Product Review—Walker Briar Works Forever Cob Stems

It’s not a secret here that I’m a fan of corncob pipes. Yes, I dearly love my briars, but over the years I’ve come to truly appreciate the simplicity of a well-worn corncob pipe. Cobs can take just about anything you throw at them and make the blend sing. In fact, I’m of the belief that the Missouri Meerschaum Country Gentleman might be the perfect pipe in terms of size and bowl.

But if I had one minor, and I mean minor, gripe about corncob pipes, it’s the plastic stem that comes with the standard cobs. Don’t get me wrong, I actually like the look of the amber stems and think it fits perfectly with the overall look. However, there’s no denying that the plastic stems aren’t built to last. Over time, the stems loosen in the shank, and if you’re very unlucky, the mouthpiece will crack. I don’t consider myself a hard clencher with my pipes, but even I’ve cracked a plastic cob stem in my time.

Now, Missouri Meerschaum has a few cobs that come with an acrylic stem, which is a nice change of pace. These include their Charles Towne, Carolina Gent, and Emerald cobs, all of which are excellent additions to any pipe smoker’s collections. However, for their classic lines, you’re stuck with those regular plastic stems.

While no one has ever made one of those TV infomercials about corncob pipes, much less pipes, but if you’ll indulge me for a moment, I’d imagine it would look something like this…

Announcer: Are your corncob pipe stems giving you trouble?

Tired of loose plastic stems causing your cob to drop out of your mouth while smoking it?

Have you cracked the mouthpiece for your pipe stem while clenching your cob like normal?

Do you hear your cob stems plotting against you behind your back?

Has a plastic cob stem ever tried to kill you by lodging itself into your throat?

Me: [Gagging as I spit the cob stem out of my mouth] That’s it, I’m switching to briar pipes for good.

Announcer: Don’t throw your cobs away! Instead give your cobs the stems they deserve and try Walker Briar Works Forever Stems!

[A Walker Forever stem appears in my hand]

Me: Wow, thanks Walker Briar Works!

Announcer: That’s right! Now you too can have a high quality vulcanite or Lucite stem for all your favorite corncob pipes. Walker Briar Works has you covered, with a variety of vulcanite and Lucite stems in an assortment of colors for your filtered and non-filtered cobs. So what are you waiting for? Get on their website and order one today!*

Ever since I plunged into the world of corncob pipes, I’ve heard from other cob fans about forever stems. After owning a Charles Towne cob and falling in love with its forever stem, I couldn’t look at my regular plastic stems the same way again. Certainly, the plastic stems get the job done, but it was time for an upgrade.

Last year, I did some searching on the internet and discovered Walker Briar Works. Located in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and headed by Dave Wolff, Walker Briar Works has made a nice business out of creating forever stems for Missouri Meerschaum corncob pipes. Dave makes quality forever stems that will last long after your corncob pipe has burned out.

Comparing Walker Briar Works pipe stems to the regular plastic stems

Walker Briar Works has an incredible selection of forever stems for both filtered and non-filtered cobs. All you need to do is pick whichever cob in your collection you want to pair with a forever stem, and shop in the appropriate category. If your cob is filtered, be warned that the forever stem does not have a place to fit a filter, as the base of the stem was enlarged to fit inside the bigger shank, so there isn’t a gap for the filter to fit inside. This is fine by me, as I don’t use filters, but I know some folks out there use and appreciate them. If you’re one of those people, pick one of the non-filtered cobs in your collection instead.

Without a doubt, Walker Briar Works forever stems’ biggest advantage is the sheer variety of stems available for purchase. Not only do you get to choose between a Lucite or vulcanite stem, but also the size and color of the stem. You heard me right, you have more than two colors to pick from! If you want to stick with a classic black stem and keep it simple, Walker Briar Works has you covered. Want to branch out and have a colorful stem to add some flair to your cob? Walker Briar Works has plenty of colors that would make Joseph’s coat of many colors blush. There’s even ones similar to the amber colored forever stem to give your cob that classic look but made of sturdier material.

Likewise, Walker Briar Works also has different lengths for their stems, allowing you to customize the length of your cob. Want to make your Country Gentleman closer to a nose warmer? There’s a black nose warmer forever stem with your name on it. Want to turn that Spool cob into a mini-churchwarden? You have plenty of options to pick from, and in a wide selection of colors, too. I highly recommend visiting Walker Briar Work’s page just to see all the options at your fingertips.

