Slovakian Newcomer Makes His Mark Tom Spithaler It seems there is always one ‘thing’ about a pipecrafter’s style that draws my attention. There is always one sort of standout characteristic that tells me, "You need to get to know this guy!" Things like Bruce Weaver’s blasting techniques, the finishes of Dotter pipes, the classic ‘tough […]Read more
Croatian Creativity: Black Bamboo Freehand #84 Tom Spithaler In 1989 I went through Infantry Basic Training at Ft. Jackson, SC. I was sworn in 7 September, and left basic training 14 December and was assigned to Ft. Lewis, near Tacoma, Washington. Basic Training is designed to mold a young man into a soldier. Training is […]Read more
A Free-Hand Dublin of Excellence Tom Spithaler Nestled in west-central Indiana, the city of Cloverdale has a population of 2,172. It hosts a single McDonalds, an Econo-Lodge and a beautiful natural attraction called Cataract Falls along Mill Creek. Cataract Falls is the largest waterfall in Indiana with a drop of over 80 feet cascading over […]Read more
The Brilliance of Thomas Bazant Tom Spithaler When I was young, I was a little different than the other kids. I suffered from Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis that was diagnosed at the age of five. Because of the growth variables and bone and joint weakness caused by this disease, from age five to eight, my activities […]Read more
James Gilliam’s Hand-Crafted Squashed Tomato Tom Spithaler How a shape appears to a pipe-carver as they sit and stare at a raw block of briar is a mystery to many of us who are collectors and smokers. Perhaps not so much to the artisans that are actually doing the carving, but as for me, I’d […]Read more
Pipe Crafter Kurt Huhn Goes Formal Tom Spithaler In last month’s review we looked at the first of two pieces that Rhode Island craftsman Kurt Huhn made and submitted to be scrutinized under my malevolent elucidation (insert your best evil laugh here). But seriously, looking closely at the Chubby Billiard he sent (see previous review), […]Read more
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- July 5, 2022 Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 512
Welcome to The Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 512! On tonight’s show we have a new episode of an ongoing segment of what Brian likes to call “Inside Fred’s Head” with Fred Hanna. Fred is a well-known pipe collector, author, and speaker at pipe shows. He has a PhD. in psychology and teaches the same at the Chicago Campus at Adler University. He is also author of the book, “The Perfect Smoke”. This is the ninth in the series with a long form discussion of pipe and tobacco questions sent in by our listeners. In the opening “Pipe Parts” segment, Brian will go over the JDRF auction items. Sit back, relax with your pipe, and enjoy The Pipes Magazine Radio Show!
- July 5, 2022 Fribourg & Treyer Blackjack Review
Cellaring tobacco happens in a few ways; some intentional, others incidental. As any member of this forum could certainly attest, adding a few more tins than one can smoke in a reasonable amount of time to an order (or even just one more tin to hit that free shipping threshold) is a by-product of being consistently engaged in the hobby (or pastime, or however you think of this thing we all do). Hopping on the hype train for a new blend, a limited seasonal release, or small-batch experiment from the blending houses is certainly to blame for more than a few stockpiles—it’s easy to become mesmerized by the dizzying variety of superb product available to us today. Frequently it’s the draw of a well-timed sale coinciding with a surplus in discretionary funds—I can’t be the only one who somehow ended up with 115 pounds of Mixture 79 in their cellar, can I? Now and again it’s something as simple as lovely tin art, or a name that conjures a fond memory, or just boredom with our current rotation that inspires an irregular purchase of a random blend. Thus the discovery of a lone tin of Fribourg & Treyer’s Blackjack circa 2011 in my own collection falls somewhere around the last example. My preferred lane in pipe blends decidedly tends toward Virginias, and this purchase was something that I assume I had picked up for breaking the routine of my old standards in that genre. This was also obtained at a time slightly before I had been keeping a detailed tasting journal, so although I know I’d smoked it before and recall it as a solid performer, no notes of the experiences I’d had previously were recorded. Nevertheless, I was excited to embark on that journey of re-discovery, expecting to find a new standby or a lost gem. Fribourg & Treyer is a top-notch marque of the estimable Kohlhase & Kopp house, perhaps a bit underrated in the States, and by and large deliver solid value with quality and variety aplenty in their portfolio. A tin of any Virginia tobacco with a decade under its lid is a treasure to hold, with the promise of a monk-worthy satori waiting on just the other side of that lid. What wonderful things may time and chance have created? This is the heart of cellardiving—the possibility that old blends can become new