The Pipe as a Hobby

Gathering channels is an old and built up interest. Men were gathering funnels when postage stamps had not up ’til now been inven­ted. For sure, the prerequisites of pipe gathering are among the least difficult of any leisure activity: any smoker can be said to have a pipe col­lection in the event that he has in excess of one pipe. A pipe accumulation require not be extensive, nor must it comprise just of costly pipes. While, as a matter of fact, a hand-cut meerschaum may cost many dollars, a plain, three-dollar briar posses­sing uncommon individual significance to the smoker unquestionably merits rise to regard as a component of his accumulation. Gathering funnels varies from gathering stamps, coins, or simi­lar protests in that the channels can generally be utilized. The specialist’s channels fill a twofold need, since they are the two things of unique intrigue and instruments fit for giving an agreeable smoke. Most intrigued pipe smokers progress toward becoming gatherers at some point or another. This does not mean they collect a hundred or more pipes; yet every smoker in the long run discovers that he ought to have no less than four or five pipes and smoke them on the other hand. Before long the smoker winds up with eight, ten, or fifteen channels, so he has normally and logically turned into an authority on a little scale. Not all funnels which may effortlessness an accumulation can be smoked. A significant number of them are excessively old and excessively delicate, making it impossible, making it impossible to withstand normal smoking. However the excellence and history of such pipes may give them incredible esteem. Each pipe authority normally isolates his channels into two groupings: those which can be frequently smoked, and those which ought to remain securely in their cases or behind glass. The amateur gatherer ought to take in everything he can about channels, both current and recorded. Libraries will have a few books on the sub­ject, however by and large pipe writing is somewhat rare. Pipe inventories provided by producers frequently contain profitable data. Your most loved pipe shop may likewise be useful, or a nearby pipe club on the off chance that one exists in your locale. In most huge urban areas there are galleries and authentic social orders, a significant number of which have pipe accumulations or pipe shows in plain view. You will need to think about various sorts of briar, stem sizes, shapes, and different de­tails of pipe legend worth examining. It is a smart thought to add just great quality channels to your collec­tion. Cautious choice and an energy about quality will begin you off headed for turning into a pipe specialist. There is no motivation to restrict yourself to briar funnels; channels of meerschaum, dirt, different woods, and even corncobs and water funnels will liven up your gathering. The more established cut meerschaum funnels are both delightful and costly. The meerschaums of forty or fifty years back can even now be found Continue Reading

Selecting Your Pipe

Selecting your pipe is a very personal affair. The pipe must, first of all, fit your personality and character. It should also en­hance your appearance, and provide you with the comfort, con­fidence, and satisfaction to which every pipe smoker is entitled. When selecting a pipe, regard it as the old friend it will become, as something you will be living with for many years. Once you’ve decided on the pipe style that suits you best, you will want to make sure that the pipe is of good quality and cor­rectly priced. Judging the merits of a pipe requires a certain knowledge of pipe manufacture, a familiarity with briarwood, and a smattering of background in the economics of the pipe in­dustry. This chapter will serve as a general guide to briar pipe selec­tion. It is designed to help you choose a quality briar, and to tell you how much you should pay for it. It would also be a good idea to glance at Chapter Seven, “How Briar Pipes Are Made,” before actually choosing your pipe. FLAWS AND WHAT THEY MEAN To make certain that you get the best pipe for your money, select a reliable pipe dealer who sells the product of a well-known pipe-maker. In this way, you can be assured of a quality pipe, since the manufacturer’s reputation depends on the excellence of the pipe bearing his name. Because briar is a product of nature, imperfections occasion­ally occur in the burl. The skilled pipe maker eliminates or min­imizes such flaws, however, through careful selection of briar block and hand-finishing of the bowl. These minute imperfections in no way affect the smoking quality of the pipe, and painstaking hand-finishing makes the flaws invisible to the naked eye. Thus, pipes which may at first seem identical may vary sharply in cost, one selling for ten dollars and the other for only three. The reason for the wide difference is usually that the less expensive pipe has an imperfection or two, while the other pipe may have no visible faults at all. A pipe with a crack penetrating the entire bowl would be use­less, and no reputable pipe maker would allow it to carry his name. Neither you nor anyone else would want it at any price. However, a good pipe with one or more minute surface imperfections, rendered invisible to the naked eye, will give you as fine a smoke for as long a time as a perfect pipe. Finally, you may run across an outstanding specimen, a pipe with beautiful grain, and not a visible defect inside or outside the bowl. Imperfections originate in the briar burl when the growth of the burl is interrupted in some way. One kind of defect may be caused by a strong wind that bends or twists the plant so that its roots grow in an abnormal manner. This, in turn, may form small air pockets, partially open or completely enclosed . . . and invisible unless the pipe-maker’s cutting blade happens to slice through Continue Reading