Now, due to the quality of Walker Briar Works’ forever stems’, don’t expect to pay the same price as you would for a replacement stem from Missouri Meerschaum. These stems are a bit of an investment, as they cost more than most of the cobs on Missouri Meerschaum’s site, on average between $21-$27. Don’t let that dissuade you, though, as these stems are so well made that they’ll easily outlast the cob’s they’re paired with. You can even switch the stem around between your cobs, as long as you have the appropriate cob shank size for each stem.

On the bright side, shipping for all stems is a flat $3 in the United States. Even if you buy multiple stems, you’re still only going to pay only $3 for the whole shebang. You can’t beat that price anywhere for a pipe related item from what I’ve seen. Now, price is one thing, but how is the service? Walker Briar Works earns top marks in this regard, too. I ordered my stems around the New Years holiday, and on a Saturday night. Dave shipped my stems on the following Monday, and I had my package waiting for me on Thursday, and that’s with New Years Day interrupting the postal service. Dave also sent me an email on Sunday, letting me know he was going to get my package out as soon as he could. How many pipe retailers out there pay this close of attention to customer service?

Now the important question— how are the stems, and are they worth the price? I ordered the ‘Royal’ Lucite Fire Swirl stem and the 3 ½ inch ‘Spear’ Lucite Black Rose stem for two of my Country Gentleman cobs. As soon as I got the package, I put the new stems on my cobs. While some cobs might take a bit to adjust with the new stems, mine had a nice, snug fit inside the shank of both cobs and stayed in place without any issues.

What impressed me with these stems is the length they added to my cobs. I tend to prefer longer pipes, and with the added length of the stems, the two Country Gentleman cobs rivaled the size of my Bing cob, which is the longest non-Churchwarden cob in my collection. You can find a smaller version of the Spear stem if you wish, but I’m very pleased with now mine turned out.

Plastic Stem vs Royal Stem vs Spear Stem in length

The quality of the stems is easily on par with Missouri Meerschaum’s acrylic stems, and their look takes my cobs to the next level. The Lucite stems clench like a dream, and I have no issues having them hang from my jaw as I type on my laptop. It does take a few minutes to adjust from the chewy grip you get with a plastic stem, but after that it becomes second nature.

What the Walker Briar Works forever stems accomplishes is truly remarkable. They combine the best of both worlds with briar and corncob pipes into one unique package. You get the fantastic smoking quality of a corncob pipe with the added security of a dependable stem rivaling a briar pipe. These stems are absolutely worth every penny you invest in them, and they’ll last as long as you smoke a corncob pipe. Give Walker Briar Works forever stems a chance, and you’ll walk away a happy customer.

Until next time, happy puffing friends,

-TheBadgerPiper

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*No Corncob pipes were harmed in the making of this infomercial. Corncob pipes are not actively trying to kill you. If you hear your corncob pipe plotting against you, it is advised you seek professional help before smoking one again.

Film Review- Father the Flame

Image from IMDB.com

The documentary film genre is a fascinating window into our world, focusing on a specific aspect of mankind to tell a non-fiction story to a wider audience. Documentaries can range from delving into the dusty corridors of history, shining a light into the plight of the oppressed, or painting a picture of a person, place, or hobby. No matter the topic, the documentary tells a story about reality, rather than some fantastical world or a fictional drama. For a documentary to be successful, it must tell an interesting story that captivates an audience or springs them into action.

For the past few years, pipe smokers have been waiting for their chance to watch a documentary all about their favorite hobby, called Father the Flame. While some pipe smokers grumbled about the lengthy wait they had to endure to finally watch the movie, it’s not unusual for a small passion project to take its time before being ready. Films aren’t made overnight, and given the amount of people featured in the documentary, as well as the various locations filmed all around the world; it’s understandable that Father the Flame needed time in the oven.

Now that the film is out, Father the Flame has received a somewhat mixed reaction from the wider pipe community. While I can’t speak for everyone, I think part of the reaction comes from the expectations of what a pipe documentary should be. After all, the rest of the non-smoking world views anything that has to do with smoking in a negative light. With all the criticism we face, we finally have a film that highlights what makes our hobby the tight knit community that it is. We want a film that we can show to our non-smoking friends and say, “This is why I smoke a pipe.”

