Kurt Balleby: Sandblasted Ramses with Mammoth Tobacco Pipe

Product Number: 002-294-0120

Among Denmark's premier artisan pipe makers, Kurt Balleby spent six years under the tutelage of Kai Nelson in the early 1980s before establishing his own personal workshop at his home in Kolding. Whether rendering classic shapes — like his signature bent Bulldog design — or more sculptural Freehand shapes, Balleby often reveals a fluid shaping style, with much of his work characterized by dynamic curves and softened lines contrasted against trim, paneled facets, and every Balleby pipe is distinguished by his 14K gold triangular stem logo. The Ramses is one Balleby has carved before, and it's a Freehand design that fits well into his style combining subtle structure with smooth, sweeping gesture and a deep bend.

The shape itself was first designed in 2002 by Swedish pipe maker Bo Nordh, arguably the most innovative designer of novel pipe shapes. Like many sculptural shapes, the specifics of the Ramses were informed by the unique grain orientation of a certain briar block, and Nordh sought to shape the briar in the manner that best maximized its grain potential, resulting in the Ramses' memorable design. Upon seeing Nordh's first Ramses, a collector likened it to the Egyptian statue of Ramses II at Abu Simbel — likely due to how the pipe's bowl extends from the shank similar to the cobra depiction on Ramses' crown.

The Ramses has since become a defining shape among artisan pipe making worldwide, and many carvers have honored the late Swedish carver with their own Ramses renditions, as well as versions of Nordh's other signature shapes, like the Elephant's Foot. Similar to the Elephant's Foot, the Ramses relies on a cross-cut grain orientation, with cross grain adorning the flanks and birdseye populating the fore and aft. Where the Ramses differs though is in its paneling, featuring facets along the broad shank, rather than the bowl as in the Elephant's Foot. This rendition from Balleby reflects the Ramses' characteristic form: It presents a wide shank that arcs subtly forward in profile and resembles a long teardrop when viewed from the smoker's perspective — the implied continuation of the end's taper through the stem forming the teardrop's point.

Across the shank's broad canvas, ample birdseye is displayed beneath the inky sandblast of the stummel, the swirling grain becoming quite texturally engaging. The paneled edge of the shank, though, reveals concise striations of cross grain that expand forward into the Egg-like bowl. Said bowl seemingly grows from the front of the shank, much like the traditional Cavalier, but this Ramses' bowl exudes a gracile, organic disposition that melds seamlessly into the shank, each element clearly separate and yet beautifully harmonious in line and curve as the arc of the bowl's fore aligns with that of the shank to form a balanced "V" in profile. It all combines for a stunning tribute to Nordh's signature shape, and Balleby's hand-cut vulcanite stem ensures supreme smoking comfort, with the Ramses' full bend combining for exceptionally balance. The dark palette of the briar here is lent a vibrant dose of contrast at the shank end thanks to a flared fitment of pale mammoth.

-Truett Smith
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Measurements & Other Details

  • Length: 4.75 in./120.65 mm.
  • Weight: 2.32 oz./65.77 g.
  • Bowl Height: 2.69 in./68.33 mm.
  • Chamber Depth: 1.68 in./42.67 mm.
  • Chamber Diameter: 0.82 in./20.83 mm.
  • Outside Diameter: 1.61 in./40.89 mm.
  • Stem Material: Vulcanite
  • Filter: None
  • Shape: Freehand
  • Finish: Sandblast
  • Material: Briar
  • Country: Denmark
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