Welcome to my world of pipes. On these pages you will see some of what goes on in my workshop. A bit of work-in-progress, mess-ups (they do happen!) and also some other pipe-related posts.
I love talking about and discussing pipes, so feel free to contact me at charl.chillfactor@gmail.com.
Should you wish to have a look at my pipes, please drop in at my website (http://goussardpipes.com/).

November 18, 2011


My wife took some photos of me in the shop a while ago and I thought I'd share them with you.

Here's me in the workshop. Luckily the photo is quite small and in black and white, else you would have been able to see that the pairof jeans that I'm wearing is torn to pieces!

My trusty old lathe. All the additional tooling and modifications is worth much more than what I paid for it. It doesn't happen often that I get a real bargain. This was definitely it.

And last but not least: my workshop companions. Dory the garage cat, Tosca the border collie and Diesel the Husky.

October 30, 2011

Of files and rasps

Tonight when finishing up in the shop, I suddenly realised that in front of me, half the table has been taken up with files. No wonder, as any pipemaker will be able to tell you!

I for one, can't walk past a file without thinking where it'll be very usable. All shapes and sizes, big to small, flat, round, half round, triangular. I need them all.

Well, sooner or later I will!

The first photo are the ones that I rarely use. Among them the rasps. For pipe making rasps are really too hardcore in my personal opinion. The triangular files I basically use for intricate stem work or on bents to get into tight corners.

The files on the 2nd photo, are my everyday workhorses.

Bottom one first. This file is called a "farmers friend". Might also be called Charl's friend. It gives a smooth cut, removes stock quickly and have safe edges on both sides. Wonderful for stem work.

Second from the bottom is the monster. This file is huge and actually way too long and unwieldy for pipe making. It belonged to my grandfather. But it is indispensable when making tapered stems. The taper from tenon to button will be straight as an arrow, that I can promise you.

The third one is called a chainsaw file. This round file I use on shank/bowl transitions and also on the more "fancy" stems. It also is good to have when sanding, I've found. With a piece of sandpaper turned around it, it'll get into weird and wonderful corners. Indispensable.

Next up is another big and cumbersome beast. Got this one for a bargain (just can't walk past a bargain, now, can I?) at a 2nd hand shop. The width allows for nice wide flat surfaces. Have to be careful when filing though, because of the sharp edges. I mainly use it for rough work.

Number four is a small square file, with very fine cut and safe edge on only one side. This file is used for finishing work around the button. Especially just in front of the button and then also the surface perpendicular to the bowl, the "vertical walls" on the stummel side.

Last but not least, is the file I probably use the most. It was bought as part of a set of cheapies. And what a good deal its been! This file removes stock quite quickly. Originally it didn't have any safe edges, but this was remedied on the bench grinder. It is used on the stummel, around the shank/bowl transition, and then also to get rid of those little bumps and ridges that always appear. For stem work it is amazing. It can be used on saddle stems, tapered stems, on the button, etc. The list goes on and on.

September 10, 2011

On the bench

At the moment I am busy with these 3 pipes. A cutty, a straight rhodesian and acorn.
The shank of the cutty still have to be thinned down towards the stem and will be sandblasted and stained. I love the flowing lines of a cutty, as well as (of course) Zulu shapes. It is quite sad though that most pipesmokers ignore them. The forward canted bowl is off putting to many people and there seem to be the opinion that they would not smoke well. In my humble opinion the opposite is actually true. The forward canted bowl allows for the airhole to finish right in the bottom of the bowl, allowing for a great draw. And there should also be no worries about the tobacco and ash falling out! Do yourself a favour and have a look at them next time you have a bout of PAD.
I've always been fascinated by rhodesians, but for some reason never made any. I don't know if it is a South African thing, but almost all of the old pipesmokers that I grew up with, had either a bulldog or rhodesian in their collection. Most often, rhodesian. This one is a straight, stubby one with the bowl canted forward ever so slightly. The grain is looking good and it will probably end up as a smooth.
I have made a couple of acorn shaped pipes before. This is quite a challenging shape, but also allows for a lot of flexibility. The acorn can be fat and stubby, slim and sharp, or anything in between. The same with the shank. You can have it curved, with reverse taper etc. No wonder pipemakers love this type of pipe. This one is destined to become blasted.

July 31, 2011

Why I do not make a lot of full-bents

A lot of pipesmoking friends have asked me why I do not make that many full bents. I have tried to explain this in words, but never had the time to try and put together some sketches. After all, a picture's worth a thousand words, or so they say.
Please excuse my feeble attempts at drawing!
First off, we'll look at a straight pipe. The above version of a billiard will do. Forgetting the practical side, in theory, it is quite easy. The airway finishes right in the bottom of the tobacco chamber, and the tenon is exactly the same length as the mortis. One continuous diameter airway from bowl towards the end of the mouthpiece, where it tapers and fans out to accommodate the bit. Keeping the flow even all the way through, without obstruction. The result a pipe that will smoke well and without gurgle. Day to day cleaning can be done without taking the stem out, just pushing a pipecleaner straight through the stem into the bowl.

