Types of Pipes
If you are new to the world of pipes at first one would assume the act of choosing a tobacco pipe to be a rather simple and arbitrary task. Upon further perusing this might swiftly change to a daunting process. Within a few minutes you can be led down a never ending rabbit hole of baffling language, manufacturing processes, geographical dispositions and the staunch debate over traditionalism vs modernism. Here at The Pipe Shop we hope to help you enter this new frontier with the necessary basic knowledge to choose the right pipe for you.
The first thing that a novice might look at is the retail price of a smoking pipe with the assumption that, a pipe of higher value must deem it a superior item in every facet when compared to a cheaper counterpart. This might not always be the case. Many brands hold a higher price tag through reputation and associated prestige whilst others try to cater for the mid and lower range market, all the while not willing to compromise on quality.
Material should be the main focus when choosing your tobacco pipe and recommended above all others is that of briar root (Erica arborea). This root comes from shrubs found in the Mediterranean and Sicily is the predominant exporter of briar for pipe manufacturing. The process of growing, harvesting and ageing briar is a long but rewarding venture resulting in a material that is solid, extremely heat resistant and most importantly doesn’t taint the taste of tobacco. All briar is not equal and the age of a piece of briar and it’s grains aesthetic appeal play into the value it is given. Once again these are details of minutia that shouldn’t be your primary concern but give you understanding as to why there can be a price disparity of hundreds between two smoking pipes that may seem on a surface level to be nearly identical in shape, size, polish etc.
What to watch for when choosing a Tobacco Pipe
Whilst holding a tobacco pipe you can survey it for any defective traits such as knots or cracks in the wood. The stem of a pipe should also be firmly affixed but not so stiff that it feels like it could crack when being removed. Slowly rotate the stem clockwise whilst gently pulling on the bowl. Doing this will prevent damaging the stem and reduce the risk of creating a crack or air gap through friction. When placing the stem back in use the same action, rotating clockwise once more whilst gently pushing inward this time. Simple actions such as these can extend the lifespan of a pipe greatly.
Filtered vs. Unfiltered Tobacco Pipes
Some tobacco pipes also cater for a 9mm diameter carbon filter that is placed in the stem. As pipe tobacco in non-inhalable these filters are not used for their health benefits but rather as a tool to cool the smoke and prevent blockages in the stem. On the continent more pipes with than without 9mm filters can be found whilst in Britain it is more common to find non-filter pipes.
Treated vs. Untreated Smoking Pipes
When looking into the bowl of a tobacco pipe you may be confronted with either a pre-carbonated or an untreated bowl. The latter is as it sounds, the briar being left exposed and needing broken in slowly, like a new pair of stiff shoes. A pre-carbonated bowl on the other hand is treated to the effect of a pipe that has been used enough to build up a light carbon lining allowing it to be exposed to heat for longer without risk of damaging the smoking pipe. This would be the preferable option for a novice as it requires no monitoring or maintenance. That being said if the new hobby of pipe smoking will only be taken up infrequently then over use of the pipe is unlikely.
The bowl depth is something to take into consideration as a small bowl with a narrow wall will only allow for a short smoke and will heat up quicker than that of a deep bowl with a thicker wall. A ten minute bowl could quickly become a thirty minute venture if the wrong bowl has been chosen.
Shapes of Tobacco Pipes
Pipe shapes are another factor that play a large part in the choosing of a tobacco pipe. A few things are to be taken into consideration such as where you will be smoking the pipe and for what length of time per session. If outdoors is where your pipe will be seeing use most, then a bent pipe will be favourable to a straight pipe for reasons of practicality. Bent pipes allow the smoke to be redirected from eyeline and reduces the risk of rogue embers being blown back towards the smoker. Many pipe smokers will have more than one pipe in their rotation and will have one suitable for each setting at their disposal. As a newcomer wont have this luxury this is one of the more important decisions when choosing your first smoking pipe.
Textures of Smoking Pipes
The last notable difference between tobacco pipes is the varying techniques employed to finish the pipe.
Another popular option seen frequently is the rustic finish. Through engraving a rough finish to the pipes surface heat is dispersed through it unevenly thus allowing it to stay cooler in the hand. Some people also find a rusticated pipe easier to grip.
Another technique that achieves a similar effect is sandblasting. Using a high pressure jet of sand allows the tobacco pipe makers to create a rough surface that looks similar to porous rock. The same benefits of a rusticated pipe are found with the sandblast.
Many manufacturers offer the same model of pipe in a smooth and rusticated format. This is beneficial for the pipe maker as the briar root with finer grain will be selected for a smooth finish and instead of discarding those with imperfections they will sandblast or rusticate them so that they can still be brought to market. This is a necessity for the simple fact that briar is in short supply and is constantly going up in value.
How to buy a first Tobacco Pipe
So what can you take away from this? When choosing your first smoking pipe you don’t need to spend a fortune but rather evaluate where you will be smoking and for how long. Look for a briar pipe and make sure that it feels comfortable in your hand. Consider whether you want a 9mm filter or not and bear in mind that a 9mm filter pipe will require changing frequently.