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PostPosted: Thu Dec 02, 2010 6:39 pm 
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Dear New Pipe Maker,

Welcome! You've found the absolute best website for learning to make great pipes. We're glad you are here.

I am burdened to share something with you. Before I do, let me provide some context. I started this forum about seven years ago. I did so because I had a website that taught people one way to make pipes. The paradigm from which I taught was for the hobbyist maker. I was one of those. I explained my methods as the how-to. I learned how from a similar (but better) website by Trevor Talbert. My website was not intended to compete with Trevor’s, nor, if I recall the timing correctly, did it ever even overlap with Trevor's site. Trevor, you see, had taken his site down before I put mine up. His explanation (please jump in if I am incorrect in my recollection, Trevor) was that the number of emailed questions was overwhelming, and often the emailer was rude when the reply wasn't prompt. This was so disheartening, and ultimate time consuming to the point of hurting his livelihood, that the reasonable action was to just pull the site. This was unfortunate, but clearly the reasonable and right thing for Trevor to do. This created a vacuum in the pipe making universe which my site began to fill. I created my site not because I thought I had all the answers, but because I was being emailed fairly regularly on how to make the pipes that I was selling. After answering the same questions several times, it seemed more efficient to just write the answer once and publish it to my website. So that's what I did. Knowing that would just INCREASE the emails (based on Trevor's experience), I created the forum to handle that end of things. I requested that any questions my site raised be posted to the forum instead of emailed. It worked. After a move to it's own domain, and a shift in management to Kurt (thanks Kurt...nice work!), we sit seven years down the road with what you are reading today. It is an amazing resource thanks to all involved.

OK, so that's the basic history. Let's talk about today.

Today the forum is very different. That's fine and to be expected. After heavy involvement in the site for the first two years, then a five-year hiatus, the changes now that I'm back are glaring. I feel it would help to new members and aspiring pipe makers to understand a few things. Thus my letter.

The most obvious difference is there are a lot more people here. No surprise, and that's good. With that though comes a strange but also non-surprising phenomenon: there is a lot more bad advice. I have read a lot of threads in the last few months where my thought at the end of the thread is, "If that poor guy follows that advice he'll spend a lot of money and possibly be worse off." Usually, when I see something like that, I don't participate in the thread. If I do I risk offending the previous posters whose advice I would dispute. Sometimes I go ahead and take the risk, but usually not. That leads me to point 1:

POINT 1: Tools are not the secret to making better pipes.

Let me tell a story on myself. About two years ago, began learning how to make bamboo fly rods. I did this in an environment of information similar to the pipe making environment today. There are lots of online resources and forums for bamboo rod making. While that made it MUCH easier to learn the skill than it would have been to learn 10 or 15 years ago (just as is the case with pipe making), there was an aspect of all that information that was an overload curse. It lead me to obsess on making sure I had just the right tools in order to avoid all the mistakes that I was reading about. I researched and researched, and I pondered, and I filled shopping carts online, but I wasn't making rods. I had analysis paralysis. I finally started making rods, and I found after a few months of doing so that I had wasted quite a bit of money on tools. On this forum or that forum someone had said this tool was a "must have," so I bought it. I wasted a lot of money learning that some people might call a tool a "must have" because they are 5'5" and their angle of attack planing a rod created problems that were different than mine being 6'5". I should have just made a rod.

How did I make that mistake? I had read warnings that the forums were full of bad advice, but I had a dilemma. I was new and knew nothing about making bamboo rods. How the heck could I tell the good advice from the bad? I'll offer three points to that for new pipe makers:

1. If your advise comes from a guy that has been on the forum for 5 months, be suspicious. Especially if he has a new and better way of doing things.

2. Find photos of the pipes from the guy who is offering the advice. If he makes pipes that look like ones you hope to make, listen. If his pipes look like yours, well...you know. If you can’t FIND any photos of his pipes, see point 1.

3. Just make pipes. You'll quickly learn who to listen to.

But...but...but...how can I make pipes until I buy tools; and how can I buy tools without advice; and how can I take advice without knowing who to listen to? That leads to major point 2.

POINT 2: Tools are not the secret to making pipes.

If you are a rank beginner, buy a kit. (A kit is a block of briar that has been drilled and fitted with a stem.) All you need to turn that into a pipe is...nothing. It already is a pipe. Your task is to make it pretty. THAT IS THE HARDEST THING TO DO IN PIPE MAKING. Drilling three holes that will smoke tobacco is easy. Making a pretty pipe is not. Kits let you work on the thing that takes lots of practice to master with very little money invested. A file or two, some sandpaper, and a way to buff are all you need to make a beautiful pipe. Drilling aside, we've arrived at point 3:

POINT 3: All tools do is make pipe making faster.

