Tobacco Pipe Continued: Creative Work Holding

Have you ever tried looking online for step-by-step instructions for making a tobacco pipe by hand?

I haven’t found much, myself. Certainly nothing that gives suggestions for working primarily with hand tools.

Most professional and semi-professional pipe makers use powered sanders and grinders to shape their pipes.  I don’t have such equipment, and I prefer to work by hand anyway.

Because I’m used to carving spoons, I don’t have trouble with freehand contours.  The biggest challenge for me in making a pipe is work holding.  I do not know how wooden pipes were carved before the advent of electric sanding equipment, but I suspect they were lap-carved.  (Note to self: make some carving knives.)   Working at a bench, I find myself first using my bench vise as long as I could, and then moving to my holdfast, as above.

I have become very hesitant to use my bare hands for workholding since I sent myself to the ER for stitches a few years ago.  However, once I saw this video by planemaker Ron Brese, I started to rethink my policy.  Brese shapes his plane totes partially by hand on his workbench, holding it only with his hands at times.  He is very careful to keep his fingers out of the way of the chisel, and he convinced me that I could carve a pipe using similar methods.  So after removing as much material as I could with my turning saw and coping saw, I turned to my chisels.

Trapping the workpiece under the chisel and cutting toward the benchtop works well in many circumstances.

At least with the pipe, I can use the bowl as a finger hold.

I am accustomed to using my spokeshave for all manner of shaping tasks. I can hold a low-angle spokeshaves like a carving knife.

This technique is much more comfortable with a low-angle spokeshave than it is with a regular one.  It is easy to slice one’s thumb while using a spokeshave this way, so be careful.

Then I use a few half-round files to continue refining the shape.  Once the workpiece is rounded all over, it won’t stay in a bench vise, so I continue to hold it with one hand and shape it with another.

More pipe carving anon.

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