Quite a few years ago I received a pair of Barlings Canadian bowls from the late Mike Leverette. We had exchanged quite a few pipes and tobaccos over the years and one day I received an email from him saying that he had sent me a pair of Canadians that needed stems but were otherwise in great shape. They were clean and ready except for a lack of stems. When they arrived they were beautiful the top on had a stunning sandblast – deep and rugged. The other had a good sandblast but not nearly as rugged. The two were oval shank pipes but one was slightly smaller and shorter than the other. The stamping on them was also different. The top pipe (below) is stamped in a line across the underside of the shank, Barling in script over London England, EXEL 5574 T.V.F. The bottom pipe is stamped slightly different. It begins with Barling in script over London England. That is followed by EXEL over 5579 and then it is followed by T.V.F.
I cleaned them and gave them a polish and sent them to Dave Wolf at Walker Briar Works for restemming. I wanted replacement stems that had the Barling cross stamp on them and new that Dave had the stamps to do that. Once I sent them to him the wait was not very long and they came back polished and stemmed. The photo below shows the pipes as they looked when they arrived and I took them out of the package.
I took them out of the pipe cupboard the other evening to polish them and remind myself of the story behind them. For me, part of the joy of being a pipe man is to remember/know the stories attached to my pipes. Some of them the stories begin with me as I can find no information on them. Others come to me with a long history that makes them very interesting. This pair comes with that history. Mike bought them in a lot on EBay and figured I would enjoy them. He took the time to ream and clean them before he sent them my way. My story with the pipes is at least 12 years old if not more. Add to that Mike’s history with them and I can trace their story back 15 or more years. I enjoy that kind of thing. The only thing that would make it even better is to be able to know a bit more of the back story. Ah well, as I smoke them I raise a bowl in memory of Mike. I took the next three photos this evening to show the pair as they look now. Both have a few more years and smokes on them but they remain in great shape and have many more years left in them.
I also decided to take a few pictures of each of the pipes separately to give you a better picture of their individual characteristics. The next series of four photos show the 5579, the bottom pipe in the photos above. It has a lighter blast and the stain took to the briar in a different way than it did on the deeper blasted 5574. Interestingly it is the same colour stain on both pipes – the variation is caused by the briar.
There is gracefulness to this Canadian shape. Barling makes the shape like no one else does and I think it epitomizes the English version of the shape. The blast is well done showing both the ring grain and the vertical lines on both the shank and the bowl. The taper from bowl to button on the stems is very graceful as well. Dave was able to capture the look of the original stem very well.
The blast carries on to the rim as well and ends as the inner edge of the rim bevels inward toward the bowl. The bevel is smooth as is the strip on the bottom of the shank where the stamping is located. There is also a smooth band at the stem shank union.
The stamping is clear but faint on the Barling portion. The T.V.F. stamp is tight against the end of the shank.
The second pipe, the 5574 is a different pipe. The look of the shape is not nearly as refined as the first pipe. The craggy blast and the shape of the bowl make the look more rugged and not nearly as elegant looking. The tactile nature of the blast though is amazing as bowl heats up during a smoke. The stain is also variegated on the pipe. It gives the pipe a mottled look that is even clearer in person. I like the look of the mottled appearance as combined with the texture it makes a very interesting pipe to look at and observe while I am smoking it. There are times when I am holding this pipe that I find myself drawn to just sit and examine it, turning it from side to side to look at the texture and finish.
The craggy texture of the blast is carried through on both sides of the bowl while the shank is much more reserved and smoother. I am not sure whether it came this way originally or is that way from wear. I tend to think it was originally not as blasted as the bowl as the stamping in quite sharp on the bottom of the shank. I have found that a blast does not take as well on hard portions of the briar.
The blast carries through to the top of the bowl and to the inner bevel on the rim. The bevel is smooth like the previous pipe as is the bottom of the shank and a small band at the stem shank union. I find that the taper on the shank to the stem is more dramatic than the previous pipe. If the blast was not unharmed I would attribute that to the restemming. It appears to have been like this when it left the Barling factory unless somewhere in its history it was previously restemmed and then repaired to look original.
The stamping on this is very sharp from mid shank back toward the stem. The Barling script and London England stamping is not as sharp, though still very readable.
I am pleased to have these two old pipes in my collection. Perhaps one of you who read this article can explain the difference in the shape numbers – 5574 and 5579 as I am unable to find any information online. It would be great to add that to the story. I will maintain the trust with them until the day comes that they pass into the hands of the next pipeman. They will then pass from my companioning to another’s and my story will be added to that of Mike’s. That is the thing I love about this hobby – the adding to the story of a pipe that occurs with each successive pipeman’s receipt of the trust. Until that day I will continue to fire them up and enjoy the great smoke that they deliver.