Saturday, December 20, 2008

Something for the ladies

I was looking at a block of briar today, and found a huge crack ran through the top and out the side. It was just a bit too big of a flaw to be able to make a small pipe. I didn't want to toss the thing. I ended up hacking the bad chunk off with a clumsy hand-saw.

I then sliced a chunk off and started shaping. The moritse hole on a pipe just happens to be the same size as a standard camel light cigarette, so I hit the block with my mortise bit, drilled an air hole the rest of the way through, and voila!, I had a cigarette holder.

The end result is pretty sharp, I think. I don't think a holder is necessarily feminine, but it is definitetly less masculine of a product than a pipe. It is always good to have something for the ladies. The idea also helps fill the gap in my shop of the under $50 listings.

The couple I made today have been posted in the shop. This is yet another thing that will be so much easier to do once I have a bandsaw. Sawing a hard wood like a briar burl with a cheap handsaw is a huge pain in the elbow.

cig holder 01


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A new pipe and a great buy

It has been a good last couple of days. A couple pipe sales. A couple of pipes made. This is the one I finished today. A nice little poker pipe, with virgin stain to show the almost flawless grain. There's one tiny dot of a sand pit on the base, the size of a pin point. I like this shape. Sharp lines with a rounded base that balances perfectly.

pipe 28

I got a package today, something I ordered for myself as a reward for making my first couple of sales. I probably shouldn't have since it is xmas time, but as I could barely make a justification for it being for my business, I got away with it.

It is a business card holder, made by an etsy seller named Douglas Thompson (my mother's maiden name) who has a shop called SDIWoodworking. He sells several beautiful wood products including business cards, wooden pens, bowls, and some other fantastic works.

The holder I bought was well packaged, nicely priced, and quickly delivered. It came with a card describing the wood. Two types of cherry, with a circle set in the back made of cocobolo. It is constructed firmly enough that I feel comfortable carrying it in a pocket.



Thursday, December 11, 2008

Relaxing before work

Christmas approaches. Ugh, only two weeks to go. I have yet to buy a single gift. I'm so bad about getting that stuff done.

I did buy another batch of briar, which will hopefully arrive friday or saturday. I'm hoping I don't have to wait until monday, but with the holidays in full swing the mail does get a bit slowed down. I have the weekend off, so it would be wonderful to have a fresh batch of wood to get a big start on. I'll be finishing the last two pipes I'm working on tomorrow, and then I'll have nothing to do.

I was wandering etsy the other day and stumbled on a great wood-worker. His shop is called andrewsreclaimed. He saves old cedar from construction sites and creates wonderful works for your yard. His shop has bird feeders, bat houses, and very cool bee hives, along with some other pieces.


You can also check out his blog here.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Fun times

What a good time at the Art Hop! The big snow held off until today, so there was a constant stream of people the entire time. The were about 20 sellers crammed into the studio, and a huge mob. I never had a chance to take pictures during the event, but here's one of our nice little table before things got going.

art hop/ first show

Today was a little sad because it was the final day of our favorite vintage clothing store here in Kalamazoo, Polly and Esther's. They were having the final $5-bag sale. Jess scored a mountain of clothes that she's happily tearing apart for projects. The ladies at Polly and Esther's decided to make the move to etsy. Check them out.

I found a couple of shirts, but my big score was the shoe rack. They let it go really cheap, and once I used my new sewing machine skills to make sleeves to cover up the metal, I had an awesome, huge pipe-rack. Jess was wonderfully enthusiastic about letting me put the big thing up, though I think it means I owe her some sort of display stand for her projects. Probably soon.

Some people wouldn't like it, but I sure do. It is big enough to hold pipes waiting to sell, pipes in progress, and my own pipes. That's it on the right side of the picture, just past the plants. It is pretty empty now, but I hope to put in a small briar order in the next couple of days, and a large one soon after that.

new pipe shelf

I'm hoping the cats don't decide to try climbing it.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Ready, let's go!

So the work is done on my prep for the Art Hop. I'm feeling a bit burnt-out after having a deadline for all of this stuff. I took wednesday off work to have an extra day to get ready, and am so happy I did! Jess and I worked all day, and most of the night, finally going to bed around 3a. We had to put price tags on everything, print labels and posters, pack stuff up. Jess has an amazing amount of stuff to display, so she's feeling a bit more stressed than me. The show starts at 5p today, and she's still finishing some little things up.

During our big prep night I sold another pipe from the website, the very nice pick-axe. That pipe came out perfect, and I am very pleased it went to a very nice lady, for her husband. She and I exchanged quite a few messages, and was very pleasant throughout the entire process. I know there are always a couple of bad eggs in a bunch, but so far all of my experiences on etsy have been good ones.