In reality, Father the Flame isn’t exactly about pipe smoking. Oh, there’s plenty of pipe smoking in it, and it’s certainly celebrated; but instead of taking center stage, pipe smoking is more of a supporting role. If you go into this film thinking you’re going to learn about the history and ins and outs of the pipe smoking hobby, you’ll leave the film disappointed. There’s hardly a peep about pipe tobacco, and very little focus on your average pipe smoker.

Instead, for bettor or worse, Father the Flame focuses on the pipe maker, and more specifically the high-end artisan pipe maker. The documentary tells the story of multiple pipe carvers, mainly through the eyes of our POV character, Michigan pipe maker Lee von Erck. Other pipe carvers are also highlighted, such as Italian pipe carver Romero ‘Mimmo’ Domenico and his family, stone pipe carver Travis Erickson, and the legendary Ivarsson Danish pipe carving clan. While we have glimpses of the pipe community through pipe shows, ultimately this is Lee Erck’s story.

While this might come as a disappointment for those like me have very little to do with the artisan world, I understand why the filmmakers behind Father the Flame pursued this route. Instead of telling a broader story about our community that might struggle to connect with a wider audience, by zeroing in on Lee Erck and the artisan world, the filmmakers can tell a tight and succinct story about the craftsmanship and beauty behind a skillfully carved pipe. The non-smoking members of the wider world might sneer their noses at the many clouds of pipe smoke seen in the film, but their eyes will grow wide at the stunning close up images of a birds eye grain in a smooth briar, or the architectural wonders discovered in the grooves and nooks and crannies of a well-carved pipe. If there’s one lesson Father the Flame tells well to a broad audience, it’s that pipe carvers deserve the same respect given to a painter or sculptor.

Father the Flame tells a global story about pipes, travelling across continents to show the wide appeal and passion of pipe and pipe making. While the film mainly takes place in the United States, the filmmakers jump all around the globe, spending time in Italy, France, Japan, and Denmark. While plenty of time is spent in sawdust covered workshops, the camera ventures out into the wider world, searching for briar wood in the hills of Italy, walking through the quiet villages of Denmark and France, and experiencing the shrines in Tokyo. No matter what the setting is, though, you can be sure to see a pipe somewhere in the background.

A documentary is only as good as the people featured in the film, and thankfully Father the Flame delivers in this area in spades. Lee von Erck acts as the focus of the documentary, as we follow him from his workshop to his travels around the world. We’re given a peek behind the curtain into von Erck’s solitary life as he acts as our personal guide, explaining his carving philosophies as he works on his latest briar. Von Erck has years of carving under his belt, and yet he speaks to the audience as he would a friend, detailing everything in down to earth terms. Von Erck might as well be your next-door neighbor, welcoming us to his world as he reveals his remarkable talents. There’s humility to von Erck’s demeanor, candidly expressing his joy for his work, and yet revealing the hidden sadness of his isolated life when at home.  

We’re also introduced through von Erck to the Domenico family. The Domenico’s are a pipe making family, started by elderly late patriarch Pippo and passed down to his son Mimmo and his wife Karin. Mimmo takes his role seriously as a legacy pipe maker, and has a youthful energy in producing his work. Mimmo has many hats to wear at home, balancing life as a pipe maker, father, and husband, all the while caring for his father. Mimmo isn’t alone, as his wife Karin has a knack for pipe making as well. It’s rare to see a husband and wife team of pipe carvers, but Mimmo and Karin are two of a kind, and it’s sweet watching the two interact in their workshop. While Pippo has long retired from pipe making, he’s content to sit in Mimmo’s backyard, smoking his pipe while watching the new generation continue the work he built years prior. Sadly, Pippo passed away before filming ended, but the film and Mimmo have a chance to give tribute to the late Italian pipe carver.

The Ivarsson family is disconnected from the main Von Erck/Domenico storyline, but the Danish pipe makers fit perfectly within Father the Flame’s overall message. The Ivarsson family are giants in the pipe carving world, starting with late Ivarrson patriarch Sixten. Sixten Ivarrson was an extremely influential pipe maker, having taken many a young pipe carver under his tutelage. While Sixten passed away back in 2001, Father the Flame splices in family videos of the pipe maker, allowing him to appear in the film and giving us a chance to get to know the late pipe maker on a personal level.

Though Sixten is no longer with us, his style and influence lives on through his son Lars, and granddaughter Nanna. Much of the time devoted to the Ivarsson’s is spent with Lars and Nanna reminiscing about Sixten and the profound effect he had on their lives and their eventual involvement in pipe making. Tragically, Lars passed away in 2018 before the film released, so to have these intimate moments with the late pipe carver are all the more special.

