Today’s pic is a funny photo I took of one of my pipes and one by Paul Bonaquisti. It’s a classic example of just how much sandblasted surfaces can vary, when you toss in all the variables of different media, different tools, different ways of handling the tools, and different briar. Paul’s pipe is the one on the left – Emily bought it as a birthday surprise for me at the CORPS show back in 99 or 2000, I can’t recall which. It, like mine, is unstained, but it’s had at least six years of regular smoking to darken the color of the wood to its current state. The Dublin on the right is mine, a pipe just finished for a special order, and one I’m really proud of because it gave an excellent blast – Usually briar with rings this tight is very resistant to any sort of depth, but this one came out pretty well. At the moment I am waiting to hear back if it is sold or not; otherwise I will either post it to the catalog or send it to Larry.
I’ve told people before that half of why I can do good sandblasts is that I usually pick briar for its sandblasting qualities before I even start a pipe – that is, I’ll intend for the pipe to be a blast going in, and purposefully choose a block of briar that will provide a good blast. That’s why the Dublin above was such a pleasant surprise – I really didn’t expect it to do so well. Once you know what to look for, it’s fairly easy to sand off the sides of a briar block and see the shadows of the age rings in the wood. They’re visible almost as shadows, faint ripples of tone shift running perpendicular to the direction of the grain. Blocks like Paul’s are the best choices, with good wide rings, because the more space there is between rings, the deeper the blast can usually go and the more easy it it to precisely aim the blasting nozzle. Tight rings like mine displays are a more difficult nut to crack, and in truth they usually produce underwhelming sandblasts – typically being fairly shallow though quite detailed. Finding a block that is soft enough between the rings to allow any depth to the blast, even when they are this tight, is a rare wonder indeed!