Chainsaw Mill

I’ve had a Granberg Alaskan Chainsaw Mill MKIII for a little over a year now, but apparently haven’t posted anything about it here. This isn’t going to be a detailed review or anything like that. I just wanted to post some pictures of my set-up. I will say that the Granberg mill is a well made, robust, easy to use piece of equipment. For what it is — a portable chainsaw mill — I have no complaints. Highly recommended.

I do wish that Granberg’s EZ Rails (which can be used to make the first cut) were cheaper. I am mostly using my mill to make lumber for timber-frame construction. As such I often need beams of 14′ or longer. The 9′ plus 5′ EZ Rails would cost me about $400.

I initially made my own level-adjusting rails using 2x4s and some aluminum stock. However, the 2x4s have warped and I no longer use them. Instead, I made new rail brackets with integral quick clamps (see the photos) that work with an aluminum ladder. This set-up works quite well, though I am limited to milling logs about 13′ in length by the 14’/28′ extension ladder parts I currently have (I could get a 16’/32′ ladder, but can’t justify the $300 expense). I always find that the set-up for the first cut takes quite a bit of time. And since I am making squared timbers, I have to do the first-cut set-up twice.

I run my mill with a Husqvarna 395 XP (7 hp) chainsaw, a 36″ bar, and skip-tooth chain. Before I got the bigger saw, I ran the mill with a Husqvarna 545 (3.35 hp) chainsaw, a 24″ bar, and a chain modified for ripping. However the 545 didn’t have enough power to efficiently get through logs bigger than 8″ diameter. The 395 has plenty of power and I will probably never need the capacity of the 36′ bar/mill as trees just don’t grow that big on our property.

Another Day In The Office

I took these photos yesterday. The temperature was about 7°C. There was zero wind, a bluebird sky, and ravens soaring through the trees. The snow is very deep this year (near mid-thigh in some places) and I had a bit of trouble getting the quad into the bush to get at the log I wanted to work on. I managed though. I like the system I have for hauling the ladder, mill, saws, and other tools in my quad trailer.

After milling the log I covered it up so it is not exposed to weather. It is down a small hill and I will have to wait a few months until the snow melts a bit to winch it out of there.


[table th=”0″]
Item,Granberg Alaskan Chainsaw Mill MKIII
Availability, or
Pros,”portable, well made, robust, easy to use”
Cons,”slow set-up for first cut, expensive accessories”
Summary,Highly recommended


I’ve seen a few nice handmade bucksaws on the internet recently and decided I’d make one.

I used a 21″ blade from an ugly metal commercial bucksaw as the basis of my saw. I had a small piece of ash that just yielded the frame parts I needed. I chose maple for the tensioning toggle because it is dense and strong and I had some thin scrap laying around from paddle making. I used some leather cord for the tensioning string.

The milling of the wooden parts was was quite straight forward with the design’s simple straight lines. The longest time was taken trying to decide how to make the blade mounts. I had several ideas, but the most straight forward seemed to be just to tap the handles to take a hex socket cap screw. The screws are easily tightened and loosened by hand, and even without using a hex key are quite secure when the blade is under tension. The crossbar is attached to the handle pieces with blind mortise and tenon joints which were quite fun to cut. The lower grip saw kerf (made by the bandsaw but only the top portion of which is needed to hold the bucksaw blade) is filled with a 3/32 inch strip of cedar which provides a nice accent (visible in the bottom of the close-up photo of the grip).

The upper and lower grips of the long handle are wrapped with rawhide cord using what The Ashley Book of Knots terms common whipping. This is the first time I have used rawhide on a project and am glad to have added it to my repertoire. (I bought some more ash to make a pair of wood and rawhide snowshoes!)

The maple toggle was simply decorated with a wood burning pen. All the wood parts are finished with linseed oil. The leather tensioning cord is coated with beeswax (for improved weatherproofness) and tied into a loop using the double fishermen’s knot. The rawhide handles are sealed with three coats of Helmsman’s spar urethane.

