Briar and the Pipemaker

In the Fall of 2003, immersed in my graduate studies, I set out to craft my own pipe.  I’d been smoking pipes for a few months, and as I learned more and more about them, I began to develop preferences.  The problem was that the preferences that I developed were represented in pipes that were quite a bit out of the budget of this graduate student.

So, I did what many of you may have done, I decided to try my hand at making a pipe for myself.  At the time there were scant resources available to the aspiring briar craftsman.  But, I dug in and learned what I could, even calling up the few active pipemakers whose work I had discovered.  When it came time to buy the supplies, all I knew was that some blocks were bigger than others and that their shapes fell into a few categories.  My limited research taught me that plateau blocks were always better than cross-cut blocks.  Factories mostly used the cross-cut pieces, while the high-priced artists who worked in briar used only the finest plateau.  So, my mind was made up; I would buy two plateau blocks–the cheapest two that I could find.

I’ve learned a thing or two about the material since that first order, and wanted to share some of it with you.  The video below is about briar, the various shapes and cuts in which it is available to purchase, and what to look for when you are selecting briar for your next project.  Pipe enthusiasts and collectors may gain insight into the challenges that face the artisan, and the aspiring pipe maker may find some nuggets of information that will prove useful as he or she selects briar for the next project.

Sandblasting Video Lesson

It was almost ten years ago, I think, that I noticed that there was a need for content for young pipe makers.  When I first began making pipes there was really only one media source for learning about pipes, an old book that influenced a generation of hobbyists and not a few professional pipe makers. PIMO’s Guide to Pipe Crafting at Home was the only game in town, both the primary and final source for anyone who wanted to read about the craft of pipe making.

Sometime in the early 2000s, Trevor Talbert introduced an updated guide published on his website.  This attracted the attention of the ravenous bunch of us who had already worn out the pages of the PIMO book.  Then Tyler Beard published his methods to his early website.  Again, the small, but growing, hoard of young pipe makers devoured the information he provided.  This was followed by his creating of the pipe makers’ forum, a space for people to share ideas, learn new techniques, and discuss all matters related to making pipes.  It was where I really cut my teeth.

I had been selling pipes for a handful of years by the time my family and I relocated to California from New Jersey.  And in the span of years that I’d transitioned from amateur to professional, there was still a startling absence of video content related to pipe making.  So, I took it upon myself to start creating and publishing videos on the topic.  Over the years, I have been pleasantly surprised every time someone introduces him or herself to me at a show and thanks me for the videos.  It’s good to know that they have been helpful, and periodically I’d like to introduce some new ones.

The third video I ever made, on the topic of sandblasting, has by far been my most viewed tutorial.  I’m stunned when I see the numbers.  They aren’t large by Youtube standards, but for the pipe community the view count is pretty high.  It has been a long time since that video was first published and a lot has changed, not the least of which is my workshop.  So, without further introduction, here is a new video on the subject of sandblasting.  I hope you enjoy!