Bacchus' Calumet




About: I made a beer mug with only a knife & a hatchet. I think that says a lot about me.

I called this Instructable originally 'Crazy Horse's Calumet'. But, some members mentioned the 'abusive' use of this Lakota name. Since I never wanted to offend or provocate anyone I decided to change the title. It became 'Counterfeit' Calumet.
Member Joni - see comments - told me that this pipe would surely be loved by the god Bacchus. Touched by his story and wiseness I changed the title one more time. Thanx Joni!

Why a peace-pipe?

My best friend asked me to be his witness at his wedding in a couple of weeks.
His wedding will be very customised and inspired by ancient traditions, he told me.
There will be smoke, streams of beer and a lot of nude people, I understood ;-)
(maybe I understood wrong).

What to offer? Always a difficult question...

My friend's callname (for insiders) is 'Crazy Horse' and all his life he's being passionated by Native American's culture. Inspired by Dances With Wolves - remember that goodbye scene at the end? - I thought about offering him a calumet aka peace-pipe, as a symbol to wish him and his brandnew wife good luck on their mutual way.

The handle was easy: I thought immediately about olive, one of the most beautiful wood-species ever. Nice to find, nice to handle, nice to see.

The pipe-head was more complicated, since I don't have pottery or stone-carving skills.

Why not iron, I thought? Okay, I'm not a professional welder but welding a calumet is within the limits of everyone...
(If you read the comments below you'll see that this item caused a lot of controversy. Even if it's for decorative use, I didn't know that the use of iron in calumet-building shouldn't be take lightly. I like the combination of iron and metal in an artistic way and that's how I see this calumet: a piece of art with no functional or ceremonial use. Keep this in mind, it's artwork.)

This project turned out to the most heavy calumet ever (almost 5 Lbs). This calumet is yak-proof, believe me!

And for all it's big fun to make!


NOTE: I've build this pipe as if it was smokable and in every step I tried to find the appropriate solutions for this use. If anyone would really build a pipe to smoke (using stone or pottery): you'll find some ideas in the following steps.
This artwork is for decorative use only!!! I used a lot of metal and glue and heating this stuff can cause severe health damage.

You'll need:
- a log
- saw, drill, drill bits
- plane
- angle sander
- band-sander
- some pieces of iron pipe
- welder
- angle-grinder
- safety gear

Step 1: Raw Shaping the Handle

I didn't have a lot of time because the wedding is in a couple of weeks.
Since I decided to make the handle in olive - it would have been a lot easier just to buy a beam of oak and play with it but doing concessions is not my cup of tea - I needed to find a piece of wood already dry.
Why working easy if it can be done so much more complicated?

Many hours in abondoned Southern France's orchards, I spent, until I found a dead three with exactly the log I needed.
I cut a beam of more than two feet long and went back home.

At work:

Plane the log into something straight and flattened. I didn't want a round handle, I wanted it to be ellipsoid.

This is no rocket-science. Feel free to shape it as you like!

Step 2: Drilling the Handle

The niciest part of the job!

Look for the longest drill you can find (I had one of almost 1 food) or use an extension for flat wood bits.

I used both. The traditional drill went a lot better than the flat one.

Clamp the log and start drilling (I used a diameter of 14 mm - half inch).
Use a powerful drill, and a lot of natural oil. Olive oil is just perfect!

Somewhere in the middle of the log I had a problem.

My bits weren't just long enough.

Cut a piece of the log, you'll say.

Again: I never do concessions. In a few minutes I made the longest wood-drill bit ever aka wood-harpoon - see my Instructable 'Wood harpoon drill': a flat bit, a tube of aluminium, some chemical anchor and ready for the drill!

Pay attention to evacuate the drill dust every minute, otherwise the bit may stuck in the tunnel!!!

The new drill made it through the end - powerful tool - and a tunnel was born.

Somewhere in the middle of the handle a hole appeared due to an old wound in the log. Plastic surgery needed!

Step 3: The Mouth Piece

For one reason I wanted the mouth piece to be seperated from the handle.

