Tom Eltang is one of the most respected and influential artisan pipemakers of all time, having produced some of the most beautiful and practical pieces anywhere, beloved by legions of pipesmokers around the world.
Eltang was drawn to the craft early in life, having been enthralled with a magazine that had a pipe pictured in it and eventually made his first pipe when he was 11 years old from a Pipe-Dan kit. At age 16, Tom was introduced to Anne Julie, who luckily realized the young man's potential and offered him an apprenticeship in 1974. Eltang would study under Julie for three years, learning balance and harmony in pipe shaping before going to work for Pipe-Dan doing repair work. His time with Pipe-Dan was incredibly informative and beneficial as Tom could see firsthand what made pipes work and how to better engineer them. He would then work for Stanwell, often traveling to tobacco shops to demonstrate pipemaking before deciding to make pipes under his own name in 1980. Since that time, Tom has mentored, trained, or been a pivotal influence on pipemakers such as Mike Sebastian Bay, Johannes Rasmussen, Frank Axmacher, and Todd Johnson. Like many others, I love Tom's work and find myself in awe at how immensely talented he is with each new batch of pipes we receive from him. Here, I'll be counting down my personal favorite Eltang signature designs that also demonstrate why he's one of the most significant pipemakers to ever take up the craft.
5. Elephant's Foot
Originally designed by legendary Swedish carver Bo Nordh, the Elephant's Foot is an immediately recognizable shape that's also notoriously difficult to create, as many elements have to line up perfectly. The initial struggle begins with selecting a briar block suitable for such a demanding shape, as the grain has to be practically flawless for the desired result to be achieved since grain orientation is paramount to execute the form well. Ideally, when presented in a smooth finish, the Elephant's Foot features birdseye along the bowl's paneled fore and aft while cross grain covers the flanks. Tom Eltang has produced several unique renditions over the years and they almost always receive the carver's prestigious Snail stamp, denoting pipes with exceptional grain. We've seen the Danish artisan present the design in a stunning, bamboo-adorned Churchwarden configuration as well as smooth, standard length ones accented with bamboo and horn. However, Eltang does like to experiment with the shape and has been known to present the design in a sandblasted finish or a partial sandblast, where the fore and aft are left smooth to display birdseye but Tom blasts the side panels, infusing the shape with some extra visual and textural appeal.
Tom Eltang has produced several unique renditions over the years and they almost always receive the carver's prestigious Snail stamp, denoting pipes with exceptional grain.
Easily one of Tom's more whimsical and quirky designs, the Tubos is an impressive feat of pipemaking engineering and immediately caught everyone's attention when it was first introduced at the 2010 Chicago Pipe Show. While many makers and marques feature pipes that display a "tubular" aesthetic, Eltang has taken that style literally with the Tubos as it's essentially two cylinders fused together at a right angle. The design has remained fairly consistent since its debut — until 2012 when we began to see the shape feature reverse Calabash engineering housed within the robust, thick shank. The reverse Calabash addition creates a cooling chamber within the shank, ensuring dry, pleasureable smokes as the design will collect any unwanted moisture during the smoking process. We've almost always seen it finished in Eltang's iconic rusticated finish, but we have received a select handful from Tom that were dressed in his signature contrast stain. It's a thoroughly unique creation that exemplifies Eltang's playful inclinations while still adhering to his incredibly strict standards of excellent craftsmanship.
While many makers and marques feature pipes that display a "tubular" aesthetic, Eltang has taken that style literally with the Tubos as it's essentially two cylinders fused together at a right angle.
3. Devil Anse
Back in 2012, Tom was watching the History Channel's Hatfields & McCoys mini-series when he saw Kevin Costner's character clenching a pipe that inspired Eltang to develop what eventually became his unique take on the Devil Anse shape. Unlike the one depicted on television, Tom made the canted bowl more Egg-like in its shaping and decided to pair it to a stout, oval shank rather than a trim, rounded one. We here at Smokingpipes loved the design so much that we asked Tom to create a special, limited edition batch of his Devil Anse pipes for our 15th Anniversary pipe with half of them wearing a smooth finish and half dressed in his iconic rustication style. It's also one of the only shapes that Tom has rendered from olivewood, a fairly rare occurrence of Eltang using an alternate material.
It's a charmingly minimalist design and is one of the most compact and lightweight pieces offered by the Danish carver. And while the Devil Anse has become a popular design among artisans and workshops alike, Tom Elang's renditions are immediately recognizable and stand apart. Whether dressed in his signature rustication or gorgeous contrast stain, it's unmistakably Eltang in its presentation.
Back in 2012, Tom was watching the History Channel's Hatfields & McCoys mini-series when he saw Kevin Costner's character clenching a pipe that inspired Eltang to develop what eventually became his unique take on the Devil Anse shape.
2. Arne Jacobsen
Danish architect and designer Arne Jacobsen was most renowned for his contribution to the school of architectural Functionalism throughout the mid-1900s as well as his imaginative furniture designs. Tom Eltang's approach to pipemaking is heavily influenced by Jacobsen's functionalist and minimalist aesthetic, so much so that Eltang even fashioned a pipe that modeled Jacobsen's famous desk lamp design. The Arne Jacobsen Dublin pays homage to the influential Danish designer with the shape resembling a pipe that Jacobsen himself smoked and features a tall, deep-chambered bowl paired to a slender shank and stem combination. The design consistently manages to retain its status as a featherweight whether presented in standard length proportions or mini-sized and often features a horn accent mount that never fails to complement each piece it's paired with. Tom's pipes are a work of functional art in their own right and such a design is an excellent tribute to one of his primary influences, resulting in a pipe I'm sure Arne would be honored to smoke.
Danish architect and designer Arne Jacobsen was most renowned for his contribution to the school of architectural Functionalism throughout the mid-1900s as well as his imaginative furniture designs.
Tom's quintessential signature shape, the Poker has proven to be Eltang's most popular and highly sought-after design over the years and is the one he can most likely be seen smoking in his own workshop. Dubbed the "smoking machine" by Tom, his Poker has been presented in a few different iterations over the years but no matter what, the end result is pure Eltang and is immediately recognizable from across the room. Defined by a tall, slender, cylindrical bowl and lightweight, trim, and compact proportions, Eltang's Poker has consistently been an ideal choice for fans of the sure-sitting, utilitarian shape. While we've received numerous variations in the past, Tom's iconic Poker design is typically rendered in his signature rustication style and typically paired to two knuckles of pale bamboo accented by smooth briar along the softly inflated rim and a matching ring along the shank end.
However, Eltang is a remarkably diverse carver and has also crafted squat Pokers, smooth ones, natural finished ones, horn mounted ones, and even a massive Magnum rendition. The Poker has even been a mainstay in Tom's Sara Eltang line of pipes that he and Johannes Rasmussen craft in Eltang's workshop near Copenhagen, offering beautiful shapes with high-quality engineering at a more accessible price point. It's also the defining shape of the Eltang Basic line, offering the Poker in an assortment of finishes and pairing the bowls to lightweight, unbreakable, and heat-resistant carbon fiber shanks, further solidifying their workhorse status. Such a variety not only showcases Tom's 40 plus years of pipemaking experience and Danish-minimalist approach but also his impressive creativity when it comes to rendering classic designs, finding fresh and exciting ways to present a shape that's so closely associated with him.
Defined by a tall, slender, cylindrical bowl and lightweight, trim, and compact proportions, Eltang's Poker has consistently been an ideal choice for fans of the sure-sitting, utilitarian shape.
Do you own any of Tom's signature shapes or have you had your sights set on one? Let us know below!