Category Archives: Self Carved Pipes

The pipes posted in this category are ones that I have carved. Periodically I get the urge to carve a pipe and have done quite a few over the years both from kits and from a piece of briar.

Crafting another Frankenpipe – one plus one equals three


Blog by Steve Laug

I have wanted to do some more experimenting and learning new ways of doing things for a while now. That is why I love refurbishing, there is always something new to learn. I was sent some pipes as a gift to either scrap out or clean up. In this lot was an Israeli Anderson freehand pipe. The bowl had been cut off and what was left was not much different from a Falcon base. There was no way it would hold any tobacco that would even make it worth smoking and it was in pretty rough shape. The stem was great the base was solid but the finish was done. I also had a pipe that I had cut the shank off of and repurpose on another project so the bowl was left. It had a lot of large fills on the side that were full of pink putty. I thought maybe with a little imagination I could join the two parts together and get a workable pipe. Let’s see what I can do with the parts.Franken1

Franken2 I don’t have a table saw or a band saw so any kind of cutting briar needs to be done by hand. In this case I used a hacksaw to cut the bottom of the bowl off so that I could splice the bowl and the base together. I figured it would work and I might get a half way decent pipe out of the blend.Franken3

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Franken5 I used a small drill bit to place six small holes around the base and the bowl. I stabilized the small cracks with wood glue and briar dust. I planned on putting a bowl coating on the interior so I was not too concerned with the walls of the base. I had some small stainless steel pins that I had found that would work well to join the two parts together.Franken6 I inserted the pins in the holes in the base and glued them in place. When the glue had set I put glue on the top of the base and the bottom of the bowl portion and set it on the pins as well.Franken7

Franken8 I pressed the bowl onto the pins in the base until the two surfaces connected. I clamped it in place until the glue dried. Once it was dry I put a ring of super glue around the joint on the two and pressed briar dust into the remaining crevices in the joint.Franken9

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Franken12 I used a Dremel and sanding drum to remove the excess briar on the front of the base and bring it into alignment with the bowl. I did the same on the sides and back of the bowl.Franken13

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Franken16 I sanded the bowl and base union with a medium grit emery paper and then with 180 grit sandpaper to smooth out the surface of the two parts and to work on making the junction smooth between the two. I followed that by sanding it with 220 grit sandpaper to further smooth out the walls of the new pipe. The photos below show the new “Stack” that had been fashioned from the two parts – one plus one did in this case render a third.Franken17

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Franken20 I sanded the exterior of the bowl and base with a coarse grit sanding block and then with a medium grit block. The photos below show the state of the bowl after much sanding with the blocks. The surface of the bowl and base junction is smooth to touch. The large fills on the side of the bowl and the dark ring of the glue and briar dust patch around the middle were going to take some work to make them “disappear”.Franken21

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Franken24 I sanded the bowl with a fine grit sanding sponge to further smooth things out while I decide on how to proceed next with the finish on the bowl.Franken25

Franken26 The internal junction of the bowl and base needed some work as well. The bowl I had used was slightly conical on the base so the internal walls came in at an angle. The base walls were straight. I needed to sand the joint from the inside to smooth out the junction. I used the Dremel and the sanding drum to smooth out the junction. I proceeded slowly and carefully and was able to smooth out the walls. The photo below shows the inside of the bowl after the first work over with the Dremel and sanding drum. More needs to be done but you can see the progress.Franken27 When I got back from the office I decided to rusticate the new bowl with the same tree bark rustication pattern that the Anderson Freehand had. I used a pointed dental burr with striations through the shape of the cone. I held it like a pencil and worked on the surface of the briar. I followed the pattern on the lower portion of the pipe and worked to match it and continue it to the top of the rim.Franken28

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Franken30 As I got closer to the top of the bowl I wrapped the edge with several layers of cellophane tape and folded it over the rim as well. I continued to use the burr until I had carried the pattern all the way to the edge of the tape. The original bowl also had some smooth spots in the midst of the rustication. These looked like the ends of cut off branches. I put several of them on the sides of the new bowl as well to match the lower portion.Franken31

Franken32 The next two photos show the conical burr that I used for the rustication pattern.Franken33

Franken34 To highlight the barklike nature of the rustication I used a black Sharpie permanent marker to colour in the trails in the briar.Franken35

Franken36 I wiped the bowl down with alcohol on a cotton pad to even out the black and to set it in the bottoms of the lines.Franken37

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Franken40 I stained over the black marker with a dark brown thinned 50% with alcohol. I applied the stain and then flamed it. I repeated the process until the coverage was even.Franken41

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Franken43 I then gave the bowl a coat of oxblood stain thinned 50/50 with alcohol and set it on the cork stand to dry.Franken44

