Frequently Asked Questions

The desert is an enchanting place. It looks different in every phase of the day. I woke early and Jody was already in his shop. He poured me a good strong cup of coffee from a french press . I retrieved a Canadian piece that Jody made me years ago. He offered me some Exotique as we sat down to talk more about pipes.


Keith: Ok, let's get right to it. One of the big issues in the pipe world is drilling. Some folks want big easy draws. Some want a little resistance. Tell us about your drilling and the philosophy behind it.

Jody: The draft hole of my pipes are always drilled to 9/64". This is smaller than what some recommend. The difference is that with my pipes the smoke hole never becomes restricted as it transfers to the stem. Also the slot at the end of the stem tapers as far as 2" in to the stem, depending on its length. In the stem, the draft hole tapers from top to bottom from 9/64" to 1/16" and, side to side from 9/64" to 7/16", allowing the pipe to have a very open draw, and allowing the last inch of the stem to be very thin and comfortable with no danger of biting through it. If at any point a draft hole becomes restricted, it will become a trap for moisture, and the pipe will gurgle. I believe that a pipe can be too open as well as to restricted, and here is why. Pipe smoking is a balance between the size of the drilling's (tobacco chamber, draft hole, stem drilling) the packing of the tobacco, and the way you draw, or your personal "style " of smoking a pipe. If a pipe is too open for your style of smoking, you may tend to over-smoke the pipe, causing it to smoke hot. To compensate you might start to puff very lightly on the pipe. Thus, causing you have to think to much about smoking the pipe coolly, rather than relaxing, and smoking it naturally. I believe what some have done is develop his style of smoking around over size drilling. They believe all pipes should be this way. What I have done is to combine proper drafting with ease of smoking. So you can enjoy your smoke naturally, and think about other things.

Keith: One of the things I notice most about your technique is the comfort of the mouthpiece. Why?

Jody: Eighty percent of your contact with a pipe is with the last inch of the stem. If it is not comfortable here, the rest of the pipe is wasted.

Keith: How do you get every piece, no matter the shape or size of the pipe to feel so similar in the mouth?

Jody: No matter how large or small the shank is on a pipe, the width and the thickness of the stem will always be the same at the lip button (within a few thousands of an inch). Giving all my pipes a similar feel in the mouth.

Keith: What kind of material do you use for the bit?

Jody: I only use the highest grade ebonite and Cumberland from Germany. It is the most beautiful and is the most comfortable material in the teeth. I have a good stock of this because the company in Germany is the only one that makes ebonite of this quality, and they always threaten to quite making it.

Keith: What is your main focus when you hold a block of untouched briar in your hands? What are you seeing? Or, what are you looking for?

Jody: I start by holding the block and feeling its weight in my hand. After you have held enough blocks of briar, you develop a sensitivity for this. If it is to heavy, I discard it. Then I look at the shape of the block and the grain patterns on the sides and the Birdseye on the top and bottom. From this I try to imagine looking through the block to predict what the grain patterns are inside. I always try to develop the shape of the pipe to maximize the predicted grain, but it is always a mystery. The best pipes are a compromise between what the carver wants and what the briar wants to become.

Keith: I'm curious, how much do blocks of briar usually cost the pipe maker, and how many blocks do you go through to find what you are looking for?

Jody: I'm always searching for the best briar that I can get, at any price. I usually pay between forty to seventy dollars a block. The amount of blocks used to get one pipe depends on the shape and the finish. If I am doing a special order for a classic shape, there isn't much room to change the shape to work around flaws in the wood (every block of briar has flaws), so it may take more blocks. For a "Cardinal" in a classic shape, I average about ten blocks. That's not to say that some of them can't be made into" Bishops" or "Friars" but many of them will be discarded. For a "Saint", working on and off, it may take me as long as a year to produce it.

Keith: I really find your pipes to smoke cooler than most. The tobacco seems to burn very even and cool in the chamber. Is there a trick to this?

Jody: As far as the tobacco chamber goes, there needs to be a proper relationship between the diameter and the depth. Also the bottom of the bowl should be rounded and not come to to much of a point, so that when the moisture from the tobacco settles in the bottom of the bowl, there is plenty of surface area to absorb it, and so it doesn't build up around the draft hole.

Keith: How long does it take for you to finish a pipe?

Jody: It's different for every pipe, depending on it's shape and finish. Robert M. Pirsig in his book "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" talks about how quality is the enemy of efficiency, or rather it demands a higher definition of efficiency. I could say that it takes me from ten to thirty hours, but the real answer is...as long as it takes.

Keith: How many pipes do you make a year?

Jody: In the past, being a full time musician, I was lucky if I made thirty pieces a year. Now that I'm retired from music, I'm hoping to bring those numbers up a bit.

Keith: Being in the music world and a musician, influences are vital to someone making good music. It's kind of impossible to write a song or play a guitar and not be inspired by someone. The hope and goal is to find ones own voice or sound. With regards to pipe making, I know that you are inspired by the some of the legends from Denmark. How have you taken those influences and made them your own?

Jody: In some ways, I have been influenced by every pipe I have ever seen, even if it's what not to do. I was a collector first and have owned hundreds of pipes. I still own many pipes from the most prominent Danish carvers, as well as several English pipes from the early part of the last century. I keep these pipes around me, and look to them as a standard. I have never tried to copy their shapes, only their attitude and pursuit of perfection. There have been a lot of good pipe makers recently popping up all over the world, making very elaborate and beautiful pipes. As I look at these works of art, I seldom find myself saying "I would love to smoke that pipe." I guess that is were I want my pipes to be different. I want to make a smokers pipe. I want a person to think "Wow, that is beautiful...I can't wait to smoke it."



Photos by Ben Pearson