Block Pipes

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Block Pipes Under construction!

Making music

Jonathan Block has been recording and releasing electronic music for over 20 years. He created the term "progressive ambient music" to describe his explorations of the ambient, space and progressive domains. After years of playing keyboards, Jonathan currently performs and records using a wind synthesizer as his primary instrument.

Block was a founding member in 1983 of the musical collective the Objective Music Coalition with other musicians who were interested in developing an applied creative practice. He joined the emerging ambient/space music scene of the early 1990s, releasing a number of cassettes under his own Ironing Board Recordings imprint.

Block's first CD, Synthetic Block, was released on Mindspore in 1998. Subsequent CDs have been released on labels such as Hypnos and Gears of Sand. His music has also appeared on numerous compilations, and has been featured on many radio shows, including Echoes and Star's End. In addition to his solo works, Block has performed and recorded with Dave Fulton, APK and Ben Fleury-Steiner. Block's live performances have also provided the ideal accompaniment to many multimedia events including painters, sculptors, visual artists and dancers.

Block is also a poet whose poems have been published in journals around the world, including Phoebe, The NRG Anthology, The Chiron Review and Riverrun.

In addition, Jonathan Block is the Senior Director of Research at SiriusDecisions, a research and advisory firm for sales and marketing executives.

Making pipes

"I've been crafting pipes, working out of my garage, I am proud to offer quality, affordable pipes. I produce about 50 pipes a year.

I do a lot of hand sanding and this is the most time-consuming aspect of crafting the pipes. Because I don't use a lathe, even my attempts at classic shapes are more organic than machine-made pipes. All pipes feature hand-cut stems, and are sanded up to 2000 grit. There are no fills in the pipes I craft. If a pipe has some minor flaws, I may rusticate it or use a darker stain.

Jonathan Block offers quality, handcrafted briar pipes at affordable prices. All pipes are handcrafted in the USA from extra-quality briar, and the stems are hand-cut from cumberland and ebonite rod stock. Most of the pipes can be considered Group 3-4 in terms of size."

Notice: Crafting all pipes with hand-cut stems and the introduction of a grading system was announced on January 1, 2003.


- Smooth. Pipes that are flawless, or have only minor flaws, are left smooth. Depending on the grain, I may finish a smooth pipe with a light or dark stain. In many cases, I won't stain a smooth pipe at all.
- Hammered. This finish resembles the look of hammered metal, and is achieved with a carving burr that is mounted on a bench grinder.
- Coral. This finish is similar to Hammered, but is more pronounced and radical, resembling the texture of coral.
- Asteroid. A deep rustication technique achieved by hand carving and a sharp burr.


All Block pipes are stamped with the grade, a "B" in a diamond for Block, followed by the catalog number. The first two numbers denote the year, and the numbers that follow indicate the pipe number for that year. For example, a pipe stamped "B0230" would mean the pipe was the 30th pipe made in 2002.


There are seven grades of Block Pipes, numbered 1 through 7. Grades 1 and 2 are for rusticated pipes, while the remaining grades are reserved for pipes with a smooth finish. Each pipe is graded based on the quality of the wood and grain, but factors such as design or engineering can affect grading. Price within each grade is determined by the quality of the grain and the pipe design. Here's an explanation of each grade, as well as the price range for pipes.
Rusticated Grades
1. A rusticated pipe with visible flaws that could not be fully disguised by the rustication technique used. A pipe that is not fully rusticated can also carry this grade. Price: $80-$100.
2. A rusticated pipe with no flaws, or minor ones that are hardly visible. In most cases a pipe with this grade was rusticated because the grain was non-existent or not interesting enough to leave the briar smooth. A pipe that is not fully rusticated can also carry this grade. Price: $100-$120.
Smooth Grades
3. A smooth pipe with some visible flaws and inconsistent grain. In many cases, a pipe of this grade has some interesting grain that outweighs the choice to rusticate it to hide the flaws. Price: $80-$120.
4. A smooth pipe with minor flaws. In most cases, pipes with this grade will have one or two minor flaws that are not too noticeable. A pipe with this grade should exhibit a nice grain pattern over most of the briar. Price: $120-$160.
5. A smooth pipe with virtually no flaws. Pipes in this grade will have only one tiny flaw or sand pit. A pipe with this grade will also exhibit a nice grain pattern over most of the briar. Price: $160-$220.
6. A flawless pipe with exceptional grain. For the most part, this is the highest grade a Block Pipe can attain based on the quality of the wood. Very few pipes of this grade will be produced each year. $200 and up.
7. The absolute pinnacle of Block Pipes. In most cases, this will be a flawless pipe with exceptional grain. These pipes will posses a certain transcendental quality ("mojo") that goes beyond the visible grain. This is the most subjective grade of all the pipes I make. I don't expect to produce many Grade 7s, if any. Price: Based on the individual pipe.

The last news on Block Pipes is dated May 14, 2003: "New York Pipe Show. I'll have a table at the New York Pipe Show in Newark on May 31. Please stop by and say hello."

In Summer of 2003 Jonathan Block quit on pipemaking. The reasons aren't known, but we may presume he did so to concentrate on his career as a musician.