Drill a bigger hole in the mouth-side (twice the diameter of the hole, one finger deep).
Take a hole-drill and cut out a 'sigar' from a piece of log - I chose oak.
Inner diameter: same as a sigaret, sou you could easily put a filter in it.
Some sanding (put an axis in the center hole and sand on a fixed band-saw!) and the mouth-piece is ready.

This separated mouth-piece makes it easy to remove the filter after smoking.

Again: I'm launching the idea. This pipe will not being used for smoking.

Step 4: Tubing

To manage to problem of the hole in the middle of the handle I decided to glue an aluminium tube in it.

Put some glue in the hole, some glue on the tube (after having sealed one end) and smash the tube through the tunnel.

Let it dry.

Step 5: Plastic Surgery

Take some wood paste with the same color as the wood and fill up the wounds in the handle.

Let it dry.

Step 6: Sanding the Handle

Use angle sander and fixed band saw.
Go on mode 'manual' at the end.
I started with grain 50 and ended with 800.

Don't forget to sand a 'reduction' at the pipe-head end. This end will be fixed INTO the head later.

Step 7: Welding & Sanding the Pipe-head

I searched for some big pieces of iron pipe (diameter 2 inch).
YES THIS IS BIG - It's a multi-person-pipe, you know!

You'll need:
- a 'T'
- two muffs
- a piece of pipe with thread
- a male cap
- a smaller male cap
- a reduction

Cut the threaded parts of the iron pipe and use them to put this all together.

Welding time!

Remove the excess iron with an angle- grinder, add some more welds if necessary and end with a sander.

Finish the head with fine 'aquatic' sanding paper (600 to 800).

My pipe-head doesn't look perfect at all - the welds are 'dirty' and the sanding is not 'polish-level' - but in one way I didn't care because I wanted it to look 'old' & 'used'.

Step 8: Welding the 'bell'

A bell???

This iron piece wil serve as bottom in the pipe head. You need someting to hold the tobacco in place, no?

The bell is hold in place by the piece of thread in the head and should not be welded within the head. This will allow you to clean the head properly after use in case of a non-iron-nor-glue-build pipe.

Weld the reduction and the small male cap together.
Cut the upper part of the reduction.
Drill a hole rom the iside in the center of the bell, not too deep!
Drill a hole from the outside to become an 'L'-shaped hole.
Ready it is!

Step 9: 'Vinegeration' of the Head

I wanted the pipe-head to look ancient. Real metal-workers will kill me after seeing this work, but let's say that it's an old peace-pipe I'm building, it hasn't to be perfect.

And my welding level is not the same as my woodworking level ;-)

Rob O told in his Instructable 'Modify a Tomahawk' to boil the piece of metal in vinegar - thanx Rob!

I did. It boiled it for one hour in vingar and this process developed a black ashy patina. And it revealed all the welds, oops!!!

If you don't want to see the welds: don't do this with your artwork! I didn't mind, the head will be covered by straps anyway.

Step 10: Assembly!

Put some fire-resistant silicone at the end that'll go into the pipehead. Add some fire-resistant glue and glue handle and head together.

Let it dry!

Step 11: Oiling & Finishing

Almost ready is that calumet. All you need is finishing!

Use natural oil. Put it on the handle with bare hands and remove the excess with a towel.

Decorate as you feel it. I used some greased leather strap but I'm sure there are plenty ways to customise your calumet!

End of the job, hope my friend will like it!

Thanx for watching!



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    37 Discussions


    3 years ago

    Detailed instructable and great photos that has produced something your friend can be proud of. It is a work of art and I don't mind what you call it as long as you are happy with it. If it were for me I'd be glad to tell any and everyone a friend made this by hand and presented it to me as a wedding gift. Outstanding!!!


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Nice display pipe, and very good work. However, a few things need to be said here.

    The man known as Crazy Horse was Lakota, and his people are very guarded about the use of his name or its English translation. If you want to make a Calumet-inspired pipe that's ok but please don't call it what it's not, or associate it with what it doesn't belong with (eg, beer and public nudity). Perhaps someone like Thor or Hephaestus would prefer to be associated with a pipe like this.

