Recently, Bear Graves sat down with Micah Cryder, the creative force behind Yeti Pipes. Yeti? Why are they called Yeti? In order to understand the answer to that conundrum, you need to first understand the man behind the pipes. The young, hyper-intelligent and good humored gent, who was born/currently lives and carves full time in Montana, offers two (of many) reasons. 1. The very word "Yeti" is evocative of the timeless, hearkens to campfires, high mountain peaks, and exploration. 2. While Micah takes his craft very seriously, he is lighthearted of outlook and felt that naming a marque Yeti would impart a sense of humor and whimsy within an industry which, often, seemed to take itself all-too-seriously.
Micah Cryder: Billings Montana, 1993
Bear Graves: Where do you live now? Is your workshop in your home?
Micah Cryder: I live in Missoula Montana, my workshop is separate from where I live- I find I'm more efficient at work when it's not connected to home.
Bear Graves: Quite understandable. At what age did the idea of pipe smoking appeal to you? Did you have men in your life, gents you might have you looked up to, who smoked a pipe?
Micah Cryder: Pipe smoking has fascinated me my whole life. My great grandpa, grandpa, and dad all smoked pipes. My great grandpa was a grumpy one-tobacco kinda guy (Sir Walter Raleigh). I never saw him without a pipe in his mouth. He instilled a love of pipe smoking in my grandpa, my dad, and my uncles. As such, it's no real surprise that I would want to smoke a pipe. At the age of seventeen (or eighteen if you're a cop) I smoked my first pipe (an old Savinelli I “borrowed” from my dad) -- I could barely keep it lit, but I loved it.
Bear Graves: I’m not a cop, but I used to play one on TV. Your pipe lineage is impressive, and, within my experience, a bit unusual in younger gents. Many of today’s newer pipe guys took up the hobby without having any parental archetypes to follow.
Micah Cryder: That sounds about right. I suppose, by extension, it’s a good thing that I don’t hail from a long line of firebugs (laughs). I do feel fortunate to come from a pipe household, for lack of a better term coming immediately to mind. Even if I had hailed from a non-smoking house, however, I’m pretty confident that I would have arrived at the same place. As I said: “pipe smoking has fascinated me my whole life”
Micah Cryder: Ah, hell no. Are you crazy? (Laughing) Sorry, I can’t lay off a low hanging curve ball. Of course I smoke a pipe, it’s a principle passion.
Bear Graves: That near heart attack out of the way, what types of blends do you prefer?
Micah Cryder: I love all manner of blends. I find myself smoking a lot of Latakia blends, and a few VaPers as well, with various other blends thrown in.
Bear Graves: What, aside from pipemaking, is your vocation?
Micah Cryder: When I first started pipemaking, I was a university student, and a barista at Starbucks. Since then, I have left school and Starbucks to be a full-time pipemaker.
Bear Graves: What skills might you have picked up, before becoming a pipe maker, which helped once you started pipe making?
Micah Cryder: Seeing as I started making pipes at age 17, there are only so many skills I could've picked up beforehand. I took four drafting courses, and three woodshop courses in high school, which gave me a good technical basis, and helped my understanding of engineering. I also took half a dozen art classes, and spent a lot of my free-time sketching. However, there's only so much that carries over from my previous experiences into pipemaking, I feel like I have had to re-learn everything through the lens of pipes.
Bear Graves: Who was the maker of your first quality pipe?
Micah Cryder: Up until a few months ago, I had only smoked my dad's old Savinelli and miscellaneous shop pipes/ early experiments I made. My first and only quality pipe thus far is from Nate King. I'm trading him one of mine for one of his. I haven't made his pipe yet though, and I should probably do that.
Bear Graves: When did you create your first pipe that you were proud of, one that you felt was worthy to sell?
Micah Cryder: At the time, I thought my 12th pipe was worth selling- I was proud of it, and the owner loves it. Over the last couple years, my understanding of pipes has grown exponentially. My early work would never meet my current standards. However, for where I was at the time, and the price I sold them for, I think they were great pipes. Even now, there are times I'm just not satisfied with how a pipe turns out. Often there is absolutely nothing wrong with the end result, but sometimes pipes are just harder to get finished- errors compound and have to be corrected, stems have to be re-cut, finishes have to be sanded back and re-done. It all warps my perspective of the pipe, which is why it's helpful to have other pipemakers to tell me if the pipe is actually good.
Bear Graves: What is the origin/source of your briar, and, roughly, how long is it seasoned prior use?
