Saturday, August 09, 2008

Risen from failure

In the last post I showed off what amounted to an epic failure of a pipe. The existence of a giant flaw in the tobacco chamber pretty much precluded it's sale to anyone in the general public. But you know, treated with care during the first few smokes, that pipe would have lasted longer than me, I'm sure. Once a good cake worked up, and given the fact that I coat the bowls with a protective coating anyway, I decided to go ahead and finish the pipe. The grain was far too nice, and the shape was exactly what I was aiming for, so I just had to do it. This photo shows off the result. As you can see, it's got stunning straight grain all around the bowl, and the birdseye top and bottom is tight, uniform, and simply amazing.

But you can't have it.

Unfortunately, this pipe is not for sale. And it's a shame too, since this easily one of the top 5 pipes I've ever made in terms of grain, proportion, and execution. Absolutely nothing went wrong that forced me to change the shape - just that damn flaw in the tobacco chamber. The potential for burnout is so extremely low, that is virtually non-existent. However, there's still a chance, and that makes me uncomfortable selling this. Also, there's the association of a flaw extant in a pipe that is otherwise flawless. How can you balance that?

I was told by another pipe maker that I should simply re-drill the tobacco chamber. Normally I would, but upon close inspection, the flaw looked larger than what it showed on the surface. If I did re-drill the tobacco chamber, chances are it would have opened up even further, truly trashing the pipe.

Now, I'm not the fatalistic type, and I don't give up on problems that easily. I also am a risk taker, though I only take calculated risks. After weighing my options, I decided to leave the flaw, finish the pipe, and keep it for myself. I decided that trying to fix it was too risky, and it was better off as a showcase of my work (problem with the wood aside). It will enter my collection, and if I'm lucky enough one day, I'll be able to replicate it and offer it's little brother up for general sale.

This reminds me to a quip I once heard from another pipe maker, "I have a huge collection of pipes, but they all seem to be from the same maker.". Too true.