Saturday, July 19, 2008

read my lips:

This morning I was scratching my head over a technical problem and took a minute to google the alt.smokers.pipes group. It seems that people have the wrong impression:

mark tinsky wrote "If one was to be a pipe carver or in any type of business I think you d find that to be succesful you d have to make what your customers wanted. All else is pretty much is secondary. I think Random is a good example of someone who did exactly as he wanted."

Thank you, Mark. I do what you said, exactly as I want. But I am not a one man pipe factory grinding out whatever turns up then sorting and grading it, I'm just a one pipe at a time carver. I don't have deals with retailers who buy my pipes at wholesale and jack the prices up. I try to keep it simple. I make what I want to make, I offer it, if it's what a customer wants they can buy it. Easy-peasey.

Nick wrote "Where's Random when you need him??"

I'm right here buddy, busier than a one-legged man in an ass kicking contest, but right here.

Yoseph wrote "...not random and not the countless others you have insulted and driven away..."

JtN is a guy with an attitude. I pissed him off way early. Maybe someday I'll post his initial email attack against me and my response to it. I don't have time for the guy. I don't have time for much of anything these days. One day I'll have something to thank Jim and google for, a self-moderating discussion group where people can 'vote' and whack jerks like JtN.

Bigiron wrote "Random's stems were "Ultem" and unbreakable? That sounds remarkable. Amazing that the pipe world has lost him."

No pipe stem is unbreakable. The ultem stems I made are difficult to break. The more recent polycarbonate stems I've made are even harder to break. The pipe world only wishes it had 'lost' me. <g>.

It's going to be months more before I get back to making pipes. I owe a couple to folks. I could use a couple more myself. And dang it, I enjoy making the things.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

the bad thing about summer

The bad thing about summer is that it's only so long and then you better be ready for fall and winter.

Last year I didn't make a single pipe. No heat in the van, pondering the stem situation, trying to stay warm and dry and sane, doing the work on the house that could be done.

If this summer doesn't kill me fall might, but if they don't then winter might see us living in a house rather than a tiny trailer. I have to get around to swapping the trailer's heater for one I can use in the van so when winter comes it'll be possible to work there. Along with the other zillion things that have to be done before winter.

I'm hoping for some time to get back to pipes this coming winter. This is the first time I've even looked at this blog since nearly forever. Building codes make everything simple into a big deal.

See you later. Really.

Monday, January 21, 2008


There's some old song that says in the summertime the livin is easy. Dang.

Blogger says that I last posted on Oct 18. I guess that must be right, it's a computer and all.

Of course the main reason I haven't posted is blogger itself, it has all the usability of a rubber crutch.

And then there's the fact that although making some pipes has crossed my mind, it hasn't happened, and it's not likely to happen for a while yet. I refuse to use tools that are covered with ice.

Sooner or later, something or other. One of these days I'll find a source of threaded stainless steel tubing. One of these days I'll get back to making pipes.

Summertime, yeah, that's it.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

baby it's cold out there

When checking my web-server this morning I found that someone new had signed up for the mailing list. Decided to check the blog here and found a couple comments waiting for moderation. Figured it to be about time for another blog entry.

Things are still moving forward. The batteries have been moved from the van to the power-shed and the new power system is fully operational though still without solar panels. Things work worlds better now than they did before. Running the generator for about 2 hours a day gives us plenty of electricity for running computers, lights, water-pump, and refrigerator, and I get to choose when to run the generator (daylight is a big favorite).

We've done the roof and wall-sheathing on the house, will need to wait for a county inspection before going too much farther with that. Yesterday we had fun putting housewrap on, a 9-foot wide strip of plastic-stuff about 150-feet long, wrap that around your house in 30mph winds for a good time.

Hope to install the windows today, at least some of them. We'll need to get the siding on before installing the doors since they have moldings on them.

The van's electrical system has been reconfigured after removing the battery bank, and the amount of space available for a heater is known. Obtaining one and getting around to installing it still have to be done, but since I can't get near my lathe for the appliances in front of it, that's not a high priority at the moment.

Life goes on. Presumably someday I'll get enough house-stuff out of the van to be able to work in it again. That makes me think. I don't see other carvers talking about their questions... are they doing a good thing by making pipes, or just creating problems, is their work good enough, stuff like that. I guess my head's broken, no surprise there.

Stay well y'all.

Monday, September 17, 2007

This morning...

...the body woke me at 2am, more or less the usual time for me to start a day. But man, am I ever tired. The past two days have consisted of fairly constant physical effort, but now we have the roof trusses on top of the house and I have to find a way to avoid getting around to doing the hard part, putting on the sheathing. Probably should have gone for a flatter roof... oh well, onward and upward. That's a joke.

For some reason I decided to poke around this morning, and see what's been happening with other pipe carvers. I was surprised that a number of makers' websites have disappeared, but perhaps they've just moved and my bookmarks are out of date. I was pleased to see that many are still around and truckin'.

