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16 December 2010

Stamping a pipe
 deep breath. hold. commit.

       -Posted by adam-

After the West Coast pipe show in Las Vegas, there was a pow-wow in San Diego. Lucky ducks Sykes, Alyson, and Brad Pohlmann visited Jeff Gracik and captured some great video of the pipe makers working on our Christmas pipes. If you'll scroll down a few posts, you can see a video that Ted matched to wonderful Christmas music. (Personally, the scene with Tchaikovsky’s “Dance of the sugar plum Fairy" behind it really put me in the Christmas spirit.) The pipe is a pear shape and features custom J.Alan silver work on the shanks. We just got these pipes in a few days ago, actually, and they are each a beautiful gem. Jeff applied his stamp to the pipe as did Brad. Just yesterday Sykes came into my office and asked if I could stamp them with the logo.

Nearly every pipe has a stamp on it, though many people don't know how it is done. Some companies and makers have different practices (Eltang engraves), but it pretty much comes down to pushing a steel stamp - which is really sharp and rather expensive - freehand onto an expensive pipe. For many pipe makers (this includes me) this final step is part of the finishing process and can be quite risky. If the pipe is stamped poorly it will need to be sanded down before being stained, finished, and stamped again. Some shapes are easier to stamp than others (wide, rather flat pieces, for instance.)

I couldn't put it off any longer. Finding a suitable material to rest the pipe on - an estate leather Castello bag - meant that I could use the hard top of a desk by the back door (near Eric) and the leather would make something soft for the pipe to sit atop. More importantly, the bag mildly grips the pipe so it wouldn't slip on the hard glossy surface of a desk. After borrowing a chair from someone's office and installing an architect's desk lamp for proper light, I gave Eric strict instructions.

"Eric. I need to stamp seven of these pipes with great concentration. They don't belong to me, so if I don't press hard enough, if I partial stamp, or slip (oh, the horror!), I will be Ebenezer Screwed. It's your job to act as my bouncer. We have hardwood floors, so make sure Alyson and Susan (each wearing hard heels) don't come nearby. If anyone tries to sneak up on me or talk - tackle them."

The thought of stamping a pipe that wasn't mine made me a bit trepidacious. Doing it perfectly seven times made me really nervous. I planted myself firmly in the solid seat when no one was walking around and placed the leather bag on the edge of the desk. Firmly holding the pipe in my left hand with the bowl angled to one side, I touched the corner of the extremely sharp, pointy metal stamp on the edge of the hard, shiny, waxed surface of the pipe. Squeezing down with enough force to do a one-handed push-up sunk it into the briar. At this point I was committed. Very slowly, I rocked the round stamp back and forth and slowly rolled the pipe like a door knob with the grace of a juvenile getting home past curfew. It was done.

Whew! It's scarier than it seems. People here in the office laughed at my expense - nothing unusual - so I suggested they try it on some throw-away rejected billiard estates. Good thing for Jeff and Brad that some other employees here didn't stamp the pipes or we would have ended up with some 'okingpipes' pipes and some double-stamped pieces.

Jeff and Brad did a great job with this year's Christmas pipes. Thankfully, I didn't screw them up. ;)

Posted by adam at 4:39 PM | Link | 0 comments



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