The saw quickly and easily breaks down into a small, light package. I have some raw canvas that I am going to dye and which I will use to make a storage roll for the bucksaw. I’ll post pictures of the broken down saw and tool roll after it is complete.


Knife Making

Thorgal Aegirrson
Thorgal Aegirrson

Shortly after I started collecting axes, my wife travelled to Norway. She wasn’t prepared to pack a Scandinavian axe in her suitcase as a present on her return, so instead she brought me a Brusletto knife direct from the factory in Geilo. When I received that knife I instantly got the idea that someday I would make my own knives.

I recently expanded my knife collection with Norwegian, Swedish, and Finnish examples from Helle, Mora, and Laapin Puuko. All of the knives from each of these manufacturers is a high-quality product. The quality and finish varies depending on the amount of handwork that went into each knife (the more handmade, the better). There are a few other brands that I would like to purchase knives from (for example, Roselli of Finland), but for now I decided to make a few knives of my own.

At my wife’s recommendation I recently started reading the Thorgal saga fantasy comic series. (Yes, I have the coolest wife ever.) I took the two main characters, Thorgal and Aaricia, as the thematic inspiration for my first two knives. For both knives I used 4 1/4″ Mora laminated steel blade blanks purchased from Lee Valley. Each knife then takes visual queues from its namesake: Thorgal — hand-shaped African Rosewood handle, polished aluminum bolster, and dark-brown handmade leather sheath with contrasting thread and nickel rivets for the belt loop; Aaricia — hand-shaped maple handle finished with linseed and tung oil, brass bolster, and dark yellow handmade leather sheath with contrasting stitching and brass rivets for the belt loop. Each sheath features a hand-carved cedar blade guard insert.

Aaricia Gandalfsdotter
Aaricia Gandalfsdotter

Each knife is a slightly different shape and incorporates features I’ve seen in various other Scandinavian knife designs. I quite enjoyed the process of shaping the handles (and it was a good excuse to get a new desktop belt/disc sander). Since the knives took shape in my hands, they feel very natural to hold and use. As nice as the commercial knives in my collection are, they were not custom made for my hand and therefore are a bit of a compromise in terms of fit, balance, and dexterity.

This project was also a good excuse to do some leatherwork. I am very happy with the sheaths for each knife. Each is as good or better quality than any of the sheaths that came with my commercial knives.

I have a few more Mora blade blanks that I will be using to make a more knives. Just looking for my inspiration right now. In the future, I would like to get a small forge set-up to make my own blades. I also want to make a crooked knife for carving canoe paddles — another project I have on the go right now.



How-to Hew Wooden Beams By Hand

I spent several days this week at the cabin collecting logs and hewing timber for a wood shed. I did most of the hewing by hand, though I used a chain saw on one very large timber for the first step. The process of creating a square beam from a round log, by hand, is quite simple though labour intensive. As my technique improved, the work got easier. But after three days in the forest, my body knew it had done some work.

Quite often when I am working on a project I think, “Oh, this will be a good opportunity to document the process with a series of photographs.” Inevitably though, I get so involved in the work that I forget to take pictures. This week was different. The work was hard and I had to stop every hour or so for a break, drink some tea, and enjoy the surroundings. And take some pictures. So here you go, a step-by-step guide to hewing wood, if you are ever so inclined.

I’ll assume you’ve already selected a straight clear log to work on. Green wood is easier to shape than dry wood. Steady the log on a raised platform using wedges of log dogs.

Take your time and enjoy the work. As Dick Proenneke said about building his cabin in Alaska, “you can’t rush it.”

1. Layout the beam dimensions

On one end of the log, layout the beam dimensions. You want the beam end centred on the tree rings. Start by marking one face plane with a level, then measure out the remainder of the faces. Repeat at the other end of the log, also making sure you start with a level reference line. Use a chalk line to mark a line from one end of the log to the other. This line shows you how much material to remove, and will be your reference in the next steps.

