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The limitations of custom pipes?

Russ H.

Patron-Fight The Good Fight
Patron
#21
blackmouth210 said:
I will only request a pipemaker make me something that I already know is in their wheelhouse.
I don't ask a maker to try a certain shape, style, or material for the first time as part of my commission.
I find a maker who already makes the kind of pipe I'm looking for and then request something similar but with my own parameters....but even some of those parameters can sometimes be flexible

This is pretty much sound advice right here. Allow the maker to have room to work as things progress. Maybe things will, or will not work to exacting demands, and the maker needs some leg room to make things work as best they can.
Also approaching a specific maker knowing full well they are more into traditional shapes, and asking them to turn out some kind of crazy off the wall "wounded-leaping-writhing-blowfish" with unobtanium shank adornment with unicorn horn dust infused stem--I know this is outrageous, but its meant to sound crazy. The maker simply in his mind throws up both hands, and says---"fella--ain't no way I am, or can give yah that kinda pipe."
We have to allow the maker to work within their wheelhouse, and cannot expect things both parties are very unsure of.
This i a great conversation, and one I am enjoying.
 

Adam Bybee

Well-known member
#23
If the guy was rude about it then that's unacceptable regardless, but I can sympathize with the general situation. Because of the nature of handmade pipes, there's a lot of time and heart that goes into them and if there was some aspect of the pipe you wanted that the guy simply "wasn't feeling" it'll be tough for the guy to want to do it and it's bad for him and for you if he's working on a design that he doesn't feel like doing (even subconsciously). I've never personally turned down a commission for that reason, but I can imagine it happening. If it ever happened to me I would feel really bad saying no and make sure the person doesn't feel offended, probably point them in the direction of someone that I thought could do it better, etc. If he was a dick about it and tried to flippantly offer you another pipe that you didn't want then that's another issue.
 

Sasquatch

Wizzard
Staff member
#24
Lots of good thoughts here so far.

Making pipes is a little tough, making custom pipes is harder. You get a little spot in the briar that doesn't play along, or you hit something with the sanding belt, and now this pre-formed idea of a pipe is no longer going to work out. Start again! Making a pipe and flowing with the materials is a lot different than taking the materials, and demanding a certain product of them.

Communication, reasonable expectations, everything should work out. But you can't make me want to do a blowfish, and I can't make you want the pipe I actually made on the 100% chance that it's not EXACTLY like you wanted!

Recently I was asked to do a bulldog, given a picture of a very tightly shaped one I did a couple years ago... a very difficult pipe. "Oh sure" says I. And I got to the sandblaster after doing all kinds of careful work, and the thing evaporated in my hand. Magic sandblast, but that tight shaping is GONE. So I showed it to the customer, offered it if he liked it, but basically said "Hey this didn't work, I'll do another, and sell this to someone who likes this kind of thing." And that's the biggy here - I don't want to get stuck with a pipe I can't sell if the commission-er disappears, and of course, he doesn't want to get stuck with some ugly piece of crap he doesn't like. So it's a little dicey for both sides.
 

Maddis

Sales
Sales
#25
Lots of good thoughts here so far.

Making pipes is a little tough, making custom pipes is harder. You get a little spot in the briar that doesn't play along, or you hit something with the sanding belt, and now this pre-formed idea of a pipe is no longer going to work out. Start again! Making a pipe and flowing with the materials is a lot different than taking the materials, and demanding a certain product of them.

Communication, reasonable expectations, everything should work out. But you can't make me want to do a blowfish, and I can't make you want the pipe I actually made on the 100% chance that it's not EXACTLY like you wanted!

Recently I was asked to do a bulldog, given a picture of a very tightly shaped one I did a couple years ago... a very difficult pipe. "Oh sure" says I. And I got to the sandblaster after doing all kinds of careful work, and the thing evaporated in my hand. Magic sandblast, but that tight shaping is GONE. So I showed it to the customer, offered it if he liked it, but basically said "Hey this didn't work, I'll do another, and sell this to someone who likes this kind of thing." And that's the biggy here - I don't want to get stuck with a pipe I can't sell if the commission-er disappears, and of course, he doesn't want to get stuck with some ugly piece of crap he doesn't like. So it's a little dicey for both sides.
Yes.
 

Spillproof

Mostly Harmless
Staff member
Sales
#27
Alright, makers, how much of a bother would this commission be and what price range could I expect? A classic Prince in whatever finish the bowl allows, ruddy/purple/black stain, copper mount, and Cumberland stem.
This isn't really an appropriate question-
It's not fair to have these guys make public bids.
I suggest you contact the individual(s) you would like to make the pipe privately.

