I don’t remember the exact date in 2009 when I purchase my Fillenwarth Apple from Tony Fillenwarth but I have been on his mailing list for quite a few years now. I love the signature rustication that Tony does and have been following his work for a long time. I am on his email list and so I get notification of any new pipes he puts up. Tony describes his pipes on the opening page of his website as follows: “A combination of precise engineering and a unique sense of design allow me to make pipes that are visually striking and that give a smoking experience second to none. All pipes are hand crafted from plateau briar of the finest quality that has been properly aged to provide a superb smoke. Stems are handmade from either top quality German vulcanite, cumberland, acrylic, or bakelite and feature a nice open draw that gives the best possible smoking characteristics.”
I am a sucker for apple shaped pipes so when this one came out on his email it met the bill for me – it had his unique rustication and it was an apple shaped pipe. The pipe is 5 1/2 inches long and weighs 52 grams. The tobacco chamber is 1 3/8 inches deep and 7/8 inch across. The shank band is sterling silver and adds a delicate and refined touch to the crater like rustication. It sports a handmade Cumberland stem with Delrin tenon and has a slight bend to it.
When the pipe arrived it was far more impressive than even Tony’s pictures led me to believe. I was stunned at the workmanship of the pipe and colour and feel of it in my hand. I remember just sitting at my desk after opening the package and sliding the pipe out of the sleeve that it came in and being speechless with the look and feel of this pipe. It was and is beautiful. No one even comes close to duplicating Tony’s rustication and the way in which his staining of the bowl highlights the rustication and gives it a special dimensionality that is almost uncanny. Holding his pipe in my hand is like holding a piece of lava rock with all of the nooks and crannies and colours emanating out of the crevices and holes and changing in the light that pipe is held in. The rustication is very sharp and rough in the hand but a very cool finish in terms of the feel in the hand when it heats up during smoking. The bowl is rusticated up and over the rim and ends in a craggy inner rim edge that looks great to me. The overall flow of the bowl and shank is brilliant and the colours are beautifully matched from rim to the end of the shank and on into the reds and blacks of the brindle/Cumberland stem. To separate the bowl and stem Tony handmade a sterling silver “wedding ring” band and gave it a high lustre polish. It adds a nice touch of bling to the look of the pipe and dresses it up.
Tony did a masterful job on the inner mechanics of the pipe with drilling that is perfectly executed from the shank and into the bowl – coming out exactly centre in the bottom of the bowl. The airway from the bowl into the mortise is centred. It is smooth in its entrance to the mortise and the mortise itself is also smooth with no rough spot left by drill bit. The bowl itself is U shaped and smooth from sides to bottom. The air way enters the bowl and is smooth and clean. There was no bowl treatment or coating just a good smooth briar.
The stem itself is hand cut out of a red and black Cumberland. It is well tapered with good even angles top and bottom progressing from the shank to the button. The portion of the stem that is put in the mouth is thin and comfortable. It has a slight bend to it that gives it a stylized look. Tony did a great job shaping the stem and capturing a shape that really works with this pipe. The way the silver band breaks up the flow is brilliant. I personally love the way the striations of black and red run the length of the stem. The choice of material for the stem matches the stain that Tony used on the bowl. The tenon is Delrin that has been inserted into the Cumberland stem for durability and ease of use. The airway is funneled 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 transition where the Delrin meets the Cumberland of the stem is seamless. 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 cut to my liking with a good sharp inner edge and tapered to the tip. The slot is opened and funneled to deliver a uniform airway from bowl to button.
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 smoked for over four years now and after breaking it in with some McClellands 5100 that had some age on it the pipe has become a good Virginia 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 Tony Fillenwarth for delivering a well-made pipe that remains a very good smoking pipe to this day. Tony continues to make unique and interestingly shaped pipes – both smooth and rusticated that have a distinctive and readily recognizable look to them. They are available on his website at http://fillenwarthpipes.com/ Stop by for a look, order one for yourself, you cannot go wrong with his work.