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Franken47 To protect the newly sanded bowl and the joint between the bowl and the base until a cake had a chance to form I mixed a batch of organic bowl coating that I have used for years. It sounds like it would smell and make things a mess but it does not. I use sour cream and activated charcoal powder. I put a dollop of sour cream in a bowl and empty the contents of three or more charcoal capsules into the sour cream. I mix it until it is a grey pasted. At this point there is very little smell to the mixture.Franken48

Franken49 I painted the inside of the bowl walls and bottom with a folded pipe cleaner. I want to give the bowl a coating on all sides. I insert a pipe cleaner in the airway so I do not get the mixture in the airway. I put on the coating in several layers letting the one underneath get a little set. I paid special attention to the area around the junction of the two parts.Franken50 I set the bowl aside to dry. When it dries the coating will be a charcoal black colour and provide a base for the formation of the cake. While it dried I worked on the stem. I sanded it with a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge and then moved on to sanding with micromesh pads. I wet sanded with 1500-2400 grit pads and rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil. I dry sanded with 3200-4000 grit pads, rubbed it down with oil again and then dry sanded with 6000-12000 grit pads. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and when it dried I buffed the stem with Blue Diamond.Franken51

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Franken53 I lightly buffed the stem and the bowl with carnauba – spending more time on the stem than on the bowl. I then took it back to the work table and hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to raise the shine. I did not want too much of a shine as I think the matte finish looks good on the tree bark rustication. The finished pipe is shown below. Once the bowl coating has dried for several days it will be ready to smoke. I am still mulling over what I will pack it with for the inaugural smoke. Thanks for looking.Franken54

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Reworking one of my own


Blog by Steve Laug

I don’t remember when I carved this pipe I do know it was one of the first I carved. It was a kit and the plateau was on the bottom of the bowl. I did the work with a Dremel and sanding drum. The stem was the one that came in the kit and I just used it. Over the years, probably in the neighbourhood of ten years, I smoked it infrequently but enough to know that it delivered a decent smoke. Looking at it the other day I noticed that it had a thin cake in the bowl so I obviously smoked it more than I remember. When I took it out of the rack the fit of the stem to the shank irritated me. It was a sloppy fit and slightly rounded at the shoulders. The diameter of the shank and the stem were not matched. On and on went the list of imperfections that stood out to me when I looked at it. I love the shape of the bowl, my odd rustication on the bottom of the bowl and shank and the look and feel of the bowl in my hand. But the stem had to go.apple1

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apple4 I had a little time on my hands so I went through my can of stems and found a stem that was thicker looking and about ½ inch shorter. I fit the tenon in the mortise and the fit against the end of the shank was tight and clean. Personally I liked the chubbier stem and the compact look it gave the pipe. To me it just seemed to work with this bowl. The stem was larger in diameter than the shank so it needed to be brought down to a clean transition between the two.apple5

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apple8 I worked on the stem diameter with emery cloth and sandpaper taking off the excess material and adjusting the fit to the shank.apple9

apple10 When the fit was better I sanded the stem and the shank with medium and fine grit sanding sponges to minimize the scratches.apple11

apple12 Once I had the fit correct and the transition smooth I took the photo below. I needed to restain the shank when I was finished to match the bowl.apple13 I used a light brown stain pen to match the stain on the bowl. I stained it and hand buffed it out to blend it in. Once the stain was buffed I set up my heat gun and heated the stem to adjust the bend slightly. In the original stem there was an abrupt down turn that did not work for me. I heated the stem and rebent it. Afterward I took the next series of photos to show the state of the pipe after the rebend.apple14

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apple17 With the stem bent the angle I wanted it was time to polish the stem. I sanded it with a fine grit sanding sponge and the used micromesh sanding pads to finish it. I wet sanded with 1500-2400 grit pads and then rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil. When the oil had been absorbed I dry sanded it with 3200-4000 grit pads. Each successive grit of pad raised more shine in the vulcanite. I rubbed it down again with oil and then continued dry sanding it with 6000-12,000 grit pads. When I finished I rubbed it down a final time with the oil and let it dry.apple18

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apple20 When it dried I took it to the buffer and buffed it with Blue Diamond Plastic polish and then gave the pipe multiple coats of carnauba wax. I finished by buffing it with a clean flannel buff to give it a finished shine. This one is going as a birthday present to a friend of mine. I gave him a choice of pipes that I had made and he chose this one. It is a great smoking pipe and I think he will enjoy it.apple21

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apple26 It seems that the work never seems to be finished on the pipes I have carved. I always seem to see one more adjustment, one more tweak to get it just right. Ah well, at least I am done with this one. Thanks for looking.

Carving Your Own- Getting Started with a Pre-Drilled Pipe Kit


Blog by Greg Wolford

One of the forums I belong to has started a group project: carve our own pipe from a kit/pre-drilled block. It’s just getting started but one thing has become apparent to me: lots of folks want to try but are at s loss as to where to start.

