Craftsmen

Brother Nathan Davis

A “THINKING MAN” WHO DISCOVERED A PASSION FOR FREEMASONRY AND CRAFTING PIPES

For most New Yorkers, Cobleskill is the home of Howe’s Cavern and SUNY Cobleskill. It’s a quiet, historical town tucked away in the mountains of Schoharie County. For those who simply pass Cobleskill as the halfway point from Albany to Cooperstown on a trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame, there is a majesty in the wide-open spaces that have been enjoyed for generations of Upstate New Yorkers. This was the draw for Bro. Nathan Davis. A place where he could live on a farm, trying to provide for himself and his family, the best that he could.

Bro. Davis’ father was a Master Mason in the Oneonta area. “He did his degrees later in life when I was a kid,” Bro. Davis recalls. “I absolutely loved hearing about Masonry growing up.” Growing up in the rural part of Upstate that leads to Central and Western New York, Bro. Davis grew up appreciating working with his hands. “My grandfather was a woodworker and a metal worker. My father does a lot of woodwork and custom work. But I was taught not to that.” The hope was that Nathan would pursue a college education and a career. He did. Nathan attended Union College in Schenectady with an interest in Chemistry and Philosophy. Even as a young man, Nathan was a “thinking man” who began to develop an old-fashioned taste. He was anti-tobacco at that age but after joining a band and playing in bars, he began to develop a taste for tobacco. Nathan learned about blending tobacco leaves and his path connected with pipe tobacco. Like most beginners, he started with a simple pipe, eventually expanding to more sophisticated styles.

Nathan Davis

Becoming a Craftsman

What is most intriguing in Bro. Davis’ story is the transformation from a patent agent in the Capital Region, working for nanotech clients to moving back to his country roots. Change for some is quick, yet for others, it is an evolution measured with the passing of time. In Bro. Davis’ case, when his change entered his 13-year career, the idea to relocate to the comforts of open spaces was welcomed. He saw this as an opportunity to evolve. It was during this point in his life that he rediscovered his interest in Freemasonry while expanding his passion for pipes. “I was introduced to vintage Kaywoodie pipes by a fellow collector. I began to collect pre-war Kaywoodie pipes,” Bro. Davis shared. Kaywoodie pipes are a 107-year-old pipe brand that most of us would recognize as the pipe our grandfather smoked. They are a classic. Bro. Davis began collecting Kaywoodie pipes and in the workshop connected to his home in Cobleskill, began crafting handmade pipes as a hobby. His initial pipes were for himself. Soon, his friends recognized his talent and requested a custom pipe. It wasn’t long until he launched Greywoodie pipes, his unique spin on the timeless standard.

After returning to Upstate New York after his time in the Capital Region, Nathan was ready to pursue his interest in Freemasonry. He met with the Brothers from Cobleskill Lodge #394. There was something about a like-minded group of renaissance men who valued morality, diverse spirituality, and a sense of community spirit that appealed to Nathan Davis. “I loved the idea, the mystic, and how I could better my life. I dove in deep and absolutely loved the degree work and ritual. I discovered what my Dad loved about Lodge so much,” said Bro. Davis. What was most intriguing was how the 24-inch gauge influenced his business decisions. “That’s where we learn about being productive 8 hours a day. That led me to make pipes and fill the time with producing my own pipes on a larger scale along with selling Kaywoodie pipes online.”

Masonic pipes

You would think that a Freemason who is a skilled craftsman and woodworker would have no problem adding Masonic symbols to his work. I did and wasn’t the first to be surprised to learn I was wrong. “I’m a traditionalist when it comes to pipes,” explained Bro. Davis. Initially, he was reluctant to add Masonry to his pipe designs. His view of a pipe is that it is an extension of the man, that the pipe has a deeper connection to the owner than being a vessel to smoke tobacco. “You spend hours smoking your pipe that it becomes an extension of your image to other people.” We reconnected on his passion for symbolism. “The penalties (of our obligations) stand out to me. Some of our most beautiful ritual work comes from an understanding of the penalties and what they mean. I also look at the casket and the skulls as a deeper meaning for the challenges I have overcome throughout my life.”

RW Steven Rubin’s custom Greywoodie pipe

Bro. Davis has crafted several custom pipes, some for Brothers. Each pipe is a special project, not just in the scope of the work but also for the design of the man the pipe will be associated with. This year, he was approached by RW Steven Rubin to craft a custom pipe. “I struggled with Bro. Rubin’s pipe knowing that it was going to be shown to New York Freemasons all over the state! I started thinking, ‘where am I going to put these symbols?’ The first thought is to put this on the outside of the bowl, facing everyone else; the most visible place. But if you are using it for personal reflection, suddenly it starts to make sense to move the symbolism to where the smoker can see it versus the crowd.” And that is the type of craftsman you seek for a quality job, a man who considers all angles.

Photos submitted by Bro. Nathan Davis and used with permission

Written by Bro. Michael Arce, Editor-in-chief of Craftsmen Online

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