The making of pipes
In the Netherlands the production of clay tobacco pipes continued till 1980, lately only for tourist purposes. The raw material for these pipes, white backing pipe clay, is not found in Holland but imported from Belgium and the Westerwald region in Germany. Before the actual making starts, the clay needs to be prepared, being cleaned of organic material and beaten till it becomes smooth.
The actual pipe making starts with the making of rolls in which the rough shape of the pipe is already visible. This is done by the so-called 'rolder', a boy or apprentice pipe-maker. The rolls have to dry for a few days, before the next step: moulding of the pipe. This is done by the master pipemaker who is called 'kaster'.
First this kaster pierces the clay with a wire, so forming the smoke tube. Then the wired roll is placed in a metal two-parted mould. While the mould is pressed together in a vice the bowl opening is pierced with a stopper. When removed from the mould, a smooth pipe is had. With a special type of knife the pipemaker removes the mould seams and cuts the stem to length. Again the pipes are dried for a few days.
Being leather dry the pipes are brought to the women’s workshop, where women and girls take care of the finishing. First they cut of the mould seams and make the bowl opening nice smooth and round. Also they stamp the makers' mark. Their lap serves to hold the three specific tools.
The best quality pipes are being polished to have a nice shine. This is done with a pin of agate that is moved along the surface of the almost dry clay. The women who take care of that job are called ‘glaasters’.
Now the pipe is ready to be backed in an ordinary potter’s kiln. To prevent discolouring of the fine white clay, the pipes are placed in saggars, covered with a lid. If this was not done the smoke and fire would discolour the pipes.
Back from the firing the pipes are ready to be sold. First they are checked on quality. The highest quality pipes are soaked in a wax-soap solution and rubbed with a cloth to have a perfect shine. Pipes are packed in wooden boxes and baskets. On the paper wrapper the pipemaker proudly presents his makers' mark, often framed with an attractive decoration.
All objects on this page are part of the Amsterdam Pipe Museum
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