Blog by Steve Laug
I have always been an advocate of collecting Canadian pipes and have a good representation of many of the carvers in my collection. John Calich, Micheal Parks, Stephen Downie, are a few of those that are in cupboard along side of the two older Blatter and Blatter pipes. Their website http://www.blatterpipes.com/history.htm gives a detailed history of the brand. They do some beautiful work and offer some great smoking blends from their shop on 375 President Kennedy Avenue, Montreal, Quebec. They are a pleasure to do business with and well worth a visit should you find yourself in Montreal.
The first is a bent billiard with a chairleg style stem. It has one red dot on the stem and is partially rusticated. It is a sitter and balances nicely on the flat bottom of the bowl. It comes from an earlier time in the history of the company. I am not sure of the dates on it but I believe it comes from the time of the father of the present owner of the company. It is a good smoking pipe. Well made and comfortable in the hand and mouth. As can be seen in the pictures of it below it is in need of some TLC on my part. The stem shows both oxidation and tooth chatter. These need to be cleaned up. The rim and bowl are in good shape. It has a good solid cake in it and has been used to smoke only Virginias.
The second pipe is an older Lovat. I purchased this off EBay after looking at some bad photos that were out of focus. The seller had written that it was gently used and in excellent shape. The only photos of the pipe did not show the bowl at all so I trusted his description. When the pipe arrived in Vancouver it was a mess. Maybe even describing it as a mess is understatement. The bowl was a mess and had been reamed out by the seller. The shank and stem were filthy but the worst part of the sale was that the bowl was burned out. It had a huge divot in the back side of the bowl the size of my thumb and it was plain carbonized wood. There was a hole the size of a pencil through the wall of the pipe to the outside of the bowl. I immediately sent an email to the seller who was willing to refund part of my purchase price (1/3 if my memory is correct) and asked that I send the pipe back to him. I promptly refused both offers and fumed for a few days. Then my wife suggested I give a call to Blatter and Blatter and see if they would do a repair on the pipe. I was not even sure it was salvageable but it was worth a call.
I called and talked with Robert Blatter who asked about the colour of the dot on the stem and the stamping. He was pretty certain that the pipe was old and made by his grandfather. I cannot remember the dates at this time but it was at least three generations back as the shop was currently managed by him and his sons were working with him. He was keen to see the pipe as it was a piece of his family history. I packed it up and sent it off to him with little hope of a repair. The weeks went by and one day I went to the mail box for the mail and a surprise awaited me. There was a package from Blatter and Blatter. I carried it home and cut the tape to open the box. Inside was a nice note from Robert assuring me that the pipe was indeed an old one made by his grandfather. He also went on to describe the repairs that had been made on the pipe. He had cut out the burned out area of the pipe. At this time, some 15 years or more ago, I had no idea that such a thing could be done. He had then fit a briar plug into the burned out area. He matched the rustication to the rest of the pipe perfectly and restained it the original colour. From the outside of the bowl the repair was invisible. It was extremely well done. On the inside of the bowl the repair was also not visible. He had fit the plug with precision and then coated the inside of the bowl with a bowl coating. He said the repair was a pleasure for him to do as it was a piece of family history. The bill was minimal for the work that was done.
The old pipe was ready to be smoked and he suggested a break in rhythm for it. I followed his detailed plan to the letter. Today, fifteen or more years later the pipe still is going strong with no sign of the burnout returning or the patch showing up on the outside or inside of the bowl. I smoke primarily English blends in this pipe as it delivers a full flavoured smoke. It is a pleasure to smoke and enjoyable even more knowing a bit of the history of the pipe. The fact that it was carved by Grandfather Blatter and repaired by his Grandson Robert gives it quite a bit of character in my mind. It is a pipe that will inevitably outlive me and continue to serve pipemen for years to come.
Blog by Steve Laug
Frank Axmacher is one of the rising stars of German pipe making. A stonemason and sculptor by trade, Frank began making pipes under the watchful eye of Bertram Safferling. Later, he was able to further hone his skills while working with such pipe luminaries as Rainer Barbi and Tom Eltang. Using only the finest briar and handcut stems, Frank carves elegant sculptural pieces with flawless craftsmanship.
All Axmacher pipes are stamped with his stylized logo and a custom grading and dating system. The first letters in the grading system (ascending from F to A) indicate the objective qualities of the pipe (grain, flaws, finish, etc.). The second letter indicates Frank’s own personal subjective judgements about the pipe (again rising from F to A). The last two digits refer to the year the pipe was created. (Picture and opening information came from the Iwan Ries website http://www.iwanries.com/frank-axmacher-C1472.cfm )
The pipe I purchased from a friend on Smokers Forums is a beautiful sandblasted pipe. Describing the shape is an interesting process. I would have to say it is somewhere between a brandy and a volcano shaped variation. In other ways it reminds me of a Danish style bulldog. The stamping on this pipe does not match the description of the stamping explained above. Rather it is stamped F.AXMACHER in an arch at the top and GERMANY in an arch at the bottom. In the centre it is stamped 03B. The description above leads me to believe that it was made in 03 and that it is either a B grade or it is B for blasted. Not sure which at this point. The vitals are as follows: length 6 inches, height 1 ½ inches, bore of the bowl 5/8 inches, outer diameter at the widest point 2 inches and depth of the chamber 1 ½ inches.
