Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Pipe for sale (Ze Brandy chubby)

 This pipe was made at Grant Batson's studio and every detail from design to finish was overseen buy him.  It is made of the highest grade imported Italian briar, with a German ebonite stem and a zebra wood stem adornment.  This is a special pipe, and is beautiful.  The price is $350 please contact me if interested

rev's pipes

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Pipe School with Grant Batson (reality bites part 2)

Day 2

Grant picks me up at 7 and we grab a quick coffee to go.  He is still smiling so I haven't annoyed him too much yet.  Yesterday was a bit of a struggle we are hoping to make up some time today. 

We get straight into the shop and start shaping another pipe.  I am getting the hang of it.  This motor goes way faster than mine, and the grit is a bit more aggressive so I am trying to tread lightly.  This thing takes off some briar, makes some dust, kicks some arse ect.  Aside from shaping my knuckles a few times I did pretty good.  The shape had to be altered a bit from what I originally envisioned because of the grain.  Ok, it was really because I took too much meat off, did I mention that wheel was aggressive.  Grant helped me dial it it, and we were looking sweet.

We drilled it and made the stems.  Things were looking pretty good.  Plenty of time.  Lets work on a stem extension.  So Black Palm is tough to work with (reality bites again).  Lets switch up to Zebra wood so we don't waste anymore time.  Done. Ok, still doing pretty good.

Some sanding on the pipes, and one coat of stain.  A little behind, but we are doing well.

We have a quick sandwich and I mean quick, and back in the shop.  Lets sandblast this first pipe.  Reality bites again, reality bites almost as bad as the Nashville mosquitoes who's lingering itch has made my last few days interesting.  When we sandblast this pipe it just seems to open up with deep pits all over.  We finish the blast and there must be twelve pits.  We test it, its not leaking any air, and nothing really looking like it will be into the chamber, but I can't sell this pipe.  Which, to be honest, made me a bit happy.  This pipe will be my pipe.  I am giving it a bone finish, and it will be my memory of my class with Grant.

The fun part was that we had to screw around with the blast machine for a while too.  So now we are good and behind.  We just started working.  Taking off the stain to show the grain, some light sanding, getting things together.  We worked our butts off till the end of the day and then we started to get a bit goofy.  It was time to stop. 

Grants back porch has a great view of their tree house, and we sat there sharing some great cigars, some beer, and eating some chips and guacamole.  We played guitar a bit, talked with his family, and relaxed through dinner.  I so much enjoyed this time.  What a wonderful family.

Day 3:

We start early, and have coffee at Grants so we don't waste any time.  We start the day off by making a schedule.  We have a pretty strict plan, and the goal is to allow some time at the end for whatever I want, (I want to watch Grant shape a blowfish).  We need to make some shank caps, shape and finish all the stems, finish and polish the two pipes.  We get to it.  We have a bit better luck, and are making good progress except as I start sanding the stem extension to fit into the third pipe... we find a light gap (reality bites once more).  Then we wind up designing the stem for the small pipe a total of three times.  We keep pushing through and get the end caps made, we get the stems made, we start putting everything together but we are a little bit behind.

Then something magical happens, Grants friend Trace from Thunderbird wings brings us lunch.  Ghost pepper smoked wings!!!  Oh my goodness, tears of joy flowed down my face along with the sweats.  Wow, so good, so tasty, soooooo hot.  This was the hottest food I have ever eaten except for a thai red curry that I couldn't actually eat and left 2/3rds on the plate, but it wasn't hot for hot sake, it was wonderfully complex, and full flavored.  If you ever get the chance, order some thunderbird wings or thunder thighs, but maybe if you aren't a masochist get their normal wings.

After a beer to cool our tongue we jumped back in the shop and things went swimmingly.  We finished up and had that little bit of extra time so I could watch Grant shape a blowfish.  I was amazed at how he let the wood tell him what to do.  I was disgusted at how he licked the block to see the grain.  I was left inspired by his ability to get so close to a finish shape with such an aggressive tool.  Man that was great to see.

We celebrated the week with two great cigars by Rocky Patel, and a bottle of Stone's Ruination IPA.

Then we went out for sushi with the whole family.  What a great few days.

