November 25, 2020
After much begging and pleading, our illustrious editor-in-Chief has graciously offered a chance for me to post to our fine piping community. In this season of voting and debate we originally thought why not throw one more shrimp on the barbie and offer a list of top pipe brands across the globe.
However, upon further review I realized this would not only be highly subjective. The result would most likely be nothing new or exciting for the general population of readers. So, with that in mind I convinced Phil to embark on something we hope is much more enlightening. I know it was for me personally.
With the help of some gracious friends, old and new, I was able to create a list of what is best titled “Modern day pipe carvers you probably don’t know but should!” We will include a short bio of each carver along with a picture of their work. This article is going to cover Cobs, Italian Pipes, and Danish Pipes. If it is well received I hope to cover more in the future.
I chose to focus on carvers actively making pipes today and if we do this right maybe some folks will feel empowered to reach out and connect with a new carver and possibly purchase a pipe. Before we start, one final note, this is meant to be a list of talented folks who deserve our attention, but it is not meant or implied to be a complete list. There are always going to be some left out, but the beauty of that is we get to keep looking, debating, and discovering more names in the future!
The American Classic
Let us dive right in with the American classic, the Corn Cob pipe. For this category we enlisted the help of the Wizard of Cob Knowledge, Scott Markwood of Aristocob.com. While working with Scott it was clear no discussion on Corn Cobs could be complete without a mention of Missouri Meerschaum so for this category alone we will give a top three list of MM Cobs based on numbers sold and then discuss a few Cob Modders taking maize to the next level. Pictures courtesy of aristocob.com.
The Top Three MM Cobs by Numbers Sold:
Missouri Meerschaum Pride: Link
Legend 5th Avenue: Link
Diplomat Apple: Link
The Missouri Meerschaum Pride is as basic as you can get. It is very similar to the 5th Ave, also listed, but it has the natural finish. A bit rough around the edges, but also as authentic as a cob can be. The 5th Ave and the Diplomat Apple’s are similar but finished off with a smooth bowl that has been coated with a plaster of Paris that gives it a great feel and a somewhat longer life.
This list may surprise you (it did me). Not until Scott reminded me that these are some of the original cob models. They have been available for much longer than most of the others. In case you are wondering if we kept going the list would round out with the Dagner Poker and Devil Anse Cutty.
Moving on to the Cob-Modders themselves here is the list of Cob Modders we felt deserve your attention. The list is I no particular order.
JWK 2366 Custom Cobs
John Keller is one of the, if not the, most successful Cob-modders there is. A multiple winner of the Aristocob Cobfoolery contest that is the premier event that showcases modified Missouri Meerschaum.
This past summer, Tobaccopipes.com did an excellent interview with John that’s worth checking out. Showing off some of his great Cob mods as well as a few of his hand made tampers. John also shared some personal stories. The article is worth the time if you are a fan of custom cobs and of John Keller.
Despite some creative people out there taking design to a new level, John has set the standard in Cob modding.
John Keller lives in Lakeland, Florida. He’s been married to his wife Carol for 32 years, father of 3 amazing children, and grandpa to 4 awesome grandchildren. John is a former licensed practical nurse of 30 years and now a pipe maker. He’s been making custom corn cob pipe’s since 2016. This started as a fun weekend mod that grew into my journey as a pipe maker. I don’t currently do commissions. But occasionally my cobs can be found at tobaccopipes.com or from myself on Instagram @jwk2366.
Dodif Rendon is from Round Rock Texas. He started modding cobs in 2014 after finding out about the Cobfoolery contest that Scott (Aristocob.com) puts on every year. He figured he would give it a shot and has been hooked ever since. Not to mention an annual stand out and frequent winner in the contest across categories. Dodif can be found on Instagram at @thedodif, Emai: firstname.lastname@example.org, Etsy Shop is Dodif Pipes. Also check out vsco.co/dodifpipes to see additional pics of past pipes.