But to answer your question-
The copper mount is the only unusual thing about your request-
Between $100 and $400 dollars for most of the makers here.
 
Last edited:
#28
This isn't really an appropriate question-
It's not fair to have these guys make public bids.
I suggest you contact the individual(s) you would like to make the pipe privately.

But to answer your question-
The copper mount is the only unusual thing about your request-
Between $100 and $400 dollars for most of the makers here.
Sorry? Thanks? Would definitely prefer one of the makers here and that's a ballpark figure I can work towards. And I am not looking for bids, have no disposable monies currently, just trying to form an idea before I put any funds together. I honesy have no clue how much things cost new and wanted to make sure my not too crazy request would even be attainable, which thankfully it is. I really thought something like that would run well over the 500 mark considering all the crappy factory pipes, subjective, I see fetching that.
 

Maddis

Sales
Sales
#29
Lots of good thoughts here so far.

Making pipes is a little tough, making custom pipes is harder. You get a little spot in the briar that doesn't play along, or you hit something with the sanding belt, and now this pre-formed idea of a pipe is no longer going to work out. Start again! Making a pipe and flowing with the materials is a lot different than taking the materials, and demanding a certain product of them.

Communication, reasonable expectations, everything should work out. But you can't make me want to do a blowfish, and I can't make you want the pipe I actually made on the 100% chance that it's not EXACTLY like you wanted!

Recently I was asked to do a bulldog, given a picture of a very tightly shaped one I did a couple years ago... a very difficult pipe. "Oh sure" says I. And I got to the sandblaster after doing all kinds of careful work, and the thing evaporated in my hand. Magic sandblast, but that tight shaping is GONE. So I showed it to the customer, offered it if he liked it, but basically said "Hey this didn't work, I'll do another, and sell this to someone who likes this kind of thing." And that's the biggy here - I don't want to get stuck with a pipe I can't sell if the commission-er disappears, and of course, he doesn't want to get stuck with some ugly piece of crap he doesn't like. So it's a little dicey for both sides.
I read your post above and it reminded me to get started on a bulldog commission. Speak of the devil, the top pic is about 1/2 hour in between selecting a block, sketching, and some band saw work. Bottom pic is looking down the stem - we've got some flaws in this wood. Which is usually not a problem for a sandblast, unless the client specifies a light color. If they do, then this piece is unlikely to be their's and someone else will hopefully buy it. But imagine I freakin hate making bulldogs (not true, but they aren't exactly easy either), now I've got two on my hands. And so it goes...

Good thing I love making pipes! 4376A4E1-43E4-4063-A7E8-3E7A624F9341.JPG
 

WalkinStick

Driving the Bandwagon
Sales
Patron
Old Ted Award Winner
#30
"Hey this didn't work, I'll do another, and sell this to someone who likes this kind of thing." And that's the biggy here - I don't want to get stuck with a pipe I can't sell if the commission-er disappears, and of course, he doesn't want to get stuck with some ugly piece of crap he doesn't like
There’s one born every minute, right?
 

Maddis

Sales
Sales
#32
. If it ever happened to me I would feel really bad saying no and make sure the person doesn't feel offended, probably point them in the direction of someone that I thought could do it better, etc. If he was a dick about it and tried to flippantly offer you another pipe that you didn't want then that's another issue.
I did exactly that once. The pointing someone in the right direction. Not the being a dick and flippant. That I've probably done more than once - but never in the pipeworld...
 

Russ H.

Patron-Fight The Good Fight
Patron
#33
It's reaaly great to hear from those who are pipe makers. I suspected what was said--Some shapes are not so easy to get things exacting, and can lead to things going side ways quickly. For this reason I can see why one needs to allow them room for issues as they go--after all--we went to them, and said--"Hey mister--can you make me a pipe shaped like this one?"
I think for those pipe makers who frequent PSD they give their all when it comes to making a really great pipe.
Both Maddis, and Sasquatch touched on something that had me thinking. Lets say they are working on a requested Bulldog. First they look through their blocks--looking, selecting that one block they think is going to work. As they progress through their given steps--that oh crap moment happens. That pit, flaw, soft spot--that "thing" they were hoping against all odds would not happen. So--what to do? lay that piece down, and start over. Just suppose it happens again.
Now the pipe maker is into a third block to attempt to make the pipe. In the end the maker now has three pipes. Two of which aren't really bad, but after he is paid for that one--he is left with two other ones he has to try, and find homes for. He has to try and get back his costs in materials, time--all of that. Then what if he has to sit on that pipe for weeks, months, or maybe has to take a huge loss just to get rid of them. I can see all kinds of things going on from the standpoint of asking a pipe maker to make a very very specific pipe with very very tight specs., and this could lead to the pipe maker spending massive amounts of time, and going through materials they did not intend to in order to get the end result perfect. I personally am not one who would ask a pipe maker to put themselves in a position tha would end like that. We really do need to allow them some room for when, and if things don't go exactly how they, or we would truly want. Nothing pleases me more than the ones I have from my favorite makers already.
 

