Hospitable Heukelum 2014

October 12th it was time for the annual “mother” of all the Dutch/Belgian Pipe Smokers forum meetings. The one in a town in the Dutch province of Gelderland called Heukelum, inside brewery “‘t Kuipertje” and organized by Martin: the Heukelum meeting! For weeks the forum was buzzing with anticipation and whole check-lists of what to take with you were made so nobody would forget anything. Meanwhile Martin was busy collecting the entrance money: €26.50 (± $33). A bargain if you ask me because for that sum you not only gain access, you also get two drinks, there is a big BBQ with all kinds of tasty fresh meat, sauces, salads and baguettes and last but not least you get one bottle of special forum-beer with a label designed by myself! Whoehoe!

Johnny

Johnny

Unfortunately for some the entrance money still was too much. Recently forum-moderator and respected member Johnny went through some tough times (private stuff) which left a hole in his finances. My good friend Ed, Mark and I said that he could drive together with us to Heukelum but Johnny was not sure if he was able to manage it money-wise. We were all bummed out because after a tough time there is nothing better for a pipe-smoker than a cosy, relaxing pipe-smoking meeting. Suddenly we got a mail from a happy Johhny, he was going! Apparently he got a message from Martin which said that all his expenses already were paid for. And that is the true heart-warming spirit of the forum.

Shrewd judge Jos

Shrewd judge Jos

So on the day itself Ed first picked me up, then we went to the Deventer train station to get Mark and somewhere along the way Johnny joined us. When we arrived in Heukelum we clearly were not the first. Lines of cars we neatly parked beside each other under which the gracious Volvo Amazon owned by Jos. He was one of the first I looked up because I had something for him and he had something for me. In my “Zestful Zutphen 2014” blogpost I wrote that Jos had bought a “smoking area” sign for me on a Amsterdam market. He had brought it with him and as a “thank you” I had not one but two presents for Jos. For a living he does something with laws so every time I smoke Orlik Golden Sliced and see the “shrewd judge” illustration on the tin I have to think of him. Jos often comes across like a person with some loose screws but beware, he is very, very “shrewd”. So I gave him a tin of Orlik Golden Sliced and a wrapped package. Jos had to laugh hard when he saw the contents of the package: a judge wig. He immediately put it on his head and looked amazingly shrewd to my delight. This week I mounted the sign on the door of my tobacco closet in my working-room.

Paul

Paul

Paul also had something for me. As some of you perhaps know he does whisky nosing & tastings under the name of Whisky Info Plus. On the latest Inter Tabac in Dortmund he had met a company who could print tables. “Hmm, precisely what I need for my nosing & tasting” Paul thought. “A nice bistro table with a picture of whisky-barrels and my logo”. Only, he once made his logo in Word and it was not suited for printing. So he asked me if I could re-make the logo as a proper illustration file. Of course I could, but for a price. “Some tobacco or whisky?” Paul asked. Since I was making it for a nosing & tasting of whisky I choose that. Paul gave me a round box with on it “Ardmore Traditional“. He explained a bit about it and it really sounded yummie in my ears. And it also tastes yummie, actually, I am having a glass of it right now while I am typing this. Thanks Paul!

Martin

Martin

I also had to see Martin, but not for anything smoking related. A week before the meeting I got a mail from him asking if I wanted buy a Dragon-clock from him. At first I said no, it had no room for it but then I looked to my pipe-cabinet. Hmm.. That clock would look nice on top of it.. So I asked Martin what he wanted for it. According to him it was pretty expensive new but perhaps some tobacco would suffice? As it happened I just had laid my hands on a bag of Esoterica Stonehaven, perhaps that was ok as a payment? Eagerly (I know he loves the stuff) Martin said yes so now the clock graces my pipe-cabinet.

Robert-Jan checking out the wares

Robert-Jan checking out the wares

A while ago forum member Robert-Jan visited me but he forgot to take with him a tin of Hajenius My Own Blend. I kept it for him until I had the chance to give it back. I also smoked some of it (I was allowed to) but mwah.. I did not like it, I was a bit under the impression that cheap tobaccos were used. So I was glad I could give back the tin at the meeting. Oh!! I silently cursed.. Robert-Jan had asked if I could bring a sample of Esoterica Penzance with me for him. And I had totally forgotten about it.. Of course I made up for it later.

Dre unveiling the new forum year-pipe

Dre unveiling the new forum year-pipe

Some time later we were all asked to gather around. The time had come for the unveiling of the 2015 PRF forum year-pipe! Normally Shaun arranges the whole project but sadly he had been very ill this year (luckily he feels a lot better now).. Despite his sickness he managed to reach out for help and Dre answered his call. Dre (Andre) has very good connections with the Gubbels family from the Big Ben pipe factory and regularly visits the place. So he asked if they could mean anything for the PRF pipe project. Unfortunately Big Ben only fire up their machines for a minimum of 500 pipes and the forum can never reach that number. BUT they had an alternative solution. Throughout the years Gubbels kept Barbados shape pipe-bowls behind with an exceptional grain and we could have those! Plus they added a metal ring on top of the bowl which makes the pipe look even better. When Shaun and Dre told this and showed the pipe they got a very well deserved applause.