The whole idea here is to have fun and get started with a minimal amount of tools and money invested for the real beginners. It seems lots of folks think that a lot of large, expensive machinery is needed to make any pipe. While the professional pipe maker may have and need these, the DIY-guy/gal doesn’t need a lot to start from a kit.

My son has carved three pipes and I have carved one, all using hand tools, not counting the buffer. I thought that a short list and video might be helpful to any want-to-try pipe carver.

All of the tools except one can be found at Home Depot; I use them as the example because I bought it looked up most of them there/on their website. The exception is the vulcrylic file which I got from Amazon.com.

3-Piece Steel WoodChuck Set
http://thd.co/1mDsSfB
6-1/2 in. Pro Coping Wood Handle Saw
http://thd.co/1iXdvMA
8 in. 4-in-Hand Rasp and File
http://thd.co/SXnKpr
2-3/4 in. Swiveling Vacuum Base Vise
http://thd.co/1kWm4pf
2 Vul-Crylic Wax File Jewelers Carving Filing Hand Tool https://www.amazon.com/dp/B000RAYCES/ref=cm_sw_r_awd_Kj1Iub1ARRHYX

There are other sources for tools and sandpaper etcetera but this will get you started. The blocks/kits are available from a variety of suppliers, too, including but not limited to PIMO, Pipe Makers Emporium, and Vermont Freehand. These sources, with many others, also sell various finishing products such as dyes and waxes. But again, this ought to get one off on the right foot.

Happy carving!

Carving and Rusticating My First Pipe


Blog by Greg Wolford

Last winter sometime I got myself a pre-drilled pipe kit from an eBay auction; it is from Mr. Brog and is pear wood. I don’t remember exact how I did it but I really messed it up with a terribly wavy cut on the front using a coping saw; I made a few other small cuts that weren’t bad but made the block a mess added to the front cut. I was very unhappy with myself over it and put the kit away, forgetting about it, figuring it was a total loss.

Last week my son found it while he was carving a briar kit I’d bought him a few months ago and gave it to me. I decided that I was going to go ahead and try my hand at carving it, to get a feel for the process and maybe even salvage it. Considering the bad start I had, I didn’t plan on writing about this so I didn’t take many photos. But I’ve been asked about how I rusticated it so here we go.

I used only files and sandpaper, no more sawing (LOL), to do all of the rest of the pipe except for two things: the rim I carved lightly with a Dremel and I buffed it lightly on the buffer. This is an idea I’d where I started, with the wavy face:

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I used various files, including the above pictured vulcrylic file, to shape the block; my plan was to get a volcano type shape and hide the poor face-cut in the process. This proved to be a challenge since the front couldn’t be shaped too much or I’d end up with a much too thin wall.

I filed and sanded, slowly bringing out, more or less, the shape I had in mind. I also worked at the shank to a decent transition to the stem, which was a fair amount of work with all the material that needed to be removed. After I had gotten as far as I felt I could go with the shaping and was fairly happy with it I decided this would be a rusticated pipe; it would blend the faults better I thought and, being pear, there was no grain to speak of.

I’ve been wanting to try my hand at rustication and make a tool for a while. I’ve read many ideas on how to do this, mostly on this blog, so I knew what I wanted to try. I have many small screwdriver bits lying around from cheap screwdriver kits I’ve had over the years. The bits are usually not very hard and of low quality, often stripping out on tough screws/bolts; one of these would be my starting point. I held the number 2 Phillips head bit I chose in a pair of vice grips while using a Dremel cutting disk to cut the “X” on the bit tip. This is what I ended up with:

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There are now four cutting “teeth” on the bit, one which is slightly longer than the others (by accident I might say). I then chucked this up in a battery-powered screwdriver that had an adjustable handle; it can be used anywhere from straight to a 90-degree angle. I pressed the bit into the wood, depressed the switch, and began rusticating the stummel. This turned out to be a rather fun and enjoyable process I soon found. By varying the pressure, time the bit was rotating, and letting the tool “walk”, I was able to get a pretty interesting and fairly consistent pattern.

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I used a small carving bit in the Dremel to lightly carve the rim because the smooth rim didn’t match the pipe in my opinion.

I then scrubbed the stummel with a wire brush, to knock off the dust and debris from the process. I applied Fiebing’s mahogany leather dye, two coats which I dried with the heat gun rather than flaming because my grandson was helping me with this entire project. I hand buffed the extra stain off with an old rag and steel wool. Next I sanded the wood lightly with 320-grit paper to knock down the really sharp edges that remained. Them I buffed the stummel with Tripoli to further reduce harsh edges and give it a very small amount of contrast. Lastly, I waxed it with Halcyon II and buffed it by hand with a shoe brush.

