Pipe Making

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This section is under development. Thankfully there exists an excellent forum dedicated to pipe making information with many very helpful participants called the PipemakersForum.org. We highly recommend reading and participation in the forum.

Getting Started

Many pipe makers in the US start out with a small Book called Pimo's Guide to Pipe Crafting at Home. While far from exhaustive, this small book offers many helpful tips on pipe making with minimal tooling. Also helpful is the article Pipe Making For The Rank Amateur, by Bob Everett.

A Cautionary Note: Because some ultra high grade pipes sell for thousands of dollars, it is tempting for the uninitiated to think they may be able to get rich making pipes, or at least make a decent living. Relatively few pipe makers make their primary living as pipe makers, and it is a very small handful of pipe makers that can sell in the upper price ranges, let alone ultra high grades. Those that do have this very unusual talent or gift and, to reach this level, have dedicated a great deal of time developing them, as well as invested a considerable amount of money in equipment and materials. Having said this, pipe making is great fun, and very rewarding in many ways, but be careful--often pipe smokers are not addicted to smoking, but I know very few pipe makers that are not addicted to pipe making!

Materials and Supplies

Pipe Kits:

Pre-bored pipe making kits with pre-fit stems are a good way to start, especially for those who don't have access to many tools, or previous woodworking experience. With the kit, the new pipe maker can focus their efforts on shaping and finishing the pipe and avoid the pitfalls associated with drilling the tobacco chamber, airway, and mortise, not to mention facing the shank and stem to meet perfectly, and turning the tenon of the stem to fit snugly in the mortise. These steps are all great fun and some first time pipe makers start right in from scratch, but it can be a bit overwhelming and tool intensive for the beginner without a background in woodworking or machining trades. Even with the pipe kit, it is still possible to do some "tweaking" of the airway in the shank and stem, as well as thinning the button area and carefully funneling slot. Careful attention to tweaking in the generic mechanics of a pipe kit after shaping the stummel and shank can turn it into a really fine pipe, and every bit your own creation.

Pipe kits generally come in variations of three basic styles intended for bent pipes, straight pipes, or freehand pipes. Several pipe makers also offer custom kits. Kits are available with two different pre-fit stem mounting styles (flush or military mount), and using either ebauchon or plateaux cut briar blocks.

Ebauchon blocks are generally used in the manufacture of machine made pipes. They are most often cut perpendicular to the axis of the straight grain, which renders cross grains with birdseye. They tend to have more inherent flaws than plateaux briar. They are typically good for a small to medium pipe, and are most often cheaper, and often recommended for a first pipe.

Plateaux Briar, as the name suggests, is the top part of the burl. It has a rough pebble top that can be left on for a freehand look or sanded smooth for a traditional appearance. Plateaux comes in different shapes and sizes. we will do the best we can to match your design to the proper block. Plateaux grain tends to run straight or angled. These blocks will generally yield flame grains or an occasional straight grain. They contain generally less flaws than ebauchon , though you don't know what a block will yield until you get into it.

Pimo[1] offers kits, but many pipe makers in the US recommend the ones from American Smoking Pipe Co. (Mark Tinsky). Available from The American Smoking Pipe, or from Tim West (J.H. Lowe) available from J.H.Lowe. Kits are also available from Pipe Makers Emporium and eBay stores GreatGoodsRUS and Vermont Freehand. In Denmark kits available from P.E.Hermann. In Norway kits are available from Tabago.

Basic Tools

It is wise to refrain from investing in expensive tooling until you have made your first few pipes. A good start on basic tools:

Hand drill(variable speed, plug-in)
  Buy or build a jig that will enable you to clamp the drill to your work bench or table. 
  then it can  be used with affordable accessories as a disk sander, and a buffer.    
Files(Nicholson makes nice file sets at affordable prices. One can never have too many files of   
various sizes, shapes and cuts). 
Sandpaper(150, 220, 320, 400, 600, 800+ is optional)
Coping saw
Eye protection and respirator

Note: The above tools are very adequate for working with pipe kits. If you're planning on drilling the stummel (briar block) and then fitting the stem to the block, you will also want either a more elaborate jig for mounting your hand drill, such as is described in the Pimo book, a drill press (drill press frames for holding your hand drill would also work), or a lathe. In addition you will need to buy or make tobacco chamber bits, and buy drill bits for drilling the mortise and airway.