I'll post pictures from the show tonight, probably tomorrow. I'm glad I have the day off after Art Hop, just to laze around, start a new pipe, and recover. Large groups always drain me a bit, and being a focal point even more. It will be a great night, but still, I'm gettin' the jitters.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Productive holiday weekend

This will be a quick one.

It has been a busy, productive day. I woke early and got to work finishing a new pipe. I'm calling it The Chariot. I also found the time to finish putting together some magnets that Jess got started. We're going to sell them in small batches at the Art Hop. Whatever we have left will then be going up in Jess' shop Umlauf.

I started a new pipe when I finished The Chariot. What a pain in the rear! It will end up a nice little pipe with a curved stem. It started as a nice big pipe with a long stem. There was a flaw in the shank. While I was working it, it literally exploded. Small chunks of briar flying everywhere. So I cut it down to what was left, reshaped the bowl to fit a short shank, and am really quite pleased. Pics when I finish it.

Once the papier mache mix has warmed to room temperature I am going to add another layer on the mannequin Jess will be using at the show.

Here's some of the magnets and the new pipe.

magnets, briar, and stems


pipe 26


Friday, November 28, 2008

I'm not going out on Black Friday!

What a good day. I have not gone outside this house, except for an occasional smoke, all day. I slept in, had some coffee with my morning internets, and got to work.

I managed to work on two pipes today, one from start to finish, the other to shaped and getting sanded. I could finish that one today too, but I try to avoid using the power tools after 9p. Don't wanna annoy my neighbors too much! So, I shall get it smoothed and stained, and do the buffing first thing tomorrow. And then it is on to another pipe!

The one I completed and listed in my shop is very nice. I tried a new mix of stains and managed a nice honey color. The pipe makes me think of a ladle, so I'm calling it the Honey-Dipper. That name sounds a little naughty, but eh, I like it. If someone wants to giggle, they have my blessing.

pipe 25


Okay, back to sanding. My elbow is getting a little tired, but I'll push through...

Thanksgiving Day

This Thanksgiving was a bit of a let-down. I had to be at my job at 3p today, and my family serves Tday dinner at 4p. Since I was working my wife decided to head home to her family's place for a bit, about three hours away. I was sad that we couldn't be together for the holiday, but it does mean that for the next two days away from work get to be spent making pipes. I want this weekend to be super-productive.

I'm hoping to get at least two pipes finished by saturday, and to have at least two more close to done. That is a ton of work to do, but since by best friend isn't coming to town this week and my wife is gone, I will have nothing to do but pipes and a couple of other small projects.

One of the small projects is a large batch of magnets that need to be finished up for the art hop. I need to glue the magnet to the pretty section. We want to sell small groups of the magnets. It'll put something cheaper on our table since most of our crafty goods are higher priced.

Another project I have is to work on at least one more pipe bag. I want to have a bag made for each pipe by the time the show rolls around. My lesson with Jess went very well. I think I've got the hang of it, and honestly, I would not have felt bad shipping a pipe in my first attempt. I'm using it for myself, mostly out of principle since it looks good.

first bag

Here is the pick-axe shape I mentioned in the last post.

pipe 24


Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Tonight started the lessons taught by my wife on how to use her sewing machine.

I want to send pipes out with a nice, handmade, cloth bag. Good for transport and some protection. Plus, it makes for a nicer presentation upon delivery if the recipient gets to open a hand-made bag, as opposed to a pipe wrapped in paper.

She made the bag I sent the earlier mentioned bent pipe in, and she did an excellent job. It is just that she has so many other projects on her plate that I feel bad asking her to make bags for every pipe I make. So, the lessons.

Tonight I learned to spin thread onto a bobbin, the mechanics of her machine, how to get the thread ready to be used, and how to make turns in the fabric. Basic stuff, but since I've never touched a sewing machine before, I feel good. Tomorrow morning she is going to make me another bag while I have my own to make. We'll take turns, with her showing me each step, her working on one, and me fumbling through another.

The one I'll be making will be for one of my personal pipes, since I know there's no way that my first attempt will be something I want to send to a customer. I'll try to make a couple more over the next week that'll probably be for me too. Since I'm making a pretty simple drawstring bag I'm hoping I can get the hang of this one thing after a couple of tries. I would like to have a bag for each pipe by the time the art hop rolls around.

Wish me luck. Jess is heading home to her family for most of the week. I have to stay here because I wasn't able to get out of working on Thanksgiving, so I'll be trying to make nice bags without supervision. I only get the one lesson tomorrow, and then she'll be taking off. Wish I could go with her....

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Busy weekend

What a great weekend. Very productive!

The weekend started with helping my father tear out carpet. Moving all the furniture was the hardest part. It went a lot faster with my wonderful wife helping too.

Jess worked on finishing several projects, and made a cowl and a new style of warm collar. Check out her shop Umlauf. She'll be posting a bunch of new stuff over the next couple of days.

