Many of us here at Smokingpipes smoke pipes. Actually, it's a rather small percentage (probably seven out of thirty on a regular basis, with a few others here and there), but this is a far better ratio of pipe smokers to non-pipe smokers than most other companies these days. I’ll wager that forty years ago the percentage of pipe smokers in any given office hovered around 75%, with the remainder being cigarette or cigar smokers. Heck, not only did the number of pipe smokers in an office or factory a hundred years ago probably hover around 90%, but those men probably also rode pipe-smoking horses as well. While sitting at my desk trying to think of another blog post, while enjoying an amusing conversation with Eric about pipe abuse, I discovered the subject matter was right in front of my face - clenched in my teeth, no less.
Hello. I'm Adam, and I smoke my pipe. A lot. At my desk. And I abuse the snot out of it. Looking at my trusty sandblasted Billiard, which I made in 2010, and have since smoked regularly, I find my tale is not unlike those of cobblers with old shoes. While the cobbler would make every effort to craft a fantastic pair of boots for a customer, and also lecture him about keeping his boots clean, polished, and free of dirt and grime - he was likely wearing a pair of his own that were wrinkled, dirty, and hadn’t been polished since he finished making them.
I would hope that the cobbler and I have something in common aside from our inability to properly care for the creations we make for ourselves. Our products hold up. Further, we would both feel a little bit of hypertension and disgust if we saw customers treating our carefully handmade products the way we do, but our excuse is something along the lines of "I can always fix it or make a new one".
Like I said, I smoke the hell out of my pipe. Probably ten times a day at my desk. At the time of this writing there is a foil pouch of Full Virginia Flake that I opened last month and I'm nearly at the bottom of the 250 gram pouch. I'm pretty sure I cleaned my pipe with alcohol after I got back from the Chicago Pipe show, but I haven't since. I do use pipe cleaners to pick up moisture that accumulates in the bottom of the chamber (which is a very small amount), but mainly I feel that a cleaner going down the shank does well enough. I suppose this is somewhat like a person brushing his teeth for ten seconds with only a wet brush. A tiny bit of effort is better than none, eh? Because I am writing pipe descriptions, condition statements, pipe maker biographies, or blogs (not to mention opening estates, checking incoming pipes for quality control or answering emails) I tend to pack my pipe, start smoking the bowl, and eventually need to set it down after a couple minutes. I'll do this many times throughout the day. Eventually I will think all the tobacco has been consumed, will scrape out the dottle with my trusty broken pipe tamper (which also shows signs of significant cake build-up), or sometimes I’ll just knock it out over the ashtray on my desk and blow through the stem to blast out clingy ribbons (which sometime spray all over the window and blinds). This little ritual has built up a cake on the top half of the bowl as thick as a gingersnap.
While I certainly don't recommend "caring" for your pipes in this way, it's simply the way it goes sometimes. I'll probably scrape out the cake pretty soon, which will flake out in large chunks. I'll make a point to use a pipe cleaner (or a dozen) to clean out the shank and stem.
I'll not even offer up a whimper of "please don't judge me". I know this is pipe abuse, but dagum this Billiard is holding up just fine for now.
Adam Davidson: Quality Control & Pipe Inspector