Only move on to this step until you have your shape completely defined using one of the above shaping methods. If you get ants in your pants and move on to early, thinking you can remove a lot of the remaining unwanted briar with sand paper, you will realize that you were stupid. At this point, buckle in, put some music on and get ready to sand your fingerprints away. Ok, we’re being dramatic, but this is both a tedious and extremely important stage. Starting with 120 grit sandpaper, you are going to be sanding every nook and cranny of your pipe. Then move onto 220, 320, 500, and finally (if you want it to be literally as smooth as a baby’s bottom) 600 grit. Trust us, if you don’t sand diligently with every grit, you WILL be surprised at how many scratches are left after the final buffing that you could not see while sanding. If that isn’t that important to you, than no worries.
You can create any pipe shape you want! Every professional pipe maker has one (or a few) of these and most of the great Danish pipe makers use disc sanders exclusively for shaping. You will want to get sanding discs of various grits (think 60 to 180 grit), and work your way up as your pipe shape becomes more defined.
The pipe makers stain of choice is Fiebings leather dye. It comes in a variety of colors and if none of those suit your fancy, you can mix them to your heart’s content. It is readily available at Fiebings own website. All it takes to apply the dye is a pipe cleaner.
The chamber is a tough one, since the bottom of your chamber should be conical or round, not square as would be achieved with a Forstner bit. There are specially made bits for drilling tobacco chambers ranging in price from a few dollars to $100+, but the cheap ones will do for your first few pipes! If you have bench grinder you can round off the edges of cheap spade bit, or just pick up a pre-rounded spade bit from one of several sources online. 3/4” is the most popular size for tobacco chambers, but for larger pipes, you may choose to go with 7/8”. Use your chamber drawing as a guide and drill slowly but surely, checking for signs of the draft hole often the deeper you go. Once you’ve drilled deep enough that the entire diameter of the draught hole is barely visible, stop! You’re done!
Ahhhhh you’re almost there. Now ideally you would have a benchtop buffing setup for this. We use a bench grinder with the guards and grinding stones removed, replaced with muslin and flannel buffing wheels. If you don’t have this setup, you can get miniature buffing wheels for your Dremel/rotary tool.
Acquiring the right materials is very important. Fabricating a pipe out of pinewood and Play-Doh would be quite cost-effective, but otherwise regrettable. Our pipe-kits come with the best quality Italian briar (from Mimmo himself), and a perfectly shaped and drilled acrylic stem. Here’s a basic description of these 2 essential pipe materials:
You’ll want to get yourself some red or brown tripoli compound and carnauba wax. Get your buffing wheels spinning and hold the tripoli compound up to the muslin wheel for just a couple of seconds to apply it to the wheel. Bring your pipe up to the wheel (steady now) and begin to buff the whole pipe. Make sure you have a firm grip on the pipe and don’t push it into the wheel too aggressively or it will rip it out of your hands and bounce it all over your shop (as Phil can attest to MANY times). Tripoli compound is actually a very very fine abrasive that removes teeny tiny scratches from the surface of the pipe.
Once you have selected the piece of briar and stem that you will use for your pipe, it’s time to start drilling. Our pipe kits all come pre-drilled to perfection and are ready to be shaped, but here is the process for those with the tooling to do it from scratch. Precision is key here, as a hole drilled at the wrong angle, in the wrong place, or of the wrong diameter can ruin the function of the pipe. Make sure to draw all the holes you will be drilling (draught, mortise chamber) onto the side of the briar block so you can use them as a guide. Getting the sizes, lengths, and angles on there will remove a lot of guesswork. When you’re ready, use a vice to hold the briar block steady as you line up to drill. Whether you are using a drill press or a hand drill, a vice is a must. You’ll want to drill the holes in the following order:
There are manly men who can make smoking pipes using only sandpaper and hand tools, and then there are the rest of us. Having some larger machinery including a lathe, a bandsaw, a drill press, and a benchtop disc sander makes the process shorter and infinitely easier. We speak from experience as we’ve tried both methods with much greater success in the latter. Though power tools are fun to use and make jobs like drilling the draught hole and chamber, shaping the stummel, and crafting the stem much easier tasks, its obvious that most fledgling pipe makers won’t have one or more of these tools at their disposal at the onset. There’s no reason to start worrying, however. You can make a perfectly capable smoking pipe using tools that most of us already own, or could obtain for a relatively small investment; a hand drill, dremel/rotary tool, and a good set of files and rasps will get you rollin’. You can shape a pipe from start to near finish with good files and rasps, (although it will test those burly arms of yours) and polish it off with some sandpaper. Once you’ve mastered the basics, understand the general concepts of pipe making, and gotten a few pipes under your belt, then it’ll be time to start thinking about investing in tools that will significantly speed up the process and help you create a higher grade smoking instrument. Until then, don’t be discouraged by lackluster results… the David wasn’t Michelangelo’s first sculpture.
How to Make a Smoking Pipe M aking your own smoking pipe is not an easy task, especially if you want the result to be more than just a block of wood with a stem sticking out of it. However, if