In the following photo, the blue chalk line is marking the plane of the right hand face of the beam. The material to the right of the line will be removed.

Hewing Wood - marking the beam dimensions

2. Score the log along one face, loosening or removing most of the waste

You will flatten each face of the beam in two steps: bulk material removal, and then fine shaping. For the bulk material removal you can use several methods.

The first method is to use a large axe and chop down to within about 1/8 of an inch your chalk line. You start at the larger end of the log and, making strokes angled forty-five degrees towards the smaller end, cut a series of notches 2 to 4 inches apart. In reality, you may need to make several passes to get the depth required. You can do the scoring while standing on the log, the face you are working perpendicular to the ground, or you can do the scoring while standing on the ground, the face you are working parallel to the ground and pointing up. The former method is less work (the axe swing is longer), but the latter method requires less balance.

The second scoring method is to use a chainsaw for the first pass. Again, make a series of cuts to almost the depth of your chalk like every 2 to 4 inches down the length of the log. After scoring with the chainsaw, chop out the material between the saw kerfs using an axe, starting at the large end of the log.

I used the chainsaw-method on this 18 inch diameter log. I did not want accidental chainsaw marks on the finished beam so I was conservative in the depth I cut, and made a second pass with the axe method once the majority of the material was removed. (Click on the pictures to see larger versions. The chalk line is visible in the larger versions).

img_3282 img_3284

Hewing Wood - material removal with an axe img_3291

You may notice that I broke of one corner of the beam by accident. This is not a problem as the raw beam has some extra length. I did find however, that the corners are the fragile part, both in bulk removal step and in the next step, so take a little extra care when working these areas.

3. Finish the face with a broad axe

A broad axe is a large faced, short handled, single bevel axe. The handle should be angled towards the bevel (to the right if you are right handed) to provide clearance for your knuckles. The thumb of your forward hand should be held along the top of the handle (not wrapped around) for added clearance.

For this step, you want the face you are working on perpendicular to the ground. Ideally the log should be positioned at about waist height. (In the forest it was hard to raise the logs this high, so I worked sitting on the log and had to position the face at a slight angle as a result, as seen in the next photo.) Stand beside the log and look down the face. Start at the smaller end of the log. Use the broad axe to shave the face down to the depth of the chalk line. Keep the portion you have already smoothed in front of you, using it as a reference as you progress backwards along the log. Occasionally step back and check alignment of the face using the chalk line and end dimension marks as sighting guides.

If the scoring in step two was down to a reasonable depth, it will be quite easy to remove the remaining waste. Knots will give you the most trouble. I had to chop out a few larger ones with a felling axe.


4. Move on to the next face

Once you have one face complete, make the chalk line for the next face and repeat until you your round log is a rectangular beam.

Once the beam is complete, you can further smooth the surface with an adze. This will give you a gently undulating surface and remove the majority of the axe marks. For an even smoother finish, you can plane all the faces that will be visible in your final project.



Rustic Table Accessories

In the early fall, the power company felled a couple of Aspens near the power lines at the cabin. I never like to see good wood go to waste so I collected it for firewood. The larger trunk pieces I left at the cabin, but the smaller branches I brought back the city. The bark on this wood has wonderful character and some of it found its way into one of my first hand-made pipes. I was re-stacking my wood pile yesterday evening and got inspired to make a few more things.

Rustic Candelabra

I have plans to use some if this Aspen as legs for some benches along some of the trails at the cabin. My brother had a set of Veritas Power Tenon Cutters which I will use for the joinery. I figured I should practice with the tenon cutters on something smaller before tackling anything structural. I got the idea for a rustic wood candle holder or candelabra. I picked a few pieces of wood from the wood pile and headed to the shop, completing the candelabra in about half an hour.


