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PostPosted: Sun Dec 30, 2007 7:50 pm 
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I originally was going to post this as a reply to the question in the subject line, but I realized that if I did that, it might get lost to the annals of time, just as countless other answers to similar questions have in years past. Here it is, sticky-fied, and permanized for the benefit of all information seekers everywhere.

Also, some of the old-timers (in forum terms) may recognize some of this post. This was originally printed in the NASPC newsletter some time in 2005 as a 2-part article (since it was so lengthy) in the Pipe Maker's Odyssey series of articles that I began, and have yet to finish. (not to self....) This is, perhaps, the most exhaustive collection of thoughts on "What tools do I need" that has ever been assembled, and is quite lengthy, so set aside some time to read through it properly.

Not that this doesn't give you a concrete list of tools and part numbers to order from Grizzly or collect from Home Depot. Rather, this is a set of guiding points to start you in the thought process of what tools *you* will find comfortable to work with, and how to start the experimentation process of finding a set of procedures and workflows that you are comfortable with.



A Pipe Maker's Odyssey: Tools Of The Trade (part 1)

Every beginning pipe maker has the same question, "What tools do I need to make a pipe?". However, the answer to that isn't as clear as most folks hope it will be. An appropriate first response, and an incredibly nebulous one as well, is that you will need: a tool to shape the wood, one to drill the holes, a couple to make the stem, some to sand the whole thing smooth, some odd ones to put on a finish, and a tool to buff and polish. Additionally, if you're rusticating pipes, you'll need tools for that as well. Sometimes you can combine tools - like the one used to shape the stummel can also be used to shape the stem, or to sand the pipe smooth once it's shaped. Usually though, unless you're really pressed for space or are *very* good with a given tool, you're going to want a few tools, and some of them will be one-trick ponies. The best way to go about this might be to go through the process, and describe the tools you can use for each step along the way. However, because this got very wordy, I'm going to split this up into two articles - one that covers the stummel and the stem, and one that takes it through final polish.

Drilling the holes:
Most people, when asked what tool they should use to drill holes in a block of wood, will tell you to get a drill press. That is certainly a good choice here, and many pipe makers use one. However, you will find that a great number of pipe makers actually use a lathe to drill their holes. While not strictly necessary, the use of a lathe makes aligning the holes a snap, and it's easier to peer down into the tobacco chamber to make sure that you haven't overshot the draught hole. Also, if you're making shapes like bulldogs, billiards, or apples, a lathe makes shaping the top half of the bowl easy. The minimum lathe you'll need is something like the Jet Mini Lathe or Delta Midi Lathe - these are good starting points and are nearly identical units. If you asked me what to use, I'd say lathe. However, the entry price is in the $400 to $600 range after everything is said and done, putting them out of reach of most hobbyists. A drill press can be had for about $100, and fits more budgets. Drill presses are certainly useful, and I used one for about a year before getting a lathe. The main advantage of a lathe over a drill press is time savings. It takes significantly less time to line things up on a lathe than it does a drill press - barring exotic jigs and fixtures. This also depends on your preference and needs as not everyone needs a lathe, or wants to learn to use one.
Once you've decided on what to use to drive the drill bits, you need to decide on those. For the mortis, PIMO sells a tool called the "combination mortis drill bit & shank-end square". What this tool does is drill out the mortis at the same time that it's cutting the end of the shank square to the mortis. Carpenters and cabinetmakers will know this tool by the name "counterbore" - which it is. It's a 5/16" short drill bit with a 7/8" counterbore from Fuller Tool. Alternatively, you can cut the shank end and the mortis separately. Just use a drill bit, or a Forstner bit, of whatever size you decide for the mortis (5/16" or 1/4" are common). To square the shank end, a precision ground Forstner bit is a great tool.
The tobacco chamber is a different beast, since you want the chamber rounded at the bottom, and without a conical shoulder that a large drill bit will give you. Again, PIMO to the rescue, with a set of three custom-ground bits in popular sizes. These are re-ground spade bits, and if you have a steady hand and a keen eye, you can make your own with little trouble. You can get similar bits from Tim West at his pipemakers supply website - www.jhlowe.com. Ken Lamb (www.lambpipes.com) also makes reground drill bits, but his are precision ground silver and deming bits. For those just starting out, I suggest the bits from PIMO or J.H. Lowe.


