News archive

Paolo Becker has passed on. He discovered that he was suffering with cancer in August of this year, and asked that I not share this information.

Paolo was a private person, and so he did not wish for an outpouring from those who knew him or knew of him. This was typical of the man I had known and worked with for more than 30 years.

I first met Paolo in spring, 1981. I was in a pipe shop in Rome (Italy) browsing the goods when Paolo’s father, Fritz Becker, approached me to let me know that he and his son made pipes. Paolo was in the workshop when Fritz and I entered, and I remember: a young man, very thin, with lots of curly hair. We didn’t speak; Paolo had no English and I had no Italian.

Over the years I learned that Paolo was a very complex guy, and a late-bloomer. He first trained as an electrician, but did not care for that trade. He then worked with his father making pipes, but I’m not at all sure he liked that very much either- although we never discussed it at the time.

After his father died Paolo carried on, but I found he had an ambition to open a pipe shop. And so he did, with a partner. During the 10-year period Paolo had the shop he made few pipes and, after a period of years, found that keeping shop did not suit him. It was a very important period for him though, as he acquired good language skills in English, French, Spanish, and, more importantly, took in all the different styles of pipes that were sold in the shop. This was critical in the formation of who Paolo was to become as a pipe maker.

After Paolo gave up his interest in the shop he returned to his workshop inspired. These were the years of his most creative expressions- in styling, curing, use of different woods. He was passionate about his work- and it showed in what he produced.

The above is a sketch of Paolo the pipe maker. He was much more than that, as I found over the years. What can be said about a good person other than that he was a genuinely good person? He was quiet, but witty; self-deprecating with that shy smile that I remember so well. He was honorable, both in business and in his personal life. He was truly a gentle man, and was loved by many.

I shall miss him terribly.(December 13, 2014)

The following has nothing to do with pipes, tobacco, or pipe smoking:

Pictures of America, a page on this siteshowing Giclee prints has just been added. Hopefully you’ll enjoy looking at its beginnings, and continue to look in as the collection grows. (March 8, 2014)


The Don Carlos brand and R D Field, LLC have had anamical parting of the ways. To our understanding the Don Carlos brand will no longer be distributed in the United States. (December 20, 2013)


WARNING: During the past few days I (and others) have found that counterfeit pipes have been sold through eBay. So far we have found that the following brands have been counterfeited: Paolo Becker, Tom Eltang, Castello. Please be aware when shopping for pipes on eBay.

(Nov. 21, 2013)


Amorelli pipes back in stock in time for the West Coast Pipe Show (Oct. 1, 2013)

Amorelli sells out at the national trade show

The annual trade show was held July 14- 17 in Las Vegas, NV, and activity experienced by the Pipe Pavilion group was fairly intense- which means that consumers should be happy to see many new items in the coming weeks. At the R D Field booth the recently re-introduced Amorelli brand experienced what amounted to a sell-out. the two finishes sold at the show were so unique that they attracted a lot of attention from retailers (one retailer called today wanting to be re-stocked) so that the 43 pipes we had were all sold. (July 26, 2013)

An addition and a subtraction

We are pleased to welcome the Amorelli brand back into the R D Field family. Salvatore (Toto) Amorelli is crafting exciting new finishes, some of which will be available at the annual trade show held this coming July.

At the same time we wish to announce that we are no longer importing the Joura brand. We wish both Karlo and Kim Joura well in their endeavors. (May 22, 2013)


The photo above shows my wife Jan, Karlo Joura, daughters Kim and Coco, and Victor, boyfriend of Coco- taken in Bremen Germany on December 4, 2011. The photo below shows some of the Joura pipes that were selected.


Bertam Safferling has a new workshop, located about 15 miles from Bolzano (an Italian town just over the border from Austria).


Paolo Becker, relaxing in his workshop.

I was both surprised and excited to find that Paolo oil cures all his sandblast pipes, and has been doing so since he purchased his sandblasting cabinet some time ago. Although he has experimented with oil curing smooth pipes this has yet to come to commercial fruition as, so far, the oil curing process darkens the finished color of the pipe. Ever the experimenter. Paolo related that he is continuing to search for the right combination of heat, oils, and stain so that his smooth pipes can undergo the same process as the sandblast pipes. (December 18, 2011)

A new pipe maker has been added to the brands R D Field, LLC distributes in the United States. Kjeld Sorensen has named his company (he is both employer and the only employee) Red Hat Pipes.(November 9, 2011)


Rainer Barbi 1950- 2011

I did not know Rainer Barbi as well as I would have liked, due to his limited English and my complete lack of knowledge concerning the German language. What I did understand of the man follows:

