Center, circa 1908, German silver and ivory
SOLD – John Center was a superb pipemaker (and photographer) who made pipes in Edinburgh from 1869 until 1908 before moving to Australia in that year. He died in 1913, but his son James (the subject of Willie Ross’s jig “Center’s Bonnet”) continued to run the business until his death from the Spanish flu in 1919. Pipes by the Centers are rare and distinctive both tonally and visually.
The fact that this set is African blackwood suggests it was made after 1900 as blackwood was coming into wider use over ebony and cocuswood. It may have been made in Australia.
The German may or may not be original to the set. The chanter stock looks distinctly like a Starck replacement, with the German silver ferrule retrofitted over top of ivory. The blowstick is a poly-lined/blackwood replica. The blowstick stock is not original, and the matching ferrule is split but solid and stable. The imitation ivory mouthpiece bulb is mounted with a Sterling silver sleeve. The drones and drone stocks are all original. There is some staining on the tenor projecting mounts.
The set was stripped and refinished; no cracks or hairlines were found.
Tonally, the set is magic. It’s a bold, seamless sound that held rock steady as I tested the pipes for 10 minutes with my reeds.