Blog by Steve Laug
Over the years of my dabbling in pipe restoration and refurbishing I have experienced many helpful individuals who took time to school me in the work that I do. Both repair people and pipe makers took time to answer my questions as they arose. They would do so by email, phone or in person. I never ran into a situation where they were not willing to be interrupted to help me out with what to me was an “urgent” question. They often would follow-up on what I had asked to see if it had worked out or if I had further questions. I experienced a great sense of community with them in our common love of the pipe. When I could visit them, I did so and enjoyed a bowl together. The comradery was unequaled to other experiences I have had both in the hobby and outside the hobby in my various jobs.
When I started dreaming and working on the concept for rebornpipes it was early in 2012. I knew that I wanted to create an online community of pipe refurbishers – both amateur and those who make a living at it. I wanted that community to be like the one I continue to experience to this day. When I run into questions and want some advice from someone who has already done the repair I just reach out with an email or a phone call. I wanted to create a place where folks who refurbish pipes could share their expertise and methods with one another and continue to learn new ways of working on the briar we love. I wanted it to be a judgmental free forum of methods and ideas of restoration. I wanted it to be a place were a beginner and a veteran refurbisher would find a forum of ideas and methods. What I am speaking of is quite simply an interactive community where there are no “dumb questions”. All of us can reach forward to someone who knows more than we do and back to someone who is just beginning. I was hoping that kind of place would be possible to start.
When I began the blog in May of 2012, I had no idea whether it would fly or whether I would be closing up shop soon after opening. I knew that I was putting together a repository of the methods of restoring pipes that I had collected over years of working on my own pipes. I have always recorded the process of restoration as I often posted them on the various pipe forums that I frequented at that time. I had a backlog of files with photos and step-by-step procedures that I had taken on each pipe I worked on. I established a template for the writing style and the form of each piece I had written. At that point in time, I could find no one who was doing anything remotely like I wanted to do, so I had to invent it myself.
I researched the web to find some kind of place to build the site I had in mind. I knew that I did not want a website or a forum. I wanted something that did not limit the number of photos or the number of words I wrote in a post. I wanted something that would grow with time and be able to incorporate the work of others, not just myself. I wanted the site to have the capacity for discussion and interaction on each post. I had a lot of ideas that needed to be available for the site to work for me. My youngest daughter, Sarah had started a blog on WordPress and suggested that a blog might be the right kind of format for what I wanted to do. I went on the WordPress site and read through everything they had on setting up a blog on their site.
I worked through the site and everything I looked at seemed like it was perfect for my demands. I took the plunge and registered for a free blog on WordPress. I knew next to nothing about setting up a blog and adding text or photos. I knew next to nothing about inviting others to use the blog. I had no idea how to monitor it and screen out the incessant spam that comes with any internet adventure. I was as green as could be with regard to the world of blogging. I knew how to write and I had a large backlog of pieces that I could post. The adventure began. I don’t remember how many posts I put online before I advertised it on Smokers Forums and other Forums – maybe 25 or so. I did not know at that time how to link it to Facebook or Twitter for a larger reach. I just dived in and went from there. Not long after I began, a friend from England on Smokers Forums drew a header image for the new blog. Kirk sent me the following piece that he had put together. I grace the top of every page of the site for several years. I have included it below, because even that was a foretaste of the community I was dreaming would form around rebornpipes.I will never forget the moment that Neill Archer Roan read a couple of pieces on the blog (maybe more) and recommended my blog on his Passion for Pipes site. That is where things really took off for rebornpipes. Traffic increased over time. I asked Al Jones (upshallfan) if he would consider writing for the blog about his restoration work. I started haunting the restoration and refurbishing sections on the forums and asking people to contribute to the blog. Slowly at first, then with increasing momentum, new contributors were added and the blog began to come alive. The one piece I had yet to unravel was how to get readers to interact with the writers of each blog. I invited them and emailed others to kind of seed the idea but nothing seemed to work. I laid that aside and hoped that one day it would just happen.
The years have actually flown by and I can hardly believe that five years have already passed. Much of what I dreamed would happen has happened. New people write regularly thanking me for starting this blog. Others post on Facebook, Twitter, and the forums referencing to rebornpipes and thanking the writers and contributors of blogs to the site. The interaction between readers and writers grows every month and new followers are added daily. A growing and vibrant community of refurbishers provides the knowledge base to folks who are just beginning to explore the world of pipe refurbishing. Questions are asked, comments are made and recommendations are given through the comment feature on the blogs. A store, selling refurbished pipes is also available and links to other refurbishers who are selling their work are regularly provided in the pieces that they write. I am thrilled with the life that rebornpipes has now as it is daily growing into the place that I dreamed it would be.
On June 1, 2017 I wrote a blog reflecting on rebornpipes fifth year in existence. You can read the entire blog at this link: https://rebornpipes.com/2017/06/01/rebornpipes-is-five-years-old-thank-you/. I want to quote just a part of it here as it illustrates how my original dream is being fulfilled. Today at the five-year mark, I look back and the blog has taken on a life of its own. It has grown from just my own posts to those of over 20 contributors. Al Jones (upshallfan) has been with me from the beginning and I am thankful for his support and friendship. Throughout the years, other contributors have come and gone and new ones are added regularly. Each one brings their own flavor and flair to the work of refurbishing. Their style and innovations leave me excited to read the next post… I thank each one of you who have contributed to the blog so far and remind the readers that the door is always open for you to make your own contributions to the hobby. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for information on post formats and details.
What does the future hold for rebornpipes? To be honest it is just now coming to life in the way I had dreamed it would. Out of it, others have created their own blogs that contribute to the love of pipe restoration. Some of them certainly could speak for themselves how rebornpipes contributed or has not contributed to their own blog and I will leave that to them if they choose to do so. I have no idea where the blog will go or what its life expectancy will be but I am committed to continue to post and pay the bills to keep it going as long as I am able. It remains a major part of each day to read and do the housekeeping on the blog. I have the app on my iPad and my iPhone so I can do the work wherever I am at the moment. My morning begins with a cup of coffee and reading what others have posted and commented from around the world while I slept.
Once again I want to thank you all – those dreamers among you who contribute your own work, those of you who read and comment faithfully now, those of you who read and email to let me know how much you are enjoying the blog and all who are loyal readers and enjoy the blog on your own. Thank you to each of you who send questions and now contact me through the contact button on the front page for help in your own restorations. It is a pleasure to be able to help you as you work on your own restorations and repairs. It is a joy for me to see my dream coming to pass. It is a joy to be a part of the community that has formed around rebornpipes.
I raise my pipe to each of you who love the work of refurbishing, bringing old pipes back to life and passing on the trust that is symbolized in a briar that outlives each of us. It is because of that commonality that I continue to work and continue to post. Thank you all.