The making of a Note Pipe

I have been working with art and antiques all my live. I grew up in a family where everybody seemed to have a personal relation to art. Maybe I inherited a certain sensitivity for tactile and visual harmonies. Maybe I inherited an appreciation for how shape can speak to you in all kinds of ways; by weight, balance and surface, the play between light, shadows colors and reflections.

All of this I take into consideration when creating a Note pipe.

Most of my life, I have worked with art and antiques. To me it has appeared as if all good art are fundamentally the same thing.

In diamond cutting, the cutter needs to understand the stone even before he starts cutting, to bring out its possible beauty. In Chinese ceramics the potter need to have a perfect understanding of the paste as well as the whole process from mining to when the finished porcelain piece comes out of the kiln, before he can make a perfect bowl.

If the potter is good, the piece will sing to you. If it is bad, it will remain silent. In sculpture, the artist sees the finished sculpture in front of his eyes. All he needs to do is to remove all the unnecessary marble around the sculpture, until it sits there in front of him. The painter that sees the pictures as if it was already there on the white canvas before he starts painting.

The Japanese passion for finding the best tuna or the jade cutters eye when it comes to integrate special color streaks in the stones into the finished design, are all the same. A reflection of the artist’s ability to see the finished work in front of him long before the work has actually begun.

It is all the same with pipes.

It is a tactile and visual experience, but one that also have a physical aspect to it, since you need to understand how the heat from the glowing tobacco will be distributed in the pipe, in a pleasant way.

This is difficult to plan for, as a pipe maker. This is where the smokers own expertise will come in when he selects his pipe. While there are some bad ways to smoke a pipe, there are also many ways to smoke well.

This, the owner himself will need to decide, which is his.

A volcano and a pickaxe/acorn in progress.
A volcano and a pickaxe/acorn in progress

For me, as the maker, any pipe begins with the selection of the root. There is a lot to choose from – Corsican, or Algerian, or Italian, etc. It all depends on what you are looking for.

Briar is a root that grows at many different geographical locations. The roots are processed and cut at briar mills. These mills source their burls from different locations, so when we talk about Italian briar, this most of the time simply means that it was most likely harvested anywhere around the Mediterranean – but processed in Italy.

Here is why the cutting and processing matters.

Personally, I import all my briar from Mimmo in Italy. It is processed in a manner that I prefer and they are good at paying attention to the grain orientation in their cuts.

Note Pipes in progress
The root in itself will decide what kind of pipe is in there, for the pipe maker to bring out.

All blocks are different. They all come from nature and how they turn out in the end that depends on how they are treated, processed and cut. The orientation of the grain, you can’t do much about. What remains depends on the skill of the cutter and the pipe maker.

It is the curing process that decides how dense and dry the blocks turn out. Algerian roots are usually the densest and hardest, closely followed by the Greek, while roots from Mimmo in Italy are be the lightest.

The processing of the roots is begun by boiling. Here the temperature at which they are boiled, how often the water is changed and how many times they are boiled matters. Any impurities that boil out of the briar will turn the water red.

Personally I think Mimmo are the ones spending most time boiling their roots, and this is what makes their roots lighter. You can see the color difference between various blocks of briar. Algerian and Grecian briar usually have a redder tint to them.

While some pipe smokers would like their pipes being red in the beginning and like to watch them mature, I prefer to make pipes from better cured block since I feel this offers a more neutral taste and a pipe that is easier break in.

Later on I will show and explain the whole process in how a Note pipe is created.

Note Pipe Logotype
Note Pipe Logotype

All Note pipes are marked with my initials H B and an eighth note.

When someday I find a perfect root and manage to create a pipe that is completely perfect in every aspect and one that truly sings, I will mark that with an eighth note with a bar.