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German Smokers

Smoker1Wooden smokers are among the most popular of all German Erzgebirge collectibles. Wooden smokers are sometimes referred to as German smokers, smoker men, incense smokers or incense burners. The wooden smokers resemble the traditionally handcrafted German nutcrackers; however, smokers are designed to burn incense, which makes them much different from nutcrackers as traditional nutcrackers are used primarily for decorative purposes. Although nutcrackers are sold more often, many collectors opt for the design of wooden smokers because of their ability to burn incense.
Erzgebirge smoker men are one of the oldest crafts to hail from the region. Their history dates back much further than most German collectibles from the Erzgebirge area. During Christmas, traditional homes sought wooden incense smokers as a favored decoration and today this still rings true. Incense smokers are popular for their design and look, as well as their ability to produce a wonderful aroma through the use of incense. It is believed that toymakers first produced the idea of incense smokers. The very first Erzgebirge smokers were created around the early 1800s. They are primarily used today for decorative purposes. The earlier versions were made primarily to burn incense. Today they are still capable of burning incense to create a nice aroma, but are also designed with the utmost decorative purpose in mind. Incense that can be burned in smokers ranges in smells such as lavender, Christmas, fir tree, honey, frankincense, orange, lemon, violet, and coco among many others. During the Christmas holiday season it is not uncommon for many homes to burn Christmas scents in their smokers.
It is also believed that the idea to create the first incense smoker is directly related to the introduction of tobacco in Europe. The earlier versions of smokers depicted an image of human pipe smokers. These earlier smokers were not made from wood, but from a dough and paper Mache substance. During the late 19th century, wood became the most predominant material in the creation of incense smokers. Wood turning is a popular technique used today to create these whimsical characters. The smokers consist of two hollowed out body parts. An incense cone is placed on the lower body part and lit so that it glows gently. The smoke then pours out of the smoker’s mouth and the wonderful aroma is evident. The smokers normally range in size from four up to twenty inches although there are smokers that are more than forty inches in height.
There are several designs of smokers available from peddlers to chimney sweepers. Bakers, firemen, doctors and Santa Claus are very popular smokers, as are other designs. The most well known Erzgebirge workshops that produce these wonderful wooden smokers are KWO Olbernhau, Steinbach, Holzkunst Christian Ulbricht, Seiffener Volkskunst and Richard Glaesser. Their workshops vary by location but several are located in Seiffen, Germany. KWO Olbernhau is possibly the most popular and well known and offers a Smoker’s Collector’s Club for its enthusiasts. Steinbach and Christian Ulbricht, who are world famous for their design and production of collectible nutcrackers, are also popular manufacturers for the wooden smokers.

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