One in a Million

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georged

Lifer
Mar 7, 2013
4,075
7,020
The backstory of this pipe is once upon a time I worked across the street from a B&M that was owned and operated by a guy named Arthur Englander. Downtown Kansas City, 1978.

I went in several times a week at lunch to drool over the good stuff, admire the historical items (many of the pipe photos in Carl Ehwa's The Complete Book of Pipes and Tobaccos were taken there), and talk to Art.

He was in his late 80's, had worked with pipes his entire adult life, and was a walking encyclopedia concerning them.

One day a conversation turned to how pipes were made, if they could be made outside a factory, and so forth. I told him I loved making stuff of all kinds, from models, to rockets, to saddles for horses, and intended to try making a pipe one day.

He asked a few questions about whether I had certain tools, and after deciding I was serious, shuffled into the back room of his shop, moved some things around, and came back out with a block of briar.

I'd never seen it in an uncut state before and didn't even realize what it was at first.

"This was the best briar available when I was your age and took a turn at pipe making, but I didn't have the patience for it." He said. "Kept the briar, though, hoping that one day soomeone like you might come along. And here you are...

"All I ask is that you show me how it turns out. Bring it back in when you're finished."

So, I gave it my best shot. The chamber and airway were drilled on a Sears tabletop drill press, rough shaping was done with rasps and files, final shaping was done with sandpaper and improvised blocks, and finishing/buffing was done with a hardware store buffing wheel chucked in a hand drill mounted sideways in a bench vise with the trigger hose-clamped on.

It was never stained or finished beyond loading the buff with beeswax and polishing away... Amazingly, 44 years later, it is as hard and slick and fingerprint-proof as the finest Scandinavian super-grade finishes. (Time does strange things when it comes to waxes and oils, apparently.)

The freakiest bit, of course, is the grain. The sides are not only bookmatched, but there isn't the tiniest pin-prick-sized sand speck flaw ANYWHERE on it. It is literally perfect wood.

One in a million.

And I hadn't the slightest idea WTF I was doing, except "subtracting" wood until I thought it looked OK.

The stem here is not original---that one got lost---but it's virtually the same. A "stick stem". I didn't have the tools or know-how to do anything more complicated, and the style was popular at the time, so I didn't think more about it. (The mid-late 1970's was the golden age of so-called "Danish freehand" designs in American B&M's.)

Art was pleased.

I haven't smoked it since he died, which was only a short time later, but am thinking more and more about doing so these days.

Anyway, that's it. A (probably literally) one-in-a million convergence of an old guy with wood, a young guy with tools and desire, and a zero-flaw straight grain block.


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Chaukisch

Part of the Furniture Now
Aug 31, 2021
535
3,541
33
Northern Germany
I'm impressed, that's one hell of a pipe. The shape fits the beautiful grain like a glove and the birdseye on the top and bottom looks just incredible, like a sea of amber. And the story behind it could be out of a film.
For not knowing what the hell you were doing this is a really good job I think.

That fishtail on the very last picture looks a little off but the lighting probably has some to do with it.
Even if not, it's the perfect spot for a little flaw and it's not even a big one.

Anyway, very well done. That's work you can and should be proud of.
 
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AJL67

Lifer
May 26, 2022
2,421
13,809
Florida - Space Coast
I’ll give ya 18 bucks for it! Since you aren’t going to sell i might as well lowball the hell outta ya!

Seriously just gorgeous pipe and the story and tools you worked with make it 10x more impressive!!
 
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