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In the end I saved the kit, though it’s not as nice a project as I’d hoped for. But this system of bits ground into various shapes and used with the battery-powered screwdriver is an idea I really think made the project a success. I think that making different tools from different bits coupled with the variations one can achieve with the driver are a great tool to play with in the future, one that I hope others will find useful, too, and maybe find better variations on the idea to share with us for future use. Below is the driver, bit, and extension I used.

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Carving Another One from a Pre-Drilled Kit


When I was traveling in the early spring I stopped by Burlington on Whyte Tobacconist in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada to pick up some tobacco and have a look at their stock. In the past I had purchased a pipe kit from them and found it to be a pretty decent piece of briar. It was the last pipe I had carved for myself. I looked through the lot and found one I like this time as well. I purchased it and carried it home. It sat on my desk for the past several months while I tried to figure out what I wanted to do with it. It was drilled to be a three-quarter bent pipe and had a vulcanite stem this time. The last one I has purchase had a Lucite stem. I thought it had potential and I just needed time to let it marinate in my brain until I decided what to carve.
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I had a long weekend with rainy days forecasted for the entire time so it was a perfect opportunity to work on the block and see what I could carve. I don’t have many power tools in terms of facilitating carving but I do have files, knives and a Dremel with many sanding drums. I sketched out an idea on the block and began to sand away the excess briar with the Dremel. I had drawn a calabash/acorn shaped pipe. I have an old 100+ year old oak tree in my front yard and every fall I fight the squirrels in picking up the acorns. I was cleaning up around the tree recently and came across one they had dropped. I had the thought that an acorn shape including the cap would make an interesting looking pipe. With that in mind I attacked the work of shaping the briar. I find that I always am reticent to remove briar because I know I cannot put it back once it is gone so it takes me awhile to get the pipe walls and shank the proper shape and thinness. This one was going to be a bit thicker that I wanted when I realized that the shank was drilled for a 9mm filter. That would mean that the diameter of the shank would be larger than I had hoped.