Rustic Salt Shaker and Pepper Mill

I thought this wood would be good for replacing our old, ugly salt shaker and pepper mill. I took the hardware from the old pepper mill and repurposed it. This was my first opportunity to use my new General wood lathe and OneWay lathe chuck. In retrospect I couldn’t have picked a harder project for my first lathe turning — green wood, and not exactly balanced. I’m quite happy with the result, though it took longer than I thought it would. The salt shaker was child’s play in comparison — a hole and counterbore in the bottom, a few small holes in the top, and a dowel plug. I polished the tops and bottoms with a buffer, and finished each piece with a coat of beeswax.

Rustic Salt Shaker and Pepper Mill 2 Rustic Salt Shaker and Pepper Mill 3

Eight Axes And A Knife

I’d previously written about my growing axe collection. I recently re-hung a couple of older axes and acquired two more Gränsfors Bruks axes. I’ve been meaning to document the collection and now seemed like a good time, even though I still anxiously await the arrival of my Base Camp X Artemis. (The Base Camp X Artemis has arrived and been appended to the end of the article. I guess the article title technically is “Nine Axes And A Knife” now.)

The axes (and knife) are presented in chronological order of acquisition. Click the pictures to see larger versions.

Man’s Axe (26″)

This is the first axe I ever acquire. I bought it at Canadian Tire when I was in university and doing a lot of car camping. From the beginning the head was annoyingly loose, though not dangerously so. Last week I finally got fed up and decided to either fix the handle or hang a new one. I drilled out the old wedge (which I think was bottoming out and not providing a tight fit). I managed to knock the handle out of the head. I sanded the black paint from the head and removed the lacquer finish from the handle. I affixed a new wedge and soaked the eye-portion of the handle in boiled linseed oil overnight. Then I covered the rest of the handle in boiled linseed oil and, finally, gave it a wax finish. I filed some nicks out of the bit and honed it to a razor-sharp edge. I haven’t had a chance to split any large pieces of wood with the restored axe yet. Time will tell if the new hang will remain solid.

I used to refer to this axe as a hardware-store special. I recently discovered the convention of marketing 24″+ axes as a Man’s axe versus shorter axes, usually in the 18″ range, which have been marketed as Boy’s axes. Though a bit hokey, I like the sound of these labels. Presumably, I’ll someday be giving my son (or daughter) their first Boy’s axe (or Girl’s axe), and they will know when they’ve come of age when they graduate to the Man’s axe (or Woman’s axe).

Axe - Man’s Axe Restoration 1 Axe - Man’s Axe Restoration 1 detail

Gränfors Bruks Swedish Carving Axe

My first serious axe and the beginning of an obsession. This single-bevel (right-handed) cuts through knots like butter. Choking up on the handle provides amazing control and thus held this axe can be used much like a knife.

Axe - Gränfors Bruks Swedish Carving Axe Axe - Gränfors Bruks Swedish Carving Axe detail

Iltis (Ox Head) Felling Axe (35″)

Time for some serious tree dropping power. The thin bit profile cuts through trunks and limbs like butter. Hasn’t seen too much action, as the wind does most of the felling for me at the cabin.

Axe - Iltis Felling Axe Axe - Iltis Felling Axe detail

Oeyo Liten Viking Øks

This little axe, measuring in at just 10.5 inches long, is a replica of a Viking axe and was a gift to me from my wife after a recent visit to Geilo, Norway. Honestly, I haven’t used it yet. It’s just too cute and may never touch wood, which would be a shame because it is wonderfully balanced and sharp as heck.

Axe - Oeyo Liten Viking Øks Axe - Oeyo Liten Viking Øks detail

Brusletto of Norway

My wife also brought back this awesome knife from Norway. Amazing steel. Amazing handle. Amazing sheath. This is a great utility knife which I have used mostly for carving.

Knife - Brusletto of Norway Knife - Brusletto of Norway sheath

Gränfors Bruks Hatchet

A few years ago I a bought no-name fiberglass handled hatchet. It works, but it ain’t pretty and the oversized plastic grip is not very comfortable. I didn’t really need this Gränsfors Bruks hatchet, but I wanted it. It sits by the fireplace and cuts all my kindling. It’s also so light it would be a great choice for a backpacking trip.

