I would love to say that I was prepared to take on whatever could be thrown my way, but that would be a drastic overstatement. You see, I’m a bit new to the business of tobacco pipes. I’ve enjoyed a pipe for over 3 years, but that only amounts to about half of a percent of the pipe retail world. When I said I was new to the business, I didn’t mean a few months on the job or even weeks. In fact, at the time we left for Chicago I could count the number of full days worked at Smokingpipes.com on one hand. At the end of my first week, I was whisked away to the Chicagoland Pipe Show for a week of total immersion in everything pipes and tobacco. It wasn't just sales and such going on, but the meeting and befriending of some of the finest pipe makers on earth, while trying not to look like a twit. I've had little exposure to people of celebrity status in my life. Sure, I've read about noteworthy people, but almost never come face to face with them. So imagine my reaction when Adam Davidson is now a coworker, and I've just ran into Benni and Lasse, Lars and Nanna, Tokutomi, Eltang, Armentrout, Lobnik, and so many more. Luckily, the great many pipe makers I talked with were most personable. They were accepting, and willing to answer the most basic of questions, ones they’ve been asked countless times. Interestingly enough, our conversations would frequently stray from pipes and arrive at subjects like photography, music and vinyl records, or the day to day of our home lives. If a week spent with pipe makers taught me anything, it taught me that this is not an industry of competing production, but a family of very talented craftsman and artists who are proud to have common ground.
As exciting as all of this was, there was the other side of the coin: the logistics of presenting Smokingpipes.com in the flesh. Moments before our departure, I was up to my neck in some of finest pipes I’ve seen, assisting in their safe transportation. Then was the task of creating a visual display that represents Smokingpipes in the same way you'd expect from viewing the website. No pressure, right?
When I came to Smokingpipes.com, I imagined I would use some of the skills I acquired as a Firefighter/EMT such as logistics, inventory control, and communications skills. I didn’t realize, though, that I would also make use of skills like working while sleep and food deprived, working under intense pressure, and organizing chaos. Fortunately, we had a dedicated group of people traveling, backed by some top notch folks at the home base, and a world-class shipping department, so as a team we overcame the obstacles and pulled off a great show. I enjoyed meeting those of you who came to visit us, and I'm looking forward to meeting many more pipe enthusiasts, carvers, and collectors. My door and inbox are open to those seeking answers or conversation, and my thanks go out to those who have welcomed me so warmly into this community. I'm happy to be the new Pipe Manager, I'm happy for the freedom to make this unique position my own, and I'm happy to be considered part of the Smokingpipes.com family.
The pretense was that what I’d be doing would involve work. But the truth is I went to Morganton, NC to play with pipe tobacco. I work in tobacciana (obviously), and so, technically, it would at least be work-related play.
See, I’ve visited Cornell & Diehl a couple of times now. Ordinarily I get to hang around the factory for two or three hours. Although one can see every part of the factory there is to see in about forty-five minutes, what goes on there is sufficiently complex that a few hours will only provide a very cursory understanding of what the folks at C&D do. My previous visits were enough to test the water only, so to speak. I was looking to get waist deep.
“What do you want to do while you’re here?” Chris asked over coffee shortly after my 9AM arrival.
“I want to work.” My delivery was as stern and ambitious as I could make it, like I was applying for a job.
“Good, because that’s all I ready had planned for you.” He followed up with his signature laugh.
Ten minutes later and I’m under Ted’s wing. Ted is 76 years old, but a spirited individual who doesn’t look a day over 60. Largely, he spends his time at C&D blending tobacco to fill orders, and the demand for C&D’s blends certainly keeps him busy. All the guys work from a small, tattered card catalog filled with handwritten tobacco recipes in a strange code of argot and numbers. For the most part, they’ve got all this committed to memory. For a newbie like me, there was no sense to it. Everything had to be explained to me through every step of the process. Like I was a baby. And to these expert old hands, I guess that’s pretty much what I was when it came to blending tobacco from scratch.
So it was that I spent the next five or six hours blending, saucing, bagging, tinning, and labeling tobacco for orders under their guidance. The Cornell & Diehl plant is like one humungous crafts project scaled into a formidable and efficient operation. I was warned that at the end of my shift I’d want to stuff all the clothes I was wearing into a bag and quarantine it from the rest of my laundry. And they were right. Even my hair smelled like Latakia.
