Waughtel

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Robert Waughtel, broken pipe - Pipemaker in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Lacking other information we quote these words from a friend:

"Robert Waughtel was a dear friend of mine for more than 10 years. He was a true Rabelaisian character, with an appetite for life second to none. He was a fine pipemaker and tobacco blender, too. As a pipemaker, he used some of the best old briar that I'd ever seen. I was fortunate over the years to get 5 of his pipes, including one of the last he made, a 1/8 bent brandy which I rec'd in 1996. He died early 1997. He was also a cardplayer of some intensity, driving from Harrisburg to Philadelphia's Melrose diner where he and I would eat breakfast at 6:00 PM and then head off to Atlantic City. I'd drive and he played cards all night.

Waughtel's forte was large clunky pipes, in almost classic shapes. One of my favorites is a '91 1/4 bent semi-scoop, very comfortable in the hand."

Robert Waughtel's shop was a few steps away from where I used to work. I was fortunate enough to buy one of his handmade pipes. Since I pick up the pipe on a not so frequent basis, I've come to appreciate his craftmanship. I still have his "Waughtel's Best" and Waughtel's Delight" tobacoo mix. My absolute favorites. I did not realized he passed. I was looking to purchase another one or two of his handcrafted pipes."


Update: June 18, 2009

I am Michelle Waughtel, the only child of Robert Waughtel and I would like to contribute to information you have about my father. The article above is extremely well-written and entirely accurate - and I thank whomever contributed it. Robert Waughtel's family had been in the tobacco business for several generations...his father, Preston Waughtel, owned several cigar factories in York County, PA, where Robert learned to hand-roll cigars and developed a life-long interest in tobacco. Throughout my childhood and youth, my father operated "pipe shops" in Lebanon, Lancaster and Harrisburg. People were willing to drive great distances to purchases his unique, hand-blended tobaccos. Some of his original blends are still available for sale at the Wingenroth Pipe Shop in Lebanon, now two owners beyond the time when my father owned the business. Mel, the current owner, is a fascinating and knowledgeable man and will gladly share information with you about the tobacco blends and the history of the business.

Anyway, my father, Robert, always dreamed of making his own pipes, having collected some of the finest pipes available for sale for many years. His dream came true in the late 80's and he purchased the equipment and a tremendous amount of extremely high quality briar from a retiring pipe maker whose name I do not remember. These large bins of briar "moved into" my old bedroom when I went away to college and were kept in climate-controlled conditions. He started slowly with pipemaking and honed his craft to the point where his pipes commanded well over $100 each. (I still have a few of these.)

Pipe making was my father's one true love and he really "found himself" in the process of becoming a craftsman -- it brought out in him a Bohemian-style personality that made him more congenial and yet, non-conforming, than he had ever been. If you knew Robert Waughtel, you will know that he was a man with a very large presence (both physically and otherwise) and this "large presence" somehow translated into the quality and shapes of his handmade pipes. His best pipes truly are uniquely his and easily recognizable as such. You should also know that there is a relatively small number of his pipes floating around out there. I would say no more than 200, as he put so much care into each one.

Robert Waughtel would also want you to know that he was a born-again Christian who accepted others for who they were and did not conform to "legalism" in terms of what was permissible for a true Christian to do and be. He played poker professionally in the two years following his retirement from running the pipe shop. He was in the process of transferring his pipe-making equipment/briar and craftsmanship skills to an apprentice in the Harrisburg area when he died of a massive heart-attack in July of 1997 on the stairs leading to the apprentice's workshop.

I am so glad you are here reading about my father, a fine tobacconist and craftsman -- if you are fortunate enough to own one of his pipes, please know that you are holding a tiny piece of his soul.