Around The Pipe World – Pt 2. Reviewing years 2014 to present.

Around The Pipe World – Pt 2. Reviewing years 2014 to present.


Basic Building Blocks Put To Good Use

None of the pipe makers working can progress & move forward without having knowledge of the basic & fundamental building blocks of pipe making. Both from an engineering but mostly from a shape perspective. Believe me, the difference between a hobbyist and a full timer is a hefty good chunk of pipe wisdom. Once a pipe maker obtains this wisdom as well as sufficient shaping skills, they’re off to the races making high quality pipes. I love seeing this progress in a pipe maker. When they are taught properly & correctly, these fundamental pipe rules automatically ‘mature’ the pipe makers vision. It fundamentally changes the way he or she approaches the pipe making process. The more fundamental basic’s a pipe maker knows, the more the work will take on similar features of other more established pipe makers.

Pipe Makers Skill is Evolving at a Faster Rate

Look at the pipes in this image. The pipes on the left were made by the same pipe maker less than 18 months ago. If I told you that the same person made these and it’s been less than 18 months in between the first & second set of pipes you would likely not believe me.

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Its true though, this is the work of Abe Herbaugh, Clark Layton & Micah Cryder from Chicago 2014 compared to their work today. Amazing isn’t it!!

Pipe makers are evolving at a much faster rate today than they were say 10 years ago. The rate of that growth, the evolution taking place is just tremendous. With more people coming into the hobby, a bigger population, access to better info on how to make a pipe and a lot of extra help, it allows craftsmen to quickly learn the fundamental basics of the craft.

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Great Sources of Info for New Makers

The pipemakers online forum has & continues to be a great source of info for new pipe makers. New “Pipe Labs” are opening like the BriarLab in Indianapolis. A place for hobbyists to get professional mentoring from the likes of Michael Lindner & Nate King.

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The BriarLab shop has a whole host of pipe maker equipment in their lab that will take a new comer to ‘knowing the fundamental basics’ in pretty good time. Quite literally…spending a day in their lab is likely akin to trying to learn on your own for over a year.

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That’s how effective a place like BriarLab can be. Multiply that experience by a few days and you can imagine how quickly you can learn the basic’s and start going faster in the direction you want to go.

To learn more about the BriarLab & what they do, please visit them here

Joe Hinkle

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Joe is a great example of what a place like BriarLab can do. In his words: “I simply wouldn’t be making the pipes I am now if it wasn’t for the direct input I received at the BriarLab shop. I have learned shaping, finishing, marketing, design & made a lot of connections through Michael & Nate. I would not have been able to achieve this on my own”.

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Looking at Joe’s work you get a quick sense of the effective pipe education, in all aspects of the pipe maker business, he has received at BriarLab.

To learn more about Joe and see more of his work please go here

Making a Living as a Pipe Maker

It is not all glitz and glamour & could rather be described as one of the hardest craftsman jobs that exists. The money is also not what you would think it is. If anyone has the courage, mention below what you think pipe makers who sell pipes at $1,000+ make a year?
Factor in all of the overhead they encounter and it is not even close to as much as you think.
With all you new guys thinking about going full-time, here is a brief reminder of some of the realities of being a pipe maker.
An article TobaccoDays did called: “The Fears, Doubts & Relevant Concerns of Pipe Makers”. You will be amazed at what you find out. You can get insight & some much needed clarity on this question by reading <a href=””>the article here</a>

Premal Chhedda

Other great sources of info, especially here in the United States are individuals like Premal Chhedda. Premal has supported many a pipe maker by providing much of this basic building block info they need to get started. The list of pipe makers giving thanks to Premal for these basic fundamentals is long.

Premal has truly given the American Pipe Making Scene a much more solid footing the past few years.

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Even as many of his students surpass him with regards to the overall aesthetics of pipe making, many of these same students still regularly come to him for advice on how to engineer or how to finish a pipe. The US pipe making movement has blossomed some fantastic fruit over the years & much of it is directly connected to Premal.

There are So Many Different Types Of Pipe Makers Out There, Each Doing Things Very Differently

Let’s peek into Clark Layton’s life.

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In the past year Clark Layton has mastered the basics of pipe making. Today, all you see him doing, day in and day out, is making pipes. He is applying all the skills he has learned and he is in full on business mode.

Every time I see him, which is at least twice a week, he is hanging out with several of us. While most of us are drinking a beer or talking hockey, Clark is there & joining in the conversation but he is furiously working on pipes the entire time. As Clark tells me: “It has to be a business first!” I look at Clark with admiration. I don’t own one of his pipes yet but I know that his customers are going bonkers for them. He cant make them fast enough.

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What I admire most is the intense business focus. One side effect of this is that his skill set is right now at a plateau stage. All of the basic’s he has learned, 95% of that is going into his pipes. Clark is not spending most of his time learning new shapes or trying to tackle some crazy artistic idea. Again in Clark’s words: “If and when I become more successful and popular I could focus more on the art side” In Clark’s world his focus is on the business and production output.

To learn more about Clark and see more of his work go here

Quick Segway

Clark’s business first mind set is very common, especially in the heavy capitalist system in the US. Jeff Gracik, one of the top pipe makers in the world today quickly admits that his art has suffered over the years because he became so focused on business & delivering clients what they mostly asked for; which is more regular & standard shaped pipes. Looking back, Jeff wishes he spent more time in the creative department however overall, I don’t think he is complaining too much with his situation right now. Jeff is a rockstar in the pipe world & you cannot deny portions of the formula both he & Clark Layton have adopted.

It also looks like he is actively remedying this creative hole by churning out unique & magnificent work with his partnership with Vladimir Grechukin. Gracik & Grechukin, amazing stuff

Still, the point is that many pipe makers focus more on business and that is never a bad thing to do. A very different for example from another new & very talented US maker…

Mark Price.

Mark, who is only on his 37th pipe, is focusing his time & energy not on the business side but rather on the subtle & minute details related to pipe design.

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Mark will literally spend several hours scratching his head about how to make this or that line on a pipe. As Mark says it himself: “Its a very slow process for me but I do want to stop & think about it at every step. I don’t like making mistakes. I want it done right. If there is a better way to finish a pipe I am working on right now, I want to learn that new method.” Do you think Mark is a perfectionist? Mark is creative design soul searching & with each pipe he is trying to figure out how to make it better before he even starts on it.

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With that kind of mind set, Mark is not ready to make this a full time business because he wont be able to make enough pipes per month to survive. Soon though, he will get into his comfort zone and start producing faster. I imagine that Mark’s personality will always be pushing the design envelope in one way or another. Watch out for this guy. With less than 40 pipes under his belt he has great potential to become one of the best in the US.

To see more of his work, visit Mark’s Instagram feed here

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1 Comment

  1. Dan Coomer - November 24, 2015

    It is truly startling how fast carvers can develop today. In two years time they can go from green amateur to an accomplished and respected professional. Between the internet, BriarLabs, and Premal Chheda a novice can learn very quickly.

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