Maddis

Sales
Sales
#34
It's reaaly great to hear from those who are pipe makers. I suspected what was said--Some shapes are not so easy to get things exacting, and can lead to things going side ways quickly. For this reason I can see why one needs to allow them room for issues as they go--after all--we went to them, and said--"Hey mister--can you make me a pipe shaped like this one?"
I think for those pipe makers who frequent PSD they give their all when it comes to making a really great pipe.
Both Maddis, and Sasquatch touched on something that had me thinking. Lets say they are working on a requested Bulldog. First they look through their blocks--looking, selecting that one block they think is going to work. As they progress through their given steps--that oh crap moment happens. That pit, flaw, soft spot--that "thing" they were hoping against all odds would not happen. So--what to do? lay that piece down, and start over. Just suppose it happens again.
Now the pipe maker is into a third block to attempt to make the pipe. In the end the maker now has three pipes. Two of which aren't really bad, but after he is paid for that one--he is left with two other ones he has to try, and find homes for. He has to try and get back his costs in materials, time--all of that. Then what if he has to sit on that pipe for weeks, months, or maybe has to take a huge loss just to get rid of them. I can see all kinds of things going on from the standpoint of asking a pipe maker to make a very very specific pipe with very very tight specs., and this could lead to the pipe maker spending massive amounts of time, and going through materials they did not intend to in order to get the end result perfect. I personally am not one who would ask a pipe maker to put themselves in a position tha would end like that. We really do need to allow them some room for when, and if things don't go exactly how they, or we would truly want. Nothing pleases me more than the ones I have from my favorite makers already.
Well, it’s not that bad actually. But I’m not trying to put food on the table doing it. For anyone who is interested in this, and hasn’t read Scott Klein ‘s article in P and T (“pipemaking math” or something similar) I highly recommend it.
 

Russ H.

Patron-Fight The Good Fight
Patron
#35
I haven't read that one, but sounds like I would like that. I realize it may not be bad, but I often thought about just how hard, and the things that could happen when one takes a very specific block, and wants all things to turn out in very specific, and exacting ways. I would imagine that things can, and do go side ways, and at the worst times. I guess when one is trying to nail very specific dimensions, and such that it was already siad that experience level plays a big role in this, as would good tools, and materials to begin with. It 's a giant sea out there these days when it comes to the number of people making pipes, or at least trying to. Each one is on their own level, and skill set so the end results will vary. Also each one has their own style with slight variations to shapes.
When we ask a person to make a pipe--well as was said. Each one of the carvers do certain things well. I'll use Sasquatch--He does traditional shapes well---I wouldn't go to him asking for some off the wall gawd awlfull shape that I know full well he normally doen't tackle. One would seek out a maker who does those odd, off the wall pipes(for lack of better terms). If I'm seeking specifics--I should seek out those I know do them.
This thread really does have me thinking about certain pipe makers--their style, their pipes in general, and how the end result works out as their own.
 

Sasquatch

Wizzard
Staff member
#36
Why do you think "perfect" pipes cost so much? I tell people who are commissioning that I can knock out an easy shape with a flexible finish (single color smooth maybe, but for sure a blast or rustic) under 300 bucks. But what happens when someone wants a really nice smooth? I may have to start a couple pipes...maybe 3. (and yes, eventually you finish the "also rans" rather than trying to force a square peg into a round hole). And even then, you might not get that perfect pipe out. So I could cut 3 blocks, spend 2 days, and not have a saleable pipe. It sucks, and I hate it when people ask for "best block in the shop, I don't care what the pipe costs" sorts of commissions- they are damned hard (and of course you resand the stem and tweak the shape on the left side concavity by .2% just to make it perfecter... about 10 times!).

Here's the bulldog story, just as a "mid grade commission" story from the pipe maker's perspective.

IMG_5957.JPG

A guy sees this pipe on a facebook post. Smart guy he is, goes to the guy who made it, wanting one like it. Guy who made it says "Sure, yeah, can do." (and thinks Oh no I hate bulldogs!).

