A Blog by Steve Laug
I first saw Jack’s pipes on Smoker’s Forums many years ago now and had to have one of them. The shape that captured my interest was his sand blasted acorn shape. He had posted several of those and others on the forums had picked them up. I believe that it occurred in late 2007 or early 2008 because I do know that it happened in conjunction with the first Chicago Pipe Show that I attended. I spoke with Jack early in the New Year about crafting me an acorn shaped pipe. He gladly made one with a beautiful sandblast finish with contrasting stains. There was a faux ivory (at least I think it is) shank ring and faux horn extension on the stem itself. The stem was vulcanite and had an integral tenon. Jack sent me the photo below of the finished pipe. I was stunned by the beauty of the pipe and we sealed the deal. Jack would bring it with him to the Chicago Show and we would connect and finish the deal. Needless to say I could hardly wait to have the pipe in hand. Chicago soon came and I met Jack in the lobby of the Pheasant Run Resort and we did the deal. He gave me the pipe and I paid immediately via Paypal so as not to cut into my show budget. It was one beautiful pipe. I commissioned this pipe from Jack knowing full well that it would be magnificent and he did not let me down. The pipe was everything I had hoped for and more. Its length of is 4.75 inches and the bowl height is 2.25 inches. The bowl diameter is 1.5 inches. The chamber diameter is .75 inches and depth is 1 1/8 inches. It sports a hand cut vulcanite stem with a built on extension of faux horn. The pipe is acorn shaped with a ¼ bent stem that fits well in the hand. The shank is shaped round, though larger at the mortise end than next to the bowl. It has a slight curve from the end of the shank to the bowl. It is stamped on the underside of the shank Howell over JH over 2008 in a round smooth spot. The bowl is acorn shaped with a definite point on the bottom that hangs below the shank. The rim is smooth in contrast to the sandblast finish of the bowl. It is slightly beveled inward. It has band of faux ivory at the shank end that sits against the horn when the stem is in place.The finish on the outside of the pipe is a sandblast that is visually very pleasing. It is a craggy blast that is not too deep a blast but highlights the ring grain on the sides, front and back of the bowl and on the sides of the shank. On the bottom of the bowl and shank is a beautiful sandblasted birdseye that highlights the pattern of the grain. The rim is finished smooth showing the birdseye grain in the surface. There is a very tactile feel to the sandblast on the bowl and shank that feels great as the bowl warms during a smoke. The bowl is stained with a dark brown or black under stain that goes deep into the grooves of the blast and highlights the deeper parts of the blast and the rings and whorls on the birdseye. The higher parts of the blast are stained with a reddish coloured medium brown stain that is a perfect contrast and adds depth to the finish. In contrast to the bowl and shank Jack cut a black acrylic stem that combined with the translucent horn extension and ivory band make an elegant looking finished pipe. The blacks/dark brown stain on the sandblast also provides contrasting highlights to the total package of the pipe. Jack did a great job on the stain and finish of the pipe. The stem itself very nicely worked. It is an vulcanite stem that is cut at slightly less of a flared angle than the shank. The faux horn band on the stem works as a shank extension. The vulcanite is made to look as if it is inserted into the horn cap but in reality is attached to it. The combination of black and horn gives the stem a formal and stately look. Jack did an amazing job shaping the stem. The short blade of the stem is thin and has a good even tapered flow from the saddle to the button. It is matched in terms of angles on the top and the bottom and on the left and right side of the stem. The design along with the slight bend makes it fit very comfortably in the mouth. It also rests well enough that it can be clenched quite easily. The tenon has been cut from the vulcanite and is integral to the stem and is the same length as the mortise. The fit is snug. The end of the tenon has been rounded and funnelled for good airflow. The button is very thin in width but is elevated above the surface of the stem so that it gives a good edge for holding behind the teeth. It is thinner on the edges with a gentle rise at the centre top and bottom. The slot in the end of the button is inward at the same angles as the exterior of the stem to deliver a mouthpiece that has the same diameter from start to finish. It is also open and rectangular with the same distance from the outer edge of the button to the inner edge of the slot all the way around. The mechanics of the pipe are well done. The bowl chamber came without a bowl coating and the briar was smooth and had no flaws of pits. The bowl is drilled straight into the acorn shape and rather than having a rounded or U shaped bottom has a V or conical bowl. Jack did a great job with that alignment. The draught hole is centered at the bottom of the bowl and seems to have a slight slope from the bottom to the top of the airhole. There is a very easy and open draw to the pipe. The fit of the stem in the inset shank extension is smooth and tight. The tenon sits deep in the mortise – if not exactly the same length then impressively close! The fit of the tenon is also smooth. The drilling of the draught in the shank is centered in the end of the mortise. The tenon on the stem is drilled to match it and there is no misalignment to the two. The air pulls clearly through the pipe with no whistling at all. Using a light to shine through the various airways reveals smoothly executed airways on the inside. Very nice work on the drilling, it is extremely well executed.
I have been smoking it since I received it in 2008. I started smoking some McCranies Red Virginia Flake at the Chicago Show and have continued smoking Virginia tobacco in it. I have smoked Virginia flake and broken flake tobaccos in it and it packs easily and stays lit. Smoking it is a pleasure and is uncomplicated and effortless. I have been pleased with it from the start as it has always smoked smooth with none of the new pipe break in woes. Thanks Jack for a well-made pipe that smokes as good as it looks! I am not sure you remember making this one for me but it has become one of my favourites.