Assuming that the airway finishes right in the bottom of the bowl, we have 2 possible problems. The first is if the tenon is longer than the mortis is deep. Easy to see, as there will be a gap between stem and shank.

The 2nd, is where the fun starts. This is when the tenon is shorter than the mortis. Smoke will move through the airway and suddenly get to this wider part, where it'll start swirling. Physics will tell us that the heavier particles (oil and moisture) will be deposited. Result: gurgle!

But there is also another important thing to consider. Tobacco smoke is basically CO, CO2, water and other bits and pieces. But the reason we smoke pipe, is because of the taste. And a lot of these flavours that we love are soluble! Thus, a wet smoker = loss of flavour.

Now on to 1/4 or 1/2 bents. If you have a look at the above sketch, in theory, you can still drill the airway, bowl and mortise with ease, resulting in perfect flow from bowl to bit. With the same problems that can arise as with the straight pipe. But nothing that practise and a little attention to detail can't overcome.

Now we get to the full bents. Because of the angle of drilling needed, things are not so easy. The above would be a "perfectly" drilled Oom Paul. Note how high the airhole ends in the wall of the bowl and the position towards the back. Ever wondered why a full bent tends to burn unevenly and more towards the stem side? Yip!

And then of course there also is the obvious: there will always be unsmoked tobacco left in the bottom of the bowl. The airflow through this will be minimal, condensation will take place, making this soggy and thus the chances that gurgle will occur, increase.

Lets go to the tenon and mortise. If you have a close look at the drilling lines of the above, you'll notice that by drilling the airhole, the mortise will be touched (nicked) by the drill bit. For me personally, not a problem, as this will be covered by the face of the stem. However, for some people, this is a definite no-no. Can it be solved? Sometimes. Making the diameter of the tenon and mortise bigger, might work. But then the walls of briar around the mortise also gets thinner, which increases the chance of breakage. Catch 22?!

One last note: observe the length (or shortness!) of the tenon. This is done in all perfectly drilled full bents, to be able to get the airway to finish centered and right in the bottom of the mortise, a prerequisite for even flow of air and a "dry smoker".

All of this ramble regarding full bents is the theory, in practise it is not that easy. Somebody one said: the difference between theory and practise; is that in theory practise is theoretical, but in practise, theory is not practical. Anybody ever drilling through wood at angles, will tell you that drill bits always want to follow the path of least resistance. Which is nowhere where you want it to go. Makes you think, doesn't it?

But how many of us have ever smoked or even just held an Oom Paul drilled like this one? Not many, I can guarantee you.

This is more like it.

This airway is towards the top of the mortise. To enable the smoke to pass through to the stem, the tenon is shortened. Swirling of smoke, condensation, gurgle!

What can a pipemaker do to rectify this? Ever heard of the pipecleaner test? Yeah, it passes a pipecleaner right into the bowl!

This is what some pipemakers do: they ramp the airway, thus enabling the tenon to finish flush in the bottom of the mortise. The symptom is cured, but not the cause. You again have a widening in the airway!

Another example: the mortise is made deeper. An oil chamber, sump whatever you want to call it. The fact is, the draw is compromised, along with a loss of taste and quality of smoke.

Shall I rest my case, your Honour?

June 13, 2011

A bad day at the office

I have been wanting to try my hand at "freehand" drilling for quite a while. Well, eventually got the courage together, shaped a pipe and tried.
The shaping is, I think, the main reason why pipemakers (especially Europeans) love this topsy-turvy way of making pipes. It gives way more leeway to get the best possible out of a block and also to work around the bad spots. So I shaped this pipe below.
Then came the difficult part: the drilling. I drew the lines for the airway, mortis and chamber. Even got the QC (the wife) to double check my lines. She's an interior designer with an incredible eye for detail and symmetry. First off was the mortis. I went a little too deep and a little offline, but nothing that couldn't be fixed. The result was a bit shorter shank and re-drilling with a slightly larger mortis bit. Wonderful!
Then I went for drilling the chamber, and immediately understood why the pros do not use spade bits like this. It chatters, is difficult to control and no matter how sharp, does not really cut the way it normally does when the block is fixed. Note to self: get spoon bits before trying this again.
The tobacco chamber chamber eventually got drilled more or less OK. Not to the standard that I normally do, but nothing that can't be fixed (heard that before?).
Then I started the air hole. Halfway through it still seemed fine.
And then I felt it. The tip of the bit coming through the shank.