In the photos and words below I plan on taking you with me on the journey from block to pipe. You might well have made different decisions than I did in the shaping of the block. And you probably would use better/different tools to work the shape. However, I worked with the tools I had and really wanted to show that the shaping can be done with a few tools, persistence and lots of hard hand work. Thanks for coming along with me on this journey. If you want to skip the words, feel free to do so and enjoy the process shown in the photos.
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I used a Dremel tool with a sanding drum, several different wood rasps and files to cut away the excess material. I find that the Dremel works fairly quickly in removing the briar and the files and rasps work well in the area where the shank joins the bowl. In the past I have tried to do that work with sandpaper and sanding sponges and was not happy with the overall results. The files and rasps facilitate a more defined junction. I also used several carving knives that I have to further define the angles of the junction.
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It took a lot of sanding with the Dremel and sanding drum to round out the corners on the block and remove the excess material around the shank. I worked to taper the bowl into the point at the bottom of the acorn and files and the Dremel to cut in the edge of the cap on the top of the bowl. I had spent approximately two hours to get the bowl to this point in the process. The photos below show that the shape is beginning to emerge from the block.
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I worked on defining the shape of the bowl and differentiating the shank from the bowl. I continued to use the Dremel and sanding drum to taper the bowl and further define the shank/bowl junction. I also used it to increase the depth of the line between the cap and the body of the acorn as well as the curves of the cap. I was trying to shape the curves to resemble a meerschaum cup in a calabash.
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I worked on the block with 100 grit sandpaper to further refine the angles and shape. I used a sharp knife to clean up the shank and bowl junction and give it even a clearer definition.
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Before I took down more of the thickness of the shank I decided to make a new stem for the pipe. I wanted to get rid of the 9mm stem and put a tapered stem on the shank instead of the saddle stem. I turned the tenon with a PIMO tenon turning tool on a cordless drill and then hand fit it to the mortise. Once I had a good fit I sanded the shank and stem to get a smooth transition between the two materials. I used 100 grit sandpaper and then 220 grit to smooth it out. I continued to take down the taper on the bowl and round out the bottom of the bowl and the edges around the cap with the 100 grit and 220 grit sandpaper. The bowl was starting to take shape at this point in the process. It was still too thick to my liking and the cap was too blocky. A lot more sanding waits for me.
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I used the Dremel and sanding drum to remove more of the briar and then hand sanded with the 100 grit sandpaper to further refine the shape. I used a sanding wedge to work on the angle at the junction of the shank and bowl and clean up the carving marks. I also want to flatten the bottom of the bowl slightly and minimize the dip at the shank and bowl on the bottom.
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I continued to remove diameter from the shank and also work on the bottom of the bowl to give it a more rounded look and feel. I used 100 grit sandpaper to work on these areas. I sanded the stem as well to keep the taper and flow even between the two materials. I also sanded the curve on the cap to makes the angles less sharp.
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I used a heat gun to heat the stem and bent it over an old rolling pin I use for bending stems. I wanted the angle of the stem to approximate the angle of the curve on the bottom of the bowl so I needed to do a bit more sanding on the bowl. The next three photos show the progress on reducing the point on the bottom of the bowl.
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I decided to give the bowl a black under stain to highlight the grain. The right side of the bowl and shank had some great birdseye grain and the top and bottom of the shank had cross grain. The left side of the bowl had a mixed grain pattern but it was still quite nice. The black stain would permeate the grain and make it stand out. I heated the briar with the heat gun and applied a coat of black stain, flamed it and reapplied it repeating the pattern until the coverage was even. Once it had dried I wiped it down with acetone on cotton pads to remove the stain from the harder briar where it had not gone into the grain.
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I sanded the bowl with a medium grit sanding pad to remove more of the stain and to help highlight the contrast between the grain and the lighter portions of the briar. I buffed it with red Tripoli. The photos below show the bowl as it stood after the buffing. There was still sanding to do to remove the dark scratch marks in the finish and further remove the black stain.
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I wanted to add to the contrast of the grain so I stained the pipe with oxblood aniline stain and then buffed it with White Diamond. The contrast was evident and the grain stood out nicely against the second coat of stain but it was just too red for my liking. I wanted more of a reddish brown colour than the red it was after the stain.
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I rubbed bowl down with a cherry stain to lighten the red. It was still too red for me. The pipe in the photo below shows the cherry stain over coat on the oxblood.
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I decided to add a coat of dark brown stain to the bowl and give it a deeper, richer colour. I applied the dark brown stain and flamed it, reapplied, flamed it again and then buffed the bowl with White Diamond to polish it and make it more transparent. I wanted the grain to pop through the finish but I wanted it to be less obtrusive than the above photos.
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I sanded the bowl with micromesh sanding pads using 3200-6000 grit pads to even out the dark and light portions. I also wanted to polish the finish more before calling it finished. I buffed the bowl with White Diamond and gave it several coats of carnauba wax to give a shine. I polished the stem with the micromesh pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12,000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil and when dry I buffed the pipe with White Diamond. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax, buffing with a soft flannel buff between applications of wax. The finished pipe is shown below. (However, there is one disclaimer – with any pipe I have made in the past I have always gone back after a time and changed the look. The odds are thus quite high that I will modify this one as well somewhere down the road.)
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I took the new pipe with me to work yesterday and planned to take a walk and fire it up at my lunch hour. It actually worked out that I did just that! I packed a bowl of Hearth and Home Louisiana Red and enjoyed a good walk and contemplative time. The bowl got warm but not hot, the draw was very good and the feel in the hand and mouth was comfortable. It is bigger than the pipes I usually smoked but surprisingly it is not very heavy.

Thanks for taking the journey with me from block of briar to pipe.

