Good evening folks, may I join you in a smoke? About six months back, I was looking at a photo of me taken about a dozen years prior and wistfully reflected that my former 54' chest and 30' waist had all but reversed (ok, not quite, but you get the idea). What were once rock hard pecs were now certifiable 'moobs', and the closest thing I possessed to a six-pack resided in my fridge. Not being delusional (well, not completely), I knew that a better diet, and an exercise program that didn't solely consist of '37 gram briar curls', could reverse a good deal of this decline. Having said, rather than introducing healthy new habits, I found myself taking a bit of perverse comfort in noting that a good deal of the South Carolina populace wasn't all that far behind me, started wearing all-black clothing (great, a 55 year old 'Goth') and, following the sage advice of the late Rodney Dangerfield; "If you want to look thinner, hang out with fat... ", renewed my vow to only smoke huge pipes, such as Ardor Giants and Ashton Magnums in public. Then I rejoined Smokingpipes.com and my well-seasoned sense of complacency began to crack at the foundation...
Back in 'the good ol' days' at SPC, with the exception of Sykes who was already starting to lose weight faster than the protagonist of Stephen King's "Thinner", I was just another member of the 'male chub club'. Today, (insert maniacal cackle), pretty much every guy in the place can boast either a body fat that could convince most male models to throw in the towel, well developed muscles, or (worse) a combination of both (nobody likes a curve buster, Brandon!). The final straw for me took place when I looked at the pictures from the SPC pipe club meeting; "Hey, there's John! Adam, Jonathan, Ted, Chris... but who's the oinker in the red t-shirt? Ohdeargodthatsme!!!"
Please don't get me wrong, I'm not slagging anyone who is heavy and happy, and my motivation isn't strictly a vanity issue (four heart operations might be nature's way of telling me to lay off lard & crackers for a while). Having fit co-workers is an inspiration, I can now set firm goals/timetables for my personal physical development. Within a month I will be able to climb to the top of my 6' Craftsman ladder. I will enter and complete a 50 meter 'fun run' (I think a local pre-school sponsors one). I will also rededicate myself to observing a healthy diet... just as soon as my OX-Fam relief-sized boxes of Fritos, pretzels, and Snickers bars run out. After all, they are paid for and why waste money? Now if you will please excuse me, a new life of vigor and vitality is calling. Time to do my 157 gram curls with my 'Ardor barbell' (feel the burn, YEAH BABY!).
Here at Smokingpipes, we have big updates, and then we have really big updates. And tonight's presentation (with a total of 236 fresh offerings) definitely qualifies as the latter (that made no sense whatsoever... maybe they won't notice). Last night the spotlights fell on the Luciano and Radice lines. Luciano just unveiled four breathtakingly innovative new series, all of which feature top-tier Mediterranean plateau briar which was hand selected and seasoned by Luca di Piazza himself, as well as elegantly elongated shapes, beautiful bamboo work and a shaping aesthetic which was heretofore unknown (en masse) from Italy. These beauties come with handsome zip-up bags, posh sleeves and the information about your specific pipe inscribed on a parchment. At prices that start at a pretty modest base-line, these Lucianos can't miss. Radice just unveiled their 2013 Christmas pipes with matching tampers. In addition, for a limited time, you will receive a very gnarly tamper with each Radice pipe that you purchase. Does that mean if you purchase their Christmas pipe you will get two tampers? Yes indeed.
Tonight we headline with nine superb pipes from the legendary Tom Eltang and, while all are tempting, you really must see the one of the most impressive Horns that you are likely to encounter in your lifetime. Michal Novak, Rattray's, Ser Jacopo, Mastro de Paja and Ardor are up tonight, and the latter includes a Urano Giant Apple of Herculean proportions. Neerup, Nording, Brigham, Savinelli and Peterson also came on board in a big way, and the Irish lads even include the highly popular 'Darwin' series. Toss in (well, not literally) seventy-two fresh estates and this is one massive update. We hope you will enjoy!
"Celebrate good times, COME ON!" Yes, it takes one helluva special update to get me to quote a Kool & the Gang song, especially one that has been beaten to death by every wedding/birthday/bar mitzvah DJ since 1980, but today's announcement and special event has me forgetting every watered down drink and room-temp hors d'oeuvre that I have consumed to the tune.
At this very moment, 'we've got a party going on right here' at Low Country Pipe & Cigars; a pre-Richmond Show and celebration, where we find ourselves honored to unveil the vanguard of the Luciano Pipe revamp. Crafted from top-tier Mediterranean plateau briar, which was hand selected and seasoned by Luca di Piazza himself, the first four all-new series (Breakfast, Lunch, Snack and Dinner) feature elegant, deliriously elongated shapes, exquisite bamboo ferrules, as well as an aesthetic paradigm heretofore unseen from Italy. In addition. each of these new pipes comes with a designer zip-up pouch, organic cotton sleeve, and a technical paper about the pipe.
Accompanying the new Luciano introduction, Radice is doing some special unveiling of their own; their limited edition Christmas pipe for 2013! This year's yuletide offering is a generously sized straight apple, available in the 'Rind', 'Pure', 'Silk' and 'Clear' finish, and all sport a handsome band of antler on the mount, as well as a tamper crafted from the same with briar to match. This will be the last year that the Radice Christmas pipe will feature antler, so collect them while you can. As an extra special surprise, Luca has created a one-time set of the 2011-2013 Christmas pipes, using pipes that he reserved for the specific purpose. Also accompanying any Radice pipe you purchase, for a limited time, is a prettykickin tamper
I hope to see you all at our store show but, for those who cannot attend, all of these offerings (perhaps the three-pipe set not withstanding) and more will be available at the upcoming Richmond Pipe Show.
As you might wager, working at Smokingpipes.com is fascinating. Perhaps the most captivating thing about just being at Smokingpipes.com is that despite where you may happen to be within our little campus, and no matter who you happen to be talking with, the conversation always and inevitably concerns pipes. If the dialogue doesn't begin with pipes, it's usually steered toward them.
Not everyone here smokes a pipe. But everybody at SPC thinks about pipes, looks at pipes, and talks about pipes. We touch them all and name them all. We keep tabs on them and compile them like the precious objects they are. Everyone at Smokingpipes.com probably spends more waking hours thinking about pipes than they ever thought they would. And I'll bet there are a couple of us who have dreamt about pipes from time to time. Our obsession with pipes simply happens as a part of our process; the process of being Smokingpipes.com.
Not every pipe smoker shares this obsession. Shocked yet? In all fairness to those pipesters, some of us are just more 'tobacco tilted' than others, which is perfectly cool and I totally get it. But it's key to remember that the magic moment behind every good smoke comes down to the pipe. Bad pipe, bad smoke, case closed. The problem is that you can't know a pipe's real worth until you smoke it. There are ways around this; we know them all too well. Put your finger in it, put a light on it under a magnifying glass, examine it with a ruler, stick to certain brands, certain finishes, certain woods. The pipe has to be the right size and of the right bend... Yes there are ways. But you never really know. Each pipe you buy is prompted by a supremely educated guess at best.
That's where we come in and our obsession takes over. That's the time-honored job of the tobacconist. Nay, that's the expectation of the tobacconist. We're here to apply our knowledge and resources to help you pick out the best pipe possible. We're here to help you curate your selection. It's a big task and it comes with a deep responsibility. That's why we spend so much time discussing pipes and educating one another about pipes. We move folks around, cross-train, and observe one another's work. We teach classes. We attend classes. This is our duty, after all, and I believe that the three-thousand or so pipes we've got on the website reflect our sense of commitment to treating pipes like individual works of beauty.
I think the notion that a handful of pipe smokers and non-pipe smokers alike might obsess over pipes more than some pipe smokers is terribly fascinating. When you receive a pipe from us, it's because dozens of people have lovingly handled it, and thought about it, scrutinized, weighed, measured, photographed, and described it. Then it was listed on Smokingpipes.com because we were confident that someone out there -- that you -- would love it. I find that captivating.
Pipes and more pipes, and then, just to be sure even more pipes -- that is what is in store today. Granted, since we do this twice a week, every week, you probably already expected as much. But we try not to take things for granted, and, thus: always more pipes. This Thursday the pipes we have in store start off with with some gorgeous numbers Lomma Pipes, the marque of Lars Jonsson. From a diminutive yet sturdy little rusticated Rhodesian, to what I have to say is one of the finest renditions of a smooth Volcano I've ever seen, he has provided us with the opportunity to offer you collectors out there some very impressive pipes indeed. He's not alone though -- Peter Heeschen has a fresh batch going today as well, including, of course, a lovely example of his signature "P" shape.
