THE Chicago Pipe Show — Battle of the Briar, Pt 1

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May 8, 2017
Sugar Grove, IL, USA
A fun addition to this year’s Chicagoland Pipe and Tobacciana Show will be the brainchild of Jeff Gracik — The Battle of the Briar. This is modeled after TV’s Iron Chef and will feature three carvers who will have about three hours to carve and finish a pipe. Since the competition will be held in a relatively small space where Jeff Gracik, David Huber, and Ernie Markels are teaching our pipe carving and finishing seminar, seating will be very limited, but we will be livestreaming the competition, probably on our YouTube channel. We’re working on a room for a viewing party and we will try, too, to have a screen with the livestream. The finished pipes will be on display at our Silent Auction on Saturday where attendees will have the opportunity inspect the pipes and to vote for their favorite. These pipes will also be auctioned off. Each pipe will be stamped with our Battle of the Briar stamp and the year of the competition.

I’m proud to announce that this year’s competitors will be Scottie Piersel, Jared Coles, and Tommaso “Tommi” Ascorti. These carvers have styles which are quite distinct from one another. This should be really fun!

The competition will be held on Friday evening. I will share details about the livestreaming as soon as they become available.


Part of the Furniture Now
Mar 11, 2020
Amazing how hard, fast and focused they worked and came up with pipes that when you see them in person would have been something sitting in a shop window ready to buy and smoke. Master pipe carvers. Although they were all excellent, I voted for Jared Coles’ pipe.

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Mar 7, 2013
100% cool what the Chicago Club organized and "pulled off" contest-wise---the logistics and details of holding such an event AND making it entertaining are insane---but a bit of a misnomer in that it wasn't pipe making in the full sense... it was only the shaping step.

Starting with an undrilled block and a length of rod stock would require the sort of setting that only some wealthy crazy guy could put together, of course: A suitable room with thousand-pound lathes, dust control, sandblasting cabinets, grinders, saws, and a hundred thousand dollars worth of assorted other tools and equipment, not to mention an insurance policy that would cost as much as a new car.

Anyway, I'm not complaining about what WAS done, I just didn't want any newcomers to our hobby to come away thinking that artisan pipes can be made in an hour. "I know they can! I know they can! I saw it with my own eyes!"

All manner of distortion regarding related things would result, not the least of them being "Artisan pipe makers are all rich! They make $500 an hour! I know they do! I saw it with my own eyes!"

Anyway, you get the idea.

PS -- Scottie clearly won the stummel shaping based on difficulty factor and execution, but kinked the bend of her stem; while Jared's stummel shape was considerably more forgiving and therefore easier, but he left too much material on his stem and under-bent it. The third pipe I simply don't "get".

PPS -- Great job, Steve. You're a pro at the whole "explain and entertain at the same time" thing. (You should get a job at some high profile Hall of Fame organization hosting events, or something like that. You'd be good at it.)