Would You Buy a Semi-Handmade Former For $530?

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hoosierpipeguy

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Jan 28, 2018
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Forgive the previous long-winded responses.

To answer the question “how are these different from his other pipes?”

The only differences are that the bowl is shaped (by him, in his workshop) from a template. This allows for a high degree of consistency, but he’s using raw, unshaped blocks of briar to achieve this just like he would when making any other Former pipe. Mostly when he’s going through a batch of briar, like almost every other maker, the blocks are first sorted to size. They’re only “graded” (either literally or simply by determining if they’ll be rustic, sandblasted, or smooth) once they’ve been shaped.

The stems are high-quality acrylic preform stems that he will modify to his specs (they’re thin and rounded; very comfortable). So, the fact that they’re rusticated, and the fact that the stems are modified preform, account for the price differences between the little Apples and the rest of his work. Like I said, if he makes one of these and the grain is good, he’ll finish it smooth and charge much more than $500, but still less than a smooth with a hand-cut stem, or that’s larger in size, has better grain, etc.

Long winded response was informative. thanks. Appreciate the education. Thin and rounded acrylic stems aren't my preference but I understand what Former is trying to accomplish. I'm not sure if it is a fair analogy but kind of like buying a CLS class Mercedes as compared to an E class. Able to drive a Mercedes for around half the price.
 

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select565

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Mar 2, 2020
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I recently bought one and couldn’t be happier with it. Perfect size and weight to throw in my pocket and go about my day. Barely notice it when clenched. Smokes perfectly.

if anyone could recommend something similiar in size, weight and shape for less money I’d appreciate it. Wouldn’t mind spending less for something similar.
 

americaman

Preferred Member
May 1, 2019
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Los Angeles, CA
I didn’t realize these were made from premade stem and preshaped stummels. I thought the rusticated apple was his signature shape.
Shane pretty much covered it, but here is what Nik from the Danish Pipe Shop told me in February 2020 when I was looking to buy one:

They are semi handmade. He makes a bunch on a copy mill and then he makes the rustication by hand. On these the stems are premade and he adjust and finish them. That is why they are half or a third of the price of a “normal” Former pipe. The price is around 400-425 USD. We never bargain these because he would be offended and they sell normally within a few hours.
 

npod

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Jun 11, 2017
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So Former makes a pipe that is very similar to the Eltang Copenhagen Collection and Sara Eltang Line, called the Former Signature Apple. The stummel and stem are premade, but the shaping and finishing is finished off by Hans. I was introduced to this pipe by @shaneireland after I watched @npod buy one at the West Coast Pipe Show. (If it wasn’t you, Neal, correct me. But I remember it being you buying one.)

The pipe immediately caught my eye, and Shane explained to me what it was. I have wanted one since, and almost pulled the trigger on one months ago, but it was brown and not black, like I prefer.

I have now noticed that they recently shot up over $100 in price, from around $400 to $531 (I can’t speak for how much they sell for on Smoking Pipes, because I don’t know if I’ve ever seen one in stock there). There is no problem with a carver increasing prices - it’s a hard way to earn a living - however, I want to ask you guys: Is a partially handmade Former worth this price point? I still like them, but I have been pushed a little bit further away from considering one now. Would love to hear what Former owners think.
It was me :)
 
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npod

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Jun 11, 2017
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So Former makes a pipe that is very similar to the Eltang Copenhagen Collection and Sara Eltang Line, called the Former Signature Apple. The stummel and stem are premade, but the shaping and finishing is finished off by Hans. I was introduced to this pipe by @shaneireland after I watched @npod buy one at the West Coast Pipe Show. (If it wasn’t you, Neal, correct me. But I remember it being you buying one.)

The pipe immediately caught my eye, and Shane explained to me what it was. I have wanted one since, and almost pulled the trigger on one months ago, but it was brown and not black, like I prefer.

I have now noticed that they recently shot up over $100 in price, from around $400 to $531 (I can’t speak for how much they sell for on Smoking Pipes, because I don’t know if I’ve ever seen one in stock there). There is no problem with a carver increasing prices - it’s a hard way to earn a living - however, I want to ask you guys: Is a partially handmade Former worth this price point? I still like them, but I have been pushed a little bit further away from considering one now. Would love to hear what Former owners think.
Have you ever heard of a Rolex Steel Daytona? The Former rusticated apple is similar. It is lower cost to make but very hard to find one, thus the market drives the price. I have 9 total Former apples in my collection and all are high end 100% hand made except the rusticated apple that I got in Las Vegas. BUT, I waited almost 3 years to get the lower end rusticated apple because it is so hard to get them.