Following up, you'll find plenty of Pesaro beauties from both Ser Jacopo and Mastro de Paja (the former including a pipe from the De Divina Proportione series; one of the last projects of the late Giancarlo Guidi, who founded both marques, and the Pesaro school itself). Ardor throws in with briars rendered in their own unique style too, while Rattray's offers up a selection of more classically-oriented numbers.
Speaking of classical, there's a whole slew of old French briars joining along, courtesy of Ropp, as well as large selections of Savinellis and Petersons, and, for added variety, a good helping of Brebbias, Brighams, Nordings, and Neerups. Finishing things off come the estates, with marques and artisans from America, England, Denmark and Ireland represented, including some very, very vintage pieces from Dunhill and Kaywoodie, and some great modern sandblasting by Michael Lindner.
Pipe smoking worldwide declined steadily for the half century between 1960 and 2010. Once home to dozens of pipe manufacturers making many millions of pipes, St. Claude now has three that make fewer than a quarter million pipes a year among them. As has been the case the world over, factories were consolidated. The Ropp factory, unusual among French pipe manufacturers in that it was not in St. Claude, but rather some 150km away in Baume-les-Dames, closed in 1991 and was absorbed by Chapuis-Comoy shortly thereafter, where briar Ropp pipes continue to be made.
Chapuis-Comoy makes a variety of brands these days, though by far the most significant and the most intertwined with the company's history is Chacom. I wrote about my visit to the factory more broadly earlier this week and you can find that here. Following our exploration of the factory, we wandered down to massive storage rooms filled with pipes. In some ways, this was no different from any other pipe manufacturer. Many of Chacom's most significant lines are simply kept in inventory to be shipped to distributors around the world.
In pretty much every large pipe factory I've been to, there's also been a few dozen or a few hundred pipes that are interesting, and are great pipes, but don't fit anymore: the last few of a line that was discontinued from a catalog or an order that was manufactured before a customer went out of business. I relish buying these. Smokingpipes.com's one-at-a-time approach to putting pipes on the site is perfect for great jumbles of good things. We don't need ten of the same shape-finish combination as another retailer might. We're delighted to get ten different, interesting pipes instead. I've done this with lots of different manufacturers over the years: Peterson, Savinelli, and Tsuge also come to mind. Sometimes it happens on scale (think last year's Tsuge sale, which amounted to some 1,500 pipes) and sometimes it's not quite so huge (my purchases at Peterson, where we've bought a handful of a few different things they don't know what to do with on a couple of occasions). Now, keep in mind that there's nothing wrong with these pipes. Often they're really good. They're of the same quality as the rest of what the factory produces. They're just the forgotten ends of lines that have become extinct or custom orders that were made with the wrong ring and then made again. It often means we can offer unusual things at lower prices.
But, the experience at Chapuis-Comoy, while not qualitatively different, was quantitatively different. Antoine Grenard, Alyson (my wife) and I walked through room after room of dusty shelves, each holding pipe boxes, or boxes with dozens of pipes or giant bins of finished and semi-finished pipes. I did what I always do. I asked Antoine if there was anything he wanted to sell. We started slowly. He showed me some English made Comoy's pipes from the 1970s and I bought a few of those for the estate section (at one point, Chacom was Comoy's French distributor). Then he showed me some Jean LaCroix pipes. I bought a few dozen of those, which will also appear in the estate section.
Then we got to the real prize. He had dozens--I had no idea how many at first, but it turned out to be around a hundred--of beautiful old French shapes--delicate billiards and acorns and apples--with horn stems. Now horn is a beautiful material for stems, but it's also not terribly practical. It's not as durable as acrylic or vulcanite and takes a little more care in the teeth. It's also difficult and expensive to make, so no one does it very much anymore. A hundred years ago, with few alternatives, it was all but ubiquitous in French pipe making, but seeing a hundred pipes with horn stems these days is unusual. Antoine didn't know how old they were, though from the stems and bowl shapes they seemed decades old, but from the stains, they couldn't have been too much older than about 1970. So, I'd guess they were made--or at least mostly made--forty-odd years ago. I bought them all.