Give a great pipe maker a well drilled kit, some files, sandpaper and a way to buff, and he'll make a high-grade pipe. It will take him a lot longer than it does with his normal tools, but it will still be a great pipe. It's him, not the tools. You will not and cannot buy or tool your way into making great pipes. You can only develop your skills. That comes from making pipes, and learning how to get better with each pipe made.

OK, so you've now carved a kit, and low and behold, you did it! You didn't ruin the block, and your friends are amazed. Your co-workers are all wanting you to make them one. They think you are the Leonardo Da Vinci of pipe making. You become a rock star at your local B&M. Orders are piling up. You have a talent for this. YOU ARE GOING TO BE RICH! WOOHOO!

STOP.

It might be true that you have a talent for this, BUT YOU AND YOUR FRIENDS ARE DELUDED. What you are making right now are REALLY poor pipes. You'll see it someday and be embarrassed. Thankfully, you are not embarrassed right now or you might quit, and that would be unfortunate. If you quit, you'll never get good at this. My purpose in pointing this out is not to make you feel bad, but to improve this forum a bit. Don't come participate thinking that you are the stuff. It's off-putting and you will be embarrassed when you look back at how cocky you were. Just come in and learn. Post pictures of pipes so that you can hear how to improve them and get better. Help out when you can, but don’t think you are the next great thing. Think of yourself for what you are: a new pipe maker. Being a new pipe maker is a good thing.

There has been some tension of late about how poorly the "old guys" and "big boys" have treated newer members. I believe it is related to how the advice of the "big boys" is often treated because of the somewhat cocky attitude new makers sometimes have. Let me outline a scenario:

1. A question is asked
2. Various answers for the question are posted
3. One of the "big boys" posts an answer
4. Someone argues that they have found (in their extensive 8-pipe career), that the "big boy" (in his 1,600-pipe career) isn't really right. There is a better way. Thinking outside the box is key. Innovation is the answer. Unfortunately the “big boy” is stuck in the rut of the status quo.
5. The "big boy" shakes his head and goes back to making $500++ pipes.

Rinse, Repeat Ad Nauseum.

After awhile of this pattern it comes across as if some of the new guys think the "big boy" has sold his soul to the almighty dollar, and he has never thought about better stem materials, or more creative shapes, or better ways of doing things. Some act like they are here to revolutionize pipe making since no one before him had the brains and talent to do so. It gets tiresome to the "big boy" and he starts to be a little cynical, but he still wants to help the occasional guy that humbly wants to get good at pipe making. Along comes another unsuspecting new guy that asks a question that has been asked and answered two-hundred times, and he gets an earful from an "old guy" in the forum because of bad timing. He might not have deserved the rough answer, but even by asking the same question that has already been asked he is presuming upon everybody since he didn’t take the time to browse a little and use the search feature. Perhaps this is a rush to judgement by the “old guy,” but it happens. We’ve all been a part of something where a new guy jumps in to a circle of long-time friends, and starts acting like he owns the place. The long-time friends all glance at one another with the what’s-with-THIS-guy look. This forum is a group of friends. You are welcome to be a part of it! We are glad you are here!

Let me be quick to clarify that my point is not that everyone should bow at the altar of the "big boys." I don't think they would like that anymore than you would. My final point is simply:

Point 4: Don’t be that guy.


Enjoy the forum. We look forward to becoming friends. We look forward to seeing your pipe making skills grow. We'd love to help.


Warmest Regards,

Tyler


P.S. Obviously tools ARE necessary for pipe making. Let me highlight that there is one tool in particular that makes possible a quality level that is REALLY hard to achieve otherwise. That tool is a metal lathe. You don’t need one to start. You don’t need one ever, really, but I think its safe to say there is no such thing as a high-grade pipe maker that doesn’t use one. It’s the right tool for pipe making.

P.P.S. After you've made a dozen or two pipes, save up some money and go to a pipe show. Take some pipes. Ask one of the "big boys" for a private and brutally-honest, critique session with your pipes. That $500 spent getting to the show will be a MUCH better investment than the same amount of tools it would have purchased.

P.P.P.S. The written word doesn't convey emotion well. A lot of posts sound rude that weren't intended that way. I have met in person many of the makers on this forum. They are among the kindest and most generous people I know. Presume the best of those helping you. They could just ignore you.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 02, 2010 6:42 pm 
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If you are thinking I was talking negatively about you in the above letter--

STOP IT.

I wasn't.

