Rotation, collection, by one name or another, it’s the collective pile of pipes you smoke. For some of us this means polished cases of Dunhills chosen for particular shapes and vintages, for others, a repurposed spice rack of craggy Custombilts and well-weathered clenchers, kept as workhorses that have proven to provide a good smoke. For most of us, it’s something in between. For me, personally, it’s in-between, but minus any racks or cases – my pipes usually just wind up scattered around, resting atop piles of books.
Like racks or cases, I’ve also neglected acquire proper shelving. As for the pipes, here are some of them, photographed in their natural environs.
S.T. Dupont “305” Canadian:
One of my prizes; it looks great, and smokes like a dream when paired with Old Dark Fired. Typical of the old French style, this is a bit lighter and leaner a shape, and easy to clench even with the long, straight shank. The simple gold band is tasteful, the drilling is straight, it holds a decent bit of tobacco, and I enjoy the texture of the sandblast both aesthetically and in hand. The only real flaw I find is that the silver “D” logo set into the stem was slightly mangled somewhere along the way. Also note the color of the finish: a subtly warm, dark chestnut, and not, as Ted insists, purple.
Dunhill “42142” Root Briar bent Billiard:
One of those shapes they aren’t making anymore, perhaps because it actually looks not so much English as, dare I say it, French. Deep of chamber, easy as a jaw-hanger, and with a pretty decent cross-cut grain to boot, the design appears to be one that was phased out during the switch over to a four-digit stamping system. While I don’t baby this briar, the fact that you can’t get a new one ensures that I’ll never, ever get rid of it.
St. James “9042”:
Is a Comoy’s by any other name just as sweet? No, in this case it’s better. This is my most recent find. It smokes like a dream, and even at the end of a bowl the internals remain dry. The shape is simply wonderful all-around, smooth in hand and to the eye, and the grain isn’t shabby either – birdseye front and back, with cross-grain down the sides.
Unknown bent Not-quite-Billiard-not-quite-Pot:
In the words of Shane MacGowan, this pipe is a, well, I can’t repeat it here. Let’s just say that every time I look at this pipe, the tenth line of Boys from the County Hell immediately springs to mind; I can hear old Shane singing it now. I have owned this pipe for almost three years, and to this day have yet to get a good, or decent, or even not miserable smoke out of it. It’s usually the first pipe I try out when a new blend lands on my desk. It sucks, universally. Virginias, Balkans, aromatics, Burleys, shags, flakes, this pipe transforms them all to crap. It is the great equalizer, the grim reaper of all tobacco, the bell that tolls for the best efforts of all blenders. It’s a woman with no heart, a man who hates to work, and a dog that bites the hand that feeds it, all rolled into one. It reminds me of a cat I once knew, one so mean he refused to die until he was just shy of twenty years old. That cat, too, was unfortunately mine. I still have one eyelid that doesn’t open quite as far as the other to prove it.
And like that ornery feline, I’ll never get rid of this briar, either, because some day, somehow, I’m going to get the better of this son of a garbage-eating cur. I couldn’t tell you who made this dog’s ass of a pipe. The only improvement I’ve managed to make to it was using a steel wire brush to get rid of the extra-thick, asphalt-like original finish, a process that took the stamping off too. And good riddance to that, because I don’t even want to know it. May their name and all their works be forgotten by the race of man – but not until I’ve gotten a proper smoke out this little featherweight wonder of deficiency.
So, that’s not my whole collection, but that is most of the highlights. And here’s the point: Every single one of these pipes is a reject, a delinquent, a misfit – not just that last one. Not a single one of these pipes passed our estate department’s QC process. One of them deserved it, the rest just had issues that made them un-sellable. The S.T. Dupont someone ran a drill down the draft-hole, over-boring it, the Dunhill was smoked so hot it baked the finish (yet somehow didn’t char the chamber), the St. James I’ll admit is a bit of a mystery (as a seconds brand with a chewed-up bit, it may not have been worth the cost of labor), and as for the Unknown, well it didn’t deserve to leave the factory in the first place – and our customers certainly don’t deserve it.
These are not Smokingpipes estate pipes, these are Smokingpipes “science box” pipes, and still three out of four of them are fine smokers. The fourth just gives me something to do when actually enjoying life grows tiresome, and I get it in my head to try an experience completely irreconcilable with accomplishment or pleasure.