Blasted Oval Shank

Review by Mark Tinsky

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Just after New Year's Day, Jack Howell stopped in for a bi-annual visit. While Jack lives in PA, his mom lives in MT and he comes to visit her and when he has time drops by Helena for a visit.

He has just started blasting his pipes and recently had one on his site that I asked him to bring so I could check it out. It was sold before he could come so he brought another. We met at a nearby restaurant and the first thing he did was show me the pipe. I was immediately impressed; it had a very sharp distinct blast in a reddish
brown with a slightly darker top, though not quite fume´.

A bent billiard 2 1/8" tall, 1.7" dia at the widest with a 3/4" ID tobacco chamber, 5 1/2 " long. The pipe has an oval shank blasted up to the last 3/8 " and is stamped Howell 2004. The bit is handcut from black vulcanite, a short oval saddle.

It is certainly an excellent straight grain, reflected in the symmetrical blast and the uncoated finely sanded bowl. Drilling was perfect, tenon has a cone shaped end and the bite, while a triffle thicker than I'm normally used to, balances the 2.1 oz weight of the pipe well and for a good size pipe it hangs very comfortably.

Little things are apparent in the care and workmanship that went into the construction of the pipe. The slot of the bit is totally uniform and gradually funneled and perfectly polished into the airway. If one didn t know it was handcut it would be impossible to tell from a molded acrylic bit it is so precisely made. The end of the shank where the bit meets is sanded smooth and there is no gap.

First smokes mean little. I ve had some pipes that have not smoked well the first 10 bowls or so that have turned into great tasting pipes. I'm happy to report this one smoked wonderfully from the first. No woody taste and a very consistent dry cool smoke to the bottom of the bowl. I have put 3 more bowls through with similar results. The full "taste" of the pipe hasn t come in yet which will require more bowls but I m pretty sure this will become one of my favorite "go to" pipes in the future. Break in is done and I will smoke in my weekly
rotation. I can say with certaintly this pipe stacks as well if not better than other high grades I own.

Jack s does not make pipes that will rival Rolando for innovative design. However he makes excellent classical shapes, generally with a little thicker wall than most. I believe this is unique to him. I think he will do really well as more conservative pipe smokers recognize and appreciate his designs, workmanship and excellent smoking characteristics of his pipes!

Sitting around the wood stove in my shop we talked of blasting, equipment and possible innovations in pipe making. Jack also makes bamboo fly rods and has a significant interest in fly fishing. I hope he can come back this summer and have enough time to do a little fishing as well. Jack stayed as long as he could but sadly our visit was cut a little prematurely, IMO, by his allergies to my ever present cats and he went off into the night sneezing and snuffling. <G>

I would highly reccomend his pipes and would hope those who are interested in artisan made pipes to give his a try. I guarantee you will not be in any way disappointed.