If I was a woman I would have cried. Even Ounooi, my faithful workshop companion, did not feel great. So I did what a man can.
I packed up, went inside the house, and poured myself a stiff whisky...

A double....

OK, dammit, a couple of doubles!
PS - I will most definitely try this again, but only when I get hold of spoon bits. It really gives you wonderful freedom working with the grain and the flaws. And I will get this right, no matter how long it takes (or how many bottles of whisky!).

Watch this space!

June 3, 2011

The cleaning of Old Faithful

The pipes that I smoke is a running joke between my pipe smoking friends.
The sad fact is that they are always dirty and in dire need of TLC. I suppose it's sort of like a mechanic's car: they never have time to fix there own.
Like most pipe smokers that I know, I have an old favourite, not necessarily a looker, and not one that you would like to show off. But damn, does it smoke like a dream!
Mine I made years ago when somebody brought me a piece of African blackwood. Like with all new pipe making material, I made a pipe to try it out personally. And somehow it became my Monday to Friday "working" hours pipe. Except for smoking really well, I think part of the love is because it is just a pipe. It is no-nonsense, not particularly beautiful, is at home in dirty places and don't mind a bit of rough playing. Sort of like the girlfriends that you liked to hang out with in younger days, but definitely did not want to be the mother of your children.
So Old Faithful was getting really disgusting and I decided to give him a wash, so to speak. Here is a photo of the bowl. Lovely cake that I got started there, hey? You'll also see chipmarks on the rim, the result of dropping it on paving.
The stem doesn't look much better either. Lots of teeth marks. I'm a clencher you see (especially when the boss is in a bad mood!). It is the 3rd stem, by the way.

First off is reaming. For this sad case I don't use the reamer, but go straight to a bowl bit. Don't try this at home kids! African blackwood is extremely hard, and I've found that you can really leave the barest minimum thickness of cake in the bowl.

And here's a close-up of the tenon and mortise. Nasty stuff.

The top of the bowl I actually just sanded down a bit, to get rid of all the build-up and gunk. You'll probably see the sanding marks left on the rim in the photo below. The airhole was cleaned and sanitised with a pipecleaner dipped in alcohol. And then the pipe was waxed with tripoli and polished.

Here's the pipe ready to go for another 6 months or so.

April 29, 2011

Briar and flaws

Working with a natural product like briar, means that your chance of getting that perfect pipe is, well, not very good. Ever wondered why the topnotch pipemakers can ask so much for certain pipes? Those pipes have absolutely no external flaws, blemishes or even little pinpricks!

When looking at a block of briar, you have absolutely no idea what lies inside. Briar blocks are not x-rayed to see what's inside! Besides, the additional cost will definitely not be worth the while. So, you judge a block from what is on the outside. Sometimes you're lucky, sometimes not.

Now this is one of the areas where an artisan pipemaker has the advantage over factory turned pipes. At a factory, they have to make, say a 100 pipes for a certain shape. So they take 100 blocks, chuck it in a machine, 3 or 4 steps later, they have a pipe. Flaws? Nah, in the bin!

But, the pipe artisan can, on the other hand, work with the grain and flaws. One by one pipe is made. Every block is taken individually, a pipe envisioned to enhance the grain best, and when flaws and blemishes appear, there is always a chance that he can work around it. Make the shank a bit thinner, change the shape of the bowl, sand a bit more here, lower the rim etc.

For some reason, the general pipesmoking public see sandblasted pipes as inferior, cheaper. It is most definitely not! Go and have a look at JT Cook and Bruce Weaver, for example. They make pipes with sandblasting as their main objective.

I only sandblast when there is absolutely no other way for me. If removing the blemish will mean that I end up with 3mm thick walls I most definitely won't try and sand it out! Imagine a bulldog with perfect lines and a flaw on the shank. The shape is perfect, all the technical "internals" have been drilled perfectly. All the work and hours gone into one pipe and no reason for the pipe to be a bad smoker.

Will it take less time than a smooth pipe? Yip, certainly! And most of the time the price reflects that. But, a straight grain would have been more economically viable. Most makers do it for a living, mouths to feed, bills to pay. And of course more time is spend on a perfect tight straightgrain. Wouldn't you as well?

Will it smoke worse than a smooth? Nope! No self proclaimed (and self respected!) pipemaker is ever going to sell a pipe that he has doubts about.

Is it going to look worse than a smooth? Well, for me smooth always win! But, a pipe that has been placed in the block correctly, following the grain, will always look good when blasted.

