In it’s 2nd year, The West Coast Pipe Show is the new “Big-Small” show for west coast pipers. It’s small because it’s not so big that you can’t get to everything, and you have time to talk to almost everyone. Some shows are so big that you have to accept that you won’t see everything and you won’t get to talk to everyone. However, The West Coast Pipe Show is also big … or big enough. It is not so small that you are finished soon after you start. In fact, if you want to experience all the show has to offer, you will need the entire two days, and maybe more.
The show is officially on Saturday & Sunday, and it took place this year on November 6th & 7th. Like some other shows, activities start earlier than the opening and even linger past the official last day for some people. There was a Friday night poker tournament, and even if you weren’t playing poker, you couldn’t walk into a bar, restaurant or through the lobby of The Palace Station without bumping into some pipe people. Most attendees and exhibitors arrived in Las Vegas on Friday, and just like other pipe shows you could see guys all over the lobby and other areas with their pipe cases open; talking, examining, trading and already making deals before the floor opened the next day.
The show took place at The Palace Station, which is off the strip, and therefore quite affordable for Vegas. It is clean, comfortable and really not a bad hotel at all. It’s not The Venetian, but my bill for 4-nights at The Palace Station came to what 1-night usually costs me at The Venetian. My hotel bill made me smile instead of making my eyes fall out of my head … and I made some purchases at the show that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise … less hotel bill = more pipes and tobacco.
On Saturday there were three seminars. I think most pipesters, like myself, usually enjoy our hobby solo. So when you have the opportunity to hang out with a bunch of guys smoking and talking pipes, it’s like being a kid at Disney World with a whole cast of characters that are fun to hang out with. I decided I wanted to hear every single word presented, and every single question asked and answered in each of the three seminars. What I didn’t anticipate is that it would consume most of the day since we also conducted video interviews with each presenter as well.
You can see our video interviews at these links:
Bob Swanson – Perry White Pipes Interview
Interview with Gary B. Schrier, Pipeman, Author & Publisher
Interview with Tobacco Blender Russ Ouellette
Marty Pulvers Interview from the West Coast Pipe Show
By the end of the day Saturday I had only been to one table. I was a little panicked that I wouldn’t get to everything on Sunday, but I hustled a little and things turned out fine.
Saturday night there was a Dinner & Awards ceremony. Pipe collector, author and PhD psychologist Fred Hanna was the featured speaker and entertainment … (and he was definitely entertaining). I, Kevin Godbee, was the warm-up speaker. I spoke about the growth of the hobby coinciding with the growth of the Internet, and how this is a great opportunity for the industry and for pipe hobbyists as well. Fred Hanna provided some extremely interesting information about how nicotine has legitimate health uses and is quietly being researched in the neuro-medicine area. He also discussed the experience of finding that special pipe that makes every tobacco you smoke in it just taste better than any other pipe. (Mine is my Ardor.)
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The awards included; Kurt Balleby: Best European Pipe Maker, Marty Pulvers: Lifetime Achievement Award, J.T. Cooke: Excellence in Pipe Making, Sykes Wilford: Outstanding Contribution to Pipe Collecting, and Michael Parks: Most Improved Pipe Maker.
In our coverage of pipe shows, we make it a point to get product details from several different exhibitors. Here are several specific discussions we had with some of the pipe makers.
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 made close to 100 pipes this past year in 2010. His signature shape is the “Amoeba”. Adam describes the shape as a “fun and playful design that is very organic”, which is why he named it Amoeba. All of his newest shapes are typically a blasted base which either come with horn or bamboo. The rims are smooth, somewhat triangular, but very fluid with a lot of concavities and convex natures to them. Each Amoeba has a slightly different profile and rim. No two are alike.
