Shaping with a Sanding Disc
On the sanding disc is where the pipe truly begins to take shape. Until this point, one has simple taken a block of briar and turned it into a block of briar with holes. This stage, the stage of shaping, is the fun, hands-on portion of bringing alive the design the pipe maker has in mind.
Really, as far as the technicalities of using a sanding disc, there is not much to say. It is really rather intuitive. I chuck my sanding discs up in the headstock of my lathe, and this provides the luxury of being able to vary the rpm of the disc. In addition to varying the rpm of the discs, I use three different grit sand discs, 80, 180, and 400. I use the coarse grit at high speeds to the initial rough shaping, and I slow the lathe down as I get closer and closer to the final shape. Typically I will start with the lathe at 3700 rpm with the 80 grit, then move to about 1800 rpm with the 80 grit, then change to the 180 grit, then change to the 400 grit, then slow all the way down to 500 rpm with the 400 grit as the final step. This progression is not always identical, but this is close to what I typically do.
I have noticed that most makers work with facing the front of the wheel. I, of necessity since I am using my lathe, stand to the side of the wheel. I haven't tried facing the front of the wheel yet, but it actually looks more difficult. I looks like you cannot actually see the spot on the stummel that is actually touching the disc. By standing to the side it is quite easy to see the removal of the wood by the disc, and gives my nice control over what I am doing.
Since this is a process that escapes ready description, here is a video of me at work at the sanding disc: (Warning: This is a VERY large video (~14MB), and perhaps overly redundant. Please let me know if you think it is unneccesarily long.)