Tag Archives: Alternative Wood pipe

One Just for Fun: A New Frankenpipe – Combining a Few Parts to Craft a Rustic Pipe

In the box of gift bowls that came to me were a few that I could fiddle with and see what I could come up with. There were no stems for these items so it was a blank slate to work on. The first of these was an old rustic bowl. As I looked at it I could see some possibilities for this old bowl. The bowl had a decent cake on the walls and there were no cracks in the piece of wood. It was like an old branch of cherrywood. The bark had been peeled and the top roughly carved. The bottom of the bowl was rounded. Internally the bowl bottom was flat and sound. The airway entered the bowl precisely on the bottom. There was a drilled airway on the side of the bowl that looked like it probably had a long stick for a shank and stem – possibly a reed stem.

I did not have a reed stem or a wooden shank to insert in the bowl but I did have an old vulcanite long stem that would work. The tenon had been tapered down and it had a slight saddle that gave it a unique look.
I sanded the taper and reduced the diameter of the end of the stem/tenon. I sanded it until it fit snug in the hole in the bowl. I sanded it with 150 and 220 sandpaper to shape the stem and clean up the fit. I sanded it with a medium and a fine grit sandpaper to remove the scratches left behind by the sandpaper.
I have a briar shank piece left over from other work I had done and for a short time considered inserting that between the bowl and the stem. I laid it out to see what it would look like and did not like the look so I set it aside for a later project.
I turned the stem directly into the bowl and checked on the fit. The short tenon end on the stem was the precise depth of the hole in the side of the bowl. That made the fit perfect.
I decided to glue in the stem with wood glue rather than leaving it a pressure fit stem. I decided the look would be similar to a mini-church warden cob and the fixed stem would work well with this particular bowl. I put the glue on the tenon and pressed it into place. I wiped up the spill over and wiped it down with a cotton pad to clean the briar and vulcanite surfaces.
I sanded the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12,000 grit pads. The look of the pipe was quite acceptable.

I gave the bowl a thin coat of medium brown aniline stain, flamed it and buffed it. The finished pipe is shown below. Now I need to get a straw hat and use it as a yard pipe. It should work well as a pipe that will not leave any worry when I am working in the garden or mowing the lawn. It will be a good pipe to smoke while sitting and reading on my front porch.




A Mystery Dragon Pipe and Its Journey

I had this old Dragon pipe sitting around in my box of pipes to be refurbished for a long time. I had no idea where it had come from but it seemed like a folk art pipe to me. It was solid wood and for a long time I thought it might be Manzanita wood or the like. I cleaned up the outside but never smoked it. The drilling on the bowl was not completed and the airway was blocked as well. So it sat forever. The shank had a crack in it that seemed to have developed as the pipe was made and I figure that the original maker just stopped working on it at that point. The tenon was metal and screwed into the mortise and the stem. The stem was also wood and was very comfortable in the mouth – thin, large, flat blade with an open flared slot in the button.

I cleaned out the dust and grit that had built up in the dragon’s scales and wings and also filled the crack in the shank with briar dust and super glue. Once it had dried I sanded the joint down to remove the excess glue and dust and then waxed the pipe with carnauba to give it back its shine.


I was chatting with T-bear (Ted Haviland) one day and decided to send it his way. Like me he is a collector and lover of the unusual. Unlike me he is a pipe maker with a lot of talent and the tools to give this pipe a work over. I sent it to him and he drilled out the shank to open it up. When he did he found that the shank had been plugged with rubber and once it was out he could blow through the airway. He used his lathe and drilled the bowl out the rest of the way to meet the airway in the bottom. Once he had done that he set it aside as a keepsake I guess. I called him and encourage him to give it a smoke. He did and wrote back to me to tell me what a great smoker it is. But he wanted to know what kind of wood it was. I had no idea and told him so but it continued to bug me. Image

One evening I was chatting with Chuck Richards about the pipe and mentioned that I thought it was Manzanita wood and he wondered if it might be Rhamnus Wood from China. I sent him pictures of it and he quickly fired back this reply:

Steve, there is no doubt that your pipe is an example of the Northern Chinese Tribal Rhamnus Wood Pipe.  If I get a chance to get some photos of mine, you will see immediately…..the shape of the bit, the scallops overlapping the junction of the bit and shank, the flow of the dragon’s mane and the shape of his nose.  Now for the fun news.  There are currently none available on the Chinese Ebay, and while the smaller plain pipes sell inexpensively, the Dragon pipes are a hefty $350.00 now. Do and advanced search for Rhamnus completed listings, and you will get a good look at the range of color in this wood.

With that news digested I sent Ted an email to finally answer his question. He was as excited as I was and sent me an immediate reply.

How interesting! Like you, I would never have guessed that this rascal had such a fascinating provenance. A Chinese Tribal pipe…wow!

The piece’s value to me is not a monetary one, but lies in the thoughtfulness of a friend who cared enough to notice my penchant for the unusual, and the generosity to gift this lovely pipe to such a grumpy old curmudgeon. It is even more special for all of that, and will remain always in my collection….when it’s not in my rotation!

Thank you for a fine smoking pipe, a great collector’s piece, and a wonderful tale to tell my friends!

PS…this will be great fun to smoke at next year’s Pipe Show!

Well, it just goes to show you, you never know what you might find in a box of estate pipes. I really wish that pipe could talk so it could tell of its travels from tree to carver to whoever sold it, to the east coast of the US and then to Canada where it sat in my collection for awhile and now it is in Missouri. What tales that pipe could tell. Smoke it in health Ted. It is a beauty and to me one of a kind.