The film also spends some time in Pipestone, Minnesota with stone pipe carver Travis Erickson. Travis’s sections are much shorter compared to the rest of the subjects in the documentary, and if I’m being honest, it’s probably the weakest portion of the film. This isn’t Travis’s fault, and his section does go into the more spiritual aspects of pipe smoking with tobacco’s Native American roots. If the film was a bit longer and devoted more time to pipe smoking, it would probably tie everything together a bit more. It’s unfortunate, as there are some interesting bits here, but if it was cut from the film it wouldn’t ruin the overall narrative.

If there’s a central message found throughout Father the Flame, it’s the importance and value of legacy and passing down knowledge from the older stalwarts to the younger generation. Both themes are vital to our hobby, as seen in the proliferation of the youtube pipe community and pipe blogs in teaching the ways of pipe smoking. The pipe carvers of the old generation of Pippo and Sixten Ivarsson paved the way, learning the ins and outs of carving a briar and passing their knowledge down to their children. Yet what use is it to teach others these lessons if they’re not ready and eager to learn? Mimmo, Lars Ivarsson, and Nanna Ivarsson take the foundation of what they’ve learned from their parents and have innovated their craft. Will Mimmo’s and Nanna’s children pick up the torch for their families? Only time will tell, but if they do, they’ll have some of the best teachers to show them the way.

Legacy and family go hand in hand in Father the Flame, as seen in Mimmo’s, the Ivarsson’s, and Travis Erickson’s stories. With Lee von Erck, though, the story becomes a bit more complicated and more melancholy. Von Erck never had children, and now as he enters into his later years, he expresses regret that he never had the chance to bring up a family of his own. We see him interact with Mimmo’s family, sitting back with the whole Domenico family and enjoying their company. For von Erck, it’s a window into a different world, and one that he doesn’t have. As he watches Mimmo care for Pippo, von Erck wonders sadly what will happen to him when he reaches Pippo’s age.

Instead of looking forward, von Erck’s family story looks backwards at his relationship with his late father. Father the Flame begins with von Erck recounting the story of his father buying his first pipe at a tobacconist, and learning how to smoke it with the shop owner. It’s a wonderful story, and it hooked me right away into watching the documentary. Though von Erck’s father didn’t teach him how to carve pipes, he instead instilled a love of pipes that brought Lee to his present occupation as a talented pipe carver.

Where Father the Flame burns brightest is through the personal stories shared by Von Erck, Mimmo, the Ivarssons, and the many other pipe carvers and smokers seen throughout the film. These stories highlight why pipes are more than a fancy tool to indulge in tobacco. For many, the pipe connects people to a beloved family member, and that earthy aroma brings that person back, even for the briefest of moments. Father the Flame showcases only a few of these stories, but there’s no denying the power behind those tales.

Should you go out of your way and watch Father the Flame? In my opinion, I think you should. On it’s own, Father the Flame is a competent documentary on a niche subject that’s misunderstood by the general populace. Father the Flame highlights the best of our hobby, and shows why pipes mean so much to the people that smoke and collect them. The gorgeous cinematography shows off some beautiful briar pipes and blends them with imagery of galaxies and art in such a way that celebrates the artistic endeavors of pipe making. Father the Flame gives a face to pipe makers, making them more than just a name or brand, and fleshes them out into real and sympathetic people.

The only downside to Father the Flame is that it doesn’t do enough with the pipe smoking side of the hobby. Day after day, I read stories from my fellow pipe smokers about how they got into pipe smoking, and they speak so much about the influence of loved ones or friends, or about specific, life changing moments in time that are worth sharing. Father the Flame could’ve spent more time with people like Richard Newcombe or Sykes Wilford, or with the Chicago Pipe Show attendees. I won’t fault Father the Flame for focusing solely on pipe makers, but I would’ve appreciated more input from the average joe pipe smoker.

Regardless of my minor issues with Father the Flame, I do think it’s required viewing for the pipe world at large. If anything, how often do you get a documentary about something you’re passionate about? For that, I tip my hat in appreciation to the filmmakers behind Father the Flame, and commend them for a job well done.

I rate Father the Flame: five pipes out of a seven-day pipe set.

