Shop's Log #6: Cherry Tobacco Pipe

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Blog entry by terryR posted 02-27-2014 05:54 PM 2273 reads 0 times favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 5: Sargent 3416 Restoration Part 6 of Shop's Log series Part 7: Gramercy Rasp Gets New Handle »

Hi everyone, more eye candy in this blog since I’m having a go at a wooden tobacco pipe for the first time. Why? Are you kidding! Pipes are tools as old as spoons and bowls…important stuff! And you guys already know I want to be a tool maker. :)

Actually, I should blame the current Pipe Swap that’s just begun for pushing me to try this now…

In my quest to learn more about Native American life, I’ve carved a couple of pipes from stone, using simple tools. ( drill press and rasp) I’d rather NOT smoke from a stone pipe due to the silica or stone dust, so my small Native inspired collection is for looks only.

However, a wooden pipe is a real user tool, and after a bit of reading on acceptable woods, I chose a piece of Cherry for my first attempt. Onto the lathe, around it goes, BAM! Another piece of firewood…

I was in a hurry, and just didn’t pay attention to what was happening at 1000 rpm. Blame it on low serum caffeine levels at the end of the day!

The next day, I was more focused and full of coffee, so paid closer attention to the layout of the initial block of wood. I even cut it into more of an ‘L’ shape to make lathe turning easier.

After an hour of careful turning and sanding, I was confident I had the beginnings of a nice pipe this time! I wasn’t concerned how long this build took, I just wanted to prove I could make a pipe without a store bought kit.

Unfortunately, I had turned the cherry too thin where the stummel needed to accept the stem. I decided a Maple spacer would solve that problem, plus add a bit of length to the pipe. It took me a couple of hours to turn the little piece of Maple since it had to fit inside the stummel, and accept the coming stem. Tricky, tricky.

I also decided while I was going through all the trouble of adding the spacer, why not decorate it a bit with some red vulcanized plastic? A knife maker’s trick. Here in the clamps…

While waiting for the epoxy to cure, I started on the little stem. I had some 3/4” Delrin in the shop, so plopped a section on the lathe and started to form what I had in mind. This stuff is tricky to turn! Always trying to grab the carbide chisel tips. And it sure doesn’t chip like wood!

Eventually, stubbornness won over, and I had a polished piece of rod with a tenon that tightly fitted my pipe, and a shoulder that would match the stummel.

Using a backsaw, I cut off the extra Delrin, and used the drill press to form a slot from the center-drilled through hole. No photos of this, but I basically drilled short diagonal holes which led to the center hole, and formed sort of an oval opening for the stem.

Trying to copy a store bought stem I had in stock, I then reached for rasps to shape the lip at the end of the stem. Soon, I realized the Dremel loaded with a carbide cutter worked much faster!

Still, for fine detail work, like the lip on this stem, I prefer the slow steady work of a hand tool. Especially when Auriou is stamped on one side! These small hand-stitched rasps are a pleasure to use, and eat Delrin with ease. In just minutes, I had a lip on the stem.

I had read a few articles online, and everyone recommends cabinet scrapers at this point for cleaning up rasp marks. I chose DonW’s newest gift knife for the job since it had a more comfy handle than a scraper. Worked great at producing a smoother finish in seconds as you can see the cleaner section nearest you in the photo…

Unfortunately, we still have a LONG WAY to go before this poly-methyl- whatever is ready for presentation.

I knew I was headed for some time in front of the buffing wheels, so I formed a quick handle to hold the stem from a scrap of Chakte Viga (Mexican orange wood)...

...and loaded a 120 grit flap sander in the lathe. Nice. These wide flap sanders are great for sanding into corners without removing details. Only a few minutes later the entire stem was scratched with 120 grit marks…yeah, that’s a good thing! LOL. Hopefully, I’ll score a few more of these flap sanders in higher grits pretty soon, but for now I had to settle for hand sanding.

As soon as I reached 600 grit with hand held sandpaper, I took the stem back to the lathe where I had a few buffing wheels in wait. 600, 1200, and finally 2000 grit buffers removed all traces of tooling on the Delrin. whew!

By now, the epoxy was well cured on the stummel extension, so I returned to the woodworking part of the project. I turned to my best saw ( Excaliber scroll saw ) and quickly removed most of the bulky waste…

...then a few seconds on the 12” disc sander for finer stock removal…

And, no more chunky square thing with holes bored in it. I was close to a pipe!

At this point I relied on the fanciest multi-purpose, adjustable, variable speed, multi-position tool I have…my hands holding another hand-stitched rasp. I’m certain if I were trying to make pipes for a living, I’d stick with power tools as much as possible. But, this is just a hobby for an old retired Nurse, so the time I spend feeling a fine rasp remove wood fibers is one of the simple joys in my life. Really.

I grabbed my Gramercy rasps for removing the unwanted cherry since they were the perfect size for the curves I wanted. I may have stumbled upon a new pipe maker’s tool by using my saw tote maker’s rasp and shaping the critical curve leading up to the bowl? Fits and works perfectly…

These Gramercy rasps were made in Pakistan, but are of fine quality and workmanship. I’ve had mine for a year+, and they show no signs of wear. I trusted the vendor, Tools For Working Wood, and have no regrets. Except it took about 8 months of steady-watching their website to score the elusive saw tote maker’s rasp. A highly recommended tool if you like to carve rounded stuff!

From here, the pipe just needed a few hours of hand sanding to be completed. I sanded to 1500 grit, then applied 2 coats of Bison wax for a finish.