On the left me and Franz

On the left me and Franz

After some chatting with a lot of forum members it was time to eat! As I told last year the meat provided is of excellent quality and comes from a nearby biological butcher. Just as I expected the beef was gone first, I also have to thank myself for that.. After dinner I sat down beside Franz. I am a bit of a Dunhill collector (if I can get them cheap) but he collects all kinds of English non-Dunhill pipes like Sasieni and Charatan. He has a stunning Sasieni prince and.. Wait, just a moment.. Sorry, every time I think of that pipe I have to wipe off my drool. I can’t stop admiring that one. Franz also had brought with him some Germain Rich Dark Flake which I never had smoked and was very curious about. Luckily I was allowed to take a sample with me so now I can finally compare it to its famous brother: Esoterica Stonehaven.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGradually darkness fell all around us, the lights went on and I just had to think of the atmosphere Dutch painter and graphical artist Anton Pieck summons in his creations. Slowly one by one people were going home until just a few were left. I bought some more bottles of the tasty forum-beer (which was a bock-beer this year!) and we all helped owner Henk a bit with putting back some tables and chairs. Then we said goodbye to each other and thanked Martin and Henk for the wonderful day. Johnny was a bit quiet. Apparently upon entering the brewery he had received a stash of consumption-coins from Martin so he had free drinks all day long. But he also had gotten a small bag, a gift from our forum-Sint, Rob. I opened it and literally my jaw dropped, eyes went a bit wet and I immediately understood why Johhny was so quiet. The contents were a Winslow and two Dunhills under which a gorgeous gold-band shell briar. And that is also the true heart-warming spirit of the forum and I am proud to be a member of it.

Heukelum 2014 group

Heukelum 2014 group

Henk and Martin, thank you for the organization of the meeting! Ed, Johnny and Mark, thank you for the pleasant rides! The rest of the members, thank you for a great day! All pictures were made by Klaas, Janneman and myself.

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The Demon Skull Pipe

Skull-pipe by Sadik Yanik

Skull-pipe by Sadik Yanik

When I saw the first images of meerschaum pipes in my early pipe-smoking days I was mesmerized by all the shapes and sizes they came in. Models I particularly liked were the skull-pipes made by, for example, Sadik Yanik. But… High quality meerschaum pipes are pretty expensive and I don’t know yet what I think of the material. To be honest I never smoked a true meerschaum pipe but one day I will, when I have the funds to buy a stunning piece.

The Lamberthod machine

The Lamberthod machine

So I looked if I could find a decent figurine pipe made from briar. Quickly I stumbled upon some old specimens made by Dunhill and Peterson. Well, actually made for Dunhill and Peterson. French carver Jean Sommer produced some for Dunhill and his fellow countryman Louis Lamberthod made several for Peterson. By the way, he did this with the help of a sculpting machine for pipe heads which took him about 3 years from conception to realization. A couple of years ago I saw a similar machine in the Big Ben factory which made (amongst others) the Porsche pipes. Anyway, those old figurine pipes were waaay out of my price-league and further searching on e-bay only revealed low quality carving offerings.

Carro and his skull-pipe

Carro and his skull-pipe

Then I saw on the Dutch/Belgian pipe-smokers forum that fellow member Carro had bought something new: a skull pipe made from briar! Made by one German based fellow called Oguz Simsek. I looked at the pictures he posted and saw that the carving was of superior quality. So I googled mr. Simsek and found out he has a Facebook page and sells his pipes on e-bay. Strangely enough I totally missed him when I first searched for figurine pipes. Unfortunately at that time I did not see any pipes I really liked but I always kept an eye out for updates.

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My demon skull pipe

And some time ago I was rewarded for regularly checking the Facebook page because there was a new pipe for sale. One with the bowl shaped as the head of a demon skull and with a pretty long churwarden-style stem. Immediately I fell in love with it and bought the pipe. I really must mention the price, I can’t believe mr. Simsek can make pipes for this amount of money because including shipping costs I only paid just under €100 (± $134). In no time I had the pipe at home where I could marvel at the superb carving details. Incredible that one can do that with such a hard wood as briar. The inside of the bowl was neatly covered with some kind of smoking-paste, ready for some action. So what would I smoke in it.. Aromatics, Virginias/VaPers or latakia-blends? After some thinking I came to the conclusion that latakia would fit nicely. I mean, if you see the pipe would you expect to smell fruits or other sickly sweet stuff coming from it? I loaded the pipe with some Squadron Leader and as I expected it smoked just fine.

