Precision’s Workbench

Adventures in Smoking Pipe Repair and Restoration

Faster Turnaround in the Works

30th May, 2008 by gmdibos in General

First off, my apologies for not having more frequent blog entries. It is difficult to justify writing articles when customers are waiting for their pipes, I’ve discovered.

This entry isn’t to describe a project or procedure, but simply an announcement regarding that backlog. I underestimated how quickly the Internet would allow word about the shop to spread, and the volume of incoming work soon outpaced my ability to turn it around immediately. As the backlog grew, I felt the fairest way handle the incoming boxes was in the order received, and only a few were kept open at a time to avoid confusion. Several months of doing work in that strict first in / first out manner revealed it wasn’t the most efficient. Not knowing until a box was opened that an unusual color of stem stock needed to be ordered—a wait that could have happened while the pipe was working its way to the head of the line—is a good example. It also became clear that in the course of a day short “windows” of time occasionally occurred where a quick-and-easy repair could have been performed without delaying the major projects.

So, a wall of shelving was installed and and filled with removable, numbered, mailroom-style sorting trays, and all incoming boxes will now be opened and unloaded into them immediately. This should permit a “triage” sort of assessment, and (hopefully) more efficient net throughput for the shop.

What I really need, of course, is a full time office manager / packer / un-packer / scheduler / bill payer / errand runner / e-mail answerer that would let me stay in the shop all day, but no luck so far. ;-) Until then, I’ll just have to keep tuning the overall system for optimum efficiency.

As of this writing, turnaround is about four weeks, and I’m determined not to let it get any longer.  Things like Greg Pease’s appraisal, the recent Chicago show, and (the latest) a mention in P&T magazine, are conspiring to make that goal as difficult as possible, however. :lol:

My profoundest thanks to all who have waited for their pipes so far, both finished and returned over the past months, and those still awaiting work. Your patience and understanding is greatly appreciated.

Hand Carved Stems — Is Rod Stock the Only Way?

23rd December, 2007 by gmdibos in Stem Replacement

When the subject of stems comes up, a debate between those who prefer one material or the other—Lucite or vulcanite—usually follows, but the issue never gets settled. Like two people who own exactly half of the properties in a Monopoly game, each has enough fans to keep the dispute going forever.

Shift the topic to the method of creation—carved versus molded—and it’s the other extreme: Virtually unanimous agreement that carved is superior. The perception is that they are sleeker, more comfortable (thinner through the bite zone), more elegant in contour, and better finished. Their being considered “better” is such a slam dunk, in fact, most smokers wouldn’t think twice if they had their choice for the same price when buying a pipe.

Like many things, however, concept is what is sold, but an example is what you buy. A carved stem doesn’t necessarily have the attributes listed above. In fact, because they are labor intensive to make, the same time consuming details that make them potentially superior are often the ones that get omitted or overlooked. Personally, I’d much rather have a well fitted and finished molded stem than a so-so carved one.

There is also a third, “hybrid” category that’s not frequently seen…

(read more…)

The Wally Frank cavalier — from basket estate to centerpiece

2nd November, 2007 by gmdibos in Refurbishing

Pipe repairmen perform many tasks for their customers, but few match the satisfaction of saving a fine old pipe that’s been so neglected that many smokers would discard it. The key is knowing the difference between abuse and neglect. While there is some crossover—some types of neglect can indeed cause damage—often a pipe is structurally fine “underneath” its rough appearance.

The owner of the Wally Frank cavalier that’s the subject of this refurb project knew the difference. He picked it up on the estate market for a song, emailed to see if I agreed with his assessment, and dropped it in the mail.

The Patient

That’s it, pictured to the right. Items of note are that the stem is not salvageable, and must be replaced… (read more…)

Welcome to Precision’s Workbench

19th October, 2007 by gmdibos in General

Hello, and welcome! Since the most logical subject for a blog’s first entry is an explanation of what it will be used for, here’s a good analogy: A few years ago there was a morning TV show with a recurring segment called, “Everyone Has a Story.” The gimmick was to throw a dart at a map of the United States, and then interview someone chosen at random from the town nearest to where the dart landed. A reporter would travel to the town and simply call from the phonebook until a willing participant was found.

“Don’t worry that you don’t think you have a story,” the reporter would have to assure him, “You do.”

Indeed they did. Always. Some brilliant television was the result.

Most pipe smokers and collectors, I’ve discovered, don’t think there’s much to briar repair and restoration, when they think about it at all. One reason is it tends to happen out of sight, I suppose, and another is because “repair work” in general brings to mind getting one’s automobile, plumbing, or teeth fixed. Unavoidable annoyances. Consider, though, watching a team of expert mechanics and fabricators bring an old Bentley back to life, step by step, from a neglected relic to a Best in Show winner. TV shows have been made with that as the subject as well, and they’ve been hits. The old car absolutely “had a story.” (read more…)