Just as I was getting the hang of things (in my opinion, at least) my time was up. Although I did leave Morganton with a far better understanding than ever before of what the fine folks at Cornell & Diehl are up to each day, I figure I’ve still just barely scratched the surface. Looks like I’ll have to put together and polish a convincing argument or three as to why Sykes should let me go for a full week next year.
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.
Just a little while back, we had a visitor. You’ve probably heard of him: Canadian pipemaker Michael Parks. He’s made quite a name for himself with his great interpretations (and re-interpretations) of traditional designs, not to mention some really stellar sandblasting. And, of course, we feature his pipes in our regular updates.
He flew down here a few weekends ago to spend several days collaborating with our own resident pipemaker, Adam Davidson, and I was asked to join them in order to observe and report – the latter of which I’m doing right now. John also joined us on my second day there, and between the four of us conversations ranged across such subjects as the evolution of the “behaviorally modern human”, pipes, automobiles, pipes, flowers gardening, pipes, what to do if attacked by a bear in Canada, and of course, pipes. Michael is a proper outdoorsman, Adam was raised in a small town in Indiana, and though I grew up in New Jersey, my parents’ families hail from the outskirts of the Appalachia on one side, and deep in the hills on the other – resulting in quite a bit of common context between three thirty-something fellows who grew up hundreds of miles apart.
And of course, we all enjoyed a good meal. And because Adam is Adam, it was only natural that excellent, home-cooked fare was provided each evening. (He also took Michel out to a Cracker Barrel breakfast on Sunday morning, and, as is only fitting to a true Canadian, Michael made sure to taste and assess the maple syrup before applying it to his pancakes.)
But the real reason we were there was pipes, or more to the point, pipe-making, and regarding that there was plenty to learn of and observe. Between one day and another, John, Kat, or I had cameras at the ready to document Michael and Adam at work, and a picture is, as ever, worth a thousand words. So let’s all have a look at what went down, shall we?
Conceptualizing - Failing to plan is planning to fail, as the saying goes. While there are those out there who can just pick up a piece of briar, or stone, or a blank canvas, and create something technically proficient and aesthetically engaging on the fly, they are very much a minority – akin to those who can produce the answers to complex mathematical problems at a moment’s notice. For the rest of us mere mortals, forethought and preparation are in order. As a special project for this visit, Michael and Adam were handed a big chunk of plateau briar, with the idea of producing a pair of matched-shape pipes. Not identical, mind you; the artisans would each apply their own final tweaks, as well as their own finishing techniques, but both pipes would share in a common concept, as well source material. Even this foundational step in the pipemaking process (developing a shape) absorbed plenty of time and a lot of thought, Adam and Michael sketching, rubbing out, re-sketching, and passing the block back and forth, all while carrying on a running discussion covering flow, aesthetic balance, engineering, and grain.
Shaping – That sleek, modern Dublin seen above is Michael’s. He spoke to us about how when hand-filing he gets into a deep focus that he thoroughly enjoys, and how the time flies as he works to perfect the pipe’s design. And, sure enough, once he started, he was off in a world of his own, patiently puffing on his pipe and making no noise but the measured rasping of wood and steel, and the periodic scratching of a pen as he paused to plan out his next moves. The results speak for themselves, even when looking at an unstained stummel, sans stem, and still sporting some of Michael’s pen-marks– I really liked this pipe. The ability a pipemaker has to develop and intuitively conceive a design in three dimensions, and confidently understand how altering a line or plane in one place will affect other aspects of a shape’s balance, is, by itself, impressive.
Drilling, Engineering, and Stem-work- It’s all well and good to make a pipe look fine, but if the drilling and engineering isn’t solid, looking fine as it sits collecting dust may be all it ends up doing. Both Michael and Adam recognize this, and though they had different methods for ensuring that chamber and draft-hole were cleanly executed and precisely aligned, each clearly put a lot of thought into the process. As artisans, they don’t just want their fellow pipe aficionados to purchase and collect the briars they create, they want them to smoke them, enjoy them, and, hopefully, praise them to others. A lot of work, as well as a whole lot of patience goes into building up a reputation as an artisan whose works can be counted on as an investment – pipes that one can trust to provide enjoyment for years to come. Developing and maintaining habits and methods that produce consistent results were clearly a point of pride for both Michael and Adam. At the same time, both were more than willing to observe and learn from the other.
Adam also demonstrated his stem-making to both Michael and me. As with most things, Adam takes a systematic approach. Even with the aid of a lathe set up specifically for the task, buffing wheels, etcetera, it can take two or more hours to complete a single, custom-shaped stem. Quality of stem work is something many consider to be a major aspect of pipemaking, distinguishing the skilled artisan. Although I wasn’t there to catch Michael working on his stems, I did get to see the materials he’d brought along, including some really gorgeous cumberland. As with the briar from which bowls and shanks are fashioned, for an artisan, after investing countless hours developing your skills, making the best of your efforts begins with acquiring appropriately high-quality materials to work from.
Silverwork - Annealing is an important step, preventing the sterling silver (hardened by its extrusion into tubes) from folding or cracking during shaping into a mount. Adam was kind enough to display for Michael and me just how important this step is, by first attempting to shape a mount from silver he hadn’t annealed. Granted, this wasn’t intentional – it was a piece that he had thought he’d annealed previously - but it was instructive. As Adam good-naturedly put it, “There goes about five dollars. As you can see, making mistakes with silver can get expensive.”
R & R - Both days that I was present my arrival didn’t come until afternoon. For Michael and Adam work began around 9:00AM. This meant that by the time I’d been poking around for several hours, everyone was hungry, and both artisans could use a bit of a wind-down to refresh their grey matter and give their hands a break. (And just let me say, I’ve yet to meet a pipemaker with anything like a weak handshake.) Grilled meat, a bit of drink, and plenty of coffee and tea were provided by our host in short order – all of it excellent. Along with this came of course a bit of simply lounging around, passing about our various personal supplies of tobacco, and enjoying our pipes while the birds chirped, cats wandered through the yard, and the lathes, sanding disk, and what have you cooled off in silence.
Final Notes– Like I said, I really liked this pipe. (Also, while I’m not a terribly photogenic fellow, I do think I looked damn good in this picture, rather stately - so onto the internet with it.) Michael and I had discussed various marques the first day I was over, and one that had come up was the old Kriswells, which had given Stanwell a lot of competition back in the 1960s, offering as they did a lot of lean, trim, streamlined designs. Though Michael’s design featured a touch more substantial bowl than most of the old Kriswells I’ve seen, (which often looked like sharpened-up variations of the Sixten Ivarasson look) I saw in it the same kind of confident dynamism in line, form, and posture that I think of when I picture one of the really good, vintage Kriswell shapes. This struck me as something of a happy coincidence, given both that I’d not even seen this pipe yet when we’d had our discussion, and Michael mentioned that this design was something of a departure from the variations on classical shapes that he usually concentrates on. I think both the classic shapes and this more dynamic, direct, and active style strike as a natural fit for a man who is both an artisan and an outdoorsman, and hope to see plenty more from Michael in the future.
Tuesday isn't particularly important for the Smokingpipes team. It's a graceful point in the week after the stress of Monday's update melts, and before the stress of Thursday arises. It's the hour of orange glow between night and day. It's a moment for us to slow down and recollect ourselves. For some, this could be turning the music up a little, or shooting rubber bands at one another. For many, it is an opportunity to pull out some nice tobacco and have a long smoke. Whatever your Tuesday therapy may be, there is something else to add to that routine, starting today: YouTues! (YouTube Tuesday) Today we bring you a video tour of Lasse Skovgaard's workshop, and a conversation between Sykes and Lasse about his first experiences with making pipes. There is more to this interview, which will be making its way to YouTues soon, along with many others from Eltang, Heding, and our recent visit with Michael Parks. We will post most of them here, but don't forget to follow our channel to stay up to date. So, without further delay, Happy Tuesday, and Happy YouTues!
Since our 2013 poster not only accompanied the most recent issue of Pipes and Tobacco Magazine, but was also promoted on our social media, and was announced in our newsletter, hopefully most of you have seen it by now. If not, the images can be seen HERE. But this isn't about the official images. This is about the folders full of various unofficial, behind-the-scenes photos that I believe should be seen too.
The first side of the poster features a step-by-step guide to making origami pipes (disclaimer to the more impressionable: please do not try smoking these). Since it was originally Ted's idea, he oversaw the process. It seemed like the entire marketing department was folding tiny papers into letters and figures for hours, but eventually they all came together. Katie (who made many of the tiny pipes and things) was asked to take the poster photo, and if you ask me she did a great job. Although the photos of this process don't lend themselves to blooper-type humor as those from the other side of the poster did, it was still a lot of fun.
The other half of the poster went through more of a journey, and I had the pleasure of taking the photos as we worked on it. Brandon's idea evolved from old-timey boxing photos to Monty Python-like taunting, from solidly black and white, to playing with slight color and saturation.
