Another Pipe by Lee von Erck

Always a pleasure to own a pipe by Lee von Erck; here’s another masterpiece:


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2,000-year-old Morta Pipes by Rattrays

Charles Rattray opened his pipe and tobacco store in Perth, Scotland in 1903.

The company is now owned by Kohlhase & Kopp of Germany.

Rattrays pipes are made in England, France and Italy.

These two pipes pictured above, made from 2,000-year old morta, are real beauties.

Morta was first used as pipe making material during the Second World War. The shortage of briar forced manufactures to try out various woods, and morta – or bog oak – became a popular choice. After the war, briar began to be used again and these other materials fell away, leaving only a small number of artisan carvers to continue to work with morta.

Morta is extremely difficult to harvest and to work with.

Large oak logs are first extracted from bogs throughout Europe. These logs have spent literally thousands of years encapsulated in thick peat and have been slowly fossilizing and petrifying away. The acidity of the peat eats away at parts of the wood, meaning only the very heart of the wood can be used. A large log may only be suitable for a few pipes, making it potentially a very time-consuming process. The different colors in morta are typically an indication of how old the wood is. The darkest, almost pitch black morta is usually around 7,000-8,000 years old. That means this wood had been in the bog for at least 3,000 years before the first pyramid was built in Egypt. The lighter, copper colored morta is usually between 3,000 and 5,000 years old. Just think of the historic events that have happened while this wood was under water turning itself into morta.

Morta pipes smoke more like meerschaum or clay pipes. They smoke dry and the wood does not impart a flavor to the tobacco. Smoking out of a morta pipe is a perfect way to experience a tobacco without the pipe influencing its flavors.

All this means that morta pipes are highly collectible pieces.

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A New Ropp

Ropp Pipes was started way back by Eugène-Léon Ropp (1830 – 1907) to make cherrywood pipes in 1869.

Then probably in 1917 a workshop was acquired by the company in Saint-Claude in the Rue du Plan du Moulin 8 to start the fabrication of briar pipes although cherrywood pipe continued to be the mainstay of the company.

Unfortunately, it closed in 1991 and was taken over by Cuty-Fort Entreprises (maker of Chacom, Jeantet, Vuillard, Jean Lacroix, etc) in 1994.

Below is a briar pipe fitted with horn stem – part of its Vintage line – which I acquired recently:

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World-Class Flint Knapp Artist Kenny Hull

Flint knapping is an ancient art form. I have never heard of it until I visited the Chicagoland International Pipe & Tobacciana show last month. One of the tables was displaying an obsidian knife carved by world-class flint knapp artist Kenny Hull who has been knapping since 1996 using the flake over grind method. I bought it as a memento for my younger son.

I’ve since been in contact with Kenny and his masterpieces are really outstanding which explains why he has made knives for several movies including the 2013 Riddick #3.

Here’s the knife I bought in Chicago:

The second one I purchased has a coyote jaw as a handle:

The next two incorporate deer legbones:

With such fine craftsmanship, it is easy to understand why Kenny’s creations are being collected worldwide.

I’m proud to be a new fan!

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A Meerschaum by Tekin

Tekin Gok is a Turkish meerschaum pipe carver, born in 1974. He learned pipe carving from master carver Sevket Gezer as well as from his uncle, the award-winning artisan carver, Salim Sener.

Meerschaum is a German word for a mineral loosely translated as “sea foam” and those found in Eskisehir, central Turkey, where Tekin lives, is of the highest quality – purest and whitest.

Tekin has been carving pipes for more than 25 years and he specializes in floral themes mostly.

Look at the beautiful bowl within a bowl of this masterpiece:


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A Ferndown

Leslie “Les” John Wood worked for Dunhill for 25 years. His last position was master silver smith, but till December 2011 he still did all of Dunhill’s silver work.

In 1978, he started L & JS Briars to craft his own brand of pipes and marketed them under various names, most famous of all is the name “Ferndown,” named after the mansion he lives in.

Most of his pipes are rusticated.

Grading is by finish: “Bark” (90%, sandblasted dark brown and black), “Antique Bark” (tan sandblasted), “Reo” (brown and red, smooth), “Root” (orange, smooth), and “Tudor Root” (orange and brown smooth) and by size (one to three stars).

The Ferndown Premiers are bowls turned by Les, sandblasted by Michael Parks in Canada and then sent back to the UK for staining, stemming, silver work and finishing.

He also designates smooth pipes with straight grains with the alphabets SG.

Les Wood retired in 2016 and makes only a few pipes a year.

This beauty is a Reo 3 stars:

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Do Zombies Run SingPost?

They are all probably working in SingPost.

Every single contact I have had with SingPost has been a negative one.

We often read in the news of how our postal services were able to deliver letters presumed lost for years, or without addresses, or simply with the recipients’ names.

I was therefore full of hope when I phoned SingPost the other morning for assistance.

A parcel from the US, sent via USPS (whose local partner is SingPost) had a mailing label with my name on it and an incomplete address (unit number was missing). So I contacted SingPost to provide the tracking number and my full address, but was directed to a call center probably located outside Singapore, whose call taker told me in a very strong foreign accent that “It is against our policy to change the delivery address on the mailing label and the parcel will be returned to sender.”

No amount of my pleas for help got me anywhere. Clearly letters miraculously delivered, despite partial addresses, is a thing of the past. This despite my providing full personal details to the call taker and assuring him that I was the intended recipient and the parcel’s delivery is of utmost importance.

SingPost, another organization going to hell in a handbasket.

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I Have a Dream

So the summit’s tomorrow.