I asked mr. Simsek if he was willing to answer some questions and luckily he was. But just as with other handcraft-men I interviewed the answers unfortunately are pretty short. Oh well, I rather have him carving another beautiful pipe.

Owww! Heeee-heeee!

1. How and where did you learn to carve and shape wood?
I simply learned it by doing.

2. When did you begin with the carving of pipes and why?
For years I had a collection of antique meerschaum-pipes and from there my interest grew up to the point that I started to carve my own pipes.

3. Why did you not begin with the carving of meerschaum pipes but with the carving of wooden pipes?
Turkey has forbidden the export of meerschaum (in the 1970’s, trying to set up a local meerschaum industry). Because of that I can’t get it in Germany.

Ludwig Hartmann pipe

Ludwig Hartmann pipe

4. I read that you have Turkish origins, were the Turkish meerschaum masters an inspiration for you?
I am particularly impressed by the creative works from old (non-Turkish) meerschaum masters like Ludwig Hartmann, Franz Hiess, F.R. Rosenstiel and others from the late 19th century. Please look at my Antique Meerschaum Pipes Museum on Facebook.

5. What kind of woods do you use for your pipes?
I work with olive-wood and of course briar.

6. What materials do you use for your stems?
I make acrylic stems, the material is very good to work with, easy to clean thus being very hygienic.

7. Can you tell something about the equipment you use for the making of the pipes?
I use state of the art equipment and a lot of handwork.

8. How do you decide what figurine pipe to make next? What are your inspirations for them?
My head (fantasyworld) is overflowing with new ideas and I try to realize as much as possible.

Skulls, skulls, skulls

Skulls, skulls, skulls

9. Which figurine pipes do you like to make the most and why?
That would be the skull pipes. Why? “Bedenke, dass du sterben musst/sterblich bist!”. (Remember that you will die / you are mortal!”) Which is precisely the reason for the smoke-skulls coming out of my pipe in the banner of this blog. It relates back to the Latin phrase “Memento Mori“, the consideration of the vanity of earthly life and the transient nature of all earthly goods and pursuits.

10. Which figurine pipes do you least like to make and why?
Those are pipes with long wavy hair or beards where the process is tedious and time consuming.

11. Can you make custom figurine pipes, for example from pictures of a pet that a customer gives you?
Custom-made to customer requirements is very tricky, because with pipe-wood you can have rubbish or a straight grain. This makes calculating a price very difficult.

Oguz Simsek smoking his "Nude Victory" pipe

Oguz Simsek smoking his “Nude Victory” pipe

12. On which pipe you made are you most proud?
That is the “The Nude Victory”, a replica of an antique meerschaum pipe.

13. I assume you smoke pipe, when did you begin pipe smoking and why?
I seldom smoke..

14. What are your favourite pipe-brands and why?
Falcon pipes. Simple but brilliant.

15. What is your favourite tobacco-blend?
Rum & Maple Pipe Mixture.

16. Any last words for readers?
Sculpturing is the connection between passionate devotion and technical precision.

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Humble Beginnings part 3.

In the years after I quit cigarettes (see part 2) I did not miss smoking at all. I was glad that I no longer had an addiction and that my lungs were a bit cleaner. Life was good. I just had a new relationship and I felt happy and at peace. Unfortunately my girlfriend had to go to for a couple of months to Ethiopia for some charity work. Something she already had planned before our relationship. So I was alone again.

One day while searching something in a cupboard I found the pipe of my grandfather with the metal cap. I held it in my hands and decided to Google for some info on pipes and pipe tobacco. One of the first hits I got to see was the Dutch pipesmokers forum. After some searching I stumbled upon the pipe-book of Janneman, an eccentric member of the forum. I was instantly hooked. I absorbed the information and began to seriously think about buying a pipe. But pipe smoking is for old men, I thought. I am not old! On the Dutch forum there also was a tread about the age of the members. To my astonishment there were even younger members than me! That was a real eye opener.
And then there was the addiction and health part. After some research I came to the conclusion that pipe smoking is the least addictive and least bad for your health way of smoking. You don’t inhale the smoke and a lot of the tar stays in the pipe. Of course smoking is bad but done with moderation it can’t hurt that much. Besides pipe smoking is a very relaxing pastime. It relieves stress.

