Pipes of Decades Past
<< July, 2014 >>
Search Blog

100+1 Uses (1) RSS
Adam Davidson (10) RSS
admissions (1) RSS
Advertising (2) RSS
Alex Florov (5) RSS
Ardor (4) RSS
Art and Pipes (4) RSS
Ashton (1) RSS
Ashton (3) RSS
Behind-the-Scenes (11) RSS
blog (9) RSS
blog (40) RSS
bloopers (2) RSS
books (2) RSS
Brad Pohlmann (2) RSS
Brad Pohlmann (2) RSS
briar (8) RSS
Brick House Cigars (1) RSS
Brigham (2) RSS
Broken Pipe (2) RSS
Bruce Weaver (2) RSS
Capstan (6) RSS
Carlos Torano (1) RSS
Castello (6) RSS
Chacom (4) RSS
cigars (20) RSS
Claudio Albieri (1) RSS
Claudio Cavicchi (3) RSS
comic strips (2) RSS
Cornell & Diehl (10) RSS
Customer Service (6) RSS
Dunhill (12) RSS
Ernie Markle (1) RSS
Ernie Markle (2) RSS
Escudo (1) RSS
Esoterica (2) RSS
estate pipes (17) RSS
events (2) RSS
Famous Pipe Smokers (11) RSS
Fitness (1) RSS
Flor de Gonzalez (1) RSS
Food (12) RSS
Gabriele (1) RSS
Gamboni (2) RSS
Gawith Hoggarth & Co (1) RSS
gift cards (1) RSS
Giveaways (6) RSS
G. L. Pease (10) RSS
grain (1) RSS
Gran Habano (1) RSS
Grant Batson (1) RSS
Grechukhin (2) RSS
hemp wick (1) RSS
Hermit Tobacco (1) RSS
Hiroyuki Tokutomi (9) RSS
history (4) RSS
Humor (23) RSS
Ikebana (1) RSS
Il Duca (1) RSS
Interview (2) RSS
Italy (3) RSS
J.Alan (1) RSS
J. Alan (11) RSS
Japan (1) RSS
Jess Chonowitsch (1) RSS
J&J (3) RSS
Johs (2) RSS
Kaywoodie (1) RSS
Kei-ichi Gotoh (2) RSS
Kristoff (1) RSS
La Gloria Cubana (1) RSS
Lars Ivarsson (3) RSS
Lasse Skovgaard (4) RSS
Leo (1) RSS
Letter (1) RSS
lighters (1) RSS
Low Country Pipe and Cigar (3) RSS
Luciano (3) RSS
Mac Baren (17) RSS
Maigurs Knets (2) RSS
McClelland (6) RSS
Michael Lindner (2) RSS
Michael Parks (1) RSS
Michail Kyriazanos (1) RSS
Michal Novak (2) RSS
Mystery Tobacco (2) RSS
Nanna Ivarsson (2) RSS
nasal snuff (1) RSS
Nathan Armentrout (1) RSS
Neerup (1) RSS
Newminster (1) RSS
newsletter (266) RSS
Oliva (1) RSS
Orlik (5) RSS
Padron (1) RSS
People (22) RSS
Pesaro (1) RSS
Pete Prevost (1) RSS
Peter Heding (2) RSS
Peter Heeschen (2) RSS
Peterson (7) RSS
Peter Stokkebye (3) RSS
photography (18) RSS
pipe accessories (3) RSS
pipe basics (4) RSS
Pipe Clubs (2) RSS
Pipe Fiesta (1) RSS
pipe making (6) RSS
pipe making (55) RSS
pipes (44) RSS
pipes (8) RSS
Pipe Shows (23) RSS
Pipes in Film (4) RSS
pipe tobacco (81) RSS
poster (1) RSS
Press (7) RSS
Rad Davis (1) RSS
Radice (6) RSS
Ray Kurusu (1) RSS
Reiner (1) RSS
Reviews (4) RSS
Rocky Patel (1) RSS
Rocky Patel (2) RSS
Sales (3) RSS
Samuel Gawith (1) RSS
Samuel Gawith (2) RSS
Savinelli (3) RSS
scott thile (2) RSS
Sebastien Beo (4) RSS
Ser Jacopo (3) RSS
Simeon Turner (1) RSS
Sixten Ivarsson (2) RSS
Smio Satou (3) RSS
smokingpipes.com (74) RSS
SPC Merchandise (1) RSS
SPC University (2) RSS
Stanwell (4) RSS
Storient (1) RSS
Summary (6) RSS
Takeo Arita (2) RSS
Tatuaje (2) RSS
technology (5) RSS
Thanksgiving (1) RSS
Three Nuns (4) RSS
tobacco (7) RSS
tobacco aging (1) RSS
tobacco blending (5) RSS
tobacco review (5) RSS
Tom Eltang (5) RSS
Tonni Nielsen (1) RSS
Torano (1) RSS
travel (70) RSS
Tsuge (3) RSS
Vauen (1) RSS
video (57) RSS
video (5) RSS
Viktor Yashtylov (1) RSS
virginia (1) RSS
YouTues (4) RSS
Photo Albums
florov (1)

12 August 2013

Pipes of Decades Past
 Newsletter Introduction for Monday, August 12, 2013


In the great marital ledger, I, like most husbands, have some entries in both the credits and debits column. Specifically, I've gained credits for taking my wife to Europe five times in the five years we've been together. But those credits have been partially offset (as my wife rarely fails to remind me) by debits associated with dragging her to a few dozen pipe maker workshops, pipe factories and the like during each of those five trips. My wife and I enjoyed our honeymoon two years ago in Italy. We enjoyed it, in part, in the Castello workshop, Mimmo's briar cutting operation, and other, similar, august sites of Italian culture. However, this year's trip to France was to be a vacation. And a vacation alone. Well, mostly. Except for one little side trip to St. Claude...

