“Drive for show, putt for dough” is a well-known observation in golf and has some similar maxims when it comes to pipe carving: “Shape gets a try, but stem work gets another buy” (or) “Shape will get it in hands, but bits create the fans”. From a pure smoking/collecting perspective, it makes a ton of sense. The mouth is amazingly finicky about what goes in it (have any of us not noticed
how even the smallest particle of food near the tooth & gum will drive us a bit batty, until we eliminate it?) and, to an interesting extent, the same holds true about stem buttons. Even if we just choose to ignore it, a slightly thick, less-than-ideal bit becomes part of the smoke. The mark of great stem/bit work is to be so thin, so comfortable and present such remarkable flow that we forget it’s even there. Clearly, this lesson was not lost on Abe Herbaugh. His handcrafted (right down to the turned, chamfered tenon) ebonite bits are deliciously thin and slotted to such perfection that it might even make Brad Pohlmann applaud.
4.93” stem-to-stern and 1.55” bowl amidships, Mr. Herbaugh does a yeoman’s job in the creation of a beloved American classic, the muscular saddle-Billiard. “American”, as it applies in straight Billiards (not their bent brethren), in that the thickness of the shank is solidly in proportion to the bowl, and the ‘length of shank = height of bowl’ is still observed, the deviation from the English template lies entirely within the brevity of the stem. The smooth crossgrain of the rim finds a perfect complement within the ring of cocobolo on the mount, and the blast/grain presents a classic birdseye on the side, with a delightful fan grain appearing on the fore and aft.
--R. ‘Bear’ Graves