And that was the starting point for what became the 'Ropp project.' At this point, those pipes weren't stamped, but they needed a brand name, and a prestigious one at that. They are beautiful pipes with clean wood and great shapes. It seems arbitrary, but Ropp seemed the best fit as a brand name among the major brand names that Chapuis-Comoy owns (and Antoine didn't want to use Chacom for a variety of reasons having to do with US distribution rights and the overall direction for that brand). This whole thing was a very organic process that was born out of discussion and shared passion for great pipes.
So, from there we moved to other things as Antoine remembered various odds and ends he didn't know what to do with. We found some great extra-long shank canadians in a bin. The shape was awesome, but the stain, frankly, was not. It was a sort of funky reddish-brown color that didn't really work and didn't get absorbed into the wood properly, leaving a bit of a mottled mess. Obviously, that's why these were just hanging out in a giant bin of 50-odd. Looking closely, though, it was obvious the wood was very good. These were great pipes that had something go horribly wrong in staining. I was beginning to tell Antoine that I wasn't interested when he proposed, knowing as I did that the stain was the problem with these otherwise great pipes, that we blast them and restain them. I took him up on the offer. The results, which I didn't see until they arrived a couple of weeks ago, are awesome. They're on the site now.
Rounding this out, we found another few dozen sandblasted pipes that looked great. Antoine couldn't remember what they were for, but it was a classic tail end of a series. There were three or four of each of a bunch of different shapes. We rolled those into the project.
So, these Ropp pipes you started seeing on the site last week were all from this first round of treasure hunting that we did in the factory in St. Claude. We have quite a few of each, though they won't last forever. We're restarting the brand in the US with a couple hundred pipes, but Antoine and I also discussed finding other things to roll into the line as time goes on.
We want to make the brand quirky and interesting. The world has enough great classic pipes. The Chacom line from the same factory is filled with such things. What makes this project different is it's a place for great pipes that don't fit elsewhere to have a home. We'll emphasize classic French shapes and styles: delicate, elegant, perhaps with interesting stems. No one in their right mind would create a big line with horn stems these days. They're just not practical enough to have the wide appeal a factory needs for a big new release. But, that's exactly the sort of stuff I love. Little niche things that a certain number of people will think are really cool. That's the awesome thing about the internet and the long-tail of product availability that it makes possible. Just because something can't be a blockbuster doesn't mean that it isn't awesome and wouldn't be great pipes to folks looking for something unusual and interesting.
Some of the most rewarding things we've done with pipes over the years are like this. Cool, interesting, smaller projects with a more limited audience that let us get creative and do what we do well. And I hope that the Ropp project seems as exciting to you as it does to me.
Whew, it's been a busy week: the kind of week that's really meant for socializing and relaxing, but had been sacrificed for productivity. It's a good thing, but it comes at a cost. We all have sources for connection with the world outside our personal bubble, but an active life means things will be lost in the blur--however, now's the time to catch-up. As the week comes to a close, you can see here what you might have missed, stay up to date with the work of your favorite pipe makers, and keep tabs on what the personalities here at Smokingpipes.com have been up to.
For instance, this week Alyson and Sykes sent us great matieral for a photo blog, documenting their tour of the Chacom pipe factory in France. It's definately worth a look if you haven't seen it.
The photography crew produced some beautiful shots for Michal Novak, Tonni Nielsen, Smio Satou, Gabriele Dal Fiume, and Vladimir Grechukhin. These aren't even all of them; check out our Facebook and Tumblr albums (linked below) to see the rest.
Rain formed a river in our parking lot, lightning disabled the internet and almost gave a few people a nice new perm, but it created a sort of Cabin Fever that allowed for the creation of a few videos around the offices on Instagram.
Lastly, we unsurprisingly sold out of Three Nuns quickly after it's re-release to the U.S. market, but managed to have it back in stock within a few days. Many of you sent in your thanks, as wells as photos. Those below are courtesy of Gregory Ceaser, Jimmy Muraco, and Ron Forbes-- thanks guys!
If you haven't yet, feel free to join the conversation. We're active on all major social networking websites and love to hear from our customers. Have a great weekend!
