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The Official Pipe, Pipe Tobacco, Accessories, and Smoking Thread.

Discussion in 'Social Life, Food & Drink, Travel' started by Piobaire, Dec 13, 2011.

  1. dopey

    dopey Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Yesterday, I bought a Luigi Viprati pipe. This is a relatively inexpensive brand made by a small one or two-man factory in Brescia. It is not superbly made, but I really liked the shape and the sandblasted ring grain. It also had a horn stem. Someone once told me that, as in another field, the English developed and perfected the classic pipe forms and then the Italians adopted them, copying but adding an exuberance to make it their own. While the analogy falls down if you push it too hard, the pipe I bought is a good example. It is roughly in the form of a Prince or Apple, but the shank tapers down from the width of the bowl to the stem and is faceted, with the facets continuing into the straight horn stem. All in all, I thought it beautiful. The internal work is excellent, though the external finishing is less than perfect and the maker's markings are too much on the flamboyant side. I have only smoked it once, but I can suggest this as a brand to look at if you want something relatively inexpensive with a little flair (if you want to keep to the forced analogy, Viprati is local, village-Neopolitan bespoke to Rubinacci's more refined international style).

    Today, I thought it might be interesting to try and take some photos of the pipe I bought and explain what I liked about it.

    Two things drew me to the pipe - the shape and the grain. The shape, as I said before, is a variation of the Prince, which is one of my favorite shapes. The key to the Prince, is the shape of the bowl, which is a squashed or truncated Apple, a short slim round shank and, usually, a 1/8th bent stem (a slight bend). This pipe foregoes the slim shank, replacing it with a wider shank, that is both tapered to the stem and faceted. Notice also the slight downward angle of the top of the bowl.
    These photo gives you an idea of the overall shape.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    I like Princes and this variation seemed not only unique, but also elegant and well balanced. Its style had great appeal to me.
    I also like sandblasted pipes. That is the process where the softer wood is removed by scouring with an abrasive under air pressure. This is in contrast to rustication, which is basically carving, and smooth, which is simply fine sanding and polishing. Generally speaking, smooth pipes are the most expensive and rusticated are the cheapest, with sandblasting in the middle. While this may seem inverse to the degree of labor involved, it reflects the relative scarcity of "perfect" unblemished wood needed to leave a pipe suitable for a smooth finish. Surface pits revealed when the pipe is carved can be blasted or carved away but will mar a smooth finish, making a clean piece of briar suitable for a smooth finish that much rarer (lower grade pipes get around this by simply having the pits filled with putty and then sanded for a smooth finish). Among smooth pipes, premiums are placed on the graining, with the most expensive pipes being ones with fine "straight grain" running vertically up and down the side of the bowl in tight parallel lines. Some people like cross grain (horizontal) or flame grain or birdseye patterns. Personally, I like smooth pipes well enough but am unmoved by grain and care only that it is relatively even and not blotchy. When I buy a smooth pipe, it is usually for a reason other than the grain. On the other hand, I really like sandblasting and the grain patterns it reveals. While I am happy with any intricate blasted pattern, I especially like it when the grain shows neat parallel rings, stacked around the bowl. Incidentally, that layout generally results from a pipe that would show very good straight grain if smooth. This pipe has beautiful ring grain, and while I have seen tighter rings, I have seen very few pipes that show the ring grain as nicely as this one does. You can see the side view above. Here is the front of the bowl, where the rings are nicely stacked.
    [​IMG]
    One thing to keep in mind is that the carver had to orient and shape the pipe in a way that aligns the bowl and shank with the flow of the woodgrain. Notice how carefully the grain is placed at the bottom of the bowl, from which it radiates like ripples in a pond:
    [​IMG]
    There are, of course a few things I don't love about this pipe. On the execution/quality side, I have two complaints. First, there is a tiny thumbnail indent type gap in one spot where the stem and shank join. I have not bothered to photograph it, and it may be even to small to try. Nonetheless, it bothers me on principal and almost kept me from buying the pipe. With luck, I will forget about it once the pipe become well used. The other flaw is a design element. The rim of the pipe bowl is much thinner t the front than the rest of the way around. While I think it may be intentional, I would have preferred the rim to be of even width. Or maybe not. I tried to photograph it, and perhaps you can see what I mean.
    [​IMG]
    Stemwork and engineering is another important thing to consider in a pipe. You will have to take my word that the pipe is well designed internally with pretty good finishing. The stem is horn and the button and slotting are a bit cruder than I expected, but that may be because it is horn, which is more delicate and harder to work - I will note that the other horn stems by this maker were made the same way, while the regular stems were finished quite nicely. I am also impressed with the faceting on the stem, which continues the shape of the shank. That is very nicely done. By the way, the horn is mottled, like a dark horn coat button, but I cannot photograph that very well.
    The one thing that does annoy me about this pipe, which I think I will not get over, is the ridiculous signature. While it is typical for pipemakers to mask a bit of the pipe stem from the blasting medium to make a smooth spot for stamping the name, grade and other markings, it is done to an absurd extreme here, with a huge L. Viprati signature and "Hand Made in Italy" engraving. Here is how it looks - it would be better at half or a third the size.
    [​IMG]

    All that aside, I thought it was a beautiful pipe and, because of the grain pattern and shape, I was glad to buy it.

