So I Want to Carve... Pointers?

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Country Bladesmith

Preferred Member
May 2, 2020
3,310
14,092
Louisiana
I’d like to try my hand at a few pipes. I’ve done some hobby blocks that have turned out well, and while I was waiting on some knives to heat treat this morning I decided to drill some practice airways in an old 2x4, just to see if I could. If I’m being honest, it was @ofafeather that nudged me in this direction. It really wasn’t as hard to line up the holes as I thought it’d be. They turned out well in spite of having the wrong types of drill bits. Now I know that’s just scratching the surface of what it takes to make a good pipe, but it is something that no longer intimidates me. Not sure why it ever did now.

So here are my questions about materials
1) Source of good briar?
2) Source of vulcanite rod?

As far as tooling, I own and have some expertise with, the following:
1) 2”x72” VFD belt grinder
2) Reversible VFD 9” disc grinder with a 5/8” shaft. I could probably mount a French wheel to it.
3) Drill press
4) Buffer
5) Pimo tenon turning tool
6) Slot funneling file
7) Files, including needle files

So tooling questions:
1) I can probably grind and heat treat some spade bits into spoon bits. Is there a source cheap enough that it isn’t worth the trouble to make them myself?
2) What tools do I need for mortise/tenon work?
3) Any other specialty tools that I’m unaware of that are needed?

Thanks in advance. I’d like to offer some pipe and knife sets, where I don’t have to throw out the disclaimer that the pipe started as a hobby block.
 

ofafeather

Preferred Member
Apr 26, 2020
739
2,275
47
Where NY, CT & MA meet
That’s awesome! My only two pieces of less than sage advice:

You probably already know this but since you already have a working metal shop/forge never use the same dust extraction for metal and wood. In small amounts it’s probably not a big deal but once you start making more wood dust the combination is a strong potential for explosion. You may be able to use the same for both if you are diligent about emptying/switching containers for metal vs wood operations.

My second suggestion is find a pipe maker that you like and see if you can workshop with them at some point.

Have fun and don’t blame me if it doesn’t work out! Lol.

Best of luck to you!
 

Country Bladesmith

Preferred Member
May 2, 2020
3,310
14,092
Louisiana
That’s awesome! My only two pieces of less than sage advice:

You probably already know this but since you already have a working metal shop/forge never use the same dust extraction for metal and wood. In small amounts it’s probably not a big deal but once you start making more wood dust the combination is a strong potential for explosion. You may be able to use the same for both if you are diligent about emptying/switching containers for metal vs wood operations.

My second suggestion is find a pipe maker that you like and see if you can workshop with them at some point.

Have fun and don’t blame me if it doesn’t work out! Lol.

Best of luck to you!
🤣
Thanks!
I’ll figure it out one way or another, just looking to make it as painless as possible. Unfortunately I don’t know of any carvers near me. Pipe smokers are a rare and scattered breed, and I bet carvers are even more scarce.
 
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cigrmaster

Preferred Member
May 26, 2012
16,204
21,247
United States
Is this a dream you have been thinking bout for years? Is it something in your blood calling you. Do you have a passion for making pipes that people will love to smoke? If you think you can make a quick buck, think again. This is no life for the non fanatical who breaths pipe making.

Are you willing to beg someone to apprentice you, someone who has similar idea on what makes a great pipe. Are you willing to work in obscurity for years where people are telling you your pipe just are not good enough. Can you handle rejection well, constructive criticism, or down right truth, your pipes suck. There are very few pipe makers who I would consider to make a decent living. If you are not in it for the love of it, think twice.
 

Country Bladesmith

Preferred Member
May 2, 2020
3,310
14,092
Louisiana
Is this a dream you have been thinking bout for years? Is it something in your blood calling you. Do you have a passion for making pipes that people will love to smoke? If you think you can make a quick buck, think again. This is no life for the non fanatical who breaths pipe making.

Are you willing to beg someone to apprentice you, someone who has similar idea on what makes a great pipe. Are you willing to work in obscurity for years where people are telling you your pipe just are not good enough. Can you handle rejection well, constructive criticism, or down right truth, your pipes suck. There are very few pipe makers who I would consider to make a decent living. If you are not in it for the love of it, think twice.
You asked a lot of questions! 🤣
I know they were rhetorical, but to answer some of them:
1) A dream for years? No. Maybe a year.
2) Something in my blood? I like to make things that others will appreciate. I always have. As my “handle” suggests, I am a bladesmith. I’ve been a craftsman for most of my life.
3) Am I out to make a quick buck? No. But a buck would be nice.
4) Will I beg for an apprenticeship? I’ve never begged for anything. Ask? Yes. Insist? Yes. Make a deal? Yes. Beg? Probably not.
5) Rejection and criticism? I’m a big boy.
 
Last edited:

karam

Preferred Member
Feb 2, 2019
614
2,126
Athens, Greece
So tooling questions:
1) I can probably grind and heat treat some spade bits into spoon bits. Is there a source cheap enough that it isn’t worth the trouble to make them myself?

You can certainly do, and you certainly have both better tools and better experience than me.

