When I first had the idea to do a brief blog post about clay pipes, I soon realized that it is actually a huge subject that could fill many books (and actually has). This particular post is not meant to be a concrete piece of history, nor is it intended to classify all clay pipes and tobaccos. Still, a brief bit of fun is in order. Most of us have smoked briar pipes, some smoke meerschaum; there is the occasional cherry-wood pipe or noble cob thrown into the mix, but what about the common clay? For starters, there is little debate that there were more pipes made out of clay than any other material, since it was the vessel of choice (and mass market) from c1500-c1900. Briar came into popularity in the latter part of the 19th century.
The example shown here is lesser known to most of us. It's a simple clay bowl that could be made out of stoneware (in this case), redware, or pretty much any clay that you could dig up just under the good soil in the back yard. Some fancy pipes have a light glaze on them, but the majority of these were either unglazed or polished in spot-areas from natural ash glazing or salt glazing. An obvious advantage to a bowl like this is that the stem (normally the part that breaks) could be a simple reed (as is the case here), turkey or goose feather, or a hollowed stick from the likes of a cherry or walnut tree. Pipes made in this way were very easy to transport. The bowls could be kept in a box or bag and the wooden stems would be kept separate to take up less space. This particular design looks like a typical detailed stoneware pipe from the 1800s. Since the style changed very little, it's rather difficult (if not impossible) to determine if this pipe was made two decades ago or two centuries ago.
That's why I like it. This style of pipe was often traded to Native Americans - as many goods were - along with tobacco. Many a re-enactor has a pipe like this in his tricorn, felt hat, or in a leather pouch with a twist or rope of tobacco (which was much easier to store than ribbon). Cutting off a coin of tobacco (Samuel Gawith Brown Bogie in this case) and breaking it up into ribbons to fill the clay takes me back to a past time when men sat around a campfire roasting meat, talking in a tavern, or simply enjoying their tobacco alone with their thoughts.
A few days ago our friend Craig Colbine of the Chicago Pipe Club came to visit. Craig is in charge of putting on next year's Chicago Pipe Show, his first year, having taken over the task from Frank Burla. It was great to see him, his wife and, yes, their dog Yum-Yum. What we absolutely had to share with you, though, was the accoutrements sported by Yum-Yum...click the thumbnails below...
Excellent photos by Bobby Altman. You probably guessed that I didn't take these ones!
Wow. Just wow. Our Peterson Pipe Promotion was wildly popular this yuletide. "Buy a new Peterson pipe and you get a free tin of Peterson pipe tobacco". Sounds like a deal to me. The aim was to keep this promotion running through the end of the year; however, with the unprecedented response to such a bargain I’m sorry to announce that we just shipped out our last tin of Peterson tobacco. It’s all gone. I know because I was there to see it get boxed up and handed to a UPS driver. It was a bittersweet moment that nearly had me moved to tears.
The fate of the promotion has since been decided in a nerve-wracking bout of rock-paper-scissors between Sykes and the Bizarro Sykes that we keep hidden in the attic with the model trains.
A decision has been made. (The winner of the contest is immaterial.)
Your choices are: Waccamaw, Cooper, Santee, Black and my personal favorite Carolina Christmas.
On a rather chilly, blustery Saturday morning, Hiroyuki Tokutomi pulled up at my hotel to pick me up for the three hour drive to Maebashi, a mid-sized city on at the northwestern fringe of the Kanto plain. Tokutomi lives on the far side of Maebashi from Tokyo, an area that starts to feel rural, in the foothills of the mountains that dominate vistas from the city. While the Kanto plain is home to some forty-million people, being the largest plain in the Japanese archipelago and home to Tokyo, Tokutomi's home is more suburban. His neighbors have large vegetable gardens, extending well past what a normal family could consume. Tokutomi lives at very much the edge of urban and rural Japan, a contrast that seems far starker than in other countries.
I spent two days in Maebashi with Tokutomi, spending most of the time watching him work, taking photos and video of the process. I've spent many hours watching Tokutomi work over the years, but this is the first time I've made a seriously concerted effort to document the process while in his workshop. Tokutomi's workshop is decidedly well appointed. Multiple sanding disks, set up for a left-hander, buffing wheels and lathes dominate the space, split into two large rooms by a half wall. He also has an entire arsenal of air powered tools, drawing compressed air from his sandblaster compressor. Not being an expert on such things, I asked him about the relative benefits. He explained that the airpowered tools were higher torque than their electricity powered counterparts, plus the flexibility of one power source for many different attachments is quite a boon. In the past, he's also showed me the knives he used in his pre-dremel days, and still breaks out occasionally for certain work, but the mix of air-powered tools radically improves his productivity.
