Rusticated Bent Billiard
Review by Chris Keene
Recently, (an ASP member) posted about purchasing a Jack Howell pipe (the one I would have picked, if I had gathered my wits sooner, BTW). This got me looking at Jack's site. Why I didn't look at his work in Chicago, I don't know. Sensory overload, no doubt. I had also heard promising things about Jack's work from Mr. G. L. Pease, representative of G.L. Pease, Int.
I don't often review pipes, as most that I purchase are from more established makers, and there really isn't much I can say that hasn't been said many times before. And much more that I am not capable of articulating. So, here I have a chance to say things that may only have been said a few times, if at all. Anyhow, I went and ordered
I am partial to a few shapes, any sort of well executed "chubby" among them.
Aside from the lines, which I was pretty certain were sound, I could not tell much from the pics. When can one, really? I've run a few bowls of Stratford (one of few blends that has found its way into my warm weather rotation), and I feel comfortable sharing my initial thoughts with you.
This may well be the finest hand made pipe I have ever purchased at this price point. The stem is hand-cut, and the fit is flawless. The join to the shank is extraordinary. If I close my eyes, I can hardly find it with a fingernail. Jack indicated that he may be moving towards smaller buttons, and even offered to trim this one before shipping it. I opted to go with his initial approach, and it is just fine for me. This is a large (for me) pipe, and one that gets held as often as clenched. Though it is by no means uncomfortable to hold in my teeth. The bit is nicely crafted, with a trumpet style opening.
I'm not a calipers and pen light sort of a guy, so I can't tell you about the details of engineering. I can say that it passes a cleaner every time, with no bending or twisting or other contortions. That's always nice, and I think it shows attention to the work.
The rustication and staining work wonderfully well with the cumberland stem. The finish looks a bit like red bricks that have done duty in a fireplace. Very appealing.
Aesthetically, overall, this pipe could (IMHO) easily pass as the work of a carver with many years of experience. It "works" in a way that is often elusive for those new to the market.
The few smokes that I've run through it have been very promising. More than promising really-- pretty darned good for a new pipe. Dry, excellent draw, easy to keep lit (no mean feat for me), and just plain
Just my thoughts, for what they are worth. I like it when I get a good buy, and I think that's what I got. Gosh darnit.
Pipepages is a candy! Pipepages is a gum!