    As I am sure is clear by know, much of what I have discussed is simply a matter of personal taste and aesthetics. Certainly, my tastes have evolved over time as I learned what I liked and didn't like and I would not be surprised if others came to very different conclusions. But once you get past the engineering and briar quality, personal taste and aesthetics are what matter.
     
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2012
  2. Medwed

    Medwed Senior member

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    Sorry not a pipe picture but it is smoking related . Best tobacco I have smoked was shop-mixed by old Boston shop on Harvard Ave in Brighton . It had some coconut flav. [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2012
  3. Piobaire

    Piobaire Senior member

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    Dopey, incredible write up and pictures. Thanks for that.

    Today I had a nice bowl in a Nording pipe. It's a "sitter" so I can set it down and it will balance itself nicely. Big bowl, thick sides cool smoke. I used some tobacco I bought in Vegas. There's a cigar/pipe shop in the Venetian shop gallery. This mix is entitled "Casanova" and is very subtle. Great way to end a fantastic day.
     
  4. dopey

    dopey Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    By way of update, I have been getting a lot of use out of the Viprati I described above. I decided to make it my dedicated Stonehenge pipe. Since that is my favorite tobacco, the Viprati goes stretches of being smoked every other day and is getting a chance to break-in nicely. While I will on rare occasions run more than one bowl through it in a day, I try to give the Viprati at least a day off after every day of use.

    Reggs - sorry I missed your questions earlier
    This all makes sense and is what people say. I mostly smoke when walking or outside, so churchwardens are of little use to me and I haven't bothered to pay too close attention.
    I don't use them. I think their primary benefit is to take up moisture. I don't smoke aromatics and, in general, moisture is not a problem so I don't bother with them. It also seems like it would restrict the draw a bit, which I don't want.
    The following is mostly hearsay, and I welcome any corrections:
    The main benefits are that they protect the wood of the pipe from burnout (basically charring and burning through) and prevent the smoke from picking up much of the briar taste (it should still let vapor through to be absorbed by the wood). On the other hand, depending on what you smoke, the cake may get saturated with its own flavor. Keep in mind that most pipes sold have a coating on the bowl already, which is intended to prevent burnout and impart a neutral flavor. One coating, called waterglass, is as protective as a full cake, though it is also a complete barrier to the wood.

    I don't try to build up a cake - in fact, I swab the inside of the bowl with a pipe cleaner after each use, which slows the growth of a cake - but am happy to let it develop over time. But if a pipe is new and uncoated and doesn't have much carbon inside, I smoke it very carefully.
     
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2012
  5. countdemoney

    countdemoney Senior member

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    How do all of you store your pipe tobacco?

    As I'm not a frequent smoker, I've found that a few of my tins are getting dry. I've thought about a humidor, but everything looks to be made for cigars. I've also seen jars mentioned, but not sure what the right course would be.
     
  6. Piobaire

    Piobaire Senior member

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    Cool morning so I sat outside with my coffee and a bowl. Smoked my Peterson which has a nice brawny bowl and provides a cool smoke. I used Peterson tobacco as that seemed fitting; 2010 Holiday Blend.

    Count, I put mine inside a 1 gallon Ziplock, with a handful of those clay moisturizing tablets, and put the whole thing in the fridge.
     
  7. Joffrey

    Joffrey Senior member

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    Keep my tobacco in the ziplock it came in (an aromatic) and in a ceramic jar I have. IT's stored with the pipe, cleaner and toolkit.

    Call me crazy but I inhale my pipe tobacco smoke. I get a slight buzz.
     
  8. Reggs

    Reggs Senior member

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    I've continued to smoke, and when I realized that this would be a normal part of my week-to-week routine, I bought more stuff.

    I've purchased a smaller, 7.5 inch churchwarden pipe:
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004ECQ9XM/ref=oh_o05_s00_i00_details

    It was a bad purchase. The stem is misshapen, all the materials feel cheap, and I suspect the bowel is made of rosewood based not only on the color, but mostly on the light weight. The stem is also too narrow to bite onto comfortably. It's too small.

    I've also purchased this "Strictly English" pipe tobacco sampler kit:
    http://www.pipesandcigars.com/busasen.html

    Last I checked, only two of the tobaccos in this kit have 4/5 stars on tobacco reviews, the rest were lower. I've only tried Medium English, and Majestic English. Majestic English is very delicious and has been my favorite tobacco so far. It keeps a good light too. The only downside is that there is still a taste in my mouth after I brush my teeth. It's very heavy and creamy. I only smoke 1-2 times a weeks, so I think these sampler kits are a worthwhile purchase to find something that I enjoy since I smoke too slowly to commit to tins to test different tobaccos out.

