I first met John back in December of 2013, when I first started looking for one of his pipes, and liked him immediately. It down-to-earth, 51-year-old father of two teenage boys lives in Charlottesville, Virginia with his wife, Heather and visits his 16 and 19-year-old sons as often as he can.
A chronic insomniac, John spends many nights in his workshop, and when I asked him if the noise bothered his wife, he informed me that three solid doors separate them and she can barely hear him.
Though he spends many sleepless nights in his workshop, he is rarely alone. He is often accompanied by his 16-year-old, deaf Sheltie (probably a good thing since those rooms tend to be loud) and his yearling hound, Charlie, who as an amateur pipe maker, spends a good deal of her time rusticating the small pieces of briar on the floor of the shop. Their cat, Bella, in typical cat fashion, can’t be bothered with John, unless it is to let her in or out of the house, fill her food dish, or some other typical cat behavior, and she spends her time in a constant state of vigilance against the evils of the other cats.
Back in 2013 I was seriously suffering with a fairly common affliction known as Pipe Acquisition Disorder (PAD), but also suffered at the same time from EPS (Empty Pocketbook Syndrome). So it wasn’t around sometime in the beginning of August 2014 that I seriously approached John about making a pipe for me, and since my anniversary was rapidly approaching (end of October), I wanted to commission John to do a three pipe set in honour of my anniversary as a polyfidelitous trio with my wife Sable, and my husband, Jamie.
Knowing that it would be hard to match the briar to get a similar grain for all three pipes, I expected to pay more for the set than I would for each individual pipe, so I was quite surprised when John quoted me a price that was a good 20% less than the pipes would cost individually. I argued with him, but he insisted that it would be his honour to make these pipes, and we settle on a price for the set.
Then the real business of making these pipes got started. We began to discuss shapes, sizes, and finishes before settling on a skater model with a straight, bent, and churchwarden stem in a caramel color that shows off the natural grain of the wood very well.
John knew that it may be hard to match the briar, and though I told him that the pipes were not expected until the end of October, he insisted on getting started early just in case it took him longer, and I know there was at least one failure to match the briar. A few weeks later the basic shapes were cut and formed, and already I knew that I was going to love these pipes, so when john sent me the pictures about four weeks later of the finished products, I was instantly in love.
When the pipes arrived at the end of September, about three weeks later, though that was no fault of John’s (damn mail) we eagerly opened the box not willing to wait until our anniversary. Jamie chose the bent stem, and Sable loves her churchwardens, which left me with the straight stem, which is how I originally intended it anyway.
Jamie and I are fulltime smokers, whereas Sable only smokes part-time, so while us two men began using our pipes immediately, Sable did not use hers for couple weeks.
Sable was delighted with the cool, easy smoke and especially, the way her pipe stood perfectly upright when set upon a table, which is of course not a common feature in churchwardens.
Now, what can I say about them? Fantastic, instant favorite smokers! Jamie smokes his every day, and I placed mine in regular rotation, smoking it once or twice each day, until by accident, just after we sat down to review these pipes, I stood up with a pipe in my pocket, caught the stem on the edge of the table, and snapped it off.
I was devastated! It wasn’t even our anniversary yet, and I had already broken my pipe. So, I contacted John to see what could be done. He reassured me that he has an intimate relationship with all of his pipes even after they leave his house, and that if I sent in the pipe, you would do his best to fix it. So, as soon as I got back home, I shipped the pipe back to John.
This time, it took the pipe about a week to arrive, and I’m guessing that John must have gotten immediately on it, as it took him less than a week to inform me that the pipe was fixed, and ready to be shipped back.
And the cost of all of this? Shipping.
He did the fix for free, and only asked me to cover about 2/3 shipping, though I insisted on covering all of it.
As a starving artist, this is John’s only source of income, and though he loves his job, he has told me that he is very happy to be in a relationship with a beautiful, professional woman, and living with an artist, I realize that Heather must have the patience of the saint.
So, now I have worked with John on three pipes, and one pipe repair and this is my opinion;
John is a master in the making, and in a field of niche market, and stiff competition he is rapidly rising to the top. With more than 250 pipes made and two solid years of experience, john is ready to take on most projects, though he has a particular love for horns and pick axes, and don’t ask him to do a bulldog.
John’s web presence can be felt at his website http://johnhinespipes.com/ or by searching for John Hines in Charlottesville, VA on Facebook, and he is always ready to take a commission.
A great guy, and rapidly becoming a good friend, I highly recommend John if you’re in the market for a new pipe. Reasonable prices, fast and friendly service, and high quality work are the trademarks of John Hines Pipes.
Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em!