I've been working on this letter for awhile. This is not in response to a recent or particular thread or person.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 02, 2010 7:40 pm 
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Tyler, that is wonderful advice. Thank you!
Rad


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 02, 2010 7:44 pm 
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RadDavis wrote:
Tyler, that is wonderful advice. Thank you!
Rad


Ditto that :)

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 02, 2010 8:38 pm 
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 02, 2010 11:35 pm 
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Tyler, you keep finding ways to make me respect you more and more. Quit doing that, man! At this rate, my man crush on Rad will get overtaken! No one wants that. ;)

Well said, sir. *salute*

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 02, 2010 11:54 pm 
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Thank you. :D

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 2010 4:11 am 
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This open letter puts some facts right to the point and to a quintessence - healthy common sense and a open positive mind is the basic equipment needed.

Thank you for sharing this advice Tyler.

Best,
Abi

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 2010 5:39 am 
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Wise words well spoken Tyler..Good to see you back :D

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 2010 3:19 pm 
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Thanks Tyler, wonderful letter.
.....and now I think I'm going to the workshop to make a pipe!

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 2010 9:40 pm 
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Oh GREAT! Now I HAVE to go buy a metal lathe!

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 04, 2010 2:47 pm 
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Thanks for that Tyler and a second kudos to Kurt for helping this forum be a nice place of information.

I read some tips from here and then I bought the coveted PIMO book. Instead of investing in any real "pipetools" I ordered two pipekits (already drilled) and went at it. My tools? one coping saw with 4 blades, two files and some sandpaper.

The first block was a big learning curve. I drew out my shape of a poker on the briar block (as I figured pokers are pretty easy for a newb). I started sawing along quite aggressively, got very careless and sawed right into the bowl chamber. Oooppsy, Game Over.

So, after butchering up the first one I was now a well seasoned vet and prepared to attack pipe #2. I decided to go much slower with the coping saw but IMHO I did not like using the saw as it was quite difficult making accurate cuts. I cut it out but stayed far away from my drawn lines as I was bit shy of commiting the same idiotic mistake. I then filed and sanded into the night but came away with a halfway decent looking pipe. I posted some pictures of it here on the forum and got some good tips and someone said it looked lik a "pregnant Peterson" and I took that as a compliment. Well, I couldnt be happy with what I had and I wasn't happy with the military stem that came with the kit so I decided to install a red acylic cumberland colored stem in it. All I had to do was open up the mortise hole to make a nice fit. I got my cordless drill out, a nice sharp bit and proceeded to drill a larger hole. CRRRRRACK!!!! I went too fast and split that sonofabitch right up the shank about an inch. Well actually once I put the drill in the hole opening it sucked it all the way in, twisted my hand and split the briar. It all happened in a blink of an eye. It was like "pulltrigger BOINK!" Game over. The quick fix would be to epoxy it or band it but I just left it. It's still sitting on my shelf, LOL. My dreams of being a professional pipemaster shattered on .02 seconds.

Even though I botched these pipes I learned valuable lessons in pipecrafting. Both mistakes taught me respect for areas of fragility (mortise opening) and for paying attention to the closeness of the bowl chamber. The biggest thing I came away was that one must always be in focus and in the moment, paying attention in every step of the way. One slip and you're screwed and you can't put the briar back on.

Looking back, I now will readjust my thinking and my processes. Since I see myself as a "slow learner" (a nicer word than idiot, dunce, stooge, dumbass) I'd probably use just a piece of hardwood to practice on or even a softwood instead of wasting money on briarwood. I'd get me a bandsaw or a dremel tool for the rough cutting. (hell, a used band saw can be had for 50 bucks as could a dremel tool). Once I got comforatble doing that my next step would be to practice-drill the bowl chambers and airhole on hard woods like oak or maple. The I'd graduate to the briars.

I agree that the tools do not make the pipe but there are some tools that are a must and they seem to differ for that individual. And it is a type of a trial and error thing. I think once one gets the hang of things he can start to simplify the process. I watch some of the videos on pipecrafting and it blows me away how effortless it looks and that there are so many ways to carve a pipe. But that only comes with making mistakes, readjusting and finally doing it right over and over again until it becomes a pyschomotor function (meaning one does not have to think about it much). And then finally,once the simplicity is mastered one can start being creative and take on his or her own personality and transfer that into their pipemaking process.

BTW, I passed on buying a metal lathe and I wished I'd bought her. It was an older Atlas, in great shape and sold for 400 bucks. Even if I'd come to find I didn't (or couldn't) make a pipe I could have sold it and gotten my money back. And as Kurt (and a few others) who suggested I could have used it for just about everything, shaping bowls, drilling chamber and airholes, popping in a sanding disc for shaping, slapping in a buffing wheel for finishing, making stems etc.