Pros:

Beautiful cinematography

Focuses on interesting pipe makers

Great use of archival footage

Nice use of locations

Strong themes used

Cons:

No discussion on pipe tobacco

Less about pipe smoking and more on pipe making

Not enough time spent with some interviewees

Until next time, happy puffing friends,

-TheBadgerPiper

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The Art in the Artisan Pipe Part II: Nate Rose of RosePipeCo and ‘The Willows Pipe’

“How would you like to own a badger pipe?”

This question came to me via Instagram this past January. I was in a conversation with Nate Rose of RosePipeCo about unusual pipe shapes; when out of the blue, he asked me about collaborating with him in creating a new pipe for my collection. Of course, I’d pay for it, as pipe carvers should be paid for their work, but Nate assured me that I would be involved in the creation process. I didn’t have the money at the time, but I told Nate that I’d be happy to for my birthday. As soon March came around, my wife and I set aside the needed funds and sent them to Nate.

Nate Rose, Pipe Maker Extraordinaire

Nate Rose

First, let’s get to know a bit about Nate’s story. Nate Rose is a relatively new pipe carver, having started his craft four years ago up in St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada. Despite being new on the scene, Nate’s been featured on both the Pipes Magazine and Maple City Pipecast podcasts. In fact, I highly recommend you listen to the March 20th 2019 episode of the Maple City Pipecast, where my buddy Dave interviewed him for his carver series.

Nate has been busy since he picked up his first briar block, and constantly has new projects sitting on his workbench. His pipe portfolio ranges from smooth billiards and classy Bings, to craggy pokers and rugged bulldogs. Never satisfied with simply repeating his greatest hits, each pipe Nate has their own embellishments that give each pipe their own unique personality. Nate also dabbles with bamboo shanks on occasion, producing stunning pipes that catch the eye— and let’s be honest, pipes with bamboo shanks never disappoint. Although Nate’s carved a variety of different shapes, he’s always eager to stretch his creative muscles and venture into uncharted territory.

“I really enjoy my billiards, but there are so many shapes I haven’t tried,” said Nate, on which shapes he’d love to try carving. “[I’d] like to try prince or author, [that] would be different.”

From my time getting to know Nate over this past year, it’s easily apparent that he takes his carving with the utmost seriousness. Nate doesn’t just rely on his own judgment when carving his pipes, but shows his finished pipes to another, more experienced carver for a second opinion. “I have someone I look up to,” explained Nate. “He’s my mentor/master if you will. All my pipes go through his ‘grade.’ I call him my Qui Gon Jim. Honestly, I’ve been under his teaching for 2 years.”

For all of his impressive pipe carving skills, Nate’s pretty humble about what he’s accomplished so far in his short career. Though pipe carving is just his side hobby, it’s his true passion in life. “Pipe carving truly gave me some of the most confidence I’ve ever had as a human,” he told me. “[I] wasn’t great in school. I work a pretty standard blue-collar 9/5 factory job, but when I walk into the shop and throw my apron on, I come to life. It’s incredible.”

Since pipe carving is only a hobby at this point in Nate’s life, it’s not always easy for him to devote time to his shop. “The biggest challenge I currently have with running my business is honestly finding time to carve,” admitted Nate. “With the new baby and balancing life, kid, and my relationship, my carving time is limited.” As a writer, I can relate to Nate’s struggle with juggling a passion with work and family. Sometimes you have to put your passion aside and spend time with the more important parts of your life. But when there’s a free moment, you go out there and get to work.

I first became aware of Nate through Dave, as Nate was already working on a commission for him for a riff on the Missouri Meerschaum Cobbit pipe. Since Nate had a partnership going with Dave, I felt confident enough to take the plunge and commission my pipe through him. It also helped that Nate had an Instagram page where I could check out his previous work. Nate had countless pictures of himself working in his shop, as well as various photos of completed pipes from his portfolio.

As I mentioned in Part I of my Art in the Artisan series, it’s essential for pipe carvers to have some sort of presence on social media. Otherwise, their work gets lost in the void, overshadowed by tech savvy pipe makers that know how to market their work. Nate understands this, and uses social media to not only increase his brand awareness, but to interact with the wider pipe world.

“If it wasn’t for social media, I probably wouldn’t have become a carver,” recounted Nate on his social media use. “Instagram gave me a platform to learn and interact with other carvers. It’s also is my main source for sales. The only time I spend marketing is when I post general stuff going on in my day-to-day shop life.”

