I whittle and carve when I’m bored the way people more intelligent than me read the news, or do Sudoku. Most of the time I’m doing that I’ve got a pipe in my mouth.
It’s seems like the idea would have come to me sooner. It certainly crossed my mind before. “Carve yourself a pipe”. The truth is, I didn’t feel up to carving something like that. The things I made tended to have a roughness to them. Serviceable, but certainly not pretty. I wanted to know for sure that with just my handtools (knife, cabinet scraper, chisels and sandpaper) I could still make a pipe that had curvature to it. It’s harder than it sounds.
I’ll admit, I cheated a bit. I found a kit with the bowl pre-bored, and the stem already shaped and drilled. The next one I make, I’ll do those myself as well now that I’ve got a handle on the process.
These little projects always calm my nerves, and they’ve been stretched pretty thin as I get ready to leave Maryland for the foreseeable future, for the second time in my life.
The shaping process was the hardest. I was concerned about using the chisels, in case I cracked the wood though to the bowl, and ruining the whole piece. So I found a middle ground with my 3/4ths chisel and took my time. I slowly pulled out a rough octagon, then switched to my whittling knife. Let me tell you, the edge I keep on that thing made it so easy to take off paper thin slivers. Admittedly, I did in six hours what a belt sander could have done in twenty minutes. Christ it felt good though. Seeing the knife shape the wood at a glacial pace, watching as each corner slowly turn into a slight curve.
The whole process took me the better part of the weekend. I get pretty dogged about my projects, so I carried the thing around in my pocket wherever I went. Chipping away little bits of wood, as little bits of time presented themselves. I finally got it down to the shape I wanted then switched to a cabinet scraper and some sandpaper. This is my favorite part of carving anything. The place where your hand slipped and left an unintended gouge? Smoothed away. That spot where you knicked your thumb and bled into the edge of the bowl? Gone.
After about two hours of grumbling at anyone who asked me anything, and snarling at myself when my hands locked up (as they are apt to do), I got the shape I wanted pulled out.
I’ll be honest, I am WICKED proud of this project.
I considered just leaving it natural, and clear coating the outside. I put it down and went to carve pumpkins with my family. I couldn’t make a decision on where to go from this point. Halfway through carving a witch into a gourd I remembered seeing a friend stain a little project of hers with blackberry juice and ash mixed together. I gave my family an Irish goodbye and went to buy blackberries.
I hope they’ll forgive me, but it was absolutely worth it.
It’s amazing how quickly the weekend past working on this. Which is exactly what I wanted. I’m in autopilot now, with such a short time till I get to go back where things make sense and start working on projects I care about.