And I have a dream.

Well, the Bible says old men will dream dreams and young men will see visions.

Anyway, back to my dream: At the end of tomorrow, Chubby and Orange Man both happy and beaming, standing proud and tall in front of a wall of microphones, will first thank the Singapore government for its help in hosting the summit – a praise that the ruling party will fully exploit as political capital in the mostest maximalist way and bask in it for the next couple of decades.

Then Chubby and Orange Man, still looking ultra-cheerful and still smiling from molar to molar, will announce to the eagerly-anticipating world, that both sides are totally committed to a nuclear-free Korean peninsula, the eventual withdrawal of US forces from the South, economic aid for the North, immediate family visits, the DMZ declared a tourist spot – complete with a museum (with exhibits showing how evil forces in the past have carved up Korean into two, and how the diabolical Nipponese started it all by invading in the first place) – and the ultimate reunification of the North and South in the very near future.

Orange Man invites Chubby to play golf with him at Mar-a-Lago, they then hug each other like long-lost brothers and arm-in-arm walk off in the sunset and into the famous swimming pool at Marina Bay Sands to confront history, with thoughts of the Nobel Peace Prize making them giddy. (Sorry lah, Mahathir, try harder.)

And why not?

After all, if my dream doesn’t turn into a nightmare, Orange Man would have achieved far more for world peace than (my other hero) Obama, who, lest we forget, was given said prize.

That would be proof indeed that orange is the new black.

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The Trump-Kim Summit. Enough Already lah!

So, two of the world’s craziest megalomaniacs are coming to Singapore to talk peace. Why Singapore? It’s neutral – we sleep with everyone – and we are safe because we are a fucking police state, with CCTV cameras aimed even at our toilet bowls, that’s why, and no one will have his face wiped with VX nerve agent in a public place like in an international airport, and we have had one such meeting before: between that Chinese despot Xi Jinping and that frigging pondant Ma Ying-jeou of Taiwan.

Truth be told, even before the summit next Tuesday, I am already suffering from summit fatigue. The asinine media has gone into a frenzy, even asking some local thick-skinned cooks – they call themselves “chefs” – to suggest ideas of what Trump and Kim should eat. Ludicrous. Made me laughed so hilariously my wife almost phoned the mental asylum to take me there in a straitjacket. (It is very rare that a newspaper article makes me guffaw out loud.) Almost threw out my expensive home-delivered, cold-pressed, freshly-squeezed breakfast orange juice when I read that this morning. Unknown local cooks suggesting dining menus for the summit. Give me a fucking break, puleese. Learn to boil eggs well first, lah, tolong.

What to do? The Straits Times, struggling to survive is imploring people to read more of its trash. Print is dead, my friends, and it is no wonder that the once venerable paper now resorts to running wine sales and nonsensical public seminars of questionable value in addition to its main duty of being the government’s mouthpiece.

How can anyone hope to gain any knowledge from these clowns when one of their writers was so quick to launch into a whole barrage of meaningless crap about Trump’s so-called flawed foreign policy when Trump walked away from the summit initially? Come on, it’s Negotiation 101, my friend. It’s what I teach. It’s what Asian business people do. See what happened in the end, after Trump walked away? Chubby the Shortie “got back on his hands and knees and begged” for the United States to revive the Singapore summit after Orange Man abruptly scrapped it last month, said Rudy Giuliani.

And our foreign minister little Vivian is scurrying around like a headless rat – first flying to the US, and next to North Korea. Yes, the same kid who made a mess of the Youth Olympics in 2010 (budget was S$104 million but in the end S$387 was blown) when he was Minister for Community Development, Youth & Sports. What can he add to the summit? I guess impression management – they call it “optics” now – is of paramount importance. I know. I spend a decade with IBM where some of the people right at the top earning millions a year have mastered the fine art of looking real busy while actually doing fuck all.

Roads will be blocked, airspace will be closed. People talk about nothing but the summit and some things I overheard these past few days made my hair stand.

Made me want to get out of Singapore. Made me want to join Anthony Bourdain. He was 61 when he called it quits. I am 61. Maybe it is a sign.

Was in a cigar lounge the other day and a wiseass was saying “Trump leaving the G7 summit to come to Singapore early cos he and Kim going to karaoke here.”

Jesus Christ, the shit in people’s rotting heads.

Another one: “Why our government spending money hosting this stupid meeting? Give the money to us citizens lah.”

I can only shake my head.

Don’t want to add to the cacophony of meaningless voices to those generated by the morons in that lounge, full of sound and fury signifying nothing.

Just don’t expect much.

The day when a bimbo blogger with dyed hair and famous for her mindless antics and shenanigans said that she wants to get into parliament was the day I told myself that for Singapore, the end is nigh.

Cry, my beloved country.

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A Pipe by Michael Parks

Michael Parks is a Canadian pipe maker who doesn’t make a lot of pipes but he does brings extra-high level to each one that is made. Working with solid vulcanite or acrylic rod for stems, he crafts mouthpieces to as high a degree as he does bowls. Using high-grade briar blocks, his pipes end up smooth, elegantly and ruggedly blasted, or delicately rusticated. One may also find horn, bamboo, or other exotic materials to accent the pieces. On Michael’s best pipes, the stems have an ornate inlay consisting of pieces of abalone shell. This one is grade is a Grade IV (US$695/- and up) and has a small piece of ancient woolly mammoth tusk. Michael said he has never had a cross grain works out so perfectly and so far this pipe is the only he has made that looks like this:

I’m focusing on the bowl to highlight the grain.

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