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Trevor makes a Pipe - #4

This is a tale of one pipe, two countries and two shops...

Two Countries, Two shops, one pipe

Richard Friedman started coming to the Vancouver Pipe Club a few years ago.  Since that time, we have become friends and have shared some laughs and compared recent pipe acquisitions with the eyes of connoisseurs.

This past fall, Richard decided he wanted to have a new hobby and went about learning the art of pipecraft. He visited Tonni Nielsen and was taught how to shape, stain and finish pipes.  On returning home he secured workshop space outfitting it with all the necessary tools and began practicing what he learned at Tonni's.

He invited any interested VPC members to come on down to his shop in Belingham and try their hand at crafting a pipe. Well, it's been 3 or 4 years since I made my last pipe at Stephen Downie's shop, and I was itching for an opportunity to get my hands covered in briar dust again. We arranged a shop date for a Saturday that worked for both of us, and I packed my small tool bag and made the 60 minute trek to Belingham.

Some time before this, I had seen a pictures of a particular bamboo shanked, apple shaped pipe by Japanese artisan Hiroyuki Tokutomi pipe on the internet.  I fell deeply in love with the pipe. 

Like most pipes (among other things) that catch my eye and heart, it was out of touch for me finacially.  But I thought I might be able to create something that has a similar feel to that pipe, if not an exact copy.  I printed out the picture of Tokutomi's pipe, and brought it with me to Richard's shop.

Richard's shop is a jewel of organization and cleanliness.  We welcomed me warmly and pointed out the briar bin, telling me to help myself to a block.  I found a small one that I thought would suit (the shank would be bamboo) and settled myself on the stool in front of his sanding wheel. 

As the briar flew off the block, Richard provided some shaping advice, namely to use my whole torso to shape the pipe, rather than just my hands, to repeat motions to keep the stummel symmetrical, shave off just a little wood at a time. 

After 20 minutes or so, I had the beginnings of the shape I was looking for in my hands. I selected a short piece of bamboo from Richard's stock and a pre-formed acrylic stem that I thought might suit the pipe.  I ground the shank of the stummel down to match the bamboo more closely (I had been using it as a handle up to this point) and drew some plan lines on the briar for where the drilling should be. 

Richard drills his pipes using the Danish method of chucking up the bit in the head stock of his lathe and pressing the stummel onto the spinning bit, holding it with just his hands. Not being entirely comfortable with this process, I let Richard do the drilling of the draft hole and tobacco chamber for me, which he did admirably.  In the same way he drilled out the center of the bamboo I had chosen for the shank.  We then cut a stainless steel rod to length and epoxied it into the bamboo, leaving about 10mm protruding on either end to insert into the stem and shank.

At this point I turned my attention to the pre-formed acrylic stem.  The first step was to chuck it up on the small table mounted lathe and start turning the stem down to match the diameter of the bamboo and carve out the 'flare' to mirror the bamboo's knuckles. 

Once that was done, a quick sand on the belt sander cleaned up the edges of the stem and thinned it out considerably.  The last hour or so in the shop was spent with hand files refining the shank-bowl junction and smoothing out the stem in preparation for the final hand-sanding shaping.

Back home, I spent the next couple weeks working over the pipe with various bits of sandpaper, refining the shank/bamboo transition, smoothing out the bowl and trying to improve the shape of the mouthpiece.  A series of unfortunate occurrences prevented me from getting back to Richard's shop in order to finish the pipe, and before we knew it, spring had arrived and it was time for him to sail North to Alaska.  I called up Stephen Downie and asked if I could have a few evenings in his shop to finish off my pipe, and he graciously agreed to help me out.

I made my way over to his place with the pieces of my pipe, a couple bottles of stout, and my little tool kit. He set me on the right road as to what tools to use for fine shaping (hello fordom!!) and fixed my loose stem issue.  I spent some time refining the shape of the stem, inside and outside, and gave it a quick polish to see if I needed to do more fine sanding.  I ran out of time that evening, but we made an appointment to finish the bowl, and stain it later in the week.

The bowl was stained (or dyed) using a two step technique, I first applied a dark understain, sanded back until just the soft grain was coloured, then applied an overstain of a medium redish-brown. 


The bowl was then buffed and the bamboo shank epoxied in place.  After that, a quick buff with the carnauba wax provided a nice finishing shine on the whole pipe, and it was ready for its maiden voyage. 


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