This pipe maker is giving wood a new lease of life by turning them into pipes

Zulkarnain Saidin poses with pipes that he made in his home in Chemor, Perak April 1, 2019. — Pictures by Farhan Najib
Zulkarnain Saidin poses with pipes that he made in his home in Chemor, Perak April 1, 2019. — Pictures by Farhan Najib

IPOH, April 5 — While some are turning wood into waste, Zulkarnain Saidin is trying to salvage them by turning it into pipes.

“Any wood that is heat resistant is good enough to be turned into a pipe,” the 51-year-old told Malay Mail.

Zulkarnain started making pipes about four years ago and he has made about 500 pipes, with half of them from the wood which are considered as waste.

“Sometimes, I collect wood which was swept away in rivers, thick branches that fall from trees, and wood which were thrown out by households,” he added.

“As long as the wood is hard and heat resistant they can be turned into pipes.”

Zulkarnain, who was formerly a news photographer for about 27 years, said the interest in making pipes came when he visited his hometown of Ayer Tawar, Manjung although he had been smoking pipes since he was in his 20s.

That was when he came across an odd-looking branch from a Jering tree, which happened to be shaped like a pipe.

“I did some research on the internet and decided to work on the branch. After a little carving, drilling, and smoothing, I ended up with a usable pipe. It wasn’t perfect, but that’s the starting point,” he said.

Zulkarnain said he posted the picture of the pipe on Facebook and received a lot of compliments from his followers and friends.

One of them then asked him to visit a pipe maker in Seri Kinta, Ipoh to brush up on his skills.

“I was a bit hesitant at first as I was only doing it for fun and I wasn’t good at it. But then I decided to visit the pipe maker and got to know that there is a lot more I need to learn.

“He agreed to teach me and it took me about two months to learn all the processes.”

Zulkarnain Saidin shapes a pipe using a machine at his home in Chemor, Perak April 1, 2019.
Zulkarnain Saidin shapes a pipe using a machine at his home in Chemor, Perak April 1, 2019.

He added that the most essential part in making the pipes was to ensure the inside of the pipes were balanced, which should be approximately in 90-degree angle.

He added that working with the artisan gave him the knowledge to know about the types of local wood that could be used to make pipes.

The suitable woods are Kayu Penawar Hitam (agarwood), Kayu Kemuning Mas (Murraya paniculata) and Kayu Arang Bunga (Diospyros spp).

He said that he gradually bought the necessary machines and accessories before setting up a small garage at his home in Chemor to make the pipes.

While it used to take him about two weeks to complete a pipe, he can now finish at least one per day.

He receives orders from local and foreign customers.

“What is unique about handmade pipes is that they can never have the same shape.”

One of the pipes made by Zulkarnain Saidin April 1, 2019.
One of the pipes made by Zulkarnain Saidin April 1, 2019.

Zulkarnain said that the price of the pipes ranges fromRM120 to RM650 depending on the wood and design.

When asked whether the recent cigarette ban affected the demand for pipes, Zulkarnain said most of the pipers are not occasional smokers and own it because of its style and status.

“You don’t often see pipers lighting up like as how cigarette smokers do. Lighting up pipes requires patience. You have to clean the chamber and filter, add tobacco, and only then you can light up. You can’t light it up on the go.   

“So with or without the ban, the demand for pipe is still there. People own it to reflect their status and style and not for its usage alone.”