The Art and Science of Smoking

Smoking a pipe is such a common custom today that we tend to forget it is both an art and a science developed over four centuries. It is an art in that a pipe is smoked for pleasure and pleasure only. It is a science in that the pipe bowl is a small furnace which, like any other furnace, must be properly fueled, fired, and cleaned in order to operate at its best. Unless these techniques are mas­tered, the smoker will find little joy in the use of his pipe. Smoking in its earliest days was recognized as an art, and no man was considered a gentleman until he could smoke properly. Tutors and professors of smoking appeared on the scene, who, for a price, would teach the novice the fundamentals and mysteries of the art. The complete course began with a history of smoking, and included the technique of inhaling through the nose. The course ended when the student had mastered the skill of blowing smoke rings in the air. The gentleman of fashion smoked at all times and at all places, in the theater as well as on the street. He carried in his pockets a complete smoking kit—a tobacco box, a pair of tongs for lighting his pipe with a burning coal, and a tobacco stopper for pressing the fired leaves firmly into his pipe bowl—all elaborately wrought of expensive materials. His pipe, however, was the same clay pipe smoked by common laborers and poor men in general. Perhaps the most interesting time for the avid pipe smoker came during the Victorian period. The nineteenth-century gen­tleman would have to retire to a special smoking-room, don a smoking-cap and jacket to protect his hair and clothes from the vile odor of tobacco, and puff away until interrupted by the ladies of the house. If there was no smoking-room, he would have to smoke secretly by his bedroom fireplace, surreptitiously blowing the smoke up the chimney so that no offensive odor would remain. Fortunately, the modern smoker can enjoy a pipeful either in private or in public. Moreover, he’ll always have a pleasant smoke if he is familiar with the art and science of smoking—-breaking in, filling, lighting up, and cleaning the pipe. Many a man who is attracted to pipe smoking gives up the practice after a few days because he finds little pleasure in his pipe. He finds that his tongue feels burned and is bitter-tasting, that the bowl becomes too hot to hold, or that the pipe will not stay lit. As a result, the would-be pipe smoker gives up in disgust, and the fraternity of pipe smokers has lost a friend. The fledgling smoker simply failed to realize that a pipe must be broken in and smoked properly before it will yield an enjoyable smoke. To derive maximum pleasure and satisfaction from a pipe, the new smoker should follow a few important but simple steps: The first step in breaking in a new pipe is Continue Reading

Pipe Varieties

For serious pipe-smoking, the briar should always be your first choice. However, if on occasion you desire a novel experience, try reaching for one of the more unusual pipes, such as a clay pipe, a calabash, a corncob, a churchwarden, or even a water pipe. These are some of the most readily available types, although the variety of possible pipes and pipe materials must be counted as almost endless. Smokers throughout the world have at one time or another used pipes made of bamboo, bone, bronze, glass, horn, iron, ivory (both walrus and elephant), nutshells, silver, steel, and stone, to name but a few. Most of these pipe materials would give a disappointing smoke. However, modern pipe smokers have found that a few of the more unusual pipe types do provide a satisfactory smoke, and add diversity to the smoker’s shelf as well. THE CALABASH The calabash pipe is made from the neck of a gourd, a plant whose family includes the cucumber, the melon, and the squash. The gourds- from which these pipes are fashioned usually come from South Africa, where the calabash originated. When the Dutch founded Cape Town in 1652, they discovered the natives busily smoking hemp in homemade gourd pipes. The natives would clean out the gourd, let it dry thoroughly, and then use it as a pipe. Calabash pipes became popular because they are beautiful and of an unusual shape. The calabash gourd makes an ideal pipe because of its light weight, its large air space, which yields a cool smoke, and its tendency to color well. The calabash pipe After being cut, the gourd is usually fitted with a meerschaum insert, called a “cup” or “top bowl.” Since nature forms the gourd, no two calabash pipes are ever exactly alike, and each pipe must be hand-made. The meerschaum insert is fitted into a cork ring to insure air-tight connection. The connection between the shank and the curved vulcanite stem also calls for careful hand fitting. While a gourd is growing, the cultivator aids in the formation of its gracefully curved neck by gradually training the neck to the correct form. This is done by placing Under the gourd a flat board in which pegs are inserted, pegs that hold the neck in a prescribed position. These pegs are then moved, little by little, so as to force the neck into the curve desired. After the gourd is harvested and its neck removed, the flesh inside the neck is scraped away. The outside of the gourd is then sanded and polished with fine abrasive, and the gourd is dried in the sun. Only then is it fitted with stem and bowl. The large air space beneath the bowl cools the smoke and pre­vents juices from entering the stem and the smoker’s mouth. Indeed, the graceful, lightweight calabash provides one of the coolest smokes possible—and its unique shape makes it an ideal reading or fireside pipe. CORNCOBS Washington, Missouri, is the home of the corncob pipe. Continue Reading

