Raw Materials Q&A
Q: What do you use to make your stems?
A: All of my stems are hand cut from German Ebonite. I never use pre-molded stems
or stem blanks.
Q: Where do you get your briar?
A: I purchase all of my briar from Italy and age it a minimum of 7 years (after
it arrives at my shop) in the dry, high altitude Colorado air.
Q: How did you design your signature shapes?
A: They were not created on paper either in sketch or design study fashion. They
come about from working with the grain patterns in individual blocks of briar. Contemplating
blocks where no common shape seems to quite fit within its grain provide an exciting
challenge for me. Once I begin to see a trend in grain structure in several blocks
I start to visualize a fresh shape. From this point, I work with several blocks
refining the shape until it displays the briar's grain properly in each block with
only minor variations of the shape's theme. Once the shape has been proven to work
with several different blocks, I am confident it can be offered from this point
forward. One of my greatest pleasures as a pipe maker is to allow myself some freedom
to not confine my work merely to existing norms regarding pipe shapes and to look
for functional forms previously unexpressed.
Q: What are your drilling specifications?
A: I fashion my pipes from bowl to button to smoke freely with a more open nature
than the pipes I smoked in my youth, but not so wildly open as to offer an effortless
draw which delivers too much smoke with too little flavor in your mouth. I drill
my draft hole through the briar with a 3.9 mm drill, resulting in a draft of 4.0
to 4.1 mm. I drill the tenon of the stem so it is slightly larger than the draft
hole, eliminating any reduction of smoke volume during the briar to stem transition.
My internal stem design is painstaking and deliberately constructed to offer an
even flow of smoke and flavor by assuring no odd constrictions or interruption of
airflow all the way to the button. Stem design is one of my hallmarks, and I am
confident that all the time I spend here is essential, and translates into a better
smoking pipe for you.
Q: How do you complete the last inch of your stems?
A: I carefully shape a very deep "V" from the end of the stem to the 3 mm drilling,
which ends roughly one inch from the button. The reason I do this is to create an
even, uninterrupted flow of air. The draft hole must taper very slowly from the
draft hole at the bottom of the bowl chamber to the button where the smoke enters
your mouth. The key is the depth of the "V", and carefully forming it to taper from
the round 3 mm opening on the bowl end and flattening and widening last inch so
it will carry the same volume of air without restriction to the button of the stem
where it enters your mouth. US Patent pending, LOL.
Q: How do you make you bent pipes compared to your straight pipes?
A: I'm unorthodox in this regard and I drill all my bent pipes like straight pipes.
In other words, my draft hole, mortise, and tenon all line up in a straight line.
This allows me to never have to offset the mortise direction from that of the draft
hole, which eliminates the odd angles seen in traditional bent drillings, and therefore
the unnecessary need to interruption of the smoke flow. This virtually eliminates
gurgles and there is never a need to create "ramps" (also interrupting smoke flow)
to allow a pipe cleaner to pass. With my method, pipe cleaners pass just as they
do on straight pipes.
Q: Do you coat your bowls?
A: No, I don't. I've never understood bowl coatings. In over 3 decades of pipe smoking
I can say without a doubt that the vast majority of my favorite smokers all came
to me uncoated. Personally, I truly love the first few bowls in a new uncoated pipe.
Yet, there are several very fine pipes in my racks that were coated, so I am happy
to coat bowls upon request for those who feel more comfortable breaking in their
pipes with a bowl coating.
Q: How do you stamp your pipes?
A: My pipes are stamped "Will Purdy", "USA", and a four numeral stamp indicating
the year it was made. In addition, there is a stamp indicating the grade of the
Q: How do you pick a block you want to work on? Do you sort through many blocks
to find one that fits a shape you feel like making?
A: Never, ever, do I pick through briar. I let the block decide what shape I will
make, and I work on 1-3 pipes at any given time. I generally sand the sides of 8
blocks at a time, randomly grab 3, and give them a good look (often over several
days) and do my best to find the pipe shape that each black has inside it. Sometimes
a block gets set aside for a while, but usually a shape pops out pretty quickly.
Briar grows in the dirt and is always tossing mean little curves my way requiring
adaptations to a shape while the block is being shaped. It can be fun and challenging
yet sometimes it is a cruel medium in which to work, and, consequently, I have very
little hair left.
Q: Are there shapes you won't make?
A: I don't make 3/4 or fully bent pipes due to my drilling philosophy (specified
above) and I won't copy another carver's signature shapes.
Q: Is there anywhere I can read about you and your work?
A: Sure! You can search all of the online pipe forums with my name to get reviews,
comments, and opinions. Additionally, Neill Roan's blog A Passion for Pipes
has several references, and Greg
Pease has some comments
on his website glpease.com
as well. Also, I was honored to have a feature article, as well as the cover photo
of one of my pipes in the summer 2008, issue of Pipes and Tobaccos Magazine
the "Rolling Stone" of the pipe world.
Q: How does your Grading System work?
A: My grading system is based on grain quality and whether the pipe is smooth or
sandblasted. Pipes are graded from Turtle to E, with E being the lowest grade. Excessively
difficult shapes are indicated with an "X" symbol after the letter grade and are
priced higher. "ODA" and "Magnum" sized pipes are designated with a plus (+) after
the letter grade and again are priced at a size premium. The rarest and most exceptional
pipes are graded "Turtle," and stamped with a turtle shaped stamp and are also numbered
relative to their place in this series. Smooth pipes are offered in grades Turtle
through C, blasted pipes in grades C through E, the occasional rusticated pipes
in grades D and E.
