Past Work


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.



Pipe Q&A


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 pipe.


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 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.




Grading Q&A


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.




Purchasing Information


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 Billhäll 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 pipes.


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 request list.


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?
A: Absolutely!


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.




Additional Tidbits


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 1976.


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.