I was working away on my own projects. I managed to post two more pipes this weekend, and have a third in the works. The first was a kinda blocky freehand I'm calling the Pilgrim's Pear. My wife said it made her think of pilgrims, and I think from the bottom it looks like a pear.

pilrim's pear

The second was a nice bent pipe, my first pipe using just mahogany stain. I am very happy with it. A bit more modern look than the traditional bent, with an unusual shank.


The third pipe that is in progress is a pick-axe style. A bit of an unusual design, that without my intending to make it so, puts me in mind of Spock's coffin in one of the Star Trek movies. I'll post a of picture of it once I have it finished. It is still in the filing stage.

Right now I am going to retake my pictures for etsy of the two cherry pipes. I was looking those photos over and am just not happy with them.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Art hop

The town where I live has a monthly art hop. It gets held on the first friday of every month. There are several studios around town that participate, plus a number of businesses that host artists. The biggest venue is a place called the Park Trades Center, a big old building that has a ton of studios.

This month the art hop falls on the 5th. A friend of mine has a studio on the 3rd floor of the Park Trades building. She decided to do an awesome thing for her friends, and opened her place for a craft show. She only charged a tiny fee to help pay for fliers and the booze. Friggin' awesome!

About 20 crafty folk will be showing their stuff at her place, called the Exquisite Corpse Artist Collective. My wife will have cowls, arm warmers, cat beds, magnets, and some other lovely creations. I will be showing my pipes.

It will be a great night!


Just a heads-up: If anyone is thinking about picking up a specific pipe in my shop, do it before the 4th of december. I'll be taking most of my listings down so I can take the pipes to the show. Of course, everything left over will be back up on etsy on the 6th.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Apparently it was hammer-time.

I started work on my next batch of pipes. The first is posted, named the Red Hammer. Made in the style called the Pick-Axe, I sanded off the point that is normally on the bottom so it can stand. The balance is good enough when it is alone, but once it has some tobacco in it, it'll stand firm.

It was my first experiment with a mahogany stain over cherry. I've liked the way walnut stain goes with the cherry, but wow. The new mix is so much nicer. Vivid and bright, the cherry comes through and the pipe just clamors to be looked at. I've found my new favorite mix. I expect the walnut stain will just be used from now on for pipes I want dark.

pipe 21

The next pipe I'm working on makes me think of a pear. It is a round, chubby pipe. I think it will come out really pretty, with a yellow stain. The briar block it came from is excellent. No sand pits or flaws in the wood. I'm still filing, but with a little more work I can start sanding. That's when I get to really see what sort of grain patterns this pipe will have.

It should be finished later today, after I go help my father rip up carpet at his house. Ugh, I had hoped to just crank out pipes today, but oh well. Helping Dad is fun, and even if it wasn't, that's what a good son does. Anyway, I should still have time to start the next pipe. I already have the block and stem picked out for a new bent pipe. Drilling the air holes for a bent is a little more difficult than the pipes with a 90 degree angle, but the block I'm using is perfect for it, so I don't expect any difficulties.

Monday, November 17, 2008

What an awesome day.

What a great day!

It is the first day the snow stuck to the ground in my part of michigan. I woke to a very pretty day. My wife and I had a nice morning with coffee, her knitting, and me finishing a pipe for myself. It is a very nice pipe, and I wish I could post it in my shop, but there is a small flaw in the wood. Now, normally that's not a problem since briar often has small flaws. The long-time pipe makers consider being able to work around the flaws and incorperating them a sign of skill. The problem with this flaw is that it went from the outside of the stummel to the inside of the tobacco chamber. Eventually it will probably burn through. It'll take years to do that, but I still don't feel right selling it. So I'll keep it.

Anyway, we were just relaxing, me waiting for the mailman to arrive with my package of briar and stems. When the mailman arrived I was putzing around etsy, just checking stuff out. I ran downstairs, where I happily accepted my package. I came up and sat down to open it up. On an impulse I reached over and hit the refresh button.

A message was waiting.

I had made my first sale on etsy!

What an awesome day! Jess also recieved a package, a very cute hair clip. Always fun to open packages, even if you know what it is, even if you ordered it.

I wanted to send the pipe out today, but I didn't have time before work. So I will be off to the post office first thing tomorrow. I hope she'll be very pleased with it. This is the pipe:

pipe 18

new stuff/ gunna be a great week!

I'm excited about this week! My blocks of briar should get here tomorrow, tuesday at the the latest. The business cards I ordered will hopefully show up in the next couple of days.

The business cards were a great deal. Jess found a site called They will print up to 250 free one-sided business cards and only charge a couple of dollars for shipping. They get their money from trying to get you to buy a bunch of other crap along with the cards, but you do have the option of just getting the cards and nothing else. Jess' already came, and look great. $6 for 250 cards is not a bad deal. She ordered the cheapest 21-day shipping, and they came in a week, so I'm hoping mine will arrive as fast.

