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I Bring You The Pipe Turds

(307 posts)
  • Started 4 years ago by James Foster
  • Latest reply from sablebrush52
  1. pylorns

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    http://www.pipemakersforum.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=9973

    Hey Guys (and Gals)

    Below is the Briarworks pipe-story in a nutshell for anyone who's interested.

    First, to answer Oklahoma Red's question, yes, we started a factory in China to produce pipes specifically for the Chinese market. After about a year and a half of traveling to and from China, I realized that the pipes were only getting produced to my standards when I was physically at the factory. Then I was faced with the decision either to move to China for a couple years or accept the level of quality that our workers were capable of in my absence.

    So I met with a realtor there, put down a deposit on a nice Villa in the Happy Golden Rainbow Unicorn-Dragon Paradise Palace neighborhood, got my Chinese work-Visa, and readied my wife and three young children for an adventure of indeterminate length. A month before we were set to leave, I woke up one morning and just pulled the plug. I decided that, if I was going to realize a 15+ year dream of creating the finest production pipes the world had ever seen, I was going to have to do it from here. On that note, is anybody in the market for five open-ended first class tickets to Shanghai?

    So Pete and I got to work designing the equipment we would need to produce shapes never before possible in a "factory" pipe. We contracted with a company to build these machines and, after six months of being extremely dissatisfied, Pete and I donned our welding hoods and went to work building them ourselves. Fortunately, I spent nearly a decade building high end street rods and motorcycles, and Pete was a professional welder for about eight years. The first machines were "stick built" from sketches on napkins and copy-paper. It took us two and a half months of 60 hr weeks to do it, but we created something entirely new, cut from whole cloth. We laid every bead, tightened every bolt, and ran every wire. People may say the pipes are "machine made" (which isn't really accurate), but if that's true, I can tell you that the machines making them was definitely hand made.

    After we finished building the machines, there were a couple months of testing and prototyping before we were able to generate any real production. Since then, we've built four additional machines, upgrading each of the previous models as we've tweaked and improved the design. We now have additional machinery in the works and are currently able to produce about 2000 pcs/month. We've hired and trained a team of personnel to finish the pipes to handmade standards, and I can honestly say I'm proud of every single pipe that goes out the door. We've recently brought on three very skilled pipe makers (which I'm sure will become "public" knowledge soon enough), and are hoping to add more.

    One of the things I can tell you is that every single person we have working for us--many of whom had never touched a pipe before--can now finish a pipe better (and faster) than just about anyone else on this forum. Plus they've got healthcare and paid vacations. I don't mean that as a sharp stick in the eye. I'm simply saying that our guys (and gals) have an opportunity to finish a year's worth of handmade production every week and they're doing it using a process that I've taught them. There's no better training ground than this if you're actually serious about being a pipe maker.

    We've had a 19-year old intern here for the past 7 weeks, and when he arrived he knew nothing. He was simply interested in the craft of making pipes and came to us as part of a work/study program at his University in Vermont. Yesterday, I watched him shape, drill, sand, contrast stain, polish, bowl coat, and stamp a pipe that's better than 90% of the so called "Indie Artisan" stuff I see on Instagram. Plus, he did it in a matter of hours, not days. My point is that we are doing real pipe making here, and we are training real pipe makers. I was making pipes before the Internet was even a useful source of information, so I know what it's like to fumble around in the dark trying to figure out what on earth you're doing and how you're gonna manage to do it. Briarworks offers an actual path for learning what goes into a high quality pipe and then provides the repetition to hone key skills in the process. Like Scott said, it really is like a paid apprenticeship in the best equipped, most capable pipe making shop on planet Earth. If you can't come out of here as a capable pipe maker, it's simply not going to happen . . . ever.

    On another forum I read a comment from one of the BeardBro pipe makers (my term not his) replying to a potential Icarus customer. He basically said "It's a nice looking pipe, but there are a hundred more exactly like it." He's wrong about that; there are actually a thousand more exactly like it, and that's something I'm proud of. The whole point is excellence in design, engineering, fit-and-finish, and absolute consistency. You should know exactly what you're getting every time, and that is a beautiful, perfectly engineered smoking machine at an unbeatable price. That's what we do here.

    His point, as I took it, was that his Indie Artisan pipes were all "unique" and full of "character," whereas the Icarus pipe was serially produced. Problem is, "unique" often means you lack the skill to make two pipes exactly the same by hand, and more often than not, "character" is code for the lumpy shaping and scratches that Micah mentioned.

    We have a customer who owns 22 Neptune Dublins, all of which are technically the "same" shape, but every single one of them is different! He knows how comfortable the bit is going to be, he knows what to expect from the fit-and-finish, and above all he knows every single pipe will smoke as well as anything else in the world, my own pipes included. We don't just have automatons doing the same thing over and over. Every member of our team makes decisions about how to finish a given pipe, whether or not to use an adornment, what type, what color, what style mouthpiece, etc. The idea is to offer the consumer a nearly infinite variety of styles using the shape merely as a jumping-off point.

    So just to clear the air here, let me say this. If your goal is to make excellent pipes that demonstrate respect for the craft and for the customer parting with his/her hard-earned money, you are absolutely not in Briarworks' crosshairs. In fact, I've personally spent the past 15 years trying to help anyone who is genuinely striving for excellence as a pipe maker, a fact I hope many here can attest to. Unfortunately, I'm afraid I've also created some monsters in the process, and as a result, the market seems to be littered with hastily wrought $400 pipe-turds of late. If you are a purveyor of such pipe-turds, make no mistake, I strive with every fibre of my being to drive you out of the market and back to the hole whence you came, so that consumers and real pipe makers alike no longer have to suffer the indignity of your existence.

    That's all for now.

