There are several carvers on here, although I can only think of one right now. He lives in Vietnam I think, bienden is his screen name maybe? I'm only on my second cup here. The work that he posts up is very very nice.
I have only made 22 pipes so far, with another 3 in the works. It's very relaxing just focusing on the briar in your hands, shaping, sanding, and just figuring out all the little nuancese of the pipe. I started out with blocks from Vermont freehand.
I would highly recommend the experience, it will let you understand all the work that goes into a decent pipe.
I was thinking that, it would make me appreciate the finer details of a pipe more. You can buy premade kits where you just carve it how you want everything else is done like this drilling of it. I may give it ago sometime.
It's not super hard to make a pipe, depending on your standards, your skills, your tooling,and your patience level. If all you have is a file and a vise, it's going to take about 5 years.
I advise people to try the kits first because they don't have to make a big tooling investment, and they can just do the "fun stuff". But if a guy has tools, drill press and or lathe especially,there's no reason you can't make a pipe from scratch. Check out vermontfreehand.com for info on kits, briar, rod, tools, etc.
I tell people who come to me and say "I want to start making my own pipes." to take 400 dollars, and flush it down the toilet. That's will give you the same feeling of money wasting, life-decision-questioning kind of hopelessness that pipe making generally speaking causes if you get serious about it. Banging out a pipe or two is lots of fun. Trying to make NICE stuff is hard, and tedious, and it costs a lot to get going if you aren't already heavily invested in tools. I have about 5000 bucks invested in pipe making tools, as an example. 2 different sanders, 2 different lathes, band saw, drill press, table saw, compressor and sandblast box, probably 1000 bucks in hand tools on the bench. But that's to make pipes on a daily basis. To work harder and knock a few out as a hobby is entirely possible. BUT you will spend 400 bucks before you blink. So go to it, have a crack, or, just find a pipe you really love, a 400 dollar hand made pipe, and buy that thing, and have a) a nice pipe and b) far less headaches.
There are many online resources for pipe making, pipemakersforum.com (or the facebook group called "pipe makers") being the most reliable.
I have had the luxury of living just down the road from pipemaker and pipe shop owner, Skip Elliot. I have made a few pipes, but it's really hard when the two of us get together, because we tend to end up talking and laughing and just having fun more than actually making pipes. I am a horrible student, but I have learned enough to know that I prefer people who know how to make pipes, make my pipes. Ha ha!! But, if the pipe world came to an apocalyptic end, I know enough to smoke my tobacco in a really ugly and cumbersome self-made hunk of crap. Ha ha!!
This is one we made together... afte I fished the stummel out of his garbage, ha ha.
And, this one I made by myself. It's way heavier that it looks, and the button leaves a lot to be desired.
No pipe carving here, so I am strictly an observer. We have some professional carvers who are at the top levels, some gifted beginners, and many long-time hobbyest carvers. One member did a pipe entirely hand-carved with a blade. Most use some kind of mechanization -- whether Dremel, sanding wheel, etc. -- to realize the basic shape and then work texture and finish. Carving it entirely with a blade is commendable but must be arduous. If you just want a pipe, buy one!
I wasn't looking to make them to sell was just enquiring if people done it as a hobby, sat in the back garden smoking your favourite pipe, listening to the birds singing while sanding down and designing your own pipe for abit of fun. If it's rubbish it's rubbish but can still put it in the display cabinet and think I made that, as funny as it looks I still done it. I would like to have ago at making a corn cob first then have ago at a kit pipe. I know I'm not gonna be good enough to make it from scratch, drilling it and everything else.
I lifted this from a now defunct forum. Maybe it will help.
Spillproof and DGE thought we would collaborate on this to answer questions often asked about what is needed to carve a pre-drilled kit (stummel and stem) into a pipe. We concentrated on tools, not techniques. This list is for those of you who want to make a pipe just for the fun of it, but not mortgage the house to buy tools. You can do that later if the bug bites you hard.
Carving your own is basically 2 sets of operations. 1) removing non pipey material & 2) shaping smoothing and finishing.
GOTTA HAVES. Well maybe one or two items you don't gotta have, but you do want to finish this decade, right?
A way to hold the block. This can be a vice, c-clamps or a dowel the same diameter as the chamber.
A coping saw. Much quicker than files for removing excess briar.
Files. To fine tune the shape. Combo flat/half round double cut, single cut, round.
Sandpaper. Depending on your filing skills, start with either 80 or 120 grit. And then all the grits (do not skip any) up to 600. (One technique thingy. Cut your sandpaper into 3/4'' strips and back them with electrical tape or you get confetti. Another very helpful item is a sanding sponge. You can wrap any grade of sandpaper around a sanding sponge and you've created a "soft-backed" sanding pad. They're sweet.
A way to make the stem shiny. This could be as simple and cheap as a 7 way finger nail buffing stick from the dollar store, but you'd be better off with MicroMesh sanding pads and a buffing setup (like the PIMO setup).
Appropriate measuring devices like calipers and 6'' rules.
Computer, tablet or smart phone. Lots of good and informative video tutorials on YouTube.
NICE TO HAVES
DGE found a Black & Decker WorkMate bench close to indispensable. Spillproof built his own.
Electric drill. Can be used for shaping with a 5'' sanding pad and disks. Also as a buffer. Use a separate wheel for each compound. Use a plastic zip tie for speed control.
Chainsaw files in a couple of different diameters.
Kemper Zig Zag Saw K-31
DAMNED NEAR USELESS
Dremel (In DGE's opinion).
Any kind of handheld power saw. And dangerous.
Conventional wood carving chisels. Briar is much too hard.
WHERE TO GET THIS STUFF
Harbor Freight. DGE really likes their files. harborfreight.com
Tim West http://jhlowe.com/toc.htm
Vermont Freehand http://vermontfreehand.com/
Edited to remove 2 defunct businesses.
You will notice we have not mentioned staining, shellac, rustication etc. Those topics are not essential to carving a pipe. This list is for what you need to turn a lump of wood with 2 holes into a vaguely pipe shaped object. Finishing can be as simple as applying a coat of carnuba wax with a buffer or Paragon or Halycon with a rag. Or as complex as eleventy coats of various stains and then coated with diluted shellac.