Daily Archives: April 25, 2015

A Review – Jan Pietenpauw Rhodesian – The 2010 PipeChat Pipe of the Year

Blog by Steve Laug

StampJan Pietenpauw pipes are made by Jean du Toit and his son in Pretoria, South Africa. In 2009 and 2010 I was regularly online at the PipeChat forum. Jean was a regular there as well. When the 2010 Pipe of Year was being discussed Jean was asked to make the pipe for the forum. He consented and I followed the process with much interest. The shape chosen was Jean’s take on a Rhodesian. He combined both smooth and sandblasted finishes on the pipe. The stem material was Cumberland and there was a shank extension that was applied like a ring to the end of the shank. Jean used Delrin tenons inserted in the Cumberland stem. When Jean posted pictures of the shape and the finished pipes I had to have one and placed my order promptly.PipeChatPOY I am fairly certain that quite a few of you have not heard of either Jan Pietenpauw Pipes or of the carver, Jean du Toit. I have now had the pipe for over five years and have been smoking it regularly. It is a good smoking pipe. I remember that when I received it I wanted another but somehow time went by and I have only one in my collection at present. It was reasonably priced and promptly delivered. If you can get one of Jean’s his pipes I don’t think you will be disappointed. His work can be seen on his website at: http://www.pietenpauw.co.za/

When the pipe arrived in the mail from South Africa I opened the package and took out the handmade pipe glove that the pipe was placed in for protection and storage. I was amazed at its beauty. The contrasting colours, the combination of blast and smooth finish, the stepped down Cumberland stem were quite stunning. As I held it in my hand I could not believe how light it was. The length of the pipe is 5.5 inches. The chamber diameter is .75 inches the chamber depth is 1.25 inches. It is comfortable to hold in the hand and in the mouth.Jan3

Jan2 The pipe has a mixed finish. The Rhodesian top cap is smooth and the bowl and shank are sandblasted. The stain on the cap and a thin ring on the end of the shank is a light/medium brown colour and the sandblasted shank and bowl are stained with a black under stain and what appears to be a oxblood top stain.Jan4 There is a patch on the bottom of the shank that is smooth and bears the stamping – Pipe Chat over Pietenpauw over PoY2010. PipeChatPOYBottom The sandblast is not deep and craggy but highlights the ring grain around the bowl and the birdseye on the top of the shank and on the underside of the shank and the bowl. The bowl is a classic Rhodesian shape with a slightly Danish flair. The shank is slightly under-slung and hangs below the bottom of the bowl. The shank extension is a smooth, dark African wood (I cannot remember what it is). It contrasts well with the sandblast and picks up the lines of the Cumberland stem. The combination of stains and finishes gives a dimensionality to the pipe that is fascinating. The unique finish and shape of the pipe is distinctive and feels great in the hand when held during a smoke.Jan5 The stem is a hand cut Cumberland taper that has a nice flow back to the button. The stem blade tapers gradually back to the button where it flares to the same width as the flare at the shank. 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 Delrin and threaded into the stem. The end is rounded slightly and is wide open. It 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 just thick enough that it 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. Jean left the slot flat and rectangular but well finished. The attention to detail shows the love of his craft that is transmitted into this pipe. It is a comfortable and well executed pipe. A pipe cleaner passes easily through the pipe with no obstruction.Jan6 The internal mechanics are well-crafted with an attention given to the airflow dynamics. 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 a 3/4 of an inch diameter. The tobacco chamber was coated with a black, thin bowl coating that did not detract from the flavour of the tobacco in the initial smokes. The bowl was U-shaped and smoothly sanded on the sides and bottom. The cake built up on the bowl very easily. The draught hole is centered in 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.

Like most of my pipes I broke this one in with some aged McClellands 5100. The bowl now has a thin cake from the heel to the rim. It is still a dedicated Virginia pipe and always delivers a good tasting smoke. It smokes cool and dry and delivers good flavor with the Virginias that I choose to smoke in it.

Concerning the Rising Popularity of Churchwardens in General, a Little about Their History and the Cleanup of a Barely Smoked Savinelli Rustic Aged Briar

Guest Blog by Robert M. Boughton

Member, North American Society of Pipe Collectors
Photos © the Author, except as noted

“The supreme accomplishment is to blur the line between work and play.”
― Arnold J. Toynbee (1889-1975), British historian

If ever a pipe found its way into my possession and was sheer play and no work to clean up, this black Savinelli Rustic Aged Briar Dublin Churchwarden is it. I bought the long, sleek, exquisite example of the fine Italian pipe crafter’s genuine labor as a perfect addition, not to my own collection but to the growing and diversifying line of brands and styles I sell. Based on the requests I have received for churchwardens in general, as well as my eavesdropping at the local tobacconist I favor, this classic old style appears to be experiencing a comeback in popularity.

Perhaps the shift in supply and demand – as well as the corresponding rise in average churchwarden prices, at my preferred tobacconist and online, compared to the not so distant past – are due in part to the timeless popularity of the classic fantasy novels of J.R.R. Tolkien, starting with “The Hobbit” [1937] and “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy [1954-1955]. This year, in fact, marks the sixtieth anniversary of “LOTR,” and the recent releases of movie versions of both of these can only have spurred interest in the centuries-old pipe shape thanks to the churchwarden-puffing Hobbits, wizards, elves, dwarves and – yes – men. Or maybe the increase in sales and prices is just a sign of greater discernment among pipe enjoyers, and those new to the pleasure in particular, who seek the smoother, cooler satisfaction of a good tobacco’s flavor that the longer shank and bit can provide.