    TJ

    Posted 4 years ago #
  2. beastkhk

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    Is this to introduce the company of sorts or was there recent some sort of controversy? I feel like I am missing something.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  3. pylorns

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    You have to follow the whole thread - on pipemakers forum to get a better idea. Briarworks has been around a bit so they are not "introducing" themselves per say.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  4. beastkhk

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    First time around I missed that the thread had multiple pages. I will go back and get caught up.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  5. buroak

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    The Icarus and Neptune lines look to be very high quality products, but I like my tired old catalog shapes. I hope Briarworks will get round to working their magic on traditional shapes. They have a great thing going and I wish them success, I just wish they made something I want to buy.

    Life contains a particle of risk. - Allardyce T. Meriweather in Little Big Man
    Posted 4 years ago #
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    This thread has nothing to do with any altruism on Todd Johnson's part, and it's silly of him to suggest it. If he cared about new pipe smokers, he'd do something other than complain about his competition, constantly, in his limited forays into social media.

    Todd is attempting to run a business, in Briarworks, making pipes that compete with the "turd" pipes he's complaining about. Some of those "turd" pipes (his word, obviously, not mine) are now being sold at some very fine retailers internationally, and he's now online complaining about the poor image of american pipes on the international scene.

    He's angry that the "bearded bruhs" have a market that doesn't simply lay down and accept the greatness of Todd Johnson. And the fact is, he makes a fine pipe. The factory ones too. But no pipemaker has ever been as good as Todd Johnson thinks he is, and his every written word alienates another customer with his constant attempts to frustrate new pipemakers.

    Now I realize, this makes it a special thing to be one of the few that Todd doesn't insult and belittle at every turn for not being enough like him or following his unsolicited advice. But personally I avoid any "us" that marks its boundaries by not being one of "them". it's middle school clique nonsense.

    I'm just a consumer. But I for one love the idea of a "guild" of people who find this kind of insulting nonsense appropriate. That way I can avoid unpleasant people when I buy pipes simply by looking for the Good Todd Johnsonkeeping Seal of Approval.

    If people aren't buying Mr. Johnson's factory pipes in Europe, perhaps he should examine his own skill at marketing, rather than his competition's product. There have been plenty of businesses that tried to gain a market share by insulting their competition and their customers for giving their business to the competition. There will be plenty more. With the possible exception of Comcast, they pretty much all tend to fail miserably.

    Just my $0.02.

    Posted 4 years ago #
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    frozenchurchwarden

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    I've loved the premise of Briarworks from the first moment I heard about it on the radio show. It's just unfortunate that the pipes I'm looking for are nothing like what Briarworks makes (I'm looking for big bowled Churchwardens, preferrably with a 9mm filter slot, and that's about as far as you can get from an Icarus right now).

    Posted 4 years ago #
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    moriarty

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    I read the entire thread and I'm afraid I am with Flatticus on this one. It smells rather nastily of bullying and cliquishness to me. Todd Johnson seems to consider himself the father of American pipemaking and, while he has been doing it for some years and has helped several good pipemakers learn their craft, I don't think he is all that. I don't doubt his competence but for the four-figure sums he sells his pipes for I am personally far more attracted to other pipemakers' work. If I Google for photos of Todd's pipes, in fact, I cannot find one that I like. In the thread he makes a point of attacking the integrity of any pipemaker who he views as making a pipe that is not excellent within its price range. Well, yes, but who judges this and what makes Todd so sure that his pipes match up to those sold at a similar price by Former, Skovgaard, Roush, Parks, etc. in artistry and quality? He acknowledges that the "turd" pipes have a large customer base and sell successfully, so he can't claim that ability to sell pipes at a certain price is a reliable measure of their worth.

    I assume these "turd" pipes are the pokers and similar that have such a keen following these days, judging by his remarks about beard oil, beanies and motorbikes. Why can't pipemakers make these and why can't customers buy them if they like them? Why does smoking a poker with a coloured stem and carved flames make you such a dangerous half-wit? Because the self-appointed father of American pipemaking doesn't like the way the mouthpiece is shaped? Really? And isn't it simply a good thing for all of us that more people are getting into pipes and tobacco because of the popularity of some of these pipemakers and the way they are reaching new customers? What is there really to whine about and be so determined to stamp-out?

    Better, I think, to concentrate on making and selling his own pipes rather than attacking other pipemakers and their customers. I note that certain very well-regarded pipemakers who normally post regularly on that forum kept themselves well out of the discussion. Good. I don't think the thread reflected well on the members of Todd's clique.

    Posted 4 years ago #
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    Well said, moriarty. Throughout. Couldn't agree more that every new pipe smoker is a good thing for the rest of us. And I would always rather buy a pipe from the guy who says "Huh, my pipes aren't selling like I'd like them to, I'll make them better" instead of "My pipes aren't selling, why are my potential customers so incapable of recognizing how great I am?" And I was happy to see that a number of pipemakers I do want to buy pipes from stayed far away from that one.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  10. cosmicfolklore

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    All I know is that out of the entire pipe club that I am a member of, when his rep laid all of those pipes out for us to look at on a special pipe club night where his pipes were the only ones being pitched, everyone picked them up, examined them, scrutinized them, seriously considered buying, but then we all ended up buying something else, some even more expensive pipes. We had come to buy, and his rep was the only rep there. It was amazing that his pipes were unanimously rejected by serious pipe men who seriously collect pipes, without anyone saying anything negative. They just didn't appeal to us? Maybe they were too far out of the ordinary for us? Maybe they were all just too small? Maybe too fat and squat? Maybe they were all ugly? I can't read the minds of all of the other men who chose to walk away from those pipes. Others may love the things. I hear good stuff on here occasionally about his pipes.

    Of course, his representative being a snobbish asshead who couldn't stop making fun of our favorite pipe makers didn't help any, ha ha. Maybe he just makes poor choices in employees? Just speculating, ha ha.

    I wish the guy good luck, and maybe he will make a pipe that more people will like one day. And, those that do like them, good on you. Differences make the world go around, right? I am rooting for him to make a good one that becomes popular. We need more pipe companies.

    Michael
    Posted 4 years ago #
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    I suspect it's true what they say, cosmicfolklore, birds of a feather flock together. But I wish him luck as well. And to people who love Todd's work, I also say great! There's a lid for every pot. The more lids out there, the more satisfied pots at the end of the day.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  12. lostandfound

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    This is all very confusing to me. Who are the pipe makers selling $400 turds, exactly, and how do they relate to the Icarus and Neptune lines of pipes? I've seen a couple of threads praising these pipes, but this thread seems to be to the opposite effect.

    It seems as if this is all some kind of complex marketing strategy. After all, if these pipes are being made in the quantities reported, they need to be moving off the shelves.

    Jerod
    Posted 4 years ago #
  13. cosmicfolklore

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    A marketing strategy of insulting his customers because, of course, we are too stupid to realize that his pipes are greater than these stupid artisan pipe makers. We should all just line up and buy his, because everything else is just turds. I think his ego overran his logic and reason. Maybe he was drunk?

    Posted 4 years ago #
  14. pitchfork

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    I had seen that post before. It was made on the pipemakers forum, so the intended audience probably wasn't this forum. I've never handled, let alone smoked, one of his pipes, but from pictures they appear to be incredibly well made. And he trained under some of the Great Danes, so there is that. Most of them don't appeal to me, either, but that's just me.

    I would be interested to know who the turd makers are, though!

    If you liked this post, though, you should seek out the stinky ebonite thread on the same forum. Epic!

    Posted 4 years ago #
  15. cosmicfolklore

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    Sorry, as I reread all of this... His sales representative at our pipe club meeting was this way also. Maybe this was really posted by that guy. ...while drunk.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  16. pylorns

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    I'll just leave this here. About the 3:20 mark
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dfegjiZSi9s

    Posted 4 years ago #
  17. zack24

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    Who are the pipe makers selling $400 turds, exactly, and how do they relate to the Icarus and Neptune lines
    Nashville has a history of several pipemakers who either worked for or with other pipe makers. Some of the pipemakers left the fold, became very popular, and personalities began to have conflicts. When there's a pipe event in Nashville, you'll find a pretty clear division on who you see and who you don't see at various events...It's too bad- in general, they're all a bunch of talented guys who are fun to hang around....

    Posted 4 years ago #
  18. warren

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    Didn't we beat up on these guys not too long ago? "Briarworks" may make a decent pipe, for which the market is quite limited, but obviously no one in the organization understands marketing. When your marketing strategy is based, even partially, on denigrating the competition, it means you do not feel your product can stand on its own.

    A man without a shillelagh is a man without an expedient.
    Posted 4 years ago #
  19. cosmicfolklore

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    ^^Bingo!!

    I'm not sure what the video was all about. What is the connection between the video of the guys with beards and the comments Todd made? That just confuses me.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  20. mso489

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    I'm not up on this saga at all, but I can't say that characterizing all of the pipe artisans other than yourself as some kind of brigands is a charming psychology. All of us occasionally see the competition as the devil's spawn, but this is not a true perception and not an attractive side of human nature. I'm glad Briarworks is devoted to making really good pipes at reasonable prices. None of their products has yet attracted my flinty, hypercritical, months-to-make-a-purchase self, but I hope they'll keep working at it and not stick too many pins in the voodoo dolls of their fellow pipe makers.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  21. warren

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    I left out one observation. Rather than a lack of marketing knowledge, his actions could simply be the result of an over sized ego. Viewing that video sometime ago, I realized that these folks, while making a passable product, are contemptuous of the very people they hope to sell to. That says "ego" to me.

    Posted 4 years ago #
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    I think pylorns meant more around 335 or so when Jayson Dagner is giving trouble to the forum people guessing at the origin of the pipes. But that was a bit different, that was a few people (yes, yes, myself included) speculating about where the pipes came from and him saying haha, nope, y'all don't know jack. Wasn't a big deal. This is more "My pipes aren't selling, you people are morons". Because no one could possibly have priced themselves out of the factory pipe market with a $550.00 calabash as near as I can tell it's impossible to ever clean properly.

    And Warren has it exactly right. People who truly believe they make a better product don't talk about their competition. They talk about their own design.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  23. cosmicfolklore

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    I've seen it before. They make a few sales, a few articles get written about them, and just when people start listening, they find you drunk and naked in the dinning room, pissing in the ashtrays.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  24. jackswilling

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    I can't relate to anything going on in that video. I am no prude, been around course people, a lot, but I cannot relate to any of this, the over-wrought pride, the inability to say something coherent, and the disdain for potential customers. Don't get it.

    "Had his shooting been as good as his running, he might have given a better account of himself."
    James. C. Henderson
    Posted 4 years ago #
  25. cosmicfolklore

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    That isn't Todd in the video, unless he went downhill fast in the last couple of months, ha ha. Are the people in the video employees of Todd's? Yeh, that's like an Alice in Wonderland type of crew.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  26. brewshooter

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    That isn't Todd in the video, unless he went downhill fast in the last couple of months, ha ha. Are the people in the video employees of Todd's?

    I believe those are the Dagners.

    Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
    -C. S. Lewis, English essayist & juvenile novelist (1898 - 1963)
    Posted 4 years ago #
  27. freakiefrog

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    I don't have a dog in this fight. I admittedly skimmed through everything to get the jest of the soapbox Briarworks was on. I guess to me they are not really, to me anyway, fully understanding the market they are in. Because they offer high end factory made pipes they aren't in the same market that the artesian pipes are because it is a totally different product. They see to be kicking sand in a sand box that they are to big to play in.

    I strive with every fibre of my being to drive you out of the market and back to the hole whence you came, so that consumers and real pipe makers alike no longer have to suffer the indignity of your existence.

    Because of this quote alone I will never buy one of their pipes. This is not the mentality that the pipe smoking community conveys or supports. As such I will spend 500.00 on a turd that a man sat down and turned with his on two hands, put love and thought and time into before I'll spend 150.00 with them. Will they miss my money? Probably not but will the guy I buy from next want my 500.00 you bet your ass..

