Todd Johnson: Smooth Calabash Churchwarden with Bamboo and Beechwood (Phalanx) (Q) Tobacco Pipe

Product Number: 002-194-0144

Sixten Ivarsson is widely considered the grandfather of artisan pipe making, with his "shape first, drill second" technique allowing carvers to fashion more stylistic and creative designs otherwise not possible before. The Danish icon also greatly influenced how pipe makers approach pipes from an aesthetic perspective, being counted among the first to consider a pipe's stem as part of the piece's artistic composition, not merely as a means of smoking. In the decades that followed, many carvers would adopt similar approaches, and several American carvers traveled to Denmark and were influenced by the design approach of revered Danish artisans, expanding on it further with accenting materials and evocative color palettes. Todd Johnson was one of those early American artisans, and his personal style has, in turn, led to many other American carvers fashioning split stems and using Bakelite — many of whom were directly mentored by Johnson in the early stages of the their careers.

Our American Pipe Making Exposition for 2021 celebrates the creative attention that many American carvers pay to stems and how they incorporate stems into pipes' overall artistic composition, with this Calabash being Todd's entry. Of Churchwarden length, this design boasts a stunning section of bamboo that transitions seamlessly from the briar bowl. The use of bamboo is also a common feature among American pipe making — and was the theme of 2019's American Pipe Making Expo — and many artisans actually shape a pipe based off of a specific piece of bamboo. Such is the case with this pipe: The bamboo curls in tandem with its steady downward flare, and Todd shaped the stummel to continue that gesture and flare through the bowl, creating a shape that emulates the Horn's gentle, forward flare.

If not for the bamboo's knuckles, it would be difficult to discern exactly wear the bamboo ends and the briar begins in this pipe's silhouette, and the flare of the bowl is eventually terminated by a fixed rim cap of beechwood, matching the bamboo's lighter hue and offering intriguing grain orientation. Even the bowl's grain matches the dynamic gesture of this pipe, with bands of cross grain covering the flanks and curling in unison with the briar's shaping to poise birdseye fore and aft. The stem, then, in line with the Expo's theme, is fashioned from brindled vulcanite of swirling red and taupe hues, perfectly combining the color palettes of the briar, bamboo, and beechwood, but Todd didn't simply integrate the stem via a similar palette: He also cut the base of the stem to match the rhythm of the bamboo's knuckles, once again playing off the silhouette's optical illusion of where the bamboo ends and the briar and stem begin.

-Truett Smith
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Measurements & Other Details

  • Length: 10.95 in./278.13 mm.
  • Weight: 3.40 oz./96.39 g.
  • Bowl Height: 2.78 in./70.61 mm.
  • Chamber Depth: 1.67 in./42.42 mm.
  • Chamber Diameter: 0.76 in./19.30 mm.
  • Outside Diameter: 2.12 in./53.85 mm.
  • Stem Material: Vulcanite
  • Filter: None
  • Shape: Churchwarden
  • Finish: Smooth
  • Material: Briar
  • Country: United States
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