Axe - Gränfors Bruks Hatchet Axe - Gränfors Bruks Hatchet detail

Gränfors Bruks Forest Axe

This is one of my two most recent axe acquisitions. My frustration with hardware store axes led me to this all-purpose tool. I really debated whether or not to get it (okay, I didn’t debate that hard). It kind of duplicates the Artemis that is on its way, but has a totally different aesthetic. The grain of the handle is practically perfect. Someday I’ll own every one of  Gränfors Bruks’ axe models (see next entry).

Axe - Gränfors Bruks Forest Axe Axe - Gränfors Bruks Forest Axe detail

Gränfors Bruks Splitting Maul

This is the second of my two most recent axe acquisitions. A splitting maul is not a delicate instrument. It uses mass and an aggressive wedge to rip wood fibres apart, violently. We have a fibreglass handled splitting maul at the cabin. It works, but lacks in the aesthetics department, and, shockingly, the epoxy in the eye is cracking and the head is a bit loose.

I debated over the maul and one of Gränfors Bruks’ smaller splitting axes, which are about $50 to $70 cheaper. In the end I decided if you split 12″ diameter logs by hand, you want all the weight you can get. We do have a hydraulic splitter at the cabin, and that’s fine for when we have the whole family out working, fire-line-style, and want to fill the entire wood shed, but we run the hydraulics off the tractor which takes a few minutes to hook up, is loud, and, well, no one likes the smell of diesel exhaust.  When I am out alone I can split a couple of days worth of wood faster with the axe.

Axe - Gränfors Bruks Splitting Maul detail sheath Axe - Gränfors Bruks Splitting Maul detail

Man’s Axe (28″)

This axe belonged to my brother. It lives out at the cabin. He used to just leave it outside on the deck all year-round. It was always within reach when you wanted to split a bit of wood from the stack by the house, but it was also exposed to the elements more than it should have been. The head was horribly loose, and was affixed with a manky, undersized wedge that looked like it might be too small for a carpenter’s hammer. The handle’s lacquer finish was half gone and the handle was starting to split in a few places. The bit was starting to rust. The only thing the axe had going for it was that it was sharp. I decided to show it some love and get it back into shape.

Before heading to the industrial supply shop for a new handle I took a rubbing of the eye for reference. After I took the rubbing I realized how terribly distorted the eye was. The poll had obviously been used to hammer (or been hammered by) something very hard, like a maul. An axe’s poll should never be used to strike hard objects. The poll will start to mushroom (like this one had), steel chips may break loose at high velocity, and eventually, the eye will fail. I debated whether or not the axe was already too far gone, but decided to fix it up anyway, even if only for sentimental reasons. Honestly, I think the head still has quite a few good years left in it.

One whack on the knob of the handle and the wedge fell on the floor. A few whacks with a piece of wood were all that were required to drive the old handle out of the eye. I sanded the rust off the head, and touched up the bit edge (it didn’t need too much work). It took quite a while to shape the handle with a rasp to fit in the distorted eye. Eventually I got it right and hammered the handle home and fixed the wedge. Again, I soaked the handle in boiled linseed oil up to the shoulder over night to swell the wood and get a nice tight fit. The result is practically unrecognizable compared to where it started.

Axe - Man’s Axe Restoration 2a Axe - Man’s Axe Restoration 2b

Axe - Man’s Axe Restoration 2c Axe - Man’s Axe Restoration 2d

Axe - Man’s Axe Restoration 2e Axe - Man’s Axe Restoration 2f

Base Camp X Pioneer Artemis

What’s the saying? A dollar short and a day late. Well this axe came a day after I originally posted this article. Other than that I have no complaints.

