Here is the very first photo of a project I have been self-educating with for some time now. While Ligne Bretagnes have garnered lots of praise for their smoking qualities, the most frequent request I hear is for larger shapes. Since none of the post-war LB designs are what we would call “large” today, this means bigger pipes must be custom made. I did not want to “farm out” this work to a factory, but preferred to do it here in our workshop. For this, I have done a great deal of experimenting over the past three years to learn ways of using my own hand-shaped cutters to create new, repeatable LB designs.
In the background of the photo, one can see the two cutting heads used. The head on the left turns the pipe’s shank, drills the mortise, flattens the end, and countersinks the mortise – all in one step. The head to the right drills the bowl chamber, turns the upper part of the bowl, and flattens the bowl top, also in one step. The photo shows the progress of a pipe through these stages. It begins with an ebauchon (left) and is then drilled and turned to become the partly-finished stummel in the center. Once this is done, the machine work ends and the rest of the pipe must be shaped and finished by hand to create the final pipe.
There are a couple of limitations to this process. I have a finite number of cutting heads and blades, so I am unable to do many different shapes at once. Most likely, I will do a series in one shape, then rearrange the blades and components to do another shape series. Because of this, it will probably be difficult to recreate earlier designs exactly – in some cases impossible, if the blades used have been reground into different shapes. Secondly, the whole affair requires a lot more hand-work, so the resulting pipes are going to be more expensive than the standard Ligne Bretagnes (though still well short of the Talbert Briar price range). Final pricing and grading have yet to be decided. One decision that has been made is what to do with the first set – they are all shipping to Pipe & Pint for their Christmas season!