In this review I want to look at the pipe from a more technical side and walk through its construction, feel and delivery of the smoke to me. The pipe came in a leather pipe sock that is stamped with a sketch of the pipe inside on the leather (a nice touch). The leather pipe sock came with a leather draw string and a nice chunk of briar on the end. When the pipe arrived in the mail I was excited to see and hold one of Frank’s pipes. I had read reviews and scrolled through many pictures of his work but had never held one in hand. In taking this out of the sock I have to say that it is more than I expected from the photos that I had seen before I bought it. The shape was unique and I liked it immediately. The blast was beautiful and the stain perfect. The weight of the pipe is light, I can only wish I had a scale because it is lighter in weight than I expected in a pipe of this size.
Looking at the externals of the pipe. Frank seems to have used several stains to give an undercoat that shows through the contrasting top coat. Depending on the light and angle of the pipe the colour highlights look different. They are a variety of browns and blacks that come through with the light and the angles. The crevices and valleys in the blast are a dark brown in some lights and black in others. The sandblast is gorgeous. There is both a ring grain and vertical lines in the blast. The ring blast is stunning and the vertical lines run at an angle through the blast like wind driven rain. The bottom of the bowl is blasted birdseye grain. The centres of the eye are dark in colour and the ridges surrounding the eye are brown. It is a unique and well done blast that is quite unique among my sandblasted pipes. There is a small band of smooth around the shank where it meets the stem and continuing around the shank of the pipe. On the bottom of the shank there is a smooth patch where the circular stamping is applied. The shank is oval flowing at a slight angle upward from the bottom of the bowl. The flatness of the bowl bottom and shank allow the pipe to sit upright on a flat surface. The hand cut ebonite stem is very well done and comfortable in the mouth. There is a small saddle that sits tightly against the shank that quickly tapers into a thin blade. The taper of the blade is subtle and sporting a 1/8 bent to the stem. It has a thin oval shaped button that is sharply cut and catches well on the back of my teeth. The slot in the button is oval shaped and there is a smooth V slot that facilitates the movement of smoke across the mouth. The polish and smoothness of the finish is like glass. The overall appearance of the pipe and stem is beautiful and it fits my hand very well. The tactile feel of the blast is great whether the pipe is lit or unlit.
Moving from the externals of the pipe to the internal mechanics. The workmanship on this pipe is well done. The angle of the drilling is done in such a way that the bowl is of a uniform thickness throughout. The bowl bottom is relatively the same thickness as the walls of the pipe. The bowl is drilled at the same angle as the exterior of the pipe. The draught hole is precisely where it should be – centred at the back side bottom of the bowl. As the pipe came to me pre-smoked I cannot speak to whether Frank uses a bowl coating. Holding the bowl to the light revealed a clean and smooth airway with no impediments. The drilling in the mortise is clean and smooth. The only area that is bothersome to me is that the angle of the drilling made it necessary to leave quite a deep divot in the bottom of the mortise that makes the wall at the bottom of the mortise very thin for the first ¼ inch. As the tenon goes straight into the mortise this should not be problematic. It is however a potential problem area. The tenon appears to be an inset Delrin piece. It is chambered or funneled to aid in airflow into the stem airway. The inside of the stem is very smooth. There is no roughness or constriction where the Delrin tenon ends and the stem material begins. This transition is smooth. The airway flattens out like a squeezed drinking straw so that the diameter does not change but is flattened and opened.
I have been smoking this pipe repeatedly since it arrived and it smokes very well. The bowl was already broken in and there was a thin cake already forming in the bowl. The pipe smokes dry and clean with no moisture build up or gurgle during the smoke. The ash and any remnants of tobacco in the bottom of the bowl are dry and easily dumped out at the end of the smoke. The draught on this pipe is very smooth – no whistling sound and no sense of having to suck or work to get the air to move through – it is effortless as it should be. It has been and will continue to be a pleasure to smoke, exactly what I look for in a pipe that keeps its place in my rotation.
I would highly recommend that you have a look at the pipes Frank crafts. They are available through several online retails such as Iwan Ries, Scandia Pipes, Al Pascia and others. Frank’s work shows him to be a fine craftsman. I believe this is one of his earlier pipes. His newer pipes are amazingly beautiful. The shapes and designs are unique to him and give the impression of pieces of art. They are beautiful to look at and explore. Have a look at the beautiful work that he does. Frank’s own website provides links to many of these online pipe sellers. http://www.axmacher-pipes.com/