Antoine Grenard and I have known each other for a few years. The young--my age; in his early-mid thirties--managing director of the Chapuis-Comoy factory and I have always gotten along well, but I'd never visited the factory on my previous trips to St. Claude. Grenard's team of thirty make Chacom (the flagship brand's name is a portmanteau of Chapuis-Comoy) and a variety of other brands, including Ropp, Jean LaCroix and others.

The factory itself is one of the most fascinating places I've ever been. Even my wife was delighted to have her vacation interrupted by the tour. Built in 1910, the factory once had more than two hundred workers, busily making pipes. Two hundred people and the concomitant equipment take up a lot of space. That leaves a lot of interesting underused space and artifacts of pipe making of decades past.

Much of the equipment used has been in continuous operation for decades. We met Antoine in a conference room filled with a century of pipe memorabilia and started the tour in the vast spaces reserved for shaping pipes. The available shape chart from Chacom is vast. Hundreds, if not thousands, of templates for classic French and English shapes are on hand. As is the case with almost all pipe factories, the bowls are rough shaped using fraizing machines, a multi-step process where a given machine will cut a specific angle--the back of the bowl, or the area around the rim. Making a given shape requires setting up the equipment for a production run, so runs of hundreds of stummels at a time are cut and then stored to be completed, sometimes having the shape further tweaked. The factory also has a newer template-based shaping machine from Denmark that shapes an entire bowl based on a plastic template of the shape, similar to the equipment that Stanwell used before it closed a few years ago. The Eltang designed Oscar series, with its more challenging angles and modern shape, is made using this method.


From there, we worked our way across rooms and floors, seeing pipes being sandblasted, stained, rings and silver bands added and finished. Many factories outsource the preproduction of their decorative bands, but Chapuis-Comoy does almost all of this in house, with specialized lathes turning and then cutting decorative rings for the ends of shanks at a spectacular pace.

Seeing current production was exciting, but the real highlight of the visit was pipe stummel storage. Vast rooms filled with baskets, bins and giant bags of rough shaped stummels occupy a full floor of the massive facility. Rack after rack holds tens or even hundreds of thousands of unfinished pipes. Some of these are shapes in current production, just waiting to be moved to production. But hundreds of different shapes, each with dozens or hundreds of stummels, have sat there for decades, representing the tail ends of production runs for discontinued shapes, now covered in thick layers of dust.

Another flight of stairs up--perhaps the sixth floor in the facility; I rather lost count--takes us to an attic, where the truly ancient stummels are stored. In some cases, huge wooden bins of many hundreds of stummels await inspiration. And inspiration struck. I started accumulating a little group of assorted, old shapes, one example of each of a few different shapes. And my pile grew. Eventually, I was carrying around more than I could hold. I didn't know immediately what we'd do with all of these, but these were old French shapes that simply had to be back on the market. Interesting, smaller bowls abounded. Fifty years ago, the average size of pipes sold were much smaller--equivalent to a Dunhill group 2 or group 3. Modern pipes are larger, driven by a taste for increasingly large pipes in the US and German markets. Not all of the interesting shapes I found were that small, but part of what makes classic French shapes interesting are the delicacy of the lines, something only possible with smaller shapes.


We progressed from there back to a conference room, stopping along the way to wash the accumulated dust off of ourselves. Crawling around in the attic was a particularly messy activity. By this time, it had become clear that a few special series based on these shapes would have to happen. I couldn't give up the prospect of bringing these beautiful, delicate shapes to life. We slowly pared down the shapes from the eighteen or so I'd pulled out of bins down to eleven and began to explore stains, stems and decorative rings. Ultimately, we opted to create three new series, each available in multiple finishes and with multiple shapes.

All three series will be available on Smokingpipes.com starting in the next few weeks. In some cases, these will be fairly limited editions. There are no plans to produce many of these shapes again, so we'll keep the lines going for as long as we can.

I hesitate to admit it, but of all the wonderful things we saw and did during our vacation, the visit to the Chapuis-Comoy was the highlight of the trip for me. People ask me whether, after fourteen-odd years in the pipe business, it ever gets old. It doesn't. I love it. More than that, Chapuis-Comoy is an undoubtedly special place. There are few businesses in the early twenty-first century that have operated in substantially the same way for a hundred years. The materials of historians are records and written documents and, at times, physical artifacts. But rarely does the historian get to experience something so similar to life as it was lived. For an avid pipe man whose whole career has been in the pipe business, who also has an academic background in history, it was a unique and special experience. Perhaps even more importantly, my ever patient wife not only tolerated this side trip, she enjoyed it immensely.

Sykes Wilford: Founder/President

  Sykes Wilford: Founder/President

Posted by sykes at 3:50 PM | Link | 1 comment

Re: Pipes of Decades Past
"more importantly, my ever patient wife not only tolerated this side trip, she enjoyed it immensely." lolololol who paid for the whole trip?

Posted by steve on August 13, 2013 at 6:11 PM

Name:   Required
Email:   Required your email address will not be publicly displayed.

Want to receive notifications when new comments are added? Login/Register for an account.

Anti-spam key

Type in the text that you see in the above image:

Your comment:

Sorry, no HTML allowed!

Subscription Options

You are not logged in, so your subscription status for this entry is unknown. You can login or register here.



New Pipes

Fresh Items



Click to verify BBB accreditation and to see a BBB report for Smokingpipes.com.

View in English View in Japanese