2011 Kansas City Pipe Show Report

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.

The Crowd Gathers in the Smoking Tent Friday afternoon
More of the crowd in the smoking tent
The Media - Kevin Godbee & Chuck Stanion of P&T Magazine


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.

Carl Staudenmyer (GKCPC Marketing Director) & Quinton Wells (GKCPC Carving Contest Director)
Brian Levine (Brigham Pipes) & Mary McNeil (McClelland Tobacco)


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.

Steve Monjure Delivers the Keynote Speech
John Cermak, Club President and Master of Ceremonies


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.”


First two photos: Ring-grained Billiard Sandblast w/smooth rim for $675.
Next 4 shots: Fugu Crosscut Blowfish, all smooth. for $1,700.
Above 3 photos: Straight grained acorn for $1,900.
Above 3 photos: Crosscut Egg with Mammoth Ivory for $1,450.
The final five photos are of the Aloha Friendship Pipe. It has optional hose attachments to make it somewhat like a hookah. It sells for $1,400.


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.

First two photos: Freehand designed pipe. Tuscany Briar from Italy. Accent on the end is stabilized burl wood injected with plastic to keep it from cracking. Third photo above: Scoop design made of very old aged Spanish Briar with Cumberland stem.
First photo: Scoop design pipe from top down. Next three photos: (Pipe that I bought.) Italian briar, part smooth, part rusticated with stabilized Buckeye Burl in red-colored stain and white acrylic stem. Last 2 photos – Freehand Panel.

Don’s Website is: KeslingBriarPipes.com
Jon Rinaldi

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.


Bulldog with a beautiful Bird’s Eye Rim, Pretty Straight Grain and a Cumberland stem – $350.
Cross-cut tall billiard w/tapered stem and embellishment of Tiger’s wood – $345.
Honey-colored Straight Grain Squat Tomato w/Ebonite stem – $325.
Tulip (or Pear-shape) w/Deep Sandblast. Natural finish and Ebonite stem – $350.

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.

First 2 Pics: Raindrop w/Lucite bit. Godet made of plastic and African black wood. Delron insert that forms a structure for the godet Straight grain – $425. Third pic: Ramses pipe w/wooly mammoth ivory and African black wood, godet.
First pic: Ramses also has Delron insert that runs through and serves as a structure. The stem is made out of Lucite- $450. Next two pics: Pencil Shank Billiard w/re-worked Amber Stem and push tenon, partially sandblasted – $250.
Above: Cone-shape, plateau briar with Lucite bit – $225.

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 Davidson
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.

Left: Sandblasted, Black Bamboo Cutty-shape. Right: Adam’s Signature Almond Shape. Contrast-blasted.
Above: Acorn-shape with horn military mount
Above 3 Photos: This was a commissioned pipe. Adam describes it as “a Danish egg. For me, it would be a magnum pipe. This thing is almost seven inches long and I talked with the customer about doing a partial blast, so with this shape it’s kind of fun because it’s very beautiful from the side. It has a lot of forward momentum and where it’s masked off for the sandblasting that line continues all the way into the stem showing how the design is actually one design, not a combination of two different designs and I have a nice medium depth moon kind of craggy blast, which is 100% bird’s eye and the side panels are actually a contrasting, it’s actually a very wide tiger grain.”


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.


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18 Responses

  • Thanks for the excellent photo essay of this event Kevin. What fun and such spectacular pipes!

  • Thanks guys. I’m glad you enjoyed the coverage of the show. I had an amazing time. It was a great 3-day weekend. Everything was spectacular – the people, the food, the drinks, the conversations, and the smoking.

    I didn’t originally plan on going to this show, but Quinton Wells sweet-talked me in Chicago and then Carl Staudenmyer followed up with a phone call and it was a done deal. I’m glad they convinced me to go. I already can’t wait for next year.

  • It was a wonderful show that was greatly enhanced by the caliber of carvers, vendors, attendees, and guests that came.
    The high point of the show is the presentation of the pipes selected to be in the Seven-Day Set. I know this will sound hard to believe, but the case they were mounted in was as impressive as each of the pipes themselves. At least for now, this case will stand as being unique. Anthony Harris who made the case received several commissions to make more.
    The attendance at our BBQ buffet (Friday night) and the Banquet (Saturday) was outstanding. This noticeable uptick in attendance at these events was in no small part due to the support we received from Kevin and pipesmagazine.com. Kevin’s brief speech at the Banquet was very well received.
    Very soon we will get together and do an internal critique of the show. Depsite things going amazingly well, there were a number of things that could have gone better.

  • KC is a great show and always has been in the decade or so I have been going. I was really sorry to have to miss it this year because of a last minute problem. Next year definitely,come hell or high water.

  • Thank you for the review of the show, Kevin. Not quite like being there, but it sure made me wish that I had been. I especially enjoyed the spot coverage of your show floor walkaround.

  • great job kevin, the club really enjoyed your intro at the Sat. night dinner and having you attend our show. Your article is a wonderful snapshot of just how great the GKCPC show really is, and we thank you for that and hope it helps with attendance next year, and I’m sure it will. North American Pipe Carvers are a great group of individuals and incredible artists and a real pleasure to see so many at our show.

  • Thanks Carl! I had a lot of fun. On another note, did anyone click the Audio button below my picture?

  • I personally had a wonderful experience as one of the judges of the seven day set, and it was an honor to share the experience with my two experienced colleagues. We could have easily created a 2-week set! Thanks to all the pipe carvers who contributed their best efforts. I know we three judges kept going back to the lovely display on Mr. Harris’ base, and thought this was one of the finest looking seven day sets that has ever been created. And the KC club members were the most gracious and generous hosts one could possibly imagine.

  • Quote Kevin:
    “On another note, did anyone click the Audio button below my picture?”
    I did, and I’m still trying to figure out how you managed to whistle in harmony, never mind emulating the snare-drum and guitar parts, all without missing a note. Very impressive circular breathing indeed – you must have taken the “breath smoking” technique to a whole new level!

  • Jeff Gracik’s work is amazing… If I wasn’t a poor college student, I’d buy a pipe from him.

  • Best coverage yet with a real since of having been there for me. Shall make the next one for certain.