On the following cyber pages you can view the entire Ashton Collection, showing the start, development, and ongoing changes that have encompassed the Ashton smoking pipe since its start in 1983.
Page one shows the first seven years of production- from April 1983 to the end of 1990.
Below is a photo and of the first Ashton pipe made- in April 1983. The pipe is an XX Pebblegrain Canadian, and the nomenclature is unlike any Ashton pipe made since. The size grade stamp (XX) is in its normal position while the year made stamp (3) is a large numeral directly to the left. The name ASHTON is in block lettering and there is no stamp describing the finish (PebbleGrain). The words MADE IN ENGLAND are also in block as they are today.
Although the pipe is in The Ashton Collection it has certainly been smoked- by me when it first arrived and for quite some time thereafter. In reality, the pipe was not smoked when it first arrived but returned to Bill Ashton-Taylor. Why? The staining was all wrong. Bill used a blue-black stain which did not show off the all-important reddish highlights so treasured by connoisseurs. He was able to put this right very quickly, and when I received it for the second time it received its initial baptism.
There were only 31 Ashton pipes made in 1983; image #2 shows another pipe from that year. This pipe has been smoked, as it was in my personal collection before being relegated to the Ashton Collection.
Image #3 shows a pipe with the imprint HF, which means hand fashioned. The difference between HT (hand turned), which appears on some subsequent pipes, and HF is that HT pipes were completely turned by hand while HF pipes started out as standard frased shapes and then underwent some hand work to the bowl.
Images 7, 8, and 10 show the largest Ashton pipes made to date- the ELX size. Pipe #7 has the HT imprint while #8 is stamped HF. Pipe #10 is stamped with neither and also does not possess a date stamp.
Early Ashton pipes had open stamping with regards to size. In other words the size (X, XX, XXX, etc) had nothing surrounding it, and so anyone could make the pipe a higher size grade by stamping an extra X onto the pipe. This changed in mid-1985 when new size stamps with an oval surrounding the size were procured.
Image #24 shows the first Brindle finish. Up to this time all Ashton sandblasted pipes had the Pebblegrain finish- black with reddish highlights showing through. The Brindle finish showed reddish brown, complementing the Brindle material used for many of the early Ashton mouthpieces.
The first Pebbleshell pipe, bearing the stamp patent pending, appears in image #37. The Pebbleshell is unique in that the bowl is first steamed in order to raise up the soft grain which is then carved away. After carving the bowl is then sandblasted, leading to a very craggy finish. Only bowls possessing extremely dense grain were chosen for this process, as traditional sandblasting would not produce the desired result, specifically due to the density of the grain pattern.
If one looks carefully at image #41 a honeycomb pattern can be seen in the sandblast. Honeycomb is named such because it looks as if bees could crawl in and out of the wood. This is the rarest of all sandblast patterns.
Image #67 shows the only Ashton Magnum to bear a carving- that of a parrot. Complementing this pipe is a walking stick with the top carved in the shape of a parrot (the same parrot as shown on each side of the pipe).
A note here on the different finishes produced by the Ashton Pipe Company: oftentimes, to my eye, the finish stamped on the pipe bore little relation to what the finished pipe looked like. If one followed logic every Pebblegrain pipe would be a sandblast with reddish highlights showing through black, every Brindle would be a reddish brown sandblast, and every Pebbleshell would be carved and sandblasted. Not so! There are many Ashton pipes in the collection that show great variations to the above. Logic surely did not apply here. So- when I describe the pipe in each photo I am describing only what is stamped on the pipe and not what the finish, in reality, might be.
Image #96A shows a pipe where most of the wood consists of the dreaded branch wood. If one is a master at sandblasting, branch wood makes for a beautifully deep sandblast of very interesting character. The pipes composed of mostly branch wood smoke as well as any other. Another view of this pipe is shown here
In ending this first part of the Ashton Collection, covering the startup of the company in 1983 to the end of 1990, you may now view a few photos (taken with a better setup) that show a few of the pipes above in greater detail.