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08 November 2011

San Diego Visit Continued
 Festivities at Jeff's, day two

       -Posted by sykes-

It's now day two of the get together at Jeff Gracik's workshop in San Diego. I'm still writing live from the scene. In fact, Eric just turned on the disc sander, making the surface upon which I'm typing vibrate rather disconcertingly. It does leave this author feeling particularly connected to his subject matter, though. The same cast of characters are continuing their work from yesterday. Adam Davidson shaped up a a beautiful larger version of his fig shape. Eric Heberling has been working on a very respectable billiard. Jeff's been sanding the little blowfish that he shaped last night. Work is winding down though, in advance of tonight's barbecue. Joining the five pipe makers, Ted Swearingen and me, a number of members of the San Diego, Orange County and LA pipe clubs are collecting here for the festivities.

In addition to his talents as a pipe maker, Jeff seems pretty adept with his smoker, from which he extracted a 16lb hunk of pork a little while ago. At least it looked promising. I'm not sure if this particular boy from Tennessee can quite bring himself to believe that it's possible to smoke pork properly in California. I'll reserve judgement until I get to taste it later. We shall see…

Smokingpipes.com has been represented at all three of the annual West Coast Pipe Shows held thus far. Last year, my wife (then fiancee) and I represented us at the show and came out to San Diego to spend a couple of days with Jeff and his wife Melissa before heading back home. This year, Ted and I are in the middle of the same pilgrimage.

The West Coast show itself seems to be growing and attracting more exhibitors and attendees each year. The number of hobbyist pipe makers and aspiring pipe makers at the show this year was quite extraordinary. If the number of people interested in making a career of making pipes is any indication, the pipe world is indeed healthy. Neill Archer Roan, known for his impressive A Passion for Pipes blog, delivered a passionate speech on the pipe community, discussing the centrality of that community to pipe smoking. The pace of the show was a little slower than Chicago or Richmond, giving me the opportunity to enjoy the sort of long, in-depth discussions that are just not possible for me at those venues. I enjoyed long discussions with Neill about his speech and with my friend Rick Newcombe, author of In Search of Pipe Dreams, about pipe makers, pipes, his collection and a variety of other topics.

Monday morning, Ted and I got up at 3am to make it to the airport to head to San Diego. When I get home to South Carolina, I'll have to find out what Ted and I did to make Susan angry enough to book a slew of 6am flights for us. A word of advice for business travelers everywhere: do whatever you can to keep the person in your company booking the travel happy. Anyway, after grabbing some breakfast and a nap, we headed up to Jeff's workshop to find the five pipe makers hard at work.

Since I began writing this little missive, the sun has gone down and everyone but Adam and Ernie have moved from pipe making mode to celebration mode. Lots more folks have arrived to join our little party, driving in from all over Southern California to join us for the evening. And now I think that should go for me too, so I'll leave the narrative there, grab my pipe and join the festivities.








Posted by sykes at 8:34 PM | Link | 1 comment


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 Smokingpipes.com 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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