I get asked a lot of questions when someone first finds out that I make pipes. After giving the standard explanation of what kind of pipes I make to diffuse any sort of immediate concerns or inappropriate comments, people sometimes want to learn more. "What kind of wood do you use?" is usually the next question I have to answer, which blends into a conversation about a burl that grows underground in countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. The most common question after this is "where do pipe-makers get materials?". The answer is "wherever we can".
When Brandon, our pipe manager, was recently hired, he already had plenty pipe and tobacco knowledge, as well as the all-important drive and desire to learn more. We had been discussing bamboo not that long ago, partly because we were looking at some really gorgeous bamboo from Japan, and my explanation of how a pipe-maker uses it. Last Friday, I popped my head into his office and asked if he'd like to go bamboo hunting with me later in the day. After his initial excitement mixed with a touch of does that grow here?, we set off for a secret spot someone told me about a few months ago. Sure enough, we found a hill of bamboo. The bamboo used for pipe making comes from the roots, which grow along and under the ground at the base of plants that grow close to twenty feet tall and are as big around as a coffee mug or soda can. Camp axe in hand, with one eye on the ground and the other on the swamp hoping to not spot any alligators or poisonous snakes, Brandon pointed out a thumb-sized root that we dug out and chopped free from the earth. Lots of searching led to only one serviceable piece harvested (enough for two or three pipe shanks), but I could tell that he was as excited as if we had found a Paleolithic spear point.
Making pipes is fun, and it's really cool to be able to source some local materials. I'm pretty sure Brandon has a new appreciation for the material and how it is harvested. In the future, we plan to go on more expeditions along South Carolina rivers in search of the elusive material. You can find some beautiful Tsuge pipes tonight with bamboo, though it is, of course, a different variety than what grows wild here in the American South. Japanese bamboo is regarded as some of the best in the world for pipes. The material is beautiful, fun to work with, and colors beautifully over time.
We've also quite a variety of pipes tonight from Dunhill, Luciano, Johs, Stanwelll, Savinelli, and Peterson. Rolando Negoita recently sent us some beautiful pieces; some of them sporting bamboo, while others are his popular cooling-chambered Conductas. Today we're also happy to announce we've added a new carver to our lineup: Nathan Armentrout!
And if expertly-refurbished estates are what you're looking for this evening, not only do we have pipes from the Danish and Italian masters, but today also starts our January Estate Sale: throughout the rest of the month, select estate pipes from most regions are a full twenty percent off. Dig in!
Adam Davidson: Quality Control & Pipe Inspector