Micah Cryder: My briar is all sourced from Mimmo- he's awesome at what he does. I try to season my briar for at least a year- down the road as I build up a back-stock, I'd like to extend my seasoning to at least two years. When briar is completely dried, it's much easier to work- there are ways to remove excess moisture if you're cutting wet briar, and the end result is no different than when you use aged briar, but the steps in between can be a pain- it's nice to just have aged briar.
Bear Graves: Having looked at your pipes, it appears that ebonite/vulcanite/cumberland is your stem material of choice, would that be accurate?
Micah Cryder: I love ebonite/cumberland- however, I've also seen Bakelite and acrylic and juma which are all really cool materials. As time goes on, I'd love to explore and play with some different materials. I don't adhere strictly to ebonite and cumberland, I'm open to try new things.
Micah Cryder: All are hand cut.
Bear Graves: What size are your draft holes?
Micah Cryder: My draft hole is 4mm in the stummel, and 3.5mm in the stem- all my slots are cut wide open and polished for a good clean draw.
Bear Graves: Looking at your debut pipes, I see a lot of what I think of as either the Danish aesthetic, or American (Danish, as viewed through the new world lens). How would you define your prevailing theme?
Micah Cryder: My style is still developing. However, I'd consider my tendencies more American than Danish. I'd like to push my work away from something strictly "American" or strictly "Danish"- however, both schools of pipemaking offer a solid aesthetic basis to build off of. As cool as it is to break design rules and to invent something new, you have to understand how the rules are meant to work before you can properly break them.
Bear Graves: What pipe makers, if any, have aided you in your progress as a pipe maker?
Micah Cryder: Being a child of the internet, I have learned most of my pipemaking from the pipemakers forum. Many of the folks on there have given me help and guidance over the years. Probably my biggest help has been Premal Chheda. Premal has really helped me take my work up a few notches- his technical understanding of pipemaking is amazing. If it weren't for Premal, my work wouldn't be anywhere near where it is now.
Bear Graves: Looking at the broadest spectrum of great pipemakers, either living or passed, whose work do you most admire?
Micah Cryder: Boy... there's a huge list. Obviously it's hard not to appreciate Bo Nordh, Rainer Barbi, Hiroyuki Tokutomi, Lars Ivarsson, and Teddy Knudsen- people know those names for a reason- they're amazing. I love looking through galleries of work- you can learn a ton doing that. I am also fascinated by some of the newer pipemakers. Cornelius Maenz, Todd Johnson, Alex Florov, Maigurs Knets, Michael Parks, Peter Heding, and countless others.
Bear Graves: Ready to head to “personal insight'?
Micah Cryder: Shoot.
Bear Graves: Do you have a nickname, one that you like and we might use? An odd question, to be sure, but a nickname, even if simply a shortened version of your given or surname, creates a greater sense of personal connection with collectors, as well as allows us not to simply repeat your same first/last name in a description (reads a bit better).
Micah Cryder: Yeti works fine- or just Micah if you'd prefer it.
Bear Graves: What kind of music do you like?
Micah Cryder: My mom began my life/musical education with Boston, Jim Croce, Crosby Still and Nash, Brahms and Johnny Cash- since then, my love of music has grown. I love Celtic music/Celtic rock, metal, and various types of punk/ "angry" music. My all-time favorite band is Enter the Haggis. I usually listen to In Flames, or Rise Against when I'm shaping pipes... I usually make cooler pipes when there's an angry lead singer shouting in my ears.
Bear Graves: (Laughing) What are your favorite things to do, when away from work?
Micah Cryder: I live in Montana, and the outdoor opportunities are AMAZING. They don't call Montana "the last best place" for nothing. I love backpacking, day-hiking large mountains, photography, exploring, and Ultimate Frisbee. Until recently my whole family lived here in Missoula, my father was a Presbyterian minister who loved to fly fish, and my brother was a pastor's kid who loved to fly fish even more- if you've seen A River Runs Through It, it sounds like a familiar story: hopefully the ending is a bit different. cus' if it isn't I'm the younger brother with a gambling addiction. Ah well. I've spent a lot of my childhood fly fishing as well.
Bear Graves: OK, you’re killing me here.
Micah Cryder: You’re welcome.
Bear Graves: Do you have a favorite sports team?
Micah Cryder: My mother has been a Yankees fan for 45 years- I inherited that gene.
Bear Graves: This has been a ton of fun for me. Thanks for taking the time.