>Working Together: In the pipe studio with Toku and Adam

>Here are some videos composed by Smokingpipes.com of my time in the workshop with pipemakers Hiro Tokutomi and Adam Davidson.

Part I

And Part II

Enjoy. Credit to Ted Swearington of Smokingpipes.com

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>Smitten with Silver


Handmade .925 silver band

Part of the intrigue of pipes for me was the challenge of learning to do something new.  Each element of the pipe posed a unique challenge.  From the drilling of the tobacco chamber to the buffing of the stem, every step in the process required a different skill that had to be learned.

I needed a new challenge once I had garnered a facility with the tools, materials, and techniques involved in pipemaking.  I learned to work with ivory, to source and use rare exotic woods, bamboo, and bakelite.  But all of these were learned very early.

Heating (and trying not to melt) the metal

One material I had long admired and longed to work with was sterling silver.  I have always loved the silver work on classic British pipes and extraordinarily elegant usage by the Danes, S. Bang in particular.  After doing a considerable amount of research on my own, I picked up the phone and called my friend, pipemaker Brian Ruthenberg, for some personal tele-instructions.  With Brian’s help and encouragement I tooled up the shop, cleaned off a bench, and started to hand-work the metal.

Hammering the ring flat

In all honesty, I could have used pre-made silver rings and bands and they probably would have looked fine.  But I make high-grade pipes entirely by hand, and they are expensive.  I could also use pre-formed stems.  But I don’t.  I choose to make every part of my pipes with my own hands, from the choosing of the block to the final buff.  Each step is undertaken by me.

Buffing the filed and sanded ring

Every new technique  involves a learning curve, and this was (and will continue to be) no exception.  My first attempt at heating nearly ended in a pool of molten silver…now pool of scrap, useless for pipemaking.  Lesson learned.

Polished and ready for briar

Like each material I use, silver is ideal for high-grade pipes for its beauty and expense.  For this same reason, I also will offer gold, palladium, and platinum for custom orders.  The addition of silver to J. Alan pipes offers to collectors a new feature customized to the design of the pipe.

Elegant Flush silver inset into stem

Precious metals are now available for all J. Alan custom ordered pipes.  Additional information about specific applications can be acquired by contacting me.

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>2nd Annual Pipemakers’ Meetup

>Folks, as many of you know I spent the last week driving around the Carolinas and Virginia. October is the annual C.O.R.P.S. pipe show in Richmond and like last year I flew into lovely Myrtle Beach to make the trip with my U.S. dealer, SmokingPipes.com. Once the event concluded we returned to their South Carolina home base and spent some time hanging out.

Last year Toku and I worked together to make a set of pipes, beautifully presented in a handmade display case by Adam Davidson, to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of SmokingPipes. Here are the pipes:
And a shot of the pair in the Davidson-made case:
This year, the three of us reunited in Adam’s pipe studio to collaborate yet again. This time, though, all three of us will be joining together to contribute pipes to the set. The SmokingPipes team was there to document the event and created a great video for all of you to enjoy.
They have also posted to their blog a description of the event along with a series of photos allowing each of you the opportunity to spend some time with us in the workshop. Head over to their blog to see it.

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Another year has come and gone. Another relaxing summer season. Another jolting realization that Richmond was around the corner. Another case full of briar. Another airport. Save the last one, most of the events are welcome annual events; moments in a pipemaker’s life.

So here I sit in the airport in San Diego. Weeks of materialized labor sit by my side and I sip a local Stone IPA in preparation for the dreaded Red Eye to the east coast. I think about how this the last Stone I’ll have for a week–how I don’t think I’ll be able to find it’s equivalent where I’m going. This is, I have come to know, the bane of the existence of West Coast residents. There is much to love about our lovely region of the country. The ocean, the weather, the beer and wine, the palm trees… I love where I live. But the travel can be horrible. Lest this sound overwhelmingly negative, I should state that I fly just infrequently enough that the travel schedule is noticeable. We’ve got two choices: leave at the crack of dawn to make our destinations by local lunchtime, or leave at dusk or later–so that we can arrive at the crack of dawn. Noting that both options contain the crack of dawn while only one pairs it with a late night, I should have chosen more wisely.

