Stingers, tubes, twisters, and doodads: There are (were) just about as many of these as there were pipe shapes. While not entirely a thing of the past, their heyday was around the middle of the 20th century. Is there a reason pipe companies aren't using, inventing, or re-inventing these anymore? Perhaps everything to be stingered has already been stung. This blog is a way for us to let you in on some some of the conversations we have in the office, and this particular posts comes from a question someone working for us in Customer Service called me about a few months ago. The question was something like this: "Adam? I have a customer on the phone and he is asking about pipes with stingers. Um...what's a stinger?". To this I replied with my vast knowledge of (pretty much) useless tid-bits: "What kind is he looking for? There are, like, zillions of different stingers. I'm assuming he's calling in about a Kaywoodie estate, right? The stinger helps determine the age."
Phone silence for about 15 seconds. Transfer. "Sir, I'll have to talk with Adam and call you back about this one. It should only take a few minutes."
Many companies have used something in their history to try to make pipes smoke better, to differentiate their product, and thus make them more marketable. While I don't know who started this, many people think about Kaywoodie pipes, or Dunhill innertubes (which aren't really stingers). Dunhill came out with the innertube as early as 1910, and these inventions (patented) were ways to differentiate themselves from other pipe manufacturers. The innertube to the far right in the picture is an earlier version with a collar, and is stamped with a patent #417574 (patented in 1912), and next to it is a modern innertube which lacks the collar or stamping. The idea was that it made cleaning the pipe far simpler; one could do so simply by removing the innertube. Many people simply threw these away, or they were lost. Once they got dirty, they took a long time to clean, which is why it is really nice to have them included with patent pipes.
Kaywoodie is the other company people think of, probably because there are just so many older Kaywoodies floating around in the United States. Kaywoodie began making pipes with an innertube before 1915, and came out with the "Drinkless" stinger in 1924. It was said to cool the smoke down from 850- degrees to a comfortable 82-degrees in the mouth. One of my first pipes was an old Kaywoodie with the large-ball stinger, but I found it difficult to smoke using this, and did the sinful thing of pulling it out. Newer Kaywoodie pipes, starting sometime in the early 1950s, have a smaller ball with three holes in the stinger instead of four. It does help determine age, since the smaller ball with three holes puts it sometime after WWII. Many of these were thrown away, or simply snipped off with wire cutters. While they do attract some heat, condensate, and collect some smoke and tars, many smokers can't make a gurgle go away with one in place. As we all know, gurgling in a bowl if the effect from smoking tobacco that is either too wet, or smoking it too fast (which turns moisture into steam which then condenses in the shank). With most pipes, you just run a cleaner down the stem and into the chamber, and let it absorb the moisture like a wick. This works very well, but can't be done if there is a stinger in the way.
This realization may be why many companies abandoned the idea all together, but the huge success of Dunhill and Kaywoodie is also why so many people tried to invent the newest doodad. As you can see in the photo, some had spirals to try to direct the smoke in a certain pattern, others were pointed to make it streamline, and others were blunt to really increase the surface area. Some shop pipes can even be identified by the stinger alone, so they can be useful in research, if anything, and only a few companies used them in recent years (only Kaywoodie and a few Tsuge models actually come to mind).
Whether marketing, functionality, or just plain inventiveness make so many stingers possible, I doubt if anyone collects them. It might be fun to see hundreds of different designs in a case at a pipe show for people to look at, while (most likely) smoking a pipe without one.
Also, this missive is far from complete. I'd love to hear your thoughts, comments, or corrections, in the comments of this blog entry.