Two things I am very happy about.  The first is this, I am glad we had some problems.  Problems are part of pipe making, especially with a medium that can be sometimes just plain vindictive.  But having Grant there to show me how to deal with problems was awesome.  Reality may bite... but bite right back.  I feel like I learned a lot about how to overcome issues, and how to be "stubborn" if necessary.  A friend told me, "nothing is better than having things go wrong with an expert with you.  He can tell you how to fix the problem, or tell you this one can't be fixed and save you hours of frustration.  Either way you win" and that was very true.  In the end due to much help and hard work by Grant I came home with two finished pipes and one almost done, and that is pretty darned cool. I also came home with a pipe making notebook, a bunch of new skills, and some quick ways to improve my shop and that is even cooler.

The second thing is simply this, in this life we must cherish the people, made in God's image that we interact with.  And though I got so much out of this course, the most valuable thing was a life long friend. 

Big thanks to all that helped it happen


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Pipe School with Grant Batson (reality bites part 1)

My pipe carving career is just getting started.  What originally was making a pipe or two for myself from a pipe kit, turned into "can you make me one like that" and finally into an obsession that sometimes keeps me up at night.  I not only want to make pipes, but I want to make beautiful, one of a kind practical works of art.  For this to happen, I need help, direction, advice and as much hands on mentoring as I can find.  Phase one of that plan was spending a few days with a young, master carver Grant Batson.

I asked Grant if I could come study with him for a few reasons.  One, I just seemed to really like him at the Vegas show, he seemed very down to earth, humble and friendly.  I also sensed what I later found out to be true, a deep spirituality.  Two, it seemed that those closer and more convenient to me were all for different reasons not available, (though I am sure that was only through circumstance)  And lastly... man I just love his pipes, they just strike a chord with me.  Something that is raw, and wild and very masculine about his pipes, and I love them.

Well Grant agreed and we figured out a date.  I raised the money through an indiegogo account that many of you helped with, (thanks heaps), and I set off for Nashville.

I packed up six blocks of briar, some black palm, some zebra wood, ebonite and some acrylic stem material.  I got a few little presents for Grant's kids and wife, (get in good with the family), and a nice bottle of tequila for Grant, (get in really good with the pipe carver).  Some clothes, underwear, and most importantly some pipes and tobaccos.  I was ready.

Flew from Orange County to Texas, then Texas to Nashville and climbed out of the plane into a 90 degree steam room they call summer.  I am not used to that.  My brothers friend picked me up and we went to get some southern bbq at Martin's in Nolensville, if you get a chance... oh my goodness.  I had the redneck taco.  A cornbread griddle cake covered in brisket and cole slaw, it is a good thing I don't live in Nashville, I would be house sized.

The next morning couldn't come fast enough.  I was waiting outside for Grant as he pulled in, in his red f150 truck, with a big grin on his face.  I am sure it was matching the big grin on mine, two kids gonna go play for three days.  I was so excited.  I threw my bag into the back and off we went.  First stop... coffee.  That is a given.  I am an addict, and I need my drug, thankfully my drug of choice is legal and relatively inexpensive.  Then we sat down to discuss the next three days.  Grant had created a manual for me to take home.  It was like a text book, instruction, details and even pictures of all we would cover.  We talked about our goals for the week, shared some laughs, and were in the shop by 8.  And got right to work
Grant had to help me quite a bit with the top of the shank, that was hard to get a nice sweeping curve.  But we made great progress.  Then we found a few pits, but we were sand blasting so it wasn't a huge deal.  We drilled the pipe out and were pretty happy with it.  I started shaping a matching pipe but screwed up the shank so we had to shorten it.  (reality bites) But we realized... this pipe has incredible grain.  We changed the bowl orientation a bit and started shaping a bit more and then... a fissure appeared that went all the way into where the bowl would be, (reality bites).  We decided the grain was too nice to waste so we made it a tiny little pipe that looked really good but there was just a bit of the fissure still showing, and we decided we didn't care.  And then I screwed up the drilling, and a skinny, tiny pipe got even smaller.  (reality bites).

We cleaned up and went to Stogies a great cigar and beer dispensary.  This place was cool, and the company was even cooler.  We were joined by pipe making giants, Steve Morisette, Bruce Weaver, Adam Remington, and Joe Case. (Bruce had left before the picture unfortunately)  What a great night.  Steve had a Tokutomi blasted blowfish that was just stunning.  Was so good to hold it in my hand.

Part 2 tomorrow