Blog by Steve Laug
I am fairly certain that many of you have not heard of either Ozark Mountain Briars or of the carver, David Johnson. I have had two of David’s pipes in my collection since 2007 and have found that both of them are well made and aesthetically beautiful. The first one I purchased was a rusticated ball or apple shape. The second is this straight egg shaped smooth that I am reviewing today. Both were reasonably price and promptly delivered. I am not sure if David is still making pipes, I hope so. I see his pipes appearing on EBay periodically so if you have the opportunity to get one I don’t think you will be disappointed.
He carved this pipe as one of his higher lines, the Craftsman series, in 2007 and I picked it up at a discounted price because of some very small sand pits on the bottom of the shank. When it arrived in the mail I opened the package and took out the suede leather pipe glove that the pipe was placed in for protection and storage. I was amazed at its beauty. As I held it in my hand I could not believe how light it was. The 1.32 ounces / 37.4 grams make it light enough to be a comfortable clencher. The length of the pipe is 5.45 inches / 138.4 mm. The chamber diameter is .80 inches / 20.3 mm and the chamber depth is 1.50 inches / 38.1 mm. It is comfortable to hold in the hand.
The pipe has a smooth finish and is stained with a 3-step process to bring out the grain. The bowl is egg shaped but slightly canted forward with elements of a Belge shape. The grain is decent on the pipe. I am not sure which stain David used first but the understains are darker and serve to make the grain stand out. The overstain is almost a yellow. The combination gives a dimensionality to the finish that is fascinating. The trim bead on the end of the shank is made of Marblewood and adds a nice finishing touch. The unique grain and shape of the bead is distinctive and feels great in the hand when held during a smoke.
The stem is a hand cut Ebionite half saddle or half taper depending on your point of view! The top half is saddle and the bottom is tapered. The saddle portion is well done. It is soft cut on the saddle and then tapers back to the button. The saddle is rounded and has a very gentle cut to it. On the underside the stem blade tapers gradually back to the button where it flares to the same width as the flare on saddle. It is just the right thickness at the portion that rides in the mouth – not too thick or too thin. It is made of quality material as it has not oxidized in the years I have had it. The tenon is an integral part of the stem and is chamfered inward to form a dished end that is well-polished. The button is the size and shape that I really like – thin at the edges with a very slight rise to the centre top and bottom, forming an eye shaped end view. The lip on the button is very not to thick and fits well behind the teeth for a comfortable feel. The slot in the end of the button is also funneled and flattened to deliver a mouthpiece that has the same diameter from start to finish. David also rounded the ends of the slot giving it a finished look. The attention to detail shows the love of his craft that is transmitted into each of his pipes. It is a comfortable and well executed pipe. A pipe cleaner passes easily through the pipe with no obstruction.
I have two Ozark Mountain Briar pipes and both are identical in terms of internal mechanics. David has well-crafted airflow dynamics in his pipes. The draught is clean and easy with no whistling or tightness. It has an easy draw that makes smoking it a pleasure. The bowl chamber is drilled to slightly over 3/4 of an inch with a .80 inch diameter. The tobacco chamber was coated with what David calls a Pre Carbed coating. It was neutral in taste and did not distract from the tobacco that was smoked. The cake built up on the bowl very easily. The draught hole is centered slightly above the bottom of the bowl and seems to have a slight funnel leading into the shank and stem. The fit of the stem to the shank is excellent – smooth and tight with no light showing at the joint. The tenon fits well in the mortise and sits deep in the mortise against the bottom. The airway is in the centre of the mortise and aligns with the airway in the tenon. The edges of the tenon have been polished and rounded and the airhole countersunk so that it meets the airway in the mortise. Looking at the airways with a flashlight it is clear to see that they are smooth and polished with no rough edges. The interior of the pipe is smooth and polished from the button to the bottom of the bowl.
I broke this pipe in with some aged McClellands 5100. It is a dedicated Virginia pipe and always delivers a good tasting smoke. I have found that David’s other pipe also is a Virginia machine. It also smokes cool and dry and deliver good flavor with the Virginias that I choose to smoke in it.
I’ve not yet heard of David Johnson, but that is one very handsome pipe. I just checked his website and it appears to have been closed. A message from him on pipepedia says he stopped making pipes in May of 2011. Hmm, it looks like one more search on Ebay…