J. Alan: Smooth Bent Brandy with Bamboo (1953) Tobacco Pipe

Product Number: 002-376-0386

Throughout the first decades of briar pipe making, from around the mid-to-late 1850s to the early 1900s, grain orientation wasn't a priority; maximizing a briar block's grain wasn't the goal of large pipe factories. Instead, they focused on producing enough pipes for their vast clientele as well as producing quality renditions of classic pipe-chart shapes. That said, handsome grain was certainly appreciated, but when it happened, it was often by happenstance — a pipe's shape wasn't determined around the specific briar block's grain patterns. The machines used to shape pipes were limited by radial symmetry, producing stummels that featured symmetry across a central, horizontal axis running the length of the pipe. Sometimes particularly lovely grain follows a similar trajectory, but most often it doesn't; nature usually doesn't ascribe to such straight, rigid lines. That manner and method of shaping changed as pipe making progressed and more and more hand processes were integrated; however, a maker was still limited by where the chamber and mortise had been drilled. The innovative work of Sixten Ivarsson, though, changed that in the 1960s.

Put simply, Sixten developed a method that allowed an artisan to completely shape a stummel before drilling the chamber and the mortise. In this way, they could first shape according to the briar's grain and then drill the corresponding sections as needed. Sixten also pioneered other artisan aspects, such as accent work — incorporating bamboo and other materials in a manner that supported the artistic composition rather than treating them as an afterthought.

To be clear, Sixten Ivarsson didn't make this bent Brandy; Jeff Gracik did. "So, why in the world are you talking about Sixten?" Because this J. Alan pipe exemplifies the broad-reaching influence of Ivarsson's early, pioneering work, and Jeff's craftsmanship artfully testifies to the superior results of that innovation. In essence, this J. Alan pipe wouldn't exist if not for Sixten, and it bears witness to what Sixten made possible.

The overall shape here is a rather squat bent Brandy, the bowl bordering on Tomato in its stout plumpness. A discernible taper, though, defines the bowl's sides, while a lifted heel supports the upward growth of these walls, as well as the defined forward-urge that they take on, especially at the aft side. Said urge rather distinctly follows the trajectory of the grain which crawls up the flanks near the aft side, enhancing both the effect it has on the composition and its presence within it, all while exemplifying a sense of understated momentum that keeps things looking lively and active. Gracik has managed to achieve a dynamic kind of verticality in the piece without unnecessarily exaggerating the height of this bowl, thanks to the building momentum from the aft and the underside informing the eye to an implied line upward. It's a beautifully rendered design that retains a sense of traditionalism with just the right amount of creative deviation to separate it from other iterations. Dressed in a walnut contrast stain, the stummel is fitted to a shank extension of bamboo, the two knuckles' rhythm and spacing continued by the saddle portion of the stem — connected via a steel tenon for added durability. Jeff angled the stem base to match the organic, dis-uniform nature of the knuckles as well as the forward-reaching aspect of the bowl, and such a design cue brings the stem into the entire composition. Aesthetically stunning and engineered to the utmost standards, this pipe testifies to Jeff Gracik's skill as an artist and a craftsman and his continuation of the innovative tradition of artisan pipe making.

-Truett Smith
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Measurements & Other Details

  • Length: 5.42 in./137.67 mm.
  • Weight: 1.70 oz./48.19 g.
  • Bowl Height: 1.73 in./43.94 mm.
  • Chamber Depth: 1.39 in./35.31 mm.
  • Chamber Diameter: 0.76 in./19.30 mm.
  • Outside Diameter: 1.68 in./42.67 mm.
  • Stem Material: Vulcanite
  • Filter: None
  • Shape: Bent Brandy
  • Finish: Smooth
  • Material: Briar
  • Country: United States
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