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/).

December 2, 2013

How I do a shank ring

A while ago somebody was interested in how stem inserts and end caps are done. Seeing that at that stage I was busy with a pipe that was going to get a shank ring, I thought I might as well put a couple of photos together and show how I do it.
 In this instance, the pipe was shaped first and the bowl, airway and mortise drilled thereafter, but it is also possible to do it the conventional way (by drilling and then shaping). The particular stummel has been shaped in rough on a 24 grit disc. First, with the pipe fitted onto a pin gauge, a small tenon is turned on the shank, slightly bigger than the mortise size. I like to have only briar and ebonite (or in some instances, acrylic) in contact with the smoke channel, although some other makers prefer not to see any briar on the shank face when making an end cap.
 Then I'll face both sides of the material that is going to be used as end cap to the thickness wanted. This is then drilled to about a one millimeter depth with a forstner bit that is slightly smaller than the height of the shank when seen from the side. This have the advantage that, especially when using wood, a little bit of warping will not have any effect on the fit of the stem. Thereafter I will use a bit with the  same diameter as the tenon that was turned on the stummel, to drill through the ring. For now, this ring will be kept to the side.
An off-cut piece of briar is then faced and drilled with the same bit and with a tiny bit of CA glue on the tenon, glued to the shank.
 The reason for using this off-cut is to ensure that the shank lines are kept true, without the chance of rounding the shank edge when sanding through the grits. I finalize the shape on the discsander with 60 and 100 grit discs and then go onto sanding by hand. The off cut will stay on until the pipe has been sanded and stained to completion, with only buffing and polish still to come.
 Now the off cut piece of briar can be removed. This I do by very carefully using a small vice to chuck the off cut only and then with a sharp quick twist of the stummel, get the off cut to come loose.
The secret is to use only enough CA glue to keep the piece in place, but not too much so that you'll struggle to get it off or worse, break the shank!
 Now the shank ring is dry fittted into place and shaped to the desired size and with the desired radius. When I'm happy that it is as I want it to be, it is sanded to 400 or 600 grit (depending on material).
The next step is to epoxy it into place. A generous amount of epoxy is put on both the briar shank face and the briar tenon, the end cap is slipped over and held in place for a minute until adhesion starts. All the excess glue will pop out from between the shank face and the shank ring, but do not worry and do not touch or wipe this. Take the backside of a match and every now and then stir a bit though the epoxy that hasn't been used. In a couple of minutes you'll notice that this becomes harder when it starts to set. That is the window of opportunity you need. Take a toothpick and carefully start removing the excess epoxy. If you're timing is right, it will peel off easily. There will be no glue marks left on the stummel or shank ring and no visible glue line between the two.
Normally I will start on the stem now, until completed, then stamp the pipe and polish and wax.

November 17, 2013

A recent blast

This is a blast that I finished last week and I'm pretty stoked with how it turned out.
Here is the pipe just after blasting:
 And here is the finished pipe:
 Isn't briar such a wonderful  amazing wood to be able to work with?

October 18, 2013

A week ago..

This is a week ago..
And it still looks the same! I just hate it when work gets in the way of pipemaking!

October 4, 2013


I was working on this beauty this morning. With the stummel basically completed (just wax and polish to follow), I started on the stem.
 Being a bit impatient, I forced the tenon into the mortise and heard the faintest sound of wood going "crack".
We learn from our mistakes, I suppose...

September 19, 2013

It's Christmas!

