Yes, our crew has come home from the IPCPR trade show in Las Vegas. Not only did they lug back hundreds of beautiful pipes, which are soon to hit the website, but they also managed to take some video to showcase the many brands represented there. A quick warning: the video below may cause extreme jealousy and drooling. Don't forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more clips like this one. Without any further delay, here are the highlights:
It's Tuesday again already, and time for this week's YouTues video. Making up the third class for the SPC University series, Phillip outlines the way to pack and light your pipe to ensure the most enjoyment. In Part B, we plan to delve a little deeper into the trickier tobaccos, but this should be a good start for most tobaccos and most people. Enjoy!
Tuesday isn't particularly important for the Smokingpipes team. It's a graceful point in the week after the stress of Monday's update melts, and before the stress of Thursday arises. It's the hour of orange glow between night and day. It's a moment for us to slow down and recollect ourselves. For some, this could be turning the music up a little, or shooting rubber bands at one another. For many, it is an opportunity to pull out some nice tobacco and have a long smoke. Whatever your Tuesday therapy may be, there is something else to add to that routine, starting today: YouTues! (YouTube Tuesday) Today we bring you a video tour of Lasse Skovgaard's workshop, and a conversation between Sykes and Lasse about his first experiences with making pipes. There is more to this interview, which will be making its way to YouTues soon, along with many others from Eltang, Heding, and our recent visit with Michael Parks. We will post most of them here, but don't forget to follow our channel to stay up to date. So, without further delay, Happy Tuesday, and Happy YouTues!
The walls seemed to be made of industrial tarps, and the roof appeared to be tin. The space itself was filled with wooden support posts and rustic round tables. It was as if I were sitting in a pub fabricated from an old carport that had been transplanted to the heart of the city. Three feet away, beyond the tarp wall, a cold mist was falling. I struck a match and took a few puffs, pulling the cool smoke into my mouth and savoring the moment. It had been a while since I last enjoyed a good bowl. I had recently made the journey to Nashville from South Carolina, land of tobacco and sunshine, in order to visit a few pipe carvers (Grant Batson, Bruce Weaver, and Pete Prevost). I sat, listening to Pete go through pint recommendations for the evening. We had what Pete called the “Nashville Experience,” which was a trip to a honkytonk and a PBR. Needless to say, it was fun. As the evening progressed, we mapped out the next day, which was to be filled with plenty of pipe enjoyment. Bruce was planning on working out of Pete’s shop that day, due to the construction of his new home and shop.
As I pulled into the drive, I was greeted by the sound of air compressed sandblasting. This is when it occurred to me that I was going to have the opportunity to witness Bruce perform his famous sandblast technique. It should be noted that witnessing certain sandblasting processes is much like witnessing a unicorn having tea with a mermaid… It’s a rare delight (So rare in fact, that it wasn’t captured on film for risk of destroying its soul. Just kidding of course, but seriously). Anyhow, I spent a good portion of my day simply soaking it in. Pete was to my left and Bruce to my right. Pete was working on a few new pipes, one of which was a volcano that I’m particularly fond of, and Bruce decided to take a break from his blasting to shape a blowfish.
Both carvers seemed to work in complete complement of one another, as if they were working on the same project. In a few painless moments, Bruce shaped his blowfish and handed it to me with a quick, “Take a look at that grain.” I slid down in my chair and admired both the grain and Bruce's ability to see it in a piece of raw briar. I could have stayed in that shop the entire day, but Grant Batson was expecting me soon, so I needed to be on my way.
“My house is the one with the pile of bikes in the drive. Just come through the garage.” simple and understandable directions. As one becomes familiar with pipe carvers, one quickly realizes many of their shops are based out of their home. This makes visiting them even more of an honor, because one is welcomed as family or a friend, and that’s exactly what the Batson family did for me.
I followed the instructions and soon found myself greeted by a bearded fellow. He was clinching his pipe between his teeth, with a leather apron strapped across his front, finishing up one of his Tormented Blowfish (Here’s a bit of a side note, but if you’ve yet to see these, you should soon remedy that). Grant and I chatted as if we’d known each other years ago and bumped into one another by sheer happenstance. It was as if we were simply catching up on life. He showed me some of the pipes he’s getting together for Chicago, we shared thoughts on tobacco, and enjoyed ourselves thoroughly.
Grant’s priority in life is certainly his family. This was apparent and refreshing. Periodically, one or more of his children poked their head through the shop door to talk to him, or to ask for help with their geometry homework. It wasn’t long before Jill, his wife and a fantastic hostess, offered us some delicious cobbler and cream.
I placed the spoon in the empty bowl, lifted my pipe and lit it. Surveying the room slowly, I found myself in a moment I would not soon forget. To my left sat Grant in an arm chair, minus the arms, and directly in front of me were Jill and the kids sitting on the couch. The conversation was as rich as the cobbler. Worries seemed to melt away, and so did the evening. I was reluctant to call our evening to an end, but found it necessary considering my early flight.
As the Batson family walked me outside, I found myself wanting to make my way back to Nashville with my family soon, in order for them to meet our new friends, strangers only hours ago. Ah, the power of the pipe.
Today, Wednesday, the 20th of February, in the year 2013, is International Pipe Smoking Day. So what does that mean? It means that everything you order from us is discounted at an extra 10% off. Everything. Pipe-cleaners? 10% off. Pipes? 10% off. Tobacco, be it bulk or tinned? 10% off? Yes, 10% off.