The Base Camp X Pioneer is a substantial axe, with a 3.5 pound head and 30 inch handle. The handle is full-bodied. The knob is large and offers great control. The finish of the head is very nice, though the edge could have seen a little more care in honing. The black paint on the top and bottom of the head is a nice touch. I like the fact that the rest of the head is not painted. Let steel be steel. The finish on the handle is immaculate, from the metallic knob to the brand and wet-look lacquer clear-coat. A portion of the proceeds from the pink Artemis edition of the Pioneer is being donated to breast cancer research. Kudos to Graeme for a great idea.

Axe - Base Camp X Artemis Axe - Base Camp X Artemis detail

Other Goodies

I have a growing collection of other log building tools (broad axe, adze, draw knives, log dogs, etc.) that I didn’t feel needed to be documented here, but which may be the subject of a separate post in the future.


New Sculpture: Forest Home

I finished a new “sculpture” today. Okay, it’s mostly just a log I found in the river and which had been cut down by a beaver. When I was a kid my dad had a beaver-chewed piece of wood which he turned into art by affixing a brass plaque which read “Canada’s First Sculpture”. Very post-modern.

I found my log in a pile of driftwood on the Bow River near my house. I’ve had it in my basement for a few years. Every so often I would look at it and think about what I would make with it. I pulled out the log a few weeks ago and had it sitting near the stairs so it would always be in my periphery. I always need to think about a piece for a good long while before it starts to take shape.

I considered putting a brass plaque on my log, in homage to my father. I was at the mall this week and almost went into the engraving shop to order something up, but I still couldn’t think what I wanted it to say.

When thinking about the log, my mind always bent to where it came from and to the industrious rodent who cut it. What kind of tree did it come from? Why did it drift away? How long had it been in the river? Single words, like forest, and wood, where all that came to mind.

Then last evening, after a long day out at the cabin clearing the snow from the road, and collecting wood, my muscles weary, and my mind tired, I walked past the log sitting on the floor. As I looked at it I plainly saw the words forest and home in large, dark, block letters on the surface of the log. I had my idea. I tried out a few different typestyles on my computer and settled on Blackmoor, a blackletter font, for its blocky yet calligraphic shapes. I would use a wood-burner to brand the words into the log.

At first I had it in my mind that I would do very little to alter the surface of the log. However, looking closer at it on my workbench, I realized that the log was, well, rather dirty. Driftwood is not treated well. I used a wire-wheel on a small grinder to remove the surface dirt. I wasn’t satisfied. I sanded away the remaining dirt and grinder marks. As I did so interesting coloration came to the surface: purple algae, yellow wood, brown bark remnants. I smoothed the log with a spokeshave and then sanded and buffed the log to a glossy shine. It was really coming together. I used a wire brush on the ends of the log to remove the deeply entrenched dirt while trying to preserve the beaver’s dental marks that are the logs signature.

With a clean log, its wooden heart now fully exposed, I started carving the words onto alternate sides using a wood-burner. I love the smell of burning wood. The smoke smell lingering in the air and on my hands.

In the last step of transforming the log into a work of art I polished the surface with carnuba wax, again being careful to only lightly touch the gnawed ends.

I’m quite happy with the finished piece. It will sit nice on a cabinet, coffee table, or even the floor. The wood is natural, the words graphic and societal. Something that began life as a part of the forest, was cut down by an industrious animal for food or shelter, escaped in the chaotic mess of spring floods, was found amongst the debris and detritus of neglected nature in the centre of the Big City, and was turned into a symbol of usefulness and a reminder of the gifts that surround us.

Making My First Pipe

Ranger Pipe with Rivendell Leather Tobacco Pouch

In a previous post I admitted my new guilty pleasure — pipes. Besides the taste and smell of pipe tobacco, and the romance of smoking a pipe, I am also drawn to the aesthetics of the pipe shape for it’s own sake. Last weekend I made my very first pipe. I recently watched the Lord of The Rings trilogy (“LoTR”) and had become enamoured with the long-stem churchwarden-style pipes smoked by all the main characters. I decided to make my own.


