We are in the middle of a big increase in not only Pipe Smoking, but also an increase in the number of Artisanal makers. In the last few years the number of hobby makers has increased and quality of the work many are putting out, puts the big factories to shame. Here at GQ Tobaccos we try and bring some of these obscure and experienced carvers work to the attention of smokers everywhere. Philip Rivara’s work has interested us for some time and based on good reviews and stunning images we have chosen to work with Phil. Towards the end of 2013, Glynn picked one up himself and it has been smoked a lot since it arrived in his grubby hands.
To find out more about Phil and his work, please read this short Q&A/Interview we did.
Glynn - Who are you and what's your back ground, how and when did you start making pipes?
Phil - Grew up in Northern and Pacific North of California. Always had extremely diverse interests. Former USN. Have worked as a blueberry picker, mechanic, a silk plant merchant, auto body repair, locksmith, auto wholesaler/exporter, business (4) co-founder, automotive machine shop. Had plans on going into the Merchant Marine until 3 years ago when I started having trouble staying upright. Doctors found a tumor from the left ear and almost into my brain. Had two surgeries that left me with a permanent balance problem. That ended any Merchant Marine ideas. During my recovery and nothing but time- A friend said he would like "one of those Gandalf pipes". W/o any idea of how I was going to do it; I said I would make him one. Spent the next 6 months or more tracking down anything and everything related to pipe making. That's what got me started- opening my big mouth. LOL
Glynn - Did you learn your entire pipe making skills yourself? Anyone who helped and gave you support?
Phil - For the most part I am self taught. Any factory vids I could watch of Brebbia or Peterson's, Savinelli, whoever and the pipe making process I watched, paused often to look at equipment. Listened to the machinery/tools and committed it to memory. Later on and even today I do get some great help/tips from guys like Chris Morgan, Sparky's Pipes, Joe Case and Mark Balkovec. In particular Mark has always been very honest and helpful and an all around great guy.
Glynn - What materials do you use for your pipes? (Types of Briar, Rods etc) Any that you would like to experiment with?
Phil - Pipes are constructed of Grecian Briar and Mimmo Briar and I'm starting to play with Morta and Aluminum. Stem materials used are Acrylic, Ebonite, Horn and other natural materials. If I see something that looks interesting or different- it may end up in a mental note for experimentation.
Glynn - Is there any shapes you really enjoy making and even hate making?
Phil - I love long-shanked pipes like Canadians or Cutty's and tweaks on traditional pipe shapes. The least enjoyable pipe to make is an Oom Paul- it is a very rewarding shape when completed but, laying out the design and airways for the best possible draught is a pain. Wish I could find the drilling tools that Brebbia uses to make their curved airways in their pipes but, they aren't sharing.
Glynn - Apart from your own pipes, which pipes make you go wow! Any carvers who's work inspires you?
Phil - Looking at old pipes and the craftsmanship involved is like looking at fine furniture or cabinetry. Two pipe carvers/maker that I really admire are Mark Balkovec and Scott (Sparky's Pipes)- these two guys, while vastly different, never cease to amaze me.
Now for the "Fun Questions"
Glynn - What’s the difference between a Bulldog and a Rhodesian?
Phil - Traditionally a bulldog has a diamond shank and the Rhodesian a round shank. Either with one or two rings on the upper portion of the bowl at the transition line.
Glynn - Aromatic or English?
Phil - Given only two choices I would go English.
Glynn - Flake or Loose Cut?
Phil - Flake tobacco
Glynn - Top 5 Tobaccos?
Phil - In order of 1st to last. (For the present anyway)
1-St. Bruno Flake
2-Germain's rich dark flake
3-Sam Gawith Westmorland Mixture
4-Sam Gawith 1792 flake
5-Peterson Nutty Cut
Thanks Phil for taking the time to answer these questions. You can see our current range of Phils pipes, over on our Artisan Pipes Section