I started to make pipes about 9 years before (2015). It all begins as a hobby; I wanted just to try with some pre bored blocks and stems. Pre-bored block, moulded stem and some files, sandpaper and knives, this was the starting point. About seven years later, I've organized my little workshop, equipped as well as possible and now I have much more knowledge about pipes and pipemaking.
For me the pipemaking is the way to use my hands creating useful and beautiful items, to satisfy my curiosity regarding design and function, materials differences, etc., and maybe at first place the pleasure to communicate with the pipe community worldwide.
All these provide me with the good feeling to be connected, to share and participate in some kind of friendly competition working with my own hands and expressing my own vision for the pipe making, shapes, etc.
My preferred method is to shape prior drilling the block and the initial reason for this is because when started I had no tools, nor lathe, therefore started with shaping first method and now I am feeling more comfortable working this way. The “shaping first” method gives much more freedom to follow the grain when shaping the pipe. Additionally it gives more options with discarding the defects in the briar, cracks and to follow the grain lines direction changing the shape with the change of its direction. Finally the briar dictates the shape of the pipe and this is a major part of the challenge.
If I feel I have to drill by hand - I drill by hand; if I feel the particular pipe should be drilled on a lathe - I drill it on the lathe or prior shaping, etc. The shape as I feel it has to be done is the way I have to make it and the wood is responsive in my hands, telling me what it wants to be. There is no way to make a mistake when I feel the shape in my mind.
I’ve started to make pipes with the good feel that I can do things right. Next I’ve realized that it is not that easy. Anyhow, I’ve decided to learn myself. As far as there is no other good option for me I’ve learned from internet, forums and pictures, and especially from my own mistakes.
I am working with best briar I can buy from different sources. Lately and preferably (more than two years now) I am using Greek sources for my briar supplies. Greek briar is very good with nice grain and seasoned well, it has neutral taste and very nice texture. I am sorting the blocks very carefully and keep some blocks for special pipes and projects. My briar is aged for at least 3-6 months in my workshop depending of the source and the season/weather conditions. Sometimes there are blocks I am seasoning for year and more.
For the mouthpieces I am using German Ebonite rods, occasionally Acrylic rods and Cumberland. I am NOT using any pre-made/molded mouthpieces in my pipes, as far as I don’t like them, also I don’t like the material used for such mouthpieces. Prefer to make them from scratch, to drill them to exact characteristic and to file and sand them out by hand. Almost each time I am using Delrin or Teflon rods for the mortises, because of the qualities of these materials to avoid sticking of the tenon in the mortise hole. Sometimes the shape of the stem cannot accept any inserts, so I am processing the tenon on lathe. I like thin mouthpieces; therefore I made them thin and comfortable.
I am making many repairs and pipe restorations of old and/or broken pipes. This gives me additional knowledge and skills.
Preferably, I shape before drilling the pipe. In many occasions this is the better way to avoid any problematic parts in the briar block, cracks etc. Following the grain, the briar always dictates the shape. Sometimes, it does not want to be a pipe, sometimes it says clearly what the shape will be.
The final quality and detailed work are the first goals in my production. I make about 120-150 pipes per year.