A search for the Dunhill LC

In the summer of 2003 , I began talking to the Danish pipe makers about the virtues of sandblasted pipes, especially the deep, craggy blasts in the style that Dunhill used to make in the '20's and '30's. With remarkable speed, many of the carvers began producing some striking examples of this finish, the story of which you can read on my "New Era Sandblast" page. My hope was to bring together the charm of these early pipes with the refined engineering that the Danes have introduced to modern pipe making.

Since that time, the Danish pipe makers have continued to develop their blasting skills. Kent Rasmussen has turned out some remarkable pieces, some of which he designed from the outset as blasted pipes; likewise Kai Nielsen, and Kurt Balleby. And Peter Heeshen and Tom Eltang have both invested in their own sandblasting rigs.

Meanwhile, back in Aarhus, Teddy was taking a somewhat different tack. He had quickly taught himself to do blasting on a machine at a local art cooperative, and had used it to produce both classical and freehand shapes, some of which appeared (and almost immediately disappeared) from this site. He also used partial sandblasting to accent some of his famous shapes, like the Conch. In our conversations over the following months, we agreed that there was a particularly happy convergence between sandblasting and the "classical shapes." The wildness and complexity of the grain patterns revealed by the blasting process combines synergistically with geometrical formalism of the shapes to produce a pipe that embodies both art and nature.

Perhaps the most iconic of the classical shapes is the Dunhill LC, one of the rarest and most desirable of the Dunhill shapes. Shown here is a lovely example from John Loring's collection, made in 1926 (photo by permission). Even by today's standards, this is a large pipe, nearly 18 mm (7") long and over 6 mm tall. It is distinguished by its tall, almost egg-shaped bowl, and an elegant curved "swan's neck" shank. At my request, Teddy used this shape as his point of departure. In fact, one of Teddy's customers had commissioned an LC reproduction from him some years previously , so he had already had the opportunity to examine one of the originals first hand and in detail.

Teddy then turned his attention to the finish. He had carefully selected the "Mimmo Briar" blocks for the pipes from his extensive inventory to have the most open, interesting and complex grain pattern. But he was not entirely satisfied with the results he and Kent were getting the the local blasting machine. So he devised a uniquely "Teddy style" solution. First, he blasted each pipe twice. Then he set to work with his Dremel tool and a tiny bit, accentuating the patterns that the blasting had revealed. The process took many hours, and his hand and arm were sore for some time afterwards. After this, we drove together down to Peter Heeshen's house, where he spent almost 30 minutes on each pipe, blasting it for a third and final time, as shown in the first picture above. We celebrated with a wonderful dinner of roast goose from Peter's farm.

Teddy was so pleased with the results that he designated both of them as Eagles, his highest grade, and the only time in his career that he has done so for a sandblasted pipe.  Here is the LC-like shape Teddy made, photographed in the December Mediterranean sun:

This is a beautiful pipe, and I promptly sold it shortly after listing it on my site. With its excellent engineering, it held the potential to be a wonderful smoker. But I was not entirely satisfied with the shape in several ways. First, there is bit too much wood at the joint between the shank and the bowl, which takes away from the signature "swan's neck" effect of the original. Also, the angle of the shank was a little too flat. This made it easier to do the drillings but lost something of the charm of the original.

I discussed the LC shape further with Lars Ivarsson and Kurt Balleby. Kurt was able to see what I meant, and did try to make a better model, but found it too challenging. He did say of this shape that it was "so ugly that it was beautiful," a wonderful turn of phrase. I did not expect that Lars would actually make a pipe, but I wanted his insights about the design, and he helped me to understand the crucial engineering concerns. I also spoke with the elegant and charming Luigi Crugnola ("Gigi"), a fabled Italian pipe maker from Verese of 50 years experience; I thought he might be able to make a series of pipes using his superb frasing equipment. He loved the shape, but found it was beyond the capabilities of his machinery.

Finally, I discovered a very talented young Austrian pipe maker by name of David Wagner of Baff Pipes who specializes in custom made pieces. I commissioned him to make an LC shaped pipe by hand. I shared with him all my previous conversations and experiences with this shape.  I sent him careful measurements from actual LC's that John Loring had supplied. After much discussion and several experiments he turned out this pipe. I think it is the closest approximation to the LC I have seen, and a wonderful pipe in its own right. The engineering is superb, and it has a smooth, silent draw.  The one shown to the left is the second in a series, and will be refined even further in subsequent examples. The good news is this: while purchasing an original LC, if you could find one, would set you back about $2500, and Teddy's version $2000, you can have your own version made by hand especially for you for just $800. And you can have your choice of finishes, and whether you want a Cumberland or black vulcanite bit. Just send an email.