(A) the lever, (B)
the bench, (C)
the stopper arm,
(D) the stopper,
(E) the vice. (F) the lever
Gin press detail
Showing: vice with clamped mold,stopper arm
down and stopper in the mold
(left) metal rib for fettling,
two piece mold,
stopper, middle cut-off wire
The clay smoking pipe molds
The first molds were made
of wood, brass and later, cast in iron. It
is not easy to acquire original pipe making molds - wooden or
cast iron they are museum pieces - I am unable to assist you in
acquiring a mold . The original pipe molds can occasionally
be bought at auction but they are expensive. Mold making is
a specialised process. I made my molds from hard wood and they have
served to teach me the process and given me much pleasure. They
are not as good as the original cast iron molds which I have had
the pleasure of using, but they produce pipes that are adequate
for demonstrating the process.
At last! I am now in
possession of a reproduction pipe mold and stopper which
I have had made from an original that I was leant by a generous benefactor
and which produces good gin pressed pipes.
mold is in two parts, each piece being half a pipe longitudinally.
The mold has ‘natches' (keys) which are points that
hold the mold parts together in alignment – these
are protrusions on one face of the mold that fit into
matching hollows on the face of the other part of the mold
At the stem end of the mold there is an access way for a
brass or steel rod or wire for piercing the pipe roll. This
rod is approximately 1.5 to 2 mm in diameter. At thetop of the
bowl end of the mold is a slot, this is where the
surplus clay is extruded as the stopper is forced down by the gin
press arm into the top of the bowl part of the mold. After pressing
this surplus clay is cut off the top of the pipe giving
a clean bowl top. With the tools
and the clay assembled the making process
The clay smoking pipe
Prepared clay pieces of the right size
for the mold are rolled into balls. These balls of clay will later
be made into ‘rolls’. In practice the balls are not weighed out
but determined by ‘size’. I know from experience that a ball
of clay for my mold is a ball of a size that can be contained
between my index finger and the tip of my thumb and I make these
clay balls quickly by shaping them to this measure for this mold.
A ball of the right size for my mold
The clay balls are rolled into ‘rolls'. These
rolls are thinner at one end than the other
A roll prepared for the mold,
the mold is lubricated and the roll is laid in one part
of the two piece mold the thin end of the roll being bent into
the stem shaped end of the mold
A roll is pierced with a thin rod along the part
of the roll that will become the stem, care being taken
not to pierce the entire roll. The second
part of the mold is pressed down by hand on top of
the first. It is usually necessary to remove this
piece of the mold and fettle away the excess clay before repositioning
the mold so that the two pieces of the mold come together as one with
no space between them.
Roll in the mold. Note the rod is not
pressed right home.
- aligned by the ‘keys’ which fit tightly together,
is put into the vice on the gin press and the vice
is lubricated and positioned in the hole in the top of
the mold. The gin press lever is pulled down forcing the stopper
into top of the mold and pushing clay throughout the
mold This hollows the bowl. Excess clay is extruded out through
the slot (the slot is seen just above the vice in the
photograph) If there is a spur release, excess clay is extruded
here as well - (not all molds have a spur). The stopper
is withdrawn and the excess clay cut away at the slot.
Cutting off the extruded
clay with wire tool at the slot
The rod is now pushed through the final short distance
to join the stem with the now hollowed out bowl.
The mold is removed from
the vice and - if there is a spur release, the excess clay
under the mold is trimmed away. The pipe is removed from
the mold and the rod withdrawn. The pipe is set aside to dry.
Racks, called dozening boards are sometimes used to hold
the ‘greenware’ pipes.
As the pipe dries it will become
very fragile and care must be exercised in handling
Fettling is the process of removing
unwanted 'seam' clay from the pipe. Where the two parts of
the mold join a seam, or part of a seam, is left on the
pipe. The removal of seam clay improves the appearance
of the pipe. However, as mentioned earlier it is very easy to break
the greenware pipe especially during fettling. The seam clay
runs along the length of the pipe. In addition
to removing seam clay, the top of the bowl may be fettled
to give a smooth appearance. The spur beneath the bowl is sometimes
removed. It is a matter of personal preference, I prefer
to leave the spur intact. Once the pipe
is dry it is ready for firing.
To give durability to clay pipes
they need to be fired. Pipes may be fired through a pottery
group or sympathetic potter, but you should expect to
pay for the process. If you have access to a kiln you may
fire the pipes yourself, but you will need to know
how to do it, or enlist the help of a potter. It is beyond the
scope of this article to describe the firing process in detail. However,
some points are worth mentioning. When the pipe is dry
to the touch it will have shrunk between 5 and 8 percent.
‘Dry to the touch’ clay still contains between 20 to 25 % water.
During firing this water called - water of crystalisation -
will be driven off. It is necessary to drive this water off slowly
or the pipes will be blown apart by escaping steam. 100c is the
boiling point of water and therefore the first part of the firing
to this temperature is slow – several hours. Gradually the temperature
is increased over 8 - 9 hours until the final temperature is reached.
You may wish to fire your pipes to 900C, this will give a “bisque”
pipe. The fired clay will be porous as in a ‘biscuit’ and may adhere
to the lips. Waxing of the stem can prevent this adhesion. Pipes
fired to this temperature will have achieved some strength but may
be easily broken. 900c - 960C is the traditional firing temperature
for pipes. Pipes fired to a higher temperature ( 1100C) will be stronger
and may become vitrified depending on the clay , but may damage the
teeth! Your choice!.
Firing clay smoking pipes - turning raw
clay pipes to pottery
achieved the desired temperature, the kiln is shut
down and left to cool, a process that may take one or
two days depending on the kiln.
on mold design. Clay shrinkage is a factor in mold
design: the mold needso be about 30% larger than
the finished product!