Losing anonymity : Pipes and Tobaccos Magazine

Losing anonymity

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Mogens “Johs” Johansen is at last gaining a well-deserved reputation

by Stephen A. Ross

You might not have heard about Mogens “Johs” Johansen, but if you’ve got a Bjarne pipe, you might have a pipe made by him. For 15 years Johansen, along with a few other Danish pipemakers, anonymously made pipes for Bjarne Nielsen, the much- beloved Dane who traveled tirelessly around the world marketing and selling his pipes directly to retailers before his death in 2008.

Johansen had just completed a box of 250 pipes for Nielsen and was readying them for shipment when his phone rang. Nielsen’s wife, Yvonne, told Johansen about her husband’s death the night before. She told Johansen to send those pipes to her and that she would pay for them. It was a generous offer, but Johansen worried about where he might be able to sell future pipes. Knowing that Nielsen enjoyed a close relationship with Smokingpipes.com’s owner Sykes Wilford, Johansen sent Wilford an email introducing himself and describing the work he had done for Nielsen. It wasn’t long before Johansen received a reply.

“Sykes told me to continue to make pipes because he needed them,” Johansen recalls. johs4“He told me he needed a lot of pipes. I was saved.”

Almost seven years later, people are recognizing Johansen and his eponymous Johs line of pipes in their own right. Johan- sen works quickly, churning out pipes by the dozen—both freehands and classics— that combine Danish artistry and excel- lent engineering. Because of his economi- cal production methods, Johansen is able to price his pipes affordably, with most of them retailing for right around $100.

“I make value-priced pipes,” Johansen says. “The most expensive pipe I have ever made, I got $800 from the shop. As Bjarne told me, people are always going to need a pipe, and the pipes priced at $100 or so are always selling, so that’s what I concentrate on making.”

The 62-year-old Johansen makes pipes in the approximately 100-square- foot workshop he built inside his home in Frederikshavn, Denmark. The town of approximately 25,000 people is on the northeast coast of Denmark’s Jutland Peninsula, and fishing and shipping are two of the town’s biggest moneymakers.

Indeed, the shipyard is not too far from Johansen’s home, which he built himself, revealing a do-it-yourself attitude (with the skill to match) that he developed during his earliest years, while taking on a variety of jobs that turned out to be the perfect training for a future pipemaker.

Born in January 1johs3953, Johansen trained in school to be a plumber, but upon grad- uation he took a job working in one of the area’s biggest shipyards. He also has worked as a stonemason, making tombstones, and he worked at a kindergarten. One of his most interesting jobs was also his most dangerous—working on an offshore oil rig off the coast of Norway.

“I guess you could say that I’ve been around a little bit,” he jokes while sipping coffee at his kitchen table. “I was two weeks on the oil rig and then two weeks at home. That job takes a lot of courage. If you’re always afraid that something bad could happen, then it isn’t the job for you. It wasn’t the job for me.”

Johansen wanted to find something better suited to his temperament. Shopping for a johs2gift for his then-father-in-law, Johansen and his then-wife went to a local pipe shop to buy him a new pipe for Father’s Day.

Johansen saw that the retailer had pipemaking kits for sale and he bought two of them. Returning home, Johansen put those kits in his workshop and forgot about them. Months later, he stumbled on them and started working on them, just to see what he could make.

“A few hours later my wife came to the workshop and asked if I was coming to bed,” he says. “I had lost track of time, and it was late. Working with wood was a revelation for me. The next day when I was home from work I went back to the workshop. When the first pipe was finished, I had a good friend who asked to buy it. And then I bought two more new blocks, and from there pipemaking took off.”

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Category: Feature Article, Pipe Articles, Summer 2015

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