You may have noticed that pipes appear in a large number of different shapes. One might even say that the number is infinite, especially when accounting for variations. Most traditional shapes, for example, can be straight or bent, with varying proportions, different stem configurations, different capacities, different balance, rounded or flat rims, varying curvature of bowl, length of stem — there's no end to the differences possible with pipes.
For those who have no interest, they probably all appear the same. We tend to remember things emblematically, so those who are apathetic regarding pipes probably register any they see as "a pipe" with whatever low-resolution image their particular brain uses to bookmark such concepts, just as some people might not see a difference in fishing poles, pens, or golf clubs. But those of us interested in pipes pay more attention to them and recognize the differences.
With so many shapes, we need the vocabulary of names to distinguish between them, and we have a large vocabulary for that purpose — some might say an overabundance. But it's helpful to know the differences, especially in the families of shapes that are most attractive to us personally.
It might be said that all shapes start with the Billiard and divert from there. The Billiard is the archetypal shape and the most traditional. From the Billiard spring other related shapes: the Lovat, Lumberman, Dublin, Brandy, Apple, Liverpool, Canadian, Chimney, Panel (aka Foursquare), and Pot, for example, and other variations extending from the original. Even Freehands might be said to be Billiards with complex carving instead of simple, rounded bowls. So knowing our shapes can help us identify elements that are attractive to us, elements that we tend to avoid, and help us better recognize the differences that appeal to us.
To that end, we have compiled an alphabetical list of basic shapes with definitions. Knowing the characteristics of each shape enables us to talk and think about pipes more specifically and identify the shapes and shape families that are personally appealing. The names given to the various shapes are often pretty simple: Apples, for example, look like apples, Brandys look like brandy snifters, Horns look like horns. That makes them easier to remember, but it isn't a perfect system. Liverpools don't look like Liverpool or any other city, but many shapes are named more eponymously. Check out our list and sharpen your identification skills. Shape definitions are also part of our Glossary, so you might keep that in mind or bookmark it as a tool for future utility.
Somewhere between a Dublin and an Apple, the Acorn features a bowl that swells outward toward the rim and tapers dramatically inward as it approaches the heel, often descending below the transition from bowl to shank, creating a spur at the bottom of the bowl while the rim is more rounded. Acorns and Pears share similar proportions and resemble the fruits for which they are named. Like most shapes, they can be straight or bent, with any configuration of the shank and stem from long and willowy to dramatically curved to short Nosewarmers and pocket pipes.
Think of an apple and you'll know the bowl shape. Rounded and organic, with a swell near the rim and taper toward the heel, it is similar to the Acorn but with less dramatic tapering and more even roundness.
The Author is essentially a Prince with a larger, beefier, squatter bowl. The Author shape also features a stouter, round shank and a slightly bent, tapered stem. It's a modification of the Apple shape, with thick walls to insulate the tobacco. Authors tend to have good capacity for longer smokes, though they can be found in all sizes.
The Ball shape is a variation of the traditional Apple but features a more spherical bowl. This well-rounded shape fits easily in hand and is especially difficult to render by carvers — any wood carver will tell you that hand-carving a sphere is nearly impossible, and those who have learned to sculpt in any medium may recognize the precision necessary in producing such an exacting shape.
Originated by the famous Swedish carver Bo Nordh, the Ballerina strikes a pose that is indeed reminiscent of classical dance. With a flattened heel for stable sitting, it curls forward and emulates a ballerina en pointe, though some permutations may have rounded heels. The flanks are most often paneled to elevate the briar's grain, and this shape is necessarily bent. It's beautifully elegant and endlessly interesting to see the variations possible.
Dramatically forward-canted and in the style of traditional clay pipes, the Belge shape exhibits a wider, oval shank and a generally narrower, egg-shaped bowl. It can be straight or bent, though bent renditions are only slightly bent, often not exceeding a quarter bend of shank and stem. The heel is well-rounded, especially toward the forward part of the pipe, with pleasing curvature through the base joining the curves of the bowl. It's similar to a Cutty, but without that shape's defining foot along the heel.