Q: How or where can I buy one of your pipes?
A: There are several ways to purchase my work, but patience may be required. Currently,
I offer my pipes in four ways. Directly from this website, at my table during pipe
shows, through my dealer Per BillhÃ¤ll at
, and via the "request list" that I maintain from direct
contact from this site.
Currently my requests alone are twice what I produce. Therefore, I allocate my work
so each group of customers (site, show, dealer, requests) all have access to my
I allocate my pipes in the following fashion:
- Thirty percent are available on this site, with updates 4 times a year, on the
summer and winter solstice and the vernal and autumnal equinox.
- Thirty percent are offered at pipe shows (the Chicago and West Coast (Vegas) events).
- Thirty percent are dedicated to the patient customers on my "request list".
- Ten percent of my production goes to my dealer(s).
One final point of explanation of this allocation policy is that those of you who
that are patiently waiting for your pipe via the "request" list are encouraged to
keep an eye on my site updates. In order to keep my business balanced, the pipe
you desire might pop up on a site update before I have a chance to fulfill your
request. This won't happen too often, but my allocation policy will perhaps result
in you scoring your pipe via a site update before you have reached the top of the
Q: How many pipes a year do you make?
A: Working full time, with my picky standards, I offer around 60 pipes per year.
Q: Do you accept custom orders or commissions?
A: Yes, I do maintain a request list and am happy to do my best to create a specific
pipe for you. Please understand that patience is required and also be aware of how
my request list works in regards to how I allocate my pipes. (Please see the answer
to the above question: "How or where can I buy one of your pipes?") Once on my request
list, when I have a pipe finished that might meet your needs and your name has made
it to the top of the list for that shape, I will send you an e-mail with grade and
price specifics as well as a link so you can see measurements and photographs of
the pipe. If you like it, it is yours, but there is never any obligation on your
part, and I never require a deposit.
Q: How do I pay for a pipe that is available on the site?
A: 1) Simply click the PayPal logo adjacent to "Purchase this Pipe" on that pipe's
page. This will take you to the PayPal site where you can pay with a major credit
card or funds from your PayPal account. An account with PayPal is not required to
use a credit card!
2) You may also e-mail me to reserve the pipe (please specify which one). When I
read your mail, I will mark the pipe as reserved, and notify you that it is yours.
I check my e-mail frequently, but please be aware that the pipe will remain available
for others who might use method: 1) until you get my confirmation. Sorry, but there
is no way around this. Once the pipe is reserved for you, you may mail me a personal
check, money order, or cashiers check;
Q: Do you sell outside the United States?
Q: How much do you charge for shipping?
A: Orders shipping within the United States include shipping and insurance in the
purchase price. International orders are shipped Global Express mail, insured, for
40 US dollars.
Q: What if I buy a pipe on your site and I don't like it when I receive it?
A: Easy. You can return it to me within two weeks, unsmoked, and I will refund your
money. I do my best to provide accurate measurements and a variety of photos showing
many angles of each pipe in its group shot, but if you aren't happy, I'm not happy.
Q: What is the warranty you offer?
A: Your pipe is warranted against burn out for one year from purchase. Refunds are
mailed after the pipe is returned and inspected. Pipes abused with torch or other
high flame lighters are not considered defective, this warranty is void, and the
pipe will be returned to you. Please use matches, or an Old Boy or a similar low
flame lighter when lighting my pipes.
Q: What inspired you to give pipe making a try?
A: It was a temporary display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York that
Georgia and saw around the turn of the century. A tiny display of decades old utilitarian,
hand-blown glass containers was sitting in a room with of much fancier examples
of lead crystal and art glass works from the same period. Those simple, used, fully
functional and spectacularly executed artisan-made bottles really grabbed my attention
and my imagination. They probably originally held cod liver oil, vinegar, or hair
tonic but each one was beautiful and each one exhibited a unique flair as well as
an individual expression of the blower. Each was made by a person in the days before
molds and mass production of identical containers. I can't explain it, but they
excited me to the point that I just knew that "my bottle" was a pipe. They very
much informed my direction as a pipe maker. Unique commonly seen forms can
exist if an artisan takes the time to create them.
Q: Do you think the pipe smoking and collecting will be around in twenty years.
A: Without question! Pipes are special things. Privately, they become friends and
sources of pleasure, contemplation and comfort. This alone will keep the hobby going.
Yet, there is something equally important - the pipe community. Whether you find
yours by reading a pipe magazine or an online forum, spending time at a local pipe
shop or pipe club, or enjoying the fun, camaraderie, and adventure of a pipe show,
this hobby is fun and there are wonderful friendships to be made!
Q: Other than pipes, do you have any hobbies or other interests?
A: Yes, my current interests are my marriage to Georgia, traveling, reading, my
fountain pen collection, fly tying and spicy food. Prior interests were fly fishing,
back packing, cycling, downhill and cross country skiing, and political science
studies. I have also collected stamps, fly fishing books, bamboo fly rods, Michael
Simon's art, first edition Steinbeck novels and, of course, pipes.
Q: Do you smoke a pipe?
A: Although a few pipe makers don't, I certainly do and have been a pipe man since
Q: Any pipe smokers in your family?
A: Over the years there have been loads of them! A few of their photographs are
in the footer of each page on this site.