Blog by Steve Laug
Last month Laci, a friend from Hungary, came to our offices for training and work related ventures. We spent quite a bit of time together in training sessions over the course of his stay in Vancouver. Each day I picked him up at the bed and breakfast where he was staying and drop him off again in the evening. We talked, walked and ate together. The first day he was here he was sitting in my office next to my desk and we were planning our week. At this point in the visit I was utterly unaware that he was a pipe smoker. He noticed the pipe on my desk and asked about it. I told him about my love of restoring old pipes and all things pipes and tobacco. We started talking about pipes and tobacco and he shared what he liked to smoke and what pipes he had in his collection. He was by and large an aromatic smoker as he liked the sweet tastes that came with the tobaccos.
That evening we went out to dinner near his bed and breakfast and continued the conversation we had begun at the office. He spoke of the friends he had in Budapest who he met with to enjoy a pipe and the conversations to be had while smoking their pipes. He talked about the pipe he had and what shapes he particularly like. The conversation was no different from a hundred other conversations that I have had with pipe smokers around the world. You can probably fill in the blanks of the conversation and pretty accurately because I am sure you have had the same conversations yourself. Eventually the conversation came around to the types of pipe he dreamed of one day owning. He spoke of liking apple-shaped pipes whether bent of straight. He spoke of his dream of one day acquiring a Lord of the Rings style churchwarden pipe and smoking some LOTR tobacco. He said it like this “…the ultimate dream of mine is something like what Gandalf had…” At the moment he had no plan or date in mind for acquiring the pipe but he knew he wanted to get one.
We parted company that evening and I went home and looked in my pipe cabinet. I had several churchwarden pipes in my collection and most of them I smoke regularly. But there was one that I rarely picked up. There was nothing wrong with it but I don’t often pick up a CW to smoke and the one I made with the pipe I had purchased the day my eldest daughter was born always seems to get the attention. I took it out of the cupboard and turned it over in my hands. I waxed it again with a new coat of carnauba wax and buffed it with a soft flannel buff. It is stamped either VI-RA or VERA but it is hard to be certain of the spelling. I have hunted down both names online and in my reference books and have not found any information on the brand. The stem is vulcanite and the bowl is a sturdy briar with a rusticated finish. The base of the bowl was flattened so that the pipe can be set down on the desk or table and it remains upright. The stain is a medium brown with some black undertones. It was clean and had only been smoked once or twice since I bought it.
The pipe was my first churchwarden. I had been looking for one for quite a while and I purchased the pipe at an antique mall in Langley, British Columbia many years ago for a pretty decent price. The stem was badly oxidized and the bowl was dirty and worn. The finish was gone and the stain was spotty. I cleaned and restained the bowl with the brown stain. I polished and waxed the stem. The shank had a small crack in it on the right side so I pressure fit it with a nickel band. The band really sets off the pipe nicely and gives it a touch of class. Several days later Laci came to our home for dinner with the family and I presented him with his wished for churchwarden. I wish I had taken a picture of the look on his face when he took it in his hands and turned it over to take in all he could. He was excited with his new pipe. I included some tobacco with the pipe to further meet his wish – a Tolkien LOTR blend from Burlington on Whyte Tobacconist of Edmonton, Alberta called Longbottom Leaf. It is a gentle aromatic with a delightful smell in the bag and a great room note for those who are in the room when it is smoked.
The next morning he brought his pipe to work and we were able to take a walk along the Fraser River and smoke our pipes. He packed a bowl of the Longbottom Leaf in the CW and entered the world and realm of LOTR. We walked for about a half hour and then settled on a park bench overlooking the river to enjoy the rest of our bowls. We walked back to the office when we had finished quite satisfied with the day. I could tell that once he went home this new pipe would occupy a central place in his pipe collection. I gave him several other tobacco samples to take home with him including one made by Robert Boughton who writes on the blog. These will be shared with his Hungarian pipe smoking cadre the next time they gather.
Laci, if you happen to read this post let us know how the pipe is smoking for you. Give us a glimpse of the folks you smoke the pipe with and be sure to give them our greetings.