All lamentation will be forgotten, though, when I land to be greeted by friends. I have been so fortunate to be part of a business in which I build true relationships. Standing in wait for me at the Myrtle Beach airport will be one of my friends from the SmokingPipes.com team. Maybe Sykes, or Adam, or even Susan. But they are friends, and instead of going to meetings and dressing up, I will spend time with people whose company I enjoy. We’ll share stories, photos, food, and drink. We’ll catch up.

And this will be repeated on a grander scale when we arrive in Richmond, to the familiar (dare I say, beloved?…let’s stick with familiar) Koger Holiday Inn where I suspect that the C.O.R.P.S. team will have yet another excellent event schedule for all of us pipe kin. I’ll have the chance to meet up with pipemaker friends, pipe collector friends, vendor friends, tobacco blender friends. How few enemies we have in this business. And how many friends.

I love my job. I never knew that it may be possible to feel this way. But I do. I love it. And I’m grateful to all of the pipemakers who helped me, the customers and retailers who took me under their wings to mentor me. It’s sappy, and it’s not even thanksgiving, but if you’ll suffer my gushing emotions for a moment longer I’d appreciate it! I love to create; to take a piece of crescent shaped wood and to cast upon it and help it realize a vision. I love to end my day having made something that was not. How fortunate I am. And how grateful to all of you who make it possible. If getting to do this means that I have to suffer the night flight now and again, then bring it on. What can I say?



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>BBQ with Low Country Pipe and Cigar


Check it out!
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>Visit with and tour of SmokingPipes.com

>Hey folks,

I arrived in South Carolina this morning to be greeted by the fine people at SmokingPipes.com. They are fantastic people, the premier pipe retailer in the US, and wonderful hosts. Here’s a quick video mockup/tour of their building which has been featured in Pipes and Tobaccos magazine several times.
Thanks for looking and watch for some more videos from this show.
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>Pipe Shaping–Video Blog #5

>Hey folks,

This summer has been full of good news for us. We closed on and moved into our new home after the Chicago show, and have been occupied with its renovation ever since. Of course, I’ve been making pipes, but most have been on a commission basis, or for my dealers around the world. I’ve had a number of comments from people over the past few months asking when I’d be posting a new video. Well, today is the day. The shop is usable, but not pretty. But it is useful enough that I can demonstrate pipe shaping.
I also have two new pipes that will be added to the web showroom of the site this week. One is a sandblast and the other a smooth. So watch for those!
You will be able to view the video in standard resolution and as high as 720p HD. So, hopefully this enhanced quality will make the videos more enjoyable.
Thank for watching.
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>Has it really been that long?!

>Over the past few weeks I’ve received some subtle (and some less-so) nudges from customers and friends about my silence on the blogosphere recently. I have to admit to you all, I haven’t visited my blog for months. Of course, I did not realize it had been so long. When I logged in to make this brief post I discovered just how long it had been!

With apologies out of the way now, I can tell you all I really have been busy. Those who follow my twitter feed (and for those who like near-instant gratification, the twitter feed is the place to go) know that new pipes have come and gone regularly. I’m truly grateful for the attention and support that our small community has offered to me and my brand. All too few people wake up in the morning and can’t wait to go to work, or think about work (in a positive way) all weekend long.

Just to prove it to you, I’ve posted a new pipe to the website. Please cruise on over to the showroom to see it.

So, yes, I’ve been active. But, no, you’re right, I have not been actively typing. Expect to see some new posts and videos in the coming weeks and months leading up to the annual gathering in Chicago.

Until next time (whenever that may be),


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>Video Blog Episode #4 — C.O.R.P.S. Show Preview


Sorry for the delay, folks. Business has been busyness lately. I’ve recorded a lot of video for future episodes, but wanted to get this one out to you all before heading to Richmond this week.



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>Main Site Down Temporarily


My apologies to all. www.jalanpipes.com is having some technical difficulties and will be available again in the morning at ~9am EST. Thanks for your patience.
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