Northwood's Craftsman Lee Von Erck handcrafts pipes one at a time in Negaunee Township, Michigan, and they have been demanding attention throughout the Pipe Smoking Community worldwide.
In an article, called Go West, which originally appeared in the French Pipe Mag, Erwin Van Hove has this to say about Lee von Erck: "Lee is a fascinating personality. He is a solitary individual with ascetic looks and a sense of humor as dry as a dry martini. Without doubt he is one of the most distinctive American carvers. His work does not leave one indifferent. One either loves his very organic shapes, inspired he says by the nature that surrounds his workshop in Michigan, or one profoundly dislikes his bizarre and rustic pipes. Anyway, collectors of small pipes should beware ! Lee loves big bowls. Also noteworthy is that Lee has perfected a method, kept quite secret, of oil curing, which means that the wood is treated with a mixture of oils to chase away the tannins and other impurities. The result is a pipe that produces a pleasant and typical flavor from the first puffs onward. The molded ebonite stems Lee uses, undergo a lot of modifications. As for the finishes, few smooth pipes, but lots of partially or completely rusticated ones with a very surprising appearance. Lee is said to rusticate with a dentist’s drill ! Just recently von Erck has presented a series of pipes which are sand blasted to offer a wonderful, bee hive effect : the morel finish, an impressive illustration of his craftsmanship. In short, Lee manages to produce an American pipe that does not have its counterpart in Europe."
More from Lee's website
The sudden interest in these pipes is a bit unexpected as their past marketbase has been targeted predominately at mid-America. Lee has been making pipes for just 15 years.
Pipe Smoking aficionados have claimed that the von Erck Classic Pipes have experienced sudden popularity largely due to their unique design, careful craftsmanship, and smooth smokeability.
Lee himself believes that his pipes appeal to smokers because he himself has been smoking pipes for 35 plus years and he personally knows what appeals to the dedicated pipesmoker. When he creates a pipe, he strives for one that is eyecatching, expresses the natural grain in the briar, feels good in the hand, and above all, smokes well. This is "the pipe with the worry stone effect", quoted Dennis Hills, Riegels, Fort Wayne, IN.
Each pipe created is a one-of-a-kind piece, being developed, based on the character of the briar itself. The personality of each particular piece of briar is what dictates to the craftsman, how each piece will develop, and become that one-of-a-kind pipe.
The von Erck Classics is a bit out of the ordinary. Boring, shaping, and polishing of the pipes is done in a small shop in the Northwoods of Michigan . The pipes are then put through a lengthy oil-curing and drying process before they are returned for crafting of a bit for each pipe. The bit for each pipe is as unique and individual as that of the pipe it is created for. The final step in the lengthy process is to assign and stamp each pipe with it's own individual Serial number and nomenclature. The von Erck pipes are being found in collections of many prominent collectors and are prized for their exceptional craftsmanship and smokeability.
Great article in Pipes and Tobacco Magazine, but only a part of it is on-line.
You might also enjoy listening to Brian Levine's interview with Lee on the Pipes Magazine Radio Show
E-mail: mailto:PipeMaker@von-Erck.com Website