Well my friends, spring is coming soon and the temperature this weekend finally hit the 50’s. It was nice to see more people out and about and in better spirits as they get to enjoy time outdoors. The other day I got a very nice gift from our editor, Erin McRoy. It is a gift I’ve wanted to get for a long time but just never quite got around to getting for myself. Rather than leaving you to wonder for eons I will let you know that it is an essential for everyone that truly enjoys the ritual of preparing your tobacco as much as the actual smoking of your pipe. I find that taking the time to prepare my tobacco is very relaxing and helps me to de-stress from whatever happened during the day. So for today’s special review we are taking an in-depth look at a tobacco preparation dish and the maker of this dish is Mike Thomas from Mike Thomas Hand Made Tobacco pipes & Plate Crafter.The plate that I have from this artisan is a lip-less medium flake plate. It is made from Pennsylvania Elm and it features a sandblasted bottom, a smooth top and retails for around $45. Mike Thomas also offers blending bowls in large and small sizes along with his flake plates lipped and lip less in small, medium, and large. Although he uses primarily Pennsylvania hardwoods, he can do custom orders with the wood of your choice. He can also dye them the shade of your choice, textured or not textured, etc. Mike Thomas can customize to what your personal preferences may be which makes your selection truly a custom-made artisan piece
This is the top picture of the prep plate I have. I love the smoothness and am tickled by how it is not overly shiny but is just right! In my opinion it has a fantastic grain pattern and the color is nice as you can see whatever tobacco you put on it. This would not be possible if it was too dark of a stain on the product.
When we turn it over I love the way it has a blasted rustication on the bottom of the plate. This gives the plate a very nice textured feel. Also, it has a solid flat base so nothing will fall over as you are prepping your tobacco.
I took a photo of the side view for a better look at the craftsmanship you will get!!! All I can say is wow!!! This is no pressed wood piece of mass-produced Wal-Mart garbage that you could get at a dollar store in a pinch.
First time I used my awesome Mike Thomas preparation plate to test it was with my Eric Burke of New England Pipe Works (you can find this pipemaker on Facebook under the name Eric Berk) cavalier briar pipe with some aged Stonehaven (drools). Since this was a visual and testing review I very sadly put away the prepped tobacco for later and went back to my photography and testing work.
Of course some more testing, it’s a tough job but glad I’m doing it. Ok here is a Lorenzo pelican Zulu pipe with some Orlik Dark Strong Kentucky flake. As you can see the tobacco really pops out visually against the wood, which makes preparation a breeze. As an added piece of advice, if you never had this blend by Orlik, try it.
And to finish our visual perusal is my pride and joy, my first ever gourd meerschaum bowl Calabash. This fantastic pipe so reminds me of my father as he enjoyed the one he had very much and seeing him just unwind and relaxed after working very hard for us all made me happy. The nice thing is now I have a beautiful tobacco plate to make it just a little more special when I perform the same ritual I grew up watching my dad perform. In this photograph the tobacco is Strang Curley from Motzek coming all the way from Germany. It is also a great tobacco if you can get your hands on it.
What really impresses me most about Mike Thomas is he has a full-time job besides this hobby. He has a wonderful wife and family and still finds the time to make sure nothing is missing in the care and pure talent he is showing in this preparation plate. Maybe it is that connection that reminds me of my father, as he also loved his woodworking and both were self-taught in the finer points of this passion for wood. While my dad made everything from china cabinets, to children toys and to heirloom baby cribs, Mike has perfected his craft to specialize in pipes and tobacco accessories. My dad instilled in me some of the finer points of why a great craftsman will always show in the hand making skills. Mike Thomas’s wares bear this same stamp of fine quality and skill set only a true master can achieve. There is patience and skill to make something that is not only functional but a thing of beauty. Yes, I said beauty as even the simplest of objects with minimal detailing has a natural beauty that I find more appealing than an object that can be over thought. I really appreciate anything that has a natural feel and look and rely on our makers to heighten the inherent beauty within the wood to make it come out and truly shine. I’m just in awe how lucky we all are to be able to see such creations they all and to see the pride in their eyes when someone is enjoying the hand-made items that will last a lifetime and maybe even be handed down to the next generation. I will always support great craftsmanship over mass-produced items. Don’t get me wrong mass-produced items have their place but doesn’t even come close to comparing as nothing beats handmade items from our true artisan makers like Mike Thomas from Mike Thomas, Handmade Tobacco Pipe & Plate Crafter and others like himself out there. so support them and are well worth it!