Shaping the stummel:
Here you have an array of choices for tools, some of which are more multi-roll than others. As I mentioned above, you can use your lathe to shape the top half of the stummel. Once your holes are drilled you can use a band saw to trim away excess material so that you don't turn all that extra wood into dust, and keep your workshop cleaner in the process. You can also use a regular hand saw and a vise to remove that material, all depending on your budget and available space.
Once you've got the block trimmed, you need to shape it the rest of the way into a stummel. For this step, a lot of pipe makers will turn to a sanding or grinding disc. The type of disc or wheel is so varied that it's impossible to name them all, but suffice to say that the disc needs to be slightly flexible, or it needs to be padded. Mount your disc on an electric motor, your lathe, or a hand drill held in a jig.
You can also use a stationary belt sander/grinder for this step - which some makers prefer (including yours truly). Some belt sanders even come with a sanding disc attachment, but this type of sanding disc is less than optimal for shaping. You need to be able to sand all the way up the edge of the disc, and even have the edge available for getting into tight spaces. What grit should it be? Start with 36-grit and move up if you find it too aggressive. I use a 60-grit 2 inch wide belt most days, however I will use a 80-grit belt from time to time.
You can also employ a most uncommon tool for shaping wood - a rotary hand tool like a Dremel or Foredom. There are pipe makers that use this type of tool almost exclusively, and they make excellent use of it. If you're really pressed for space, you may consider this tool. You will also want a selection of files for shaping in the tight areas, or if you prefer to do the entire thing by hand. Files are indispensable, and even in a workshop full of power tools, I have about half a dozen files out and in use at any given point. These are must-have toools, and no matter what other tools you choose, get a bunch of different sizes and shapes of files.

Making the stem tenon:
Here we wander into territory that befuddles every single pipe maker who's just starting out. How do you make a tenon? Tools needed for this range from a simple tenon tool from PIMO, all the way up to a metal lathe. How involved your tooling is, is largely dependent upon how involved you want to be in stem manufacturing. For starters, I strongly suggest that you consider using pre-molded stems, and using the PIMO tenon tool to fit them to your stummels. You can use the tenon tool with a drill press or a lathe, and it takes a lot of the guesswork out of cutting a tenon.
A metal lathe makes tenon cutting even easier, and faster. A wood lathe can be used, but you need to be very skilled in order to effectively cut tenons with one. Or, you can eschew cutting tenons altogether, and use pre-made tenons or create tenons out of material known to be a certain size. Delrin, for instance, is used by a several pipe makers I know, and I use it exclusively. Whether you use factory-made stems, or you cut your own from vulcanite or acrylic rod, the method and tools for creating the tenon can be identical.

Shaping the stem:
If you do cut your stems from rod stock, your files will prove absolutely indispensable. Also, the method you use for rough shaping your stummel is likely to be the most effective and intuitive tooling for carving your stem.
In addition, a metal lathe (or even a wood lathe) can be used to shape "freehand" stems - the kind normally seen on a typical Danish freehand. Balls, beads, and other decorative shaping are very easy to do with a metal lathe, and are nearly impossible without a lathe of some kind.
A Dremel will also prove very useful for cutting the slot, the button, or minor tweaking of the air passage. You can do this on a drill press or lathe, but a lot of folks prefer the freedom of movement that a Dremel or Foredom provides.

Now you've seen mention of a bunch of tools that can be used to make a pipe. A serviceable and functional pipe, but one that's not as refined and "finished" as it can be. Next article, I'll go through the tools that can be used to take you pipe the rest of the way into something that makes people notice - but for all the right reasons.


A Pipe Maker's Odyssey: Tools of the Trade (part 2)

After the article in the last newsletter, you should have a very good idea of what tools you'll need to to make something roughly pipe-shaped out of a briar hunk and stem. This time around, I'm going to look at the types of tooling you'll need to take that hunk of wood and plastic and put a finish and final polish on it.

Sanding the pipe smooth
Here we come to, seemingly, the most low-tech part of pipe making. However, there are a few choices here as well. You can choose to hand-sand the entire pipe, or you can try to power sand as much of it as you can. In the interest of time, some pipe makers will use sanding discs of increasing grits and do as much as possible that way. A belt sander is typically not preferable here due it's unpadded and aggressive nature (custom-built rigs aside), so I don't suggest attempting this route. You can, however, use the same disc setup that you used to rough shape your stummel, as long as it's padded and non-aggressive. You don't want to create flat spots on your wood, you want to smooth out the ones you created while rough shaping.
Wether you hand sand or use a disc, you will need a selection of grits ranging from whatever you use for rough shaping, up to 600 or 800 grit. You may choose to sand to higher grits when just starting out, but it isn't truly necessary once you get your technique down. Except for stems, those are pesky things to get smooth and scratch free. For stems, consider wet/dry sandpaper in grits up to about 1200.

