Blog by Steve Laug
About a year ago now I contacted Kevin Skraboly of Kevin Arthur Pipes regarding a commission that I wanted him to make for me. My request was pretty simple in that what I wanted was an apple shaped pipe that had his rusticated finish. I did not specify colour or finish in terms of shank treatments of patterns. I also did not specify a shank extension or the wood that he would use in it. I pretty much left all of the artistry up to him to work his magic.
When the pipe arrived and I have to tell you the shape and finish were exactly what I had in mind when I commissioned it from Kevin. It was and is beautiful. The coral rustication reminds me of cut glass and the rustication of the Canadian carver Michael Parks. The rustication is very sharp and rough in the hand but a very cool finish in terms of the smoking. The bowl and the rim are almost totally rusticated with a thin band that is stained in a reddish stain that goes around the inner edge of the bowl. There is also a thin line of stained briar around the end of the shank. To complement the reddish stain on the smooth portions and the black matte stain on the rusticated bowl Kevin put on a shank extension of thin black Lucite then a nice piece of Box Elder that he stabilized. The overall flow of the bowl and shank is brilliant and the colours are beautifully matched from rim to the end of the shank.
The stem is inset into the shank about 1/32 of an inch. The Box Elder shank extension is a tire like ring that rides on a briar shank that is cut to hold it. The Box Elder has an interesting marbled look to it that is really set off by the black of the Lucite band and the black stain on the pipe. Kevin did an excellent job on the inner mechanics of the pipe with drilling that is perfectly execute from the shank and into the bowl – coming out exactly centre in the bottom of the bowl. The airway and the inside of the bowl were very smooth with no rough spots left by the drill bit in the bowl or shank. There was no bowl treatment or coating so just a good smooth briar.
The stem itself is hand cut out of a swirled red and black Cumberland like Lucite. It is thin and comfortable in the mouth. It has a slight bend to it that gives it a stylized look. It is a saddle stem with a bit of a step down from the ring at the saddle. Kevin did a great job shaping the stem and capturing a shape that really works with this pipe. The stem is nicely finished with the thin ring just behind the cylinder that provides a shift before the taper of the stem flows toward the button. It is a wide slablike stem that looks great with it striations of black that run through the red. The choice of material for the stem matches the red on the rim and the shank and the black on the bowl. The Box Elder breaks that colour flow up in an interesting way. The tenon is Delrin that has been inserted into the Lucite stem for durability and ease of use. The airway is funnelled slightly for a smooth transition from the mortise when it is in place. There is a very minimal gap between the end of the tenon and the base of the mortise. The airway is smooth even where the Delrin meets the Lucite of the stem. There is no lip or rough spot at that junction. The draught is unrestricted and open from the bowl to the tip of the stem. Draught is effortless. The fit of the stem to the tenon is very well done. The button is perfect to my liking and very comfortable in the mouth and teeth. The opening in the mouthpiece is fanned out nicely. The smoke is delivered smoothly to the mouth.
The overall construction of this pipe is very well done. It is light in the hand and in the mouth. It is well balanced and has a great tactile feel when it is cool and as it warms up during the smoking of a bowl.
I have been smoking it for over a year now and after breaking it in with some Balkan blends that I have here it has become a good English/Balkan smoking pipe. It delivered a good smoke from the first smoke and continues to do so. It draws well; the lighting has never been a problem. It seemed to take very little time to break it in and continues to be an effortless smoke.
Thanks Kevin of Kevin Arthur Pipes for delivering a well made pipe that remains a very good smoking pipe even a year later. He continues to make interesting and well made pipes that are available on his website at http://www.kevinarthurpipes.com/ Stop by for a look, order one for yourself, you cannot go wrong with his work.