The Elephant’s Foot was created by the late legendary Swedish pipe maker Bo Nordh. Bo is one of the few pipe makers in the history of the craft that has been credited directly with creating not one, but two entirely new shapes. Finding a suitable block for the carving of an Elephant’s Foot is a task in and of itself.
The grain must be nearly flawless in order to achieve the desired result, which is a gentle convex face covered from edge to edge in birdseye grain, the narrower flat sides of which should display perfectly contradictory straight grain. Likewise straight grain should radiate from the end of the shank toward the back of the pipe, which like the front should also have an ample endowment of birdseye grain. An Elephant’s Foot should almost always be entirely smooth, though partial sandblasting has sometimes been executed successfully. This is the only pipe that refuses to be described. We can talk about the evolution of shape, and comment on the influences of this pipe maker and that, but the shape of the Freehand is entirely dependent on the hand of its individual maker. When a pipe maker begins to work on a Freehand pipe, there isn’t always an established shape that he is determined to arrive upon. The piece of briar that is being worked, in some ways, has a will of its own.
And so, as material is sanded away from the rough edges of the block, the grain points one way and then another, until all the excess material has been removed, and what remains is only what naturally lay within. The supernal grains that make our beloved briar so beautiful to behold, made possible only after decades of growth under the Earth, are expertly exposed by the skillful hands of the carver. Freehand pipes take many forms, many of them unsurprisingly inspired by nature, but each one tests the skill and understanding of the carver in a unique way. After laying eyes on a Hawkbill, one will realize that every pipe they have seen before had at least one thing in common; if their shanks were bent at all, they were all bent in the same direction (up). The Hawkbill’s round shank, however, is bent downward. This peculiar and seemingly nonsensical irregularity is what gives the Hawkbill its uniqueness, and not the shaping of its bowl. The Hawkbill’s bowl is usually shaped like a Brandy, Tomato, Author, or something in between. It can be made in a variety of finishes, and is usually accompanied by a short round tapered stem. Once significantly more popular than it is today, the Hawkbill has fallen from the limelight, but there are still some who nurture an admiration for the odd. A fine Horn is one of the most elegant pipe shapes of all. With no “junction” between the bowl and shank, the lines flow gracefully back and forth along the length of the pipe, only interrupted by the meeting of bowl and stem. The defining characteristic of the Horn is its continuous and uninterrupted taper from front to back, and so one may find that Horns are created with square, round, triangular, or freely shaped bowls, having considerable variation in the finer details of appearance. The Danish master carvers are renowned for their production of stunning Horn pipes, but today the Horn has been adopted by carvers from all over the world. Canadian really isn’t a proper surname for this pipe, having found its namesake in that old port city of Western England. However, the Liverpool is in fact part of the Canadian family of pipes. What differentiates the Liverpool from other pipes in the Canadian family is that the Liverpool has a round shank with a round tapered stem, making it perhaps the most conventional of the group, and right at home amongst all the classics. As with other members of the Canadian family of pipes, the length of the shank should be about twice the height of its Billiard shaped bowl. The Lovat is part of the Canadian family of pipes, a sub-style of the Billiard shape. What differentiates the Lovat from other pipes in the Canadian family is that the Lovat has a round shank and a round saddle stem. As with other members of the Canadian family of pipes, the length of the shank should typically be about twice the height of the bowl, but some petite variations with a greater shank to bowl ratio have proven handsome interpretations. Lovats look great sandblasted or smooth, but the highly polished finish of a smooth Lovat seems to do the trick for many connoisseurs. The Lovat is named after the various lords and barons Lovat (Lordship of Lovat), such as Brigadier-General Simon Joseph Fraser. The name “Lumberman” evokes images of burly men in flannel shirts hauling freshly cut logs through coniferous forests, and yet the Lumberman pipe seems to contradict this imagery unapologetically. The Lumberman is yet another part of the Canadian family of pipes, a sub-style of the Billiard shape. What differentiates the Lumberman from other pipes in the Canadian family is that the Lumberman has an oval shank with an oval saddle stem. As with other members of the Canadian family, a slender shank graces the bowl carrying about twice the length of the bowl’s height to its end.
With its slim and simple profile, it would hardly look at home in a massive calloused hand. Perhaps Canadian lumbermen are slender and gentle, and we’ve had the wrong idea all this time. A Nosewarmer, like a Churchwarden, refers not to shape but to proportions and length. Nosewarmers, also sometimes referred to as “Stubby” pipes, are significantly shortened in overall length when compared with their standard counterparts. This is usually accomplished by cutting the shank short. The bowl will often be shorter than if it were a standard pipe, but the shape of the bowl will not change. More often than not, Nosewarmers are only made as straight pipes, because it is difficult to form a graceful arc with so little length. It’s perfectly normal to see Billiards, Pots, Dublins, Brandys, and some other classic shapes in the form of a Nosewarmer, but many pipes are excluded from the Nosewarmer category due to the requirements of their shaping, such as Canadians, Oom Pauls, and Horns, amongst others. Oom Pauls don’t credit their uniqueness to shape alone, but rather the marriage of shape, size, and bend. The bowl of an Oom paul is shaped like a large Billiard with a generously sized tobacco chamber.
Oom Pauls are always fully bent, having a shank about the same diameter as the bowl, and are often made as “sitters.” Certainly one of the more interesting shape names of the bunch, you can likely guess that it isn’t without a story.