Peter Matzhold

25th October, 2000


Presented are my impressions of a particular Peter Matzhold pipe, a long-shank brandy/apple, equipped with his "tiny" saddle stem. (If you've seen many of Matzhold's pipes, you'll understand the "tiny" reference.) The pipe has no grade stamped on it, but this matters little to me, and only really seems to have value in the "estate" market when one is attempting to determine the value of a used pipe. What does matter, what really should be the only thing that matters, is the beauty of the pipe; the cut, the wood, the finish, the construction.

The modified brandy glass bowl is beautifully joined to a slightly flared round shank, which is slightly "pinched" in the middle. The overall flow of the shape is superb, the bowl and the shank perfectly forming a unified whole. A short shank extension of boxwood is actually part of the stem, and is a nice touch. The stem is perfectly integrated with the boxwood, and everything works together aesthetically very well. At the top of the bowl, the walls are very thin, but perfectly concentric, something I really appreciate, and the thing is so smoothly cut that it *almost* seems lathe turned! But, no lathe could turn this shape! A "bird's eye" view of the bowl shows a slightly egg shaped cross section, betraying a true hand made pipe.

If I were grading this pipe, I'd have to give it a high grade, though not the highest. It's cut as a remarkably well centered cross grain. The grain runs almost perfectly laterally across the front and rear of the bowl, and continues along the top and bottom of the long shank where, by the end of the travel, it begins to lose some of it's "parallelism," and begins to flame a bit. Still, very lovely. The birdseyes on the sides are no less beautiful, and because of the symmetry, there's an equal quantity and density of the eyes on both sides of the bowl and shank. Where the grain begins to flame, near the stem, the eyes grow in size, and become a little swirly.

Clearly, Matzhold considers form and design to be more important than grade. He *could* have made a pipe with a shorter shank and, I assume, graded it up significantly, but he chose to stick with his vision, with his design, and make a beautifully balanced pipe, allowing the grain to run out slightly. Bravo! Artistic integrity wins out over greed.

The draw is not *quite* as open as I generally prefer, but it's well within the range of acceptability, and is quite free flowing. Upon close examination, the slight restriction is in the stem, not the shank. But, that careful inspection showed something almost amazing; the airway of the stem is perfectly, and smoothly tapered from the countersunk mortise to the button, where it is flared out horizontally to nearly the complete width of the bit. This sort of precision machining is rarely seen, and many makers of high end pipes could learn a thing or two from Matzhold in this arena! It's not stepped and filleted, but absolutely tapered! Brilliant. I don't know if he manages this with longer stems, but it's certainly impressive in this one.

The bowl is about group 4 in size, or a little smaller. I decided that Three Nuns would be a wonderful way to break the pipe in, and I've been rewarded in "disks" for that decision. The first couple bowls exhibited a little sharpness, a little tangy-ness, slightly over-emphasizing the perique, but the pipe smoked well, the tobacco burning evenly and easily to the very bottom of the bowl. A couple moments of moisture were noted, and quickly mitigated with a pipe cleaner. Not a problem.

A few bowls later, still with Three Nuns, the pipe has started to settle in to being a terrific smoke. That initial sharpness has given way to a very smooth, rich and full flavor, much of the nuance of the tobacco being well balanced on the palate. The attention at the business end of the stem results in the smoke being well distributed over the tongue, filling the mouth with flavor, rather than concentrating it on any one particular spot. (I've NEVER understood the logic behind the Peterson "lip" in this regard. Why would anyone actually WANT to concentrate the smoke to a focused point on the roof of the mouth? They seem to sell, though.)

There are no weird flavors, nothing to distract or detract from enjoyment of the tobacco. Still, there's something missing in the flavor. The sweetness of the tobacco is somehow restrained a little, hiding in the background. I can taste it, but I have to turn my attention to it, rather than just having it be part of the general experience. The pipe is hardly broken-in after only 8 or 9 bowls, though, and it shows great promise. Consider this merely an observation, not a complaint.

The pipe's finish is outstanding. Before waxing, the bowl is polished and buffed to almost perfect smoothness, so with smoking, as the wax either soaks into the wood or is rubbed off by handling, a beautiful patina is left. The wood, which was very light in color when new, has already started to take on a rich hue, further accentuating the marvelous grain. Years from now, this pipe will have the deep color of a lot of my other favorites. A great pipe.

Report Card:

Artistry A+ - Melding a more or less classic shape into a freehand design is not always well done, but Matzhold has done a super job here. Looking at his web site, I see a LOT of pipes that are really beautifully done. Not all of them are my "style," but I appreciate their aesthetics.

Finish A+ - The review says it all. Flawless.

Engineering A+ - Again, I'd love to see more pipe makers pay as much attention to these details. Even beyond the wood, I think it's the flow dynamics that decide the difference between a decent pipe and a great one.

Smoking Qualities A - This could be uprated in the future to A+ if more of the sweetness of the tobacco comes through once it's really well broken in. Already, there's a lot of richness, and a good articulation of some of the subtle notes. Given the change from first bowl to this one, I have high hopes!

Check out more of Peter Matzhold's pipes on his site.