Buddha belly bamboo is neither scarce (in fact, along with its cousin, Golden bamboo, it’s classified as bambusa vulgaris
(common)) nor, unlike the vast majority of the bamboo work that you and I run across, does the part used for ferrules have to be dug up. It’s a stem, not a rhizome. Still, if I were a pipemaker, I would think long and hard about working with it; the amount of prep time between the two is considerable. With the bamboo we are accustomed to seeing, you simply drill it out and start rockin’. Buddha belly is hollow, and being hollow means that it needs to be filled, stabilized, allowed to set up (cure), and then it can be drilled. Given all the work, why would a pipemaker use it? Because it’s the only way to create something as cool as the Doctor’s strawberry wood Brandy.
The two Buddha belly strawberry wood pipes which appeared in Doc’s Smokingpipes.com debut sold within a few minutes of going up, and frankly I was a bit surprised that it took that long. Looking past the improbably beautiful grain created by Kovalev’s unique sandblasting apparatus and technique, the earthen harmony created within the hues of cumberland, medium cream in the bamboo and the coffee/russet of the stain (as if that were possible), the form is quite compelling. Once in the paw, I can easily imagine that I am holding an artifact; perhaps an ancient smoke stone, and enjoying watching my smoke rise into an evening sky, joining stars which burn with a hypnotic brilliance and ferocity (the electrical grid is still centuries away). Given that this type of presentation is one of the most recent out there, I find the dichotomy between feeling and fact a bit heady. Don’t miss this one.
--R. 'Bear' Graves