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The limitations of custom pipes?


Not a daisy at all
Old Ted Award Winner
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.
He’ll even find a home for that ugly, mangled up lump in the second picture, I bet.


Well-known member
Lots of interesting insight, folks. Fascinating about the sandblasting, I didn't know it was so involved. For reference, I was interested in a pipe matching the following description:

- 3/4 bent pot
- wide chamber
- sandblast finish, preferably a natural, orange or red stain
- a nickel band
- tapered cumberland stem
- 9mm filter

The stain color and cumberland stem material never made it into the conversation, nor did any kind of discussion of price, other than custom pipes cost more than pre-made pipes. Mind you, I am paraphrasing, but the in-person conversation that I had with the maker went damn-near something like this:

Pipe Maker said:
You keep coming in here buying all of this good tobacco from us, but smoking it in all of these in grimey old pipes. It's like putting 93 octane in a beatup Gremlin. When you gonna buy one of our pipes? It's almost like you're cheating on us, man.
Cheeseybacon said:
Well it's funny you mention that, I have been considering a little Christmas gift to myself. I just haven't found exactly what I'm looking for yet.
Pipe Maker said:
Oh hell man, what do you want? We'll make it for you! It'll cost you a little extra, but we do custom sh*t for people all the time!
Cheeseybacon said:
Well, I want a 3/4 bent pot with a wide bowl.
Pipe Maker said:
I got 2 in the back right now that will be ready on Thursday! Just say the word, I'll put a 1 inch wide chamber on it for you.
Cheeseybacon said:
...with a sandblast finish.
Pipe Maker said:
Nope! Nope, we don't do sandblasting! Sandblasting takes way too long, holds up production, nope. We have these 2 other finishes though that we could do.

He walks over and points at 2 pre-made pipes with rusticated finishes. Immediately this answer was an instant disqualifyer in my mind, but inexplicably I found myself asking:

Cheeseybacon said:
OK, well about a band? I like shiny bands on my pipes. It doesn't have to be silver or anything fancy, in fact I'd prefer if it wasn't silver, it just tarnishes quickly. Nickel works.
A look of not quite disgust, but definitely confused bewilderment washed over his face.

Pipe Maker said:
Why would you want a band?!? Bands are for salvaging pipes with cracked shanks, we only put those on repairs.

At this point I was really perplexed, and probably shouldn't have said anything else, just paid for my damn Samuel Gawith and left, but I was committed to the conversation at this point, so I asked:

Cheeseybacon said:
So I guess you don't do filters either?
Pipe Maker said:
Filters! Aw man, what the hell do you need filters for! Filters cause all kinds of restrictions and rob all the flavor. No pipe maker worth his salt makes pipes that take filters!

I resisted the urge take out the cellphone and show him some ebay listings for Dunhills that accept 9mm filters.

Pipe Maker said:
Besides, it is way too much work to turn a good stem that takes a filter! I'm tellin' ya, you don't want to go messing around with filter pipes, most of them use cheap injection-molded stems! They feel like crap in your mouth, then you'll chew through them in a couple months, then you'll be back in here begging me to make you a proper stem out of rubber.

Despite the fact that I knew this whole conversation was a dead-end, I found myself saying:

Cheeseybacon said:
Well actually, I've successfully converted a couple unfiltered pipes with vulcanite stems to 9mm filters with some careful drilling, some pre-made tenons and some sanding. It isn't too terribly bad. I would be happy to give you some tenons to use, it would make your life a lot easier.
True story.

Pipe Maker said:
You need to try one of our pipes, you'll never go back to filters! Besides, when you get tired of the way it smokes and sell it to someone else and it smokes bad for them too because it takes filters, that's our name and reputation being dragged through the mud. I'm not going to intentionally handicap my pipes, nope, not going to do it. Tell you what, just cuz you're a regular I'll take $20 off the price of any one of these...
In retrospect I do feel like a little bit of a jerk by continuing my line of questioning despite having already made up my mind that I wasn't going to commission anything. It really should have ended the moment he said he didn't do a sandblast finish, but unlike an email conversation where people just "forget" to respond, it was a face to face conversation and for some stupid reason I felt obligated to see my inquiry through in its entirety. Normally I wouldn't have brought this up if it weren't for the sheer number of objections, but there wasn't one single thing he was wiling to entertain regarding my proposed pipe other than the shape. So, I need a sanity check:

1) Aside from the 9mm filter which, yes, I understand most of you rarely, if ever, fool around with, were my requests otherwise unreasonable?

2) Were his objections reasonable? Am I likely to encounter them again with other makers? Or did he just hate making custom stuff despite having offered to do so?

Honestly didn't think I was asking anything for too nutty but maybe I am? Thoughts?
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Staff member
There's a certain type of artisan who knows just enough... I talked to a guy at chicago who makes pipes out of the back of some shop, and he was totally out of touch with current pipe making technics. Drill a stummel, fit a stem to it, polish it up, that's pipe making in toto for these guys. And that's fine, it's just that rather than telling customers the truth, they run a "oh that's crazy" line (about something as simple as a copper band).


Well-known member
The idea that sandblasting holds up production is ridiculous. Whoever, where-ever you were talking to is knocking out cheap pipes quick, and doesn't actual have the skills/tools/motivation to do anything else.
They knock them out quick that much is true. Their specialty seems be smooth pipes and mostly smooth pipes with random spot carvings/partial rustication, so I guess it was stupidity on my part to assume they might do sandblast as well.
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