since it's going to be one I'll be keeping. I don't know who originally came up with the idea to sandblast bamboo, but I've seen it from a couple makers recently, and I know that early on I saw a really nice example from Love Geiger (click here for his site) and was really impressed.

Surprisingly, bamboo is actually kind of tough to sandblast. You'd think it would be fragile and would simply disintegrate under the 100+ PSI of aggressive blasting media, but it didn't. Instead, it grinned at me a few times, flipped me the bird, and then eventually started developing a pattern. It took almost as long to sandblast this piece of bamboo as it did the briar bowl.

Of course, I had to leave a bare spot for the stamp, and I also wanted to see how unblasted bamboo would take stain. Well, you can see, not so great - but that may have something to do with the method I used for applying the stain. Like they say "try, try again", so I'll be trying it again at some point. The blasted portion of the bamboo stained very, very well. It's almost indistinguishable from the briar, and the gnarly texture of the blasted bamboo blends in so well with the blasted briar, that I think the two are really meant for each other.

The final experiment on this pipe is the bowl/shank junction. I only had the barest hint of a briar shank left to use on this bowl, so I figured I would see how well my method of attaching bamboo shanks works when placed that close to the burning tobacco. The verdict - pretty damn good. The joint is holding up very well, and it shows no signs of degrading at all. I wouldn't sell a pipe with the joint this close to the fire, but it's still good to know that it would hold of well even if I did.