Pipe Review: The Merchant Service Pipe

By Kevin Catanzaro,

claypipesAs many of you know I am a sucker for a good traditional English pipe design. The size, lines, weight and proportions just “work” for me. Albeit, Dunhill is my quintessential brand but there are other brands I own and are in my regular rotation. That being said, I was very excited about the announcement of the re-birth of the “Merchant Service Pipe” brought to our attention by Andy Camire via the Facebook Page. The pipe design and original manufacturer is said to be Bing Crosby’s favorite. I recall all the old photos I have seen of him with that icon long shanked billiard. I had to have it! Ordering was easy and I received my package in 2 days. Upon first examination I noticed the only nomenclature on the pipe is Merchant Service. No other stampings as to who it was made by, where it was made or country of origin for the briar itself. I found it odd but, not alarming. On closer examination I observed the close relation to the blast, stain, and stem material to the new Kaywoodie pipes and assume they are probably coming out of that factory or there is some sort of partnership. Just my assumption, I could be wrong but I have only been wrong twice in my life… marriage 1 and marriage 2.  The pipe was delivered in a nice box with burlap sock and was shipped with the stem detached. This pipe is a whopping 7 ¾ inches assembled. The briar itself and the blast in my opinion is a 10/10. The chamfered rim is a bonus. The ferrule is a nice feature especially with the delicate pencil shank but a touch crude and unrefined. The stem claims to be ebonite butI found it more plastic like to the tooth rather than hard rubber.  The bowl is huge, think of a large group 5 or 6 in size. Since it was a new pipe, I filled it ¼ to a ½ full of a good aromatic house blend I purchase from my local B&M. I wanted the higher sugar content and was not so concerned with the tobacco taste as I was with testing the insulating factor of the bowl knowing aromatics burn a bit hotter. The pipe past the test hands down. It smoked cool and dry and did not heat up after 3 consecutive bowls. I primarily work from home and I am usually at my desk for 10 to 12 hours a day. Most of the time I have a briar clenched in between my teeth very comfortably and natural.  Almost like I was born with it. I work that way, I answer the phone that way and sometimes have full conversations with pipe in mouth. I had a problem with this pipe because of its weight length proportions. The bowl is large and heavy and the shank being so long I was getting a fulcrum effect where I could not clench in a comfortable position. Holding the pipe was no help either as its length makes it cumbersome. I even dove into a bunch of old Bing photos and gather the original was a bit shorter and the bowl a bit smaller to balance the pipe. Maybe this re-design may have needed a fishtail bit to achieve a more solid foundation. The pipe is a dream and will be reserved for chair smoking. This Merchant Service Pipe is a solid 7/10 in my opinion.

If you'd like to hear more about the guys behind the Merchant Service Pipe, check out this edition of the Pipes Magazine Radio Show

New York Pipe Show - March 2004

The March 2004 New York Pipe Show is the Kentucky Derby of Rich Esserman's annual Triple Crown of pipes shows and took place this year on March 12 & 13 at the Ramada Inn at the beautiful Newark Airport. The Sherlock Holmes Pipe Club of Boston had a strong showing at this event with 11 members present, many of which were clad in their colors of green and tan. But although these shows have been running for many years it was this pipesmoker's first show and I was a bit anxious to get started. They had no trouble getting me in the gate but when the bell rang I got off to a slow start....

Taking advantage of the Friday night pre-show viewing, another newcomer Dock "Junior" Perry took an early lead and gained substantial ground throughout the day Saturday. Also out in front but a length or two behind "Junior" were Dick "The Pusher" Morse, Eric "Eveready" Kahn and Dr. Bob "Grabow" Kiess all vying for second. But with his acquisition of an oversized Ardor poker and a Walt Cannoy 3D candledrip, "The Pusher" edged ahead and for a time securing sole possession of second place. The favorite Steve" Mass Consumer" Gutz had fallen back a bit to find himself in an uncharacteristic fifth place. Further back in the pack and carefully planning their move were Tim "Timid" Hynick and Rick "Abacus" Fredericks but all I could see of them was their tobacco smoke. About a length ahead of me was Ted "Sea Foam" Blank and Andy "Doc Watson" Camire. Steve "The Suit" Wyman flew by on my right side but I lost sight of him from that point on.

