Sunday In The Workshop With Adam Davidson
Adam Davidson shaping a tobacco pipe

Photo courtesy of Mary Walters Photography

American pipemaker Adam Davidson, while among the world's preeminent carvers, has also been a member of the Smokingpipes family for the past 13 years as Estate Manager and Quality Control specialist. Adam spends his workdays managing our estate department and our pipe restoration team, as well as evaluating the estates that customers such as yourself send us. He gets some pretty unusual pipes through his office, often requiring substantial research. Even after all these years of experience, pipes unknown to him (or anyone else, we might argue) continue to arrive in our estate department, and determining their heritage and value can be challenging.

On weekends, you will find Adam at home with his charming wife, and a little girl so adorable that upon meeting her I had an honest urge to test my blood sugar for Type II diabetes. He occupies much of his time there smoking meats (yes, that's meats), smoking pipes, and, of course, carving remarkably imaginative performance smoking instruments.

A few weeks ago, Adam kindly invited my wife Mary and I to his home for dinner and to watch his pipemaking process. Since I own and smoke a sample of Adam's work (his signature sandblasted military-mount Billiard, which he calls a "Lorraine") and have been fortunate enough to have tasted the products of his smoker, I knew that I couldn't possibly decline. Pipes and meat should be the ambitions of every guy.

Adam Davidson shaping a tobacco pipe

Photo courtesy of Mary Walters Photography

My wife and I arrived on a drizzly Sunday to find Adam in his familiar upbeat mood. He invited us into his shop while he checked on the pork he was smoking for dinner, which was already smelling deliciously tempting. We took in the scene of the carver's shop, replete with all manner of tools, equipment, and supplies needed for fashioning some of the finest briar smoking instruments available today — we were in a pipe paradise, but also distracted by hunger and the irresistible aroma of delectable edibles.

That day Adam was about to carve his newest signature shape, debuted at this year's West Coast Pipe Show: the "Figu," which is a hybrid of his ever-popular Fig and a Fugu-style Blowfish. We observed as Adam meticulously examined block after block of briar until finding just the correct one, which he discarded after some initial shaping. His relative indifference to the loss, perhaps from experience, was a clear indicator of just how seriously he approaches his craft.

Adam Davidson shaping a tobacco pipeAdam Davidson shaping a tobacco pipe

Photo courtesy of Mary Walters Photography

The next step in his process was sawing and shaping the block. He pivoted the block smoothly and precisely against the sanding wheel, stopping only to read the grain and check the pork. At this point we were unsure which project most attracted our attention, but dared not inquire which he expected to be done first, the pipe or the pork, lest we interrupt his concentration.

We enjoyed hours engrossed in Adam's processes. After meticulously studying, shaping, sanding, and drilling the block, he announced that we were ready to feast, so he stepped out of the shop to remove our dinner from the smoker, where it had been slowly cooking for 12 hours. While he was away, Mary and I held the freshly crafted stummel in our hands, admiring the craftsmanship and manifestation of skill. (We also wondered if we should rehydrate; the aroma of that simmering roast over the past couple of hours had promoted some robust salivation.)

Adam Davidson shaping a tobacco pipe

Photo courtesy of Mary Walters Photography

Adam returned with a plate of the finest pork it has ever been our privilege to savor (and we savored a lot of it), better than we'd thought possible, proving himself a master of multiple talents. As we ate, and drank our beers, we appreciated the simple pleasures of food and friendship, discussed pipes and tobacco, joked and laughed, and altogether enjoyed ourselves. And later, as we smoked our pipes and drank our beers (I know I mentioned the beers twice, but accuracy demands), we discussed Adam's work that day and the, to us, unfathomable intricacies of his craft.

It was a memorable evening, filled with conversation, hospitality and fun. Mary and I were again contentedly reaffirmed that our community of pipe enthusiasts is a comfortable and interesting place to be.

Adam Davidson shaping a tobacco pipe

Photo courtesy of Mary Walters Photography

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