How to Select the Right Pipe for You

Smoking pipe packed with tobacco resting on an ashtray

Whether you’re searching for your first pipe, your tenth, or your fiftieth, the selection criteria should never become less important. For many, the joy of purchasing a new pipe lies as much in the hunt for the perfect one, as it does in the joy of smoking it. Casting your eyes over the selection available, narrowing down your favourites and eventually purchasing your chosen pipe are all valued parts of pipe buying. For many, it’s experiential.

To help you make an informed and wise decision, we’ve highlighted important factors for you to consider when perusing a selection of pipes for sale. Ultimately, you want to be safe in the knowledge that the pipe you walk away with is one that’ll last you well and that you’ll receive continuous smoking enjoyment from.

Aesthetics

Man smoking pipe with tobacco

The aesthetics take into account how the pipe looks along with how it feels to the touch. This will also include the ergonomics of the pipe, such as how it fits into the mouth and hand, along with the weight and balance.

This will likely be top of the priority list when shopping for a new pipe, as first and foremost, you’ll want to like how it looks and feels. Although you may like a particular brand or particular style, all pipes can differ. So you may end up choosing something that you wouldn’t necessarily opt for normally.

Often, when choosing a pipe, it can be quite an intuitive and instinctual process. Sometimes you’re just naturally drawn to something, and it feels right. However, before making your choice, make sure you’ve done your research. Check out all the different shapes and styles, how they smoke, and what you’re looking for when smoking.

Mechanical

Pipe construction is a vital consideration when checking out your potential purchases. If you’re a veteran smoker, chances are you already know what to look for; however, for new smokers, this can be a little tricker. When viewing pipes, keep an eye out for the below:

Misaligned parts: pipes typically come in two parts, the stummel (the chubby half) and the stem (the thin half). The stem connects to the stummel when the tenon plugs into the mortise, allowing the smoke to flow from the bowl to the lip of the mouthpiece. Any misaligned parts will cause inconsistencies in smoking, making it a loud or wet smoke.
Fills: this is where the manufacturer has used putty to fill any gaps or pits in the briar to give it an overall smooth feel. Often, you won’t know how deep the fill is, which could be cause for concern.
Metal filters: sometimes these can be removed from the stem; however, they do have the potential to cause a louder or wetter smoke.
Varnish: there are so many different ways for manufacturers to finish their pipes. Some pipe-makers like to use a varnish on their pipes to bring out the colour of the wood and emphasise the grain; however, this could cause the exterior to flake or bubble over time. Not all varnished pipes will have this issue, as some will use a high-quality heavy varnish, but it’s certainly something to consider.

If a pipe has just one of these and fits the bill aesthetically, then it could still be a great choice. But, if it has more than one of these, then you may want to steer clear. There are also some other aesthetic considerations you may wish to take into account:

Draft hole: you’ll want this to be located at the centre of the bowl, at the bottom, rather than some way up the side. This will allow for the optimal stream of smoke.
Production: the fit and the finish should be perfect, or as close to as possible. Look for messy sandpaper marks or bald spots that haven’t been waxed properly, as these will speak volumes of the manufacturer’s quality.
Sandpits: as a rule, as few sandpits as possible, the better.
Weight: many people say that a lighter pipe will offer a better smoke. Really, you’re looking for a pipe that feels a little lighter than it should, as this means that it will have been cured more thoroughly.
Grain: the grain is mostly an aesthetic option, although typically more uniform grain pipes command a higher price.

Pipe being rested on a stand

Financial

When purchasing a pipe, we’d suggest setting a top-line budget and sticking to it. It’s easy to creep above the amount you’ve set slowly, but this way only leads an expensive hobby. However, when buying a pipe, typically price will reflect the quality of the product, both in terms of manufacture and raw material. If you want a stable pipe that continuously offers a good smoke, you must be prepared to shell out a decent amount. Whereas for a rotation pipe, you can afford to be a little more frugal.

Whether you’re buying your first pipe, or looking to add to your current collection, make sure you have some quality pipe tobacco at your disposal. You can also check out our blog for more advice and tips on pipe smoking and smoking in general.

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