Selecting a pipe is a very personal thing, almost as personal as buying a car. The shape, size, color, and finish say something about you, your tastes, interests, and even your moods.
When shopping for a pipe, take time to hold it. The pipe has to feel right – balanced, comfortable – not awkward or heavy. Look at the different pipes and their finish (smooth or rough), color (light or dark), the stem (straight or bent), and especially the shape. Don’t worry. You don’t have to make it an information overload on yourself. Glance at different pipes and see what catches your eye first, then go from there.
Get in Shape
Briar pipes are available in many standard shapes. The choice of shape is entirely personal. Smokers my have a single favorite shape of pipe or many different shapes in their collections. Briar pipes are also available in a unique “freehand” design that follow no particular shape and are carved according to the grain and size of the briar.
Ahem! A Bit about the Stem
Also consider the stem. Would you prefer a straight or bent shape? Most pipe stems are made from vulcanite, a hard rubber, or Lucite, a type of plastic. Vulcanite is less expensive and can be hand cut to all pipe shank shapes. Vulcanite will oxidize and turn white especially near the mouthpiece bit after time, but, can be cleaned and polished to look like new. Lucite does not tarnish or lose its color around the bit. And Lucite can come in different swirl stem designs that can make a pipe look absolutely fantastic.
Expensive Versus Inexpensive Pipes
So, what’s the difference between a $30 pipe and a $230 pipe? The biggest difference is in the briar. The older briar, the finer the grain and more dense it is. The density and curing of the wood is crucial. The lighter a pipe’s weight, the longer it has been cured and is free of wood resins and moisture. A lightweight pipe that is aged well and cured will offer a good tasting, cool smoke.
Due to Mother Nature and conditions under which briar grows, a small percentage of pipes produced have a uniformly fine grain pattern and perfect finish. These are called “firsts” and are considered the best of the best. The remaining pipes may have tiny surface flaws or sandpits. Some are practically undetectable while others may require putty fills. These tiny imperfections affect the aesthetic appearance of the pipe, but not the pipe’s smoking qualities. Known as “seconds,” these pipes are sold under numerous brand names and represent the best values in pipe smoking. Bowls are smooth-polished and or sandblasted or carved for a rough texture.
Buying a Pipe for a Gift?
If you’re buying a pipe as a gift for someone, it can be fun if you know that person and his or her tastes. If you don’t know that person well and choose a pipe, be sure to ask for a gift receipt from your Tinder Box associate. If you are unsure, we recommend a Tinder Box gift certificate.
One final note, it is better to choose a pipe that does not use any kind of filter or condensing system. These systems trap moisture in the shank and prevent the effective use of the pipe cleaners during the smoke.
If you have any questions, call us at 815-226-4441, or e-mail us at tinderbox-rockford.com.