A Bamboo Shank Freeform by California's Robert Vacher
Robert Vacher, the man behind Laughing Moon Pipes, makes pipes that are much better than they have any right to be.
Got your attention? Here's the thing. Vacher makes his pipes from decent briar, and makes them with remarkable skill. The reason they shouldn't be as good as they are is that they are just too damn cheap! But, Vacher's philosophy is simple, and novel. He wants to produce a decent qualty, hand-made pipe of excellent smoking qualities for a price that almost anyone can afford. Has he done it? If this pipe is any indication of how good a pipe can be for about $100, I'd say he certainly has.
Let's look at the pieces. The bowl is crafted from some nice, old Grecian plateau briar. This is the stuff a lot of pipe makers use because of it's excellent smoking characteristics, not for the beauty of the grain. The grain on this one isn't razor straight and angel hair fine, but it is quite attractive, with no bald spots, those nasty spots on some briar where it seems that the grain just disappears. There are a couple of obvious sand-pits (they can almost be seen toward the bottom of the bowl n the larger version of the photograph above), and I applaud Robert for not trying to disguise them in any way. They're just there.
The bamboo came from Robert's grandmother's back yard or something. He harvested it himself, dried it himself, and has been fashioning it into wonderful shank extensions.
Design/Artistry: B+/A- This pipe is really nicely done, as are many of Vacher's recent creations. Some, however, just don't appeal to my personal sense of balance, preventing a good, solid A in this category. Still, for a newcomer, he's doing great stuff!
Fit/Finish: B- My greatest criticism is with the surface finish. Micro-scratches and some sanding marks prevent the pipe acheiving a really fine lustre. A few minutes with a buffing wheel would do wonders in this department.
Engineering: A Surprisingly good internals for a pipe in this price range!
Smoking Qualities: B+ Some off flavours during the first few bowls were experienced. After several bowls, though, the pipe smokes quite well.
Value: A+++ Vacher is all about value. His philosophy is to provide a good, hand made price at low, low prices. He has certainly succeeded with this example!
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