I hate to admit it, but the piece of cherry is sorta bland, so not a block buster of a finished pipe. But, I made it in MY SHOP from a couple of chunks of wood, plastic spacers, and 3/4” solid Delrin rod. No kits, ya know? Lots of satisfaction from overcoming all the obstacles. Isn’t that what woodworking is all about?

The bowl was turned sorta thin, so this guy may be a wall hanger. But, that’s OK by me since I learned a ton from the build! The next one should be easier, I hope! LOL.

Comments and suggestions are welcomed…

-- tr ...see one, do one, teach one...

13 comments so far

View AnthonyReed's profile


10103 posts in 2859 days

#1 posted 02-27-2014 06:22 PM

You do wonderful work Terry. A beautiful pipe for sure.
Thanks for taking the time to bring us along.

How does it draw? Have you tested it?

-- ~Tony

View TerryDowning's profile


1119 posts in 2536 days

#2 posted 02-27-2014 06:35 PM

Nicely done Terry. Inspiring me to give this a shot. Maybe I’ll go back to smoking pipes and get rid of the cigarettes.

I won’t be able to find time for the swap though.

-- - Terry

View lysdexic's profile


5291 posts in 3042 days

#3 posted 02-27-2014 06:36 PM

Let me say this. That looks a hell of a lot better than I thought it would from the first couple pics. That’s a really nice job Terry.

-- "It's only wood. Use it." - Smitty || Instagram - out_of_focus1.618

View Mauricio's profile


7163 posts in 3570 days

#4 posted 02-27-2014 06:38 PM

You sure that’s for tobacco?

-- Mauricio - Woodstock, GA - "Confusion is the Womb of Learning, with utter conviction being it's Tomb" Prof. T.O. Nitsch

View LittlePaw's profile


1571 posts in 3497 days

#5 posted 02-27-2014 06:41 PM

Wow, Terry, that was quite a read! I admire your inventiveness and follow-through! I agree that the wall is on the thin side – only one of my pipes was that thin. They were mostly either straight grained or walnut burls. But I didn’t make them, I just enjoyed them. I used to pipe smoke up to the time my youngest was born. My wife (then) told me to quit, ya know! Now they are just sitting in my curio cabinet to remind me of those “good ole days”. I don’t smoke them now, but sure enjoy the aroma of my custom-blend tobacco that still linger. I had a poker buddy who owned a pipe shop and he came up with a special blend that cured the raw tongue I was getting from store bought tobacco. Well, Terry, I kinda miss the ole ritual of tamping, lighting n puffin on the old pipes, though! Enjoyed reading yours!

-- LittlePAW - The sweetest sound in my shop, next to Mozart, is what a hand plane makes slicing a ribbon.

View terryR's profile


7480 posts in 2727 days

#6 posted 02-27-2014 09:27 PM

Thanks for the kind words, guys. I’ll probably keep this one as a wall hanger since the walls of the bowl are so thin, and it’s just cherry. Gonna probably need a rounded bit to bore out a user?

Maur, ummm, whatcha got? :)

LittlePAW, that’s a sweet collection! I’ve got briar now, so will make some nicer ones soon.

-- tr ...see one, do one, teach one...

View cajunpen's profile


14578 posts in 4485 days

#7 posted 02-27-2014 10:11 PM

Great build and you really documented the build well. I beat that nicotine habit in 2010 no matter how pretty the instrument, I don’t want any part of smoke in my life again, but I don’t mind if you enjoy :-)

-- Bill - "Suit yourself and let the rest be pleased."

View summerfi's profile


4253 posts in 2106 days

#8 posted 02-27-2014 10:18 PM

Excellent work Terry. Really impressive.

-- Bob, Missoula, MT -- Rocky Mountain Saw Works -- ~Non multa sed multum~

View Slyy's profile


2840 posts in 2074 days

#9 posted 02-27-2014 10:30 PM

Terry, from an odd square piece of wood with a bowl in it, you turned out a dang fine looking item there! I gotta say too, every time you show off those Auriou rasps off I start to get a real itch to drop some serious money on those things! Glad to see you like the Gramercy variety though too, they are a bit more affordable!
Excellent work!

-- Jake -- "Not only do we live among the stars, the stars live within us." - Neil Degrasse Tyson

View Don W's profile

Don W

19248 posts in 2986 days

#10 posted 02-28-2014 11:56 AM

Great blog Terry.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View CFrye's profile


10691 posts in 2259 days

#11 posted 03-02-2014 11:48 AM

Beautiful pipe Terry! almost makes me wish Jim still smoked one. Almost. Thanks for sharing.

-- God bless, Candy

View terryR's profile


7480 posts in 2727 days

#12 posted 03-02-2014 02:43 PM

Yeah, Candy, from a retired RN’s perspective, these pipes aren’t meant for getting into shape! LOL.

All about the craftsmanship and art…

-- tr ...see one, do one, teach one...

View palaswood's profile


1059 posts in 2170 days

#13 posted 04-04-2014 11:15 PM

Terry I just scored a Delrin scraps source. I have been shootin the breeze with this local machine shop manager in my workplace’s business park for the past few onths, and they make all manner of things out of Delrin. He knows me cause Im always on the hunt for wood around lunchtime. I spoke to him today and he’ll start putting aside the nice sized cutoffs for me.

I’m interested to see what you mean about turning it. I know using the drill press on a small 3/4” x 3” block was a joy. This stuff is so hard, and I’m interested to find many uses for it in my shop. Cool stuff.

-- Joseph, Irvine CA, @palas_woodcraft on Instagram

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