Pipes by Tom Eltang
I first met Tom Eltang at the Chicago show of 2000. I was immediately drawn to his passion for pipe making, and Tom, my friend Toren and I sat and talked into the wee hours of the morning, looking at old catalogues, old photographs, discussing the histories of many pipe makers, and probing deeply into the heart and soul of the briar pipe. It was a magical night, and the memory of it lingers with me to this day. Tom and I became friends, and I've had the great fortune of spending time with him in Denmark, as well as here in the US.
Tom is no newcomer to pipe making, having started his apprenticeship with Anne Julie, wife of the late Poul Rasmussen, when he was 16 years old. He then spent many years working for Stanwell, for whom he still designs pipes. Today, Eltang is best known for his beautiful hand-made masterpieces. Much of Tom's work bears a distinctly classical influence, yet they always exhibit his unique “signature.” He brings to each pipe a stylish sophistication, a marvelous sense of balance, and a deep understanding of the wood itself. Form and function always harmonize beautifully in his work, as the following photos will attempt to demonstrate. A few minutes with Eltang, and you sense the fire that burns within his artist's heart. Just the way he looks at a block can begin to provide clues as to the difference between a good pipe maker, and a great one. I don't have many Eltangs, but each is very special to me, and I am confident my little collection will continue to grow.
What is most important to me than Tom's pipes, however, is the friendship that has developed between us over the years. The pipes are like bookmarked pages in a personal quo vadis, and each serves to remind me of a certain time or place. I cherish the pipes not only for what they are, but also for the even more cherished memories that are captured within each one.
|One of my first Eltangs - a lovely squat bulldog.
|A beautiful cross-grain saddle bulldog purchased from my friend
Per Billhäll of Scandinavian Pipes, in Sweden.
|This is one of those difficult pipes to photograph. It's one of
Tom's “Eskimos,” covered with fantastic birdseyes top and bottom. The pipe is very flat
so as to easily slip into a shirt pocket!
|This is one of the beautiful small billards Tom made for the Swedish
Pipe Club. It was presented to me after a wonderful supper at Bo Nordh's house by the officers of the club.
It's a wonderful
pipe, and I cherish it even more for the memories it holds.
|The blast of this pipe is wonderful, and it's one of those rare
horn shapes that is actually very easy to smoke, demonstrating that Tom is truly a master of both
form and function.
|On of Eltang's wonderful rusticated cutties, and a tiny sandblasted
footed dublin. I got the small pipe from Tom during our first meeting.
|Tom and I were in his workshop talking while he made this
beautiful rusticated poker for me. What an education to watch this pipe go from briar and
cumberland rod to a finished pipe. Tom's skill and experience made it look SO easy...
|...that I just had to use newly learned techniques to make my own.
Here is the result - a very rare pipe -
one of only two “Pease/Eltang” pipes in the world. The other is a rusticated poker with a bamboo
shank now in the hands of my friend Toren. Tom guided me through the steps, and helped out a lot when I got stuck, especially in the performance of his Golden Contrast staining technique,
but this pipe is otherwise my own creation, from the design to the final waxing.
What a thrill to work with someone of Tom's experience and expertise in building this pipe! And, I really got lucky with the briar.