Barbi understood the gestalt of pipe making, or at least could express the gestalt of pipe making, better than anyone I have met (and in English too; imagine what he could tell me if I understood German). From the growth of the wood (Barbi would talk about “bone” [hard grain] and “flesh” [soft grain]- explaining that although an extremely dense piece of briar, whether straight grain or birdseye, may be beautiful to the eye it very well may not smoke well because there was not enough “flesh” to absorb the juices that pipe tobacco, when smoked, produces), to the many varied processes utilized by the briar saw-mill and then the pipe maker, to the wholesaling and the retailing of the product, Barbi was a true master. And, he really did like working with distributors outside his native country. I mentioned to him, on more than one occasion, that he could certainly earn more by selling directly, such was his reputation in the United States, but he dismissed me, actually thinking that I did not want to work with him in future. Such was by no means the case, as I really enjoyed having our contentious discussions, and as I learned much from what he had to say.

Barbi was so full of ideas; his brain never shut down. A few years ago he spent five days with my wife Jan and myself at our home in Philadelphia- and ideas kept pouring out of him; so much so that I had to take an occasional break and get off by myself while Jan and he continued the discussion (Jan is tireless in this way and is a very good reflective listener). One of his ideas, and this I remember rather clearly, had to do with setting up a range of pipe tobaccos, each named for a specific city in the United States and the blend to fit that city: New Orleans (Virginia and Perique), Boston (Virginias, Orientals, and Latakia), Louisville (a Burley-based blend).... In the end he came up with ten blends, each reflecting certain basic characteristics of the city for which it was named. A good idea, no? But- my partner Marty and I decided that, with all the hassle tobacco manufacturers and distributors were being put through, it was not worth the aggravation to further the project beyond the very good idea.

I feel that, behind Barbi’s high public opinion of himself and his talent, there was an insecure soul just out of reach. I feel very sure that, if I could have spoken his native language fluently, we would have reached a much higher plane than we were able to do. I found him to be an extremely loyal person, and a person I feel proud to have known and interacted with. I wish we could have had more time.(May 23, 2011)

There are a great number of creative artists and artisans in and around my local area of Las Cruces, New Mexico, and I've been able to team up with one such person, a sculptor, originally from California, who then worked and taught in Hawaii before coming to Las Cruces. The first offering from this new venture can be found on theP&T Accessoriespage of this web site.(Jan. 30, 2011)


FROM THIS TIME FORTH: Paolo Becker will only use vulcanite (brindle, marble, or black) to construct his mouthpieces. He has felt that vulcanite is a better material for this purpose in that 1) it is softer on the teeth when the pipe is held in the mouth, and 2) this material (unlike Lucite) actually improves the taste of the tobacco by adding an (as yet undefined) element as the smoke passes through the mouthpiece (William Ashton-Taylor told me of this phenomenon many years ago- RDF). Also, quality rod-stock vulcanite will not readily discolor (as will mouthpieces made of molded vulcanite). This does not mean that you can leave your pipe sitting in the sun and expect it to stay black, but if you take proper care a hand-cut vulcanite mouthpiece will retain its deep black for decades.

MORE STRAWBERRY TREE WOOD PIPES ARE EXPECTED: By the time the West Coast Pipe Show rolls around (November 6 & 7) I should have more of these great pipes to display in Las Vegas. In addition there will be more Morland Oak pipes, and at least a few Becker giant pipes; these are quite large indeed- some approaching the old Ashton Magnums in size.(Sept. 19, 2010)

SOLD OUT
It was a very successful trade show for Paolo Becker's pipes. All the new Strawberry Tree pipes were sold as well as all the Morland Oak and Becker giants. Hopefully we'll see more of same in future- maybe as soon as the West Coast Pipe Show, held the first week of November in Las Vegas, Nevada(August 14, 2010)

A RETURN TO THE PAST

While speaking with Paolo Becker at the 2009 West Coast pipe show he told me that he was experimenting with a new wood that might prove useful in the making of high-quality smoking pipes. This wood, from the Erica family (the same family as briar), is named, in English, Strawberry Tree wood. I quote from Wikipedia:The Strawberry Tree (Arbutus unedo) is an evergreen perennial shrub or small tree in the heather family, native to the Mediterranean region and western Europe north to western France and Ireland, and south to the Algarve in Portugal.

In experimenting with this new wood Paolo found that it greatly resembles briar in structure and taste. In addition the new wood is 20- 25% lighter in weight, due to its more open grain pattern. Because of this unique grain pattern (akin to that of Algerian briar) Paolo was able to imbue a craggy sandblast to almost all the pipes made of this wood.

The culmination of Paolo’s experiment occurred at the 2010 Chicago pipe show when he handed out Strawberry Tree wood pipes to a few individuals in order to secure their opinions concerning taste and durability. The taste results from those chosen were indeed positive, the prevailing feeling being that the taste was at least as good as briar, while the difference in weight was noticeable.