It spawned team-building exercises like rubbing hot pipe-ash on one another because "we need to look period-correct dirty," and, in one case, actual sparring that Brandon took way too seriously. What ensued made us realize that John, normally the most laid-back and cheerful person in the marketing department, is probably not to be messed with. And of course, we learned that it's hard to make a pipe (and yourself) look good while fighting and making menacing faces.
Hopefully we'll have time to put more of the blooper shots up in a Facebook album soon, but until then, you don't need fisticuffs and mustache wax to have fun smoking your pipe. Enjoy.
The day before Valentine’s Day I flew to Japan. Actually, I flew to Georgia, then to California, then to Japan, but you get the gist. The purpose of all this travel? To represent Smokingpipes.com at the Fourth Annual Pipe Fiesta in Tokyo, of course.
I was met at Haneda airport by our very own Ryota Shimizu. He whisked me away, and over the course of the next few days I met with friends, pipe makers, business folks, and customers alike. I'm pleased to report that the show, which was held Sunday, February 17, was a complete success. Just like last year, it was a blast. This year, however, the venue was bigger, the turnout of pipe smokers and collectors was better, and even more international travelers turned up to take part, like Luca Di Piazza of Neat Pipes and Sebastien Beaud of Genod (and the man behind our very own line of Sebastien Beo pipes).
Japan is awesome. The people are gracious, generous, and extraordinarily congenial. Tokyo is beautiful, wild, exotic, and captivating. It was especially cool to hang out with other pipe people who are super excited about the hobby, even if we couldn’t understand one another. That’s a magical thing right there.
Vladimir Grechukhin is, in my opinion, the least appreciated of the widely known Russian Masters, and I view this as tragic.
Many know Viktor Yashtylov for his pipes of unusual shapes, proportions, and dimensions and his craggy sandblast, Sergey Ailarov for his intensified and rethought versions of classic shapes, especially the calabash, Michail Revyagin's double chamber pipes of truly unusual and phenomenal design, and Boris Starkov for his asymmetrical creations and minimalistic beauty.
So, what is Vladimir Grechukhin known for?
First, a little background. Grechukhin started making pipes in the 1970s after training with one of the earliest Russian masters: Alexei Fyodorov. After spending only three years with Fyodorov, Alexei publicly stated that Grechukhin had surpassed the master. Now, Grechukhin has taken the place of Fyodorov as the revered master of Russian pipes. Interestingly, he has said that he prefers to get his inspiration for his work not from others pipes, but rather from cars and other technological beauties.
So, why is it that, despite all of this, Grechukhin is less known than the other Russian carvers, at least outside of the circles of those who collect Russian pipes with a passion? I cannot give an honest answer, but I can speculate. His work is not nearly as flashy as most of the others that I mentioned above. This is certainly not to say that the others are superficial (far from it), but Grechukhin's work is characterized by skillful simplicity.
To try to bring a bit more attention to this under-appreciated master, let me show you a pipe of his that I consider myself lucky to own.
This little beauty, just a tad over four inches long, seems to defy classification. It is clearly a hybrid between a Dublin and a horn, but also contains hints of a calabash shape – not the gourd calabash, but the briar rendition. My mind constantly evokes the word “mushroom” every time I hold it.
As someone with rich Russian roots, I cannot help but believe that this defiance of classic categorization is at the very heart of what it means to be Russian: we are said to be gloomy (have you seen the weather in Russia?), yet we are so often joyful; we are thought of as bleak and bland, but we have produced masterful writers, musicians, and artists.
The pipe itself thrusts forward defiantly, with bursts of beautiful grain accompanying this momentum. The chamber, however, is placed asymmetrically towards the rear. This placement helps to temper the forward push of the rest of the pipe, adding a sense of balance that clearly required a masterful hand to accomplish. Additionally, it gives opportunity for a stunning amount of birdseye to piece through on the rim.
The pipe is squat in proportions, but momentous nonetheless. In a single piece, Grechukhin succeeds in capturing the Russian experience and producing a piece that helps to explain his contributions to the pipe field: he is continuously pushing forward and defying simple categorization, yet still is able to produce the classically beautiful and, just as importantly, functional pipe.
Selecting a new pipe is a different process for almost everyone, but there are a few categories that most people tend to fall into at one point or another, sometimes changing from day to day.
The Impulse Buyer – We all know this feeling, especially those of you who get email updates from Smokingpipes.com. A new pipe pops up on your screen and, for no rhyme or reason, you must have it. There might not even be anything in particular that you can describe as to why you must own this piece, but deep down inside, you know that you will have it.
The Impulse purchase is not a bad thing, though those of us who suffer from Pipe Acquisition Disorder (or P.A.D.) have often felt the tug when we have promised ourselves that we will not purchase anything else. “No more!” we say defiantly, usually after clicking the Confirm Purchase button on some pipe website. Without fail, however, there will soon be some other temptation that breaks our vow of pipe-celibacy far sooner than we intended.
Those few of us who remain strong will surely fall into another category.
The Collector – This individual has limited himself to a certain scope of the pipe world, though how large a range that is varies wildly. Sometimes it is one artisan in particular, or one geographical area, or even a particular shape, or possibly a particular shape from a particular artisan, maybe even from only one year!
Regardless of what the limitation, this individual passes up the impulse purchases, at least more often than not, but cannot resist when a prime example of his specified interest finds its way to the For Sale section.
I tend to try to limit myself to the Collector area, but I am weak. My weakness means that I have many different collections going on at once. For example, I collect bamboo blowfish pipes, the Rubens Rhodesian shape from G. L. Pease, di Piazza, and Radice, and all Russian pipes. With so many areas of interest, some much larger than others, it is easy for me to justify an addition purchase to myself.
The Novelty Aficionado – This particular pipester is interested in unusual shapes and concepts. If a shape that has never existed before suddenly spawns into existence or a well-established pipe maker tries something that he has never attempted before, this individual will be at the front of the line. Also in this group are those who assemble pipes in collections, such as Pipes of the Year, Christmas pipes, and so on.
This method of collecting is similar to purchasing first edition books. There is something appealing about owning one of the earliest models of anything: cars, comic books, pipes, etc. While a more unusual collecting method, it often yields one of the most impressive and distinctive collection.
The Hoarder – I have been asked many times when enough is enough. While some people are able to place a limit of ten or twenty pipes, I always feel inclined to answer that enough pipes is always one more than I currently own. While this can be a treacherous path in the eyes of some, I view it as healthy. Pipes make me happy, very happy, so why should I place an arbitrary limit on my collection. Is 101 pipes so much worse than 100? If not, than why would 102 be worse? (I am also curious how many of you get the picture to the right. Please post in the comments here if you actually get the reference!)
The Limited Supplies – These people are on the flip side of the hoarder. They limit themselves strictly to a certain number of pipes. I do understand the reasoning of those who place such limits, as it makes them spend a great deal more time contemplating each and every purchase and appreciating each pipe to the fullest.
This, however, is the one section where I cannot place myself. I see the pipe world as too wide-ranging, too vast, too incredible to limit myself. To those who do, however, I give my highest respect.
I am sure we all see ourselves a little in at least one of these, but that's a good thing. It means that you are enjoying the hobby. Keep enjoying it!
One of the advantages of knowing a lot of the guys and gals here at Smokingpipes.com is that they are, on the whole, younger than the average pipe smoker, which gives someone like me a sense of camaraderie. It makes me feel like not so much of a social anomaly.
To the majority of society, however, a twenty-two year old pipe smoker is just that: an outlier, an anomaly, or, if they are feeling kind, an “old soul”. This is society's perception of pipes in relation to age. For those who have the benefit of seeing the pipe world from the inside, it is clear that the truth is very different from that.
The Chicago Pipe Show wasn't that long ago and I was stunned by the number of people my age that I saw wandering the isles and laughing alongside the Old Guard. There were men and women there, old and young.
I won't get into the issue of statistics and what the average age of a pipe smoker is, as that is not the point. The point that I am trying to make is that, despite the fact that society seems to react the same way when seeing a young pipe smoker as they would if they saw the Loch Ness Monster, we are not alone.
There are issues that young pipe smokers have to face, I feel, more often than the older generations. If I decide to take my briar out and sit at a street-side cafe with a pipe and a pint, then it is almost guaranteed that someone will ask with a wink, “What're you smoking in that thing?” This is a question that I severely doubt would ever be said to someone with a long grey beard.
Just the other night, I had a similar experience. I was sitting outside at a restaurant with three friends and I pulled out my Revyagin Bee Calabash and filled with G.L. Pease Cumberland. As soon as I started to light it, a police officer pulled up next to where we were sitting, rolled down his window, and stared at me. I waved politely and continued puffing as if nothing was amiss, because, despite his ageist suspicion, nothing was amiss at all.
I have also explained to several of my pipe friends what I feel to be one of the biggest problems young pipe smokers face: the lack of physical tobacconists. While there are still many phenomenal stores out there with physical locations, they are much harder to find than they used to be. The consequence of this is that it is harder for a pipe smoker just starting out to find a mentor, someone to teach him or her tricks of the trade and help get the journey started properly.
While there isn't a quick-and-easy fix for people staring at me as I smoke my pipe, there is something that young pipe smokers today have that the older generation lacked: the internet. What an incredible asset this is for someone just starting off! Because I am getting into the world of pipes right now, I am privy to the massive amounts of information gathered by amazingly knowledgeable experts, and I can access it all from the comfort of my own home. I don't have to learn by trial-and-error as much as I might have had to had I started smoking a pipe fifty years ago.
Despite the challenges that those younger members of society face when they decide to take up a pipe, it really is a great time to be a pipe smoker, no matter your age. The best pipes ever made, in my opinion, are being made right now. And after all, who really cares what other people think? Just smoke your pipe and be happy!
Fewer than four years ago, I was introduced to the online world of pipes, and specifically to Smokingpipes.com. I spent far too much time, often during class, browsing through the seemingly endless supply of high-quality pipes that were, at that point, as unattainable to me as water to Tantalus. Imagine my elation when I realized that I would be, almost four years later, writing for the same website that started it all for me.
You’re all familiar with the writings of John Sutherland, Adam Davidson, Ted Swearingen, Eric Squires, and Sykes Wilford here at Smokingpipes.com, and with good reason. They are able to put out more content than almost any other pipe-blog out there.
Lately, though, according to Sykes, they have wanted to see the blog expand even further. “We've been looking at ways to improve the blog for some time. There have been various times when we've done a great job with it and others where we've let it languish. When we first started it, I think I wrote a blog entry almost every day, but the reality is that I a) really don't have that much to say, and b) I can't sustain that pace and meet my other obligations. I think we're doing pretty well with it these days...Still, it ends up very Smokingpipes.com-centric.”
In an effort to expand the number of voices and viewpoints that can expressed on the Smokingpipes.com blog, a new face or two will be popping in. “I picked people whose writing I like,” Sykes told me, “It's really not any more complicated than that. I've asked you and one other so far...I'd like to see the blog grow to fifty or so posts a month and build its readership.”
I think this is an admirable goal. I am a huge proponent of blogs for the pipe hobby, and I’ve been writing one of my own for the past couple of months. While books are fantastic and I own more than my fair share, I think that blogs have several distinct, necessary advantages: they can be easily updated; they invite a multitude of voices and perspectives; they allow for more community interaction; they are free and easy to access.
As one of those new faces, I suppose I should offer a brief introduction. My name is Ethan Brandt and I am, until tomorrow, a senior at Washington University in St. Louis. For almost my entire college career, I have been in love with pipes and have started writing about them within the last year, sometimes for Pipes Magazine and also on my own blog, “Pipe School”. Getting to learn more about pipes has been one of the most enjoyable experiences that I have had and I greatly look forward to continuing that here at Smokingpipes.com.
When I asked Sykes why he thought blogs were important to the pipe hobby, he, in true Socratic fashion, flipped the question back around on me: “Why is knowledge good?”
Without delving too deeply into issues of epistemology, the question is still an important one. Why pursue more knowledge about pipes beyond the fact that you like them?
To me, with greater knowledge comes greater capacity for enjoyment of pipes. This is true in many ways: with more knowledge, one is more effectively able to prepare, pack, and smoke one's pipe and tobacco, thus getting greater pleasure. This would explain why there are so many books and essays about how to pack a pipe or properly light one.
Beyond simply addressing technique, knowledge about the method behind the creation of one's pipe, the physics and the art, forces one to appreciate the intricate details that might have gone unnoticed before. Much like it is difficult to fully appreciate Caravaggio's David with the Head of Goliath without knowledge of the Baroque style and chiaroscuro. I also extract great satisfaction out of knowing more about the person, or people, who made a pipe, much like people are fascinated by the lives of their favorite writers, artists, and musicians.
Simply put, I believe that knowledge and pleasure are directly linked in the pipe hobby. It is because of that direct link that I love the idea of expanding Smokingpipes.com's blog and am excited to be a part of the adventure.
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.