My first self bought pipe: a Hilson Event

My first self bought pipe: a Hilson Event

So some days later after careful consideration I went to a local tobacconist. Well, the local tobacconist in my area: Rokado. And thank the heavens I went there. There are several other shops in the region that sell pipes and tobacco but they are the only one with some kind of expertise on the subject. And they have the largest assortment.
I walked into the store and said to the owner that I wanted to start with pipe smoking. I expected him to burst out in laughter a bit but luckily the man was dead serious. On a wall in the store hang a big plate with on it pipes from brands like Big Ben, Hilson, Peterson, Butz-Choquin and Terminus. At that time I knew nothing except that a Big Ben was a good pipe to start with. However, I liked a model that was made by Hilson, a Hilson Event. The store owner explained to me that Hilson was made in the same factory as Big Ben. “Ok, I’ll take the pipe”, I said. Then we walked to the shelves in the store which contained the pipe tobaccos. From Janneman’s pipe-book I knew that I had to buy Neptune because it was promoted as a good tobacco for beginners. The store owner also recommended some blends from MacBaren, Stanwell and Skandinavik. The pipe and tobaccos were put on the counter and when I wanted to buy those the owner interrupted me. “Hold on, you also need some pipe-cleaners, a pipe tool, a pipe lighter and some filters.” Oh of course! I read about those but totally forgot it.. I thanked the man, paid (he threw in the lighter for free) and went on my way with my new acquisitions.

At home I filled my first pipe with Neptune and… It was ok! No horror story about a burned tongue or something like that. I actually enjoyed it. My journey had begun.

Humble Beginnings part 1.

Young me with a pipe.

As far as I know I always had a fascination for pipe smoking, even in my younger years. I think because of 2 family members and the father of a life long friend of me who practised the “art”.

An uncle (who I really looked up to) of me smoked pipe. He was (and still is) a very intelligent man and studied anatomical pathology which he practised at the  hospital in Groningen in the far North of The Netherlands. Being a well respected and well earning doctor he lived together with his wife and some dogs in a large house in a picturesque town nearby the hospital.
As a kid my parents and me visited him once every 2 years and for me it was a big happening every time. I grew up in the fast urbanizing town of Uden in the South of The Netherlands. The journey to the peaceful and quiet North with it’s still almost unspoiled nature felt like going to another country.
My uncle and his wife spend their evenings reading books, painting and listening to classical music. They did not have television and that fact flabbergasted me as a child. No TV?? Whaaat?? I can still remember my uncle sitting on the sofa, fuming away on his pipe (often a straight billiard) while at full volume listening to The Bolero of Maurice Ravel. I was impressed.
He did take his pipes everywhere together with his favourite tobacco: Amphora. Walking, cycling, sitting, I always saw him smoking.

Another member of my family who smoked the pipe was my grandfather. Well, actually he was not really a member of the family. He married my grandmother several years after my real grandfather (who I never knew) died.
My grandfather looked like a relaxed kind of guy to me who enjoyed life. Besides smoking pipes and cigars he also liked to drink Dutch gin once in a while. Typical things to do for old men in those years.
Because of his pipe smoking I always called him “opa van de pijp” (grandpa with the pipe) and it was from him that I got my first pipes: A plastic Falcon rip-off and a nice small pipe with a metal cap on it. See the picture below.

First pipe given to me by my grandfather.

First pipe given to me by my grandfather.

Of course I was way to young to smoke but playing with the pipes was fun. Nowadays people would be shocked when they see a kid playing with a pipe but in those days it was pretty normal. Unfortunately I do no longer have the pipes my grandfather gave me. The Falcon rip-off got lost and the one with the metal cap broke and I threw it away..
I can’t remember which tobacco my grandfather smoked but I guess something like Voortrekker or Clan which were very common tobaccos in those days.

The father of my long time friend

The father of my long time friend.

The father of a life long friend of mine also smokes pipe. As a kid I visited them often but I can’t remember him smoking in the house. Probably because his then wife (he is divorced now) hates smoking. But the times that I saw him puffing away he smoked Amphora in a straight billiard.
Nowadays I don’t see him very often any more because he moved to Brasil a long time ago. But just a couple of days ago I met him at my friend’s place. He is moving to America for a couple of years because he found a job there and had to finish off some business here in The Netherlands.
Of course the subject of the conversation soon steered towards pipes and tobacco. To my surprise he never liked the typical Dutch tobaccos. “Blah, too sweet!” he said. “But why did you always smoke Amphora?” I asked. “Ha! Because it was the cheapest tobacco that was widely available.” Later I asked him about his pipes. I remembered him smoking Big Ben pipes. “Oh I don’t care about brands. I just care about the shape. I want a straight billiard with a large bowl. Preferably as cheap as possible hahaha!” Later he asked me if I could mail him some good online tobacconists in the States. “You will be delighted when you order there” I said. “In the States the assortment of natural tobaccos is far better than in The Netherlands. And besides that, it is a LOT cheaper then here..”. So yesterday I mailed him all the info he wanted. Very interesting because he can buy tobaccos for me in the States that I can’t buy from here hehehe.

This story continues in Humble Beginnings part 2.