My latest “Frankenpipe” Project


Blog by Steve Laug

In the grab bag I got from the antique mall on my recent trip was a cutoff bulldog bowl. Whoever had owned the pipe in the past cut off the majority of the shank and had epoxied a metal tenon in place in the short shank. They had then added a churchwarden stem – a delicate round stem that really did not fit at all. In the photo below it is the bulldog just above the cob bowl. The stem was repurposed for the cob stack I wrote about in a previous blog post. The bowl just sat in the box while I figured out what I would do with it. I had thought of turning it back into a bulldog but just was not sure of that being the right direction to go with the pipe.
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Then this evening I decided to do another “Frankenpipe” project. I pulled together the parts that might come into play and spread them out on the worktable. I had a chunk of briar from Dogtalker that could work for a shank extension, the cut off bowl from the bulldog and a selection of different stems that could be fit to the new shank once it got to that point. I examined the end of the short shank for a long time trying to decide the way to go with the new shank extension – diamond shank or round shank. The edges of the remaining diamond shank were well-rounded and the diamond had virtually disappeared. It looked like it would probably evolve into a Rhodesian by the time I was done but time would tell. Sooooo…. in the spirit of the tall cob, I decided to put together the parts and see what I could do with them.
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I started the process of joining the briar block and the short shank bowl. I drilled an airway in the briar going straight through. It was slightly larger than the metal tenon so that it the metal tenon and some epoxy would fit. This would give a straight airway from the bowl to the block. Once that was finished I drilled enlarged the airway on other side of the briar block with a larger bit to create a mortise. I put the pieces together to make sure that everything would fit together. For the purpose of having some kind of stem I grabbed an old diamond shank stem from my can of stems to fit the mortise.
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I used my topping board and sandpaper to try to face the short shank and the piece of briar to facilitate a flush fit when the two pieces were joined. The shank on the pipe had been cut at an angle so I took that into consideration when I was working on the briar extension. I mixed up a two-part epoxy and glued the block and the bowl. The photos show the epoxied joint before I cleaned it up. I clamped the pieces together overnight to let it cure.
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In the morning once the glue had cured I took the clamp off and looked it over more carefully to see if I could redeem the diamond shank. The more I looked at it the more I knew that the diamond shank was gone and I would best work to make a round shank Rhodesian. I turned the tenon on a very chubby round taper stem with the PIMO Tenon Turner to fit in the new mortise. Once the stem fit well in the shank I got a better idea of what the finished pipe would look like. There was still a lot of shaping and fine tuning to do with the stem to shank junction but the “Frankenpipe” had potential.
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I used a Dremel with a sanding drum to begin shaping the shank extension. I had to remove a lot of the briar on the extension and round it to make the transition smoother. I did the work in stages, constantly checking the look and flow of the shank extension to make sure I did not take off too much briar.
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I put the stem in place in the shank to keep the target in sight as I sanded the shank. At this point in the process I was not worrying about the fit of the stem to the shank I was more concerned with the overall flow from the bowl to the button. When I am shaping a pipe I am constantly putting the pieces back together to see if the flow is beginning to work well.
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I continued to sand with the Dremel until I had the majority of excess briar removed. I then took it to the worktable and worked on the bowl and shank with 220 grit sandpaper. I continued to remove the briar and shape the new shank. The Rhodesian shape is beginning to become clear in this “Frankenpipe”. There was still a lot of sanding to do but the finished pipe shape was beginning to emerge from the briar.
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I continued to hand sand the shank to reduce the diameter and shape the flow toward the bowl. The shank and bowl are starting to look like they belong together. I worked on the stem to make the fit of the stem to the shank smoother. I removed the excess vulcanite with the Dremel and shaped the stem by hand to remove the sanding marks and scratches left behind by the Dremel and sanding drum. When I finished sanding for the evening I slid a band on the shank just for kicks. If I leave the band on the shank I will need to work some more on the stem to get a good snug fit. Even so the pipe is starting to appear from the diverse parts – “Frankenpipe” was beginning to come alive.
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I sanded some more on the shank and bowl junction. I decided to give the shank a cigar-like flow – tapered at the bowl and taper from the stem to the button but with a gradual rise in the middle. The flow would be a gentle bulge that came to its highest point at the band.
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I decided to take the pipe to work with me and continue to sand it during breaks. I had a day working in our warehouse scheduled and would need to have a diversion from the work I had on the agenda for the day. I sanded it with a medium grit sanding sponge. I took these photos at the end of the day before I headed home for the day. The pipe was really taking shape now.
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I really liked the flow of the shank from the back of the bowl to the tip of the stem. It formed a nice elongated oval. It would not be possible to sand further on the joint of the bowl and extension so I decided to rusticate the shank. I used some electrical tape to mark off the area that I would rusticate and to protect the places that I did not want to rusticate.
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I rusticated the shank, leaving a smooth section of briar next to the nickel band. I formed a point at the bottom of the bowl where the rustication would end. I decided to leave the bowl smooth as it had some nice grain. I rusticated it with the modified Philips screw driver, wire brushed off the loose briar chips and then sanded it with a medium grit sanding sponge to smooth out the high edges. I wanted a patterned rustication but not one that was rough to the touch. My idea was to provide an interesting pattern on the briar of the shank extension that would hide the joint but also add interest to the finished look of the pipe.
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I stained the rustication with a black aniline stain, flamed it and then wire brushed it a second time. I restained and reflamed it and then sanded the high spots on the rustication with a fine grit sanding sponge. Once the rustication was the style I wanted I gave the bowl a top coat of oxblood stain. I wanted a contrast between the deep grooves of the rustication and the rest of the pipe. I always have liked that look on a pipe. This particular “Frankenpipe” was made for this kind of rustication pattern. At this point the major work on the bowl and shank is done other than polishing and waxing. I still had work to do on the stem and band but the pipe was taking definite shape. It had come a long way from the pieces that came together at the beginning.
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I still had a lot of work to do on the stem. I needed to clean up the angles and taper of the stem, sand out some of the scratches left behind, reshape the button and open up the airway on the stem. Each of these little steps adds to the finished comfortableness of the stem and the flow of the smoke from the bowl to the mouth. I began by reshaping the slot in the airway. I have three needle files that I have come to depend on for this process. Two of them are oval files – one flatter than the other and the third is a round file. The three files work together to give the slot the open shape that makes slipping a pipe cleaner down the stem and shank during a smoke effortless.
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Once the slot was opened I sanded the inside of it with a folded piece of sandpaper to smooth out the inner surface of the slot. I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to shape and taper the flow from the band and shank toward the button. I wanted a smooth curve that paralleled the curve in the shank on the other side of the band. I used medium and fine grit sanding sponges and then my usual batch of micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanded with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil.
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I put the polished stem back in the shank and took the pipe to the buffer. I buffed it with White Diamond to give a shine to the bowl and shank and lightly buffed the stem again with White Diamond. I gave the pipe multiple coats of carnauba wax – using a light touch on the rusticated part of the shank. I buffed it with a soft flannel buffing pad to raise the shine. The finished pipe is shown below. I noticed in the photos that there are still some fine scratches on the stem and band so I will go back to the micromesh and take care of those. But before I do that it is time to load up a bowl of some aged Balkan Sobranie Virginian No. 10 and give the pipe a smoke. My Cocker Spaniel, Spencer is anxious to go out so it is a good time to load a pipe and give him some attention in the yard.
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A New Pipe Born from a Pre-drilled Block