The Briar and the Meerschaum: -King and Queen of Pipes

The briar justly may be called the king of pipes. It has displaced almost every other kind of pipe from the smoker’s shelf. And rightly so, for briarwood is ideal pipe material—hard, tough and fire-resistant. Moreover, the briar pipe gives a cool, sweet, mellow smoke for many years. Similarly, the lovely white meerschaum may be called the queen of pipes. It is delicate, beautiful, and when carefully handled yields a gentle, sweet smoke. THE INVENTION OF THE MEERSCHAUM PIPE The meerschaum pipe made its debut in the tobacco world about 100 years before the discovery of the briar burl. Until the meer­schaum came into use, clay pipes were the average man’s smoke. According to an old story, it was pure chance that led to the utilization of meerschaum for pipe bowls. It seems that in the year 1720 there lived in Budapest, Hungary, a shoemaker named Karl Kovacs, who was also a talented carver. One day a member of Budapest society, Count Andrassy, brought Kovacs two white lumps of a strange mineral which the Count had found while traveling in the Near East. The Count wondered if the cobbler could carve some artistic design out of the material, as yet un­named. Kovacs examined the white lumps carefully, and it struck him that the light, porous mineral would be ideal for a pipe bowl. Being a heavy smoker, the Count readily agreed to the suggestion. Kovacs fashioned each lump into the shape of a bowl, gave one to the Count, and kept the other one for himself. After giving his bowl a trial smoke, Kovacs noticed that some parts of the white mineral had turned a golden brown. The brown spots were the prints of his fingers, which had been coated with cobbler’s wax. In a burst of inspiration, he waxed the rest of the bowl, and watched with satisfaction as the golden color spread evenly over the entire surface. Soon both Kovacs and Count Andrassy had the pleasure of smoking lovely, golden-brown meerschaum pipes. The demand for Kovacs’s pipes quickly grew, and the shoemak­er had less and less time left for his cobbling. It was commonly said that Kovacs literally carved gold out of meerschaum with his tools. His maiden pipe, created for Count Andrassy, was awarded a place of honor in the pipe collection of the National Museum in Budapest. For a century, from 1750 to 1850, hand-carved meerschaum pipes were too costly for the average pipe smoker. Only the wealthy could afford to purchase a block of meerschaum and engage some famous artist to carve the pipe. The pipes were fitted with pure amber stems, and were quite properly regarded as true works of art. As meerschaum pipe carving became a profitable business, determined efforts were made to uncover new deposits of the mineral. Finally, a meerschaum pipe boom began, lasting up to the end of the Nineteenth Century. During this period, numerous Austrian factories, employing hundreds of carvers, turned out thousands upon thousands of handsomely shaped meerschaum Continue Reading

Briar Pipes

It is no easy task to transform a rough piece of natural briar into a fine pipe—a pipe that that will smoke well and remain an object of lasting beauty. Skilled craftsmen plus the best modern machin­ery are required to create today’s high-quality pipe. Before the development of the power-turning lathe, all pipes were made by hand. Pipe making was a carver’s art, passed on for generations from father to son. Early briar pipes were ornately carved and as abundantly decorated as their forerunners, the clays and the meerschaums. Hand-carved pipes are still available today from most pipe manufacturers. These pipes come in various shapes and designs, depicting the heads of famous people, or animals, or many kinds of objects. But since the end of the First World War, the trend has been away from ornamented hand-carved designs. Although the pipe-carving art is still practiced, most of today’s pipe smokers prefer the perfectly turned bowl, sleek finish, and scientific design of pipes made with power machinery. This does not mean that automatic machines turn out modern quality pipes by the million. On the contrary, it is highly unlikely that quality pipe manufacture will ever be automated. It takes as many as eighty individual operations to transform a briar block into a finished pipe. Skilled craftsmen, with years of ex­perience and time-tested judgment, control each of these operations. The machines they use merely provide the power and pre­cision to produce a perfect pipe — something no hand craftsmen could ever hope to achieve. CUTTING THE BURL The creation of a briar pipe begins not in the factory but in the region where the briar grows. When a digger has unearthed a briar burl, he chops away the inferior portions; then he brings the burl to a sawmill. The men who process the briar first must dry up all the moisture within the burls. They place the freshly cut briar in long, shallow trenches and cover it with damp earth and straw. This permits the briar to mellow slowly without drying out too quickly. It is said that the best briar burls are those from plants which remain in the ground for several years. This presumably allows the mois­ture to dry out completely. Skilled workers then use high-speed circular saws to slice each burl into several pieces. After each slice is cut away, it is examined for cracks, flaws, or inferior wood. Each slice is then segmented into a number of more or less perfect briar blocks, roughly pipe-shaped, and called ebauchons. A large prime burl will yield up to fifty briar blocks. From each block, a single pipe will be made. Most briar blocks from which pipes are eventually carved are about three inches in length, and a burl must be at least this di­ameter to be of any use. Young burls, however, are so small that almost an entire burl is required to make a pipe. Such a small burl does not make a good pipe because the entire burl Continue Reading