Adam was also displaying a replica of an antique clay pipe from 18th Century Colonial America. He tells us; “The Cutty is one of my favorite shapes because I really enjoy history and these were the first mass-produced pipes. For a few years I wanted a set like this and I had to search the Internet for quite a while for the particular specifications I was looking for. I found this one a few years ago, and this particular clay pipe came from an old tavern dig in Connecticut. It is dated from somewhere between the late 18th-century and the early 19th-century. I wanted to perfectly replicate it, so this pipe is all hand-carved. It is not turned on a lathe. The briar is sandblasted and only waxed, so after years of smoking, it’s going to develop a very deep patina. The stem is a material similar to bakelite that comes from the 1920s – 1930s. It’s a cough drop colored red and as it’s shaped and sanded it turns to a yellow color, but through some oxidation, it’s going to turn to a very rich patina on the stem. The set comes with a handmade leather box that is a similar style to an 18th-century tobacco box. The pipe has a delicate sandblast because I wanted to replicate an old clay that came from a tavern dig that had rust and pitting from the elements. After just a few smokes it’s going to look like an antique pipe. The antique clay replicas will retail between $500 – $600. The general price scale of Adam Davidson pipes are $350 – $1,000.
Adam’s Website is AdamDavidson-Design.com. His pipes can be purchased at SmokingPipes.com.
Steve Morrisette: Steve is in Nashville, Tennessee. All of his pipes are handmade in his workshop, the “Briar Studio Shop”. Everything is done by hand with the very best materials. Steve specializes in using exotic woods and unusual, interesting, beautiful materials such as ivory and chalazite. Chalazite is a mineral polymer that comes in several different colors. He also uses exotic wood from Africa and Australia, a lot of burls, and spalted woods.
[Editor’s note: Spalting is any form of wood coloration caused by fungi. Although primarily found in dead trees, spalting can also occur under stressed tree conditions or even in living trees. Although spalting can cause weight loss and strength loss in the wood, the unique coloration and patterns of spalted wood are sought after by woodworkers. Wikipedia.]
Steve also uses abalone and mother of pearl. He explains; “I really try to get into using those fine things in a way that, for men who don’t wear jewelry, having a pipe with a little bit of an adornment on it is kind of a bit of a substitute maybe, and just a little something, a little bit of a tweak, a little kick, if you will. For the guy that likes this sort of thing.”
Steve just went full-time as a pipe maker and hopes to turn out around 100 pipes in 2011. The price range is currently from $275 for a very small, unadorned sand blast; up to about $500 for a fancier pipe. He also does commissioned work that can go into several thousand dollars. Steve Morrisette’s website is SMPipes.com and his pipes can be purchased at QualityBriar.com.
Steve had a good show on Saturday and only had two pipes left by Sunday morning as shown below.
Next we talked to Simeon Turner and Joe Skoda.
Simeon Turner: Simeon is the owner of Turner Pipes in Denver, Colorado. All of his pipes are handmade, including both the stummels and the stems. The stems are cut from German ebonite and Cumberland and then various different embellishments are added including ivory, and exotic hardwoods. Turner Pipes range in price from the low $200’s, to mid-$300’s and can be purchased through his website at TurnerPipes.com. Simeon also writes the blog, Of Briar and Ashes.
Here are a few of the Turner Pipes that were on Display:
Joe Skoda: Joe is the proprietor of Skoda Pipes in Philmont, New York, which is in the Northeast corner of the Hudson Valley. He says he likes variety, so he has some traditional shapes, and some very unique shapes. He says; “I like doing variations on a theme once in a while, but my desire is to always venture into something new and to try to keep challenging myself as much as possible and to keep coming up with something unique to my product line.”
Joe uses predominately Grecian Briar. All of the stems are vulcanite or cumberland, and occasionally acrylic. The small stems are all handmade. Joe will sometimes make extensions out of exotic woods. Skoda Pipes are well-known for the big saucer tops and unique rustication designs. Some names of Joe’s extremely unique styles are; Patent Leather, Gecko, and Cracked Shell. Prices range from $350 to $1,300. A website is in the works. In the meantime, Joe can be contacted at Skodapipes@hotmail.com, and his phone number is 518-672-0093.
Russ Ouellette: Russ is the master blender of Hearth & Home Pipe Tobaccos for PipesAndCigars.com. There were three new blends from the Hearth & Home line being previewed at the West Coast Pipe Show. Magnum Opus is a medium strength Balkan blend with rare Orientals that haven’t been available in a number of years. It is very bright and clean, and reminiscent of tobacco blends of the ’70’s. Russ says; “I’m just impressed as hell with the quality of the leaf that I was able to get my hands on and so far the feedback on it has just been outstanding.”
Sweet & Savory, is a Virginia/Oriental blend with a little bit of dark fired Kentucky and some Perique in it. It is lively, sweet, not overpowering, not overbearing, with no flavorings whatsoever.