Guy who made it spends an hour, finds 3 blocks just right.

Cuts a pipe, it's great. Really tight lines. Slightly oversized for sandblasting even. All good. Sandblasts it, and it disappears - cool pipe, but not the tight, full-on aggressive bulldog lines anymore.

IMG_0028.JPG

So you find a buyer (no trouble with a blast like that).

Next block is promising.... holy hell it looks great - in fact, it's not getting blasted,it's too damned good!

IMG_0037.JPG

And it's lovely... except, the Guy wanted a pipe like the first one. Gotta find a buyer. Again, this is no problem with a crazy-nice block like this.

Try again.

IMG_0060.JPG

A-ha! Mission accomplished. But I'm bulldogged out all of a sudden, and the Guy had to wait a couple weeks for his pipe to finally show up.
 

gnossos

real men drink pink wine
Patron
#37
I once asked an Italian carver folks who know me know I used to collect a bit to make his version of a Castello #10 and months later he sent me a complete turd of briar that looked neither like his pipes nor a #10, because that’s just not his forte or how he works. I paid because I asked for it but I think I sold it unsmoked.

I wish he had just said no. When you know you style or limitations and know when to turn a client down, it often results in a better client experience, even if the client is like, why did you say no.
 

gnossos

real men drink pink wine
Patron
#38
FWIW I don’t really ask for custom pipes either. I think I have a couple times. I prefer to wait til a pipe they make that I like pops up.

I did ask Axel Glasner for a pipe last year for Carps and giggles to see if he’d be open to it and he was basically like, I’ll tell you if I ever make one like that again (he won’t, it’ll just sell, and I have to be on the lookout for it when he releases it, if he does, rather than trying something entirely different and new instead).
 

SmokeRings

Well-known member
#39
I have seen several posts by our pipe creating members that have given very clear and concise directions on when/why/how to shoot down a commission...from where I stand on the customer side, I am paying for a product, and I would think very highly of a maker who turned down the commission to give someone who was truly interested in it a chance to handle it, if the maker ensures a positive experience I can't think of a reason not to direct others who express interest in the sort of pipes they make, just because I'd love a pipe that said BST or Don Warren or Maddis or one of our other makers it's not fair to either party to have them make a pipe you wont like because it's something they are uncomfortable or unwilling to make...I hate threads like this...it reminds me that one day I will be a tenant of my own couch when I have the money available for a commission
 

Russ H.

Patron-Fight The Good Fight
Patron
#40
Why do you think "perfect" pipes cost so much? I tell people who are commissioning that I can knock out an easy shape with a flexible finish (single color smooth maybe, but for sure a blast or rustic) under 300 bucks. But what happens when someone wants a really nice smooth? I may have to start a couple pipes...maybe 3. (and yes, eventually you finish the "also rans" rather than trying to force a square peg into a round hole). And even then, you might not get that perfect pipe out. So I could cut 3 blocks, spend 2 days, and not have a saleable pipe. It sucks, and I hate it when people ask for "best block in the shop, I don't care what the pipe costs" sorts of commissions- they are damned hard (and of course you resand the stem and tweak the shape on the left side concavity by .2% just to make it perfecter... about 10 times!).

Here's the bulldog story, just as a "mid grade commission" story from the pipe maker's perspective.

View attachment 21898

A guy sees this pipe on a facebook post. Smart guy he is, goes to the guy who made it, wanting one like it. Guy who made it says "Sure, yeah, can do." (and thinks Oh no I hate bulldogs!).

Guy who made it spends an hour, finds 3 blocks just right.

Cuts a pipe, it's great. Really tight lines. Slightly oversized for sandblasting even. All good. Sandblasts it, and it disappears - cool pipe, but not the tight, full-on aggressive bulldog lines anymore.

View attachment 21899

So you find a buyer (no trouble with a blast like that).

Next block is promising.... holy hell it looks great - in fact, it's not getting blasted,it's too damned good!

View attachment 21900

And it's lovely... except, the Guy wanted a pipe like the first one. Gotta find a buyer. Again, this is no problem with a crazy-nice block like this.

Try again.

View attachment 21902

A-ha! Mission accomplished. But I'm bulldogged out all of a sudden, and the Guy had to wait a couple weeks for his pipe to finally show up.
ALL--yes ALL of those examples in the pictures would make anyone happy. Absolute stunning examples of a timeless--trasditional shape known as the "Bulldog."
By golly---if these don't grab the eye of the Bulldog pipe lover--nothing ever will.