Barling c. 1950 Billiard EXEXEL Shape 319
Lars Ivarsson has a knack for saying memorable things about pipes. Two of them come to mind in my contemplation on this pipe. The first is, "I'm bored with straight grain; I'd much rather carve a cross grain, or something with unsual grain that presents more of a challenge to me as a pipe maker." The other he said when contemplating a particular pipe I had recently purchased (in this case a Charatan, but no matter), "That is a perfect pipe," by which he meant that the shape could not be improved upon.
I think both of these observations are apt for this pipe. We note, first of all, the intriguing, almost three dimensional birdseye grain on the bowl; then we note the remarkable proportions of this very large billiard, with the unique (and surprisingly complex) lines of the bowl, the tubular shank, and the superb, elongated taper bit with comfortable oval lip and thin bite, a design that Barling invented in the early 'teens, when most pipes had "orific" mouthpieces with round holes in the rather bulbous lip. I cannot see how this shape could be improved upon.
Is this, then a perfect pipe? It's not clear that this is a meaningful question in the deeper sense of the term. But there is no question that in its rather quiet and understated way, it is absolutely top notch. And so too is the condition, as the former owner obviously held it in very high esteem, and took proper care of it. If you like large, classic billiards, you'd be hard pressed to find a better one.