The bulkiness of Charatans is one reason they are not a British maker that I collect I have one. James Upshall shapes are somewhat tempered in size and although still large pipes, they appeal to my sensibilities better. Some of the B shapes are downright petite. Handmades are a vastly different process from machine made pipes. The machine spits out the bowls and you get a range of quality and work from there. Hand makers, English Freehand school such as Upshall and Charatan , evolve the shape while they attempt to get the bowl clean.
The primary difference between the English and Danish Freehand schools is that the English begin with an intended shape and work toward that goal while the Danes let the flaws dictate shape. All English Freehand makers, including Barling, reduced or cut-down pipes as flaws dictated shape change to be necessary. Upshall and Chararan did this with some latitude while Barling, who made shapes based on a numbered chart, had less flexibility.
Barling craftsmen knew now to alter pipes to fit their shape chart. The most obvious example is a billiard being topped to become a pot but, especially with Barling, their skill in this regard was an art form. The 'clunky' Charatans are more common in the Lane Era. As a business practice, ending shape alteration once a bowl is clean, makes some sense because you won't continue to uncover flaws. It's also going to be the largest pipe that can be made.
Herman Lane and I discussed this Switzerland, , specifically relating to Upshall that he felt were good but dainty pipes. Herman felt that larger, more fantastic pipes sell, and they did, but we found that the more refined pipes had a broader appeal.
From a purist perspective, Herman took the easier path and while I understand his point of view, I'd never associate dainty with Upshall. Ken was the most open minded of my pipe makers, readily accepting criticism and new ideas and implementing them.
Ken and I worked to make the Upshalls more graceful despite the potential of uncovering flaws during process. Al, very perceptive about the smaller "B"s. Size did factor into grading, at least to some degree. A Ken Cutting story: He asked us for a donation to be auctioned at a charity event and when I told Ken he was eager to help.
Ken sifted through 20 or so large blocks of briar, digging into flaws, to see how deep they ran with a knife like a clam shucker and wetting their sides to see their grain. This one will make a little corker with perfect straight grain! I can see it. The table saw started and chips flew as Ken kept examining and turning the block, cutting at different angles and the briar kept shrinking.
A couple of deep cuts finished the shaped ebauchon, only slightly larger than a Dunhill group 6. Ken Cut the block in a scant few minutes. Barry took over on the lathe, turning away flaws and scooping out the tobacco chamber. Normally, Barry would have passed the pipe to a Shaper but he worked it through the finishing stages himself, including a hand-cut, rod vulcanite stem.
Red backing followed by a natural stain and the pipe was finished. It was only a Dunhill group 5 in size but it was every bit the 'corker' that Ken said it would be, an obvious to me "X" grade and perhaps a "XX" since it was nearly a degree straight grain billiard that ran from rim to heel.
Ken felt that it was too small to be an "X" and that it wasn't completely a straight grain and he'd only put the Upshall name on the pipe if it were marked as an "E" one grade below the "X" , and so it was marked.
Les Wood fitted the band and I took the pipe back to the States, put it into a presentation box and gave it to Lionel. Ken, it was an "X" then and still is, but I relate the story, partially, to illustrate that size did matter in grading. More importantly, it shows Ken's ability to see a near perfect pipe, of a specific shape, inside a massive block of briar and then his skill to produce it.
Posted 2 years ago.