Possibly the most ubiquitous of all shapes, the Billiard features a cylindrical bowl with a slightly convex flanks and a round shank approximately as long as the bowl is high. In more generally accepted terms, the Billiard meets that criteria more loosely and can feature any stem type and less exacting bowl proportions while still remaining a Billiard. Variants include the Lumberman, Lovat, Canadian, and Liverpool, which all feature elongated shanks of varying configurations, as well as the Stack/Chimney whose bowl is notably taller. In classic Billiards, the forward part of the rim is slightly lower than the back, providing a slightly canted appearance. Billiards are not easy to make correctly. Collectors often judge the acumen of a carver by how well they can render a traditional Billiard.
The Blowfish is a modern pipe shape with origins in the Danish and Japanese schools of pipe design, and is now a regular shape popular among artisans. Though the interpretations of this shape are many, the most basic form is a rounded bowl with bulbous flanks of (usually) differing sizes. Typically this shape is made with the briar oriented to exhibit cross grain along a central panel, separating birdseye-oriented briar at the often asymmetrical flanks.
The Brandy is a pipe shape whose bowl reveals a wide base with an upward taper toward the rim, just like a brandy glass. We often talk about sipping our tobacco, and the Brandy shape is exquisitely appropriate for sipping.
The classic Bulldog shape has a bowl that tapers up toward the rim and down toward the heel, and is paired to a paneled, diamond shank. Traditionally it reveals one or two small grooves, called beadlines, cut around the bowl's midsection but sometimes they are replaced by a simple ridgeline. These beadlines or ridgelines can vary in position from the midsection to near the rim, and Bulldogs may be straight or bent.
The Calabash shape is an interpretation of the classic gourd Calabash. With a domed rim that overhangs a tapered bowl, these pipes are usually bent, sometimes to an extreme degree. Because of the rarity of gourds, in modern times these shapes are most often rendered in briar.
Like the Lovat and Lumberman, the Canadian is a Billiard shape with a shank longer than the bowl is high, providing more length and briar contact for the smoke. The shank is oval rather than round, and the stem is always tapered and short. If constructed with a saddle stem, it would be called a Lumberman. If constructed with a round shank rather than oval, it would be a Liverpool. If given a round shank and saddle stem, it would be a Lovat.
The Cavalier is an old and distinctive pipe shape characterized by a shank that extends past the heel with a cap on the end that can drain moisture as it collects during a smoke, rather than remaining in the pipe's airway and causing gurgling. Bowl shapes may vary, but the Cavalier is easily recognized by its often bent configuration and aforementioned shank. This portion of the shank is traditionally drilled all the way through and fitted with a removable cap at the end, where moisture may be removed.
A particularly rugged and natural shape, the Cherrywood is essentially a bent Poker. It features a raised transition and a bowl with a flattened heel paired to a bent stem with an often upward-angled or -curled shank. It's a utilitarian design and its sitting capabilities ensure practicality.
Any pipe with a particularly tall bowl and proportionally narrow tobacco chamber may be called a Chimney. They can be Billiards, though the curvature of the bowl tends to be less and they typically reveal straighter sides.
While most pipes are identified by their bowl shape, a Churchwarden is characterized by its extra-long stem and can be paired to a variety of bowl shapes. Pipe smokers appreciate the long profile of a Churchwarden because it promotes a comfortable smoking posture, requiring little to no hand movement, especially when seated. Often considered the ultimate reading pipe because the bowl is far from the eyes and is leisurely to smoke, the Churchwarden has been particularly popularized by the work of J.R.R. Tolkien.
A pipe shape dating to a time before briar, when most pipes were fashioned from clay, the Cutty features a forward canted, Egg-like bowl, much like its sibling, the Belge shape. Unlike the Belge, though, the Cutty usually features a spur or foot jutting from beneath the bowl, originally used for resting long pipes on the arm of a chair because the heat generated makes holding the bowl difficult.
The Devil Anse is essentially a Belge, but with abbreviated length. It's a short pipe practical for pocket carry and easy clenching. The bowl is Egg-shaped and cants forward, similarly to a Cutty. This pipe shape has been with us for over a century, but its modern resurgence has been driven by popular culture. It was featured in the History Channel's miniseries Hatfields & McCoys, starring Kevin Costner, who smoked this shape in his role as "Devil Anse" Hatfield.
