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''These reviews originally appeared in The Pipe Collector, the official newsletter of the American Pipe Collectors Society [http://naspc.org (NASPC)] and used by permission. It's a great organization--consider joining.''
 
''These reviews originally appeared in The Pipe Collector, the official newsletter of the American Pipe Collectors Society [http://naspc.org (NASPC)] and used by permission. It's a great organization--consider joining.''
[[File:Custombilt Shapes.jpg|thumb|600px|Courtesy Doug Valitchka]]
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[[File:CustomBiltBox06.jpg|thumb|600px|Courtesy Doug Valitchka]]
 
== A REVIEW BY RICHARD ESSERMAN ==
 
== A REVIEW BY RICHARD ESSERMAN ==
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=== The Book ===
 
=== The Book ===
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I was surprised at the length of the book-over 250 pages. This book is not your typical pipe book-it is not an "easy" read but more of a scholarly work. The focus is on substance not style; completeness is the focus. Even after all the research, many questions remain.
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[[File:Custombilt Shapes.jpg|thumb|Courtesy Doug Valitchka]]I was surprised at the length of the book-over 250 pages. This book is not your typical pipe book-it is not an "easy" read but more of a scholarly work. The focus is on substance not style; completeness is the focus. Even after all the research, many questions remain.
    
Being the erudite, educated person that I am, the first thing I did was look at the illustrations/pictures. I did this to get a feel for what the pipe was all about. There are tons of illustrations, including actual pipes, catalogues and schematics. By looking at the pictures, I was able to discover (much to my surprise) that a much wider variety of shapes, styles and finishes existed than I previously thought. (Interestingly, although not mentioned in the book, the Custom-Bilt Company reminds me to some degree of the Marxman Pipe Company.)
 
Being the erudite, educated person that I am, the first thing I did was look at the illustrations/pictures. I did this to get a feel for what the pipe was all about. There are tons of illustrations, including actual pipes, catalogues and schematics. By looking at the pictures, I was able to discover (much to my surprise) that a much wider variety of shapes, styles and finishes existed than I previously thought. (Interestingly, although not mentioned in the book, the Custom-Bilt Company reminds me to some degree of the Marxman Pipe Company.)
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=== Custom-Bilt History ===
 
=== Custom-Bilt History ===
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The book opens up with an intriguing statement that unfortunately is never fully followed up:
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[[File:Custombilt01b.jpg|thumb|Courtesy Doug Valitchka]][[File:CustombiltItaly01.jpg|thumb|Courtesy Doug Valitchka]][[File:CustombiltStd01.jpg|thumb|Courtesy Doug Valitchka]]The book opens up with an intriguing statement that unfortunately is never fully followed up:
    
Before beginning this history, I need to emphasize an important fact and to ask the reader to keep it firmly. Spelling-Custom-Bilt, Custombilt, and other variations-is extremely important to the various aspects of the following discussions. It was not, however, important to many people in the company’s early days. [Emphasis mine] {Page 9}.
 
Before beginning this history, I need to emphasize an important fact and to ask the reader to keep it firmly. Spelling-Custom-Bilt, Custombilt, and other variations-is extremely important to the various aspects of the following discussions. It was not, however, important to many people in the company’s early days. [Emphasis mine] {Page 9}.
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=== The Pipes ===
 
=== The Pipes ===
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Most Custom-Bilt pipes that you see at a pipe show have somewhat big, chunky bowls with rough carving or gouges. It is very rare to see a completely smooth piece. In today’s market, the pipes are still considered to be on the large side but are not true giants. It should be noted that in the early days when the Custom-Bilt pipes were first being produced, these bowl sizes were considered very large and massive. The size of the average pipe was a group 3 or 4 sized Dunhill.
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[[File:CustomBilt01.jpg|thumb|Courtesy Doug Valitchka]][[File:CustomBiltBox01.jpg|thumb|Filter Box, courtesy Doug Valitchka]]Most Custom-Bilt pipes that you see at a pipe show have somewhat big, chunky bowls with rough carving or gouges. It is very rare to see a completely smooth piece. In today’s market, the pipes are still considered to be on the large side but are not true giants. It should be noted that in the early days when the Custom-Bilt pipes were first being produced, these bowl sizes were considered very large and massive. The size of the average pipe was a group 3 or 4 sized Dunhill.
    
The first thing that Bill addresses in his chapter on pipes is the quality of the bowls in the early years. Rick Hacker, in his Rare Pipes book, suggests that Mincer bought blemished bowls from other companies and used the wood-working router to get rid of the blemishes. According to an important employee, Hetzer Hartsock, "Tracy used a very choice Algerian briar, and they were bigger blocks than what the other companies were using."
 
The first thing that Bill addresses in his chapter on pipes is the quality of the bowls in the early years. Rick Hacker, in his Rare Pipes book, suggests that Mincer bought blemished bowls from other companies and used the wood-working router to get rid of the blemishes. According to an important employee, Hetzer Hartsock, "Tracy used a very choice Algerian briar, and they were bigger blocks than what the other companies were using."
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Bill ends the book by writing, "It would be interesting to know how much the various pipe carvers at the various American pipe companies were aware of each other or communicated with each other (in the 1940s and 1950s) when pipe making was a booming industry in the United States." I suspect there was a lot of communication and a lot of sharing (buying) of bowls among the factories. If you look closely at certain stamps on some of the major brands of that day, they are identical.
 
Bill ends the book by writing, "It would be interesting to know how much the various pipe carvers at the various American pipe companies were aware of each other or communicated with each other (in the 1940s and 1950s) when pipe making was a booming industry in the United States." I suspect there was a lot of communication and a lot of sharing (buying) of bowls among the factories. If you look closely at certain stamps on some of the major brands of that day, they are identical.
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<center><gallery widths=285px heights=200px caption="Pipe Details courtesy Doug Valitchka">
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File:CustomBilt05.jpg
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File:Custombilt07.jpg
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File:CustomBilt07a.jpg
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File:Custombilt07b.jpg
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File:CustombiltOriginal07.jpg
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</gallery></center>
    
=== My Own Sense of the Custom-Bilt Pipe ===
 
=== My Own Sense of the Custom-Bilt Pipe ===

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