    You said you used metal because you do not know pottery. However, the Lakota Pipe which inspired your design does not have a pottery bowl. The bowl is carved from stone. The preferred stone is red in color and soft in texture, similar to soapstone. Some Pipes use other types of stone in the soapstone family, depending on who is using them and what is available. Some other Native American peoples use pottery pipes, but the Lakota Pipe is made of wood and stone and there are reasons for this, symbolic as well as practical. Metal is not generally used on the Lakota Pipe except perhaps in small amounts for ornamental inlay, and there are symbolic and practical reasons for this as well.

    Although this is a very beautiful piece of work, I hope it would be used only for ornamental purposes, not for actual smoking. Iron pipe may be alloyed or finished with metals that are not suitable for inhaling hot vapors though, and it may get very hot. If people burn their hands and get hurt or drop the pipe, this would not be good.

    Sorry, I don't mean to be mean here, but I have some Native heritage (Choctaw Apache) and some very dear friends who are Lakota. My Lakota friends would probably say the same thing if they saw this pipe, although they may not say it as kindly.

    This is a very beautiful piece of work and I hope you will continue in your art. However, because of certain things I've been given to see and know, I feel I must do my part to help protect the Sacred Pipe and the name of the man they call Crazy Horse.

    8 replies

    Wow. I am used to hysterical safety schmoes, and I am used to hysterical "Indigenous authenticity" schmoes, but seeing them combined into one super-hysterical post has amazed and excited me!
    I wonder what your Lakota friends would say about wearing blue jeans and having electricity. Lsst time I was at Lakota Reservation I didn't see a lot of folks hunting buffalo with atlatls, but that has been 30 years or so, perhaps those folks have reverted to a more "authentic" lifestyle.


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Hi Jonipinkney! Same for you: thanx for your comments. I never wanted to disrespect Lakota heritage or culture.
    Therefore I decided to change the original title. I chose 'Counterfeit Calumet' to reflect the idea that it's not a traditional one.
    I chose to use iron because I wanted a result corresponding to my artwork-style. I love the combination of iron & wood and my friend's love for Native American's culture inspired me to build something highly personal.
    Hope this reply repairs the wounds or misunderstoods I might have created.


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Bartolo, I like your work, and I appreciate your thoughts. I am Blackfoot and Onandaga. I think you should do this again, but use cedar as it is sacred. You can get Pipestone off the internet, as any proper chanupa should be made from this stone, as the stone represents the blood, horn and hide of the many buffalo that died in order to provide us the sacred stone. Furthermore, something you might want to know is Iron or man made metal cannot be used in most sacred ceremonies. If you are to have a sweat lodge at the wedding, it would be wrong to bring iron into the lodge. I think you have skills, and think that you could do an amazing job at making a proper chanupa. Awesome job!


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    If you get Pipestone on the internet please be careful and watch your source. Technically, the stone itself isn't sold, as it's sacred; instead you're reimbursing for the labor of getting the stone out of the ground. (Kind of like how Catholic relics and sacred items aren't supposed to be sold, but one may buy the medals or reliquaries in which they're housed, or make the suggested donation to the religious order which takes care of the relics.) And, since power tools are not to be used in harvesting the stone, there is significant labor involved and the laborer is worthy of his pay.

    There's a lot of low quality Pipestone out there, harvested using power tools (jackhammers, backhoes, etc) from private non-native land near the Pipestone monument. It's mostly jasper, doesn't carve properly, and the energy is all wrong. It goes for very cheap, because it's low quality and harvested wrong.

    If you want real Pipestone, get it from a real Native American and expect to pay a decent price - around 10.00 a pound -- for his hard work getting it out of the ground. Only Native Americans with proper documentation can get permits to dig the stone from the monument area where the true stone is found, and such a person would know to do it right, honoring all the proper traditions.

    It's necessary to use all the proper traditions when dealing with Pipestone because it's very sacred. In fact some people prefer not to deal with it because -- and please forgive me for mixing cultural metaphors here, I know no other way to explain this -- Pipestone can accelerate one's karma.


