Along the eastern part of Pennsylvania, along an ascending road in the Poconos at which the temperature suddenly drops several degrees, one is well on the way to finding Mark Tinsky. Of course, if it's a nice day, odds are that he won't be home in the first place; he'd be out fishing. Fortunately, I was expected that day, and I got to meet the person I had been corresponding with for the past several months but who I had not previously met.
Why visit Mark Tinsky? Well, in this age of technology and electronics a craftsman who works with raw materials to produce a finished product must be among the rarest people of all. Such a description is eminently suitable for Mark Tinsky, who has followed a centuries' long artform, that of shaping wood to create a pipe for smoking.
Whether it is Mark's method of buying blocks of briar or his method of aging them, a Tinsky pipe is utterly remarkable in its smoking qualities. His pipes break in easily and age beautifully.
So what causes a person to become a pipemaker anyway? Well, a certain amount of coincidence, of being in the right place and at the right time to become an apprentice. That would be a given for almost anyone. Perhaps what separates him from many other people is his determination: During the pipe business downturn of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s while many people left the field, Mark stayed with it by turning to pipe repairs. By this, I feel, he greatly added to his experience. Not only did he have his own personal background in creating pipes, but he also got to see and work with just about every other design possible.
And on a happy note, with the wonders of the web upon us and the realization that pipe smokers are no longer hidden within the masses, pipe sales have picked up, and Mark has been able to concentrate on making pipes once more. Anyone who visits his online American Smoking Pipe shop will be suitably impressed by his vast range of style.
I, on the other hand, have been lucky enough to watch him at work. The naturalness and ease by which he transforms a piece of briar is amazing. Later on, the unnaturalness and unease by which I attacked a piece of briar with the same machinery also impressed me. There's nothing quite like experience. There's no one else quite like Mark Tinsky either. And there's no substitute for one of his pipes.
|These five, or how I first met Mark | The beauty of natural briar|