The Creation of Willows Pipe

Nate in his workshop

Once Nate received his payment, we went straight to work messaging each other over ideas for this badger pipe. Now, as a writer, I like coming up with stories for my commissioned pipes, giving them a kind of backstory so the pipe has meaning to it. In my head, I envisioned the pipe as something Mr. Badger from The Wind in the Willows would carve for himself. I wanted the pipe to look like Mr. Badger picked up a gnarled block of briarwood out in the woods and carved a pipe for himself, keeping most of it’s original appearance intact. The pipe itself would resemble tree bark, with a hint of green moss showing in the wood. I knew this would be a challenge, as an effortless looking pipe requires a lot of skill and craftsmanship. However, Nate was more than up to the task.

As for the shape, I wanted to do something a bit different than the norm. With pipe shapes on the market, it’s rare to find a pipe that veers from the standard shapes out there. Because of this, I like combining or mixing shapes for my commissioned pipes, just to try something different. For example, my Marvic commission pipe is a mix between an Egg and Cutty shape, something veering on the nautical side.

For the Willows pipe, as Nate dubbed it, I’d combine two of my favorite shapes—the Lovat and the Dublin. I love the almost stumpy quality of a Lovat stem, and knew I wanted to incorporate it into the body of the pipe. Instead of the usual Billiard bowl, however, the pipe would be in the shape of a Dublin. The cone shape of a Dublin pipe makes it a perfect selection for flakes, and mixing it with a Lovat body would give the pipe some originality.

After giving Nate my directions for the shape and look, I gave him complete control over the carving of the pipe. When I work with a pipe carver, I try to give them the bare essentials for a direction to go in, and set them loose. I wanted Nate to have fun carving the pipe and not bog him down with micromanaging every little step along the way. After all, this wasn’t just a pipe for me, but something I wanted Nate to show off to others and increase his business. As great as it is for me to get my commissioned pipe, I’d feel even happier knowing he got more customers out of working on my pipe.

As I guessed, Nate prefers having the freedom to take a commissioned pipe in the direction that speaks to him. “I really do prefer mostly freedom other then obviously picking the shape and maybe a particular colour you’d like incorporated,” he said about dealing with commissions. “But there is something pretty special when you are given super specific details and can manage to knock it out of the park.”

Of course, when you commission a pipe, you’re not just ordering it off a shelf and expecting it to arrive in a few days. Nate already had a few pipes already on his bench ahead of mine, so I’d have to wait a bit before he could get started on it. However, patience is the hallmark virtue of pipe smokers, so I bided my time as I waited for Nate to start working on my commission.

One of Nate’s strengths is that he’s a great communicator. I never had to send him messages inquiring as to the status of my pipe. While waiting for him to start, he kept me updated on how long he thought it would take before he could start on mine. Once he did, he sent me constant updates, from pictures of his sketches on the briar block, all the way to completion. With every message, he checked with me that I was happy with the direction he was going in, giving me plenty of chances to make changes if they were needed. Nate offered his input, and generally I’d listen to his suggestions. For example, I originally picked out a red stem to go with my pipe, but he thought a green stem fit better with the tree theme. However, Nate didn’t want to make the change without my consent. I agreed with his assessment, and we made the change.

It’s suggestions like this that reveals Nate’s thought process when he tackles a new project. When he picks up a block of briar, he doesn’t just go straight to work, but takes a thoughtful approach in how the pipe will end up when it’s all said and done. “I find when it comes to a new shape or style of rustication, I get over excited to dig in,” he explained. “So I have to make myself take a day or two just to look over my sketch and ideas on paper before I begin.”

“Also a coffee and pipe will slow me down,” he added. “That helps.”

After Nate finished carving the block, he went straight to work on rusticating the pipe. Playing off the tree bark theme, Nate came up with a complicated effect that he called a ‘Wasp Nest.’ This involved carving out multiple tiny panels into the pipe, while filling the grooves with countless tiny dots that went all the way down and into the stem.

“I find most of my inspiration comes from nature or pictures in general,” reminisced Nate, when I asked him about his inspiration behind the rustication. “I see something and start wondering ‘if that wasp nest was a pipe, what would it look like?’”

Satisfied with the rustication results, Nate next moved onto staining and finishing the pipe. Since the Willows pipe is supposed to look like tree bark, Nate went with a dark red and black color scheme. As an added element to the finish, Nate applied the tiniest hint of green shading to give the tree bark some moss. While the moss effect isn’t immediately apparent, upon closer inspection the shading adds a bit of whimsy in the design that is often lacking in pipe making. It’s details like this that elevates the Willows pipe in ways that few carvers think to include in their pipes.