I have hopes that in another couple weeks I'll be able to move my offgrid battery bank from underneath the floorboars of my van (aka workshop) into the official "power shed". The nice thing about that is that it'll enable us to use our 12v refrigerator instead of getting ice for the cooler every couple days... but the really nice thing about it is that once that batteries are out of their current location, I'll have a physical location suitable for an authentic heater for the shop. That will be heaven when the snows begin, if it comes to pass.

I am somewhat (pleasantly) amazed that people still visit my website and even occasionally sign up for the mailing-list. It has been too damned long since I've made a pipe, and that is going to be dealt with one of these days, though until we qualify for a "certificate of occupancy" for the house that will remain my top priority. It's amazing the things governments will do to you for your own good.

To everyone reading: Stay well, stay happy.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

it's alive

I might post to this blog more often if I didn't so much mind staring at the "Waiting on" message at the bottom of my browser. You'd think... ah, nevermind.

Life goes on. The carving withdrawl symptoms continue to worsen, but there is too much else that has to be done at this point.

The power shed is nearing a state at which I can install the batteries and other stuff. I've been able to move enough appliances out of the van so that I can at least -see- my lathe, but that just makes the withdrawl symptoms worse. The house is continuing to progress. Fall is here, we're waiting for roof trusses. The race between completion and snow is getting closer.

I look at the time we've spent on this house and think about the pipes I could've carved, the other things I could've done if not for the house project. But when you want something and have a chance to do it, you just go for it. Now it's becoming more and more clear that we're likely to enter winter with a dried-in structure that isn't a house, and nothing much going on... at least once the power shed is ready I'll be able to get the batteries out of the van and free up space for a proper heater which will make carving in the winter more feasible.

All of which is probably of complete uninterest to anyone, but it's the big deal in my life right now.

And my gawd, every time they add some "improvement" to blogger it gets slower and slower even when you think it couldn't get any slower...

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Industrial Revolution

Everybody knows what the Industrial Revolution was, right?

Before then, everything was pretty much handmade. The parts of a rifle were individually fitted for that rifle. The good part of that is the quality aspect of the thing, whether a rifle or a silver bowl, or whatever. It was as good as a particular craftsman could make it. Of course that varied from individual craftsman to craftsman. People developed a name based on their skills and their integrity, on how much they put into their work and how good their work really was.

The bad part was that if you had a rifle with some part that broke, it needed to be specially made because not all hammers, for example, were mass produced. Because the parts were specially made you couldn't just order a new flotchit and install it.

The Industrial Revolution changed all that. Machines and factories made thousands of identical parts, more identical than even the best craftsman could make them. The parts weren't necessarily all that great, but they were interchangable. Armies thought that was pretty swell, it allowed them to keep more guns working and kill more of the enemy.

As time passed the individual craftsman was pretty much shoved aside. Factories can make a thing faster and cheaper than an individual craftsman could make it, and if factory products weren't as good, they were a lot more affordable. The "masses" could own things that they couldn't have afforded before the Industrial Revolution, which is a good thing.

A few people like Ned Ludd didn't think the Industrial Revolution was such a great thing. It's unclear whether the Luddites were far-thinking individuals or simply a flock of lunatics. Today they're mostly considered to have been lunatics. As an individual craftsman I tend to side with them regardless. Factory-produced goods are now the standard, farm-boys flocked to the cities to make easy money in the factories, and people in general enjoyed a new higher quality of life. Of course these days the individual farmer is an endangered species, corporate farms produce more for lower cost, and individual craftsmen of all sorts are people who live on the edge.

I remember watching an old Jimmy Stewart western, about a fellow who won a rifle in a shooting contest. The rifle was a "one in a thousand" rifle. All the parts fit together just right, and it was a dream to use. I guess the Industrial Revolution was fairly well progressed, at least in the area of arms manufacture, by that time. Before the Industrial Revolution they were all pretty much that way, parts having been hand-fitted by individual craftsmen, they were either very good or very bad depending on who made them.

Factories brought a new vision of quality. Parts were churned out by the thousands, or millions, and then sorted and graded. Some made the cut as first-level, others were sold as seconds, and some were thrown away (or recycled these days).

I reject all that. I don't want to be a one-man pipe factory. I don't want to churn out pipes by the dozens, then sort them and grade them. I'll be throwing away my primitive grading system before the next time that I offer a pipe for sale. I make them one at a time. I put everything that I have into the creation of each one. It's the process of making an individual pipe, of seeing what can be done to turn a block of briar with a unique grain pattern into the most beautiful and useful smoking instrument that I'm capable of making, that makes it worthwhile for me.

Ned Ludd may very well have been a lunatic. For that matter I may very well be a lunatic. But I don't like having my purchasing choices limited by what the world's most profitable factories are making. I don't like working in a factory environment even if it does consist of sitting in a cubicle and raking in the fat dough.

The average Joe is used to factory-made goods. He works in a factory, of some sort. It dictates much of the structure of his life. I'm against that kind of life, I prefer more freedom than can be found working in a factory. Factories and cubicles push me to the brink of sanity, and I just don't like any of it.

Maybe handcrafting each pipe from raw materials makes me a Luddite. Maybe that's okay.