James Upshall Pipes - a Discussion

PipesMagazine Approved Sponsor

tarheel1

Preferred Member
Oct 16, 2014
936
0
So there has been huge decline in upshall pipes online and are not answering emails anymore. I have been wanting one for many years but not found the right one. Once and a while I talk with the Moty to see what is available. The last email about a year ago was from his wife and now nothing. I have sent about 4 emails over the past couple of months with no reply.

 

ssjones

Moderator
Staff member
May 11, 2011
14,084
65
Maryland
Sadly, I wouldn't be surprised if that was has occurred. If so, that is a sad end to a storied name and history. Moty's involvement in the brand has always been cloudy and caused me to lose favor with that brand altogether. A James Upshall was my first really good British pipe and I'll always keep several. Perhaps someone will swoop in and buy the brand and revive this name.

 

tarheel1

Preferred Member
Oct 16, 2014
936
0
Well just got an email response back and here is what it said. With all the responses that he was on vacation every time I asked and now this, it makes me wonder if they were just selling old stock and Barry never made any pipes for the new owners or if he left many years back. "Dear MrDarnell,

We do not currently have any in stock and Mr Jones is very near retirement so we will not be making speacila order for the foreseeable future. Best regards, Karen - James Upshall Pipe Company "

 

clickklick

Preferred Member
May 5, 2014
1,673
0
That has been my assumption for years now.
It would match with the idea that they were selling a TON of New Old Stock on ebay for a long time after Moty acquired the name.

 

kenbarnes

Senior Member
Nov 12, 2015
351
5
Hi, I am a new member from England, and I want to say how sad I was to hear that James Upshall may be starting to fade. When I was 16 years old (44 years ago) I started a holiday job at F.Charatan & Son's factory in the east end of London. At that time, my father was appointed by Herman Lane to manage the company. I was saving up some money to buy my first car and getting £7 per week for working in the cellar packing orders(with a great guy called Jeff who taught me this job). Another part of the job was to 'wheel' the sacks of briar to the lift and take them upstairs to the cutting department. This is where it all started. I did work in the factory sanding pipes and also worked in the Charatan Pipe shop in Jermyn Street. For the next few years I worked for Charatan's German distributor in Heidelberg and worked in a pipe store in Munich. In 1977, after the Dunhill buy out, I started The Tilshead Pipe Company with Barry Jones, taught by Reuben Charatan in the 1950s, and who in my opinion was the greatest craftsman at Charatan's and truly the best all-rounder when it came to pipe making. Barry would display breath-taking skill at each stage of the pipe making process and he was certainly the best finisher of pipes I have come across. Barry taught me cutting on the saw and for many years I worked next to him. Barry would be on the turning lathe and I would be cutting on the circular saw (under his wing initially). During the period of 1977-1989 I was cutting briar in the factory and also in charge of the sales.

I sold my shares in the Company in 1989 partly due to pressure from my ex-wife who gave me an ultimatum as I seemed to be spending much more time at work than I was at home. barry was an amazing teacher of his craft and I feel sad that none of the people Barry had trained up over the years are able to continue the tradition.

 

georged

Preferred Member
Mar 7, 2013
2,598
2
Hi Ken, and welcome. :D
Looks like Upshall isn't just starting to fade, but is indeed gone. Gave up their domain, anyway:
http://www.jamesupshall.co.uk/
There are several BritWood historians on this board who would love to buy you a beer and hear some stories. Please feel free to post anytime the mood strikes you.

 

ssjones

Moderator
Staff member
May 11, 2011
14,084
65
Maryland
Wow, we are honored by your particiption Ken Barnes. Do you keep in touch with Barry Jones? He seems to just have dropped out of sight.

 

tarheel1

Preferred Member
Oct 16, 2014
936
0
I also would love to hear about Barry Jones from someone other than Motty or Karen. Find out if what they have been saying over the past decade is correct.

 

tbradsim1

Preferred Member
Jan 14, 2012
7,442
10
Ken thank you for the fine smokes I have, I treasure my Tilshead pipes. Don't be a Stranger.

 

philobeddoe

Preferred Member
Oct 31, 2011
4,506
11
East Indiana
Ken Barnes,

Welcome to the forum, please feel very encouraged to post as much as possible. It would be an honor to hear some stories and reminisces from a gentleman such as yourself.
Thank you,

Philobeddoe

 

historypiper

New member
Nov 12, 2015
8
0
Wow, Col. Ken! Nice to see you here! I had gotten the story from Barry and Dave Field years ago but nice to hear from you directly. For everyone else, I can tell you Barry actually retired some years ago. I spoke to him a few times after he retired but it's been a few years so I'm not sure I could even still get in touch but certainly hope he's well. And I do agree with Ken's assessment of Barry's skills and the quality of the pipes, I have and continue to love my Upshalls.

