Tao: Smooth Billiard with Antique Whale Tooth and Horn Stem Tobacco Pipe

Product Number: 002-748-0034

Jens "Tao" Nielsen's adult life began as a sailor, traveling around the world and from port to port, witnessing many people of many walks of life and experiencing the greater world in a way that many of us may only dream of. After his compulsory military service, Nielsen met his future wife and ended his days on the high seas, finding himself working in the pipe shop of Wilhelm Jørgensen, with whom he stayed for three years before meeting Erik Nørding who offered him an apprenticeship. Jens stayed with Nørding for two years before Poul Ilsted came along and, later, the two decided that they wanted to produce their own pipes in their own style and, together with another carver, founded the Svendborg pipe factory. After Ilsted had departed, Tao, too, left, opening his own pipe shop in Svendborg Harbor before moving to Gammelnyby and establishing his own workshop there.

Tao draws from his experience as a sailor when crafting his pipes, focusing on making pieces that are both compact and functional, modeled after the pipes he witnessed other seamen smoking while abroad, something clearly reflected in this classic Billiard. Measuring in at just a touch over four and a half inches long, this piece lands squarely in Nosewarmer territory, though retains a pleasingly plump build that pairs a sleek, tapering stretch of shank and stem to a supple, rounded bowl. Said bowl stands atop a rounded heel and takes on a gentle forward cant as it grows upward, possessed of a low-set waistline that informs a slow, arcing taper to the rim. The shank and stem combination's consistent taper starts at the wide transition, which leaves plenty of room to drape a thumb, and diminishes slowly toward the button, resulting in an aft section that is quite svelte. As a result, the presence of the bowl is emphasized, while maintaining balanced proportions through the stummel.

The finish of this piece is nothing short of stunning, dressing the briar in a vibrant, ruby-hued contrast stain that unveils some incredible grain, with flickering flame pushing through the shank and enshrouding the bowl. The underside and rim are populated with pinpricks of birdseye, and the stem is made up of a trifecta of cumberland, antique whale tooth*, and horn. This trio of materials offers a variety of contrasting colors and visual textures, the cumberland complementing the stain of the briar, while the whale tooth and horn stand out in striking relief, all while calling back to the horn stems of vintage classic pipes.

-John McElheny

*While the harvesting of whales is most often thought of in terms of the once widespread whaling industry, small-scale, localized whale hunts have been central to Faroese life since the North Atlantic islands were settled by the Norse, circa 800 A.D. With a climate and soil wholly unsuited to supporting life by farming crops, those who lived on the Faroe Islands learned to subsist upon pilot whale, sheep, seabirds, and fish. The rich meat and blubber of the pilot whale was (and still is) the most important, the annual catch to this day being divided communally then stored, prepared or preserved in Faorese households (in other words, you won't find it in a Faroe Islands supermarket, nor do they export any of it).

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Measurements & Other Details

  • Length: 4.66 in./118.36 mm.
  • Weight: 1.20 oz./34.02 g.
  • Bowl Height: 1.72 in./43.69 mm.
  • Chamber Depth: 1.38 in./35.05 mm.
  • Chamber Diameter: 0.71 in./18.03 mm.
  • Outside Diameter: 1.43 in./36.32 mm.
  • Stem Material: Horn
  • Filter: None
  • Shape: Billiard
  • Finish: Smooth
  • Material: Briar
  • Country: Denmark
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