Todd Johnson: Smooth Blowfish with Bakelite (Phalanx) (Q) Tobacco Pipe

Product Number: 002-194-0115

It is no exaggeration when I say that Todd Johnson is one of, if not the most, highly regarded artisans in all of the United States, and that his name carries with it a weight that is nearly universally recognized in the greater pipe community. His fascination with pipes began around the same time he started carving: in the Spring of 2000, when he carved a walnut pipe for a friend's graduation, leveraging his skills and tools as a woodworker to do so. From there he was hooked, receiving critique and instruction from Trever Talbert before visiting Tom Eltang in the winter of 2001, Eltang teaching him his techniques for drilling and shaping, as well as imbuing him with a great appreciation for the Danish school of design. Johnson went on to earn a master's degree in aesthetics from Yale, something that, combined with the respect he has garnered for shaping styles from around the world, lends him an utterly singular outlook for the form his own pieces take.

The Blowfish isn't a unique shape from Johnson's portfolio, the artisan having carved a fair few throughout his tenure, though in our years carrying his work, this pipe in particular stands out among many of the rest. I'm struck immediately by the scale of this pipe, being nearly six and a half inches long and possessed of an impressive wealth of substance throughout its build. All of this briar has resulted in a robust weightiness and feel in hand, which, coupled with the myriad ridgelines that define the Blowfish's shape, presents an iteration of the profile that's uniquely firm and structured. Much of this structure is present in the shank, here taking on a gently lifting presence as it ebbs out of the shank and flares gently toward the junction, its outline rounded by a quintet of ridgelines that flow into the bowl. Outside of these ridges, the most instantly captivating element of the shank is it's compressed shape, with its cinching offering the shank an ovoid outline which pushes the visual weight further onto the bowl. Of the ridges that round the surface of the shank, the central and rightmost pair on the underside form a unified pairing, with the middle ridge pushing through the heel and fore of the bowl before wrapping around the top and curving around the rim, arcing as it descends down the right aft side of the bowl and curls back through the bottom of the shank.

The bowl itself is flanked by a pair of panels that divide its massive form into asymmetrical halves, with the right side panel being a good deal larger than the left's. The right side's panel is also uniquely formed, as the aforementioned interacting ridgelines through the underside of the shank curl around the bowl's side and define the larger panel, the aftmost area of the panel offering a fin-like look which calls to mind the shape's namesake aquatic inspiration. The outline of the bowl itself takes on a striking appearance from an aerial perspective, its mass having been tilted to the left for a highly dynamic look that's reminiscent of a fish's travel through water. The left side panel here is formed out of a single ridge across the left underside, one which curls upward at the transition and immediately finds itself circling the bowl. Dressing this pipe is a warm, vibrant contrast stain that unveils a wealth of stunning grain, with ample birdseye present on either flank of the stummel, while the midsection is striated with dense cross grain. There's plenty of contrast on offer as well, thanks to the colorful combination of Bakelite comprising the saddle stem, its split build comprising cream hues at the base and turquoise at the bit. Thanks to its combination of gorgeous grain and precise shaping, this pipe has received Johnson's superlative end elusive Phalanx Q grade.

-John McElheny
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Measurements & Other Details

  • Length: 6.29 in./159.77 mm.
  • Weight: 3.50 oz./99.22 g.
  • Bowl Height: 1.95 in./49.53 mm.
  • Chamber Depth: 1.44 in./36.58 mm.
  • Chamber Diameter: 0.82 in./20.83 mm.
  • Outside Diameter: 2.12 in./53.85 mm.
  • Stem Material: Bakelite
  • Filter: None
  • Shape: Blowfish
  • Finish: Smooth
  • Material: Briar
  • Country: United States
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