Dodif is a frequent entrant and past winner of Cobfoolery. In 2019 Dodif took first place in two categories. Both in the Pro Freehand Division as well as in the Pro Classic Division.
The Eagle’s Cob which won him first place is an amazing example of what can be done with corn cob pipes and a lot of talent.
EMC Custom Cobs
Eric Mills, owner of EMC Custom Cobs has been a pipe smoker for 7 years, and a maker for 2 years. By day Eric is a strength coach, making pipes between clients, and in the evenings. Eric started making custom cobs after being inspired by the work of John Keller (jwk2366). Along the way he has been blessed to have numerous mentors who have helped in every aspect of pipe making. From the crafting of my pipes to the business aspect of the industry. Eric’s goal is to create a pipe that can be passed down to the owner’s grandchildren. For purchasing information or details you can contact Eric directly on Instagram @emc_custom_cobs or on Facebook @EMC Custom Cobs.
Riccardo Santia is from Windsor, Ontario. He started working with Briar in 1999 but coming up with a distinctive vision was tough in the crowded Briar scene. He decided to create something that was unique and in 2005, eventually decided to work with Cob as a medium. Riccardo picked up an antique cob, that was made at Missouri Meerchaum, a bamboo shank with a wood heel and a beautiful finish.
He had not seen many like this and thought, he could make this. It took months to perfect the stains, plaster, and lacquers for his pipes experimenting with his own formulas. After 3 months of experimentation and frustration he stumbled onto a solution that provided a heat resistant plaster with improved flexibility and durability.
Each R. Santia pipe begins with a naked cob. The whole process usually takes about 5 – 7 hours depending on the complexity of the pipe. Finally, Riccardo applies plaster, to the bowl. If the goal is to display the grain pattern (in this case, the grain pattern is formed by the kernel pits), the pipe might get just one coat of stain. Rusticated finishes might require 3 coats, taking at least a day to dry each coat.
The pipe finish is an involved process that requires repeated staining and drying. Riccardo’s pipes are stamped R.SANTIA and he wants people that buy his products to know he is truly serious about quality and customer satisfaction. Riccardo can be reached at email@example.com or www.rsantiapipes.com
Italian Pipe Makers
We look to the Old World for our next category of carvers. It is a country which has a long and rich history of pipe making, Italy.
There are many well known Italian carvers and brands. But our search was for a killed artisans who may be unknown. One outside the Italian inner circle. I enlisted the help of two well-known Italian pipe experts. The first asked to remain anonymous but I felt the need to at least thank him for his support. The second contributor is none other than Sally Drees Gottliebson better known as The Pipe Tart!
Sally graciously accepted the invitation to assist and provided an outstanding list of Italian carvers. I am excited to be able to share these fine folks, along with you, thanks to Sally who has provided a brief bio for each. Finally, the carvers mentioned can be seen on the Pipe Tart Website. A link listed in the bio.
On the outskirts of Reggio Calabria on the ground floor building is the small, friendly workshop of Fabrizio Romeo. Here he continues the family tradition of working with briar begun by his grandfather and then his father. Fabrizio knew at a young age the pipe was his passion and future work. Most F. Romeo pipes are free form with a natural or light stain finish.
You can visit the website of Fabrizio Romero at this link.
Mario lives in Pesaro, Italy where he worked and became a master carver. He worked for Mastro de Paja before leaving and starting his own brand. Pascucci shapes are inspired by the great Italian tradition of freeforms with generous bowls and beautiful straight grain. Because Mario uses hand selected Tuscan plateau briar for his pipes, the quality is second to none. In the best Pesaro tradition, many of his pipes feature a wide variety of adornments including exotic woods, horn, silver, army mounts and more. Visit the Mario Pascucci website by clicking on this link.
You can, of course, see a selection of his pipes for sale on the Pipe Tart Website.