    I will not support a company that openly and publically kicks sand at potential customers, other pipe makers ect. Maybe I like my turd. Maybe my grandfather bought me that turd as a gift. It's different is not perfect but by God its mine. See they forgot they not only pissed on the carvers but also the people that own and enjoy their work. These are the people that have worked overtime to afford a pipe from a "Turd" carver. How dare they say that how I spend my money is somehow beneath their products.

    Ok rant over..I'm going to go smoke my chipped, skinned, loose stem Roma now.

    I have some friends, some honest friends, and honest friends are few; My pipe of briar, my open fire, A book that's not too new.
    Robert W. Service
    Posted 4 years ago #
  28. cosmicfolklore

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    Yeh, the more times I read through this, the more angry I get at that Turd Johnson guy. If I were a pipe maker, I would distance myself from him. Dirt like that rubs off easily.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  29. beastkhk

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    I just find it disheartening that every time(at least seems like it) I read about a pipe maker I haven't heard of yet is making more affordable pipes to cater to the working man, I pull them up and they are $100 dollars or more. Too rich for my blood.

    I feel like that Ron White standup session where he mentions watching the televangelist ask are you sitting on the couch eating Cheetos...........oh thought he was talking about me for a second.(this would be when I see the price tag)

    Posted 4 years ago #
  30. buroak

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    I assume these "turd" pipes are the pokers and similar that have such a keen following these days, judging by his remarks about beard oil, beanies and motorbikes.

    Not to get off topic, but what is the deal with Pokers and stereotypes about the guys who smoke them?

    Posted 4 years ago #
  31. daimyo

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    Are we even reading the same thread? There are several artisan makers with only a handful of years working and several novice makers in the discussion and all are treated with respect and even encouraged. Several of the newer makers of strong reputation are big instagram users and that is not held in low esteem in the discussion either. They went out of their way to say they are talking about pipes they've seen on instagram with poor shaping, visible tool marks and flashing left on premade stems. Further more, it's not those things they are upset with but hucksters trying to pass themselves off as master carvers peddling such work while being in denial that it may be both egotistical and predatory to new smokers to be selling your fourth pipe for $400 while having an entire line of merchandise. Anytime a hobby has a spike in popularity you have opportunists and yes, they can tarnish the hobby for the uninformed. They not only state clearly that new makers and Internet success are not the issue but also dedicate time and effort to helping new makers learn the ropes. I don't see the stance that a guy a week in the business isn't at the top of his craft and might want to wait before attaching a huge price tag to his pipes based on some instagram likes. I have supported some new artisan carvers but I expect the to get my money's worth or I will be disappointed.

    Posted 4 years ago #
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    frozenchurchwarden

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    Hopefully this leads to either cheaper pipes or a new line of pipes from Briarworks that isn't a bunch of miniatures.

    Really it sounds like I'm not the only one who thinks they're just small pipes.

    Posted 4 years ago #
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    I doubt it, frozenchurchwarden. That would be the kind of change you make when you believe the customer is always right. The changes being talked about in that thread are more along the lines of educating we poor dumb pipe smokers so we can realize we should be buying their pipes, just as they are now, instead, because the customer is wrong to them.

    And Daimyo, as near as I can tell, there's no such animal. I've been trying to find anyone on Instagram selling a 400 dollar pipe that has obvious defects to it (other than a shape I might not like). I can't find anything even remotely close. In fact, I can't find anyone even calling themselves a master carver, except for Todd Johnson, who appears to prefer the term "Real Ass Pipemaker" in his own instagram posts. Is there anyone who can maybe point out a $400.00 pipe being peddled on instagram with obvious defects? Sure, there are pipes by beginners, but none calling themselves master carvers, or charging anything near that pricepoint from what I can see. And if there were, I'm not sure how the heck Todd Johnson would know about it, he doesn't appear to know much about social media.

    Because if there is no $400.00 junk pipe being peddled by a huckster, maybe we're just wasting too much time on one guy whining about the imaginary competition stealing his customers.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  34. daimyo

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    Flatticus, with all due respect I find it suspicious that these are your first posts. Look up the Etsy thread on this forum to see examples of people selling garbage pipes for high dollars or simply look around the net. I've seen many crap pipes on Instagram after people informed me how many new makers were on it, along with many talented folks who have cultivated the skill for wood working. I've also seen the people who seem to spend more time on the creation of trucker hats than on their pipe making. I am all for new makers and so are the folks on pipemakersforum or they wouldn't have created the resource. Hell, they give King crap all the time for his toilet pipes but it's all in jest and everyone there seems happy for his success. I for one felt the intent of the discussion was clear, if you want to be a pipe maker make then make pipes your focus and continue to improve. Sound advice for any craft.

    Posted 4 years ago #
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    Hi, I've been a member for about 2 months but this is my first posting. One of the things I've truly enjoyed and appreciate about this site is the usual kind, friendly and cheerful comments. This whole thread makes me uncomfortable starting primarily with pylorns. Just my opinion.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  36. daimyo

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    Cubie, what exactly did pylorns say that is a problem? He has stated almost nothing on this thread.

    Posted 4 years ago #
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    daimyo, If I'm not mistaken pylorns started this whole thread and spends much of his time bad mouthing other pipe makers. I don't like that but as I said it's just my opinion.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  38. cosmicfolklore

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    I am going to have to look, but I don't think I've ever seen pylorns post anything negative about a pipemaker, even on this thread. In fact, I had to read and re-read the whole thing to even figure out what this was thread about.
    And, I only took the time to do that, because Todd is from my favorite B&M hang out. And, the weird way his sales rep dealt with my pipe club. Like I had stated, we had high hopes for Todd, and still do. But, posting things like this might be ok for a nobody like one of us, but for someone trying to make it in the business, it's no good at all.
    I did not get the same interpretation as Daimyo, because I have heard his own sales guy saying similar stuff in the flesh. But, if I am wrong, then good. That would be great for Todd, but I assume that Todd's statements won't do much to make a sale for him. Just my $.02.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  39. cosmicfolklore

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    I do get a weird VooDoo sock puppet feeling when "Newbies" show up for the first time on a thread like this. ...like maybe someone is disingenuously posting as a Newbie. Is that you Todd? haha!!

