My Grandfather had a pipe rack on the kitchen table. Upon many Sunday visits with my mom and dad, I would make my way to that table and when no one was looking I would pick up and carefully examine each pipe with maybe a taste or two. Inevitably, I would get caught by my Grandfather, and he would chase me outside. Little did I know, one day I would be making those same pipes that got me in so much trouble as a child. My heritage is German, Dutch & Scottish, it was my destiny to make pipes all along.
I’ve done many things in my life, not the least of which met and married my one true love, Mitzi. It is now going on 23 years and it grows sweeter every day. We raised our son, Joshua, now 19 years old, who makes me proud every day.
Life is funny. The paths we travel and how they sometimes lead to a new adventure that we never expected. I have always loved working with my hands, however, always mindful that I somehow lacked the artistic talent of my mother and father. I worked as an union carpenter for many years in Northern Virginia and Washington D.C. occasionally; I would grab a scrap of fine wood or two and make something out of it. Lamps, mirrors, jewelry boxes, etc. Construction was hard on my body, so I decided to use my mind for a while. Some years later, I graduated with my Masters in Counseling. However, while in school full time, I worked part time as a machinist. I found that I had a real knack for working with metal as well as wood.
After leaving school, I applied my skills as a counselor part time for 9 years. Meanwhile, seeking to support my family and pay school loans, I went back into tool making full time. Along the way taught some college courses and was always working more than one job. Now 44, I retired from counseling, after all one job is enough, right?!
One day while walking down the street in Winter Haven, Fl, I happened upon a cigar store that had recently opened. I went in and was greeted by the owner, Ray Barkley. I began a new relationship that would come to change my life, once again.
He had recently acquired a pipe shop from a former partner. I had an interest so I began to work, and it was slow, but I went back day after day, trying to figure out what to do with all the junk in that shop. My first free hand pipe took a month, someone bought the pipe. I made pipes for Ray until he decided that I paid for the shop, and one day he said take this stuff home. Then he started paying me for my work. His customers would commission me to make unique pipes for them, and I had my start. He told me “You need to go to pipe shows”, so I did. I met many famous pipe makers at the shows, I got the picture and everything, but they were just good people who didn’t mind helping a young pipe maker out. They still come by my table and pick my pipes up, and give a secret or two – I don’t have to ask anymore.
I did not set out to make unique pipes. I just wanted to make good handmade pipes. Something happened, my mind and my hands took over, and a talent came to the surface. With great pleasure I build pipes for my loyal customers today. I would love to build a pipe for you!
This business will be built with your help one satisfied customer at a time. Thank you for visiting KeslingBriarPipes.com. Feel free to contact me with questions and ideas for your one of a kind custom pipe.
I do want to mention some people who were helpful to me; maybe I would consider them mentors. I met Jon Rinaldi (www.jrinaldipipes.com ) at my first show in Columbus, Ohio. Jon and his wife Jen have been my friends from that day forward. Al Perkowski (www.creativebriarpipes.com), Russ Cooke of (Russ Cooke pipes) Russ handmade sanding tools for me and sent them to me what a great guy. Tonni Nielsen, I asked him to come to my table and critique my pipes, he was pleasant and complementary at first, he said “Do you really want to know”, I said yes, “Do do this, don’t do that”, I said “Yes sir”, he said “Don’t call me sir”. Tim West talked me through a tough time. Michel Parks has given me many helpful hints. Lee Von Erck for being him (Rascal), My good friend John Wittasek, pipe repairman and my great customer.