Around The Pipe World – Pt 3. Reviewing years 2014 to present

Around The Pipe World – Pt 3. Reviewing years 2014 to present

Spotting Those Pipe Makers Who Think Radically Different

How do you find the Michail Revyagin’s & the game changer’s of the pipe world? Those pipe makers who are doing something different. You have to see something in their work today that translates into this different path later on in the future.
It’s difficult to explain what I see but I will try.

Sam Cui from China.

I look at his work and see something dramatically different going on within his head when compared to other pipe makers. Touching such a wide variety of shapes from the immediate get go. Executing the shapes very effectively. So good that you could label him either a Danish Freehand Master, an English Classical shape master, all the way up to an abstract experimentalist.

SamCui1 copy

I then see a picture of his showing one pipe shape with 4 different variations and I immediately know he is looking to experiment & play with one idea. This guy is obviously looking for something. What is it? With the help of a Chinese Translator I asked him what he is doing.
Sam said:

“I never want to make the same thing twice!”

“In each new pipe there must be some idea of ‘me’ in the pipe.”

“Even if it is a standard shape, I must bring some personal idea to the shape.”

He sounds like a perfectionist. He never wants to repeat the same shape or line. He is constantly striving to do something different and most important, I get the strong sense that he does not care too much about what other people think of his process.

In each new pipe I see him playing with the proportions of all the pipe pieces. Look at the pictures deeply. He is everywhere in terms of experimenting.

Sam-Cui-pipes-v3 copy

Sam, who is Chinese, studied Japanese in University. Japanese language, culture etc…He is heavily influenced by Japanese thought.

Sam is going for range. Seeing everything that he can do. That’s his process, that is what you can see when glancing at his work. The variety of shape expressions just seen in these images highlight his determination to put his hands on as many ideas as possible. Why? Learning through exploration. Constant adjustment. A process of continuous improvement.

I bet that in 5 years time Sam Cui will be making some very special pipes.

Fun side fact about Sam that brings his attention to detail into greater focus. He will only use 2 materials on his pipes. Boxwood & Horn. Why only these? In his mind, they are the only two materials that have the ability to be attached to a pipe and last for the long term. I own a 98 year old pipe. Sam wants to make pipes that last 100 years as well. This pipe maker is thinking different and way ahead.

Everybody disagreeing with those words. Totally fine. I respect your opinion and we will all soon see in a few years.

To see more of Sam’s work check out his <a href=””>Instagram feed here</a> and feel free to contact him via his email:


Pipe Maker Prices Should Not Be Using China as a Guage

Pipes sold in China at whatever price, should not be used as a tool to determine the value of pipes. I think there are far too many US carvers in particular who are doing this.

Why is this bad?
China is a completely inexperienced market. Very little understanding of real prices, competition, availability and everything that a general market offers. They do not know the value of pipes.
Retailers in China have been taking strong advantage of this lack of information further hurting the consumers ability to apply value to the product. Its a completely skewed view.
Demand is much much higher in China.
This does not apply all US makers but only a few ones in particular. Those however are the ones who simply wont be selling their stock in the US at those prices.
Selling out your pipes in China has very little to tell you about how your pipes will perform in the rest of the world market.
I understand the desire to price yourself at those points where Chinese have purchased at but far too many pipe makers in the US will hurt themselves by doing so.
Unless these pipe makers want to rely solely on the Chinese market, which some people do, this is a bad source of information.

I did an article on pipe maker pricing strategy four years back. Much of it still applies to the ‘general pipe maker’. Some pipe makers who are doing exceptional work, they may get a little leeway in how & what they do but for the most part, it still applies. You can read it by <a href=””>clicking here</a> . Its called: What is the best pricing strategy for new pipe makers?

The Politics & Emotions of the Hobby

All of us in one way or another gets emotionally riled up when we talk about politics. We have the same thing in pipes. Strong beliefs get translated into strong words that create strong emotions on one topic or another. People gossip. Dislike each other. I could even be called such a gossiper and I am sure there are a good amount of people who don’t like me.

Poll Question: Which pipe personality in the US creates the highest emotional “response”?
Todd Johnson. Ding Ding Ding!! Todd will occupy the number one slot, 9 times out of 10, when asked this question. I wanted to do an article on him about this topic titled: The Pipe Maker Americans Love To Dislike. I wanted to write about the misperception going on with Todd because he is a great example.

Todd-Johnson copy

No. Todd is not the most eloquent communicator.

No. Todd does not always have the best manners.

No, no and no to several such areas.

What is a big yes for Todd however is his passion for pipes and more specifically high quality pipes. When he is teaching, he is giving the student his everything. He puts 110% of his passion into his education.