Now that I think we're clear on that, I'll not take up any more of your time -- you have pipes to smoke, after all. Perhaps, having heard this news, you've also got pipes to add to your collection, or tobaccos or accessories to stock up on while the stocking-up is good (and 10% off).
Currently sitting on my desk is a beautiful piece of art. It happens to be a Danish Estate crafted by Tonni Nielsen, fresh from estate restoration, and scheduled for today's update. Though I could write a thousand or more words about this Bent Brandy, its fine-looking grain and exotic wood accent, there are times where words simply fall short. That's why the images on Smokingpipes.com are so important. Although text relates information not outwardly visible and gives a little historical context for brands and pipemakers, it is the photograph that best describes -- and often sparks an infatuation with -- a pipe.
Our photography and videography team: Peter Kogler, Katie Ranalli, Chris Johnson, and John Sutherland have perfected their craft. For each update, they have less than three days to capture and edit photos and video for an average of 200 pipes. Additionally, many of these pipes get multiple photos from various angles -- all told, the gang takes well over a thousand photographs each week. Great pains are taken to ensure that what is seen on the web is exactly what sits in the tray in front of them. The light cannot just bounce off the shiny finish of a smooth pipe, it has to illuminate the intricate details of the grain. The stain needs to be just the right shade, which can be difficult for some of the colorful pipes we offer. The silver needs to be polished, and the stamping needs to be as legible as possible.
Of course, all of this effort would be pointless if we used one photo to "symbolically represent" a category of pipes like many other online retailers. For us, that is not enough. The pipe you see is the pipe you get. We do not use stock photography. We do not use bulk photography. This means, if we get 10 Peterson Darwin System Smooth (B42) with P-Lip pipes, we photograph each one with the knowledge that, although they are given the same title, each pipe is unique. Isn't that part of what makes pipes so special after all?
I could tell you that these guys work really hard, and that each photo is perfection... but why not go with the theme of this blog post and show you? It is for this purpose that we have stalked them with cameras and created a short video illustrating just that. So, without further rambling from myself, please take 2 minutes and 40 seconds to witness the endless work the guys and gal do to make the Smokingpipes.com update stand out.
Back in August, Ted and I went on the annual pipe pilgrimage to visit lots of Danish pipe makers, plus the Mac Baren tobacco factory. As always, it was a bit of a whirlwind. Ten pipe makers and a tobacco factory were crammed into just five full days on the ground. Even so, we were able to spend quite a bit of time with each of them and were able to chat on camera with a few, including Peter Heding, our interview victim in today's video.
Peter was about as excited about being interviewed on camera as I would have been (as in, not terribly excited), but being the incredibly nice, accommodating guy that he is, made this video possible. So, thank you Peter, as well as thanks to Ted Swearingen for taking the video and Alyson Wilford for editing it.
As many of you likely know by now, Sykes and I were in Denmark a couple of weeks ago to visit pipe makers, look at pipes, buy pipes, and talk about the current state of pipedom. Because I fail at math, and because it was a pretty hectic trip, what with having missed another flight on top of the sheer number of people to see and things to do, when Sykes says we saw eleven pipe makers in five days, I believe him. It was a whirlwind. And it was awesome (in the not over-used, absolutely literal sense of the word).
Certainly one of the highlights of the trip was whisking away to tour the Mac Baren factory, as I've long been an ardent fan of many of their blends. Plus, factories are cool. Sykes and I sat down with CEO Simon Nielsen and Product Manager Per Georg Jensen and talked pipe tobacco (only a slight deviation from the normal conversation to be had on the trip), new pipe tobacco blends, and the current state of pipe tobaccodom. Then Per guided us through the warehouse and factory, paying attention especially to those things pertaining to Mac Baren's latest creation, HH Old Dark Fired. Thankfully, we had the presence of mind to bring a camera...
Almost a year ago to the day, I was at Lars Ivarsson's home in the north of Sjaelland, Denmark's largest island. Pipe maker and friend Jeff Gracik made the trip to Denmark with me and he kindly helped take the video presented here. Also present were pipe maker Nanna Ivarsson, Lars' daughter, and her sons, including Sixten (named for his great-grandfather) who makes a brief guest appearance in the video too.
I've long wanted to document Lars' stories of the beginnings of Sixten's career in the 1940s and 1950s, which marked the beginnings of what we think of as Danish modern pipe making today. Without Sixten and those he taught, hand made pipes would be very different today. Sixten's story is central to the larger pipe narrative of the last seventy years and no one is in as good a place as Lars to share those stories.
We've been making pipe and tobacco related videos for over a year now. There are a handful that particularly stick out for me, either because of occasions they commemorated or the quality of the interviewee or some particularly good editing work (by Ted or Alyson; my editing work is abysmal). I thought it might be fun to revisit some of my favorites. I have a ton that I really like, but in the interest of not going terribly overboard, I'll keep it to just four. Enjoy!
The first one is the interview with Trohls Mikkelsen, factory manager at Orlik, talking about tobacco varietals. His explanation of these things sheds considerable light on the subject. And getting it from such a knowledgable source is particularly special.
I love this set of two videos for a whole host of reasons. Jeff and Adam are excellent interview subjects, the editing by Ted is great, and the sentiment Tokutomi shares is just lovely.
Here's the video from our visit to the Peterson factory in February. I think this short, music-only vid is just a ton of fun.
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