I was born in 1968 and I am living in Austria (Gmunden). I have always been fascinated by tobacco pipes since I was a little boy. Pipes remind me of ancient times, when human beings discovered the use of fire and started to produce their first pieces of art.
My first pipe I smoked at the age of 14. It was a Dunhill of my father's collection.
I studied Computer Science at the Technical University in Vienna and made pipes for myself as a hobby. In 1999 pipemaking became my profession.
Shape First - Then Drill
The first few years I did it like most pipemakers do: Drill first on a machine and then shape the briar. Today I first shape the pipe on the disc and then drill afterwards in a freehand manner. It took a lot of practice to get the freehand drilling exact but I have much more freedom in shaping now.
Here is a typical carving process:
cutting the briar
sanding a rough shape by disc
sanding the right shape by belt sanding machine
drilling the tobacco chamber and airway and checking sandblast potential by heating gun
and there it is
It's all about Airflow
To me a handmade pipe needs a handcut stem - otherwise it is not a handmade pipe to me. But there are more reasons to make the stem myself. First of all the material used on prefabricated mouthpieces is not good enough. I only use NYH ebonite, which is the best one. Second: The inside of the mouthpice is a very important part of a pipe. If the airstream is not good the pipe will never smoke well. This means the mouthpiece has to be opened up inside. This starts with a chamfered tenon which I am convinced is very important to avoid turbulences and moisture.
chamfered tenon (conical opening with a very small rim)
In addition I usually do not make the tenon out of ebonite but of Delrin. This is much more work but has 2 main advantages. First is strength - it will not break. Second is a smooth fit and independence of temperature or moisture. No sticking or squeaking when inserting or removing the mouthpiece. Also in every pipe you will be able to get a pipe cleaner all the way in to the bottom of the bowl, every piece even, full bents.
Delrin tenon (foto: pipe-embassy.com)
To have a thin bit and a good airflow at the same time it is absolutely necessary to make a deep V shape inside the stem - at least 1,5 cm deep.
Deep V shape inside (see white lines, foto: pipe-embassy.com)
The third reason is that I can determine the drilling diameter and I can avoid corners or steps which are not good. Another reason for a handcut stem is the freedom in shaping. One does not rely on prefabricated shapes.
As only I can decide which pieces of briar I need I have to pick each piece myself. So I can check the grain and overall quality.
But the most important thing is to have a trustful relationship to my copeurs to obtain best quality.
I do not blast my pipes because of spots or inferior grain quality because the blast would be disappointing. Only the best grain and briar quality does produce an interesting high quality blast - which is even and deep.
I check the sandblasting potential first by using a heating gun to see the ring grain.
checking the ring grain by using a heating gun
If it looks good I sandblast the whole piece of briar very short to see how the ring grain will be. If this works well too I decide to make a blasted pipe.
Therefore I have my own blasting equipment which I improve constantly.
blasting cabin (foto: pipe-embassy.com)
Here some examples of high quality blasts.
Titanium on Bamboo Pipes
On bamboo pipes I only use Titanium tubes inside to guarantee the best taste. In addition Titanium does not corrode.
Tubes also prevent the bamboo from soaking up wet smoke.
I do not just use tubes as tenons - the tube goes all the way from the pipe head to the V which gives the best airflow.
Of course I carve classic shapes.
Dublin (foto: pipe-embassy.com)
Bent (foto: pipe-embassy.com)
Bulldog variation (foto: pipe-embassy.com)
Churchwarden (foto: pipe-embassy.com)
What I like most is freehand shapes. I like pipes very much which remind me of ancient times. I call them archaic shapes.
inspiration: ancient pipes made out of shell or sea snails
"Kauri" with bamboo and ivory application
"Kauri" with horn application
The "Caveman" shape has a titanium tube inside so the pipecleaner test is no problem and the smoke does not get in contact with the horn to avoid bad taste.
Comet panel (foto: pipe-embassy.com)
Comet with Horn, Titanium and Box Wood
original Comet - Head & shank rounded
original: rusticated stem as a symbol for a trunk and plateau
inspiratiopn: stem structure
And sometimes I have no design in my mind - the briar tells me what to do: