What does a Cirque du Soleil performer, gourmet chef, and a knife juggler all have in common with the Greater Kansas City Pipe Club?
They all make what they do look like it’s easy.
The 2011 Greater Kansas City Pipe & Tobacco Show was held on June 25 & 26 at the KCI Expo Center, adjacent to the Kansas City Airport Holiday Inn.
Pulling off a successful pipe show is a demanding task. Doing so while making it look easy takes even more work. The hospitality, vigor, and professionalism demonstrated by the club was over the top. I don’t think I stopped smiling all weekend. Every time I encountered a different club member I was thanked for attending, and told how happy they were that I was there. These guys really know how to make someone feel welcome, and it wasn’t just me. They made sure everyone had a great time.
As a matter of fact, the Kansas City club is so classy that they presented a framed calligraphic certificate of appreciation to every participant in the show. (Somebody in the club must have read Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends & Influence People”.)
Here’s a photo of my certificate which was hand-lettered by the club’s own Master Penman, Mike Sull.
This was the 12th show organized by the Kansas City club and they have been together for nearly 15 years. In 2008, the venue unfortunately became smoke-free. That, and other complications resulted in no shows in 2008 and 2009. Then the club reorganized, and re-doubled their efforts to bring the show back last year, and this year was stronger than ever.
Quinton Wells has been the extremely energetic driving force as president of the club for several years. However, one man can only do so much. Quinton is now concentrating on organizing the American Carvers Contest & Raffle. John Cermak has taken over as President and Show Director with Ken Davis as Vice President.
Ken Davis candidly explained that Quinton was “carrying the load himself for quite some time.” Now the club has reorganized and breathed new life into their organization. They have greater member participation, and have doubled their membership to 62 members.
Ken tells us that they’ve also had “35 show committee meetings … and in the past there really wasn’t even a show committee.” The show sold out their 72 tables this year. Another sign of growth was expressed by Mike McNeil of McClelland Tobacco. He said that he saw many new faces at the show this year, which is obviously good news.
There were many sub-events inside this overall grand affair. Friday night included a great barbeque buffet with BBQ Brisket, BBQ Chicken, Potato Salad, Cole Slaw, “Our Soon to be Famous Beans”, Corn Casserole, and more. (The beans were amazing and they should be famous.)
Friday night also included a pipe making demonstration by Jeff Gracik of J. Alan Pipes. Jeff showed us how he shapes the pipe with a sanding disc before drilling the holes. (The traditional method is to drill the holes first.)
Here’s a video of Jeff’s pipe making demonstration.
The exhibit hall opened to a rainy Saturday morning at 9:00 am, but by lunch time the sun was shining.
Throughout the show there were door prizes raffled every hour. Steve Stein presented a “Clinic on Enhancing Your Pipe Smoking Techniques”. Ken Davis offered a class on Pipe Refurbishing. There was a Slow Smoking Contest, and the big focus was on American Pipe Carvers.
The American Pipe Carvers was a competition and a raffle. Over 40 renowned American pipe carvers submitted entries to the Second Annual GKCPC Pipe Carving Contest. Judges Bill Schaffart, Tad Gage, and George Dibos chose the seven best pipes to make up a 7-day set. The 7-day set also includes a highly unique case made by Anthony Harris, club member and master woodcraftsman.
Tickets were sold at $25 each with the proceeds going to the pipe makers that were included in the set. The Pipe Carvers in the seven day set were: Quinton Wells, Adam Davidson, Rad Davis, Jack Howell, Michael Parks, Joe Skoda, and Lee Von Erck. The winner of the 7-day set was Bobby Owens from Georgia.
All of the pipes and the special handmade display case will take your breath away. We can’t show it to you at this time as Pipes & Tobaccos Magazine was promised the exclusive by the club and no photos were allowed. So look for it in the next issue of P&T.