A few times a year, I become like a little boy before Christmas. I check the post box every day, the excitement starts building. During the second week, I start checking twice a day. A parcel from the Mediterranean normally take 2 to 3 weeks. With every sound I hear from the street, I get up to go see if it is not the postman.
 Then I start getting anxious. Can it be that it got lost somewhere? Maybe the plane carrying the parcel fell into the sea? Maybe customs opened it and thought that it is firewood?
 Then one day, when I least expect it, there it is! The important little piece of paper from the Post office, with my name on it and saying that I have a parcel that I need to come collect.
 All plans for the day jump out of the window, pushed and shoved away. Nothing is more important now! With my heart racing, the keys get grabbed from the table and I get into the pick-up, tyres screeching around the corners. It's here, it's here!
 If it weren't for my ears, my smile would meet at the back of my head! I bounce into the Post Office, get the parcel and race back home. Pour myself a coffee, savour the moment and then opens the box to see what my wonderful friend have thrown my way this time!
I can do without my birthday. I can even do without Christmas. You can kill my dog, steal my food, crash into my car. But do not ever attempt to take this away from me!

August 16, 2013


I have a commissioned elephant's foot that I am working on at the moment. When push comes to shove, I really prefer straight grain or flame grain, but this birdseye is really something, hey?
 It is such a pleasure working with briar, so many possibilities with this type of grain. Just imagine all pipes being made from, well, for example, meranti or oak? Boring.

July 8, 2013

Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose

I had this volcano that needed to be blasted. Some beautiful grain made me anxious to see what the blast would  look like.
 The blast turned out stunning.
 But the airway showing up was not..
 I knew the airway was quite close to the top of the shank, but didn't think it was this close!
 Wouldn't you cry?

July 3, 2013

On the bench

I came into the shop the other day, had one look at the bench and promptly decided that a picture needs to be taken of this mess! Half a stummel and a block of briar is the only indication that this is the bench of a pipemaker.
 But lets move on to the pipes that I currently am busy with. These pipes have been cut from the same block of briar.
 The volcano was shaped first and then drilled.  The briar have beautiful grain, but a couple of flaws, very small but in strategic places, will necessitate sandblasting. I can't wait to see how the briar faerie will flourish her wand! You can see one of these flaws on the backside of the bowl in the photo below.
The other pipe is a dublin bamboo. Although I don't really make a lot of dublins, it is one of my favourite standard shapes. As with the volcano, this one will also be blasted. Small pinprick flaws on the back of the bowl and also a couple on the bottom.

June 4, 2013

The windowdressers

As a pipesmoker, through the years you accumulate pipes. You buy, you trade, you get pipes from friends. And eventually you end up with a lot of pipe "memorabilia", if you can call it that.
A small selection of these are pipes that end up on your pipe rack, but won't be smoked. They are for looks, for window dressing.
 The above pipe you often get in curio shops here in South Africa. It is made from African blackwood and this particular one my wife bought me when she was on a business trip in Mozambique. The airway follows that kink in the shank, but I have no idea how this is accomplished. It's never been smoked and I will also not try. But it will stay on the pipe rack.
 This pipe I found in a 2nd hand shop. Pawn-, antique or secondhand shops: I just can't resist the lure. You never know what you'll find, as in this case.
It's a porcelain pipe made in Holland that I got for R20 (about $2). The bowl heats up quickly and the draw is terrible. But it is beautiful to look at, hey?
 This one is Tyrolean. All those fancy bits and pieces of the stem can unscrew. The windcap is a bit skew and the stummel even sports some stars! As with the Dutch pipe, it smokes horrible, but it does have some sort of pipe history to it, so it will stay!
In Lithuanian folklore the devil is quite prominent and they even have a museum dedicated to all sort of devil memorabilia. This pipe was bought by my wife when last she went to visit her parents. The wood it is made from is very soft, one of the many reasons that deter me from smoking it. It has been carved beautifully though and will always have a special place close to the pipe rack.

April 25, 2013

Commissioned rhodesian: a couple of process photos

I recently did a commission for a gentleman and along the way I took a couple of photos. In general, I'm not very good at remembering to do that. I get into the "muse" and too late think: Ha, I should have taken a pic of that step!
But well, I thought someone would think it's interesting.
 The above photo is of the stummel after the lathe work is finished, with rough shaping started. I normally get it to this stage before deciding on stem length, -shape, etc. There's nothing concrete yet, but the rough idea is there.
Here the drilled stem has been added. I first check that the stem/shank junction is good and then go between the 16 and the 60 grit disc, to get the shape I want going.
This is also the stage I hate the most. The pipe looks like a blob, like a toddler's play dough. It's up to me, what I "see" in my mind, my hands and the sanding disc to try and coax the shape from the briar.
At this stage rough shaping is finished and I have started with sanding at 150 grit by hand. It's starting to look more like a pipe now. This is also the time where the "fine tuning" start. Thinning the shank a bit, taking a bit more off the heel of the stummel, getting symmetry, working on the flow.

