Pearls – Pipes
Do you know how old a Freshwater Pearl Mussel may be? Much older than we human beings, 250 years – and about one mussel in a thousand carries a pearl. It is nowadays only to be found in six small rivers in Sweden and one of them is called Vram River. That this mussel is still living healthy there we have to thank the chips-manufacturer OLW for. You may think I am joking, but that is a fact. So I have a suggestion to all consumers of chips: buy OLW next time, and a few cents from each bag will help to keep this small river healthy. And in that way you can eat the unhealthy chips with a good conscience, and that is a good thing, no? The main purpose for OLW is that the freshwater mussel shall survive, but the Vram River also has other assets; there are a lot of salmons and crayfish in that river.
All that I was told one of the first really hot days in July when I was visiting Årröd, a place in the middle of Scania with a great natural beauty. My purpose with this visit was not to learn as much as possible about this river (that was an extra plus), and even if I was looking for a circus-wagon I did not intend to go to a circus performance. No, I was looking for that circus-wagon for another reason, and without too much trouble I found it on a meadow, not far from the earlier mentioned Vram River. On the outside the wagon looked rather shabby, but when I entered I found a comfortable and well equipped workshop. This is the working-place for the young Swedish pipe-maker Love Geiger.
Pipes in soapstone
Love Geiger made his first pipe in the middle of the last decade, but the material was not briar but soapstone. Love had just started smoking a pipe and for a young man with an interest in making things with his own hands, it was natural to try making a pipe for himself. The material at hand was pipestone. He made a few pipes for his own use and also some for his friends, but the pipes were not very good, they became extremely hot and were very fragile.
A few years later Love got a lot of vulcanite stems and a few blocks of briar from a friend. Love got exited and decided not to make any more pipes from soapstone. He looked for information about pipe-making on the internet and got in touch with the American pipe-maker Trevor Talbert. This was the start of an extensive correspondence over the Atlantic sea. Love had a lot of questions and Trevor Talbert was willingly sharing his experiences and knowledge with Love. In that way Love learned a lot and, as he says himself, he also learnt very much from all mistakes he made in the beginning.
I met Love for the first time about two years ago. He had just started making briar-pipes and one evening he paid me a visit and showed his first pipes. But since that visit much have happened.
A circus-wagon as a workshop
Love Geiger is living in a collective called “Moder Jord” (Mother Earth), started in the 70’s by his father (the gentleman who told me about the fresh water mussel). Here lives the entire Geiger family but also a lot of other people, more in the summer than in the winter period. As mentioned before the place is of great natural beauty and from what I understand, the people here are living in close connection to nature. They have a hydroelectric power station, a mill of their own, a lot of the wood used for heating is taken from the own property and they cultivate a lot of vegetables. As Love is very inspired by nature in designing his pipes, it is hard to imaging a more suitable surrounding for him to live and work in.
Last summer Love bought an old circus-wagon which he decided to fit up as a work-shop. He really has succeeded in this, it is spacious, all the necessary machinery and tools are there and it is indeed a very pleasant place. However he is not completely ready, there is one more room fit up and he is also planning to repair and paint the exterior of the wagon. It will certainly become a beauty even outside in due time. It is a pity that there is so little interest in pipes among common people these days, otherwise Love could have travelled around with his wagon to fairs and expos, selling his pipes and showing people how they were made.
During the fitting-up of his workshop, Love has several times been in contact with another Swedish pipemaker, Bengt Carlson, who has helped him to find suitable equipment, mainly the most costly thing, the lathe. And a lathe bought from a hardware store is not ready to be used for pipe-making. Some things must be changed and some complementary equipment must be made. Bengt has the right connections to have this done properly. I hope and believe that the connection between Bengt and Love will continue in the future.
Pipes treated with – alcohol
Today Love has about 70 blocks of briar of the highest quality in his workshop. All of these are from Corsica and stored for at least 3 years. But Love is not addicted to Corsican briar, he is willing to buy briar from any place around the Mediterranean Sea where he can find the best quality. Today I think this is a common view among pipe-makers – you buy the briar where the best quality is to be found. The earlier fixation to Corsican briar has disappeared. However, Love says that he wants to find older blocks and for the future, he wants all blocks to be at least 5 years old before he makes pipes of them.
So far, Love has mostly used vulcanite for his stems, but he also has a large supply of acrylic in different colours, which is used when he finds it suitable.
Most of Love’s pipes are in natural finish but they are treated in a rather special way. The pipe is put in 96% proof alcohol in which some tobacco has been dissolved. The pipe will darken a little and the grain will be more outstanding. It will also get a little piquant taste during the first pipe-fuls. But Love also has stains mixed by himself, used when he finds it appropriate.
The pipes are plain or rusticated. Love however has a strong desire to make sandblasting on his own and is searching for the necessary equipment. He has already tried with a sandblaster used for cars, and at my visit I saw a piped blasted this way. It was quite nice, but I realize it can not be done like that in the future – Love had to blast this single pipe for more than 4 hours.
Pipes with their own names
Love says it takes an average of 20 hours to make a pipe completely ready and he has no ambition to have a large production. The pipes are stamped with the logo seen in the beginning of this article. He has no grading system (at least not yet) but the pipes are priced 100 – 350 €.
Of course all Love’s pipes are entirely made by hand and he has no lust or intention to copy shapes from other pipe-makers. Every single pipe has a name of its own and these names are often both witty and imaginative.