    Posted 4 years ago #
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    Flatticus, with all due respect I find it suspicious that these are your first posts. Look up the Etsy thread on this forum to see examples of people selling garbage pipes for high dollars or simply look around the net. I've seen many crap pipes on Instagram after people informed me how many new makers were on it, along with many talented folks who have cultivated the skill for wood working. I've also seen the people who seem to spend more time on the creation of trucker hats than on their pipe making. I am all for new makers and so are the folks on pipemakersforum or they wouldn't have created the resource. Hell, they give King crap all the time for his toilet pipes but it's all in jest and everyone there seems happy for his success. I for one felt the intent of the discussion was clear, if you want to be a pipe maker make then make pipes your focus and continue to improve. Sound advice for any craft.

    Your suspicion is noted. Try responding to my statement, instead of your assumptions, however. What I asked was whether you were actually aware of any $400.00 pipe that met the sad description you offered. As I'm certain others can tell you, I spend a fair amount of time on the internet looking at pipes. I have a decent collection of them myself. I've checked Etsy, and I can't find any pipes that come close to what you have described. None are on instagram, either. If the market is rife with such travesties, surely someone can find one? Just one $400.00 turd.

    But, for the sake of argument, let's say you're correct, and the intent was for Todd Johnson to tell pipemakers to "continue to improve". Could you kindly help me find the language to translate this statement from so that it suggests anything of the sort? If you are a purveyor of such pipe-turds, make no mistake, I strive with every fibre of my being to drive you out of the market and back to the hole whence you came, so that consumers and real pipe makers alike no longer have to suffer the indignity of your existence.

    Because no matter how I read it, here's what I get. (1) Todd Johnson's pipes are higher quality than the millions of others for reasons unstated and not obvious (2) They aren't selling like he'd like (3) Therefore pipe purchasers can't be trusted to pick quality over a lack of quality. (4) As a result, the market has to be manipulated for our benefit by the use of "Briarworks' crosshairs"

    Now as I said, I don't have an issue with Todd's pipes, aside perhaps from the prices. But they're not my style or my choice in that price range. But he should get to limit my choices of what pipe I'll buy by bullying less established pipemakers? If he were anything but insecure about his lack of sales, he'd be telling people why his own pipes are better, instead of just why everyone else's are worse. If he were anything but derisive of his potential customers, he'd allow the market to win out, as it always does when quality and a lack of quality compete in the same price range. But we're too stupid to be trusted, so he needs to drive pipemakers out of the market we might send our money to instead of him?

    The simple fact is this. The only pipemaker I have ever seen spend so much of his time whining about how crappy and unoriginal everyone else's work is is Todd Johnson. By and large pipemakers act like pipe smokers. And whether you know me or not, you certainly know better than to suggest that this is how the pipe smoker's spirit gets shown.

    Posted 4 years ago #
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    Hi, I've been a member for about 2 months but this is my first posting. One of the things I've truly enjoyed and appreciate about this site is the usual kind, friendly and cheerful comments. This whole thread makes me uncomfortable starting primarily with pylorns. Just my opinion.

    Cubie, did you maybe not realize the original post starting the thread was a quotation by Pylorns from another pipemaker?

    Posted 4 years ago #
  42. cosmicfolklore

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    One of the things I've truly enjoyed and appreciate about this site is the usual kind, friendly and cheerful comments

    You must have only been reading the "What are you Smoking" threads, because this last few months have been the most aggressive, angry, and nasty posts that I've ever seen on here, ending up in quite a few members leaving. Gladly, I seemed to have made it through all of that with clean hands, ha ha. Which is unusual for me.

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    flatticus, you're right. If the first post on this thread was a quote and not a statement by pylorns then I do truly owe and extend him an apology. I should be more careful.
    cosmicfolklore, I've spent most of my time on the beginners forum, and the folks there are about as nice as nice can be. Maybe I should stay there.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  44. voorhees

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    Michael, I've told you my opinion of those inflammatory threads and how to deal. I just don't post or get worked up over anything stated on forums I am a member. Keeps my blood pressure down.
    That aside I don't have an opinion on the pipes of discussion, however your actual experience means more.

    Jason
    Posted 4 years ago #
  45. cosmicfolklore

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    We have a beginners forum? I didn't know that. Is it at another web address?

    No, I think that things have sort of mellowed out here. Maybe a little too mellow at times, but... as always, swim at your own risk.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  46. cosmicfolklore

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    I would hope that as with anything, if there is a pipe shape in there that tickles a fancy, then buy it. Heck, I even bought a Peterson dublin, despite what everyone says about them, ha ha.

    I'm not even sure exactly what was said on the threads the caused the ruckus. I'm just glad I was minding my own when it all went down.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  47. daimyo

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    Flatticus, actually I expressed my distrust and addressed your point. Who are these members who can vouch for you after a few posts? No, I cannot tell from a few posts that you spend lots of time on the internet looking at pipe, how could I? If you have never seen a pipe priced over a Radice that has poorly cut button, bad shank transition, inclusion on the bowl likely to be a problem, or thin walls likely to lead to a burn out then I would have to question that. If you are impressed with the craftsmanship of every pipe on Instagram, then I just don't know what to say. Etsy is riddled with garbage pipes that look like they took all of 5 minutes to drill from drift wood. The counter to what you posted is in the rest of the thread because unless we are just assuming Todd to be lying, he goes out of his way to clarify these points. If Todd wants to think pipes with obvious technical flaws should not be selling for more than factory pipes, then I personally agree with him. For the moment the market might disagree with us both but in most hobbies these bubbles form them promptly pop. At the end of the thread the only suggestion by Todd and others is to produce superior work and try to educate the public about basic pipe making skills and what level work you might expect to see at a given price point. Doesn't sound very viscous or ill intended to me. They also point out that once upon a time, pipe shops did much of this work for the consumer. Now perhaps Todd has an attitude that extends beyond that thread that I am unaware of but in that thread he converses with pipe makers of all skill levels and price points. Never is he condescending towards them nor does he ever say his pipes are superior but again, I am taking this thread for this thread. Please tell me how the bamboo work on this pipe justifies the asking price because I see stuff like this all the time and frankly it is shameful. http://www.ebay.com/itm/UNSMOKED-WYATT-FISHER-BAMBOO-SMOOTH-STRAIGHT-GRAINED-MADE-IN-SANNIBEL-ISLAND-/321586379902?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item4ae00abc7e

