Living his pipe dream : Pipes and Tobaccos Magazine

Living his pipe dream

German pipemaker Peter Klein makes pipes in his idyllic workshop by the Ringkobing Fjord

by Stephen A. Rossklein4

Pope Gregory I wrote that envy is a sin, but he never met Peter Klein. Imagine living in a beautiful house with an impressive view of the idyllic and verdant Danish countryside from the backdoor and a stunning vista of the Ringkøbing Fjord from the front of the house. Picture having the freedom of working for yourself and not being hampered by interference from incompetent co-workers or having your livelihood threatened by the frivolous whims and bad decisions of out-of-touch managers and supervisors. Envisage waking up each morning with a sense of purpose and a feeling of excitement to get out to your thatch-covered workshop behind the house and having the freedom to make a living by pursuing your hobby. And in those rare days when you want to take a vacation from your dream job, visualize hopping onto your motorcycle and touring the European countryside with your wife. Klein has all of that, and more. If envy truly is a sin, then Klein and his lifestyle are condemning a lot of people to eternity in hellfire and damnation.
klein-bCan it be any wonder then why Klein is such a gregarious, fun-loving and generous mountain of a guy? He’s quick to joke and laughs when he sees that his audience has gotten the joke. His infectious laugh erupts from the pit of his belly into generous guffaws. His demeanor bears a slight resemblance to the British actor Brian Blessed’s portrayal of Prince Vultan in the 1980 science fiction movie Flash Gordon. Like the character, Klein is a hearty man who seems to enjoy every minute of his life.
“I am a happy man,” he says, in what might so far be the understatement of the young millennium. “I might be a little grumpy in the morning until I have had my coffee and smoked a pipe, while I sit in my office and think about what I need to do that day. The grumpiness only lasts a few minutes, and then I’m ready to start my day.”
The office to which Klein refers is nothing more than a corner of the workshop where he has placed an office chair and cleared off a section of the workbench for his coffee mug and ashtray. On the walls above this little “office,” Klein has taped photos of pipes or of famous pipe smokers to inspire him as he takes small breaks throughout the workday, which begins at 9 or 10 a.m. and ends at 7 p.m. He typically listens to rock music while he’s working, starting off with some lighter music by Eric Clapton and Joe Bonamassa before moving onto some harder rock by favorites such as AC/DC, Molly Hatchett and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
“My pipemaking has changed a little bit since I retired and moved to Denmark,” Klein says. “I now have klein-amore time to make a pipe. I had to work full time when I lived in Germany. I would finish that job at 5 p.m., and then I’d work for two hours each night on a pipe. I’m so much happier now because I have the time to make each pipe as good as I can make it.”
Klein was born in Essen, Germany, in 1958. Educated as a carpenter, Klein accepted a job as a technician at a high school in the picturesque town of Hilchenbach, approximately 60 miles east of Cologne. Armed with his carpentry education and possessing a curiosity that caused him to constantly accept challenging tasks, Klein kept the school running, carrying out repairs and maintenance for more than 20 years.
The workday demands proved to be insufficient in satisfying Klein’s natural desire to tinker. A pipe smoker, Klein bought pipes from Stanwell, Design Berlin, Bari and others while he lusted after pipes that he couldn’t afford made by the European artisan pipemakers. His creative mind began working on how he might be able to make pipes himself, creating his own versions of the expensive high grades that he so coveted.
klein2In 1988, Klein purchased a pipemaking kit from Dan Pipe and set to work crafting it using little more than hand files. He enjoyed the experience and was reasonably satisfied with the result, so he purchased another kit and made another pipe. This pipe caught the attention of one of Klein’s friends who asked to purchase a pipe.
With the potential for some customers, Klein turned his hobby into a side business, calling it Pfeifendesign Klein, and he made enough pipes to set up a stall at Hilchenbach’s Christmas market to sell.
“It wasn’t long before I knew that I could make pipes that people wanted to buy, so then I approached Peter Heinrichs,” Klein says. “That meeting did not go as well as I had hoped.”

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Category: Feature Article, Pipe Articles, Spring 2015

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