The Art of Bamboo in American Pipe Making

Once upon a time the warriors, and other elites, of certain societies displayed their prestige by wearing jewelry made of iron. Far more recently in human history, aluminum was once as valuable as silver — which was what led to the pointy end of the Washington Monument being made out of it. And going in the completely opposite direction, bamboo was once something pipe makers stuck on pipes just so that they'd use up less briar.

Things change; the place bamboo holds in the pipe world certainly did. That change started with Sixten, and has been carried on and refined since then. Today we find that in a high-end artisanal pipe, bamboo is, more often than not, not simply integrated into the design and aesthetics of a shape, but one of its central, principle themes. In other words, bamboo has become something the finest pipemakers often design pipes around. Just as they'll pick up a special block of plateau briar and visualize the shapes they could get out of it, they'll pick up a particularly choice section of bamboo and imagine the shape they could pair with it.

One of the things this leads to is us asking a dozen-plus of the most prominent American pipemakers active today to produce, on special commission, one design each — the only specification being that each pipe utilizes bamboo. They agreed, and they provided. And today we have them ready and waiting; one special pipe each by Florov, Davidson, Cannoy, Klein, Prevost, J&J, Armentrout, Pohlmann, Herbaugh, J. Alan, Nate King, Weaver, and Markle.

How are they for variety? Well, as expected when you give thirteen creative types independent missions with only a single guideline, the approaches cover a great deal of ground.

A briar long and delicately trim? Try the Prevost or Herbaugh. A similarly slender idea, but pocket-sized and shaped from meerschaum? Cannoy's has got that. Gestural and sculptural? Have a look at the Davidson Pitcher, Florov Cavalier, Klein Pierced Blowfish, or Pohlmann Speared Fish. Like something gently curving, softly formed of bowl, but also extra-knuckley in the bamboo? Take a take a gander at the J.Alan. Something more neoclassical-Danish, but with an American-style sandblast? Armentrout. The same, but hold the sandblast? Nate King. Perhaps a taste of something stout? J&J and Ernie Markle just happen to have that in, each of theirs built around pale, broad, and smooth buddha bamboo. An Apple with wings, as unlikely as that may seem? Bruce Weaver has just the thing.

See them all in today's special update.


    • Bruce A. Weaver on July 15, 2015
    • It was a honor to be part of the project and amongst such talent.

    • Flatticus on July 18, 2015
    • While I travel in somewhat different financial circles than the lucky owners or soon to be owners of these pipes, this exposition project was great. Not just because each pipe is more beautiful than the last, but because it gave the feel of being a spectator at an artist's symposium, and the ability to examine new pipe trends. Kudos, SP. Look forward to the next one.

    • Tracee Lancaster on July 18, 2015
    • I first off have to say that you picked some of the greatest artisans out there. But I disagree with you on one thing there is one artisans who should be #1 on that list and I have pictures of every single one. He has changed and reinvented bamboo. What this young amazing man can do with bamboo is incredible. And he has the highest quality and expectations for his pipes. Plus he's such a great guy. But all of the artisans are. All of this is my personal opinion. I'm just saying. Tracee Lancaster

    • Linwood Hines on April 13, 2016
    • Ok, I didn't get to this until 9:50pm today, but when I selected the link I got an "oops - this page isn't available" message. Are the bamboo pipes ALL sold? or am I doing something wrong?

    • Adam O'Neill on April 14, 2016
    • @Linwood Hines The bamboo pipes were last years showcase, this year it's sandblasts.

Join the conversation:

This will not be shared with anyone

challenge image
Enter the circled word below: