Good evening folks, may I join you in a smoke? As I have alluded in the past, my duties at Smokingpipes.com have changed a bit (OK, make that considerably since I have returned). Prior to my departure, I was perfectly happy being a write-rat that was kept in a padded cell, received food, meds and a daily tobacco allotment through Hannibal Lecter-style sliding tray, and (if I behaved) was allowed bi-weekly excursions (with manacles, an orange jump-suit and an attending guard, of course). While the previously mentioned conditions of employment remain in place, in addition to the odd writing task, I am now a ‘Media & Content Specialist’. Yeah…. not exactly sure what that is either, but (apparently) 'Media' means that coding is involved. I’ll grant you that HTML is ‘the T-Ball of code languages’ but aside from knowing how to emphasize a point or create a new paragraph, I entered quite clueless.
Kat (I think she lost the toss) was appointed to teach me how to scroll a few hundred lines of code, immediately see where an issue was, and correct it (insert maniacal cackle here). Viewing the newsletter for the first time in pure HTML was a revelation but, sadly, not the Neo/Matrix variety. Rather than perceiving the true nature of the universe, learning how to bend a spoon with my mind, or even managing to light/tamp my pipe through sheer will alone, I coughed up a fur ball; an event which Kat still hasn’t fully recovered from. I was in over my head, but instead of being an adult and just admitting it, I started inventing excuses and creating diversions; “Adam ate my glasses” didn’t fly, neither did demonstrating that I could (indeed) squirt a combination of coffee and pipe smoke out of my tear ducts. I think the breaking point for Kat was when I said, “It’s a well-documented fact that I have severe spatial relationship issues” “Bear, your screen is two-dimensional” (“Curses! Hoisted by my own petard!”).
The first day I created the newsletter on my own basically consisted of ‘borrowing’ Ted’s pipes, liberating tobacco from Eric’s desk and whining (loudly,from across the room), “Johnnnn… I think I broke it again….” . The oddest thing; after making a dog’s breakfast of three publications, I was taken off of newsletter/social media input.
One of the first things that was imparted to me when I joined the Army was; “Screw something up with enough consistency and they’ll quit asking you do it.” There’s a lot of wisdom in the old Army maxims.
Some time back Ted, his wife Shelly, and I were sitting out on their balcony, rambling on and enjoying the breeze, occasionally interrupted by pleas for attention from Caswell, one of their cats. (“Obese in both body and spirit”, as Ted describes her.) We were all well-fed, Shelly having generously provided us with heaps of home-baked chicken of (literally) falling-off-the-bone tenderness, so naturally a couple hours of casual conversation, good smokes, and a dram or seven of whisky or brandy were well in order.
At one point or another, things meandered onto the subject of bachelorhood. Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m all for marriage, if it’s to the right person. Lord knows if you find one of them, it’s worth making sure they stay around. They aren’t getting any easier to find, after all. But until one’s fortune should prove so favorable, I’m all for bachelorhood as well, such a state being not without its own benefits.
To illustrate the point of how both married and single life each had their particular attractions, I drew Ted and Shelly’s attention to how I, as a bachelor, was perfectly free to enjoy a pipe or a cigar basically any time I wasn’t either asleep or in the shower – and those restrictions only a matter of practicality and self-preservation. More specifically, I noted that I regularly enjoyed one or the other right before going to bed. Well, actually, in bed - but before going to sleep.
I have, in my entire life, met precisely one girl who wouldn’t have, at the very least, wondered what the hell I was doing smoking a pipe or cigar in bed. Most, I’ve gathered, would just as soon skin me alive for such transgressions of their sense of order and propriety. And even though Shelly is a total sweetheart, and quite enjoys being around and amongst Ted and his fellows while we converse and smoke our pipes, well, let’s just say that Ted favors maintaining domestic bliss and the good fortune he already enjoys over testing its boundaries in dangerous territory.
So, that’s one upside to bachelorhood: you can smoke in bed and anyone who might complain can be told simply that it is your bed, and they can get out if they don’t like it. But what of the downsides? Well, yes, there’s the whole not having anyone to cook marvelous meals for you, or to regularly keep your domicile in some semblance of a presentable state, and all that (hopefully) life-long companionship, caring for each other when you’re sick, the producing of heirs to the family name, etcetera. But the point I made on this occasion was that there’s also no one around to habitually look over your shoulder and ask if you really know what you’re doing. I illustrated this by recalling how, just a few nights before, having just finished a pre-slumber smoke, I dumped the ashes, sat my pipe down, then leaned over to blow out the candle on my nightstand. At this point, had I a wife (presumably a woman who would have tolerated my behavior this far), I probably would have been warned. I don’t have a wife, so I wasn’t warned. With one good puff, the candle was out, and I was in the dark. And the contents of my ash tray, which I’d left right beside the candle-holder, were everywhere; in the air, across the bed, and just for good measure, in my eyes as well.
Bachelorhood pro: Complete freedom to carry on in an arguably ridiculous manner. Bachelorhood con: No one to remind you of such arguments, and thus you’re more liable to occasionally find yourself doing things like spending several minutes attempting to rinse ashes off of your corneas at some absurd hour.
I know the curtain has already been drawn, but we at Smokingpipes are still reeling from the unveiling of the revamped Luciano brand, as well as the release of Radice's new Christmas 2013 line. In this update you'll find six of their new lighter than air, bamboo-shanked pieces, and, in a somewhat nostalgic gush, you can still find six of the classic Italian proportioned pipes that made Luciano a household name, if your household happens to have a pipe smoker living in it. We're not releasing any new Radices with this update, but we are giving away a free tamper with each one purchased.
Also for today we have pipes from master carver Peter Heding. One piece in particular, if you can pardon the pun, definitely "stretches" our impression of Mr. Heding: the Sandblasted Giant Nut with Boxwood, coming in at a whopping nine inches from bit to bowl. As expected he's got quite a few other remarkable pipes for us, including a stunning Diamond grade horn. Bringing in some English charm, Ashton presents us with nine fully sandblasted pipes with very simple underlying English form, save superfluous adornments. Stanwell brings us a bigger than usual batch of Danish classics, and pipe making giants Savinelli and Peterson follow up with a very beautiful, highly affordable, simply massive supply of your favorite series. If perhaps you have a more sensitive palette and crave the purer smoking qualities only a certain white Mediterranean stone can provide, why not take a look at our AKB Meerschaum shipment, made up of 10 beautifully carved, intricately woven floral designs.
On a more practical note, it becomes very apparent that you’re going to need some tobacco to go with your new pipe purchase, and per usual we at Smokingpipes.com have you covered. Hearth & Home's Blackhouse mixture comes to us from master blender Russ Oulette, whose winning mixture nabbed him the prize in the "Balkan Sobranie Throwdown" competition at the 2011 Chicago show. On sale this week is the Balkan Sasieni, without a doubt one of the most popular premium pipe tobaccos in the world, is still available at 15 percent off, as is the equally illustrious Dunhill, offered at 20% off 5 tins of the same blend.
A very special offering, this week's shipment of Montecristos goes short on syllables, long on flavor, presenting "Monte" Conde. A complex blend, this cigar binds the spicy flavors of Dominican Orlo and Nicaraguan Corojo with a well-aged Dominican filler - a truly unforgettable smoking experience worthy of its prestigious abbreviation. But the perfect cigar deserves the perfect flame, and for that we have two very stylishly modern, lightly designed IM Corona jet-lighters. Afterwards, be sure to freshen up with Lampe Berger's Istanbul Delights, an aroma that combines the mellow sweetness of vanilla with the citrusy zest of orange blossom.
It's Tuesday again already, and time for this week's YouTues video. Making up the third class for the SPC University series, Phillip outlines the way to pack and light your pipe to ensure the most enjoyment. In Part B, we plan to delve a little deeper into the trickier tobaccos, but this should be a good start for most tobaccos and most people. Enjoy!
First of all, in my defense, I have to say that I firmly believe that anyone who has ever been a pipe smoker for any length of time has wanted to try their hand at carving a pipe themselves. Surely, I can't be the only one. It seems to be a reasonable impulse, much like, when I was a kid and heard stories about what would happen if you put a really powerful firecracker under a tin can, I just had to try it out for myself. Which, come to think about it, is a pretty good analogy.
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Personally, I blame the South African. I won't give out his name, because he doesn't know what havoc he caused. Still, I blame him, anyway. If I hadn't read his blog about pipemaking and seen photographs of his little workshop, then I wouldn't have ordered one of his pipes. Then, when I got it and turned it over and over in my hands and saw just how fantastic it was, I just naturally thought, "Well, I wonder if..." (Yes, yes, I know, I know. Now.)
Plus, there are so many places where you can buy blocks of briar. It's not as if they're marked, "For The Use Of Professionals Only" or anything. There are even instructions you can buy. Call it implicit encouragement.
Not having a drill press (and being a coward, besides), I decided to get one of those pre-drilled blocks to start with. A trip to the hardware store for a couple of fine files and a bunch of sandpaper and I was set. Sort of. First, I had to decide what kind of pipe I wanted. I'm partial to the bent apple style, and the block looked like the right sort of shape, so I sketched the outline in pencil on the side of the block and got down to business.
Of course, the pencil marks were the first thing to disappear once I got to filing. So, I had to go by guess and by-golly for the remainder of the project. Then, there was the matter of the filings. I live at latitude 47 degrees north, which is very far north, so the snow was already building up -- this was definitely not going to be a project for outside. (Nobody told me pipemaking was seasonal, for pity's sake.) As things progressed and the filing turned to coarse sanding (not to mention coarse language, I'm sorry to say), the filings turned to sawdust. Since I was doing all of this in my office, my computer began to make strange grinding noises. I decided to retreat into the garage for the balance of the work. The unheated garage.
Every evening, after some quality pipemaking time, I'd down tools, satisfied that I'd made progress. The next morning, I'd pick up the poor, abused block of briar and wonder why I'd ever thought I was even close to finishing. This went on far too long, until I decided that I'd done as much damage as I could. That, plus my fingers were getting raw from rubbing extra-extra-fine sandpaper.
I suppose you've heard of some pipes being called "seconds"? Add a few digits. What the bowl lacked in balance of form, it made up for in unevenness in the width of the rim. And the shank doesn't quite meet the base of the stem. Not quite at all, in fact. Plus there is that pit. I could have sworn that the surface had been sanded and hand-buffed as smooth as a baby's butt. When I applied the stain, however, there was this place on the left side of the bowl that made it look like a teenager's face just before an important date. Dang. Oh, and let's not forget the stain. I thought the package said "walnut", not "mud". A few more fingertips were sacrificed in the re-sanding and re-staining before it began to look half-way -- okay, tenth-way -- decent.
Oddly enough, I'm glad that I took on this project. No, not that the result was anything to write home about (although that's exactly what I do for a living). I'm glad because I learned a lot about pipes in the process. What I learned was just how talented, patient, clever and darned good those pipemakers really are. Their rims are precisely, absolutely even in thickness. How do they do that? The bowls are completely symmetrical and shanks meet the stems perfectly, too. Since I didn't even try drilling the chamber and shank hole, I can't even begin to imagine the art involved in that aspect. Yes, I know that they have years of experience and specialized tools, but I'm just as sure that they heat their garages with their mistakes. But they also have the "eye" -- the ability to see the pipe within that block of briar.
Well, I got a pipe out of it, anyway. Yes, I do smoke it. I figure that, somewhere, there is a briar bush that gave up part of its burl for me and I'd be ungrateful if I didn't honor that poor plant by at least taking responsibility for my part.
I'll tell you one thing, though: Tomorrow, I'm sending that build-it-yourself rifle kit back.
Bryan Johnson is a freelance writer who lives in the snowy North Woods. He is probably the only person to have been barred for life from a craft store.
Even though Halloween is still weeks away, retailers already have Christmas trees, wreaths and other festive decorations on full display hoping to get us all thinking about the Holiday Season early. Really early. Being a woman, this is an easy task for their marketing masterminds. The mere mention of shopping, a large sign that screams "SALE" or perhaps a 10% off flyer in the mailbox gets me drooling like Pavlov's dogs. And even though I resent the fact that retailers are pushing Christmas before I can get the pumpkins and mums on the porch, I wave my white flag in defeat.
Of course, the first person on my list is my husband. He can be difficult to buy for, so I often try to find something unique or unusual and more often than not, it has something to do with pipe smoking. So in my search for the perfect holiday gift I've found this...
The PureFlame Stainless Steel Pipe Mobile Fire Piece! Stunning, isn't it? For a mere $233.33 (including free shipping!) I can mark the first and most difficult holiday gift off my list. But, like any good wife I'm going to check in with a few of his friends and colleagues before I take the plunge.
Adam: "We're not going to sell these, are we?" Ted: "It's pretty but who needs an open flame running in the living room, like, ever?" Eric: "You do know that a lot of Pavlov's dogs died just in preparing them for his experiments, right?" Alyson: "I do know that, Eric. What I don't know is how that has anything to do with the gift I am asking you to comment on." Eric: "Who am I to stop anyone from being lured by low, low prices and putting a stainless steel container of flaming grain alcohol in the middle of their living room?" Alyson: "Urgh."
When you work in the pipe business and you spend as much time on the internet as we do here, you come across some interesting pipe and cigar things on the web while doing “work related” research. While we have found that pipes and cigars make everyone we come in contact with happy, we do worry about those non-smokers in your life. Why should they be deprived of such joy?
Well, we have gathered up a few of these “goodies” in our accessories section under Fun Gifts. How about a nice licorice pipe for your sweetie? A cat-nip pipe or cigar for your furry feline? Or a squeeky "Ruffio Y Julieta" plush cigar for your canine pal? Spread the joy!
I was walking around our shipping and receiving area recently and found it impossible to reach Bobby's office, farther back in the building. There were boxes of McClelland tobacco all over the place. Ted looked up at me with desperation in his eyes, waiting on my reply to his question of "Adam, do you have a lot of stuff on your plate today?". Feeling suddenly like a moonshiner unexpectedly confronted by a man with a badge and a large hat, I quickly came up with a reply which I felt best matched my assessment of the situation.
"Um...Yep. I really have a lot of stuff do, including history and material paragraphs for a peppering of pipe brands". Ted, of course, understanding that this was a project I began a few months ago and needed to update. Would anyone blame me? Ted, Susan, and Pam were all moving boxes full of tinned tobacco and five-pound bags of bulk like sandbags around a fort. Naturally, I had taken his question to be a fingers-crossed-behind-his-back inquiry to see if I would like to help them. As it turns out, we just needed someone to write a blog for today. I carefully navigated my way back to Bobby's office to see what he was working on, which turned out to be a lot. It is a Thursday (update day) after all. Talking with him for a few minutes over the prospect that he take a photograph of something for me to write about, he giggled at my first idea, which was something about Ted looking like a Civil War soldier with his beard and pipe. We figured that taking a candid photo of the three of them working frantically to unpack tobaccos yet seemingly building an impromptu fortress in the receiving area would be perfect.
Fort McClelland. It has a nice ring to it, and was an accurate description to what they were building, albeit more the sort that boys might build to keep girls out, or use as a redoubt during a snowball fight, than to protect against cannon and rifle fire. Though I was only there for a few minutes, I would estimate that the number of tins was in the hundreds, and the boxes alone seemed to be counted in the dozens. As I sit here at my computer typing without the fear of mortars-shells of tobacco going off or an invasion of the shipping crew to pirate away tins as "forage", I wonder how they are getting along. Is that Sid giving a rebel yell from the back ground? Ted seems to be raising a knife, as if to fend off from invaders... Okay, so maybe he's just opening another box - but I still like to think of them building a fort.
This awe-inspiring and truly magical work of art comes to us from some long forgotten box of oddities likely stashed away for decades in a hateful basement filled with dead dreams. Verily, it is a shame that this pipe, something so beautiful and magnificent, should come to us void of context and without any hint of its heritage. What nameless, faceless innocent belongs to this tiny foot? Why did the master choose to model a pipe after this particular anatomical feature instead of another? Is not a hand as noble as a foot? Have we not all marveled, at one time or another, at the proud profile of some particularly notable proboscis? So many questions come screaming from the night and like terrible cretins we are left to only empty, trivial conjecture. Every mundane conception, every time-honored conviction, every ill-fated attempt at interpretation is kicked away like wood dust by the foot of time. Breathtaking.
Condition: 4.25/5 Rim darkening, toe jam, and a strange odor. There are a few small scratches on the heel (literally). Note that this pipe does not come with a sock.
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!
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