It is in Alexandria, Virginia, of the United States of America where we find that James Ponel lived most of his adult life. A cousin's brother's cousin's brother only once removed from yours truly, I can attest to unending and lively stories of this not so well known pipe carver who was also known as Jimsey and Po-Po. As a child I fondly remember playing Jimsey Po-Po pipe-a-doo on the family pipe organ at Samhain and Michaelmas. No doubt some of you have played the popular child's hide and seek game, Marcus Po-Po. 

Jimsey, or Po-Po as he was oft called, had a way with woods. He began working with wood around 5 years of age when, a splinter as large as an adult male duck, became lodged in his thigh while playing cat-cat-dog (later renamed duck-duck-goose from this very story.) As it happened, Jimsey used his knife to carve a goose decoy while waiting for the barber/doctor/piano tuner-man to arrive and remove the splinter. The barber/doctor/piano tuner-man was so impressed with the carving that after he extracted the piece from Jimsey's leg, he purchased it from the boy, used it that very same hunting season, and consequently bagged more geese than any other goose hunter had bagged in previous years. There was such an abundance of goose meat that year, that the surrounding villages had very easy going winter and gained, on average, 4 pounds per inhabitant. 

After Jimsey's first famous goose carving, his next big project was his aunt's false teeth. His aunt's teeth were said to be so exquisitely carved that on any given day, she would be asked to produce her new lovely smile at least a dozen times, most often by artists and poets who would later include the interaction in their art form. Once Jimsey's talents became known through his aunt's teeth, Jack Poe, the local carpenter/pipesmith came calling. Jack Poe, known by many as Sir Jack or Jack Ogden Poe or Sir Jack O. Poe (not to be confused by the fantastic Italian brand Sir Jacopo, the similarity is simply coincidence I'm sure,) made many pipes but his strength was in numbers more than artistry (the opposite I might add, of the Italian company aforementioned.) Jimsey, or Po-Po as Mr. Poe liked to call James, quickly found work in the employment of the carpenter. Together, Po-Po and Poe began a small pipe company in Alexandria, aptly named PPP (not to be confused with the historical BBB pipe company of British fame.) 

In the wonderfully challenging world of woodworking, Po-Po found himself drawn to geometrical shapes. Many of his non-pipe works made strange use of triangles, rectangles and hexagons. It didn't take long for Po-Po to begin carving clumps of the specially treated Heath tree, a wood specifically imported for the making of pipes (also commonly known as briar,) into strange geometrical shapes for pipes. One of his favorite designs showed the pipe's bowl as a rectangular shape, something previously unheard of. This shape became known as the James Ponel shape, then later, simply the Ponel pipe. It should be not much surprise to you then, good reader, that over the years, this term would blossom into what we now know as the Panel pipe. James Jimsey Po-Po Ponel carved pipes for many years, right up until the great briar embargo that many of our forefathers somehow lived through. Luckily Jimsey had been such a prolific carver that he easily rode out the rest of his nice long life of 30 years, selling all of the pipes he had already made and stored prior to the horrible briar embargo. And that is the story of the James Ponel pipe, now known as the panel pipe. 

—Olie Sylvester 
Baron, International Oom Paul Society of Non-Typicals

AuthorOlie Sylvester