And also, Former is Former. He is getting older and he is considered one of the best pipe makers living today. He has raised his prices a bit, because he can.
 

npod

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Jun 11, 2017
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Another important point (not to be overlooked or understated): the Former rusticated apple is immediately identified from across the room or in public. Thus, it has become a status symbol in the Asian market for that reason, similar to any rare high end brands. That certainly drives the market price and makes this version desirable.

Since I have a larger collection of Former apple pipes, I kind of had to have the rusticated version to make the set complete. I went backwards and added the least expensive pipe later in the collection.
 

lukasstrifeson

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Jun 23, 2019
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Some good responses and things to think about in here. Thanks. I was mainly wondering what Former owners thought, so I appreciate @shaneireland and @fjc623 for sharing some feedback. Shane, you are responsible for introducing me to this pipe, and increasing PAD; and you didn’t help eliminate my desire for this pipe with your response!

:rolleyes:
 

americaman

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May 1, 2019
831
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Los Angeles, CA
Anyone out there with similiar shape recommendations for less money?
Yes, actually. Mike Bay from Denmark makes a similar one. This one is sold out, but it looks like they go for around $300.

Have you ever heard of a Rolex Steel Daytona? The Former rusticated apple is similar. It is lower cost to make but very hard to find one, thus the market drives the price. I have 9 total Former apples in my collection and all are high end 100% hand made except the rusticated apple that I got in Las Vegas. BUT, I waited almost 3 years to get the lower end rusticated apple because it is so hard to get them.

And also, Former is Former. He is getting older and he is considered one of the best pipe makers living today. He has raised his prices a bit, because he can.
Good responses. I’m glad I got to hear from a few Former owners. He’s one of those pipe makers where you can see the quality of his craftsmanship and briar just from looking at them from afar.
I’m pretty sure Shane knew I was joking.
 

cigrmaster

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May 26, 2012
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Having owned 6 brand new Former pipes years ago I would not settle for a stem that was not handmade. I was never impressed with his stems in the first place to a prefab would be a no go for me. Now if you could put it in your mouth and feel it then sure why not. I sold all my Formers years ago for Rad Davis pipes because the stems were superior in every way and the pipes smoked better for my tastes. I love my Rad's compared to my Formers. Don't ask me why I just do. The Formers look great if you want that Danish look but when I was buying them, I was buying them off the back of a truck and paying half the price of wholesale. I can never pass a deal like that up. I really love Formers shaping but for the prices I was paying it was a no brainer for me.
 

cosmicfolklore

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Aug 9, 2013
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I generally just try to preach that how a pipe was made matters much, much less than whether or not you dig it.
I know what you're saying, and I agree to a point. Having spent my whole life sweating out a living in the art world, when a craftsman in the booth next to me is having his sculptures casted and then all he does is sand and polish them up really nice, maybe patina them, before setting up his tent next to my work, where I have actually carved everything with files and burs, everything by hand, and he puts up a sign that says handmade... by God, I'm going to make sure every customer that passes my booth understands the difference in what I am selling and HIS work.

In the long run, most customers don't care how the work is made. You are right, buy what appeals to you. Most just see a widget. But, it does make a difference to some of us. I mean, I'll buy pipes with mass produced stems. I even have a bunch that I am certain were from totally mass produced stummels. But, it does make a difference to me and my pocketbook when an artists has actually made the pipe on his own lathe from scratch. Even more kudos if he hacked it out with a rasp, ha ha. But, I realize no rational pipemaker is going to actually do that. But, these things do make a difference to some of us.
 
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cosmicfolklore

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You can either buy a hand painted work by Salvador Dali for $260,000 or a print of that painting that he has signed by hand in the gift shop for $26.99. In the art world, it makes a difference.
 

shaneireland

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Jun 14, 2014
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I know what you're saying, and I agree to a point. Having spent my whole life sweating out a living in the art world, when a craftsman in the booth next to me is having his sculptures casted and then all he does is sand and polish them up really nice, maybe patina them, before setting up his tent next to my work, where I have actually carved everything with files and burs, everything by hand, and he puts up a sign that says handmade... by God, I'm going to make sure every customer that passes my booth understands the difference in what I am selling and HIS work.