    Posted 4 years ago #
  48. ivapewithfire

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    @daimyo

    Thanks for showing my dream pipe man. Now everyone is going to out bid me on it!!!

    ..or, probably not.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  49. cosmicfolklore

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    IDK, but that is a gorgeous pipe!! Is that one on Etsy too?

    How do you explain the comment ---

    I strive with every fibre of my being to drive you out of the market and back to the hole whence you came, so that consumers and real pipe makers alike no longer have to suffer the indignity of your existence.

    I don't have the same hatred of Etsy pipemakers. In fact, I don't see him making any reference to that in the thread. He seems to be addressing the room in general. But, I don't belong to that forum. I don't know it's nuances. I may just be missing some jargon or reference to these guys. I am old, and my hair is falling out

    Posted 4 years ago #
  50. pitchfork

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    To take this thread in a different direction, it seems that all of the Silver Castle pipes, Huge Stone, etc. had some connection, early on, to the Neptune line of pipes. This quoted post in the OP seems to corroborate that. Anyone know more? You might also recall that the sellers of those pipes are also the sellers of fake Nordhs, Eltangs, Beckers, etc. Anyone able to sort out that tangled web?

    Posted 4 years ago #
  51. daimyo

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    To be clear, I don't hate etsy pipe makers either nor do I wish ill of the chap whose pipe I posted. I hope they all continue to improve and enjoy what they do. I am of the mind though that the return of artisan craftsmen means little if they are not actually any good in their chosen craft. I think a good example of the issue is a carver like Alex Brishuta. He came out of an area not really on the map for many pipe collectors and wowed people with his carving and imagination. People bought his pipes and found the quality of work and briar inline with his pricing. He made a name for himself partially due to his meteorite like pipes. Now you will see on ebay every few weeks an unknown Ukrainian carver responsible for something that truly does look more like a turd than a meteor. They lack the technical ability, finishing skills and creativity that Alex does but are more than happy to try and ride his coat tails. While I hope the market will sort them, I can see why someone who works hard at his craft would see them as parasitic and opportunistic. Unless you are of the mind that no parasitic hacks exist, they certainly bring nothing positive to the hobby or market. YMMV though and I do see the issue with his initial statement. Context does matter though.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  52. cosmicfolklore

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    I'm not clear on what you mean or how it all works with this post, pitchfork. But, I have several Silver Castles, and they are made in Canada, not Tennessee, and they are all excellent smokers. I love mine. I would definitely buy another.

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    Thank you for finally posting a link to an actual pipe, daimyo, it's nice to see exactly what Todd Johnson is worried is taking his business away. But it's ok, I'm sure you're correct, I probably don't know much about pipes or tobacco, and certainly won't be looking for people to "vouch" for me because you consider it a prerequisite to calmly addressing someone else's opinion. Cause I'd rather spend 365 on that pipe than $3,000.00 on this one, so clearly I'm just a "turd-lover". And I'm reasonably certain the one you posted is a lot closer to a reasonable price than Todd's.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  54. cosmicfolklore

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    Was there something wrong with that pipe, daimyo. I looked it over again, and it looks like the artist followed the basic Eltang bamboo design. I love that bowl shape. What am I missing?

    Posted 4 years ago #
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    I think he's talking about the transition from the shank ring to the shank, cosmicfolklore, which admittedly isn't perfect. Clearly the maker should be burnt at the stake, and his ashes scattered to the four winds. And Cubie, the nature of that original quote post is an anomaly in this world. hardly a day goes by that I'm not shocked by the generosity of pipe smokers and makers alike. That's why it ended up sparking this thread, because it's so unusual.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  56. daimyo

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    I never stated that you had no experience or pipes, I simply pointed out that no one would simply know this by your few posts. If you think the pipe I posted is properly priced, that is your right. If you think Todd is overpriced then that is also your right. That said, I have stated my opinion on the subject. But you conjectured a lot in your initial post and frankly sound more like someone with a bone to pick than a bystander who just happened to pop in to offer an opinion. One of the great things about this site is that those with expensive pipes and rare aged tobacco get along great with those smoking CH out of a cob. I do not consider this forum or pipemakersforum to be snobby places. I see Todd and the others there freely give the info they have learned to anyone interested. So for me to drastically change my opinion it will take more than a rant or two and some pictures of nice pipes. Stating that Todd is this and Todd is that is not calmly addressing a subject, it is asserting that you know the mind of another well enough to reprove them completely. You will forgive me if I take that as your opinion and form my own based on what was said in that thread, not just the post that was quoted.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  57. pitchfork

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    I'm not clear on what you mean or how it all works with this post, pitchfork. But, I have several Silver Castles, and they are made in Canada, not Tennessee, and they are all excellent smokers. I love mine. I would definitely buy another.

    Then maybe I'm the one who's confused, then.

    I had thought that the Silver Castle, etc. pipes were made in China (not Canada) and that they had some connection, at some point, with Todd Johnson's involvement with setting up a pipe factory/workshop in China (referenced in the OP):

    First, to answer Oklahoma Red's question, yes, we started a factory in China to produce pipes specifically for the Chinese market. After about a year and a half of traveling to and from China, I realized that the pipes were only getting produced to my standards when I was physically at the factory. Then I was faced with the decision either to move to China for a couple years or accept the level of quality that our workers were capable of in my absence.