Log Cabin is going to be the slow smoke blend at the Chicago Pipe Show next year (2011). It’s a Virginia blend that also has some dark fired Kentucky in it, but what makes it unique is a flavoring that used to be used in a lot of old time blends called Rose of Latakia. It has a very unique aroma and flavor. It is a tobacco you could smoke all day, it doesn’t dominate your taste buds. “It’s just a good smooth old-style blend”, according to Russ.
Magnum Opus and Sweet and Savory will be available in the first quarter of 2011 and Log Cabin will be available at the Chicago Pipe Show.
Bill Shalosky: Shalosky Pipes offers pipes in classic shapes, mostly Danish and English, and also free hands. Bill utilizes the work shop in the back of the Smokers’ Haven store in Columbus Ohio. His prices range range from $250 to $650, and Shalosky Pipes can be purchased at Smokers’ Haven.
Here are some of Bill Shalosky’s pipes that were on display in Las Vegas.
Bruce A. Weaver: Bruce tells us that what’s unique or special about his pipes is his style of sandblasting. It is extremely detailed and follows all of the growth rings on the pipes. The average price of a Bruce Weaver pipe is $450. All of his pipes are handmade in his workshop in Brentwood Tennessee and can be purchased from QualityBriar.com. Bruce’s website is BAWeaverPipes.com.
Below are some of Bruce A. Weaver’s pipes:
Todd Johnson: Todd, in addition to his well-established line of Todd M. Johnson Pipes, just came out with a new line named Medici. They range in price from $225 to $350 and are produced in a new workshop named “The Briar Studio”. The Briar Studio is a joint venture in Nashville Tennessee between Todd and Bruce Weaver, and also includes pipe makers; Jody Davis, Steve Morrisette, Pete Provost, and Scott Holtman.
Todd’s exquisite namesake pipes are $800 and up. They can be purchased at Quality Briar in the U.S., and internationally at Scan Pipes, PipeShop.ru in Russia and Eddie Wong in China. More information can be found at Todd-M-Johnson.com
John Rinaldi: John always has some unique beautiful pipes to show. He and his wife Jennifer, are based in Sonora, Arizona, and the pipes John makes along with the accessories made by Jennifer have an artistic, rustic desert feel about them. J. Rinaldi Pipes are made from Italian Briar and they are available with a variety of stem materials including; vintage bakelite from Turkey. Rusticated and sandblasted pipes range in price from the mid-$250 – $350, and smooth pipes range from $300 – $400. Pipes can be purchased at five different pipe shows a year and by visiting the website at JRinaldiPipes.com.
Will Purdy: Will tells us; “I sell direct to customers through my website, WillPurdy.comand I have one dealer, Per Billhäll at Scandinavian Pipes over in Sweden. I make all of my pipes myself and my shop is in Colorado. I’m a Colorado native. I buy my briar from Italy, and age it at least 10 years. I’m a full-time pipe maker since 2005.”
Will’s prices range from $400 to $1,500 for special pieces. Special orders for commissioned work are accepted.
Will: “This pipe is a unique shape for me. I have not done this one before, it’s a panel pipe. My first panel. It started out to be along the lines of a Dunhill Diplomat which is one of my favorite shapes. I’ve been smoking pipes since the mid-’70’s, and it’s just one of my favorites, but I wanted to do something different, so I took a fairly good sized block, but it was narrow, and I made a diplomat handle and it’s unique to me and I don’t know if there’s anyone else crazy enough to have made one in the past.”
“This is a little apple sand blast. I have a Dunhill from the ’30’s that I smoke all the time. It’s a little Group Two Apple, and I decided to do something like it. I like classic shapes. I mean, it’s just one of my favorites. It’s small, it’s extremely light, and it makes people look smarter.
This is one of my signature shapes. I call it Organic Tadpole. It’s sort of designed too look like it swims. It’s asymmetrical, the shank curves both left to right and up and down, and it’s one of my most popular shapes at this point in time. I do variances of it. I’m calling this one a Hammerhead – it looks a little bit like a Hammerhead shark when you look at it from the top. And again, everyone is a little different.
Here is another traditional shape pipe. This one again is one of my old pipes from the ’70’s. I have a little Comoy Billiard. This is a variation of that, it’s more of a brandy shape, but it’s an extremely short pipe, but very light. Very much something you can puff on for hours and never feel it’s even in your mouth.