Sally first saw Posella pipes in 2007 at the Festa Della Pipa in Cagli, Italy. More than anything she was fascinated by his unique faceted carve and style. The maker of these pipes is Vitaliano Posella of the central Calabrian region of Italy. He began making pipes around 35 years ago with his brother in law Tonino Jacopo. Tonino moved away but both continue to make pipes. His attention to detail in his pipes is evident. In other words, his engineering as well as artistry is excellent. From his lowest grade to his highest, Posella pipes display the unmistakable flair and proportioning. Vitaliano’s philosophy is every pipe should be a great smoker.
Finally, you can see some of his work along with a a more detailed description on the Pipe Tart Website.
Every pipe should be a great smoker.Vitaliano
Almost 22 hours North of Italy by car brings us to our final stop for this tour. It is Denmark, a country renowned for its groundbreaking artisans of Briar. There are no shortage of historic figures when it comes to Danish Pipe Making. So, embarking on a quest to find those lesser known jewels could be challenging unless you enlist the help of an expert. I got Nikolaj Liberoth Nielsen, CEO and Partner of the Danish Pipe Shop. Nikolaj generously responded to my request and provided an outstanding list of carvers to showcase for you. After each carver there is a bio and pictures courtesy of The Danish Pipe Shop. We also included a link to The Danish Pipe Shop store where you can see more. You may want to purchase some of their wonderful work.
Let’s start off with Mike Sebastian Bay of Bay Pipes He is one of the new young upcoming Danish pipemakers. The team headed by Tom Eltang has imparted the Danish tradition to Mike. As an apprentice for Tom, he was under skilled guidance and influence. The Danish Pipe Shop is thrilled to see that tradition imparted to another generation of great Danish carvers. Especially ones that hopefully can maintain the good reputation for Danish handmade pipes.
Mr. Bay’s pipes have a wide design range while still keeping with that look Danish pipes have. From classic designs to pencil shaped billiards that show off his skill.
There is much excitement for Bay Pipes from those that know pipes. For instance, Smokingpipes describes Bay’s style as “favor[ing] compact, tightly-knit forms, often imbued with a generous dose of Danish whimsy.“
That sums up Bay Pipes very nicely.
We have a new pipemaker in the house! A young pipemaker with deep ancestors in Danish pipemaking history. Suhr Pipes, which is the third generation of the famous Suhr Pibemageri (Suhr’s Pipe Workshop). Suhr Pibemageri made a huge impact on Danish pipe design. The Danish style began in the 1950s and became very popular. Poul Rasmussen was one of the main reasons for that. However, Poul Rasmussen died unexpectedly and suddenly, and left his wife, Anne Julie, and their little son, Thomas, behind along with his workshop.
Considering that Anne Julie has taken over a world class workshop, you can see how it has helped make her the pipe maker she is. Thomas grew up and had sons of his own. One of them is Johannes, who is in his 20s today. For the past 3-4 years, Johannes has followed the work of Anne Julie around the world. He has furthermore worked at Tom Eltang’s workshop to learn everything he can. Johannes’ goal is to become a skilled pipe maker. In addition, he has an ambitious goal, To revive the name and style of the famous Suhr Pipes. For inspiration, he is lucky to have access to a huge selection of Suhr Pibemageri pipes owned by Anne Julie. It is notable that he has gained permission from Grandma Anne Julie to use her mark. The difference being that it is in a black and white edition.
You can see some of his designs at The Danish Pipe Shop.
Finally we have Nils Frederiksen. A very talented pipe maker that is not on the front of people’s minds, but maybe should be. An excellent carver because he takes the tradition and history of Danish design and incorporates it into his work.
Since Nils is a retired woodworking teacher, he has taken that skill and combined it with his love for making pipes. His pipes speak the great form language of the Danish tradition. However, he is also not afraid to be a bit flamboyant once in a while. You can find Nils’ work at The Danish Pipe Shop.