With that great experience with one of Jack’s pipes when I saw the little Howell Lovat/ Nosewarmer come up for sale on the Smokers Forum Classifieds I immediately sent a private message to the seller and added it to my rack. The first four photos below are the ones that the seller posted to advertise the pipe. It is a short pipe with a thick shank and a large bowl. The stem is stubby. The smooth finish highlights the grain and the faux ivory band is identical to the one on the Howell Acorn above.
I paid for it and when it arrived I found that it was far more rich and beautiful than the pictures had shown. Having already been introduced to the magic of Jack’s pipes I knew that this one would also be a great smoker and it had the benefit of being well broken in by the seller. He had smoked Virginias in it so that would be an easy transition for me. I was a little suspect of the short stubby stem and would have to see how it smoked. It certainly would be a pipe to smoke while sitting and contemplating and not a clencher. Its length of is 5 inches and the bowl height is 2 inches. The bowl diameter is 1.5 inches. The chamber diameter is 7/8 inches and depth is 1 1/2 inches. It sports a hand cut acrylic stem. The pipe is a short Lovat shape with a stubby straight stem. It sits nicely in the hand. The shank is round and quite thick, almost 7/8 inches in diameter. It is stamped on the underside of the shank identically with the Acorn. It reads Howell in an arch over JH over 2008. The bowl is quite large – a full sized bowl. The rim is smooth and is slightly bevelled inward. It has band of faux ivory at the shank end that sits against the acrylic stem. The finish of the pipe is smooth with a contrast stain that highlights straight and flame grain on the bowl and the shank. It is visually very pleasing. The grain is mixed flame and straight grain all the way around the sides of the bowl and the shank. On the top and the bottom of the bowl and shank is a beautiful tight birdseye grain pattern that has a slight flare of flame grain at the shank end and curving up the sides. The beveled rim also shows the birdseye grain. The bowl is quite thick but warms nicely when smoked and radiates a nice heat to the hand during a smoke.The bowl is stained with a dark brown or black under stain that makes the grain patterns of the straight, flame and birdseye stand out. There seems to also be rich medium brown stain that is a perfect contrast and adds depth to the finish. In contrast to the bowl and shank Jack cut a vulcanite stem that combined with the ivory band makes an elegant looking finished pipe. The blacks/dark brown stain brings out the grain and makes it stand out against the top coat. Jack did another great job on the stain and finish of the pipe. The short stubby stem took a bit of getting used to. At first it was not very comfortable and I wondered if I would ever get used to it. It did not sit very deep in the mouth. With my teeth on the button the saddle of the stem sits against my lips. I don’t know if you can picture the way the pipe sits from my description but I hope you get the picture. This pipe was made to be held in the hand not in the mouth. The button itself is very thin in width but is elevated enough that it gives a good edge for holding behind the teeth. It is thinner on the edges with a short, quick rise at the centre top and bottom that ends abruptly at the round short saddle. The slot in the end of the button tapers inward in a V shaped funnel to meet the airway. It delivers a mouthpiece that has the same diameter from start to finish. The slot is open and rectangular with the same distance from the outer edge of the button to the inner edge of the slot all the way around. The mechanics of this pipe are also well done. The bowl chamber came to me already smoked and well broken it. The bowl is rounded or U shaped with the walls descending straight to the curved bottom of the bowl. The draught hole is centered at the bottom of the bowl and seems to have a slight slope from the bottom to the top of the hole. There is a very easy and open draw to the pipe. The fit of the stem in the inset shank extension is smooth and tight. The tenon sits deep in the mortise and is the same length as the mortise. The tenon fits smoothly in the mortise and tightly against the end of the shank. The drilling of the draught in the shank is centered in the end of the mortise. The tenon on the stem aligns with the airway in the end of the mortise. The air pulls clearly through the pipe with no whistling at all. Using a light to shine through the airway in the stem and the shank reveals smooth and polished airways. The drilling and alignment are spot on. Well done once again Jack. I have been smoking it since I received it in the fall of 2008. The pipe had been broken in on straight Virginias so I have continued smoking Virginia tobacco in it. It seems to love McClelland Virginias and delivers a rich and flavourful smoke every time. I have smoked both flake and ribbon Virginias in it and it smokes both very well. I have to say that the shape and style of the stem on this one does not make smoking it as much of a pleasure as shape and style of the acorn does. It is not as comfortable and because it tends to be a pipe to smoke when sitting and reading I do not pick it up nearly as often as I do my other Howell. But the grain and the shape in the hand bring me back to it again and again when I want to just sit and relax or think.
Both of my Howell pipes equally deliver a great, flavourful smoke. I would not trade them for another pipe but will continue to enjoy them in my rotation. I think if you have not tried one of Jack’s pipes you owe yourself a gift of one of them. I can only say that if it smokes like my first acorn it will not be the last one you purchase. His website is http://jwh.fastmail.fm/index.html and he responds quite quickly to email requests. Now it is time to load a bowl of some aged 5100 in the Acorn and enjoy a bowl before I call it a night.