Other awards at the show included the following;
- Bob Oswald (Whitewood Leather) : Appreciation award
- Best Pipe: given to Premmal Chedda for the Jody Davis on his table (Smokers Haven)
- Best Carver: Lee Von Erck
- Best Display: Tony Soderman
- Best Collection: Tony Soderman
- Winners of smoking contest: 1st – Jim Arra, 2nd – Dave Houfek, and 3rd – Cliff Stark
- Steve Monjure: appreciation plus the appreciation award from 10 yrs ago.
Steve won an appreciation award ten years ago, but it wasn’t finished in time for the show back then, and it was amusingly presented to him now.
The awards were presented at Saturday night’s dinner. The food was superb. We had Filet of Salmon, with Lemon Dill Sauce, Petite Filet Steak with Red Wine Reduction Sauce, Rosemary Baby Red Potatoes, Green Beans with Red Peppers, and Cheesecake. The salmon and steak were both perfect. The steak was perfectly rare inside and charred on the outside. It was so tender that we didn’t even have steak knives. We just used ordinary table knives.
After dinner, I entertained the crowd by whistling the theme song to The Andy Griffith Show. Not really, but I did give a little 10-minute speech and warmed up the crowd for Steve Monjure of Monjure International, who was the featured speaker of the evening.
Steve spoke in-depth about many Italian pipe makers and factories.
The preceding was a general overview of the show. We now present you with some of the exhibitors and details about the pipes they were showing. We can’t cover every exhibitor at every show, so we try to recount those that have not been reported on before, or that have not been detailed recently.
Jeff Gracik, J. Alan Pipes
Jeff is based in San Diego, CA and started making pipes in 2004 when he was in graduate school. He started as a cigar smoker, but as a graduate student, found it challenging to budget for cigars. His wife suggested that he smoke a pipe, like her grandfather did. He enjoyed smoking pipes, but ironically, he found that the pipes he was drawn to would require much greater finances than buying several boxes of cigars. That’s when he decided he would make them himself.
Jeff has evolved into one of the most respected pipe artisans in the last few years. His pipes are works of art that are also meticulously engineered to be amongst the finest smoking instruments you can find anywhere. He is a full-time pipe maker making about 100 pipes a year that range in price from $600 – $3,000.
Jeff tells us; “I used to work with a lot more exotic materials, things like wooly mammoth tusk and elephant ivory and I’ve started recently working with silver, doing my own band making and it’s exciting doing that, but I’m also really drawn toward the elegance and simplicity of the shape with the traditional materials, just briar and ebonite simply because I find that there is some real … a different kind of beauty to be found when you keep things simple and I’ve really been drawn to that lately.”
Jeff’s Website is: Jalanpipes.com
Below from left to right are: Ted Swearingen of SmokingPipes.com, Mary McNeil from McClelland Tobacco, and Fred Hanna; prominent collector, writer, and speaker in the pipe community. I spent several hours in the evening smoking pipes and talking to Fred, Mary and Tad Gage (not pictured) about tobaccos. Mary has forgotten more about tobacco than most people will ever know about it. Her knowledge is vast, and listening to her talk about Oriental tobaccos was quite intriguing. Her husband, Mike McNeil is also extremely knowledgeable about tobacco, and he is a complete crack-up, although he doesn’t mean to be. If you’ve met Mike, then you know what I mean. He is a pistol to say the least, and he makes amazing pipe tobacco blends. He kept me entertained for hours just listening to him. I also want to thank Ted for keeping me supplied with plenty of espresso shots from the SmokingPipes.com table.
Brian Levine shows off the unique Brigham Pipe System. Brigham had some beautiful pipes on display at very attractive prices from $60 – $110. Brigham pipes are easy to smoke and easy to afford. Anyone that wants a high quality pipe at a budget-conscious price should check them out. You can see Brigham Pipes at BrighamPipes.com.
