How to Carve a Soapstone Pipe

By Erin Moseley

Soapstone is a mineral rock that comes in many varieties and colors but is always soft enough to scratch with a fingernail. To carve a pipe out of soapstone, for instance, use a small knife or hand carving tools you can find at a hobby store. Get a single chunk that will accommodate the size and shape of the design. Once the shape is complete, carve designs into the sides for an added personal touch. Try tools and techniques on a test chunk before starting to cave the pipe.

Choose a flat working surface in a well-ventilated area or work in a covered area outdoors. Very fine dust will fly around as you cut and carve the pipe.

Don protective gear before you beginning. Soapstone is a form of talc and can cause breathing problems in some people when inhaled. Any mask that prevents you from breathing in particles is suitable. Wear safety glasses or goggles to protect your eyes from any flying rock debris.

Inspect the soapstone from all angles and try to keep the image of the pipe in mind while you work. Draw the basic design of the pipe onto the soapstone using a soft pencil and make simple lines to outline the bowl and stem. Don’t worry about making a detailed sketch; focus on achieving the desired size.

Begin cutting the pipe shape using carving tools. Select a U-shaped or V-shaped scoop. Shape the pipe bowl and hollow it out.

Cut away excess material to create the handle. Use a thin tool to hollow out the handle and the mouthpiece.

Carve any designs into the sides of the bowl and handle.

Polish the finished product using fine-grained sandpaper. Polish all edges and etched areas.

Wet the soapstone to clean off dust and check the finish. Dry and continue polishing until you achieve the desired effect.

Use a lint-free cloth and rub mineral oil into the finished soapstone pipe to bring out its luster.

Tip

Take care not to drop the soapstone carving because soapstone can break easily. Don't polish the pipe too much; excessive polishing can wear away carved details. Enhance soapstone color with polishing and applying mineral oil.

Warning

Wear protective eyewear and face mask to prevent talc powder from getting into your eyes and affecting your respiratory system.

About the Author

Erin Moseley is an advocate for science education. Since 1985, she has written numerous technical, user and training manuals for major corporations, public agencies and universities. She holds a Bachelor of Science in geology.