Todd is one of the most misunderstood people in the pipe world and correctly so. His expectations, after he has shared his pipe wisdom with someone are not aligned with more realistic expectations. Thats where most of his issues stem from.

No you don’t have to like him but at the very least you could take the time to understand that this is the place he is coming from. A strong desire for the best in the hobby that gets mixed in with a not so efficient way to try and express it. It doesn’t excuse anything about his behavior. But it lets you understand the source of his emotional talk.

American Pipe Maker Lost?

Look at these pipes. Pick a country where they are from….most of you should correctly say: “These were made by an American pipe maker.”

Shin-Ichi2 copy

That pipe could have been made by Bill Shalosky. That one by Roush…Pohlmann….Lindner…Parks and so on.

Fact of the matter is though, none of these pipes are from the US and in fact they all come from Japan.
K’s pipes, made by Shin-Ichi Kuwahara, has been tearing up a storm of beautiful American design all the way over in Japan.
You look at his pieces and could completely swear that they were made by an American.

Shin-Ichi1 copy

Its no secret. The Japanese love a good pipe with a great blast. They love girth, sometimes hefty girth sometimes gentle girth, both prized among Japanese collectors and Shin-Ichi is now providing them with a home town option.

Beautiful work. Check out more of K’s Pipes on his <a href=””>Instagram feed here</a>. You can also reach him via email at

Can Anybody Stop The Low Low Prices of some new Pipes?

There is nothing wrong with cheaper pipes, especially when they are being marketed as such and not as some high quality pieces. Its great. Putting pipes into the hands of all the new people that have come to the market the past short two years is exactly what needs to be done. Even giving existing collectors some fun breathing room to buy something on the big cheap is always nice for a brief PAD moment.

We have a big thank you to give to a Mr. Jayson Dagner of Dagner Pipes who in this case, truly, almost single handedly, brought in a good 2,000+ brand new pipe smokers into the community. All through his infectious personality. Very impressive!

Look at this ray of sunshine. The one with the beard.

Dagner-Pipes copy
My questions to this are more connected to the future of these new community memebers & how we should be looking at this issue.
Some people are asking ego-centric questions. Forget that stuff. Bottom line is that we have new pipe smokers, a bunch of them. This is a great thing. Anybody who makes or sells pipes, your market just got a whole lot bigger. Potentially. If you know how to market to them.

My Questions though:
Okay, they have arrived.
If the majority of them however came in riding the waves of a fantastic man’s personality, what are the growth prospects for these people as it relates to the hobby? How do we keep them engaged? Its not just about Dagner anymore. Its about the whole hobby. These guys need to see what else is out there & what we are all about. How many will come to my side and become high grade collectors? How many will keep buying pipes? How does someone like Jayson transform all these newcomers into traditional pipe collectors? What is next for this community?
I hope to sit with Jayson soon & ask him these questions face to face.

You can read an article TobaccoDays did last year on aspects of this new community. We used to call them the ‘Indie Pipe Community’. I dont like that word. It separates them. These new folks are simply part of our community. You can read the article <a href=””>by clicking right here</a>

Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved.
Reprinting is allowed with permission.

Share This Post


  1. Brandon Marquette - November 7, 2015

    This is an excellent article David, well done.

  2. Dan Coomer - November 24, 2015

    Just a wonderful series of articles. They are sure to spark a lot of conversation. Todd Johnson is indeed a polarizing figure in the hobby. Olie Sylvester did a great interview with him over on that I highly recommend.

  3. Yi Zhao - November 25, 2015

    Well, my review of what I saw is … I have not seen any new pipes exciting except Toku and Ray. There indeed were some new carvers but I was either not interest at all in the aesthetics or disappointed with the smoking quality.
    BTW, as for the Chinese market what I know is, a few guys who do know pipes bought most of the super high grade pipes.

    • David M. - November 27, 2015

      Hello Yi,
      That’s fair.
      You know, when TobaccoDays talks about pipe design, it does this from a very large perspective.
      Many of the pipe design ideas TobaccoDays shows, some of them, I personally don’t even like.
      For example, I have written about Michail Revyagin many many times but it is fairly well known that I personally do not like many of his designs.
      So if I do not personally like some of the designs…why do I write about them?
      Because they are doing something important. They are breaking new ground & showing us something new.
      This is what TobaccoDays does. It takes personal opinion out of the equation and discusses/reports on interesting new developments in the pipe hobby.
      So it is more of a place to learn & expand your mind.

      As for pipe maker reviews like Sam Cui for example. This is a Future Projection.
      I do believe that Sam has something special and we will see it in his work in a few years.

Leave a reply