GQ Tobaccos are one of the leading suppliers of Alfred Dunhill pipes for customers all over the world. We often get asked about how Dunhill maintain the quality of their pipes, which is what we are going to talk through below.
A preliminary examination of the wetted block shows the pipemaker whether the outer grain is straight or splays outward. If it is straight they will try for a 'billiard' shape with parallel sides. If the grain splays outward evenly, they could attempt a 'Dublin' shape, a cone that narrows down from the top. Some blocks will be tossed aside before the first cut which is the first step in Dunhill's 'natural selection' process.
For these handmade pipes, a plateau briar is used with the outer cut of the run having a rough, gnarled surface because there is a higher chance for perfect grain than using an inner cut of wood. The gnarled surface is always at the top of the block when you are cutting for straight grain. If it is placed sideways, this results in a cross-grained bowl with the tight little swirls, which are referred to as birdseye.
A sharp chisel is supported on a low T-bar mounted to the bench with the outer bowl cut to the size required. This is determined by a circle scribed on the surface with a sharp point. Once the outer surface is completed, a triangular blade is used to cut the tobacco chamber which applies continuous pressure into the top of the bowl. The blade will be supported by the 'horn' with no-drill, no proscriber, with the pipemaker measuring the exact centre by using their expert eye.
When the bowl is complete, the block is shifted on the lathe and a similar process of turning and cutting the shank is completed. The only difference here is that the shank is drilled later to create the airhole to fit the mouthpiece. A small guide mark in the centre of the shank is drilled for the mouthpiece maker.
Following a rough, sandpapering, the bowl is then inspected and joins a pile that either made or didn't make the cut.
Now the mouthpiece is fashioned and fitted to the bowl. They are individually made from solid rods of hard rubber which are seperately drilled, shaped and formed for every pipe. The mouthpiece is an extremely intense process which adds considerably to manufacturing costs.
Firstly, a hole is drilled through the shank to the bowl which starts at the guide mark finished when turning the bowl. This tunnel must emerge in the bowl so that the bottom of the tobacco chamber and the bottom of the airhole are at the exact same level. If it is too high the bowl base will accumulate excessive moisture, will gurgle and smell bad, whereas if it is too low it will not draw properly.
The end of the shank is mortised to a width of between 6-8mm and a depth of 16-18 mm which accommodates the mouthpiece tenon (typically 12mm long) which leaves a small smoke chamber between the end of the tenon and the beginning of the airhole. This chamber is intended to slow down and cool the smoke stream.
Once the tenon is fashioned, the mouthpiece rod is pushed into the shank mortise (although not all the way) so the airhole can be drilled, the rod sanded down to the correct size, the lip cut and shaped by file. The Dunhill 'White Spot' logo is drilled into the top of the mouthpiece with the whole pipe buffed and polished. If stain is needed, the background stain is hand-rubbed and then burned off and sanded so it remains only in the softer wood between the harder grain lines.
The pipe is later re-stained in a complementary colour, for grain contrast before its final waxing and huffing. At this point in the process, the pipe is now a regulation Dunhill and is set aside for the final approbation of the reigning monarch from Dunhill.
We hope you enjoyed reading our thorough guide to manufacturing Dunhill Pipes. If you have questions about our range of tobacco pipes, please do not hesitate to contact us today.