Speaking of Wood: Brandon Brooks

Welcome! I’m really excited because this is the first installment of a new interview series I’m calling “Speaking of Wood”. The goal of this interview series is to highlight the work and careers of carvers, turners, luthiers, box makers, general wood workers, and other similar creators. I want to focus more on their process, how they think about creativity and being creative, and to give them a chance to explain their craft for all of my readers.

For this first edition, the creator I’m interviewing is Brandon Brooks from Georgetown, Kentucky. Below are the questions I asked him and his answers, along with several pictures of his creative and unique pipes. When you’re finished reading the interview, please take a second and check out his website!

Interview with Brandon Brooks

D·M Woodshop: What is your name? If you have a business name and website what is the Internet address?

Brandon Brooks: My name is Brandon Brooks. My business is Brandon Brooks Pipes, and you can find me online at www.brandonbrookspipes.com.

DMWS: Where are you located?

BB: I’m located in Georgetown, Kentucky.

DMWS: Do you have any other major interests besides woodworking?

BB: Music of just about any style. I am a percussionist by training.

DMWS: How long have you been woodworking, and what was your first experience with it?

BB: I’ve been making pipes for over 10 years. I would say 2015 was around the time I started to get more serious about it though. My earliest experience with wood working was repair work to drums and percussion equipment and at one point was making drums.

DMWS: What kind of woodworking projects do you primarily do? Why are you drawn to this kind of woodworking?

BB: I primarily make pipes. I also make pipe tampers and pipe stands. About a year ago I also started making conducting batons. I’m drawn to it because I like the idea of functional art. They are small usable sculptures.

DMWS: Are you an “unplugged” woodworker or do you use power tools? What is one (or more) of your favorite tools?

BB: I use any means I deem necessary for a given project. Most pipe work involves both machines and hand work. I have two lathes and an air compressor I couldn’t live without.

DMWS: What are some things (may or may not be tools) that make up your ideal shop space?

BB: Work flow is key. I have work stations set up for the various stages of making pipes. Also, every tool has is place that it lives.

DMWS: Who are some woodworkers who have had an impact on your work or your woodworking education? These can be people from any style or branch of woodworking.

BB: In the pipe world: Michael Lindner, Todd Johnson, Bruce Weaver, Steve Lisky, Scottie Piersel, Premal Chheda and many others. I’m always leery of leaving someone out.

DMWS: What would you say has been your biggest success as a woodworker? What has been your biggest struggle?

BB: I’ve been fortunate enough to be a pipe maker for over 10 years and have improved greatly over that time thanks to guidance and perseverance. I had one of my pipes chosen as part of the winning set of pipes in the annual Kansas City Pipe Show American Carvers contest in 2018 and again this year for the 2019 set. The wood most frequently used for pipes is Briar. It’s a finicky wood and can be stunningly beautiful or wrought with flaws. It grows in a rocky soil so it can have sand pits or even rocks hidden in the blocks.

The wood mostly used for pipes is briar. It’s a finicky wood and can come out beautifully or it be wrought with flaws. It grows in a rocky soil so it can have hidden sand pits or even rocks hidden in the blocks.

DMWS: What advice would you give to people who are just getting started in woodworking or interested in getting started?

BB: If you’re creating something like pipes where there are countless shapes, start with the classics first. It’s akin to music. Learn your scales so that you understand how to build off of that. If you start with classics, you can then understand how they influence more elaborate shapes. Only then can you effectively break the “rules”.

DMWS: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

BB: Find a mentor. Ask questions. Be receptive to critique. Use that advice. I see too many people asking for advice when all they actually want is a pat on the back. In turn, they don’t take the advice and their skills don’t really grow as a result.

Re-cap

Thanks again to Brandon for sharing his experiences and work. Please check out Brandon’s website and drop him a like or comment. I think it’s important for creative people to share ideas and build community, so this is one way I can contribute to that community. Thanks for reading and leave a comment to let me know if there’s someone you would like to see interviewed in the future.

-S.A.

Author: Sam Adams

I am a musician, educator, and composer based out of Kentucky. I also dabble in wood working.

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