Pipas de Cochera

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Pipas de Cochera

Pipas de Cochera - Garage Made Pipes (Who I am and how in the world did I get the idea of carving pipes...)

By Roberto González González

"I was born on Mexico City on 1957 from a hi-middle class family. Since I can remember, my grandfather used to smoke the pipe. He actually smoked cigarette (regular and menthol), cigars, and the pipe. (The walking nicotine man!...). One of the stronger memories I have of him, is when he was sitting on the couch with his pipe and spent long hours telling me stories about the Mexican Revolution, (1910-1927). That pipe aroma on his living room and all those moments still bring comfort to my mind. I also remember the care and patience that he showed for his pipes and his tobaccos. My grandfather was a very important figure of my childhood and stayed with me until now. Since then, I realized that Pipe smoking was more of a ritual than just smoking.

When he died, I felt devastated. I was a troublesome teenager at 14 and didn't get along very well with my father at that time. So, I never had contact again with pipes. My cousins, who were all bigger than me, took care of all those pipes. My father used to smoke one from time to time, but he was never serious about pipe smoking. I grew up, smoked cigarette, study engineering and by the time I was 21, I had enough from everything and decided to run away from Mexico City. I was lucky to get a job in RCA Cd. Juarez, CHIH. (Same town as El Paso TX, just on the other side of the border...). In top of my salary, they paid me a Masters degree in Electronics, but they cut the program just before I could finish it. Anyway, I stayed for 5 years in RCA until a job offer from Hewlett Packard in Guadalajara JAL, convinced me to go to a nicer weather city.

It was not just nicer weather, it was plagued with beautiful women!... By that time I was 27, got married at 30 and raise a family. Meanwhile, I spent my time working and smoking 2 packs of cigarette a day. Pipe smoking is not very common in Mexico. Cigar smoking is very common, but I've never liked it very much. Then, when smoking in airplanes, airports and practically everywhere was banned, I decided to quit. (Disappearance of my favorite brand of cigarette helped a little bit too...). On one first of January, my wife and me decided that smoking was not for us anymore. So, we quit and stayed "clean" for more than a year. By the time, Diabetes appeared only to remember me how easy you can get sick -of anything-, and that you are risking your health just by living.

This made me think differently. Look at those guys that do "bungee jump" or sky diving; somebody should tell them that those sports are really dangerous to their health, but they don't care. They are grown people that have chosen their risks in life to make it worthwhile. So, I decided to smoke back again. But this time, the mixed memories of my grandfather and my own experience with cigarette for 20 years, made me decide to try the pipe. Smoking is not good for anybody, but at least, pipe smoking is not as addictive as cigarette, (in my opinion). Pipe smoking is related to relaxation periods. You can not really smoke a pipe in hurry or when you are very busy. On the contrary, cigarette smoking can be your all day companion...(!). I remember cigarette smoking being 90% of the time without any pleasure. It was just for avoiding the pain of no having it!. In Pipe smoking on the contrary, I can stay without it and nothing hurts. So, I decided to smoke the pipe. And when I tried my first hand blend tobacco.... A world of pleasure opened in front of me... Unfortunately by the same reasoning, my wife went back to cigarette smoking.

As time passed by, my collection of pipes started to grow. From cheap brands and "thirds" to "seconds" and some nice brands like Savinelli, Stanwell, Peterson etc.. My eyes just opened wide by looking at the freehand, straight grains, jumbo size, etc. etc. that are above $500 each, and realize that pipe loving is like a black hole. You can never fill it. It will just grow up!. There I was... realizing that I could spend the rest of my money, buying pipe after pipe and never feel satisfied. We pipe smokers are eternally searching for the perfect briar and the perfect tobacco. We can't help it.

One day, I was admiring pipes on the Internet when I saw the very interesting web page of the American Smoking Pipe Co. from Mark Tinsky. He sells -among other things-, pipe kits of fine Grecian briar pre-bored and stem fitted ready for you to carve that perfect shape!. This was my opportunity... I was going to make the pipe shape that I wanted without paying the $500 or more... I bought a couple of Plateaux pipe kits and waited impatiently for the arrival of the shipment

When those kits arrived, I just fell in love with the wood. It is so beautiful: Strong, compact, beautifully grained and tough. The more I read and learned about the "Erica Arborea" and the elaborated process that has to undergo besides the years of growth, made me feel proud of having it in my hands. When I actually started carving, some kind of revelation happen to me: I just prepared a bowl-full of tobacco, place one of my "Equipales" (traditional Mexican chairs) under the biggest tree in my yard, and start carving with my rotary tool.... Wow! ... What a relaxed feeling! ... I discovered one of the most relaxing hobbies that I've ever experienced!. Almost immediately I bought more.

Several web sites teach you the different steps for doing your pipes. The learning was just a great experience!. Being in an office all the time, I have always liked to work with my hands. Then I started to get serious about it and bought a drill press and some tenon turning tools. My first successes impressed my wife, and since then she encourages me to continue. This was great since now I had a case for buying more tools, which I always like. The drill press was for boring my own holes and fitting my own stems. Still, all my bowl shaping and sanding was made by hand. After finishing the Octagon pipe, my fingers really hurt. Then I decided to buy a disc/belt sander. And when I got tired of the tenon turning tool adjustments, I decided to buy a mini lathe for all my stem work and now I like to make my pipes from scratch. No kit's anymore. I still buy the stems molded, but I never keep the original shape. I always end up turning the piece and sometimes change the whole shape, not just the tenon.

There is something mystic about woodcarving. After all, Christ and his father before him, were carpenters..."

Pipas de Cochera
Roberto González González

E-mail: robglez@prodigy.net.mx
Website: Pipas de Cochera