Craig A. Cooper: Craig has been hand making pipes for over 30 years. He previously owned and operated the Village Smoke Shop in Scottsdale, Arizona for 10 years, then closed up shop, moved to Colorado and went fulltime as a pipemaker.
Craig uses Algerian briar, acrylic or vulcanite stems, and crafts each pipe by hand.He makes some beautiful high-quality pipes in the price range of $125 – $275.
Blandings Collection 2 Pipe Set w/ DVD
Craig is also producing a limited edition collectible, the “Blandings Collection – 2 pipe set w/ DVD“.
It’s a handsome looking set of two pipes that are replicas of the pipes smoked in the 1948 movie, Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, starring Cary Grant. For many pipe smokers, the nostalgia of pipe smoking is part of the draw to the hobby, and that is certainly a factor with this limited edition collectible. The handmade pipes are attractive and classy, and come in a handmade wooden box along with the DVD of the movie and photo stills. The author thought it was so handsome, classy and nostalgic that he bought set number 9 of 48.
Craig tells us of the creation of The Blandings Collection.
“Well I first got the thought of the Blandings Collection while watching my favorite old movie, I just love Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House. The pipe smoking is from start to finish, it’s fantastic. I saw the Bill Cole character played by Melvin Douglas and thought it would be really neat to have one of those pipes. I wondered where he got, then decided to just make one. So I made one and I scaled it out and looked at the various screen shots of the film. Then I saw Cary Grant’s pipe and I thought, I’m going to make one of those too. So I made one. And I thought, how about a two-pipe box set? And that’s how we created it.
Production is limited to forty-eight total. They’re a lot of work because I hand make the boxes – the boxes are actually pre-made, but I stain them, lacquer them, put the signage on them. I make the insides with all the satin and everything and then fit both pipes in there. And it actually takes longer to make the box than the two pipes. So it kind of turns out to be quite a lot of work. 1948 is the year the film was made, so we decided on 48 sets.
You get the two pipes in the display box and I include a copy of the DVD from the actual film so you can get the set, fill up a pipe, put the DVD in and smoke right along with Cary and Melvin Douglas.”
Craig Cooper’s pipes and The Blandings Collection can be purchased at: PipeAndPouch.com.
Ernie Markle: Ernie produces amazing handmade pipes in Phoenix Arizona, which retail from $200 – $400. They can be purchased on his web site at: EMarklePipes.com.
Bob Kiess: Dr. Bob Pipes is located in central Vermont. All of Bob’s pipes are handmade with very unique rustications. They range in price from $290 to $450 and only thirty to forty pipes are produced annually. The pipes can be purchased at DrBobPipes.com.Bob started smoking a pipe in college, and continued to smoke his pipes in medical school.
Bob says; “There it seemed it was almost fashionable and many docs, students and professors smoked. Pipe and tobacco pouches were always in my white doctor’s coat and I lit it up almost anywhere in the hospital or medical school. Folks certainly had their heads screwed on straight in those days!”
Then he saw an ad for Pimo Pipe Company, ordered a predrilled block, and created a disaster of a pipe. After taking Al Baier’s course, studying with JM Boswell, and years of refining his craft, Dr. Bob has been producing exquisite pipes for ten years.
Bob was showing several rusticated and partially-rusticated Hawksbill pipesand some amazing flame grain Dublins and several other finely detailed pipes.
Be sure to mark your calendars for the 2011 West Coast Pipe Show – November 5 & 6, 2011.
West Coast Pipe Show Website
Opening “West Coast Pipe Show” Photo courtesy Bas Stevens of the Vancouver Pipe Club.
Sykes Wilford’s Award Plaque Photo courtesy of the Smoking Pipes Blog.
Photos of the dinner, Rick Newcombe, Kevin Godbee, Marty Pulvers, Steve O’Neill, and Fred Hanna courtesy of Jeremiah Dreier, pipe smoker, collector and the lucky husband of “Pipe Babe” & PipesMagazine.com correspondent Cynthia Sargent.
Will Purdy Diamond Diplomat Pipe photo courtesy Will Purdy.
Craig Cooper Dublin Pipe courtesy Craig Cooper, PipeAndPouch.com