Leslie "Les" John Wood worked for Dunhill for 19 years. His last position was as master silversmith. Following his tenure with Dunhill, Les formed his own brand, L. & J.S. Briars together with his wife Dolly in 1978. Les Wood follows Sasieni, the first ex Dunhill worker to start their own enterprise, and he was followed by William John "Ashton"-Taylor.
I started working at Dunhill’s in March 1963, in the silver mounting department working under Jack Spriggs he left the firm after I had been there for 2 years, and I took over the department, at that time I worked alone it was only when the department was relocated to the top floor that the increase of pipes that needed mounting that we took on trainees. After 19 years I was asked if I would buy the machinery and move out of the factory and set up on my own, so off I went. With me I took the staff that worked with me at that time, Robert Morris was the best, he could mount anything, he now has his own jewellery retail shop and makes some really nice handmade jewellery from his shop at Whitstable in Kent.Les Wood. Jan, 2020.
I worked on Dunhill’s pipes from 1980/81 and soon built up a reputation as the firm to send your mounting to. As time went on and Dolly left Dunhill’s we decided to start to turn our own bowls and make our own pipes under the name of my house.
Due to the vagaries of international trademark law, he sold his earlier pipes as " L.&J.S Briars", "Ellwood", "Les Wood" or "L. Wood". Until recently, an average of 1500 - 2000 pipes a year were sold as "Ferndown" — named for the mansion he lives in — in the UK and US, but as "L. Wood" pipes in Germany.
Over the years I got to know a lot of retailers James Barber and I became good friends and he would buy most of my production in the early days, Eddy Kolpin in LA, I knew from his visits to Dunhill’s as a PPD, he contacted me and wanted to come over to the workshop to chat. Within a week he came over and he became my USA agent, Dolly and I went to a lot of the RTDA’s in the USA and sales went through the roof. At times we were making 1200 pipes a year all handmade hand cut mouthpieces and as Dolly was so good at her job in finishing the result was the Ferndown that is sold today, after some time we decided to make all the pipes with Silver Bands, cap bands, spigots, and army mounts. That’s when I stopped making any work for other pipe makers, so we could concentrate on our own work.Les Wood. Jan, 2020.
To many pipe smokers, Les Wood's pipes embody the revival of great English pipe making initiated by Ashton in the early 1980s. The high-grade Italian and Spanish plateau he prefers is oil-cured in the tradition of both Dunhill and Ashton. The pipes are renowned for their pleasant, slightly nutty flavor and remarkable smoking characteristics. They feature impeccable craftsmanship extending to very good stem/bit work, though many pipes are often a bit heavier. The hallmark of his work, of course, is the excellent silver work. Almost all of his pipes feature rings or ferules for spigot stems. Grading is by finish: "Bark" (ca. 90%, rusticated, dark brown and black), "Antique Bark" (tan rusticated), "Reo" (brown and red, smooth), "Root" (orange, smooth), and "Tudor Root" (orange and brown smooth) and by size (one to four stars). He also designates straight grains with SG.
Les Wood's metalwork is frequently in demand with other brands like Ashton or Comoy´s and most recently with Bentley for the John Aylesbury POY 2008.
We bought the briar from Italy and Spain, one is mush denser that the other I like the Spanish briar it is lighter and Dolly would make the Roots look like glass with only a natural vanish, all the pipes were finished with the same varnish, the bark finish on the bowl is put on by Dolly by hand, one slip and you have a problem. That’s one job that needs to be seen to see how it’s done.
In the work shop we have our own jobs I turn the bowls and fit the rod vulcanite and shape it to the pipe, if I had time I would pumice them or Dolly would do it she took over from there, I only got the pipe back when it was stained and finished, ready for me to put the silver on, each silver band is fitted to each pipe as an individual made to fit that pipe only.
We then stamp it and engrave the M/P with LJS.
We had our method of Oil-Curing. We applied Oil to the outside and the inside of the bowl, that was because when Dolly was at Dunhill's factory, she worked in the finishing department and got such a high finish on the pipes they wanted to know how she did it. The bowls had already gone through Dunhills' oven oil curing system, but to her, it was not enough, because it could not get the shine that she wanted, then, she oiled the bowl on the outside and the inside to get a better finished. She left Dunhill and came to work with me. Because of this process, we found out the smokers liked the taste when light up their pipe - they said there was no aftertaste and it had a sweet taste doesn't matter what tobacco they used. We have carried it on from there.Les Wood.
Robert Nichols, a fan of Les’s work, related that it is necessary to keep in mind that most of the production has been rusticated and the terminology gets confusing because those blasts are also called “bark” when they show up on pipes2smoke. According to Maxim, pipes2smoke is the only retailer of Ferndown blasts. On the pipes2smoke webpage (Maxim’s) description reads:
‘About 90% of them are made in rusticated "Bark" finish and the balance is a smooth "Reo" or "Root" & Premier sandblast.’ Note: that in Maxim’s description “Premier sandblast” is distinct from “Bark”.
So, I take it “bark” is LW’s word for “rusticated.” According to Maxim, 90% of LW’s pipes are rusticated, not sandblasted.Nichols, R. February 2020
The sandblasted was done in Canada. Maxim Engel arranged it all (after sandblasting, he shipped the bowls back to him, for turning into pipes) and the other barks were done by dolly, with a drill that is sharpened with two points on the outside of the cutting face. You can't make a mistake when you use it, it is unforgiving, hurts your fingers.Les Wood.
The production was divided between myself and Dolly. I would turn the bowls, then fit the rod volcanite to the required length. Then, I would shape the vulcanite to the required mouthpiece shape, sandpaper all the bowl and mouthpiece together (so they are a good fit), then it would go to Dolly. She would re-sandpaper the bowl again through 120/240/400 grit sandpapers, then I would file the mouthpiece to shape so Dolly could pumice it. Next, she would mop it, stain it, if it needed barking (sandblasting? ), she would do that and then stain the bark, then she would finish it and pass it back to me for mounting. After I had mounted it, it would go back to her for finishing, ready to go out.Les Wood.
Mr. Wood is retired and his production today is very limited. Without any commitment, he makes some pipes that are sold through his partners. For more information Mr Wood provided an email to contact him: E-mail: mailto:email@example.com