And eventually, something like the above will be the result. It always amazes me that in this process, where we take a block of wood and a round piece of rod, something as graceful and flowing as this, can be made.
Every pipe is a little miracle.

April 11, 2013

Something from nothing

I've had this stummel lying on the bench for over a year now, but being the frugal person I am, I did not want to throw it away. I was hoping that one day I'll be able to do something resembling a pipe with it. As you can see in the first photo, in the mean time I even used it to try out different staining techniques.

Originally, the bottom of the bowl was much sharper and lower, the rim was convex and the chamber drilled, but not the airway. I flattened the top and took away the pointy bottom. Then I drilled the airway, along with a mortise to accept a stainless steel tenon.

This photo above is before final wax and polish. And the following photo is the final result.

 I must say in all honesty that I did not expect the grain to be that good! Perfect flamegrain all around, with a bit of birdseye on the bottom and of course the rim. Except for one small blemish on the rim and a pinprick on the bottom, this would have been spotless. But alas, briar is a natural product!
More photos and specifications on my website at http://www.goussardpipes.com/.

April 5, 2013

Fresh bamboo

One I finished today.

March 27, 2013

Final Sanding

After shaping on the disc and fine tuning with files, final sanding needs to take place. I start with 150, then 220, 320, 400 and 600 grit. Care must be taken to get all scratches out with each and every grit. It can be a real tedious job!
Yesterday the camera and tripod was standing in the shop and I decided to play with the timer to make things a bit more interesting. Here are 2 photos that came out OK.

March 11, 2013


Using bamboo are just like women in a way: they need lots of attention, but rub them up the wrong way and you'll be sure to be sorry!Bamboo is a fickle mistress. Except for getting the shank/bamboo and bamboo/stem transition seamless, the composition should also be perfect.
 I finished a little pipe with bamboo just before the weekend and thought I'd share some photos which I took along the way.

First, the stummel is rough sanded. I normally leave the bit of stubby shank over sized, so there is a bit of room for getting the shank/bamboo transition just right. A piece of stainless steel tubing is glued into the mortise.
A piece of bamboo that compliment the pipe is then chosen (which might be quite a task!). This piece is sawed to the right dimension and freehand drilled from both sides with a tapered 4mm bit. The capillary found naturally in the bamboo helps. A mortise is then drilled from both sides to accommodate the stainless steel tenons. I do it by chucking the appropriate bit in the headstock of the lathe and using the tail stock with center to advance the bamboo onto the bit. 
By using a pin gauge, the bamboo is then faced on both sides. The side that'll end up by the stem, also gets a little tenon to accept a ring with slightly larger diameter than the mortise. This ring is then glued in place and slightly countersunk. 
Sometimes, depending on the design, you can also do rings on both sides of the bamboo. 
You now have a piece of bamboo with a ring (or 2) attached, and a stummel with stainless steel tenon sticking out.
This is where the fun starts! The bamboo piece is pushed onto the stummel and the shaping begins. First I go to the sanding disc to get the diameter as close as possible to the bamboo. Then needle files, sandpaper or whatever works, to get the shank and bamboo transition flush and smooth, always taking care not too damage the bamboo. Nerve wrecking stuff! 
When done, the stummel is sanded to final grit, and stained. Only then, the bamboo is glued into place.              
Now you have a stummel, with the bamboo attached. An appropriate length of ebonite is then cut, drilled and a stainless steel tenon glued into place. The same procedure as on the shank side, is then followed.
Eventually, you'll end up with something like this: