Yesterday I received my semi-annual briar shipment. Customs has thought of further obstacles to impede the flow of business this year! This shipment had to pass an agriculture inspection before they would release it. How can they inspect a product that they know nothing about? The answer , they can't, so hold it they did! Fortunately I was able to convince them to let it go by faxing them the story of my trip to Greece to buy briar wood. Apparently, it was a good read and they let it go. Cost, $126.00. I guess that was for reading my story. Just a bit of trivia.....
However ,I received 12 bags of briar, most of it consisting of medium plateaux with a bag of MF 4-5 ( for Canadians ) and a bag of extra large plateaux which is hard to get. It s safe in the warehouse and up on the drying racks. It won't be possible to work for at least a year until it dries and with any luck will sit for at least 3-5 years before I cut it.
I was contacted by another pipe maker who needed wood just after the wood was shipped. I put in an order for himand tacked on a few more bags for myself. One being a bag of R 2 3/4. This, hopefully, will provide some much needed blocks for large bents like the hexagon calabash which I have trouble finding blocks for at times. It will allow extra curing time for pipes in the future also, a key ingredient to quick break in and good smoking pipes. Surprisingly, the price of briar DID NOT go up this year and has remained relatively consistent over the past decade. Possibly, the Greek dinar is falling a lot faster than inflation. That s the only explanation I can think of as it seems everything goes up. Horray for a strong dollar! As this is the suppplier I've used for the last 20 years I expect the quality to remain consistent.
The Summer is a time when I can concentrate on pipe making. This summer has been no different and I've been turning out up to 6 pipes a day. Much better than 6 pipes a week as is sometimes the norm during the busy winter months when repairs come in at a high rate. Presently, my fiancee, Mary Ann is doing the lion share of the repair work. I've slowly trained her over the last 5 years and she does a beautiful job! She's got her own group of retired gents from her local church who she's trained to do the polishing. This year I hope to be able to continue making pipes during the repair season.
I've finished the first good proto-type of this years Christmas Pipe.Its been sent off to John Hayes Tobacconist, who sponsers the shape for approval or amendments. I hope to have a picture of it shortly. Its a bent billiard with a generous bowl. Slightly tipped foward to distinguish it from others. I like the pipe and feel it will be a good smoker. I hope John agrees.
This month saw the addition of a new American pipe maker, my son Glenn; age eleven. He has fooled around in the shop for years with odd bits of wood doing various kid projects. This summer he wanted to make a pipe. I made him a pipe kit and turned him loose one day last week. The results were surprisingly good! He made a small apple free form which was very symetrical amd well crafted. He has an artistic bent which he must have inherited , from his mother. At any rate I put the pipe up on my site and it sold within 2 days. He's got a better track record than I do at this point. Yesterday, he made his second one from a pipe kit. This one a freehand which follows the grain quite well and presented different design problems which he solved . I'm very proud of him and hope he will follow in my footsteps insuring the continuing of this company into the next generations.
Curt Rollar has gotten the sandblaster running again so I can now bring back sandblasts which have been missing from production for almost a year. Curt does a good job and its worth the wait to have him doing it again.
I've been working on new shapes lately. Trying to incorporate more diamond shanks and oval shanks onto classical forms. I've also been experimenting with flowing and curved shanks as opposed to just straight round ones. I think they give the pipes a certain flair. I've also been very busy doing your designs! I probably receive 5 special order requests a week for custom shapes. I did an oversize version of the 1996 Christmas Pipe, possibly 25% larger. The customer loved it and said, "Now make me a big one". I'm working on that presently. I also received a request for a magnum bent apple 3" in diameter. I had one block that this pipe would fit on. A gorgeous strait grain at least 10 years old. I've shipped it to him, I hope he likes it, if not I'll put it up on the web.
Another interesting order was to copy J. Chonowitz's panel horn pipe which appears in the article on James Galaway in P&T magazine. It was a difficult shape to learn as I've never done anything quite like it. I also amalagamated two Jacapo Picta shapes into one pipe with good results. On board is a Costello/ American copy to do. I want this bowl with this shank........It certainly keeps one busy!!
Greg Sprinkle has been kind enough to offer a forum for my custom pipes. He has put up a web page for American custom orders and the stories behind them. If you have a pipe you'd like to show off contact Greg.
I"ve had visits from many pipe smokers this summer. One from Shigeho Okada, of Japan, as he was touring the US. As well as from others more locally. MaryAnn and I enjoy meeting those we corresponded with over the years!
As for public ventures:
I visited with the Philadelphia Pipe Club last month for a great evening of pipe lore and smoking.
I will be attending the Newark Pipe Show Aug.31.
The C.O.R.P.S show in Richmond in October
And the annual Christmas Pipe Show at John B Hayes Tobacconist the first weekend in December, Fair Oaks Mall, Fairfax, Va 703 385 3033
I guess that's it for now; thanx to all for keeping us so busy! MT