In a collaboration with pipe makers Jared Coles and John Klose, we built our first pipe to celebrate the technical efficiency of modern times alongside the wild, primitive spirit of nature.
What’s unique about this particular project is the radical focus on functionalism. Going out of your way to design something that is only about the function and then thinking about the form a little bit. You don’t want to think about a pipe when you’re smoking it. You shouldn’t have to worry about it.
I will call somebody and get the briar that I need. A lot of times it’s coming from Italy, sometimes from a middle man. We get the blocks that we need, we’ll look at the grain, we’ll sketch out the pipe on the block and for the True Pipe, these are going to be made on a lathe, so we’re going to take the block, sketch it out and then we’re going to cut it out on the bandsaw, and put it in the lathe and drill all the holes and turn it to shape.
Once it’s off the lathe, it’ll still have the corners and some blockiness to it that need to get knocked off, so those will go onto the sanding disk and we have a big seven inch sanding disk which goes at about 3500 rpm. It’s kind of scary, but we’re pretty good with it. We can knock it out pretty quick.
From there comes the stem. It’ll get fitted from a rod of ebonite, a rubber derivative, they use it for bowling balls. It has some really nice physical properties to it. It doesn’t feel like plastic. It feels like hard rubber. It really makes a difference when you’re smoking the pipe. You don’t have that plastic click when you put your teeth on it.
We’ll cut the rod to match the pipe and we’ll drill out the holes in the rod and then we will take that rod to the sanding disk as well to get it roughly into shape and then from there it’s files and sandpaper. And there’s a lot of files and sandpaper. It’s one of those things that makes handmade pipes expensive and better. You’re getting a hand-sanded mouthpiece, and that’s one of things that really makes a difference when you go to smoke a pipe. A really nice mouthpiece is the most important thing for a quality smoke.
A lot of times for factory pipes or machine made pipes, they put pre-molded mouthpieces on the pipes. A lot of times they have catches in the air flow. So the air will be passing through the pipe and it doesn’t maintain a constant airflow volume through the pipe. Smoke gets constricted and it goes back and forth and there are these little turbulences. That creates moisture, and it creates tongue bite and you don’t get the cool, easy draw that you’ll get with most handmade pipes.
We’ll take the stem and the briar bowl and we’ll marry them nicely. Basically a mortise and tenon system. There’s a larger hole in the pipe and then the mouthpiece has a tenon that fits into that mortise. We create the tenon perfectly to fit into the pipe so you have a nice easy time pulling them apart for cleaning. So once they’re together with the mortis and tenon, everything is sanded. We’ll take the stem to the polishing wheels. I think we have six polishing wheels that we go through now. That’ll take about half an hour per piece, to get it nice and shiny.
Then we paint it black, stain it, finish it, so it’s a little shiny. And then we’ll go back and put a bowl coating in the pipe because a lot of times what happens when you have a texture like this is the stain will bleed through into the actual chamber of the pipe and affect the taste. So we’ll put some activated charcoal and some other things in the bowl of the pipe to protect from burning the pipe out to protect the taste and so you don’t get the pipe too hot.
You’re not just selling pieces of wood with holes in them. You’re selling and giving people the opportunity to have time to themselves. People drink coffee in the car now. There’s no “this is my hour, I’m not doing anything.” It’s difficult to find those moments. This helps.