I was so entranced by this strange new arena that I could barely keep to a slow trot. So much was going on, so much to see... but what to look at first? The crowd was amass with new faces, a few familiar and a few legends like Teddy Knudsen, Peter Heeschen and Rolando Negoita that I'd heard of through stories and on the web, but they all looked like one big blur to me right now. After a few laps around the track "Abacus" dropped back and saw my distress. "What is it," he asked? "I saw a nice Caminetto earlier but now I can't remember where I saw it." "I was warned about this, why didn't I listen," I thought to myself. We retraced my tracks but came up empty. "It must be gone," I finally conceded and watched as he caught back up with the rest of the pack.

Finally, I overtook "Doc Watson" for a few furlongs and was able to clear my head. I began hearing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" playing in my mind. It was so soothing, but what did it mean? Then it came to me. I remember hearing it playing from an iPod Friday night at the Santa Fe Pipes room. I remembered how welcome and familiar I felt there and the great selection of pipes Tony and George had to offer. I started to relax and everything suddenly became clear. Maybe they were my pot of gold "over the rainbow?" While standing there still lost in thought, "Doc Watson," after falling back and gaining some perspective, recaptured his position.

Just then I was hit with a blast of Hermit's Pink Champagne that snapped my senses back to full alert like a freshly cracked smelling salt and I was off and running, down the stretch and around the bend. Ahhh good... that Savanelli Autograph with the beautiful strait grain that I had seen the night before was still there. This must be destiny. I picked it up and felt it's smoothness and admired it's beautiful grain. Instantly we became one (cue the romantic music). "Is that the one you were looking at last night?" Tony of Santa Fe Pipes asked. "Yes," I said, "and I'll take it." I had no sooner handed him the money when I looked down at his table and there it was... the Caminetto I thought I had lost. I picked it up and looked it over.... "I'll take this one too." But the race wasn't over yet. After a couple more laps around the track I ended up back at Santa Fe where they made me an offer I couldn't refuse. My final purchase was a Radice Rind, very similar to one I had been eyeing on the web and hoping to find at the show.

As we rounded the final bend the excitement from all this over stimulation
had our adrenaline at full throttle and we found ourselves neck and neck
down the stretch to the finish line and ended with a photo finish at the wire.
Because after all, when you think about it, we all took home some really great
pipes. Doesn't that put us all in the Winners Circle?

All fiction aside, the New York Pipe Show was an extremely enjoyable time for me as I imagine it
was for all who attended. It was great seeing some of our old New York comrades there like Paul
Bonaquisti, Bill Feuerbach of Kaywoodie and Rob Denholtz, Jim Murray
and Rob Garibino from the Hudson Valley Pipe Club. I also had the pleasure
of meeting Jay and Louise from Hermit Tobacco and it was great getting to know Tony and George from Santa Fe Pipes (I think they were a tad happy to have met me as well $$ ). And I can't forget to mention our Master of Ceremonies Sailorman Jack with his infamous herald, Attention! Attention!  We also had an opportunity to speak with David and Janice of R.D. Field who we look forward to hosting at our April meeting. We even recruited one new club member, Alexander "Sandy" Gerli.

One of my favorite tables was the BacArt table with it's amazing display of exquisitely sculpted pipes. The craftsmanship and artistic talent that went into the making of these works of art clearly portraits the passion and dedication that Bartlomiej Antoniewski has for his craft. As much as I would have loved to put one of these beautiful pieces on my mantle, today was just a day to admire them as I did thousands of pipes that day.

