A Ramses Commission: The Journey
A fun and tense part of my work is commission work. Recently I took on a Ramses commission for a customer. The Ramses design was originally designed by the great Bo Nordh. Bo was the original creator of the Ramses shape. This shape is very difficult for many reasons. Probably the most difficult for me is the drilling. The drilling angles are so steep that it’s very easy to drill wrong and either have the draught hole enter the chamber way too high, or have it end up being oblong making it too big.
I can easily spend an hour at this stage, fidgeting with angles, widths, measurements and so on just to make sure it’s perfect. As my grandfather always said, “Measure twice, cut once”. I think I measured this a dozen times, just to be sure. But in the end, it’s worth it. The drilling happened as planned, a nice size draught hole at the bottom center of the chamber. Here’s a pic of it drilled.
Now that it’s drilled it’s time to fit the stem. All of my stems are hand cut. This one will be a saddle stem created from ebonite. Shaping without a stem attached for this kind of pipe is typically counterproductive.
Ok, I have a snug fitting stem cut so it’s on to the part I love the most, the shaping! This is the second most difficult part of this particular pipe. All of it has to be done by hand and a Ramses has a number of curves, lines and facets, all of which have to pace nicely together.
The back side of this Ramses is curved almost like a surf board, while the bowl has a similar shape to a jet engine on a 747. The two have to come together as one piece. If placed right in the block, the grain will start from the back (surfboard) leaving a wonderful birds eye across the entire plain, and stretch all around the sides of the bowl (jet engine) finishing in a birds eye across the belly of the front. With the right block of wood, this can have a wonderful effect.
Before doing too much more work on the stummel, it’s time to get to work on that stem. Saddle stems finish this shape off nicely, but take a bit more work to open them up properly so that they smoke open and free of resistance. This is a process that can easily take me an hour to complete.
Rough cut of the stem…
After about an hour of sanding, staining and polishing, here’s the final product…