Rex Poggenpohl

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Rex with a Freehand Dublin he made
J. Rex Poggenpohl (right), with Poul Ilsted in Poul's workshop in 2010

Introduction

Rex Poggenpohl is a notable Pipe collector, amateur pipe maker, and was a part time Pipe-Smith at Iwan Ries & Co., Chicago for 10 years.

Many will know Rex from pipe shows. He worked tirelessly for years as part of the Chicago Pipe Show team. He visited Denmark on several occasions to encourage Danish pipe makers to make the trip across the pond to attend the show, and many did. He has many friends among the Danish masters. Many will also have seen his tables at other shows. One will typically find an excellent assortment of High Grade Estate pipes, including more than a few from Danish masters, all nicely restored.

Education

Iowa State U.; Illinois Institute of Tech. (IIT); U. Pennsylvania, Wharton Grad. School of Business.

Carrier

Former registered Architect and registered Professional Engineer, retired 1993 as Corporate Architect and VP of Corporate Engineering & Facilities at Bausch & Lomb. In semi retirement, Rex operated a one man Chicago workshop, designing and making contemporary custom furniture.

The Pipe Connection

Cavalier pipe made by Rex, who refers to himself as an amateur pipe maker

Like many college students, Rex tried pipe smoking with his father’s favorite Weber pipe to impress the girls, using 3 Star Blue and Flying Dutchman from Iwan Ries in Chicago, meeting owner Stanley Levi there. During the last 15 years of his corporate career he managed numerous international building projects and purchased a new pipe in many foreign cities as mementos of visits, smoking in the home garage only occasionally in winter.

In the 1980’s Rex and family were living in suburban Philadelphia near the giant Lancaster area flee markets where he started collecting and refurbishing old pipes. In the late 1980’s he started occasionally making pipes for himself and friends. During this period he amassed the List of American Pipe Makers and published it online in 1996. This list was pivotal in building the knowledge base here on Pipedia.

In 1993 Rex and family returned to Chicago where his wife was Professor of Design at the Institute of Design at their alma mater, IIT. In 1993 he attended his first pipe show in Indianapolis buying bags of Danish pipes and met some fellow pipe smokers attending from Chicago. He started bringing bags of pipes for repair to Cullen Fletcher’s shop on the South side of Chicago and Cullen got so tied of this that he taught Rex some basic repair techniques. Rex joined the fledgling Chicago Pipe Club in 1994, attending the Davenport show as an exhibitor in 1994, and then helping to formalize the Club in 1995. He was involved with Frank Burla in starting the (Chicago) International Pipe & Tobacciana Show in 1996, doing the table layouts, becoming a Show Officer, exhibiting with 4 or 5 tables, and sometimes, making a pipe for the silent auction until 2019. During those Chicago Show years he helped Burla establish the annual Pipemaking Seminars at the Show and became the Officer in Charge of such, guilty of convincing Lee Erck, Michael Butera and Jeff Gracik to lead the Seminars in later years. During the early years of joining the Chicago group Rex became a friend of Pipemaker Clarence Mickles. Later Clarence taught Rex many pipe making and restoring tricks. For a number of years, Rex joined some of the famous Chicago Club members (Burla, Rio, Reschke, Lehmann, Mickles, Amato, etc.), traveling to as many as 5 other Pipe shows annually; i.e.: Richmond, Columbus, St. Louis,, Milwaukee, Newark, etc.

In 1999 Rex volunteered to travel Denmark, Sweden and Germany to visit prominent Pipemakers and invite them to the Chicago Show, then meeting and becoming befriended and assisted by Tom Eltang and dealer Per Billhall. And for many subsequent years Rex made trips to European or Japanese pipe shows and visiting Pipemakers in their workshops, occasionally working with some of their equipment, such as: Eltang, Former, Nordh, Jess , Teddy, Kent, Tonni, Barbi, Nanna, Ilsted, Manduela, Heeschen, Anne Julie, Hedegaard, Gotoh, Satou, Tokutomi, Mänz, Butera, Rolando, etc., becoming good friends with many of them.

From a visit to the home of Peter Heeschen in 2015. Left to Right, Poul Ilsted, J Rex Poggenpohl, Peter Heeschen, Carl Knighten. Courtsy J. Rex Poggenpohl
Rex with his tables of interesting pipes at a pipe show

In 2006, Rex and wife moved to zero elevation Hong Kong where she was visiting Professor of Design for almost 3 years before her retirement. There he worked in a closet workshop on knives and pipes, while periodically consulting in China with several manufacturers of furniture for western markets.

For the last 10+ years, Rex spends time at home in beautiful Estes Park, Colorado, at 8000’ elevation, reducing their many collections and correspondingly traveling to about 10 collectible shows a year. He also enjoys still playing in his workshop making handmade furniture, knives and pistol grips; as well as some restoration of target guns, bamboo fly rods, and pipes.

Examples from the J. Rex Poggenpohl workshop (Hover for description, click for full size immage)


Scenes From the Poggenpohl home in beautiful Estes Park, Colorado, at 8000’ elevation