Blog by Steve Laug
I met Brad Pohlmann at the Chicago Pipe Show many years ago now. Being a resident of Oregon for many years I was intrigued that he was a Oregonian and a pipemaker. I looked forward to meeting him as I saw in the adverts for the show that he would have a table there. I looked at his pipes at the time but could not afford one and none of them really grabbed me so I passed on from there to thinking that one day I would find a Pohlmann that caught my eye.
Then low and behold, one day at work while I was on a break I checked in on Smokers Forums and a seller had just posted a Pohlmann in the classifieds. The photo and price hit the front page of the site while I was reading over the latest posts. I actually don’t remember the date when I picked up this pipe but I remember buying it from a fellow on Smokers Forum. The pipe had a oxblood stain on the deep sandblast bowl that highlighted the craggy grain of the pipe. The rim was slightly crowned and smooth and fit well with the shape of the pipe and contrasted well with the sandblast finish on the rest of the pipe. The yellow retro Bakelite stem added a touch of class and distinction to the craggy blast of the pipe. The seller had listed it with a very reasonable and I fell in love with it the moment I saw it. I clicked on the buy it now button, emailed the seller regarding shipping costs to Canada then quickly paid the price and waited for it to arrive. I have always enjoyed learning about the carver when I buy a handmade pipe. I like to read about his philosophy of pipe making and some of the history of the brand. 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 Pohlmann pipes, I googled his to his website and found the link http://www.pohlmannpipes.com/contact.php. On the site under the ABOUT tab I found the information I was looking for. Brad had posted a well written article regarding the history of his pipemaker and a bit about his pipes. I have included the following from his site as it set the stage for me in terms of enjoying this pipe. I quote in full from Brad’s own words: “This story begins in June of 1975; the place was New York City. I had just returned from a “pipe pilgrimage” to England, where I had visited all the great old shops of London, as well as a trip north to Perth in Scotland to visit the venerable firm of Rattray’s.”
“While on my rounds to the pipe shops of NYC, I chanced upon a Dane making pipes in a store window. The gentleman’s name was Finn Meyan Anderson, and he claimed to have worked in the Larsen workshop in Copenhagen. We had a friendly chat about pipes and I remember being favorably impressed with his pipes, and the fact that these freshly minted specimens were being sold in the same store as their manufacture.”
“A year later, at home in San Diego, California I decided my real desire was to operate my own Tobacconist store, stocked with pipes of my own design – not amateurish creations but pipes of quality and design. But how to make them?”
“I poured over several copies of The Pipe Smoker’s Ephemeris and made notes of the locations of all pipemakers between the West Coast and New York. Armed with this information, I mapped out my route, loaded my backpack, walked to the onramp of Interstate 5, and extended my thumb. One of the memorable moments along the way was a visit to Travers LaRue on Whidbey Island in the Puget Sound, off the coast of Washington state. I might have apprenticed with him, but his new son-in-law had just acquired that position – Geezzz, what some people will do to become a pipemaker!”
“With far too many stories in between, I eventually made it to Manhattan but Finn had left and was reported to be working in Vermont. I had the names of two makers there – Andrew Marks in Middlebury and the The Briar Workship in Stowe. Finn had indeed been working in Stowe, but was gone by the time I arrived. However, Elliot and Jorg were making some very attractive pipes and after some fancy confabulation on my part, I joined in their work. A year or two later we had Jim Cooke join our team. It was a great five years altogether, working in Stowe & Hyde Park in Vermont, and Coral Springs in Florida. In 1980 I moved back to California, where I completed a 4 year Tool and Die apprenticeship to round out my machining skills in the pipe shop. Fate had other plans for the future, which led to a 16-year career in the computer industry and only a little time to make pipe for friends and the odd pipe repair.”
“Finally, in 2003 it was time to begin making Pohlmann Pipes, combining the skills learned at the Briar Workshop with the tool and die training, and now incorporating the newest trends in the internal construction of the pipe.”—Brad Pohlmann
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 medium or group 4 sized pipe. Its dimensions are a well-balanced 5 inches long and 2 inches tall. The tobacco chamber is 1 1/2inches deep and 3/4 inches in diameter. There is a narrow band of briar that separates the shank from the stem and provides a smooth transition from the sandblast to the smooth finish of the Bakelite. The dark oxblood stain of the sandblast finish and the same colour smooth band and rim work well with the shape of the pipe. The stem is a handmade saddle shape from a yellow coloured Bakelite. The stem shape and colour work well with the oxblood stain of the sandblast and smooth portions of the bowl. The button on the stem is thin and comfortable. When the pipe arrived it was an impressive piece. The workmanship of the pipe, the deep and craggy sandblast ring grain around the entire bowl and radiating across the shank gave it very tactile feel that captured me. Some pipes like this one and the Roush leave a lasting impression in my mind. I still remember sliding the pipe out of the sleeve and enjoying the look and the way it sat in my hand. Brad had made a very beautiful pipe that was now mine. It had the faint aromas of the Virginias that its previous owner had smoked and the bowl had no cake at all. In fact it did not even look to have been smoked to the bottom of the bowl. The smooth rim has some swirling grain on it and the arched appearance gives it a touch of class. 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 that provides a spot for the stamping. On the underside of the stem it is stamped with an arced Pohlmann over USA. The symmetry of the pipe is easy on the eyes. The balance between the height of the bowl and the length of the shank is perfect. The stain has variation and almost a sparkle when moved in the light. The yellow Bakelite stem stands in stark contrast to the oxblood stain on the bowl and together give the pipe a dressy and classic look. 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 snug 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 Bakelite stem one is struck by the retro look of the old stem material. The saddle shape works well with the material and the Dublin shape of the pipe giving it a classic style that works with just a little flair of modern. It is hand cut out of a piece of Bakelite. From the saddle back it is well tapered with good even angles top and bottom progressing to the button. There is a slight wavy pattern to the Bakelite that makes it have an amberlike look in the light. The blade of the stem that is put in the mouth is thin and comfortable. Brad did a great job shaping the stem and capturing a shape that really works with this pipe.
The tenon is white 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 Bakelite 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 with material enough to provide an edge that fits behind the teeth. The slot is rectangular with rounded edges and deeply 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. The shaping of the stem is exactly what I like in terms of the feel in my mouth. The blade from the button to the saddle is deep enough to give room for how it sits in my mouth. It is well balanced and tactile feel of the deep blast as it warms up during the smoking of a bowl is very pleasant. Like others in my American carver collection, I smoked the pipe at specific times in my life. It is a pipe I enjoy smoking when sitting on my porch or in my recliner. It is not one that I carry with me as an everyday pipe. That being said since I got it I have smoked it enough to have a good thin cake developed in the bowl. It is one that I have dedicated to Virginia and Virginia Perique tobaccos. It delivered a good smoke from the first smoke I had in the bowl and continues to do so to this day. It draws well; the lighting has never been a problem and continues to be an effortless smoke. Now that I am writing this review up, I have moved the pipe out of the cupboard and set it aside to enjoy Sunday afternoon. Thanks Brad 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 Brad Pohlmann I can assure you that it will not disappoint you and you will find that it will become a favourite in your rack. One of the things I love about pipes is that they live far longer than the original owner. I hold it in trust while it is in my care. The craftsmanship of this pipe gives the certainty that it will continue its journey well beyond the years that it is my companion.