Would You Buy a Semi-Handmade Former For $530?

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cosmicfolklore

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Aug 9, 2013
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Frankly, I think the problem lies in using the term "handmade" as both a descriptive and a determinant. Machinery has been used in the making of pipes for well over 150 years from lesser to greater degree.
As you are aware, the whole handmade thing gets argued in all mediums. Among jewelers, the casters will argue that if we pour an ingot to roll out a sheet or pull wire to hand build a ring is just as much "casting" as them pouring a ring into a fully finished wax mold. But, just as with pipemakers there's a difference in the amount of direct contact with the work. Nording telling me that hiring someone to sand and stain a box of stummels made in another factory is "handmade" is not nearly as much direct contact as someone holding a chisel and manipulating the cuts on the briar, and then handling the work all the way to the stain and filing out the button. But, you can't even buy a pipe by a beginner with a 80 year old lathe in the garage for as cheap as a production line Nording.

Lathes have evolved. Some are just motors and bearings, others nowadays can cut fully finished swiss precision watch cases in styrofoam or balsa wood or whatever material you want, without the craftsman even touching a tool. There's even a a difference between a drillpress-like lathe and slot a peg fraser (fraiser? I always see it spelled both ways). For me, it's all about how much tool handling the craftsman uses before he can deem it handmade. But, those lines get blurry sometimes in these discussions. We always seem to get more pictures of pipe production on ancient old lathes. Just finding pictures of early 1900's frasing machines requires a lot of digging. Craftsmen or more specifically factories tend not to take lots of pictures of their latest technologies.
 
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sablebrush52

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Craftsmen or more specifically factories tend not to take lots of pictures of their latest technologies.
Unless you're Tsuge. Much of the work that Former did by hand is done by computer in the Tsuge video I posted.

You're referring to drawing wire sure brought back memories. One of my tasks was making wire from findings, melting down old settings, pouring into molds, making sheets and drawing into gold wire. All of our equipment was late 19th and early 20th century. My boss had started in the business as a child around 1915, so he knew all of the old techniques. Watching him produce hand engraved watch chains was an education. Fast and sure.
 

shaneireland

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Jun 14, 2014
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You're a great sport. Thank you for responding. I will have to warn you though, I am an aesthetic debater, ha ha.

But, after rereading the thread, I'll concede. I missed the price points in the discussion, which in a way I could have been merely reinforcing your point.
But, I am sort of a geek about frasing machines and the history and the new lathe designs that can allow for cnc like reproductions. But, Former isn't pumping out several hundred identical pipes to compete with Nording or Savinelli in scale. 3D printers are more for the meerschaums, right? Ha ha, jk.

I was mostly triggered by the assumption that how it is made didn't matter. But, it does, and... that is reflected in the differences between a $500 pipe and a $1200 pipe. One could argue that $500 is still rather high, but market will dictate whether they move for $500, and just the lore behind Former moves a lot of people to buy. I would be one of them. I have a Former horn that took me six months to get out of layaway, ha ha. So, that is moot.
However, it does matter how it's made. But the "semi handmade" description communicates that Former isn't trying to deceive anyone.

Former is not at pipe shows filling tables with exact replicas behind a sign saying handmade, next to someone who is working out of their garage with an ancient machinist lathe. Being forthright is all the difference.

Thanks again for being a great sport and responding. And, I should have read the entirety of the thread before saying anything.
Oh, you’ll get no complaints from me regarding an opportunity to debate 😂

But in all seriousness, I just want people to know the truth and I also think it’s important to support the pipe community and its craftspersons. I love all kinds of pipes and buy them for different reasons. Not everyone has to like everything that I personally like, but I do think someone like Former deserves the utmost respect. As you’ve pointed out, he’s not hiding anything by using preform acrylic stems on those Apples and using tooling and machinery effectively is awesome, not shady.
Unless you're Tsuge. Much of the work that Former did by hand is done by computer in the Tsuge video I posted.

You're referring to drawing wire sure brought back memories. One of my tasks was making wire from findings, melting down old settings, pouring into molds, making sheets and drawing into gold wire. All of our equipment was late 19th and early 20th century. My boss had started in the business as a child around 1915, so he knew all of the old techniques. Watching him produce hand engraved watch chains was an education. Fast and sure.
This is also very important. And thank you for posting that Tsuge video, Sable!

The machine in that video is extremely impressive (I’ve seen it in person), but it’s worth noting that it’s much more sophisticated than most of the machines used in the pipe world. There’s a certain charm to the older-style “copy” machines, but they’re much more crude than this and the degree of completeness that they achieve pales in comparison to CNC stuff. Even Savinelli, who produces quite a few pipes, doesn’t make pipes that way. They essentially use a big lathe and each shape/model has a set of custom cutting edges that will turn the outer shape of the bowl while simultaneously drilling the chamber. The block of briar is then rotated in the chuck and the shank is turned. It still requires a lot of material to be removed by hand, and then you start rustication, or sanding for a smooth finish, which are done by hand. “Copying” shapes saves some time, but it hardly means that a pipe isn’t handmade. It’s more like you end up saving 2-3 steps out of, like, 30-something steps.