Rusticating:
Anything that chews wood will be good for this step. Whatever you have laying around your workshop that can be used to make textures will work well - dremel, wire wheel, wood chisels, nails, sand blasters, etc. One tool that has gained popularity is a collection of plumbing bits from your local hardware store, some concrete nails, and all put together in a very medieval looking device that's used to chip chunks away from your briar. More on this tool in a later article, but you can probably find an example without too much trouble just be Googling for "briar rustication". Sand blasters are expensive, and require expensive air compressors, but they render one of the most sought after finishes in pipedom. For this reason, long time pipe makers save their pennies to get these one of these, or at least work deals with other makers that have one.

Staining:
Believe it or not, the tool that gets the most use while applying stain is a pipe cleaner. Some folks will use brushes or cotton daubers, but without a doubt, a pipe cleaner is the most prevalent stain application tool in the trade of pipe carving. A pipe cleaner, folded in half and given a twist, is one of the most accurate tools.

Buffing and polishing:
This is the final step of most pipe making. For this step, a variable speed buffer is very helpful, but you can certainly use a low-speed motor (1725 RPM) with great results. A selection of wheels mounted to arbors and mounted on a lathe can work wonders. However you choose to turn the wheels, you will need one for each step: brown tripoli (linen wheel), white diamond (linen/flannel mix), carnuba (flannel), and final buff (flannel). In addition, you may consider using an aggressive compound like 925 rouge on a linen wheel (or even a felt wheel) as the first step in polishing your stems. Get wheels that are a minimum of 6" in diameter, and no more than 9". The surface speed of larger wheels will be too great, and you will end up burning your wood and removing your finish.

So, at the end of the article, what have we mentioned?
- Drilling holes: drill press or lathe, tobacco chamber bits, forstner bits, regular drill bits
- Shaping the stummel: sanding discs mounted on a motor or lathe, or a belt sander/grinder
- Making the stem tenon: Pimo tool, metal lathe, or the use of delrin tenons
- Shaping the stem: files, the same tool you used to shape the stummel, metal lathe, and/or dremel
- Sanding the pipe smooth: sandpaper of increasing grits up to 600 or 800, possibly a padded sanding disc
- Rustication: anything you have laying around your shop that can chew wood, dremel, wire wheels, specialized tools
- Buffing and polishing: polishing compounds, linen and flannel buffing wheels, something to drive the wheels (lathe, motors, drill press, buffer)

What tools should YOU use? That really depends on you. The reason why there's no One True List of tools to use for making pipes, is because every pipe maker on the planet uses a slightly different load out. No workshop is furnished exactly the same, and every pipe maker uses different techniques. In coming articles, I'll describe in detail the techniques and tools that I've settled upon, and the stumbling blocks I experienced along the way. They might not work for you, but hopefully they'll provide a starting point for your own experimentation, and help you get settled more quickly.

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 01, 2009 12:59 pm 
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sweeet. Thank you Kurt!

I just bought and read Pimo's book.

Kola


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 13, 2010 12:05 pm 
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I use, only, you can see here:

http://pipasmasso.blogspot.com/search/label/Herramientas

Greetings.
Felix

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 13, 2010 12:29 pm 
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Hi Felix, good to see you here!


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 06, 2013 5:28 pm 
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Thank you for posting this, Kurt. It is really helping me.
I have started with 2 ebauchons kits (pre - bored) at Pimo, a Hausmann Bandsaw, a file, sanding paper, some wax and dye. I realize now there is so much more to it. Yea, I know, this comment will give the big guys a smile and a good laugh. :lol:
I have been researching and shopping lathes for the last week. And I am not done yet, as I had opted first for a wood lathe ($$ considerations) but realize the metal will be better.
So, back to the homework and research, both for the lathe and the accessories.
And this is only one aspect (a big one, yes, but one) of getting what I need to get started.
Getting what I need to make pipes sure demands a lot of research, reading on this forum, determination and patience. And then, I will have to make them.
A whole big, new world is opening up to me. :D

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 13, 2014 7:17 am 
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Thanks for this post very interresting.
The french pipemaker Pierre Morel says it is not possible to drill a pipe accurately without a lathe.

