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Article on Yuma Sun.com


Former musician sets up worldwide pipe-making business in Yuma workshop! A few years ago, Jody Davis began dabbling in pipe-making. Today the former professional musician has hung up his guitar and devotes his days to turning out pipes that are true works of art, and he does it from a workshop in Yuma.

Davis had been a musician for 15 years, several of those as the guitar player with Newsboys, a contemporary Christian rock band with such hits as "Take Me to Your Leader," four gold records and a Grammy nomination. In the meantime, he started making pipes with the thought he might eventually develop it into a business. "I just didn't realize it would be so soon," he said. Several months ago, Davis made the decision to quit the band and move to Yuma for the sake of his special-needs daughter, Bethany. "I needed to get off the road and be with my little girl," he said.

Yuma was selected because his wife, the former Erika Farrar, was raised here and still has family who could assist with Bethany. Asked if he misses his music, Davis replied: "That was in my past. That's just not where my head is now. I'm moving on." Pipe-making has become his new artistic outlet as well as his livelihood. Today, he's set up a workshop in his home where a pool table shares space with the tools of his new craft. And what a craft it is. He is already recognized around the world as an up-and-coming pipe maker. His pipes sell for $400 to $1,500 and are marketed around the world.

His materials are equally exotic. The pipe bowls are made from the briar or root of the heath tree from the Mediterranean. The mouthpieces are made from ebonite from Germany. Other materials are ivory from the tusks of long-extinct frozen woolly mammoths (not subject to trade restrictions like elephant ivory is), roots of bamboo from China and silver from South America.

Lately, he's also started using bone from the Steller's sea cow, a cold-water aquatic mammal hunted to extinction in the late 1700s by sailors as a food source. The bone has been found in old camp sites. His new endeavor all started when Davis, a pipe smoker himself, picked up a pipe-making kit in a shop. "I thought that was fun," he said, "So I got my hands on more kits and more tools." A friend was a buyer for a high-end pipe shop in Nashville that is one of the largest in the world. The friend connected Davis with a well-known Danish pipe carver, and Davis actually spent time in Denmark studying with the masters there. They provided advice on materials and the pipe-making process.

Davis said there are two schools of pipe-making. The classic style is attributed to the English, while the Danish are considered the greatest carvers and have developed a freehand style. For his own pipes, Davis said, some shapes are custom ordered while others are inspired by what he sees in nature. One pipe was inspired by a large lily, a design that has become a signature shape for his pipes.

Making a pipe can take from 10 to 30 hours, depending on the shape and finish, Davis said. "It all starts with a block of wood." He may work on a pipe for several hours, then find a flaw in the wood. "The smooth flawless pieces are rarer," he said. "That's what makes some pipes more expensive. The less flawed briars make the more expensive pipes." The less perfect woods are sandblasted to give an uneven finish that still shows the wood markings.

For a time, Davis' pipes were being sold exclusively by that Nashville shop. Now that he's making pipes full time, he also is starting to do some of his own marketing and is in the process of developing a Web site: www.jdavispipes.com