again, perhaps something entirely other than their younger selves, much like we as people do. Sometimes, with a bit of luck and a lot of chance, a tobacco can even become a transformative experience, that holy grail of substances, manna from heaven. What wonders lay in store for me behind the old-fashioned black and white lid? What wondrous alchemy has transpired while unattended? Waiting for just the right time, with just the right pipe, I readied myself to be floored by the decadent treat inside…. The seal was good, the tobacco inside still quite moist, and its bouquet was full of notes of fresh cut spring hay, sharp tangy oak, and flat diet cola, which tempered down to include dry raisin and a hint of chocolate overtones after some days’ air time. Moving on to the smoke itself, it was good—very good in fact, for one who enjoys an unassuming, unadorned Virginia. If I were tasting it blindfolded I’d have guessed it had some small bit of Izmir in it, as the smoke leaned heavily into that Turkish flavor profile, but careful inspection of the leaf seemed to reveal only the ingredients as advertised: a ready-rubbed pure Red Virginia flake of excellent quality, well-tumbled and rather uniformly chestnut brown. The blend is good, undeniably—it hits that sharp, tangy note that it should, burns easily, has a pleasantly light mouthfeel with no bite; almost all the things a solid Virginia should have, if lacking in any definable sweetness or much in the way of a citrusy cast. The flavor profile intones old familiar Virginia notes—grassy vegetal shades that in this instance were more mellowed into the territory of silage, with the sharpness of a Wisconsin cheddar and a hint of burned rubber when overheating the mid-bowl—but it was still just…very good. No angels appeared with trumpets, no out-of-body experience, no whirlwind of emotions, no fireworks or fanfare…just a solid, steady, straight Virginia smoke. Perhaps it was the pipe? Testing out a variety of pipes, all similarly dedicated to light Virginia blends, yielded results that were only remarkable for their similarity. My packing technique, though it may lack grace, seemed adequate to keep it burning with only a light or two throughout an entire bowl, so that shouldn’t be the issue. Time of day, accompanying beverage, pre- or post-meal, it was always the same blend. No, I had to face it: at issue were my preconceptions and expectations for the tobacco itself. I had gone fishing for Moby Dick, and turned up only herring. The greater part of my consternation at being underwhelmed by the experience lay in my own expectations and assumptions regarding aged tobacco in general. To be fair, I have had some enlightenment-grade tobacco experiences. A larger percentage of moderately- to well-aged blends, at least in my reckoning, are decidedly wonderful—sometimes dancing around the edges of sublime: sometimes merely far superior to a fresh batch, sometimes becoming something entirely different and unique, but generally very, very good. Another, perhaps larger, percentage show little to no change, and another small percentage show marked decline. By all indicators, this tin should have been something special…shouldn’t it have? Perhaps. As it was, it fell squarely in the percentage of little change. And it took me a couple days to reconcile myself with being alright with that, and hoping to learn from it. “Things aren’t different. Things are things.” So opines Wintermute, the hidden protagonist of Neuromancer, a novel I re-read with alarming regularity. The kernel of truth here is that with one’s perceptions, it’s somewhere between being a matter of perspective and a […]
- July 1, 2022 Law of Binding Energy
This may sound a bit over the top, but our pipe community is held together by some equivalent of the law of binding energy. So sayeth Dr. Pundit. Harrumph! Simply put, the law says the universe is held together by binding energy. Seen another way, the law explains in a blackboard full of Einsteinian math the energy it takes to separate us from the universe. Or something. Now, without getting too overwrought in the physics or chemistry of binding energy, let’s just say we are a bound community of pipe-loving groups. It would require a great deal of energy to separate us from our hobby. The Pundit has not run off the rails yet. See, our energy is connected through a community of pipes and tobacco, a village of individuals who enjoy just sitting around pontificating and puffing our beloved pipes. That’s binding and energetic. You get it if you have ever participated in a pipe club gathering. There is not enough energy to scramble one atom of our togetherness. That’s our law of binding energy. This short lecture is a windy opening to what is today’s reality in the pipe world, and our daily lives. Pay attention, class. There will be a pop quiz at the end of this discourse. Of late we have seen tectonic shifts in the “old normal.” The good old days, so it seems to the Pundit, have been pummeled by powerful events: the Covid pandemic virus and its many mutations of tragedy; supply chain choke holds; massive cargo ships becoming lodged in narrow