While researching what was written about the wood Paolo found that it had been used to make pipes in the past by Italian (and possibly other European) peasants. As homage to this culture he has decided to make a limited number of these pipes available in the near future.(May 15, 2010)

In Memoriam

William Ashton-Taylor died today.

I knew Bill for 29 years, and we had a close business partnership for 20 of those years. From 1983 to 2003 Bill made Ashton pipes, and I distributed them in the United States. It was during this 20 year period that I became very close to Bill, to his wife Irene, and to his children Nicola and Spencer. I truly loved Bill, and Irene, Nicola, and Spencer are still very dear to me.

I first met Bill in 1979 on what I would call a research visit to the Dunhill Pipe Factory, then located on Cumberland Road in East London, and I saw him twice more (in 1980 and 1981) when attending Dunhill Principal Pipe Dealers Conferences. Finding he had a true talent for pipe making I contacted him in early 1983, asking if he had an interest in crafting a line of pipes that I would distribute. He agreed, and began to set up a workshop in his garage. Before the first pipe was produced we had to come up with a name- a name that exuded both English hand-craftsmanship and quality. It was during a transatlantic telephone call in February of that year that the name Ashton was decided upon. My youngest daughter's middle name is Ashley, and so I suggested this to Bill. "No, sounds too much like Astley's" was his response. Then- at the same millisecond we both said "Ashton", and so it was.

Bill was perhaps the most social individual I have met, and he carried this easy access in all aspects of his life. He was also one of the most stubborn people I have known, but it was a quiet stubbornness. He'd listen to what one had to say, would make no rejoinder, and then follow his own muse. He was blessed- with immense creativity, and cursed- in that he made the worst decisions, both business and personal, I have ever witnessed. I guess, in the end, this showed his humanity. He was a lovely human being. I shall miss him.(Sept. 16, 2009)


There really hasn't been a lot to report lately, other than Rainer Barbi's inability to craft many pipes in the last year and a half due to a series of illnesses. He is now on the road to recovery and, hopefully, we'll see more of his work in the near future.
On a more pleasant note- Paolo Becker and his son Federico (also now a pipe maker, and responsible for the ever-popular spaghetto ultra thin shanks) will tour the southwestern United States with Jan and myself- beginning October 14. Of course there will be a bit of business to be done, with a store show at Edwards Pipe Shop in Englewood, Colorado on October 24, and an appearance at the West Coast Pipe Show, held in Las Vegas (Nevada, not New Mexico) on October 31. (Sept. 15, 2009)

The Radice family has decided to sell their pipes directly to shops in the U.S. beginning January 1, 2009. They have done so for many reasons, but chiefly in order to bring their retail prices in the United States more into line with those of their home country, Italy.
We have worked with the Radice family for over 25 years, and a more honorable group of folks we have yet to encounter. It is very hard to say goodbye when the working relationship has been so good over such a long time, but we fully understand the need to do so at this time.
We are sure the Radice family will provide good service to their customers in the United States, and we wish them every success.
(Dec.8, 2008)

Paolo Becker is now producing a limited number of pipes using Moreland Oak. For those unfamiliar with this material Moreland Oak is oak ( a hardwood) which has lain in moist conditions (such as a bog) for thousands of years and so has become semi-petrified. Not quite wood and yet not quite stone this material has properties which are quite beneficial in being, first, very light and, second, able to draw all the natural flavor and complexity out of pipe tobacco. Moreland Oak pipes will only be available in the sandblast finish, which is very distinctive using this material. Photos of Moreland Oak pipes can be seen by clickinghere. Prices for Moreland Oak pipes are the same as that for the Four Club sandblast.(Nov. 5, 2008)

TheLubinski Celebration Pipe Lightersare now in stock!(April 28, 2008)

Americana
I have the pleasure of introducing a California-based artist who crafts the most amazing western-style belt buckles I've ever seen. Crafted from Elk and Deer antler, sterling silver, and semi-precious stones and metals, they are unlike any other belt buckle on the market. In future I'll present more of his work, including bolo ties, money clips, and necklaces, as this is just a beginning effort on my part.
(April 26, 2008)

Bruto and Rosaria Sordini, makers ofDon Carlospipes, now have their own web site. As of now the only language is Italian, but the pipe photos speak for themselves.(Oct. 23, 2007)

I've been promising many folks for a long time that I would photograph and documentThe Ashton Collectionof more than 200 Ashton smoking pipes covering the startup of the firm to April 2003. The pipes are now online, along with a few of my notes regarding individual pieces. The photos were done in a quick and dirty manner, and so do not show the amazing detail of the pipes. A note- if you do not have a broadband connection the first page will take almost two minutes to load.(Sept. 20, 2007)