We spent most of the time with Tokutomi at the sanding disk, doing what he does best. Watching Tokutomi at the disk is a pretty remarkable thing. He works so efficiently and effortlessly. It seems to be an entirely intuitive process for him, envisioning the pipe in the block of wood. He shaped two pipes while I was there, a squat tomato shape for which Tokutomi is quite famous and a beautifully grained volcano. He also drilled both pieces and worked on a stem on a third pipe, the pipe for the three pipe set that he, Jeff Gracik and Adam Davidson started at Adam's workshop here in Myrtle Beach after the Richmond show in early October. Tokutomi's three-year-old grandson Rinto spent the entire time in the workshop too, though he isn't really a terribly helpful helper (though no one told him that).
All in all, it was a really special experience. Watching someone of Tokutomi's caliber work is special in its own right. To have a two day all-access pass is special indeed.
Albert King, (Albert Nelson) was born in the central region of Mississippi called the Delta. The region is saturated with blues heritage and Albert King is a pioneer of modern music. In addition to being hailed the "King of the Blues" - He was a pipe smoker. The bluesman was often seen smoking a pipe and playing a Gibson Flying V guitar (strung right-handed but played left-handed). He named the electric guitar Lucy, and she became his signature instrument.
His influence flows into present day through Blues, R&B, and Rock genres. It is apparent that Jimi Hendrix was influenced by Albert King. Jimi used a right handed guitar flipped over and played left handed. Even Hip-hop owes a toast to Albert King, with samples from his recordings used by Biz Markie, Wu-Tang Clan and Public Enemy.
I've been back from Japan for a couple of days now, starting to recover from jetlag and starting to look through the vast number of photos and perhaps two hours of video I took while I was there. These are all photos from my first day in Japan. Kei Gotoh and Takeo Arita picked me up at my hotel in the morning and we visited (I had no idea this was planned) a small museum of work by the celebrated painter Gyokudo Kawai, known for his naturalistic melding of traditional Japanese artistic themes with western modernist influences. After the museum visit, we had lunch with Sab Tsuge, who was wearing (I think) a hakama and smoking (and this I know) a kiseru, the traditional metal pipe that was used to smoke tobacco in Japan starting in the late sixteenth century.
Extremely fine tobacco--much finer than cigarette tobacco-- is used with the kiseru. According to Tsuge, the kiseru is making something of a comeback, in part because of recent tax increases on tobacco. That's actually rather ironic because that exactly was the genesis for the kiseru: heavy taxes were levied on tobacco during the Tokugawa shogunate, so the pipes shrank accordingly.
We enjoyed a wonderful, traditional lunch together in a beautiful tatami private dining room overlooking the river. I shan't try to detail the food; I don't know what much of it was, though it was all good. Following that, we had coffee outside and Gotoh, Arita and I headed back to Gotoh's workshop to chat, take pictures and videos, and actually conduct three minutes of honest-to-goodness business. Perhaps the best thing about my job is that the actual transacting of business is done in about three minutes and the rest of the time is spent on the concordant rituals, which largely consist of eating and talking about pipes.
Kei Gotoh took the third and the twelfth photos in this series. Since those are definitely the best, kudos go to him.
After the West Coast pipe show in Las Vegas, there was a pow-wow in San Diego. Lucky ducks Sykes, Alyson, and Brad Pohlmann visited Jeff Gracik and captured some great video of the pipe makers working on our Christmas pipes. If you'll scroll down a few posts, you can see a video that Ted matched to wonderful Christmas music. (Personally, the scene with Tchaikovsky’s “Dance of the sugar plum Fairy" behind it really put me in the Christmas spirit.) The pipe is a pear shape and features custom J.Alan silver work on the shanks. We just got these pipes in a few days ago, actually, and they are each a beautiful gem. Jeff applied his stamp to the pipe as did Brad. Just yesterday Sykes came into my office and asked if I could stamp them with the Smokingpipes.com logo.
Nearly every pipe has a stamp on it, though many people don't know how it is done. Some companies and makers have different practices (Eltang engraves), but it pretty much comes down to pushing a steel stamp - which is really sharp and rather expensive - freehand onto an expensive pipe. For many pipe makers (this includes me) this final step is part of the finishing process and can be quite risky. If the pipe is stamped poorly it will need to be sanded down before being stained, finished, and stamped again. Some shapes are easier to stamp than others (wide, rather flat pieces, for instance.)