April 1, 2011

On the bench

The 2 pipes in the front are close to completion. Bowls are coated and sanding finished, just waiting for the logo and final polish. The reddish one is a canadian pot with cumberland stem. The chocolate one in front is a longshanked egg with white acrylic inlay in a saddle type cumberland stem. On the stand in the back are 2 waiting to be called pipes. Rough shaping is done and now it's time for tweaking. The one on the left is hoping to become an author and the one on the right an apple. Only time will tell! The wood of the author is perfect flamegrain up the sides and nice birdseye on the bottom and rim, with no blemishes. The apple have stunning tight grain, but unfortunately a pinprick blemish on the shank reared its ugly head. Hopefully I'll be able to get rid of that and end up with a smooth contrast-stained pipe.

March 7, 2011

Third time lucky, ugh, 4th time lucky..

A lot of time when making a pipe, a little hiccup happens. You forget to clean the epoxy when gluing a insert, or a flaw suddenly emerge right where you don't need it, you take off just that little bit too much when turning a tenon, and so on, and so on. Little mistakes that can be worked around.
You also get pipes that just flow. You'll envision the pipe, cut, drill, shape etc. exactly how your idea was from the start right through to finish. Needless to say it doesn't happen very often!
Briar is a natural product and thus throw us these little curve balls.
But, a pipemaker have the chance, and most often, ability, to work with this imperfect block, trying to coach the best possible out of each individual one. We don't need to turn a 100 pipes in exactly the same shape and size. This is one of the reasons why a handmade pipe should, most often times in any case, be far superior to factory turned ones.
Then, you get those dreaded pipes where everything that can possibly go wrong, does. This was the case with the above pipe!
First off I had the briar shank too long. It just didn't look right. So I made it a bit shorter. And it still wasn't to my liking. The third try did it for me, eventually.
Then a ugly flaw reared its head on the stummel. I was doing my "fine tuning" of the shape, just had to get a hair width off that particular spot, touched the sanding wheel very lightly and delicately and wham, the flaw appears! My two workshop companions, the garage cat and my sheepdog, decided to leave the close vicinity of their boss very quickly!
Then I started on the stem. Using my usual bit for stainless tenons, doing everything exactly like normal, I ended up with a loose tenon! OK, Charl, no problem. So I do it again, much slower this time, making sure that everything is indeed like normal procedure. The hole ends up too big!
So I go and buy a new bit, drill another stem, and this one ends up too big as well. On the 4th stem, I decide to re-sharpen the old bit, drill the cumberland, and it fits like a glove!
The whole pipe probably took me 4 times the time that it should have. And, hopefully, the Pipemaking Demon will now be satisfied for at least another 20 or so pipes, before he strikes again!

February 11, 2011

A pipemakers table

Well, I suppose not necessarily all pipemakers!

This is what my finishing table, normally, looks like. I tend to get so engrossed in the pipe I'm working on at the moment, that I don't really notice what mess I'm making as I go along! Every month or so, OK, maybe every 2 months or so!

One thing that a pipemaker can never have enough of, are files, and lots of them. A pipemaker can never have enough. All shapes and sizes and cuts. From rasps through to needle files. For some reason there always tend to be a certain shape or size that you don't have, just to get into that special area on a certain shape!

On the left, you'll see a candle. It's not in loving memory of a long ago passed away aunt or grandad. I use it for bending my stems. Some other guys love to use a heatgun or the laborious salt-box-in-oven method. But this is what works for me.

Next to it is a bottle of stain, of which I have various colours. That is to say, various "normal" pipe colours. I'm not one for these crazy blues, purple and greens you sometimes get.

To the right of the cloth is a short stubby and very sharp knife. It used to belong to my grandad, who, being somebody who never threw anything away, probably got it from granny after she didn't have use of it in the kitchen anymore. I have quite a few of these that I use for various stuff, but this particular one is used for scraping the stem. It often happens that there are some scratches on a stem that are hard as hell to get rid of, no matter the grit or amount of sanding. This works like a dream!

January 27, 2011

New home for Goussard Pipes

Due to the gracious nature of my pipesmoking-friend, Dean, Goussard Pipes now have a new home. If you care to have a look, please go to http://goussardpipes.com/ . He's done some marvellous work!

From now on, this blog will be used to show pipes that I'm currently working on, some of the trials and tribulations in the wonderful world of pipemaking and also some other pipe-related stuff.

Here is a photo of what I'm currently working on. The half-shaped pipe is my impression of an elephant's foot. The grain seems very promising and I can't wait to see the result. The block of plateaux is next in line, with a rough outline of what I envision, drawn on the side.

January 7, 2011

#1101 and #1102

My apologies for not having any measurements for these 2 pipes, I suppose with a little one in the house the mind is the first thing to go!

First off is this bamboo-shanked pickaxe. It was a commission for a pipesmoker friend of mine and I'm quite satisfied with it!

This one is on its way to my friend Jaume in Spain. The stem inlay is kudu horn.