river lanes like toy boats in a ditch; the Great Resignation spreading like a virus; a disastrous war in Ukraine and the threat of even more violence. Ok, the Pundit gets it. Enough of gloom and doom. Back to the original thought of our law of binding energy. It is similar to the law of supply and demand for pipe smokers. In simplest terms, when all other economic factors remain constant, the law of supply says that if prices go up, supply generally rises. But if supply remains constant, and prices continue to rise, demand generally drops. For us pipe smokers, supply and demand have been somewhat steady during these upside-down years. We have access to sufficient supply and, mostly, prices have not resulted in a bank shot off the charts. We pipe puffers have our own law of supply and demand, similar to our law of biding energy. Now, for the promised pop quiz. Pay attention, for another lecture of sorts is in order after this. Pop question: how do supply and demand affect pipe smokers? You in the back: “More supply means we have fewer pipes.” Wow, you weren’t paying attention. Ok, one more. You in the front row with your hand half raised: “We have too many pipes on cargo ships.” You fail, too. Correct answer: The Law of Supply and Demand may affect other segments of society, but not so much the pipes and tobacco community. There are too many of us in the demand side. No matter the prices. There, you have it. Now on to more important matters. Why do we celebrate Independence Day? If your answer is because some yokels in Boston tossed tea in an ocean, or it’s because we fly flags and blast fireworks into the night skies, one might want to dig a little deeper. Ok, so why do we celebrate? You there in the corner half asleep. “To celebrate independence from some king, or something.” Well, yes, but I was looking for a more profound answer. Such as, from whom did we snatch independence from the jaws of colonialism? In a more perfect union, the Fourth of July is the day the original thirteen colonies signed the Declaration of Independence, giving birth to a new America, and unbuckling itself from the nutjob King George III and Great Britain. America is 246 years young this July 4th. Ok, that was a little harsh about the royal nutjob. King Georgie suffered from insanity in spurts. History records that many of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, as well as those who penned the document, were tobacco farmers. This founding fathers’ fact, dear friends, gives pipe smokers bragging rights! So, the heart of all this is that after we’ve fired off that bucket full of fireworks to celebrate our precious independence, we can savor the notion that pipe smoking in America is not only patriotic but also historic. It’s that binding energy continuum thing. Tobacco formed the first cash crop of the British colonies. Think Jamestown and John Rolfe, the guy who married Pocahontas and was big in early Virginia politics. He also enjoyed tobacco and planted a crop of West Indies seeds, allegedly, in Jamestown in 1612. And on the money side, by the time of the runup to the American Revolution, just about all of the Southern Founding Fathers owed their wealth to the sale of tobacco. And to be historically correct, not all of them smoked tobacco. But tobacco smoking was common among the Founders, particularly using churchwarden-long clay pipes in the inns. See, many of the Founding Fathers (a tasty aromatic blend from Cornell & Diehl, just sayin’), were also pipe smokers. The author of the Declaration, Thomas Jefferson, was a tobacco farmer who puffed a pipe for a brief time. Benjamin Franklin was likewise a short-time pipe smoker while helping to edit the famous freedom document. We can forgive ol’ Benjy because floating a kite near lightning with a lit pipe might not have been a promising idea. Founders John Adams and James Madison, also tobacco farmers, knew a good pipe blend when they smoked one. By the way, Dolley Madison, wife of the fourth U.S. President, smoked a pipe and allegedly cigars as well. And now, dear friends, I hope by the time you read this epistle, you have had or will have a binding energy type Fourth. Finally, a message from our first U.S. President, […]
- June 28, 2022 Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 511
Welcome to The Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 511! Our featured interview tonight is with pipe maker Nate King. Nate started smoking pipes in 2004, and starting making them in 2005. Prior to that he worked in the Indy race business where as a transmission specialist, precision and attention to detail is a high priority, and this carries over into his pipe making. Nate makes all kinds of pipes from the classic shapes, to whimsical. retro-inspired pieces such as a commission inspired by an old-style microphone. He has also participated in many collaborations on pipe designs, such as with fellow pipe maker Michael Lindner, and tobacco blender Gregory Pease. In Pipe Parts, Brian will have a pipe review, and at the end of the show we will have a guest rant. Sit back, relax with your pipe, and enjoy The Pipes Magazine Radio Show!