I couldn't put it off any longer. Finding a suitable material to rest the pipe on - an estate leather Castello bag - meant that I could use the hard top of a desk by the back door (near Eric) and the leather would make something soft for the pipe to sit atop. More importantly, the bag mildly grips the pipe so it wouldn't slip on the hard glossy surface of a desk. After borrowing a chair from someone's office and installing an architect's desk lamp for proper light, I gave Eric strict instructions.
"Eric. I need to stamp seven of these pipes with great concentration. They don't belong to me, so if I don't press hard enough, if I partial stamp, or slip (oh, the horror!), I will be Ebenezer Screwed. It's your job to act as my bouncer. We have hardwood floors, so make sure Alyson and Susan (each wearing hard heels) don't come nearby. If anyone tries to sneak up on me or talk - tackle them."
The thought of stamping a pipe that wasn't mine made me a bit trepidacious. Doing it perfectly seven times made me really nervous. I planted myself firmly in the solid seat when no one was walking around and placed the leather bag on the edge of the desk. Firmly holding the pipe in my left hand with the bowl angled to one side, I touched the corner of the extremely sharp, pointy metal stamp on the edge of the hard, shiny, waxed surface of the pipe. Squeezing down with enough force to do a one-handed push-up sunk it into the briar. At this point I was committed. Very slowly, I rocked the round stamp back and forth and slowly rolled the pipe like a door knob with the grace of a juvenile getting home past curfew. It was done.
Whew! It's scarier than it seems. People here in the office laughed at my expense - nothing unusual - so I suggested they try it on some throw-away rejected billiard estates. Good thing for Jeff and Brad that some other employees here didn't stamp the pipes or we would have ended up with some 'okingpipes' pipes and some double-stamped pieces.
Jeff and Brad did a great job with this year's Christmas pipes. Thankfully, I didn't screw them up. ;)
Okay, there are 9 days until Christmas and I haven’t even started my shopping! No worries, that’s normal for me. I like to wait until the last week to shop. I’ll jot down my list at the last possible moment and then have a huge breakfast before venturing out to do it all in one day. Yes, one day!
Here at Smokingpipes.com we’ve been processing orders for holiday shoppers for about two weeks now. Many people are taking advantage of our holiday specials. If you haven’t noticed we are offering many great deals for this special time of year. For instance, if you purchase a Peterson pipe, you get a tin of Peterson tobacco for free! How great is that? Or if you purchase a new Dunhill, Castello or Becker pipe, you get a copy of In Search of Pipe Dreams by Rick Newcombe for free! And be sure to check out our banner advertisement at the top of our home page to see our daily 21 Days of Christmas Sale. Each day we are offering a different product at a reduced price. Sykes is having a blast with this one, as he is the only one who knows what is going up and when it will be posted on each day. Crazy, but fun, huh?
And check out what showed up in our receiving area last week. How would you like to have this trunk of cigars under your Christmas tree? I just had to snap a picture of it to share with you.
Today, I thought I would offer a few tips for navigating around on our site. For example, if you put the word gift in our search engine you will get a list of products that contain that word. Search results bring up our Cornell & Diehl Sampler Packs, Gift Sets that have lots of goodies inside and include a tin of Aromatic, English or Virginia tobacco. You will also see our Collegiate Starter Kit, a Lampe Berger Gift Set and quite a few cigar gift sets; some even include an ashtray. And one actually comes with golf balls! How sweet is that? Then put in the word sample. This will show you even more cigars. One comes with a humidor and one even comes with a beautiful torch lighter! I snapped a picture of this one. Talk about a fantastic deal!
If you’re considering a pipe as a gift, you may want to check out our How To Choose Gifts For A Pipe Smoker and How To Select The 'Right' Pipe. Then move on to our PIPE LOCATOR tool. It’s on the right just above our listing for Fresh Pipes. This tool will allow you to select specific criteria about the pipe you are looking for. You can search by Brand, Finish, Shape, Price and more. Key factors to remember are straight versus bent and filtered or unfiltered. You may also have a budget and this tool will narrow the search for you and perhaps save you hours at the computer.
We have many items that are perfect for stuffing in a stocking for your special someone. We have pipe tampers, pipe tools, pipe stands, cleaning supplies, candles, lamps and lamp oil. We have cigars, cigar cutters, humidifiers and humidors. Okay, think really big stocking for the humidor! We have all kinds of tobacco and all kinds of pipes. Photographed here: See the wonderful display that Susan helped me set up?
If you’re looking to see what’s on sale, just look to the right and click on ‘Specials’. If you’re looking for what posted on our latest update, click on ‘Fresh Pipes’ or ‘Other Arrivals’. These are all key tools to assist you when browsing our site.
Please remember to check our shipping schedule posted for the coming holidays. You will find this on the banner advertisement posted on our home page. The clock is ticking and we better get busy, myself included.
