Abe Herbaugh Pipes

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Originally from West Virginia, Abe Herbaugh developed a passion for woodworking at an early age — an interest sparked by his father's small woodworking shop. However, his foray into the craft began with handmade guitars, not pipes. The summer after graduating high school in 2003, Herbaugh attended the Augusta Heritage Center's music festival in Elkins, WV. The festival featured a variety of traditional American music from Cajun and Classic Country to Folk and Bluegrass, as well as a class dedicated to instrument repair. Herbaugh brought an old guitar in need of refurbishing, and the workshop taught him basic woodworking and tooling principles vis-à-vis instrument repair work. Soon after, he started at Callaham Guitars, a family-owned operation that specialized in a variety of artisanal services from vintage-instrument repair to complete custom guitar and amp builds. It was at Callaham that Herbaugh cut his teeth as a craftsman and learned skills that would prove vital to his work as an artisan pipe maker. By the end of his tenure, he was crafting guitars completely from start to finish: milling the lumber, cutting out the body, wiring the electronics, and applying the finish. Moreover, repairing instruments often required replicating replacement parts, which Herbaugh would tool and recreate from scratch.

His work at Callaham was also instrumental in reintroducing Herbaugh to pipe smoking. He had attempted the hobby in high school to no long-term avail, but Bill Callaham reinvigorated Herbaugh's interest, gifting him a Comoy's estate pipe and a house-tobacco blend from J.B. Hayes in Winchester, Virginia. This time, Herbaugh overcame the beginning difficulties many new pipe smokers experience and became a regular at J.B. Hayes. Given his talent for and experience in woodworking, it wasn't long before Herbaugh started to make his own pipes. He purchased some briar blocks and pre-form stems and made his first pipe sometime in the late '00s in his father's workshop — his expertise at Callaham translating naturally to this newfound medium.

Already a seasoned woodworker, Herbaugh spent the beginning years as a pipe maker focused on the specific nuances of pipe making compared to other woodworking trades. He knew the necessary steps to achieve the desired results in a pipe, but he needed time to grow accustomed to the ergonomics and distinctive tools endemic to making handmade pipes. In his early years, Herbaugh turned again to J.B. Hayes: The owner would let him dig through boxes of old, unsmokable estate pipes from a range of iconic and classic workshops, which Herbaugh would take home, study, and recreate. He was able to understand the craftsmanship underneath the pipes and then reverse engineer the process for his own work. This method also helped Herbaugh learn the shaping and aesthetic principles of pipe design, while his machining experience proved beneficial for developing consistent processes and manufacturing his own tools.

In 2010, Herbaugh attended his first pipe show as an artisan, and not long after, he left Callaham to pursue pipe making full time. For him, crafting handmade pipes allowed for more creative freedom and posed intriguing and unique challenges. He also appreciated the inherent collaboration between the organic and the manmade that pipes afford — that endless pursuit of crafting something by hand to best showcase briar's innate beauty.

Having backpacked the Appalachian trail earlier in life, Herbaugh had developed a deep love for upper New England — Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. Moreover, as a pipe maker, he had built a relationship with Steve Norse of Vermont Freehand, among the world's most renowned purveyors of pipe-making materials. Norse had expressed the need for help, so Herbaugh relocated to Vermont in 2014, working for Norse while he established his own workshop.

Today, Herbaugh is among the world's foremost pipe makers, and his work is renowned for its precision, craftsmanship, and detail. His portfolio maintains a perfect balance between classic, shape-chart standards and artful freehand designs. His admiration for traditional marques of the early 20th century can be seen in his discerning interpretations of classic shapes, while his appreciation for Danish and Japanese masters, like Micke, Sixten, Gotoh, and Tokutomi, is revealed through his tasteful use of asymmetry — a design element also inspired by Herbaugh's respect for Japanese woodblock prints.

Among Herbaugh's most widely regarded pipe-making attributes is his silverwork. While silver has been used as a pipe accent for over a century, Herbaugh has modernized it through his level of detail and intricacy. He hand-spins all of his silver and has developed numerous proprietary tools in order to fashion specific and difficult silver designs. His pipes also often feature cow horn and occasionally musk ox horn. Regardless of shape or accent, though, every Herbaugh pipe is united by a dedication to excellent design and unmitigated craftsmanship, from hand-cut stem work and reliable engineering to immaculate finishing and impressive accents.