I've been thinking for a long time about grading my pipes in an effort to help the customer recognize what I believe are special pipes and also determine which pipe grades offer the best "value". To this end I am happy to introduce a grading system for my pipes.
Each pipe is evaluated by me based on three criteria: craftsmanship, special features (such as an exotic wood insert, unique stem, or metal work), and the quality of the natural briar grain. There are two catagories with several outliers. With this in mind pipes will be evaluated in the following way:
Textured Pipes (Rusticated or Sandblasted)
D - Fully rusticated or sandblasted. Typically simple shapes. An excellent value pipe. ($175-$225)
C - Rusticated or Sandblasted pipes with embellishments or more complicated shapes. ($200-$275)
B - Mostly sandblasts demonstrating better grain patterns and more complicated shapes and embellishments. ($250-$350)
A -Sandblasts that display very good partial or full ring grain. Can be highly embellished or be more complicated shapes. ($325-$425)
D - No large fills or flaws, possibly sandpits. Typically darker stained and simple shapes. ($200-$250)
C - Lighter or contrast stained with better grain. Some sandpits. May include some embelishments and more complicated shapes. ($225-$325)
B - Pipes with good grain and high contrast or light staining. More complex shapes or embellishments.($275-$375)
A -Smooth pipes with no pits or fills and display very good grain. Highly contrast stained, light, or virgin finishes. ($325-$425)
In addition to the grades above, special or high grade pipes can be indicated with two more classifications.
AA - Just about as good as it gets. Near perfect staight grains, sculptural pieces, or pipes that required especially complex methods to create. $500 and up.
AAA - A masterpiece. Something truly special and unique. (Price to be determined) I don't anticipate making many of these.
Each pipe will also be stamped with the last two digits of the year in which it was created. In other words a smooth pipe with good grain made in 2013 would be stamped: "B13."
It's no secret that pricing and marketing is my least favorite part of making pipes. I have tried to establish a system that is easy on the smoker's wallet and still compensates me enough to continue making pipes. The prices parenthetically listed above are rough guidelines about what the smoker should expect to pay, but none of the pricing is set in stone.
I hope this grading system will be another way to help you select your new Jesse Jones pipe!