    As I understand it, the original incarnation of the Neptune line was made in China also -- at least that's how I understand TJ's comments.

    Also, there were some Canadian guys involved in starting the Silver Castle line, but the idea was to make them cheaply in China.

    Does that help? Or just confuse things more!

    Posted 4 years ago #
  58. daimyo

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    Was there something wrong with that pipe, daimyo.

    The severe taper in a short length to meet the size of the bamboo, the further taper of the spacer which also does not fit flush to the bamboo, the transition from the stem to the final spacer. Now if this pipe was posted on pipemakerforum asking for critique I believe it would be given graciously and without condescension and the maker would be encouraged. Instead it is on ebay with a long descriptive blurb about the maker and his skill. The only way I can see the problem is if there are no inexperienced makers selling some of their first pipes as if they are ready for market. In my own opinion, clearly there are. I can certainly see the OG quote being taken poorly on its own but for me, the follow ups clarified the points made. YMMV

    Posted 4 years ago #
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    @daimyo FWIW I know flatticus and can vouch for his knowledge of pipes. I'm not saying he's a dictionary or anything but he does have a great wealth of knowledge of pipe history and a good amount of the current work that's out there, in my estimation.

    I can see both sides of the issue - both my share of bad pipes on Instagram and in person at last fall's Nashville pipe show, at which many Instagram carvers came out and showed what was in many cases very shoddy craftsmanship. I commented on this in a little more detail in past threads regarding the show in particular, but it was very sad to see the Instagram crowd getting the lion's share of the attention while more established carvers like Jeff Gracik, Tonni Nielsen, and Tyler Beard saw nearly no interest at their tables. I think that's what Todd's attacking - the blatant disregard by many in this sub-community for what is real, genuinely quality craftsmanship in favor of a kitschy aesthetic with bright acrylics, spot rustication, and odd shaping. AND POKERS!

    On the other hand, there's something to be said about presenting the issue in a less direct manner. Something that is a little bit more positive and self-promoting rather than denigrating of others. Todd's rhetoric has rubbed me the wrong way several times in the past, but I have come to see that ultimately I see the same issues in the pipe world as him. I am just not a big enough asshole to come out and speak my mind on a soapbox like Todd can do sometimes. It's very entertaining to read, however. No disputing that!

    Posted 4 years ago #
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    I didn't say that pipe was properly priced. I said it was a lot closer to proper than charging 2 Eltangs and a Castello for a briar calabash.

    And I do have a bone to pick. With anyone who wants to drive other people out of a market they consider themselves entitled to own. You don't have to be a genius to figure this one out. You just have to go look, and find a Bo Nordh quote where he talked about all the trash flooding the market. Or Sixten. Or Teddy. Rasmussen. 8,000 others. Find any one of them spending their time badmouthing other pipemakers. Cause I can't.

    But just to be clear. Saying I would never buy a pipe from someone who thinks this kind of antagonistic, negative nonsense is appropriate is not taking them to task. It's exercising my right as a consumer to buy what I'd like. Which is exactly where this conversation started. You want to feel bad when someone buys a pipe instead of yours that you consider inferior? Great, who wouldn't.

    You want to "drive them out of the market and back to the hole whence they came", there's something wrong with you. And you're interfering with my right to a full and free marketplace. In other words, you're actively interfering with my ability to buy pipes. Yeah, I have a bone to pick with that.

    Sure, I get that you've decided to ignore that statement for the rest of the thread. I've chosen to focus in on it. Because it's arrogant and embarrassing. Not only to Todd but to me as a pipe smoker and a member of the pipe smoking community. And in my opinion, it's a bit silly to continue to pretend otherwise.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  61. pylorns

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    @cubie yeah man, I just posted Todd's post on Pipe Maker Forums I don't make it a habit to go bashing carvers (unless they have personally insulted me or given me cause to take issue with them. AND I can say that has not happened yet). I merely posted this for your viewing pleasure to discuss; I see merit to Todd's argument in some cases, but he does come across as a jackwagon. That said I've never met him and that's my impression as how he comes across online.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  62. pitchfork

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    Aha! mlc to the rescue (Michael, this is where I read that two Canadians started the line):
    http://pipesmagazine.com/forums/topic/silver-castle-pipe#post-502912

    And see this. (Very similar to Neptune designs, plus I think there's a "Jess" bulldog in there):
    http://www.51tjz.cn/tjz/Prd_sort.asp?Tid=15&Ttid=195

    And some Silver Castle pipes appear to have been better made than others. Check out this one:

    Posted 4 years ago #
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    Gentlemen,

    Permit me to jump in here in a personal capacity and say a few things about the controversy that's being referenced. To be clear, I have expressed my personal opinions to a group of my own colleagues regarding the quality of handmade pipes and my desire to see it increase. Essentially, I want to see the guys who are making and selling handmade pipes do excellent work instead of doing mediocre work and calling it "good enough." The vast majority of American pipe makers share these same goals, and I'm hopeful that more and more guys are willing to commit themselves to a high standard of quality. When the bar is lowered, the entire hobby suffers as a result. When the bar is raised, the entire hobby benefits from it. I think that discussion has created some solidarity amongst pipe makers and will hopefully even result in a formal-ish commitment to do more original work and offer only a high quality product to the consumer. If everyone commits to this, the consumer, and the hobby itself, will be much better served.

    Certainly, we can all have our own opinions about what makes a "good" pipe, but as pipe makers, there are certain boxes that absolutely must be ticked. As the price goes up there are more and more boxes that need to be ticked. I think that's a pretty simple equation, and one we could all agree with. If a pipe isn't ticking all the boxes that the price-category warrants, then we're doing the customer a disservice. My message to pipe makers was basically this. As a pipe maker, you know the boxes are there and which ones need to be ticked even if the customer doesn't. Don't sell a pipe without ticking those boxes just because you can. it's disrespectful to the very people you rely on to support you, and you shouldn't take advantage of them.

