Tom Eltang is one of the very best pipemakers and his pipes are sold all over the world. The demand for his pipes is greater than the supply, so many retailers are disappointed that they can not get at all as many pipes as they want. So when I last February visited the Eltang workshop in Ordrup, I had to ask Tom: “A few years ago the Sara Eltang Pipe was introduced. Why are you making a series of less expensive pipes when you instead could make more “real Eltangs” that would command much higher prices? The answer I get shows that Tom has a true and sincere love for his profession – and for pipesmokers.
Tom knows that not all can afford the costly pipes he normally is producing and he is well aware of the fact, that many of those pipes will never be smoked. But, as Tom tells me, a pipe does not have to cost a fortune to be good, and a cheaper pipe may give its owner as much pleasure as a pipe worth ten or twenty times as much. And that is where the Sara Eltang pipes come in, they are moderately priced without lowering the standards of quality.
But there also is another advantage, Tom says, the great amount of Sara-pipes made, makes it possible to buy much larger quantities of briar and then there is more to choose from when selecting the pieces for the very best pipes. “And then it is good for me to make many pipes”, Tom adds. Now I really get surprised, I thought Tom already before the Sara line made quite enough of pipes. But Tom explains: “When I make a pipe I always try to make it a little better than the one I made before. With that attitude I hope I am constantly improving as a pipemaker. And if I make a lot of pipes I can work faster and with greater precision.”
But let us leave Tom for a while, because, as you know, behind every successful man there is a woman – her name is Pia and she has been Tom’s wife for more than 20 years. Until a few years ago Pia worked as a teacher, but now she is occupied full time with their mutual firm. Pia has the main responsibility for the Sara-pipes, she handles the marketing and also takes part in making the pipes, as she is sandblasting, grinding, colouring and polishing most of them. And she is a tough controller, so if Tom ever makes a mistake he is sure to know it immediately from Pia.
The “Sara Eltangs” are pipes made to be good smokers. Most of the shapes are in the classical line and the size is medium. I hardly have to tell you that the handicraft is of the highest quality and that the grain is very good, often extremely good. That is just what can be expected when a pipe is made with care from briar of the very best quality.
Sara Eltang Pipes are at present available in 25 shapes, all of them in smooth or sandblasted finish. 6 shapes are also made for a 9 mm filter for the German market. The annual production is about 500 pipes, more are not possible to make. All pipes have acrylic stems and the material for those comes from Italy. On the internet Sara-pipes may be bought from Scandinavian Pipes (www.scandpipes.com) and Pia Pipes (www.piapipes.com). The pipes are also found in certain shops around the world; 3 shops in Germany, 2 in the USA and one shop each in Italy, Russia, Ukraine, Japan, China and Canada. Tom and Pia take much care in who is selling their pipes, they must be convinced that a shop is serious before they send any pipes there. Either they have visited the shop themselves or it has been recommended by someone they have great confidence in. They have no dealer in France but quite a lot of pipes are sold to individual pipesmokers in France, which is rather uncommon. France has a great production of its own and the general opinion is, I think, that the French like to buy French. But obviously the Sara Eltang pipes have broken this pattern.
Pipeclubs are a special niche, so the Pipe Club of Sweden is not the only club having a Sara Eltang club pipe – so have clubs in Portugal, Spain and Hong Kong as well.
But what about the name Sara Eltang? Pia and Tom have two daughters, Sofie and Sara, and it is the youngest daughter that has put her name to these pipes. “But what about Sofie?” I ask, “isn’t she jealous?” Pia and Tom assures me that they have talked it over with both their daughters and Sofie has told them that it is OK. That feels satisfactory, but for Pia and Tom there is seldom long between new ideas pop up and even shorter before they are made a reality, so I would not be surprised if all of a sudden a completely new line of pipes will appear. I have no idea what it would look like, but I am convinced it would be called Sofie Eltang.