Together, they have the appearance of a gently cupped hand holding the bowl. The grain must be oriented in a very precise manner to achieve a beautiful result, much like Bo’s other original shape, the Elephant’s Foot. The tobacco chamber runs nearly parallel to the stem, which makes it very difficult to drill proper channel for the smoke and still maintain good smoking mechanics.
To combat this, a true Ramses has the draught hole drilled so that it ends a few tenths of a millimeter away from the side and bottom of the tobacco chamber. Another hole is then made through the side of the tobacco chamber which meets the draught hole. This method allows the smoker to smoke the Ramses all the way down to the bottom of the bowl, which is a difficult thing to do with many fully bent pipes. Pipe makers are beginning to experiment with different finishes, but the Ramses seems most comfortable in a smooth finish. Bo Nordh was a true pioneer of both mechanics and artistry, the combination of which gave us the Ramses pipe, and what a beautiful pipe it is. Although the Rhodesian differs only slightly from the Bulldog, it is a very popular shape in its own right. A Rhodesian is essentially a Bulldog, except where the Bulldog’s shank is diamond shaped, the Rhodesian’s is round, and in very rare cases, oval shaped. Much like its parent pipe, the Rhodesian is very difficult if not impossible to create without the use of a lathe, due to the precise rings that are turned into the bowl.
The round shank of the Rhodesian tends to impart a chubbier look to the piece overall, a homebody counterpart to the out-and-about Bulldog. As nomenclature goes, this is about as straight-forward as it gets. Much like a Tomato is born by figuratively squishing a spherically shaped pipe, so a Squat Tomato is just a squashed Tomato pipe. The added “squashing” leads to a very thickly walled bowl, which helps maintain a comfortable temperature in hand while smoking. Light to medium bends are often seen in the shank, and it is quite commonplace to spot one with a white or black bamboo shank extension. Bowl sizes tend to vary on this one, as do the stems, which can range from tapered to saddle to fancy. Being that their shanks are almost always round or oval, however, you really wouldn’t see any with diamond shaped stems. You’d also be hard-pressed to find a factory made Squat Tomato, as they are not practical to cut on a machine. Becoming a bit more commonplace today, the Squat Tomato is stunning with a dark sandblasted finish, a contrasting shank extension, and a smooth rim. The Tomato shape is usually crafted to look somewhat like a squished ball. Its bowl can either be symmetrically shaped, or a bit more organic/Tomato-like, if you will. Due to the bowl’s shape and thick walls, it is very comfortable to hold and keeps the scorching heat within the chamber at bay. Their shanks are nearly always round, although some pipe makers have made Tomatoes with triangular shanks, the flat bottom of which flows naturally into the wide lower half of the bowl. The shape of the bowl lends itself to having a bent shank, but the straight shank variety, if done well, can be equally as handsome. This bizarre little smoking instrument is designed to fit in the pocket of a vest, as the name implies. The bowl of the pipe is rather unique in that the chamber is actually oval shaped, and not round. All the edges on a Vest Pocket are smoothed considerably to prevent the pipe from snagging the material of your clothing when taking it out or putting it away. You’ll realize how practical a feature that is once you try to stuff a rusticated Poker in the ol’ pocket. Aside from the oval smoking chamber, the stem is surely the most unique element of the Vest Pocket pipe. It can twist 180° so that it does not protrude from the pipe, and when folded, it is indeed a wee little package. Even to the untrained eye, it’s not too difficult to spot a Volcano in the crowd, since its inspiration is taken from an iconic earth shattering phenomenon. If it looks like a volcano, it’s probably a Volcano, but there are some basic guidelines to understanding the shape. First off, the grain orientation is very important with the Volcano shape.
The pipe should display straight or flame grain radiating from the top and center of the bowl, and ideally an eye-catching exhibition of birdseye grain on the bottom. The shank should be bent upwards, equal to or greater than the stem in length, and more often than not, the bottom of the shank will be flush with the bottom of the bowl, creating a long and flowing line from front to back. Flaring shanks with extravagant extensions have become quite commonplace, and due to the nature of the pipe’s showcasing of grain, some pipe makers choose only to use rare and extraordinary pieces of briar when making Volcanos. Finer examples of this shape can be some of the most expensive pipes on the international market, easily running in the $1,000 to $2,000 range and more. Rustication of a Volcano is not recommended, and is rarely seen, but both sandblasted and smooth Volcanos can be jaw-dropping works of craftsmanship.
When sandblasted, the artisan carefully ensures that the underside of the pipe is kept perfectly smooth to preserve the stunning birdseye grain, making for an exceptional contrast to the rugged top. The Zulu is somewhat of a rare breed among pipe shapes, seemingly inhabiting the limbo between Dublin and Billiard. When well-crafted, however, this shape has an unmistakable character all its own. The bowl of a Zulu is daintier than a Dublin or Billiard but may display some similarities to either or both in terms of shaping. Its greatest distinguishing feature is the more dramatic forward cant of its bowl, along with its straight shank and slightly bent stem.