 

neverbend

Member
Apr 20, 2014
230
0
Kennedy and I reconnected this summer after 26 years and it's brought me a lot of joy. Glad to see you here Ken.
Historypiper said

Wow, Col. Ken! Nice to see you here! I had gotten the story from Barry and Dave Field years ago but nice to hear from you directly. For everyone else, I can tell you Barry actually retired some years ago. I spoke to him a few times after he retired but it's been a few years so I'm not sure I could even still get in touch but certainly hope he's well. And I do agree with Ken's assessment of Barry's skills and the quality of the pipes, I have and continue to love my Upshalls.
Actually, the Colonel was Kenneth, Kennedy's dad, and I believe that he retired with the rank of Major. Kennedy can confirm if he wishes but you're on the right track.
Tarheel1 said

I also would love to hear about Barry Jones from someone other than Motty or Karen. Find out if what they have been saying over the past decade is correct.
I'm not sure what you expect to hear about Barry but he was a great craftsman (retired) and he's an even better man. I knew him well, remember him fondly and miss him. Great family man too.
(continued next post)

 

neverbend

Member
Apr 20, 2014
230
0
SSJones said

Sadly, I wouldn't be surprised if that was has occurred. If so, that is a sad end to a storied name and history. Moty's involvement in the brand has always been cloudy and caused me to lose favor with that brand altogether. A James Upshall was my first really good British pipe and I'll always keep several. Perhaps someone will swoop in and buy the brand and revive this name.
Hi Al,
When Ken told me that he had posted here I thought of you. Sadly, Barry's level of skill would be difficult if not impossible to replace. During Moti's tenure there were many carved Upshalls made but under Kennedy there were only smooths (other than a few test carves and sandblasts). The skill required to make a smooth, unblemished handmade pipe has, essentially, been lost. One of the most respected boutique craftsmen recently told me that his yield of smooths is less than 10%. Under Kennedy, Upshall made 100% smooth, about 55% branded James Upshall and the rest Tilsheads (true 2nd).
From it's inception in 1977 (I thought it was 1978) until 1989, Ken was the face and driving force behind Upshall as they became the largest selling handmade pipe in the world. During those years it was Ken who was know to the industry and not Barry who ran the factory, taught the staff and had expertise in all phases of production. In 1985, Ken dedicated himself so completely to Upshall that he rarely left the factory, except to make some sales calls, and he often slept there. That year, I too slept in the factory a few times.
In ALL pipe making, the Cutter is the most important and skilled position. For machine made pipes this is done at the saw mill that delivers their customers shaped ebauchons. Hand makers use larger, higher quality and unshaped blocks of plateaux briar and no one had better briar than Upshall in the 1980s. A skilled Cutter crafts a custom ebauchon based on optimal shape, grain and to avoid flaws. It's the Cutter who defines what the following craftsmen must do. By 1985, Ken was Cutting much of the Upshall production and his ability to 'see' in 3 dimensions (he Cut on a open table saw and on any bias required) had people in the industry, and other pipe makers, marveling at his skill.
On eBay I often see pipes that I've sold and this pipe caught my attention the other day. If I can't post pictures please use the link.
By 1985, Ken's craft was so evolved that Upshall was making more graceful, better balanced and superior grained pipes than they had in their past or even that Charatan (generally) had made. This eBay pipe caused an argument between Ken and myself (~1985).
Ken graded it a "B", despite a superior straight grain, because the production was so strong. I argued that he was setting the bar too high and that it was at least a "G" (one grade higher). Obviously, Ken won the argument :).
Upshalls best pipes were made between 1985-1987, not coincidentally when Ken was doing so much Cutting. In 1986, after a hard downturn in the value of the dollar we were forced to raise the price of the "P" from $125 to $175 but under Ken's leadership and Cutting the Upshall quality was so strong that sales increased.
The eBay listing (properly) lauds Barry but doesn't mention Ken who Cut it.



James Upshall B from 1985

 

ssjones

Moderator
Staff member
May 11, 2011
14,084
65
Maryland
Fabulous insights Pete (and Ken). I fear that except for these kind of threads, this information would be lost to time. I feel honored to have folks like you and Ken sharing your industry and brand insights.