In the long run, most customers don't care how the work is made. You are right, buy what appeals to you. Most just see a widget. But, it does make a difference to some of us. I mean, I'll buy pipes with mass produced stems. I even have a bunch that I am certain were from totally mass produced stummels. But, it does make a difference to me and my pocketbook when an artists has actually made the pipe on his own lathe from scratch. Even more kudos if he hacked it out with a rasp, ha ha. But, I realize no rational pipemaker is going to actually do that. But, these things do make a difference to some of us.
Pipes are not art, though. At least not entirely. And the crafting of a pipe is much different than what goes into sculpture, painting, or even song writing, etc. I’m not minimizing the creative nature of the craft, but they are objects that have to function a certain way, unlike most of the other things listed above.

Of course it matters to some people how these tools are crafted, and I’m one of those people. An overwhelming majority of the pipes in my collection feature hand-cut stems.

The point is that the methods behind pipe fabrication are not inherently bad or good. Former is one of the best pipe makers that has ever lived and his “preform” stems are excellent. Do I prefer his hand-cut vulcanite stems? Yeah, a bit (no pun intended).

“From scratch on his own lathe” is hilarious. A lathe is hardly a hand tool. You’re guessing (without seeing the machinery used specifically for the model in question) that it’s a high-tech 3D briar printer. How sure are you that the methods used to produce the Rusticated Apples are wildly different from turning them on a lathe? Is it that you want the man’s hand turning the crank instead of the crank turning itself? Using a template still requires design work (art), and it takes a lot of handwork to finish the stummel once it’s been roughed-out. The implication that it’s at all similar to molding/casting a sculpture is silly.

Things can matter as much or as little to any of us as we wish, but I encourage folks not to get hung-up on details that they wouldn’t notice without others (who may not even own one of these pipes) deciding if they’re “good” or “bad”. It’s basically the difference between positivity and negativity; support and discouragement.

“You can either buy a hand painted work by Salvador Dali for $260,000 or a print of that painting that he has signed by hand in the gift shop for $26.99. In the art world, it makes a difference.”

Some people can’t afford the original. Also, there’s only one. Do you think you have to be rich or just lucky to be able to enjoy something that someone has created? That, in the case of pipe making, it’s somehow wrong or dirty to design and produce something more accessible alongside other more “authentic” work? I only see a problem if the print is being sold in the gift shop for a similar price to the original. Dalí didn’t even press the “print” button, but Former does make all of the Rusticated Apples; he has simply figured out a way to make the process slightly easier and has priced them accordingly.

If anyone out there wants a Former, but hand-cut stems are important to you, then I have good news... but it will definitely cost more than $26.99.
 

cosmicfolklore

Preferred Member
Aug 9, 2013
25,598
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Helena, Alabama
You're a great sport. Thank you for responding. I will have to warn you though, I am an aesthetic debater, ha ha.
The point is that the methods behind pipe fabrication are not inherently bad or good.
But, after rereading the thread, I'll concede. I missed the price points in the discussion, which in a way I could have been merely reinforcing your point.
But, I am sort of a geek about frasing machines and the history and the new lathe designs that can allow for cnc like reproductions. But, Former isn't pumping out several hundred identical pipes to compete with Nording or Savinelli in scale. 3D printers are more for the meerschaums, right? Ha ha, jk.

I was mostly triggered by the assumption that how it is made didn't matter. But, it does, and... that is reflected in the differences between a $500 pipe and a $1200 pipe. One could argue that $500 is still rather high, but market will dictate whether they move for $500, and just the lore behind Former moves a lot of people to buy. I would be one of them. I have a Former horn that took me six months to get out of layaway, ha ha. So, that is moot.
However, it does matter how it's made. But the "semi handmade" description communicates that Former isn't trying to deceive anyone.

Former is not at pipe shows filling tables with exact replicas behind a sign saying handmade, next to someone who is working out of their garage with an ancient machinist lathe. Being forthright is all the difference.

Thanks again for being a great sport and responding. And, I should have read the entirety of the thread before saying anything.
 

sablebrush52

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Frankly, I think the problem lies in using the term "handmade" as both a descriptive and a determinant. Machinery has been used in the making of pipes for well over 150 years from lesser to greater degree. The work is in the shaping, and the amount of hand shaping is more to the point with regard to discussions like these.
Even in the heyday of the British factory system there was a high degree of delicate hand shaping in the final stages to remove any imperfections that showed up just before staining and final polishing. Pete Siegel referred to it as the "cut down" stage. I have a number of Barling models in duplicates. At first glance they look alike, but on closer inspection you become aware of very subtle differences.
The truth is, it takes as much skill to produce the same shape over and over within very tight tolerances as it does to whip out a bunch of slightly different Apples.
Actually, I think that it takes more skill because of the cut down stage. Creating a number of perfect smooths within the tolerances of any number of model patterns time and time again requires great skill.
 

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