A few months ago, we randomly ended up with a huge batch of Stanwells. Out of roughly two hundred pipes total, perhaps three or four had small problems, and so they were correctly rejected by our QC expert, Adam Davidson. If the problems are really minor and cosmetic and we can't return the pipe to the factory, we'll sell these as estates, drop the price and note the problem (slightly uneven stain, for example). If they have more serious problems and we can't return them (which is very rare), we might simply smoke it, give it to a new employee, or just pitch it.
And that's how I ended up with a pretty spiffy sandblasted, silver-banded Stanwell, though one unfortunately also sporting a pretty horrid stress fracture on one side of the bowl. It was a hairline crack, so I can kind of see the guys at Stanwell missing it, but the position and our suspicion that it went pretty deep meant that we weren't going to sell it.
People seem to think that by virtue of my years in the pipe industry and my connections that I must have a massive pipe collection. While it's of extremely good quality, with top notch pipes from Japan, Denmark, Italy and the United States (especially Japan and Denmark), it's not terribly large in the grand scheme of pipe collections, amounting to perhaps forty pipes at most.
It's not like I particularly needed a broken pipe, but I really liked the shape and finish and I'm a big Stanwell advocate, so I decided to go ahead and give this one a try. And I've smoked it maybe twenty times since. Though the stress fracture will in all likelihood eventually cause it to have to go to pipe heaven, it's holding up fine for now. And I'm delighted with it. I find myself reaching for it at work more than other pipes that would have sold for twenty times what this would have, even had it been without the crack. It smokes beautifully, the acrylic stem is surprisingly comfortable and the shape is lovely.
So, what's the point of this little missive? I'm not entirely sure. I'm a huge devotee of high grade handmade pipes. Obviously. I've been a high grade pipe evangelist for many years. I've written hundreds of thousands of words and chatted and thought about high end pipes for untold hours over the course of the past decade. But I love this little, inexpensive (particularly so given its problems) Stanwell. Stanwell makes awesome pipes and I'm consistently impressed. It also goes to show that there are truly enjoyable pipes to be had at a very wide range of prices.