Many of you have purchased tins of Capstan and Three Nuns already. If not, what are you waiting for? Now you are free to relax after nights of sleeplessly staring at your email, hoping for that long-awaited newsletter. Sit back and think contented thoughts of the tobacco magically making its way to your doorstep, then check out this short video of the hard-working people in shipping making it a reality for you. -Happy YouTues!
I would love to say that I was prepared to take on whatever could be thrown my way, but that would be a drastic overstatement. You see, I’m a bit new to the business of tobacco pipes. I’ve enjoyed a pipe for over 3 years, but that only amounts to about half of a percent of the pipe retail world. When I said I was new to the business, I didn’t mean a few months on the job or even weeks. In fact, at the time we left for Chicago I could count the number of full days worked at Smokingpipes.com on one hand. At the end of my first week, I was whisked away to the Chicagoland Pipe Show for a week of total immersion in everything pipes and tobacco. It wasn't just sales and such going on, but the meeting and befriending of some of the finest pipe makers on earth, while trying not to look like a twit. I've had little exposure to people of celebrity status in my life. Sure, I've read about noteworthy people, but almost never come face to face with them. So imagine my reaction when Adam Davidson is now a coworker, and I've just ran into Benni and Lasse, Lars and Nanna, Tokutomi, Eltang, Armentrout, Lobnik, and so many more. Luckily, the great many pipe makers I talked with were most personable. They were accepting, and willing to answer the most basic of questions, ones they’ve been asked countless times. Interestingly enough, our conversations would frequently stray from pipes and arrive at subjects like photography, music and vinyl records, or the day to day of our home lives. If a week spent with pipe makers taught me anything, it taught me that this is not an industry of competing production, but a family of very talented craftsman and artists who are proud to have common ground.
As exciting as all of this was, there was the other side of the coin: the logistics of presenting Smokingpipes.com in the flesh. Moments before our departure, I was up to my neck in some of finest pipes I’ve seen, assisting in their safe transportation. Then was the task of creating a visual display that represents Smokingpipes in the same way you'd expect from viewing the website. No pressure, right?
When I came to Smokingpipes.com, I imagined I would use some of the skills I acquired as a Firefighter/EMT such as logistics, inventory control, and communications skills. I didn’t realize, though, that I would also make use of skills like working while sleep and food deprived, working under intense pressure, and organizing chaos. Fortunately, we had a dedicated group of people traveling, backed by some top notch folks at the home base, and a world-class shipping department, so as a team we overcame the obstacles and pulled off a great show. I enjoyed meeting those of you who came to visit us, and I'm looking forward to meeting many more pipe enthusiasts, carvers, and collectors. My door and inbox are open to those seeking answers or conversation, and my thanks go out to those who have welcomed me so warmly into this community. I'm happy to be the new Pipe Manager, I'm happy for the freedom to make this unique position my own, and I'm happy to be considered part of the Smokingpipes.com family.
As previously indicated, today we're bringing you a special promotion. It's quite simple, really: We've acquired a whole, extra-large bunch of fresh Castellos for a live event to be held tomorrow at our brick & mortar, Low Country Pipe & Cigar, and an even larger number of Castello tobacco pouches (normally retailing at $70 a pop) to be given away with each Castello pipe purchased. Why more pouches than pipes? Because we aren't limiting the deal, nor the pipes themselves, to just those of you who happen to be able to stop by in Little River, SC -- that's why. Nope. Instead we're offering the same deal to all of our customers, wherever you may happen to be, and with the purchase of any new Castello pipe at that, not just those from the forty-eight specially acquired for said event. We're even extending the timeframe of the online offer as well, which will begin today and continue through the 30th of this month, while supplies last.
Just a little while back, we had a visitor. You’ve probably heard of him: Canadian pipemaker Michael Parks. He’s made quite a name for himself with his great interpretations (and re-interpretations) of traditional designs, not to mention some really stellar sandblasting. And, of course, we feature his pipes in our regular updates.
He flew down here a few weekends ago to spend several days collaborating with our own resident pipemaker, Adam Davidson, and I was asked to join them in order to observe and report – the latter of which I’m doing right now. John also joined us on my second day there, and between the four of us conversations ranged across such subjects as the evolution of the “behaviorally modern human”, pipes, automobiles, pipes, flowers gardening, pipes, what to do if attacked by a bear in Canada, and of course, pipes. Michael is a proper outdoorsman, Adam was raised in a small town in Indiana, and though I grew up in New Jersey, my parents’ families hail from the outskirts of the Appalachia on one side, and deep in the hills on the other – resulting in quite a bit of common context between three thirty-something fellows who grew up hundreds of miles apart.