    I also got a tin of Dunhill Nightcap:
    http://www.tobaccoreviews.com/blend_detail.cfm?ALPHA=N&TID=459

    Dunhill Nightcap seems to be some sort of standard. Many people cite it as their favorite blend, and many who review English blends will use Nightcap as a comparison, so I wanted to get a tin for myself. I've read that some people will open a tin of this and let it sit for a few weeks to bring out a flavor that's more similar to "the old way" they use to formulate Nightcap. I left my tin open 9 hrs before I started to smoke it. I find that it holds a light well, but makes a lot of ash. The taste is very good, but not as good as the Majestic English I got in my sampler. However, I smoke this more often since it doesn't leave such a strong taste in my mouth, even after I brush my teeth.

    I always like to end my day's with something relaxing. I'll often to the sauna before bed. Pipe smoking is something new to the rotation. I read a lot, so it fits that activity well. I usually read here:
    [​IMG]

    None of this is mine. It's in the condominium complex I live in. We have a "library" on one of the floors. No one ever uses it, most of the books are cheesy romance novels, and every Star Trek book that has ever been written. It has large open windows and very comfortable chairs. After 11PM I will go here to smoke and read for an hr or so with the windows open. Of course, smoking is not allowed here, but this is a forgotten place. No one ever uses this room, and a good 60% of the books are throw a way books from the 70's. The smell of my smoke clears very quickly with the windows opened. I've checked by sniffing around after I come home from work, smoking the night before. This is my smoking ritual.

    [​IMG]

    I wear a seersucker robe when I smoke to shield my clothes against the smoke. This is the small churchwarden pipe I am not happy with.

    Eventually I would like to travel to this shop:


    It's the most reputable tobacconist in my area. It's 30 mins away. I want to buy a quality churchwarden pipe and a good pipe lighter.
     
  9. Joffrey

    Joffrey Senior member

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    LOL you use a kindle and shop for pipes on amazon
     
  10. dopey

    dopey Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    I can't say Amazon is the best place to get pipes, but I like using a kindle and find it's convenient size and weight make it ideal to take with me if I want to sit outside somewhere and have a smoke.
     
  11. JLibourel

    JLibourel Senior member

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    Any views here on the practice of smearing the bowl of your pipe with honey, both prior to smoking it initially and as a means of freshening your pipe? I seem to find it quite efficacious, but I have the sense that it is probably abhorrent to purists.

    I don't know if anybody else here can remember the "Yello Bole" pipes from the '50s. They came with some sort of yellow stuff lining the bole that was supposed to be honey--although it looked sort of plasticky and unlike any honey I ever saw.

    Later:
    (Oh, looking into the matter, I see they still exist, but the pipes are now made from some sort of synthetic material. They were more conventional in the days of my youth. I have the sense they were sort of downmarket back then and still are.)
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2012
  12. dopey

    dopey Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    I have heard of Yello-bole pipes, but never seen one - the plasticky honey lining seems revolting.
    I have also heard of smearing a new pipe with honey, coating it with rum and other stuff, though to get it started, nit as a refresher. EIther way, I don't seem the point. On the other hand, if you have done it and like the results, that seems like a pretty good reason to keep doing it. All I do with a new pipe is smoke it more carefully and slowly in the beginning until the inside has a nice carbon coating.
     
  13. dopey

    dopey Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    bump - in case there might be interest in this thread.
     
  14. dopey

    dopey Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    again
     
  15. itsstillmatt

    itsstillmatt Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    I've switched pipe tobaccos.
     
  16. dopey

    dopey Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    To what?

    I still smoke mostly Stonehaven, but also a variety of Virginia flakes. Today I have with me Bob's Chocolate Flake:
    "The main characteristics of this flake come from the 8% Latakia included in the blend and the smooth chocolate aroma. Brazilian, Zimbabwe and Malawi Virginia leaf make up 82% of the blend providing a mild/medium smoke cooled with the addition of 8% Malawi sun cured and 2% Malawi Burley. The Latakia cools but also adds strength and aroma. The cocoa casings and chocolate top flavors are rounded off with vanilla and other flavors providing sweet notes in this very unique and popular blend." (it is a lot like Stonehaven, but with a slightly sweeter rather than musty character)

    I have put aside Latakia-heavy mixtures, for the most part, until after the summer.
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2012
  17. itsstillmatt

    itsstillmatt Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Right now a McClelland #24 Virginia
     
  18. Piobaire

    Piobaire Senior member

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    Matt, I need to get a hold of some of that SF 'baccy before winter.

    The new house is going to be so perfect for a bowl outside this winter. I cannot wait.
     
  19. dopey

    dopey Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    What is "SF" tobacco?
     
  20. itsstillmatt

    itsstillmatt Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Pease Telegraph Hill. Really nice stuff.
     

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