- June 23, 2022 Kapp & Peterson Relocates to New Factory
Via press release dated June 22, 2022 – Kapp & Peterson is pleased to announce that as of 23 May, it has relocated to a new facility in the Deansgrange neighborhood of County Dublin — a relatively short walk from its previous home in Sallynoggin. Moving is not something the Dublin-based institution takes lightly. “We were in Sallynoggin for 50 years,” says Managing Director Joshua Burgess. “And Sallynoggin was only our second home after moving from the original St. Stephen’s Green factory in 1972.” Peterson’s staff leaves behind fond memories of Sallynoggin. “The factory in Sallynoggin was my first job,” says Factory Manager Jonathan Fields. “I worked in that building when I got married; I worked there when my kids were born.” “Despite our attachment to the building and the community, the move ultimately made a lot of sense for us,” says Burgess. “When Laudisi acquired Kapp & Peterson in 2018, we were able to sign a four-year lease. As our time in the building came to a close, we took a hard look at our needs,” he continues. Those needs included more space and updated infrastructure. “We reached a point where if we wanted to continue to grow and do things like update our tooling, some big changes were necessary,” notes Burgess. “For example, the electrical capacity of the building had reached its limit. The electrician at one point said, sort of jokingly, ‘No more machines. I can’t add one more machine without doing a serious overhaul of the electrical.’” “Moving the factory was a really big project,” says Fields, “but we wanted to make it happen with as little disruption to the staff and our pipe making as possible.” To that end, the entire Peterson staff pitched in, moving the equipment, tools, and briar that they know best. “We moved all our machinery and pipes in three days,” says Fields. “We left Sallynoggin on a Wednesday and started making pipes in our new home the following Monday.” After four weeks in their new location, the men and women who make Peterson pipes are settling into their new home. “The new place is great,” says Tony Whelan, former factory manager and 50-year Peterson veteran. “When I volunteered to help with the move, I became the first employee in Peterson history to work in three different locations. I’m proud of that.” In addition, Fields notes that the entire staff is getting to know its new neighbors. “The Grange pub is a good place to head after work. They pour a nice Guinness.” Peterson now finds itself with ample space for growth in pipe making and storage. “In the new space, we’re able to group work together in an intuitive way,” says Burgess. “All the machines that are related to drilling — bowls, mortises, mouthpieces — can now be in the same production line. It promotes better collaboration when everyone who’s doing the same sort of work is stationed together.” Sykes Wilford, Laudisi’s CEO, recently worked alongside the staff in its new location. “I’m so pleased with the new place and all the work the guys did to make it happen,” says Wilford. “Peterson has a bright future here, and I’m convinced that the new factory furthers our goal of making excellent pipes, firmly in the Peterson tradition.”
- June 21, 2022 Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 510
Welcome to The Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 510! Our featured interview tonight is part three with Fred Janusek. He is a Doctor of Pipes, and professor of mathematics. Fred is in his early 80s, and he has been smoking a pipe since college in 1957. His first pipe was a very shellac-covered Yello Bole. These are some great stories of back in the day when pipes were everywhere. We will skip our usual opening segment as we have that much good material from Fred. Sit back, relax with your pipe, and enjoy The Pipes Magazine Radio Show!