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making a smoking pipe

Making a smoking pipe

These technically can get the job done, but that’s really pushing it. If all you had to work with was files and rasps it would take quite a long time to finish and the end product wouldn’t look as polished. Regardless, files and rasps are essential additions to any one of the shaping methods/tools above. They are necessary for getting in and removing briar from tight spaces that would otherwise be nearly impossible with just the above tools.

Are you a descendant of Michelangelo? No… good luck!
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 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!
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.
Whether you pre-stain or not, final staining comes next. It is quick and simple. Using a pipe cleaner, stain the whole pipe with your desired color, working quickly so you don’t get a blotchy finish. One coat usually does the trick, but if you want a darker finish go for a second. Oh, and our friend Wayne Teipen would be disappointed with us if we didn’t stress the fact that you should never stain your chamber! Just stick a cork in the chamber (no joke) before you begin and then stain away. Let the pipe dry to the touch (about 10 minutes if it’s not very humid) before continuing.
Getting the mechanics just right or even mostly right can be quite frustrating. That’s why most fledgling pipe makers are quite happy to move on to the more creative and rewarding parts like shaping and staining (our pipe-kits allow you to start your pipe making journey right at this step!). These steps are not without their sand-traps however. Just wait until you sand the sides of the bowl down to far and can see light filtering in through a hole in the side of your chamber. Or, when you think you did a great job finish sanding only to find out your pipe is a scratched up mess after you’ve done the final buffing. Don’t worry, we’ve got the directions you need and some tips to help you avoid some rookie mistakes.
Pipes can be made from corncob, meerschaum, olive wood, cherry wood, strawberry wood, ancient morta, clay, and perhaps other materials as well, but briar is considered to be the ultimate material for making pipes. Briar is a type of wood harvested from erica arborea, or “heath tree”, and it’s prized in pipe making for its very high heat tolerance, respiration, hardness, and beautiful grain. It is as expensive as wood goes, mainly because until a heath tree is approximately 40 years old its briar is not considered to be ready for harvesting. Once harvested, the briar must be boiled and dried to remove sap and moisture, but the process is long and must be carefully controlled to prevent the briar blocks from drying too quickly, which can result in splits or fissures in the wood. Briar can be cut two different ways, and each way yields a unique looking block. The more affordable “Ebauchons” are briar blocks that have been cut across the grain, while the pricier “plateaus” are cut with the grain and maintains the craggy outer surface of the briar burl. We carry both an ebauchon and a plateau pipe-kit.

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