    With respect to those price categories, my own handmade pipes don't fall into the $300-$400 price range, but I care about what's going on there because this entire industry/hobby matters to me. Likewise, 100% of Briarworks' Icarus pipes, and 95% of its Neptune pipes fall outside of this price category. The median price for an Icarus pipe is $160, and the median price for a Neptune is $210. Briarworks' pipes are designed, engineered, and produced to tick all the boxes you would expect in a pipe for two to three times this price, and, the goal is to deliver an exceptional quality product to the consumer at an exceptionally fair price, and back it up with first rate service. That's what I, personally, am asking of my colleagues who sell their work in other price categories as well.

    For those who have have had negative things to say in this thread, I can see how, not understanding the context, you might have construed my meaning to be other than I intended. There are no hard feelings on my part. I am certainly guilty of holding forth from my personal soapbox at times--especially when the conversation is taking place amongst folks who all know one another personally--and I can see where that could give offense. So for my hyperbole and any offense I may have given, I apologize. I am passionate about these things because I've given more than 15 years to this endeavor as a pipe maker, and I do not want to see the bar lowered. I don't think any of us do.

    Briarworks is not in the business of having opinions (and thus, I probably shouldn't be either), only in the business of creating exceptionally high quality pipes at a great price. For you, flatticus, and pylorns, and cosmicfolklore, it seems my personal opinions about handmade pipes in another forum have given you a negative impression of the pipes Briarworks is producing. That being the case, I'd be happy for you to e-mail me privately, so I can extend a personal olive branch in the form of a Briarworks pipe. Then, at least, you can make an informed judgement about a Briarworks pipe that isn't clouded by what I may have said to a group of my colleagues. I hope that seems fair enough.

    I think what you'll find is that our only real "marketing strategy" is making great pipes, and selling them at fair prices through retailers who provide the finest customer service. Basically, we want the product to speak for itself, and to date, I'm not aware of a single negative review or comment from any collector about any one of the thousands of pipes that Briarworks has produced, so I feel pretty confident we've arrived at a winning combination. I think that speaks highly of our pipes, our dealers and distributors, and the group of talented personnel who are gradually becoming genuine pipe makers in their own right. If there's anything we can do better, we're always happy to hear about it. I guess the lesson I've learned is that I can no longer maintain an identity separate from Briarworks, and in retrospect that seems fairly self-evident.

    If any of you have questions, or criticisms, or anything else you'd like to express, you can always send Briarworks an e-mail: info@briarworksintl.com. Or, if there's something you want us to address publicly, let us know where the conversation is happening and we will be happy to participate.

    All the best,

    Todd

    P.S. I'm not sure what the relevance of the video is, but Briarworks isn't associated in any way with the folks in it. I can say I've met Jason personally, and genuinely liked him. From the pictures I've seen, I think we own a lot of the same skateboarding socks, but that's the extent of our connection.

    Posted 4 years ago #
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    Thanks for the voucher, Soy, I'm already spending on your line of credit. And sure, there are better and worse pipes out there. It might be nice to blame the consumer for that. It's a particularly nice way to go bankrupt.

    What takes actual courage is accepting responsibility for what you can change about your own business model. Whether that means those guys are wasting their time at Nashville, or need to up their presence in social media, who can say. But what they can't control is what the buyer wants.

    There's nothing wrong with buying a Mercedes and hating a Ford.

    But there's sure as hell something wrong with buying a Mercedes and then deciding Ford needs to be driven out of business so you no longer have to suffer the indignity of their presence.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  65. daimyo

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    On the other hand, there's something to be said about presenting the issue in a less direct manner. Something that is a little bit more positive and self-promoting rather than denigrating of others. Todd's rhetoric has rubbed me the wrong way several times in the past, but I have come to see that ultimately I see the same issues in the pipe world as him.

    I can definitely see this and agree the quoted OP on it's own is inflammatory. Taken for what is laid out in the entirety of the thread though, I think some very valid points are made even if we remove Todd and his personality from it. Flatticus, I do not wish to make more of your first posts than already has been. On all other matters we may fully agree or at least see eye to eye. It came across to me as an odd choice for first post but my opinion is only that. Sweet smokes to all.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  66. daimyo

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    But there's sure as hell something wrong with buying a Mercedes and then deciding Ford needs to be driven out of business so you no longer have to suffer the indignity of their presence.

    I can see that angle but if Ford only sold Pintos prone to exploding then perhaps not. Todd did say that if you seek to make decent pipes and not simply cash in on rubes then you are not who he is talking to but I can also concede that I can see how he is coming across to some.

    Todd, thank you for the direct input.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  67. pitchfork

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    "Briarworks" -- I've always wondered if that was a portmanteau of "Briar Workshop" and "Pipeworks." Or maybe I'm just a Nachwalter nut.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  68. cosmicfolklore

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    Its interesting that I can only ever find one of each design of the Silver Castles. It would seem that of they were mass produced in China that they'd be the same pipe designs everywhere. When I bought my first, I contacted the seller and tracked down an address and email contact for the maker, who was a student of Jack Su (if I have the name right?), according to them. You will only ever see one-of-a-kinds in that line.

    Are they lying and secretly somewhere hundreds of these are being sold? Were they jerking my chain? I only have their correspondences, which was enough for me. The only fault that I could find was the stems bits. I'm certain that that part was mass produced.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  69. cosmicfolklore

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    Just to clarify where we are in the discussion. Todd hates these Silver Castles, and wants to run pipe makers like this out of business? So this is what the rant is about?

    Posted 4 years ago #
  70. cosmicfolklore

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    ...so he designed short fat ugly squatty pipes with tiny bowls that (some say) are over priced to drive out these small bamboo pipe designers. I'm lost. And, why does he hate pokers??>?

    I need a nap.

    Posted 4 years ago #

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