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


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