Whatever the cause of this apparent resurgence, I am doing my best to follow the tide by locating and restoring more of this venerable style’s many examples at affordable prices. I already went so far as to clean up a beloved but no longer often enjoyed Clark’s Favorite from my own collection. I bought the lovely pipe several years ago, restored, for about $40 (at which time a quick check online showed the same but new pipe on sale at $69) and sold it to a prospective customer who was bent on a medium-length church or nothing.Rob1 I still miss the Clark’s Favorite, which I supposed I could always replace for the new price noted above. Today, the same smooth version, with its orange-black acrylic bit, is on sale for $112 compared to the MSRP of $140.

Savinelli for one, seeming to recognize the inconvenience of carrying a long, fixed-bit church about town to enjoy on the go, now offers a nice selection of “Tandem” versions that can be enjoyed at home in their full glory and, when traveling anywhere, with a second short bit. The model shown below, the Tandem Rusticated #112, comes with two completely separate bits – the longer Vulcanite and the shorter acrylic.Rob2 This particular Tandem, by the way, is now on sale for $108 as opposed to its regular price of $130.

There are, however, still other “churchwardens” with the two bits combined as one, where the entire bit can be twisted off at the shank and the shorter part at the top, with the button, replaced in the shank. Of course, these models carry a higher price tag. Take, for example, this adjustable Cassano smooth billiard, which I bought last night at my tobacconist’s shop for $175. The full churchwarden large poker is 13” in length, and the smaller option is 8½”.Rob3


The churchwarden is one of the oldest of pipe shapes. The earliest use was in the Orient, where the bowls were likely made (for the most part to smoke opium) not only of known materials – including amber, ivory, various metals such as brass, different kinds of wood, bone and clay – but also jade and other exotic minerals. The bits (without buttons) often matched the bowls, although combinations of brass, wood, bone and/or ivory were not uncommon.

However, the clay bowl and long wooden shank without a bit was the design adopted and quickly adapted in late 18th or early 19th century Europe. So popular were the original Western World churchwardens that many Eastern European taverns kept supplies on hand for their customers’ use, and the habit of biting off the end of the wood shank for a fresh smoke developed. Until the mid- to late-1800s, clay bowls with wood shanks, open where the bit would now be found, remained the prevailing materials of construction.

As for the origin of the name churchwarden, there are three main theories, given here in reverse order of likelihood: the first, that smoking was permitted almost everywhere, including churches, in those dear lost days, and the long length and design of the pipe allowed it to rest on the pews; the second, that certain individuals, erroneously called churchwardens and trusted with guarding England’s churches in the 1800s, very much enjoyed their pipes and fancied the popular style, and the third, that real churchwardens (who by every official definition were not guards but honorary officers of local parishes or district churches entrusted with administrative and other minor duties) became known for their love of the pipe later named for them.

And contrary to popular myth created by various actors who have performed the role of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s brilliant mystery solving character, Sherlock Holmes, using fancy Gourd Calabashes or sundry churchwardens as props – which falsehood was adored and perpetuated by generations of Sherlockian fans – these are the facts: the shape or material of pipe most often cited by Holmes’ fictional chronicler, Dr. John H. Watson, was cherry wood (six references), followed by several mentions of standard-sized clay pipes and some appearances of briars. You can read the entire “Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” at https://www.gutenberg.org/files/1661/1661-h/1661-h.htm and locate all of them yourselves.







Rob12 To start on an honest note, I only show the few following steps needed to clean this almost-new Savinelli Rustic Dublin Churchwarden beauty for the sake of showing the pipe itself and the ease with which it was spruced up. The bit had no signs whatsoever of having been touched by any hands, much less placed in a mouth and smoked. In other words, its outside was buffed to the highest sheen, as if it came fresh from the factory in Barasso, Italy, in the Varese province. And so I began by running a long, soft cleaner dipped in alcohol once through the 7½” bit, which was all but 3” of the total length, removing the smallest amount of tobacco residue, and again for good measure.

The rim had minor blackening, not part of the stain. I removed that with a quick brush using 1800 micromesh and proceeded to the chamber. Two easy turns of a reamer followed by about 30 seconds of sanding with 200-grit paper and then 320 made the chamber as smooth as it ever was.

For the sake of thoroughness, I attached an otherwise useless small bit with a tenon that fit the shank and retorted the inner shank and chamber. To my amazement, one Pyrex test tube of boiled Everclear came back from the first passage with the lightest shade of brown, and despite about six more tries to make the alcohol darker, the barely tested briar was clean.

Then I noticed a spot on the outer edge of the shank opening that appeared to be smooth and dark red. With a small scrap of super fine steel wool, I probed the narrow strip of briar around the opening and watched it come clean. Below are before and after photos.Rob13

Rob14 I could have left the briar in the excellent shape it already was, but as chance happened, I had just received my order of a new jar of Halcyon II wax, and had to try it out. Therefore, I gave the wood a spin on the clean buffer and with one finger applied a dab of the Halcyon as far as it would spread before adding a smidge more to finish coating the bowl, shank and rim. Setting the wood on a cotton rag, I waited about 10 minutes and again took the duller-looking briar for a fast spin on the clean wheel. Whether or not these steps were necessary, here are the final results.Rob15






That is all.

(in haphazard order)