A lot of people who try their hand at making a tobacco pipe do so because they want to make a special shape that they cannot afford to buy, such as a blowfish:
But pipe making is kind of like jazz–all the most innovative pipe makers are classically trained. Before you can make a blowfish, you have to be able to make a billiard. Consider the following, from Pipedia:
It seems like such a simple shape, and the description implies the same, but it’s actually somewhat difficult to make a good-looking billiard. Exactly how tall should the bowl be? How thick should the shank be? How long should the stem be? The bowl is 90-degrees to the shank, right? (Hint: it’s not.) Get just one of the proportions wrong, and your billiard will look wrong.
So, a couple weeks ago, I took some time off from making my usual pipes (Dublin churchwardens with natural tops) and set out to make a billiard. Instead of briar, I used some osage orange I had on hand, which I’m told makes a pretty good pipe, as domestic species go.
It took me every bit as long to make this pipe as it takes to make my regular churchwardens. In fact, I think it took longer–especially since I’m working without a lathe.
It’s not a perfect billiard, but I learned a lot while making it. Most of my pipes I make to sell, but I may keep this one. I’m not going to be making billiards all the time, but I think I will occasionally set my “creative” work aside to make a classic shape, if only to hone my skills. They say you have to walk before you can run, and walking is good exercise. So is making a billiard.