I wanted to enlarge the chamber of the block I am working on so I modified a spade bit to a spoon bit, simply freehand with the angle grinder - I don't even have a bench vice :( What I did was fairly standard metalworking: painted the metal to be removed to keep it even and not mess it up, and made sure I rotated the bit while grinding in order to have an "S" shape to the cutting edge to catch rather than kick the wood - I am not describing properly but I'm sure you know what I mean. I don't know if that's the right way to do it, but felt intuitive, and it worked better than I thought. Now I think I can make a pipe from a solid block with my meager tools - I'd drill pilot holes for both the chamber and mortise in any case, and then use bigger drill bits to enlarge the holes, finally make the chamber with that homemade spoon bit.

The photo is not good but it did the job I wanted, freehand again as I have no drill press.

I am not sure you need to heat treat, I don't know if the spade bits are hardened and tempered but they likely are. I think a quick and careful grind shouldn't mess up the temper and using them shouldn't go anywhere near the temperature that would, you can always resharpen them if they go dull, with my expected use I think it'll never go dull anyway! I dunked it in water a few times just to be sure, but the whole thing took no more than a few seconds with the angle grinder.
 

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chasingembers

Captain of the Black Frigate
Nov 12, 2014
25,074
27,322
Doesn't look too hard.

 

Country Bladesmith

Preferred Member
May 2, 2020
3,310
14,092
Louisiana
You can certainly do, and you certainly have both better tools and better experience than me.

I wanted to enlarge the chamber of the block I am working on so I modified a spade bit to a spoon bit, simply freehand with the angle grinder - I don't even have a bench vice :( What I did was fairly standard metalworking: painted the metal to be removed to keep it even and not mess it up, and made sure I rotated the bit while grinding in order to have an "S" shape to the cutting edge to catch rather than kick the wood - I am not describing properly but I'm sure you know what I mean. I don't know if that's the right way to do it, but felt intuitive, and it worked better than I thought. Now I think I can make a pipe from a solid block with my meager tools - I'd drill pilot holes for both the chamber and mortise in any case, and then use bigger drill bits to enlarge the holes, finally make the chamber with that homemade spoon bit.

The photo is not good but it did the job I wanted, freehand again as I have no drill press.

I am not sure you need to heat treat, I don't know if the spade bits are hardened and tempered but they likely are. I think a quick and careful grind shouldn't mess up the temper and using them shouldn't go anywhere near the temperature that would, you can always resharpen them if they go dull, with my expected use I think it'll never go dull anyway! I dunked it in water a few times just to be sure, but the whole thing took no more than a few seconds with the angle grinder.
Thanks, karam. I found out that the prices of the spoon bits are relatively cheap. I’ll probably just buy one, since I really don’t want to mess up my nice spade bit set. For some reason I was thinking they were really expensive.


Doesn't look too hard.

Thanks for the “pointer” embers 🤣
 

sasquatch

Preferred Member
Jul 16, 2012
1,193
715
I tell people interested in making pipes to take 400 bucks and flush it down the toilet, and then buy a Castello. And the reason is, while you are out about 800 bucks, you at least have a decent pipe out of the deal. Making pipes, you will pour money, time, sweat, etc in for a long time before anything comes back financially. It's fun, it's rewarding in all kinds of ways, well worth doing if you enjoy it, but be prepared to be absolutely terrible at something for awhile, because making a really good pipe is very difficult. Making a mediocre one is... fairly easy, I suppose, and because of that, the market at this point is dead saturated. This is not to put you off CB - attack it with vigor, it's very rewarding. But be prepared for the reality of the market, if that's where you are headed.
 
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Country Bladesmith

Preferred Member
May 2, 2020
3,310
14,092
Louisiana
I tell people interested in making pipes to take 400 bucks and flush it down the toilet, and then buy a Castello. And the reason is, while you are out about 800 bucks, you at least have a decent pipe out of the deal. Making pipes, you will pour money, time, sweat, etc in for a long time before anything comes back financially. It's fun, it's rewarding in all kinds of ways, well worth doing if you enjoy it, but be prepared to be absolutely terrible at something for awhile, because making a really good pipe is very difficult. Making a mediocre one is... fairly easy, I suppose, and because of that, the market at this point is dead saturated. This is not to put you off CB - attack it with vigor, it's very rewarding. But be prepared for the reality of the market, if that's where you are headed.
Thanks sasquatch. To be clear, and I suppose I wasn’t with my title, I’m not really looking at trying to make a career change here. I’m just exploring possibilities. As far as flushing money down the toilet, I’ve pretty much already bitten that bullet. I think most of my tools for knife making will translate over. The one machine I do not own is a lathe, but I believe I can work around that for the time being.
 

karam

Preferred Member
Feb 2, 2019
614
2,126
Athens, Greece
Thanks, karam. I found out that the prices of the spoon bits are relatively cheap. I’ll probably just buy one, since I really don’t want to mess up my nice spade bit set. For some reason I was thinking they were really expensive

Then you're in luck, I couldn't find a spoon bit in Greece, so had to make one, but the spade bit I bought to play with only cost 2 euros or so so that's basically nothing.
 

sasquatch

Preferred Member
Jul 16, 2012
1,193
715
You can make top quality pipes without a lathe. Eventually you'll want one because it's just so helpful on so many things, but with just a drill press, there's no reason you can't make perfect pipes. Look into delrin tenons or pre-made tenons (you can find them on ebay). Then you don't have to worry about the tenon cutter and whether the shoulder on the stem is any good, just mill off the rod, and drill in the tenon, everything's perfectly lined up. This was a lathe-less pipe: IMG_5622.JPG
 

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