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Thanx Chielscher and Joni. I'm learning a lot from my own Ible ;-)

    Knowing all that I won't buy any pipestone from the net. Somehow I feel having a debt and I'm willing to prove that it's possible to make a functional calumet in the spirit a calumet should be made.

    I haven't any single Native American chromosome in my body so I'll never pretend having build a 'real' one. It will never be the goal also, but everyone can do the best he can.
    I'm sure it's possible to make a pipe with local sources without the use of power tools. I'll call it a 'low-ecological-footprint-pipe' for example. Produced with only hand labour, without having killed and without having paid.

    We'll meet again!


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Yes, other materials are sometimes used to make the Pipe bowl, as long as the materials are natural. The Lakota (whose Pipe inspired yours) usually use stone, specifically Pipestone, but on occasion other types of stone (eg, soapstone) may be used.

    Other Native nations have other ways of making Pipes, always using natural materials according to their traditions. Some use pottery, antler, etc. In every instance that People has a tradition of using that material, as well as traditional ways of building the pipe. I've even seen hardwood used, there's a certain kind of very hard wood that withstands the heat and is used by one People to make pipes.

    Over on your side of the water fine pipes are made of meershaum, which is also a high quality stone rich in tradition. Also briar burl is used, which is of course a hardwood.


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Meerschaum I know, although I never liked it - with some materials it 'glues' and with others it never won't ;-)
    Briar burls I know either. More: a few months ago I digged a few of these burls out in the Pyrenees and these are drying now. Can't wait to start handling them!
    Thanx for all the constructive comments, we'll keep in touch!


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    I'm with you jonipinkney, I am Lakota. I was raised, and tough the old ways. (Probably should following closer.) I feel offended when I hear the name Crazy Horse being so softly. feel it would be blasphemy to use a Calumet, or even a Calumet-inspired pipe for any thing that be associated with "beer and public nudity" i'd assume if this guy followed that Lakota life and was wanting association with the old ways, there would not be much "beer and public nudity" and he would use the Calumet in a good way. Not for this. remember that it is a gift and so is the smoke, don't abuse it.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    That is a HUGE pipe ! irregardless of authenticity or lack there of I'm sure this will be a cherished gift (that hopefully wont become a weapon in a future spat!) Thank you for sharing

    3 replies

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    I had a similar thought on seeing it. In the event peace doesn't ensue someone is going to have a serious weapon.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    A nice build you and your friends should enjoy it regardless. Humans have been adapting the items from other cultures for there own use forever an d that's not likely to change you didn't set out to to intentionally upset anyone and aren't harming the physically. Anyone upset by this choose to be upset and the have no right to try to use there tradition to control what others do. By this time the celebration has passed, I hope it went well.

    1 reply

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Thanx for your support, heartwarming to see that most members have seen the good side of this pipe, instead of searching ghosts...


    6 years ago on Introduction

    I'd go to a headshop and ask them about making things smokable. They'd have the supplies for you to adapt to your project and more knowledge about making things to smoke with than you'd ever care to know.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Nice job mate! Wish I had some of that wood to make my pipes! Plenty of cedar here, birch & maple too! I even used the Sumac, it has a soft center pithe that comes out easily. Thanks for the great pictures too! As ever, Triumphman

    1 reply

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    You're welcome Triumphman. Let's say that our elderberry has the same caracteristics as your sumac. It has a soft center pithe as well that can be used in candles. This wood is also used by children to make small blowguns - so called 'pop'guns. Was, in fact. Now they're playing with X-box and Playstation...


    6 years ago on Introduction

    I agree the pipe should be made of natural materials! Check out mine. I have used what I found in nature and made the Kinnikinick (spelling is prob . wrong) from plants around my home. I don't inhale but enjoy the smell of the smoke! I have smoked to honor those Native Americans who have passed on. I have also started a large teepee from 18 ft. Dead cedar trees. Thank you Native Americans for your sacrifices! As ever, Triumphman