With the Willows pipe completed, Nate packed up the pipe and shipped it off to the USA. As any pipe smoker will tell you, waiting for a new pipe in the mail can be an agonizing process. Each day I checked the mailbox, hoping to see that rectangular box waiting for me to open, but walking away in disappointment. The box showed up on a Friday afternoon in April, which was a welcome surprise to kick off the weekend. It didn’t take me long to open the box and admire the beautiful craftsmanship of the pipe.

From Carver to Customer, A Review of the Willows Pipe

The Willows Pipe

The first thing that sticks out to me when looking over the Willows pipe is how different it is from all my other pipes. The oval bowl is reminiscent to some of the Dublins I own, but the unusual sloping rim at the top is a wonderful touch by the carver. The swirling red and black colors on the panels is truly a sight to behold, with no two panels having the same color pattern. The hints of green moss in the cracks of the wasp nest shows Nate’s expert use of color, just having enough for the observer to notice without it taking away from the overall color scheme. This is a pipe you want to sit down with and study under a bright lamp, just so you can notice all the little details that went into the carving.

The overall weight of the pipe is just right, not too heavy to clench, but not too light so you have that nice “pipe” feel when holding it in your hand. The airway has been properly drilled, something some of my factory pipes can’t say, and easily passes a pipe cleaner without any issues.

If I have one criticism of the pipe, it has to be with the stem. The stem itself is nicely carved, and the added rustication detail Nate did on the portion closest to the shank is a fine touch I never would’ve considered. While the stem is a bit longer for a Lovat, overall I can’t complain. The silvery green stem dazzles the eye, and to lose any of it would be a crime according to pipe law.

The issue comes from the button, as the edges are a bit longer than they should be. It makes clenching the pipe a bit difficult, as the pipe jostles around if I bite down on it, and it’s not easy to keep my teeth past the button. Looking back on the stem, Nate concurred that he wishes he could’ve adjusted it a bit more.

“The only thing looking back that I might consider changing on Willow would maybe be her stem. I wasn’t in love with it when I was done, also the button wasn’t [what] I [can] do now.”

While the button has its issues, I found an easy solution to the problem that required no modification to the pipe. At the most recent Chicago Pipe Show, I purchased some rubber stem bits and fit it over the Willow’s stem. The soft rubbery bit instantly solved the button issue, and now I can clench the pipe without any hassle. No harm, no foul as far as I’m concerned.

As soon as I filled my Willows pipe with some tobacco, I sent Nate a picture of me enjoying his latest work. For Nate, seeing his customers enjoying their new pipe is his greatest reward as a pipe maker.

“The best part honestly about being a carver is seeing photos of people enjoying my work. That’s a pretty fulfilling feeling.”

When looking back on the Willows pipe, Nate is proud of his work, as he should be. “Honestly, lately I think my pipes have taken a whole different level, which is great. BUT I’m pretty proud of Willow, that pipe was the beginning of some seriously new things coming out of my shop. I love that pipe.”

As do I, which is why I’ve already commissioned a new pipe from him. While we’re still getting ready for the planning stage, I’m already thinking of different shapes I’d like for Nate to try. I can’t think of a better show of endorsement of someone’s skills than a repeat customer, and Nate has my full backing.

Without a doubt, Nate has an unbridled enthusiasm for pipe carving. It’s in his blood, and creating with his hands keeps him going every day. “I’ll never stop carving. Hard to give something up that fulfills you internally from a creative standpoint.” And you can’t argue with that kind of passion.

While Nate has multiple projects in the works, you can still commission him for a new pipe. “I’m currently working on a pretty special pipe that’s important to me for personal reasons, [so] stay tuned.”

If you’re interested in commissioning a pipe from Nate, you can contact him via direct message on his Instagram and Facebook pages at RosePipeCo. There, you can follow Nate’s adventures in pipe carving and see his latest work, as well as previous pipes he’s completed. Nate’s prices are reasonable, and within range of budget minded pipe smokers looking for an artisan pipe without breaking the bank. Send him a message, and you too can own the RosePipeCo pipe of your dreams. Be sure to tell him Badger Piper sent ya.

Until next time, you can find me here, enjoying my very own badger pipe as I write my next update. Happy puffing my friends.

-TheBadgerPiper

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