As many of you are aware, each year in the Fall, for the past six years, I have made a Halloween themed pipe. These have always been a rather fun departure from the ordinary, straight laced, pipes I am accustomed to making, and it gives me the opportunity to flex a bit more creative muscle. Originally inspired by Trevor Talbert (whose Halloween themed pipes are the stuff of legends, or nightmares), I have tried to keep these designs as sinister and as practical as possible. This year I decided to take an entirely different route.
One evening as I was browsing the Internet looking at pipes, a sleep depriving habit I have cultivated for years, I came across Tom Eltang's famous "Knife Pipe." Years ago Tom had the unique inspiration to make a pipe modeled after a knife, cleverly turning the blade into a stem and the handle into the bowl. I originally saw this pipe years ago and thought it was marvelously executed, but on this viewing, I was struck with a sudden flash of inspiration for this year's Halloween themed pipe.
Tom's Knife Pipe from smokingpipes.com
The Chef’s knife has long been a staple of the horror genre, but the blade shape is plain and uninspiring. In my mind the second most fear inspiring piece of kitchen cutlery must be the butcher’s cleaver. Playing off Tom’s concept of making a pipe that looked like a knife, I thought what better choice for this year’s Halloween pipe than a pipe modeled after a cleaver. Turning this inspiration into a physical object was full of challenges I don’t normally encounter while making a typical pipe. I would have probably benefited from either some knife making experience, or input from a knifemaker. Still, I managed to muddle my way through and I think the results speak for themselves.
Instead of making the blade the stem and the bowl the handle, I chose to reverse the concept. Because the blade needed to be thin the bowl geometry had to be limited. The chamber on this pipe is probably only suitable for a five to ten-minute smoke. Making the stem was also a challenge. In order to make the stem look more like a handle, I used brass rods to simulate the look of the cleaver’s tang pins. The button comes off the handle and thins to a practical size abruptly but doesn’t extend too far to look out of place. Sculpting this out of ebonite took a completely different approach than I normally take making a stem. In many respects, it felt like I was making a hand cut stem for the first time again.
Of course, a suitable presentation had to be crafted to show off my creation. This was achieved by using acacia wood to simulate a cutting board and to serve as a stand for the pipe. Getting the pipe to balance as if it had been stuck into the board was more of a challenge than I had anticipated. It took my almost a full day of trial and error to get just the right look.
The final result is something I’m proud of, but am not eager to attempt again, even though I’ve thought of several ways the process could be improved. Maybe I’ll revisit the design in a few years, but I wouldn’t anticipate this becoming part of my repertoire.
One final note. Every year I donate my Halloween pipe to the Brothers of Briar pipe forum as a prize for a community sponsored contest. Online pipe related forums are a great place to post, learn and meet other pipe smokers. They are also essential for the survival of this hobby. If you aren’t a member of an online forum, please consider joining one. I’ve made some great and genuine friends over the years and those relationships have brought quite a bit of joy in my life.
Until next time, Happy Halloween!