Ranz Freehands are made by Ron Smith, who happily resides in Tennessee. Ron has been a pipe smoker for a long time, but the idea of making pipes only came to him after retirement. He began taking art classes at a local college. According to Ron, it was something interesting to do, allowed him to hang out with twenty-year olds, and hoped it would make him a well rounded individual. He assures us that the latter did not happen, but he did become interested in sculpture and soon drew the connection to pipes.
Since then, Ron has spent a considerable amount of time combining his hobbies of travel and pipe making by visiting other artists in their shop. Most influential are many of the German makers, like Manfred Hortig, Steffen Mueller, and Uwe Maier, who welcomed Ron with open arms. Ron has also spent time with American carvers like Scott Klein, Tim West, and our very own Jesse Jones.
Ron's work offers a great spin on traditional pipe making. "My gut feeling is that pipe smokers want something a little different, but which still resembles something familiar.” You can see this sentiment reflected in the finish of many of his pipes, though their character pales in comparison to Ron himself. Ron learned the “driftwood” style of finish in Germany, and is one of the only American carvers actively using the technique.
We are happy to add Ron to our repertoire of artists. We hope you find his work as charming, intelligent, and good-spirited as he is (and if you are reading this, Ron, the check cleared).