Recently, circumstances made me look like the crazy one in the office, and not in the “we all go insane,” marketing meeting kind of way. Preparing for the update, people were chattering about the new Claudio Albieri pipe stands we’d received. Intrigued by talk of magnets and chairs that resemble bucket seats, I asked for one to be set aside for me to look at.
I didn’t notice it when I came back to my desk, but as I set down the estate pipe I was looking over, I was suddenly greeted by a smirking black cat, whom I’d apparently just invited to smoke. I couldn’t suppress the laughter. Here was this fine-looking pipe stand, praised throughout the office for its sleek masculinity, trim design, and quality leather, but all I could see was a cat. After getting many strange looks, I gained enough composure to take a picture.
Although I was delighted with how it looked, when I re-arranged the pipe chairs the way they were probably meant to be, the cat disappeared and I was able to see some of the more impressive points in their design. The magnets allow the individual pipe holders to grip tight to the base, which has sheet-steel under that beautiful leather, but can also attach to a tin of tobacco, (or any other metal thing that I tried in the office) allowing the convenience of a stable pipe pretty much everywhere. Additionally, the rests can be bent or molded to fit the unique shape of your pipe, to guarantee it doesn’t topple or slip, a pretty ingenious detail in my opinion. The leather is soft and there are no pointy edges to be found, ensuring the finish of your briar stays the way it is.
They are available in six color combinations, (black, red & black, black & red, blues, browns, and black & yellow) making them aesthetically adaptable to any living room, office, or man-cave decor. Of course, if you choose to arrange it the way I would, you get a friendly cat as well... meaning your wives and girlfriends may not hate it the way they do the mechanical fish on the wall that sings when you walk by. It’s a win-win.
So, what do you use to light your pipe? Are you a Zippo type of person, with the oh-so-famous click? Do you like to live hot and dangerously with the torch lighter? Maybe just a simple Bic lighter is enough for you, or you like to do with the fancy Old Boy. On the other hand, you might like the classic appeal of plain matches. Did I cover just about everything? Yes?
Wrong. I have an alternative to all of these to recommend for you, but you have to keep your mind open. Okay, toss out all of your preconceptions about lighters and matches and what you think is best. Did you do that for me? Okay.
Most people tend to agree that a lower internal temperature in the tobacco chamber yields a more flavorful, more enjoyable, and (naturally) cooler smoke. There are two main ways of achieving this lower temperature: puff slower and don't over-light your tobacco. Many people tend to avoid the torch lighter because they have a higher temperature, which transfers more heat to the tobacco and thus to the smoke.
A Bic lighter, for example, burns around 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit. Butane torches frequently reach up to 2,600 degrees Fahrenheit. Propane lighters tend to get between 2,000 and 3,000 degrees. Matches, on the other hand, are composed of an ignition agent, such as sulfur or phosphorus, and wood. Once the ignition agent burns away, which typically disappears after two seconds or so, a match burns at about 1100 to 1500 degrees. While that is still ridiculously hot, that different of between 500 and 2,000 degrees can make a lot of difference on the temperature of the smoke.
There is another option that burns at an even lower temperature, is very affordable, and avoids most of the toxic chemicals associated with lighters or matches. That option is hemp wicks.
I first heard of this when I saw Dustin using it at the 2012 Chicago Pipe Show. I'll admit, it's strange looking to use. But since hemp is not a gas and is a less-dense material than wood, it burns at a lower temperature than both matches and wood. I did some searching, but could not find the exact temperature, though some rough guesses placed it well less than 1,000 degrees, closer to 500, actually. I cannot confirm that and will happily change my numbers if any of you find more exact information.
Every little degree can make a difference. From personal experience using hemp wicks to light my pipes, I can tell the difference. Well, at least I think I can. Sure, it's possible that it is entirely a placebo effect. However, we know that a cooler smoke often yields a better smoke, so I will happily use a different means of lighting my pipe to increase the ease of achieving that cool smoke.
So, go on, Try something new. I hear it's catching on...
I first met Claudio Albieri a few years ago. We chatted at the time, making small talk about our shared passion for pipes, but short of a bit of camaraderie nothing really came of it. This past September, I saw him again at the Dortmund Tabac Fair in Germany. I wasn't deliberately seeking him out and would probably have missed him had he not been sharing a booth with our mutual friend, pipe maker Gabriele Dal Fiume, who was right next to another mutual friend, Mimmo Domenico of briar cutting fame.
When I first arrived at Gabriele's booth, I was immediately impressed with his set up and presentation, especially the selection of various colors of leather to skillfully set off his pipes. And upon closer inspection, the leather was that sort of clean, vibrant, soft, Italian leather against which all other leather is compared. The sort of leather that makes women swoon, or, failing that, at least coo appreciatively and insist on picking it up to feel its texture and breathe in its scent. We got to talking about pipes and I started picking out some of Gabriele's lovely pipes for the site. That's when Gabriele then went to his briefcase for something. While I can barely dress myself, even I still know what a really fine handmade Italian leather briefcase looks like, and Gabriele most definitely had one. I was impressed.
But then Gabriele showed me that it was actually a pipe bag and a briefcase and a laptop bag, and in short order I was the one swooning like a Russian noblewoman in a Tolstoy novel. We temporarily abandoned the pipe transaction to have a conversation with Claudio, who, this whole time, was right there waiting for Gabriele and me to finish business so he could to talk to me.
I saw two examples that day: Gabriele's, bright yellow with brown trim, and Claudio's, blue with yellow trim. In my case, well, dark hair aside and Italian-American wife aside, I'm just not Italian enough to pull off a blue briefcase. It seemed just a bit daring for me (or, frankly, most American pipe smokers I could think of; I'm a bit jealous that I'm not as cool as the Italians I know, but at least I recognize that I'm not; it takes a certain panache to pull off a blue briefcase that I simply lack... but I digress...). So, as things progressed we settled on more sedate and earthier colors for most of the bags that would ultimately end up on Smokingpipes.com (the black and red roll-up is still pretty bold-looking in its own way).
The work was stunning. I immediately and unhesitatingly decided that we really needed to carry these on Smokingpipes.com. I love them. It's like someone finally made the thing I always wished existed. After years of cramming my trusty Martin Wess 5-pipe bag (which, to be fair, has been an extraordinary companion for ten years) in my laptop bag (which, to be fair, is a piece of junk that came free with a laptop... two laptops ago), the prospect of a pipe bag and a laptop bag in one, with space for a book, my Kindle and assorted other odds and ends (all 838 cables I seem to travel with these days) seems so extraordinarily liberating. And I'd be tastefully sharp-looking and all Italian and stuff, which is something my wife has been trying to make happen (with little success) since we met. I'm on the road thirteen or fourteen weeks a year, which doesn't exactly encourage acquiring an impressive wardrobe. But briefcases and luggage are really important to people who spend more than a quarter of their lives living out of them.
They only arrived two days ago, but I've been dropping hints to my wife about Christmas since September. Of course, I'd told her the whole story and shared pictures of them with her. So, hinting, basically came down to: "and you know that pipe briefcase; you know Christmas is coming; you know you could call Ted; hint...hint." Subtle. I know. But I really hope she caught it...
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