Okay, I better get this wrapped up. (Wow, that made me think of something else I have yet to do – wrap the gifts that I have yet to buy.)
In closing, we hope that your shopping experience with us is always a pleasant one. We appreciate your business. And we wish you all a safe and happy holiday season. May your heart be filled with love and good cheer … today, tomorrow and in the New Year!
Not too long ago, pipe makers Brad Pohlmann and Jeff Gracik put their heads together and puzzled out this year’s Smokingpipes.com Christmas
pipe. Since then they’ve produced a total of seven, gorgeous sandblasted pear shaped briars all of which have been banded in sterling silver. Luckily, Sykes and Alyson were ‘video recorder ready’ when present at the conceptualization of this series.
By the way, these pipes will be made available to you very, very soon…
I've been pestering Adam to give me a shot at pipe making for weeks. Sure, I got to see it first hand back in September, but I wanted to
get my hands dirty this time. So we got a pipe kit not too long ago and started planning out the details for such an adventure. This Saturday
we sent our wives out Christmas shopping and spent a few hours in his shop. Of course, we spent the first and last thirty minutes of our time
together completely idle, sitting around smoking.
Adam quipped a few times that the whole process of making pipes is harder than it looks. Now, while I certainly never claimed that pipe
making was easy, it proved to be as difficult as he had suggested. While shaping and sanding and chiseling I felt awkward and out of my
element, like a dancer with atrophied muscles and amnesia. Of course, Adam helped me quite a bit (when the pipe is finished I will hardly be
able to call it ‘my own’), and as I watched him I realized how efficiently he moved, how he seemed to streamline his every wrist motion and
how every movement appeared articulately rehearsed.
We had some good times hanging out making a pipe. Adam took a few pictures to document the occasion. Soon we’ll work out the stem;
something I’m to understand is very tricky. When all is said and done, this will likely be my favorite pipe!
So… I’m a little hesitant to put this out there. I fear having banana peels or rotten tomatoes thrown my way. At the same time it’s only fair to extend a (at least) modicum of credit to those of you who know and love Smokingpipes.com and especially, if only because you’re reading this, to those who follow our blog. Thus it is with no small amount of trepidation that I announce an itsy-bitsy price hike on Dunhill tobaccos.
BUT WAIT! A preface, please.
Once upon a time you couldn’t buy Dunhill tobacco in the United States for like three years. Then, suddenly last week, you could (as far as we’re concerned out here in Little River, South Carolina). We were excited. We wanted you to have it. We reduced the price. Then we launched these bad boys without considering how the consumer might feel when we were forced to adjust the price tag back to its proper retail value.
On the one hand we thought our inventory of 4,500 tins might have lasted for more than 5 days which would have pushed this inevitable price adjustment somewhere down the road. On the other hand we were so busy trying to get these tins out to you that we hadn’t really thought much on prefacing the issue. Only now, as we sit here on our second installment of tins do we begin to wonder if we’re about to make some folks upset. If you are one of those folks, then we apologize.
NEVERTHELESS! This is only the bad news. The good news is we’ve more Dunhill. Kind of promising isn’t it? And really now, our price on Dunhill tobacco is still better than most (if not every single one) of our competitors. I’m just saying.
Here at Smokingpipes.com we understand that part of doing business during the holidays means offering up some kind of awesomely clever seasonal promotion. So that’s just what we’ve done.
21 Days of Christmas
Each day until December 21st we will be offering through the website ONE distinct purchasable item at a huge discount. I say ‘purchasable item’ because no one knows what it may be from day to day. Maybe it’s a fancy pipe or maybe it’s some nifty tobacco. Who knows? Not me. No one knows when it will go up on the site either. Maybe it will post at 5:37 AM or 11:40 PM. Couldn’t say. It’s a mystery and therein lies the fun. So keep your eyes peeled and get ready for huge savings. Clever, yes?
Hours of Operation:
Our website is always open and you can place an order at any time. Phone/office hours are 9am-7pm US/Eastern (GMT -5:00) Monday-Friday and 10am-5pm US/Eastern (GMT -5:00) on Saturdays. Our Little River, SC showroom is open 10am-7pm US/Eastern (GMT -5:00) Monday-Saturday. We are closed on Sundays.
We reserve the right to verify delivery to cardholder via UPS. You must be 18 years or older to make any selections on this site - by doing so, you are confirming that you are of legal age to purchase tobacco products or smoking accessories. We will deny any order we believe has been placed by a minor.
WARNING: Smokingpipes.com does not sell tobacco or tobacco related products to anyone under the age of 18, nor do we sell cigarettes.WARNING:Products on this site contain chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.