Now, aside from a serious lack of appropriate signage directing you from the highway to the Ramada Inn, (remember the rotary scene in National Lampoon's European Vacation.. that's what it felt like) my first visit to the New York Pipe Show was one I'll always remember. But of all the new experiences I had at this show, I think the most memorable part of all was just being surrounded by so many genuinely nice people that share the same interest as we do.

I look forward to my next visit to one of the New York Pipe Shows which I hope will be soon, but right now my sights are set on Richmond and I've already begun hording my money..... well maybe I should start saving right after RD Field comes..... then again maybe I should wait until after the Watch City Cigar visit in June..... I don't think I'm going to have enough money................ Can anybody lend me a fiver?

Our First Visit to Kaywoodie

Our First Visit to Kaywoodie - by Andy Camire
December 13, 2003

The day started off leaving Hubbardston, MA the Central Massachusetts location of "Man's World" and residence of Jay (Gavel) Beard. The two of us took our leisurely drive to Vernon, CT where we always stop at the great Rein's NY Deli for breakfast, and then onward to Peekskill NY the home of S.M. Frank Co. maker of Kaywoodie, YelloBole, and Medico pipes. We arrived around 1:30 pm. and Bill Fuerbach, VP of S.M. Frank Co. greeted us with a smile and a smoke. It was my first visit to the factory, and must admit it was a super experience to view the displays in the office area that go back to the late 1800's and the KB&B days. Bill had a superb collection in showcases on the floor; walls covered with some old prototype Kaywoodie pipes, along with many other brands that the company manufactured in years past. It was a history lesson on the brands we all enjoy today and Bill also had a terrific display of recently made HandMade high grade Kaywoodies for viewing or purchasing. Along with Bill Fuerbach, noted funny man and pipe crafter extraordinaire was Paul Bonaquisti. You know that the day is going to be spectacular when you match those two guys together in one room. LOOK OUT!!!! Altogether I believe there were about 20 people in attendance. After enjoying some fine hors d'eouvres. We all lit our pipes, filled the room with fragrant aromas of latakia perique, burley, Turkish, Virginia, and many others.delectable fragrances of fine leaf. Read more....

Pipe and Tobacco Podcasts

Country Squire Radio
countrysquirelogoA weekly podcast about all things pipes and tobacco.  Beau and Jon David have a great chemistry and keep you entertained every week. Check their website for show times. They mix it up a lot YouTube  |  Website
(1:00 PM Eastern Time)

PipesMagazine Radio Show
PMag radio show logoA different interview every week with Brian Levine a well known member of the tobacco industry.  Sit back, relax with your pipe, and enjoy The Pipes Magazine Radio Show!       iTunes  |  Website
(Live Tuesday evenings 8 PM )

Pipe and Tamper Pipecast
PMag radio show logoA Podcast for the Tobacco Pipe Enthusiast. Interviews with pipe carvers and industry influencers. Quick tobacco reviews and segments on pipes and tobaccos. New episodes are available on the 1st and 15th of every month.     iTunes  |  Website

Sherlock Holmes Podcasts

I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere (IHOSE)
IHOSElogoA delightful way to spend an evening with Holmes as your affable co hosts Scott Monty and Burt Wolder share their unique perspectives and sense of humor. Find out more than you ever thought possible about the greatest pipe smoker that never lived.

Shows come out twice a month. iTunes  |  Website

Sherlock Holmes: Trifles
Trifles Cover smFrom the producers of the I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere podcast, Trifles is a 15-minute, weekly audio program where Scott & Burt discuss something related to the Canon.
Have you ever stopped to wonder about why Dr. Watson was called James by his wife? Or of Sherlock Holmes's dining habits? Or what happened when he let a criminal escape? Answers to these questions and more await in Trifles, a weekly podcast about details in the Sherlock Holmes stories. iTunes  |  Website

Pipe & Tobacco Episodes:    Episode 71 | Episode 83

Trifles artwork created by Tom Richmond


Keeping the smoking lamp lit since 1989