Blog by Steve Laug
For a lot of years I wanted a Roush pipe. The chunky style and look of Larry’s pipes is instantly recognizable. There is no one who makes a pipe like his. His take on classic shapes always goes a different direction and to me there was always something about them that made me want to own one. Quite a few years ago now, I was in Chicago for the Chicago Pipe Show and was talking with a fellow pipe who had a Roush that he was selling. It was lightly smoked and was in great shape. We struck a deal and the pipe was mine. The previous owner had smoke Virginias in the pipe – good aged Virginias that he collected as a hobby. He gave me a bowl of Balkan Sobranie Virginia No. 10 for my inaugural smoke in the pipe. I sat and enjoyed that bowl for a good long time while sipping some dark roast Costa Rican coffee. From that moment I fell in love with that pipe. It delivered an amazing smoke. The first two photos of the pipe come from Larry’s site. I enjoy learning a bit about the carver and his philosophy of pipe making of my handmade pipes. I find that learning this background information gives me a feel for the pipe that adds another dimension to the smoking experience. In terms of information on Larry’s pipes, I turned to his website and was pleased to find a well written article regarding his pipes. I have included the following from Larry’s site that set the stage for me in terms of enjoying this pipe. The link to the page itself is: http://roushpipes.com/About.aspx
Larry writes the following:
“The following words are those of a pipe maker of course, but in essence they are those of an artist – myself. I think most pipe makers view themselves as artists akin to those who sculpt in stone or wood, but confining their work to a single subject: pipes.”
“For myself, what I’m interested in, and what I think other skilled pipe maker are interested in, is quality wood. The reason is quite simple – I am searching for the two primary qualities in a pipe: beauty and smokability. My primary source for Briar at the present time is Italy, and I am very pleased with its esthetic value and smoking qualities. Of course different wood from different growing areas appear different insomuch as grain is concerned. Regardless of the source, when briar is aged and air cured properly the smoking qualities will be the same.”
“Every pipe maker sets his own standards and I have to look at the piece of briar to determine whether it will be a smooth pipe or not. Just because it is clean (without pits) doesn’t mean it will become a smooth ROUSH. For a carved pipe, I select a block that will support the size pipe I want to make, position the template and draw the outline. In contrast, the crafting of a smooth pipe is unique in character and requires a substantial amount of time. Grain is a primary consideration, and the point beyond shape is where the eye of the artist is critical. I don’t tell the briar block what I want, the block tells me. It’s the grain that determines the shape not the template. I have always done all my own Gold and Silver work and use only solid Silver and 14k Gold. I really like the combination of wood with silver and gold. I think it gives a very unique touch. Sometimes I use fossilized Walrus tusk or Mammoth tusk for inlays. This comes predominantly from Alaska and is found as a by-product of mining operations there.”
“I have always been demanding when it came to the pipes I smoked personally. As a result it took many years to perfect my finishing, curing, and carving techniques. I keep that in mind when I make a piece. If the finished pipe is not one I would keep for myself then it is just not good enough for sale. Being my own worst critic, not wanting to settle for less, has always been the most difficult part of pipe making.”
“As a pipe maker I make every effort to turn out a quality pipe, regardless of shape or finish. This often involves painstaking and meticulous work, unknown to the buyer, but incorporates features (see link below on expectations from a Roush pipe) that make the ROUSH pipes what they are today. Mike Butera and I once had a discussion on this very topic and determined that these many things we do relating to fit and finish, and attention to detail are simply the standards we set to make quality pipes. To short cut or deviate from these standard would not only be cheating the smoker and collector, but cheating ourselves. On a personal note, I feel fortunate to have this gift, this ability to see deeper than the surface of a fine piece of briar and respond by creating pipes that are shared and appreciated by others. I’m eternally grateful for three things: the insight to recognize in myself a talent and the courage to develop it; secondly, for the assistance and direction of Mike Butera, and third for the opportunity to take an idea, a simple thought, and turn it into something beautiful and useful. It is my hope and wish that you enjoy smoking and owning my pipes every bit as much as I enjoy making them. –Larry Roush”
My initial impressions of the pipe really include what drew me to this piece of pipe art enough to want to add it to my collection and make it a part of my pipe journey. It is a short, squat 5 inches long and 2 inches tall. The tobacco chamber is 1 1/2 inches deep and 3/4 inches in diameter. The silver band is smooth, narrow, handmade ring that adds a simple contrast to the dark oxblood sandblast. It is integrated into the shank. The stem is handmade from Cumberland and its short taper has a typical Roush look. On the left side of the top of the stem there is a silver Roush logo inlay.
When I picked up the pipe it was an impressive piece. The workmanship of the pipe and colour and feel of it in my hand captured me. I remember sliding the pipe out of the sleeve and enjoying the look and feel of this pipe. It was and is beautiful. It had the faint aromas of the Virginias that its previous owner had smoked, yet it was clean and ready for me. The sandblast is deep and rugged giving the bowl a tactile feel in the hand. It is a tight ring pattern that travels horizontally around the bowl with sandblasted birdseye on the top of the rim and the shank. Examining it up close it is obvious that it is blasted with a master-hand.
There is a smooth, oval medallion of briar on the bottom of the shank next to the silver band that provides a spot for the stamping. It is stamped S2 over an arched Roush. Under that is the stamp 1154 over Hand Made over U.S.A. The final stamp in the oval is 2006. The overall flow of the bowl and shank is brilliant and the colours are beautifully matched from rim to the end of the shank. There appears to be a black stain under the oxblood that adds contrast in the rings of the blast. Combined with the swirls of black and red in the Cumberland matches the colour of the stain on the bowl and gives the pipe a dressy look. The silver band on the shank not only separates the texture of the bowl and stem but gives focal point that draws the eye to take in the taper of the stem and the texture of the bowl. The inner mechanics of the pipe are perfect. The drilling 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 centered. 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 end of the shank is sanded smooth and is finished. There is a bevel in the shank end to accommodate the tenon and provide a smooth fit against the shank. The bowl itself is U shaped and smooth from sides to bottom. The air way enters the bowl and is smooth and clean. The draught on the bowl is wide open and effortless.
Looking at the stem one is struck by the very typical Roush look. Larry’s stem are easily recognized from a distance. The shaping and flow are typical. It is hand cut out of a 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 thicker than I normally like but it is still very comfortable. Larry did a great job shaping the stem and capturing a shape that really works with this pipe. The tenon is Delrin that has been inserted into the 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 of the stem is unrestricted and open. When the pipe is put together the draught is effortless. The fit of the stem to the shank is very well done. The button is cut to my liking with a good sharp inner edge and tapered to the tip. It is a thin button compared to most of my pipes but is enough to provide and edge that fits behind the teeth. The slot is oval and funneled to deliver a uniform airway from bowl to button. The inside of the slot is sanded smooth and polished. The airway is absolutely smooth from slot to tenon. 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 the pipe a lot since I got it and enjoyed the fact that it had previously been a Virginia pipe and had been well broken in. That fact made it a very simple pipe to make my own. The shape of the bowl has kept this a good Virginia smoking pipe in my rotation. It delivered a good smoke from the first smoke and continues to do so. It draws well; the lighting has never been a problem and continues to be an effortless smoke. Thanks Larry for delivering a beautiful, well-made pipe that remains a very good smoking pipe to this day. If you can acquire a pipe made by Roush it will not disappoint you and you will find that it will become a favourite in your rack. The craftsmanship of his pipes will make this pipe continue its journey well beyond the years that it is my companion.