I am fortunate to generally have two- three pipe fly fishing  enthusiasts come thru Wolf Creek every summer. I ve been corresponding with Al Lloyd  for many years and it was a pleasure to make his " real" aquaintence. Here s  his  version of  what happened <G>

A Visit with Mark Tinsky at American Pipe Company, Wolf Creek, Montana
By Allen Lloyd

Since the early 1980's me and my wife Brenda have been travelling to
the western United States for our summer vacations.  Clean air and
star filled skies, no crowds, plenty of wilderness to enjoy, and
usually great fishing are what you are rewarded with after making the
long drive from the east.

Ever since I bought my first Tinsky I had wanted to stop by and say
hello and meet up with Mark Tinsky since we share passions in fly
fishing and of course, pipes.  One of our favorite places to go in
Montana is Glacier National Park which is in the northwest corner of
the state.  All of our travels to Glacier had been from Ohio with
three days of hard driving to northwest Montana.  Each trip we were
driving by Mark's home and pipe shop in Wolf Creek, Montana late at
night and didn't think it was appropriate to just drop in.  Having
retired in October 2010, I planned travels for 2011 a little
different, this time we would be in Wolf Creek, Montana about late
morning and be able to make a visit to American Smoking Pipe Company
and connect a face to all these pipes.

In April 2011 I made a trip to Wyoming and the North Platte River for
some fishing.  The plan was to camp out on the North Platte just north
of the Colorado state line in Wyoming for a while.  Then I would move
north and fish above Sinclair, Wyoming a while and then go back to
Ohio and pick up Brenda when her school year ended early June.  The
fishing was awful due to winds gusting up to 50 mph and high water.
For the first time, I was skunked on the North Platte River.  So I
packed it in and headed back to Ohio and in June returned to the west.
Snow pack in the high county in the western states was still as much
as 700% of normal in mid-June; this was very unusual and widespread
across the high country in the western states.

In June our trip began with some backpacking in Utah, followed by
Idaho, Montana, and finally Wyoming.  Idaho is my favorite state and I
was real intent on backpacking and fishing Kelly Creek which according
to all reports is a blue ribbon trout stream.   Crossing Hoodoo Pass
on the way to Kelly Creek was a real adventure, the snow was about ten
feet deep and there was but a narrow slot that had been bull dozed
through.  Snow was well over the top of my Jeep, it was like driving
through a tunnel.  Several hours after going over Hoodoo Pas we
arrived at Kelly Creek.  Kelly Creek was above its banks and roaring
away as we hiked in.  The stay at Kelly Creek was great except for the
fishing.  Water was running too high, too deep, and way too fast.  The
previous week we had an identical situation on the Queens River of
Idaho to the south, so this was not tuning out to be the fishing I had
hoped for.

So after the stay at Kelly Creek we headed northeast to Glacier
National Park, Montana.  In Glacier we backpacked into Logging Lake
which is a remote lake not far from Canada, the hike in was about
seven miles.  While we were loading our packs I'm thinking, lake
fishing, I hate lake fishing, and so I didn't pack in my rod and reel.
Almost everyone we ran into on the trail had a backpack fly rod so I
was sure that once again I had screwed up.  But, all these guys were
catching was cigar sized Cutthroat Trout so I wasn't disappointed.  So
we packed out of Logging Lake after a few days and headed south for
our stop at Wolf Creek.  During the drive south I was wondering what
Mark would think of someone getting skunked, fishing in Idaho, a fly
fisherman's paradise.

Having grown up in a small West Virginia coal town I prefer small
towns over cities.  Ever been to Wolf Creek, Montana?  It is a
beautiful small town just north of Helena, Montana and the home of
American Pipes and Mark Tinsky.  Mark's mailing address in Wolf Creek
is on High Street so we started looking for a house on High Street
with a shop close by but just didn't seem to find anything that might
have a pipe makers shop.  Brenda said to go to the post office for
directions, but I had spotted a small bar and figured that was a
better place for directions since post offices have women, and bars
have men.  The bar was my choice.  The owner of the bar got me right
to the home of Tinsky.  Yeah, it really is a guy thing, never trust
women for directions.  Where we were on High Street as it turned out,
we were very close to Mark's shop.  The shop was up on a hill above
where we were looking on our first pass through town.

We pulled in to Mark's driveway and were greeted by his new dog.   I
heard a machine running so I was pretty sure we were at the right
place.  As we got closer and peeked inside, yeah, this is it.

So Mark looks up as we walk in, we had of course caught him by
surprise, and the first thing I do is walk into something hanging from
the ceiling.  Mark politely says that this is a place for short people
so I felt right at home.  We exchanged handshakes and I was glad that
I had finally made the stop in Wolf Creek.  What a place. Conversation
with this fella was easy and bounced between pipes and fly fishing
with ease.  As Brenda said later, Mark is a real likable guy.