I purchased a pre-drilled block of briar with a Lucite stem from Burlington on Whyte Tobacconist in Edmonton a few weeks ago. I sorted through the box of blocks they had at the shop and chose this one. It showed some interesting birdseye grain on the sides and some straight grain on the front and back. I also like the angle of the stem on it and figured it might be an interesting project to work on between some of the refurbs that I have going all the time. I put it on my desk in my basement office next to the computer keyboard and looked at pretty much daily trying to figure out a shape that would fit the grain and the angles of the block. I used pencil and scribbled a lot of them on the block, erasing and reshaping the image repeatedly until I finally saw a shape that I kind of liked and figured I could carve it easily enough.

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I used a blunt pencil and sketched the rough idea on the block. I have carved enough to know that what the original sketch looked like may be far removed from the finished pipe. As the excess briar was removed there would likely be flaws that would change the shape of the finished pipe until it became quite different from the original concept in my mind. Also I have learned that the height of the bowl can also dramatically change as I carve into the block. But at least I had an idea and was ready to begin the carving. The next series of five photos show the block after I removed the surface material to get a look at the grain. After sketching the drawing on the block I took it into the back yard and began to remove briar from the block with my Dremel and a large sanding drum.

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The next four photos show the block after the initial work with the sanding drum. I removed all of the square edges and the excess height of the block and began the rough shaping of the new pipe concept. The grain is actually going to be quite nice as far as I can see at this point. There were also some flaws showing up in the block on the left side near the shank bowl junction and also on the bottom edge of the left side of the bowl. These are visible in the first photo and look like a line across the bottom edge. At this point I brought the block inside and took the photos below before taking it back out to work on rounding out the edges of the bowl and shank.

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I took it back outside and used the Dremel and sanding drum to remove the edges and begin to round out the bowl shape. At this point I was not aiming for smoothness only rough shape. The next three photos show the bowl after this shaping was completed. You will note that the inside edge of the shank bowl junction is quite rough. I took a lot of briar off at this point to lengthen the shank and to clean up that junction. A lot more work would have to be done but the shape was beginning to show more clearly. The flaw at the bottom of the left side of the bowl and shank was actually becoming bigger and are visible in the first picture as a darkened line at the bottom of the bowl and shank. I apologize for the lack of clarity in these photos but it was late evening at this point and I did a poor job of focusing.

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From this point in the process I used files and wood rasps to remove more of the briar and to refine the shape of the bowl. I also decided to cut the stem into a saddle bit as I thought that look would go well with the shape I was working on. The pipe was becoming a modified egg shape. Where it would go from here would be worked out with the files and the work at removing the flaws in the briar as much as possible. The next four photos show the shaping of the saddle stem with the wrasp and files.

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Once I had the rough shape on the stem I used the files and rasp on the bowl of the pipe. I filed away the briar to further round out the shape of the bowl and shank. The flaw in the shank and bowl bottom on the left was still an issue that would take a lot more work to see if I could remedy it or work around it. The next five photos show the rounding of the bowl after working it over with the files and rasp.

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After using the files I sanded the bowl with coarse grit emery paper to further shape the bowl, shank and stem. I worked on the shank to round it out and match the diameter of the stem. The next four photos show how far the shape has come to this point. The flaw is also very visible in the first and the fourth photos below. It is very deep at some points and on the surface in others. It does not go into the interior of the bowl or shank so there will be a lot more sanding to see if I can rid the block of the flaws. To me this is always one of the surprises that lie within a block of briar. They never become visible until a lot of work has been done in shaping. At this point I was wondering if I would need to rusticate the bowl or possibly figure out another option or shape to deal with the flaw.