As with all pipes, the stem of a churchwarden is as important an element in the pipe’s design as the stummel (bowl and shank). Sadly, in the pipe world, the shape and finish of the stummel get most of the attention. In all my on-line research, I could find very little information about how to drill a small hole (1/8 inch or less) in a long (12 inch) piece of wood. I had some thin scraps laying around from another project so I opted for a bent laminate stem. The stem is maple and the draft hole was manufactured as part of the lay-up process (i.e., the stem consists of a top skin, two sidewalls, and a bottom skin). I managed the final rounding of the stem with a spokeshave, file (for the bit), and sand paper. Because I do not (yet) have a lathe, I opted to join the stem to the shank using a hollow dowl — it was easier to drill a mortise in the stem than to carve a tight round tenon.

The bowl is a conical shape that blends simply into the round shank. I didn’t model this shape on any pre-existing pipes. It just seemed natural and fits my hand nicely. I wasn’t to trying to replicate a specific pipe from LoTR either. I just wanted something that might look like it was carved from available materials in the wild by an experienced but refined adventurer. [pullthis]This is not your father’s billiard[/pullthis].


The bowl was roughed out on the bandsaw and then hand carved, primarly with bent gouge and shallow fishtail gouge chisels (I recently acquired a basic set of round carving tools by Henry Taylor). I sandblasted a light texture in the chiselled hollows (a sand blasting cabinet is on my shopping list). The chiselled ridges and flat bowl top and bottom were smoothed and polished with tripoli and diamond compounds. The bowl and stem were brought to a nice shine with carnuba wax. I didn’t use any dies on this particular pipe — it’s au naturel.

I chose walnut for the stummel for several reason: 1) it is very hard; 2) I had some on hand; 3) I haven’t ordered any briar yet; 4) it provides a nice contrast to the maple stem. Most modern pipe bowls are made from briar, though other woods have been popular in the past (particularly orchard woods). Some eastern European pipemakers still produce pipes with cherry and pear wood (Mr. Brog in Poland, and Golden Gate in the Ukraine, for example). The current eastern European predilection for non-briar pipes may be motivated by sentiment, but in the past woods like cherry and pear were used out of necessity — during communist times it was nearly impossible to import briar.


It was a joy to make my first pipe, the Ranger. Other than the stem, which took a bit of thought, the entire piece came together quite easily. Ranger smokes very nicely. The long stem provides a very cool smoke, and I had fewer relights than with my Brigham Voyageur. I’m still breaking it in, but so far the flavour is very pleasant. The draft hole is perhaps a bit too large (not much resistance), but that could be fixed with retrofit in the tenon. It will be a while before I know how the walnut will hold up to the heat. I’m also a bit (no pun intended) concerned about how the bit will hold up over to time. If the bit wears out prematurely I can retrofit a vulcanite replacement without substantially altering the stem. This is not meant to be an everyday smoker. At 12 3/4 inches long its more of a showpiece to be smoked for fun.

Pipe Dreaming

In a nice instance of serendipity, Ranger has been paired with a leather tobacco pouch I made several months ago — Rivendell — and a tobacco called Bilbo’s Pipe. I swear, I am not huge Tolkienite or anything like that. Aesthetics are both conscious and unconscious, requiring both effort and effortlessness, and when things are meant to come together, they will. (P.s., don’t tell my wife yet, but I recently ordered a full set of  four LoTR replica pipes from The Danish Pipeshop.)

I think for now I am done exploring this line. In fact, I’ve started sketching a new series of concepts partly based on a more recent movie destined to become a cult classic — the Norwegian film Troll Hunter (you have to watch it — Blair Witch meets District 9, and its not based on a f@cking comic book). This new idea also came to me after seeing Michail Revyagin’s brilliant Troll Bulldog, though my concepts are not likely to end up as sophisticated. My jumping off point is a simple question — if a troll made a pipe, what would it look like. Not pretty, I assure you.

The Road goes ever on and on,
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

– Bilbo Baggins, from R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit


– Hans, from André Øvredal’s Troll Hunter