After the Newark Pipe Show, Paul Bonaquisti and Matt Hayes returned to my place. Paul has purchased some Italian briar direct from a good source in Italy and he brought some down for us to check out. He had an idea for a bent bulldog with a round shank and a saddle bit that we decided to work on. Paul sketched a template and transfered them on to the briar. After cutting them on the bandsaw, I lathed the tops and put in the lines. It was fun as we consulted on angles and bowl width while doing this. A real collabrotive effort. Paul fitted them originally with a cut down 65 mm length X 20 mm width saddle bits. After some rough shapping we decided the original stems were too short and while they looked very European in style they were nose burners and we put on a stem at least 1/2" longer.
Paul was a little luckier than I was, as I hit some flaws on the shank and upper bowl. His bowl had a couple minor sandpits and we decided it would look best as a natural. I used a black & tan finish on mine.
The pipes are slightly different, for while we started from the same template, the plateaux top on Pauls ran a little deeper than expected and to get a smooth top he had to shorten it a bit. As part of the styling he wanted the lower line of the bulldog as close to the top of the shank as possible which makes sanding difficult. He took the brave approach and made a bold diagonal cut between the shank and the bowl close to the lower line. This made it difficult to not sand the lower line getting the scratches out and he had to re-make the line afterwards to make it more distinct. I taking the cowards route did not have that problem..... Here s a picture of the finished pipes:
While we were doing this Matt Hayes watched with apparent interest and in all fairness we probably should have made him one too but time was a constraint. After Matt left, we polished the pipes and decided to "try" them out. We went up stairs and filled them, I with , whatelse, Mac Baren s Navy Flake; Paul with a Solonai blend with Va and perique. We sat and smoked and enjoyed a quiet hour discussing pipe making and how we could improve our pipes. The first smokes in the new briar were satisfactory. Paul s tasted sweet and the Va really came thru. Mine had a very neutral taste and smoked dry to the very bottom. I m sure with a couple more bowls it will smoke very sweetly.
It was similar to me to some wood we tried from Morrocco in it s neutrality but without a harshness towards the bottom of the bowl which I experienced with the first 6 bowls. Since then the Morrocan has turned into a good smoking pipe. I think Paul and I are spoiled by the quick break in of our Grecian Briar. We felt the Italian wood to be very promising. The graining on the blocks looked very good. He left me with a couple blocks to experiment with. After we finished our bowls , Paul had to return to Albany. We decided to photo the pipes and see if the camera had a timer. Luckily it did and here s the result below.
The only downside between Paul and myself is we live over 3 hours apart. I wished he lived next door.....