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 13, 2014 10:14 am 
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LAG wrote:
Thanks for this post very interresting.
The french pipemaker Pierre Morel says it is not possible to drill a pipe accurately without a lathe.


I don't know who he is, but I've drilled pipes accurately both with a drill press and with a hand drill. Maybe he meant his own skill though.

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 13, 2014 12:34 pm 
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sandahlpipe wrote:
LAG wrote:
Thanks for this post very interresting.
The french pipemaker Pierre Morel says it is not possible to drill a pipe accurately without a lathe.


I don't know who he is, but I've drilled pipes accurately both with a drill press and with a hand drill. Maybe he meant his own skill though.


IAWJ. I've been doing that a lot recently................................

It's totally possible. I drilled my first few with augers. These to be specific:

Image

I hollowed out the chamber with a dremel on those first few.

Edit: I should add that the drilling was accurate. :P

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Last edited by d.huber on Fri Nov 14, 2014 10:43 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Nov 14, 2014 5:39 am 
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Go and Google Pierre Morel, Jeremiah. He's been doing this type of thing a while, one of the French stalwarts with a huge following.

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PostPosted: Fri Nov 14, 2014 9:21 am 
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Charl wrote:
Go and Google Pierre Morel, Jeremiah. He's been doing this type of thing a while, one of the French stalwarts with a huge following.


Looked him up. He makes some nice looking pipes.

But you can still drill accurately without a lathe.

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PostPosted: Fri Nov 14, 2014 9:55 am 
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sandahlpipe wrote:
LAG wrote:
Thanks for this post very interresting.
The french pipemaker Pierre Morel says it is not possible to drill a pipe accurately without a lathe.


I don't know who he is, but I've drilled pipes accurately both with a drill press and with a hand drill. Maybe he meant his own skill though.


Not possible? That's a pretty bold claim.

I used a hand drill on my pipes for the first two years or so... then a drill press for the next six. I know I was drilling accurately. A lathe makes the accuracy come much easier, but it is possible to drill a pipe accurately without a lathe.

Pierre Morel was simply mistaken.

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PostPosted: Fri Nov 14, 2014 12:30 pm 
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And all briar that isn't "deadroot briar" is green and still alive. Don't you guys know anything??

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 15, 2014 1:53 am 
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:lol:
Sorry, Jeremiah, just meant that if you don't know him, you should go and have a look.
Yip, that is certainly a weird statement.

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 15, 2014 9:39 am 
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Charl wrote:
:lol:
Sorry, Jeremiah, just meant that if you don't know him, you should go and have a look.
Yip, that is certainly a weird statement.


Oh. I figured.

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 16, 2015 3:21 pm 
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d.huber wrote:
sandahlpipe wrote:
LAG wrote:
Thanks for this post very interresting.
The french pipemaker Pierre Morel says it is not possible to drill a pipe accurately without a lathe.


I don't know who he is, but I've drilled pipes accurately both with a drill press and with a hand drill. Maybe he meant his own skill though.


IAWJ. I've been doing that a lot recently................................

It's totally possible. I drilled my first few with augers. These to be specific:

Image

I hollowed out the chamber with a dremel on those first few.

Edit: I should add that the drilling was accurate. :P

Where did you get those? All that comes up on google is the augers for drilling holes in the ground.


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 16, 2015 5:14 pm 
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Search for wood screw gimlets.

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 17, 2015 11:12 am 
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Where there is a will, there is a way. Most of us started without a lathe.


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 17, 2015 12:43 pm 
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Joe Hinkle Pipes wrote:
Search for wood screw gimlets.

ahhh, thanks, that did it.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 18, 2015 7:36 am 
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pipedreamer wrote:
Where there is a will, there is a way. Most of us started without a lathe.


Oh God, am I glad I have a decent lathe now! But yes, you CAN make pipes with a handdrill or drillpress :-)

I still drill my pipes with a handdrill every now and then, but only the airway or to deepen the chamber if I drop my airway slightly too low.

Funny thing is many people go from drillpress/handdrill to a lathe, but once they get really good, they go back to handdrilling (but with the stummel in hand and the drill mounted on a motor)

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 29, 2016 8:46 pm 
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great info thank you.


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