It is told that Sixten Ivarsson chose Bo Nordh and his own son Lars, when he was once asked for his favourite pipe makers. Could he, a famed master of the craft himself, have erred? Surely not! Like hardly any other pipe maker, the Swede Bo Nordh has created new shapes or brought known ones to aesthetic perfection. The great variety of shapes, which we now take for granted, has its origins in Bo Nordh’s creations, as can be verified by looking at pictures from a legendary Japanese pipe book published in 1978 or old Iwan Ries catalogues.
Bo Nordh Calabash 81
Among the most famous shapes were the snail (nautilus), ballerina, sea horse, Sphinx, Mexican hat, faceted horns, an elephant’s foot, and a shape called “Ramses” now, which was given its name by a well-known German pipe aficionado.
Notwithstanding his strong fascination with exciting shapes, Bo Nordh had established a widely-respected standard for his pipes’ workmanship. Experienced pipe makers and knowledgeable pipe smokers over the world are of the opinion that his craftsmanship is unmatched to this day. Seeing his tidy workshop and how he worked on the pipes only reinforced this statement. It is needless to say that his perfectly-wrought pipes are great smokers, too. The main criticism they elicited was that some pipe smokers did not like the bit’s thickness on the otherwise immaculate mouthpieces.
Strictly speaking, Bo Nordh was an autodidact. The often-heard claim that he had been a scholar of Sixten Ivarsson is not true. True is that Sixten Ivarsson and his son Lars supported him with words, deeds and material when he started pipe making. Bo did never forget about this generous assistance, as his testament showed. Unlike many other pipe makers, he never was apprenticed, and thus, did not have to start his career by repairing countless pipes.
Bo Nordh’s pipes are characterized by bold shapes, are made from best quality briar, and their smooth finishes display marvelous grain patterns.
Although Bo Nordh rarely manufactured more than 70 pipes per year, many of them were sandblasted – which suggests that most of his smooth pipes must have been flawless. At first his pipes were sandblasted at Stanwell’s facilities, but later he accepted the offer of two Danish pipe makers who sandblasted his pipes from then on. The sandblasted models from this later period (in either black or tan) show an especially rich and deep texture.
When a certain pipe design was requested, Bo used to create several pipes of that same shape while he was at it. This habit can be seen on some pictures of his workshop.
Although many of Bo Nordh’s pipes are of substantial size, their playful elegance is astonishing. He liked to use, not overuse, applications made of bamboo and horn of the highest quality. Despite the unquestionable quality of his pipes, Bo Nordh used a carbon coating for the tobacco chamber –attesting to the usefulness of this feature.
Bo Nordh and Anne Julie
Until the mid-1970s his pipes were stamped “BO NORDH OF SWEDEN”, then it changed to “B. NORDH – SWEDEN – JJ.” A grading never existed. Compared to other handmade pipes Bo Nordh’s had always been very expensive – very rarely topped by Jörn Micke’s pipes. This notwithstanding, they are every pipe collector’s dream.
Bo Nordh and Teddy Knudsen
Bo Nordh passed away in July 2006. He will not only be missed as a pipe maker, but as a contact person for many Scandinavian pipe makers, and Swedish pipe smokers. His beautiful house not far from Landskrona had often been a meeting point for Swedish pipe smokers and visitors from all over the world – they all got to know Bo as a friendly and generous host.
A book about Bo Nordh was published by Jan Andersson in 2008.