And of course, we all enjoyed a good meal. And because Adam is Adam, it was only natural that excellent, home-cooked fare was provided each evening. (He also took Michel out to a Cracker Barrel breakfast on Sunday morning, and, as is only fitting to a true Canadian, Michael made sure to taste and assess the maple syrup before applying it to his pancakes.)
But the real reason we were there was pipes, or more to the point, pipe-making, and regarding that there was plenty to learn of and observe. Between one day and another, John, Kat, or I had cameras at the ready to document Michael and Adam at work, and a picture is, as ever, worth a thousand words. So let’s all have a look at what went down, shall we?
Conceptualizing - Failing to plan is planning to fail, as the saying goes. While there are those out there who can just pick up a piece of briar, or stone, or a blank canvas, and create something technically proficient and aesthetically engaging on the fly, they are very much a minority – akin to those who can produce the answers to complex mathematical problems at a moment’s notice. For the rest of us mere mortals, forethought and preparation are in order. As a special project for this visit, Michael and Adam were handed a big chunk of plateau briar, with the idea of producing a pair of matched-shape pipes. Not identical, mind you; the artisans would each apply their own final tweaks, as well as their own finishing techniques, but both pipes would share in a common concept, as well source material. Even this foundational step in the pipemaking process (developing a shape) absorbed plenty of time and a lot of thought, Adam and Michael sketching, rubbing out, re-sketching, and passing the block back and forth, all while carrying on a running discussion covering flow, aesthetic balance, engineering, and grain.
Shaping – That sleek, modern Dublin seen above is Michael’s. He spoke to us about how when hand-filing he gets into a deep focus that he thoroughly enjoys, and how the time flies as he works to perfect the pipe’s design. And, sure enough, once he started, he was off in a world of his own, patiently puffing on his pipe and making no noise but the measured rasping of wood and steel, and the periodic scratching of a pen as he paused to plan out his next moves. The results speak for themselves, even when looking at an unstained stummel, sans stem, and still sporting some of Michael’s pen-marks– I really liked this pipe. The ability a pipemaker has to develop and intuitively conceive a design in three dimensions, and confidently understand how altering a line or plane in one place will affect other aspects of a shape’s balance, is, by itself, impressive.
Drilling, Engineering, and Stem-work- It’s all well and good to make a pipe look fine, but if the drilling and engineering isn’t solid, looking fine as it sits collecting dust may be all it ends up doing. Both Michael and Adam recognize this, and though they had different methods for ensuring that chamber and draft-hole were cleanly executed and precisely aligned, each clearly put a lot of thought into the process. As artisans, they don’t just want their fellow pipe aficionados to purchase and collect the briars they create, they want them to smoke them, enjoy them, and, hopefully, praise them to others. A lot of work, as well as a whole lot of patience goes into building up a reputation as an artisan whose works can be counted on as an investment – pipes that one can trust to provide enjoyment for years to come. Developing and maintaining habits and methods that produce consistent results were clearly a point of pride for both Michael and Adam. At the same time, both were more than willing to observe and learn from the other.
Adam also demonstrated his stem-making to both Michael and me. As with most things, Adam takes a systematic approach. Even with the aid of a lathe set up specifically for the task, buffing wheels, etcetera, it can take two or more hours to complete a single, custom-shaped stem. Quality of stem work is something many consider to be a major aspect of pipemaking, distinguishing the skilled artisan. Although I wasn’t there to catch Michael working on his stems, I did get to see the materials he’d brought along, including some really gorgeous cumberland. As with the briar from which bowls and shanks are fashioned, for an artisan, after investing countless hours developing your skills, making the best of your efforts begins with acquiring appropriately high-quality materials to work from.
Silverwork - Annealing is an important step, preventing the sterling silver (hardened by its extrusion into tubes) from folding or cracking during shaping into a mount. Adam was kind enough to display for Michael and me just how important this step is, by first attempting to shape a mount from silver he hadn’t annealed. Granted, this wasn’t intentional – it was a piece that he had thought he’d annealed previously - but it was instructive. As Adam good-naturedly put it, “There goes about five dollars. As you can see, making mistakes with silver can get expensive.”