As a retired chiropractor (30+ years in the field) I used to spend quite a bit of money and did some traveling to attend seminars to learn other chiros adjusting techniques. It was always beneficial for me to see and learn what the other guys were doing. not only did I benefit but so did my clients. AND I never thought I knew it all as there was always something new for me to learn. Saying that, I would think that a well seasoned pipecrafter might have the potential to attract newcomers to the field and possible start scheduling pipemaking seminars. A very simple yet in-depth seminar starting from pipemaking 101 to the advanced stages of stem making and sand blasting etc. The classes could be broken down into seperate modules and it might not only be rewarding and properous for the pipemaker but advantageous for the students. Maybe even see if a pipemaker would be interested in having an apprentice program. Thoughts?

Kola


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 04, 2010 4:19 pm 
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Kola

All you have to do is ask one of the established pipemakers for the time and they will probably not only give it to you but view your work objectively and show you a few tricks. While travelling back to see my folks in Monahans I stopped by Tylers for little over an hour and was given some great feedback and learned some new processes. (tks Tyler) After working out some of the things Tyler showed me I took his advice I contacted Cornelius Maenz and asked him also for a visit when it was a good time for him. (he lives about 40 mintues from where I do and makes beautiful pipes). Expecting about an hour of his time.. he blew me away with 3 hours of instruction, tips, and all around good conversation.. coffee was some of the best I've had. Got invited back and will probably visit in the summer after I've wrapped my own process around the things Cornelius showed me for more conversation.. and hopefully more coffee. I got more out of those two visits than reading all the material on the web.

Just ask and be willing to adjust your schedule around theirs. They do this for a living and I do it as a hobby to hopefully bring in enough money to buy more material so I learn the craft even better.

James

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 05, 2010 12:17 pm 
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Excuse me, I was talking to the duck.

Tyler, a couple of times I've been accused of overthinking something, and I think that's what you've done here, and especially when you get to the stereotyping, label "That Guy."
It does illustrate a problem, though, but only one, narrow side of it.
This is a public forum, not a pipe school. There are no "Big Boys," teachers, with credentials or authority, up at the head of the class.

This became especially obvious after reading billiard's post.
http://www.pipemakersforum.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=18&t=5528

You posted in the topic to try to counter your own effect, but you can't be in the minds of everyone who doesn't post or is afraid to post, now. I think you and Kurt, as administrators and all of the "Big Boys" need to adjust your thinking a bit, about this idea.

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Last edited by Mike Messer on Sun Dec 05, 2010 6:12 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 05, 2010 6:03 pm 
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Tyler, thank you for this letter. To remember it will be the twinkle in the eye, if I should get carried away by my own verve...

I won't dispute anything you said, but would like to comment on one sentence especially:

Quote:
Being a new pipe maker is a good thing.


That is very, very true...

Best,

Steffen

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 05, 2010 6:56 pm 
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@mike:
Quote:
Tyler:
If you are thinking I was talking negatively about you in the above letter--

STOP IT.

I wasn't.

I've been working on this letter for awhile. This is not in response to a recent or particular thread or person.


Quote:
Mike: couple of times I've been accused of overthinking something, and I think that's what you've done here

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 05, 2010 7:30 pm 
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Mike Messer wrote:
I think you and Kurt, as administrators and all of the "Big Boys" need to adjust your thinking a bit, about this idea.


Holy crap!

I mean... Holy Crap!

For the record, I am perfectly happy to let anyone do what anyone wants to do. I hold nobody to any standard, aside from my personal ideas about decorum, and even that has gotten me in more trouble than I care to admit - with folks with whom I'd rather share a beer or a single malt (or any drink, really) and share funny stories, recountings of pain, or just have a fun night with while forgetting my cares and concerns for a moment.

Honestly, when crap like this stirs up the board, I wonder if it's really worth my time, effort, and capital expense to maintain it....

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 05, 2010 7:37 pm 
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As a newb, I found Tylers comments very helpful and took no offense to it at all.

Kola


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 05, 2010 7:48 pm 
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kola wrote:
<Snip> As a newb, I found Tylers comments very helpful and took no offense to it at all.

Agreed.

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 05, 2010 7:50 pm 
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kola wrote:
As a newb, I found Tylers comments very helpful and took no offense to it at all.

Kola


+1

In the other thread I was just trying to ask politely, please let's not make a big deal about my comment, I ain't a wordsmith and meant no foul.

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