WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Take the patience and attention to detail of an auditor. Fold in an interest in woodworking. Combine with a chance meeting with a part-time professional pipe maker willing to serve as a mentor and tutor. That’s the recipe that started Mark Spell, internal auditor at Allegacy Federal Credit Union in Winston-Salem, N.C., on his hobby of crafting pipes just over two years ago. He had collected and smoked pipes for some 20 years. Then he purchased a pipe making kit and was on his way on to a new hobby. Spell’s work has been featured in Pipes and Tobaccos magazine. His pipes are retailed at Pipe & Pint in Greensboro for $175 up to $400 and even more. But he hasn’t quit his day job. Rather than rushing to complete a pipe, Spell takes his time. He estimates it takes from 10 to 20 hours to complete a pipe, time that stretches over weeks and months as he grabs the opportunity to pick up his files, sandpaper and other primarily hand tools. “I haven’t taken on any custom work,” he explains. “In a lot of instances the wood suggests a certain carving would be appropriate. However, some pipe makers have a design in mind and find a piece of wood that will work with that design. “Sometimes it can take years to find the right wood. If you’re going to make a rusticated finish on a pipe you can use pretty much any block of wood, because the surface is going to be rough like coral.” What is the most difficult pipe to craft? They all present their own challenges, Spell answers. With a bent pipe, sometimes the engineering of the airways can be a challenge. But when a problem arises, there’s almost always someone to consult. “Worldwide, there’s a mini-explosion of pipe making as a hobby,” Spell says. “But it’s friendly competition. It’s sort of like credit unions.” [email protected]

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