Step up to the Mic : Pipes and Tobaccos Magazine

Step up to the Mic

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Nate King creates a special pipe

by Stephen A. Ross

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, as the saying goes. Indianapolis pipemaker Nate King has built a career on that adage. The former Indy car and airplane mechanic has drawn inspiration for his unique steampunk and gearpunk pipes from cast-off materials (such as a second-gear cog from an Indy car racing transmission) and other unusual materials. His Mic pipe, which he finished in time to display at the Music City Pipe Show in Nashville, Tenn., on Sept. 20, 2014, is perhaps his most creative expression yet.
When King was just getting into pipe collecting as a hobby, he spent hours scouring the Internet, especially eBay, looking for additions to his collection. In the past year or so, old microphones attracted his attention, and he bought several because he liked the way they look. Once they began arriving, King naturally started to think about how he might be able to make a microphone-inspired pipe, especially after the arrival of a pristine cast metal case from an Astatic JT-30 microphone, more popularly known as a “harp mic” because of its popularity with harmonica players. The particular case that King obtained had never been put into production, and King’s thinking began to change. Instead of making a pipe inspired by the microphone, he wondered how he could make a pipe from the microphone.
“It was months before the pipe show in Nashville, and I had the time to really flesh out the design,” King says, from the new pipemaking studio he shares with pipemaker Michael Lindner, just a few miles north king1of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to replicate metal fittings and the cord. All of the mounting on the pipe is aluminum from a racing shop across the street. I use a high-quality rubber—the same type of rubber we used for gaskets in racing transmissions—for the hose that carries the smoke from the microphone base to the smoker. It’s heat-resistant and won’t deteriorate from the smoke.”
King’s Mic pipe is built as a reverse calabash, and King used a high-grade block of briar supplied by Romeo Briar in Italy to create the bowl, which rests inside the microphone case. He cut open the case and removed some of the metal so that people can see the stunning bird’s-eye on the pipe bowl. Likewise, he made the microphone’s grill removable in order to make filling it with tobacco and viewing it much easier.
“I spent two weeks just thinking about how I could have the grill open,” King explains. “I attached rare-earth magnets to it so that the grill is secure but can be easily removed.”

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Category: Feature Article, Pipe Articles, Spring 2015

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