Note: Rainer Barbi passed away on 23 May 2011 after a brief battle with pancreatic cancer. He will be greatly missed!
Rainer Barbi started with the production of pipes in 1974. He was therefore regarded as the "senior" of the German freehand pipe makers, although he really had the spirit of a young person. I first met Rainer in 2001, when he hosted a presentation of his pipes in the city of Bünde, at Otto Pollner's place, who is the grand-master of pipe-turners in Germany.
There is no doubt, Rainer was one of the very best pipe makers in the world, which is very remarkable for someone who started out as an autodidact(self-taught). Barbi can be proud of his work, they are amongst the most popular pieces worldwide.
I like all the pipes of Barbi very much, without exception, a style of his own is unmistakable and the recogntion value of a Barbi is great. Many of his pipes are finished very brightly and the grain contrast stands out more and more with use of the pipe.
It should be pointed out that Barbi, despite his success and being honored with a prestigious award in the USA, quite consciously maintains the German market and also makes pipes to accept 9mm filters, which are popular in Germany. However, these are just as beautiful and delicate as his pipes which are not fitted to accept filters.
Barbi uses different decorating materials and finishes. Cumberland mouthpieces were apparently very popular with early pipes. Barbi was a strong advocate of the use of tobacco chamber coating (charcoal/graphite/tumbler), and there is no doubt, his coating was great.
Barbi made both smooth and sand-blasted pipes. I have also seen meerschaum pipes with his brandname.
Barbi has used various identifying marks on his pipes during the more than 30 years of his pipe making. I have seen older pieces (drilled to accept 6mm filter) with the stamp "Styled by Barbi" (without grades) and a golden signature stamp "R. Barbi" on the stem.
The current pieces are stamped "r. barbi - handarbeit" and a delicate "r.b." on the stem. This design on the stem is slightly raised. As to how this is done, it is a secret which other pipe carvers envy.
As part of an earlier agreement, in 2014 Holmer Knudsen began series production of a line of Barbi-designed pipes, using ebauchons that were selected by Barbi himself. The pipes are being sold through DanPipe of Germany; they would have been offered years earlier had it not been for Barbi's untimely death.
Rainer did not sell pipes directly. Here is his list of dealers and distributors that carry his pipes. He was happy to offer information, advice and practical help to those interested in his pipes. Rainer Barbi Website: Rainer Barbi Email: mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org