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I continued sanding the bowl with the emery paper and then switched to a coarse grit sanding sponge. At this point I was not worried about scratches that would come later. I only wanted to remove more of the briar. I also heated the stem with my heat gun and bent it to shape. I still needed to clean up the junction of the shank and bowl. It needed a little less slope in my opinion. The next three photos show where things were at this point in the process. The pipe is beginning to take shape. I have also removed quite a bit of the briar around the flaws on the bottom edge. The change can be seen in the first photo below.

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I used the files and rasp to remove more of the slope on the back side of the bowl and make the angle more in tune with the front slope of the bowl. Once I had removed what I wanted I used my sanding sponge and the emery paper to remove the marks of the files. With removing more of the slope I also decided to define the curve of the back side of the bowl along the shank and make the angle there more obvious and distinct. I used the Dremel with the sanding drum to shape this portion of the bowl on both sides. The beauty of this decision is that it removed a fair piece of the flaw in the shank and bowl. The next three photos show the shape after I worked on defining the angles more clearly. The question in my mind at this point was whether I would be able to make the stem as thin as I would like due to the deeply set tenon in the stem. Nonetheless the finished shape of the pipe emerging from the briar.

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The next series of three photos show the bowl after I had sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper. I gave it a quick coat of medium brown aniline stain and flamed it. I buffed it with White Diamond to see where things stood at this point. The grain was very clear on the sides – some nice birdseye on the right side of the bowl, cross grain on the front and back of the bowl and on the top and bottom of the shank. The left side of the bowl was mixed grain toward the bottom and the flaws were glaring. The top half of the left side was covered in birdseye. The top of the rim was cross grain that matched the top of the shank. The stem was bothering me at this point so after taking the photos below I fit a vulcanite stem to the shank. I like the flow and the thinness of the stem. I made the decision to keep the vulcanite stem and put aside the Lucite one.

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With the new stem in place I sanded the shank and stem to match cleanly. I also continued to sand the bowl and shank with 220 grit and 340 grit sandpaper. I also used a fine grit sanding sponge on the bowl. Once the visible scratches were gone I took it outside into natural light to inspect for further scratches. I took it back to the work table and wet sanded it with 1500 and 1800 grit micromesh sanding pads. I continued sanding the bowl and shank with 2400-12,000 grit micromesh until the bowl was smooth. I examined it under a bright light and reworked the places where there were still minute scratches. Once that was done I decided to stain the bowl.

I wanted to try something different with the staining process this time around so I first gave it a coat of black aniline stain and flamed it. Once it was dry I sanded and buffed the bowl with Tripoli to remove the stain from the surface. My purpose was to highlight the grain in the briar and make it more visible. The black was to be the first undercoat of stain that I would use on this pipe. The next three photos show the black stain after much of it has been removed. The grain is very visible in the photos. The birdseye and cross grain really stand out. After these photos I wiped the bowl down with a cotton pad wet in Everclear to remove more of the surface stain and prepare the surface for the next coat of stain.

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The second coat of stain that I used was an oxblood stain. I applied it with a bent pipe cleaner, flamed it. Once it was dry I polished it by hand with a terry cloth to even out the finish and make sure it would be ready for the next coat of stain (photos 1 and 2 below). I took it to the buffer and buffed it with White Diamond and then gave it a coat of Dark Brown aniline stain thinned 2:1 with Isopropyl alcohol. I flamed the stain and then buffed it again with White Diamond. Photos 3 and 4 show the pipe after that work. The grain is really standing out now and I am pleased with the finished colour of the pipe. It is a rich reddish brown in colour and will deepen once I have waxed it and polished it. The beauty of this combination of stains is that it really served well to blend in the flaws in the briar on the bottom left side. They are still there but are less glaring.

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With the staining finished it was time to do more work on the stem. I sanded out the scratches that remain with 340 grit sandpaper and then a fine grit sanding sponge. I worked on the angles of the saddle with the sandpaper and sponge to clean up the cut marks in the vulcanite. I continued wet sanding the stem with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads and then polished it with Scratch X plastic polish to remove the remaining scratches. The next series of nine photos shows the bowl finish after 4 coats of carnauba wax and a buff with a soft flannel buffing pad. The finish is actually quite amazing and the grain made this work keeping smooth even with the visible flaws in the briar. The stain masks the flaws and blends them into the black of the grain well and though they are present they are not glaring. The stem still needs more work at the point of these photos but it is beginning to take on a shine.

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The final four photos show the finished pipe. I continued to wet sand the stem with the 1500-1800 grit micromesh sanding pads until the scratches and rough areas were clean and black. I then dry sanded with the remaining grits of micromesh from 2400-12,000 to polish the stem and give it a mirror like finish. Once that was finished I waxed the pipe and stem several more times with carnauba wax. All that remains is for the pipe to be christened with its first bowl!

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