R & R - Both days that I was present my arrival didn’t come until afternoon. For Michael and Adam work began around 9:00AM. This meant that by the time I’d been poking around for several hours, everyone was hungry, and both artisans could use a bit of a wind-down to refresh their grey matter and give their hands a break. (And just let me say, I’ve yet to meet a pipemaker with anything like a weak handshake.) Grilled meat, a bit of drink, and plenty of coffee and tea were provided by our host in short order – all of it excellent. Along with this came of course a bit of simply lounging around, passing about our various personal supplies of tobacco, and enjoying our pipes while the birds chirped, cats wandered through the yard, and the lathes, sanding disk, and what have you cooled off in silence.
Final Notes– Like I said, I really liked this pipe. (Also, while I’m not a terribly photogenic fellow, I do think I looked damn good in this picture, rather stately - so onto the internet with it.) Michael and I had discussed various marques the first day I was over, and one that had come up was the old Kriswells, which had given Stanwell a lot of competition back in the 1960s, offering as they did a lot of lean, trim, streamlined designs. Though Michael’s design featured a touch more substantial bowl than most of the old Kriswells I’ve seen, (which often looked like sharpened-up variations of the Sixten Ivarasson look) I saw in it the same kind of confident dynamism in line, form, and posture that I think of when I picture one of the really good, vintage Kriswell shapes. This struck me as something of a happy coincidence, given both that I’d not even seen this pipe yet when we’d had our discussion, and Michael mentioned that this design was something of a departure from the variations on classical shapes that he usually concentrates on. I think both the classic shapes and this more dynamic, direct, and active style strike as a natural fit for a man who is both an artisan and an outdoorsman, and hope to see plenty more from Michael in the future.
Since our 2013 poster not only accompanied the most recent issue of Pipes and Tobacco Magazine, but was also promoted on our social media, and was announced in our newsletter, hopefully most of you have seen it by now. If not, the images can be seen HERE. But this isn't about the official images. This is about the folders full of various unofficial, behind-the-scenes photos that I believe should be seen too.
The first side of the poster features a step-by-step guide to making origami pipes (disclaimer to the more impressionable: please do not try smoking these). Since it was originally Ted's idea, he oversaw the process. It seemed like the entire marketing department was folding tiny papers into letters and figures for hours, but eventually they all came together. Katie (who made many of the tiny pipes and things) was asked to take the poster photo, and if you ask me she did a great job. Although the photos of this process don't lend themselves to blooper-type humor as those from the other side of the poster did, it was still a lot of fun.
The other half of the poster went through more of a journey, and I had the pleasure of taking the photos as we worked on it. Brandon's idea evolved from old-timey boxing photos to Monty Python-like taunting, from solidly black and white, to playing with slight color and saturation.
It spawned team-building exercises like rubbing hot pipe-ash on one another because "we need to look period-correct dirty," and, in one case, actual sparring that Brandon took way too seriously. What ensued made us realize that John, normally the most laid-back and cheerful person in the marketing department, is probably not to be messed with. And of course, we learned that it's hard to make a pipe (and yourself) look good while fighting and making menacing faces.
Hopefully we'll have time to put more of the blooper shots up in a Facebook album soon, but until then, you don't need fisticuffs and mustache wax to have fun smoking your pipe. Enjoy.
Hours of Operation:
Our website is always open and you can place an order at any time. Phone/office hours are 9am-7pm US/Eastern (GMT -5:00) Monday-Friday and 10am-5pm US/Eastern (GMT -5:00) on Saturdays. Our Little River, SC showroom is open 10am-7pm US/Eastern (GMT -5:00) Monday-Saturday. We are closed on Sundays.
We reserve the right to verify delivery to cardholder via UPS. You must be 18 years or older to make any selections on this site - by doing so, you are confirming that you are of legal age to purchase tobacco products or smoking accessories. We will deny any order we believe has been placed by a minor.
WARNING: Smokingpipes.com does not sell tobacco or tobacco related products to anyone under the age of 18, nor do we sell cigarettes.WARNING:Products on this site contain chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.