This year’s shape, the author, proved undeniably impressive
by Chuck Stanion
The Greater Kansas City Pipe Club honored me again this year by offering the privilege of helping judge entries in the North American Pipe Carving Contest, along with Gregory Pease of G.L. Pease tobaccos and George Dibos of Precision Smoking Pipe Rejuvenation & Repair in Kansas City, Missouri. It’s intimidating to work with those guys. They are brilliant, leaving my modest IQ sitting laughably in the dust. I can speak with assurance on maybe three or four subjects (and one of those is peanut butter sandwiches); Dibos and Pease are modern Renaissance men who seem to have mastered just about everything, and it is a rarefied population of people who know as much about pipes and their construction as they.
There’s a saying that is usually attributed to Abraham Lincoln or Mark Twain: Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt. That’s what I mainly did, preferring to listen and soak up as much knowledge as possible, though I did join the discussion when we were assessing particular pipes that I thought were exemplary.
There were a lot of those. I’ve not been a particular fan of the author shape in the past. I’ve seen many, but they never appealed to me at a level that would motivate me to buy one. This contest changed my mind. I still believe billiards represent the most difficult shape to get right, but the author is now a close second. I think a reason authors escaped my attention is that I rarely saw one done really well, but that has now changed. Executed properly, the author is an absolutely stunning shape. Many in the contest were so good that they evoked an emotional response, emphasizing to me that the art of pipe- making is just that: art.
The pipes weren’t the only art form highlighted by this contest. The case constructed to house the winning seven-day set was also awe-inspiring. It was made by professional opera tenor soloist and woodworker Scott Tinker, who provided details that surpass my understanding of woodworking. It is made of quadruple book-matched, crotched American black walnut veneer with continuous grain wrap, constructed with traditional mortise and tenon joinery. The drawer front is of architectural-grade Amboyna burl, and the knob is hand-turned solid nickel with a brushed, matte finish. The interior of the drawer, including the drawer bottom, is solid American black walnut. Each pipe compartment is finished with natural and dyed green mosses.
That case would make any set of pipes look fantastic, but when filled with the seven winning pipes from this contest, the overall effect is beyond description.
We chose seven pipes, but we had to focus on minutiae to do so. Dibos and Pease have kindly provided their views on the process below.
Our heartiest congratulations to this year’s seven winning entrants: Jesse Jones, Clark Layton, Steve Norse, Scottie Piersel, Pete Prevost, Mark Price and Jason Thompson.
Read the rest of the story, including images of all the contest pipes, by subscribing to Pipes and tobaccos magazine or the online digital edition.