Butt Ugly Pipe
I went to visit my friend and partner in crime, Benner, yesterday. The reason for this visit was to deliver a pipe for repair and to collect some some new pieces for my sales site. It’s always a pleasure to visit friends and yesterday was no exception. We chatted, got our business done and smoked a pipe together over a beer. An afternoon well spent. I selected some lovely pipes too. Keep an eye on the sales site.
As I was about to leave Benner asked me to wait for a second, he had something for me. Off he went to wherever it is he hides the good stuff and came back with a pipe sock in his hand.
“This is the ugliest pipe Karl Erik Ottendahl ever made.” He said. “It lacks style, form, grain and shape. It’s so ugly that I won’t sell it and at the same time, I don’t want to keep it. You might think it’s a great pipe. I don’t. It’s yours if you want it. Smoke it. Don’t sell it.”
Benner and Karl Erik were great friends and colleagues. This meant something to him. Benner knows I like large pipes. I think he believed he’d found a good home for it, and hence, “Smoke it, don’t sell it.”
Well, I said, Thanks Benner. I’ll take it and give it a try.
I smoked it today. He’s absolutely right about the pipe. Looking at it, it isn’t pretty. It’s a clump of a pipe. Big bowl, off centre and the shank is out of line. Not only that, the shank is not even. It has a bulge on one side close to the bowl and is curved inward by degrees on the other side. The mouthpiece is also out of whack, both horizontally and vertically. The shank does not meet the bowl evenly on both sides. The bowl is not round. Even the conical relief on the stem is uneven and out of line with centre. Aesthetically speaking, this one is a disaster. The grain is hopeless too. There is very little. In fact, it has a rather large and unsightly blob of a knot on the right hand bottom of the bowl which counterbalances what might be straight grain on the left.
There is a little redeeming birds eye on the rim, but that’s it.
It is heavy, out of balance and surprisingly comfortable to hold.
As I left Benner he said something else. “You never know” he said, “it may turn out to be the best smoker you have.”
You know what? He may be right. The airway is perfect even though this pipe is bored for a filter. I threw the filter away. I can’t stand ‘em. The internal engineering is absolutely on the money. The pipe smokes perfectly and easily. No tugging on this one. Smoke simply flows through it. Delightful.
This pipe has finally come home. I’ll never part with it.
Which brought me to this revelation in my pipesmoking; a good pipe is no more than the airway it surrounds. Shove the aesthetics aside for a moment. If the airway is good, if the engineering is as it should be, everything else is just for the eye. Had I been blind, I would have smoked this pipe without ever finding fault. The casing around the airway is secondary to the function of smoking the pipe.
The best smoker I have? I don’t know. But it’s going to be one of the best. Of that, I’m sure.
Markings are a little unusual for a Karl Erik. He stamped it with his surname. “Ottendahl”.
“Handmade in Denmark” with a model number(?), “3”. The stem bears the “O” logo and not the more known and recognisable “KE”.
The pipe is a crooked 150 mm long, the bowl is 60 mm high. The chamber is Ø21 mm and is 43 mm deep. The airway is 4 mm in the shank.
It may be an ugly duckling, but I already love this pipe. It has a great future ahead of it.