This little stop was something I had really looked forward to.  Back
in the 1970's while living in Rhode Island and Massachusetts I had
made many trips to Boston and had watched "George" working on pipes at
David P. Ehrlichs.  But I always figured that he was not making all of
a pipe there in the storefront window.  After seeing Mark's factory I
am sure that George was just doing show work for us pedestrian
customers.  Now this is a place where some serious pipe making goes
on.  Tools and machines are everywhere.

American Smoking Pipe Company has machine lathes, band saws, sanders,
and all kinds of stuff that could have me making trips to an emergency
room probably daily.  This is the kind of place a normal male feels
right at home in.  The shop is neat and tidy and at the same time has
that look of work in progress.  Mark knows where everything is, not
once did he have to look for something while we were there.  Well,
maybe once, when he looked for a pencil.

Conversation was easy with Mark; this guy is down to earth, no hidden
agendas.  We talked pipes, tobacco, and of course fishing.  Mark has a
collection of MacBaren Navy Flake that would make a smoker of this
weed have some serious envy.  To get on this guy's good side at
Christmas, send him some Navy Flake.

After talking a while, Mark offered to make a pipe.  My God, this was
a dream come true.  I never would have thought that I'd see a pipe
made, start to finish.  Seriously, I thought this would be a quick
drop in, chat a while and then head south.  After all, this is quite a
complicated matter.  Mark had given me and Brenda an introduction into
the raw wood that he makes pipes from.  There is a lot to the wood
selection and I could not absorb everything that was being noted by
the Master.   Yeah, I know.  If you are going to write up an event,
take notes.  But there was just too much fun in what was going on to
be writing things down.  What I got from the wood selection process is
that he selects a piece of wood based on what his customer wants and
the pipe shape he needs to make.  Sounds simple enough but my guess
would be that it takes years of making pipes to be able to pick out
the best hunk of wood for a particular shape.

Mark picked out a piece of wood and made a couple of cuts with a bad
saw.  While watching all I could think was, man could I lose some
finger tips with that thing.  After the cuts, he had some fresh
looking smooth wood, squared up, and then, much to my surprise, he
started sketching out a Bulldog shape on the wood with a pencil.  No
T-Squares, no compass, no circle template, or any other drafting
templates.  Yeah, this guy has made some Bulldog's.  I guess I always
figured these guys had some way of starting out a new pipe with a
guide of some kind.  What wasn't quite apparent yet was why sketch on
the wood.

The two holes for the pipe was drilled out, the tobacco chamber and
the air hole running through the shank.  All pipe smokers know about
the importance of these holes and how they gotta be just right for a
pipe to behave.  Milling machines have always been fascinating to me.
Just watching someone set up the machine.  Put something in the chuck
and turn out something new.  Mark made the drilling of the wood look
way too easy.  I'd guess that in maybe two minutes the two holes were
in the wood, perfectly aligned.  Mark stopped and inspected the
drilling and handed me the wood to look over.  I guess that what was a
little surprising, not knowing anything about pipe making, is how
smooth the tobacco chamber and draft hole were bored out.  I had
always figured that there was some sanding to get them as smooth as
they are when they show up at your doorstep for smoking.

Then it was back to the band saw.  That sketch on the side of the wood
now made its intended use a little more apparent.  Mark carefully
removed excess wood with the band saw before turning the bowl on the
lathe.  The wood was then put back in the lathe chuck to shape the
bowl.  What followed was interesting to me, watching that chunk of
wood spin, and to see a Bulldog take shape complete with the two thin
rings.  There were some definite skills required to turn those cranks
on the lathe to get the perfect Bulldog bowl we all respect as a
Tinsky Bulldog.

A lot of sanding took place next.  Mark started working the wood with
a sander.  Only so much of the pipe can be made on the machine lathe.
The extra wood that you just can't remove with the lathe has to be
carefully sanded out.  Boy if there is a place where you could screw
things up, I'd guess this to be the step where the risk is probably
the highest.  After shaping the bowl Mark started the final sanding
process where he used increasingly fine sand paper to smooth out the
bowl.  Then a stem was fitted, heat was used to put a bend the stem,
and then the bowl was stained.  Then Mark put several layers of
carnauba wax on the pipe and in short order had a finished pipe.

I'm sure that I missed a few steps in the process of making a pipe in
this narrative but this is not intended to be a course in making a
pipe.  This is more of a story that might have you think about all of
the work that goes into making a pipe and paying a visit to a pipe
maker to see for yourself just what you are paying for as you add to
your collection.

Our visit to Wolf Creek concluded with a stop back to the local bar
where we treated Mark to a burger and continued some conversation
about trout fishing.  Then we continued our travels to Cody, Wyoming.
Have to say that watching a pipe being made was the highlight of this
trip.  Next up, a Volcano shape made in Montana.

Oh yeah, those two good lookin' guys in the photo are me and Mark.
Mark on the left, the geezer needing a shave, yeah thats me after
being in the woods for a month.  Many thanks to Mark and the American
Pipe Company for the great visit and letting me write up this little
journal.  Also have to thank Bert Olton for publishing this on the new
ASP website.