Yay new stuff! I'll probably post pics of both wood and cards when they arrive.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Anatomy of a Pipe

Since I don't want to describe a particular pipe part every time I use a technical term, here is a nice diagram I found on


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Well, crap!

Due to a messup with my job's bank, I got paid a day late. That meant I had to order my briar blocks a day later than I had intended, and I missed the ship date I wanted. So my order is packed by now, but instead of being on the way to me it is still sitting at my shipper's warehouse. That means I won't get my supplies for at least three days later than I should have.

I am capable of waiting three days for something, but time is a factor this month. A friend with a studio is renting out tables to crafters for the december art hop. Jess (my wife) and I are sharing a table. She'll have her knit stuff, some cat beds, and other purdy things, and I'll have my pipes. Due to some financial miss-adventures I have many less pipes ready than I wanted to have. That means I'll be trying to rush once I get my supplies.

I'll have about two weeks to make ten pipes. A doable task if my hands hold up and I stay busy, but barely. I'm planning on a couple pick-axe shapes (like the two in my profile pic) and a bunch of more traditional pipes. I'm excited since this is my biggest order of wood so far. I've been trying to balance my expenses between buying equipment and buying wood, but I've finally got all of the basic tools I need. A lathe, drill press, belt sander, and a couple other fancy machines would speed up my production rates, but at least I now have all of the most basic gear I need. This will be my first shipment of just wood, stems, and a new bar of wax! I can't wait; this is gunna be fun!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Finished a new pipe yesterday. I had a hard time with this one.

Briar can range from red to pink to almost white. The block I used was very pale. I thought I had finished with the sanding and didn't bother to look at it under good enough light. Once I had stained, buffed, and waxed, there were a ton of scratches that were very visible. I was pretty frustrated, and just put the pipe aside for a couple of days.

I was getting bored since I am out of blocks, so I picked it back up. First I had to get the wax off so I wouldn't gum my files up. I borrowed my wife's hairdryer to melt the wax and used a clean cloth to wipe it down. To keep from having blotchy stain I had to file the entire pipe to get the old stain off. Then came a full sanding again to remove the marks the files left. Then came the refitting of the stem since the shank of the pipe was smaller than it had been. Staining and polishing finished the job.

I probably tripled the amount of time I normally spend on a pipe with this thing, but I am so glad I did. It came out wonderfully. I really like this shape, and the finish is perfect.

I finally got paid (there was a problem with my job's direct deposit so I've been biting my nails waiting for my money) so I was able to put in a large order for wood and stems. I also have more of the carnauba wax I use for finishing on its way, plus a new stain.

I will have enough blocks for ten more pipes, which I want to have done before december so I can show them at the art hop my wife and I are participating in.

I'll post one picture of the new pipe here. If you want to see more you can click the link in the upper right corner. I have a few more pictures on the etsy post.


Saturday, November 8, 2008

Waiting for more supplies

That's better. Got this page all set up.

I have a lot of spare time this week since I don't have any of the wood I need to make a pipe right now. Making a pipe would make me very happy. It is a cold day in michigan, and I'm trapped inside without much to do. I'll probably carve a couple beads out of some oak I have laying around, just to have something to do, but I'd really rather be working on some briar.

Briar is the best wood to make pipes from. It is a very dense wood, with unusual, amazing grain. Briar is a particularly good wood for pipe making for a number of reasons. The first and most important is its natural resistance to fire. The second is its inherent ability to absorb moisture. The burl absorbs and stores water in order to supply the tree in the dry times, and likewise will absorb the moisture that is a byproduct of combustion. Briar is cut from the root burl of the heath tree (Erica arborea), which is native to the rocky and sandy soils of the Mediterranean region.

The brair I use in my pipes is from greece and italy. I'd like to try some of the others, particularly the algerian briar, but I don't have a supplier for it at the moment. For the time being I am forced by lack of funds to buy small amounts of wood at a time, but I am hoping that I can soon start keeping my stock of supplies inflated enough to keep me from running out.

I'd like to have a few more pipes posted in my shop, but with an art show coming up I don't have many pipes to show at the moment. Over the next two or three weeks I should begin to post a bunch more. Sometimes it is just hard to be patient. Luckily I have an excellent wife who is great at keeping me from getting in a funk over waiting. And speaking of waiting, I think she's waiting to get at the computer, so I'll leave off here.

New start for the ranting

Whoo-hoo! A new blog. I started a blog about pipe making on a different blog service, but have decided that I don't really like it very much. Formats, features, and everything else about it just kinda left me with a 'blugh' feeling about it. So it is time to bail.

Since I am posting my pipes on etsy, and since many etsy folk seem to use blogger, here I am.

I thought about moving all my old posts here, but eh, why bother? A fresh start, yes indeed.