The LubinskiCelebration Pipe Lighter Collectionis on its way!(August 10, 2007)

RADICEintroduces theRetroseries
The Chicagoland Pipe Show will be the venue to introduce the new series which pays homage to the venerable Caminetto brand.
(April 30, 2007)

J&J, LLC has been named the U.S. distributor forMastro Beraldi- a great Italian hand-made pipe at a great price.(Jan. 25, 2007)

It is unfortunate that J&J will no longer be importing the Amorelli brand. There simply are not enough pipes at this time to have a sufficient selection for the United States.(Jan. 25, 2007)

Karlo Joura now has aweb site- for information only(Jan. 25, 2007)

Paolo Becker has been joined in the workshop by his son Federico. You may read more by turning to theBeckerpage.(Jan. 25, 2007)

As of January 1, 2007 there will be a retail price increase of approximately 10% in those brands where payment is made to the makers in euros. (Dec. 6, 2006)

Some rather sad news for those that appreciate the Jorgen L brand, and also for those that loved the Stokkebye pipes that were crafted by the same person- Jorgen Larsen has retired from pipemaking. He has had a reoccurrence of the allergy to briar dust that plagued him years ago, and so he made a decision to cease making pipes.(Dec. 5, 2006)

One good thing about visiting the pipe makers over and over is that, occasionally, I learn something new about them or their craft. Such a thing happened during my latest visit withJorgen Larsen, and so I have updated his page. (Oct. 17, 2006)

TheRadice Sportsman's pipe, advertised in the current issue of P&T, will be available by the end of October. If interested please have your dealer pre-order one as the number of pipes available, as least initially, will be limited. (Sept. 29, 2006)

Don Carlos re-introduces their rusticated finishes to the U.S. market.

TheLubinski Celebration LighterCollectionmade its debut at the RTDA trade show in Las Vegas. The 18 lighters that compose the Celebration Collection have the heft, feel, and ping of quality. Using a flint sparking mechanism and featuring a large butane storage tank the 18 lighters come in assorted designs of silver, gold, and lacquer.

Bertram Safferling has re-opened his web site- and it's in English. If you wish to order a pipe directly from Bertram, or if you wish to find out more about this delightful artisan you can go to theSafferling web site

A FIRST for RADICE!
In order to celebrate 25 years of the RADICE marque (1980- 2005) the Radice family has released a trueLimited Editionseries of 100 pipes for the year 2005. There is but one model, a spiral shank billiard featuring a sterling silver cap band hand-worked by Luigi Radice, which is available in four finishes- Bark, Silk Cut, Radice (smooth) and Clear (smooth). Eachoil curedpipe is individually numbered and each comes in a special commemorative leather pipe glove.

Another choice!
The Radice family now offers a series of pipes with hand-cut highest quality vulcanite mouthpieces for those that prefer the feel of this material. Both black and brindle vulcanite are available, and each pipe with such a mouthpiece features a small "V" stamped on the shank of the pipe. There is a $25 surcharge for pipes with vulcanite mouthpieces. For more information go to theRadicepage of the web site.

Available in September, 2005
TheCUNNINGHAM TOBACCO JAR
A rather unique container

The Radice family is now offering a series ofshell casingtampers, made of brass shell casings in combination with exotic woods and/or fine acrylics. For more information go to theTamperspage under theRadicebrand

Paolo Becker awarded European Pipe Maker of the Year- 2005

A first for the Jorgen L brand: Jorgen Larsen has made some sandblasted pipes for the U.S. market- 7 in all.

The second series ofBecker Limited Editionpipes was unveiled at the 2004 RTDA in July 2004. For more informationclick here!

A new brand has been added to the J&J fold-Jorgen L! Jorgen Larsen has been carving since 1964 and for the past 30 years has had an exclusive arrangement with Peter Stokkebye. Old time collectors may well rememberJorgen Lpipes before they becamePeter Stokkebyepipes. And now theJorgen Lbrand is back!

KarloJourahas added another grade to his list- an 8, the least expensive smooth Joura pipe.

TheRadicefamily have begun to offer their twin bore mouthpieces in various hues as well as in clear Perspex and the traditional black. Look for these at your Radice dealer.

As of late '03 the RADICE family began date-coding all pipes bound for the U.S. market. Also, the oil cured series now sports a different mouthpiece logo (although not all that different) from the regular twin bore pipes.

PaoloBeckerbegan to date-code his pipes in mid '03.

As of June 1, 2003 J&J, LLC (of which David Field is a partner, along with Marty Pulvers) has taken over U.S. distribution of the famousBarbibrand of hand-crafted smoking pipes from the Butera Pipe Company.

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