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.
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