Scott Thile was showing some exquisite pipes that were very well priced for the quality of work. The first pipe shown is a Bulldog, Partial Blast made from Italian Plateau briar with a hand-cut Cumberland stem and a Delron tenon for $295. The below left pipe is Smooth Apple w/Holly made from Italian Plateau briar with a hand cut German Ebonite stem and Delron tenon for $350. The last pipe is a Smooth Volcano made from Italian Plateau briar with a hand cut German Ebonite stem and Delron tenon for $450.
Scott’s website is: SeThilePipes.com
Bob Gilbert was my next pipe maker stop.
Bob’s talents have come a long way quickly. If you haven’t checked out his work recently, you really should. He was showing several quite beautiful pipes. You can find Bob on Facebook.
Don Kesling, Kesling Briar Pipes
I met Don 2-years ago at the Chicago Pipe Show and have been admiring his pipes ever since. I even bought one this time. Here are few of his works of art.
Don’s Website is: KeslingBriarPipes.com
Jon Rinaldi was one of the first people (and pipe makers) to ever sign up for PipesMagazine.com and we covered him in some of our earliest articles.
The two of us also shared the same connecting flights in and out of Kansas City. On the way home, I enjoyed the opportunity to talk about stuff other than pipes and the chance to meet the real person behind the pipes.
Jon and I hung out for a couple of hours talking about life in general, women and relationships, running our own businesses and traveling to pipe shows, and our original home state of New Jersey. Jon is so mellow that you would never think he is originally from Jersey. He has been based in Arizona for many years now, and he seems like a true Arizonian; calm, friendly and earthy. He lives on a big ranch with his wife Jennifer and has horses. He is also a professional photographer.
While we were waiting to board the plane Jon turned me on to Hot Cinnamon Jolly Ranchers. I didn’t even know they existed. He had to special order a case of them direct to get them. Now I am addicted to them.
Jon was exhibiting some superb pipes.
Jon’s Website is: Jrinaldipipes.com
Anthony Harris – Acme Pipes & Acme Woodturning
Anthony is a pipe maker and a woodcraftsman. He is a member of the Greater Kansas City Pipe Club. He made the display case for the American Carvers 7-day set that was raffled off at the show. He makes hand-carved tampers and many other accessories for pipes and several other things outside the pipe world. He makes bowls, boxes, goblets, and many other decorative and functional items – all from wood. I fell in love with the pipe he is holding in the above photo and bought it.
Anthony started making pipes 30 years ago, but it became more of a full-time endeavor in the last few years. Some of the special materials he uses include; wooly mammoth ivory, bovine horn, African black wood, boxwood, and bamboo.
All of his pipes are individual handmade and range in price from $175 to $600.
Anthony explained how he sandblasts one part of the bowl, while leaving another part of it smooth, as can be seen on the pipe I purchased in the center, middle photo above. “The way you sandblast only part of a pipe is you have to put some kind of a shield or a border around the part you don’t want blasted. There is a very thin stretchy tape that is used for auto body painting and what is good about it is it stretches so you can go around corners. It also doesn’t leave a residue.”
Anthony’s website is: AcmePipes.com
Adam has been making pipes since April 2007. All of his pipes are handmade from solid block briar and solid ebonite with the occasional addition of horn, bamboo, boxwood or ivory. Adam makes about 100 pipes a year. He studied Industrial Design at Purdue University. Adam was showing several pipes in Kansas City. We picked out four to go into detail on.
This was just a small part of the overall Kansas City Pipe show. There is so much more that goes on, so if you weren’t there, try to make it to the show next year. It was really a great show!
We leave you with a few more photos …
|Socializing and pipe smoking went on late into the night on Friday and Saturday.|
|Left: Steve Stein (Kansas City Club) and Tad Gage (Author, Collector, Reviewer) Right: Chip Kushner (San Diego Pipe Club)|
July 3, 2:30 p.m. | Updated A previous version of this post incorrectly stated that Quinton Wells was the Show Director. Quinton was in charge of the Carving Contest for the American Carvers competition and raffle. John Cermak, in addition to being Club President is also the Show Director.