The Diplomat is a simple variation of the Author with an oval shank rather than round.
The Dublin shape is defined by a bowl that flares toward the rim. Dublins also often have conical chambers to keep the briar thickness even all around the tobacco chamber. They are especially easy to hold in hand because of the bowl shape.
The Duke's name originated with Edward Prince of Wales, who favored the shape. It's originally a Dunhill shape, specifically the 519 and the 44. The Duke features a Poker like, cylindrical bowl that is forward canted to balance on its flattened heel, and the shape is characterized by its omission of a shank and resulting light weight. The slightly curved mouthpiece connects directly to the bowl just below the waistline. The Don, or Dunhill's 45 shape, features the same overall design but with an abbreviated shank fitted to the stem via a military mount.
While similar to an elongated Apple, the Egg is most accurately defined as egg-shaped. It's a bowl shape that conforms well to many different treatments and can be found in full-bent to straight pipes of all configurations.
Another shape pioneered by Bo Nordh, the Elephant's Foot has some similarities to the Ballerina, with paneled sides sometimes reduced to ridgelines and similar near-bowl curvature, but at its forward area curves back inward toward the bowl rather than extending outward. It also lacks a flattened base and is not a Sitter. Sometimes the paneled sides extend in almost circular fashion through the sides and heel up to the rim, often made more prominent by contrasting finishes.
Characterized by compressed height and broad width, the Eskimo is a Bulldog-like pipe in its bowl configuration, often including a beadline, with a wide rim and equally broad shank, which begins at the transition as wide as the bowl itself, narrowing as it reaches to the stem. Perhaps most popularized by Tom Eltang, the shape has become standard for many artisans. Because of its abbreviated height, it's an especially convenient shape for pocket carry.
A Figural is a pipe sculpted in the likeness of a figure of some sort. Most often seen in meerschaum pipes, which present such carvings as sultans, various animals, historical scenes, or a wide variety of human figures, these pipes are also made from briar, though rendering a briar Figural is a difficult and time-consuming project.
Somewhat resembling a fish, the Fish shape originated in Denmark, most famously by Jess Chonowitch and Lars Ivarsson. The shape displays a bulbous, rounded bowl and a shank with a teardrop cross-section, important for the necessary, fish-like asymmetry. They can appear in elongated versions, most attributable to Lars, as well as more compact and curvaceous iterations such as those favored by Jess. The Fish lends itself well to a wide variety of shaping choices and with the shank's defining ridgeline terminating differently for different renditions. The end of the shank is perhaps this shape's most important feature, flicking upward in a gesture similar to the tail of a fish as it swims, with one side of the shank featuring a well-defined ridgeline and the other sloping downward into a softly rounded edge.
Generally speaking, a Freehand pipe shape refers to any shape whose bowl and/or shank is not turned on a lathe, typically because asymmetry is a feature. Large numbers of shapes fill this category. While most classic shapes have narrower rules for design, Freehand shapes offer more avenues for the maker to take advantage of grain and creativity. The Danish Fancy Freehands of the 1970s and beyond are the most common examples, but such modern shapes as the Ramses, Elephant's Foot, and Ballerina began as Freehands before becoming institutionalized in the shape charts of artisan makers.
A shape popularized by Italian pipe makers like Castello and Radice, the Hawkbill is defined by a consistently arching shank-and-stem combination that differs from the S-curve seen on most bent pipes. The bowl of a Hawkbill is most often rounded like Apples and Balls, but many variations have thrived, and the dramatic curvature of the shank and stem give this design its name.
As a pipe shape, the Horn features a bowl that flares like a Dublin toward the rim but incorporates that flare through the entirety of the stummel, exhibiting a gradual transition and likening the design to its namesake. Small or large, with variations of length, width, and proportion, Horns are elegant in their gradual curvature and natural lines.
A member of the Billiard family, and more precisely the Canadian variety, the Liverpool features a round shank and a round, tapered stem. As with Canadians, the shank is longer than the bowl is tall, providing plenty of briar for the smoke to travel through.
A Lovat is a variant of the Billiard shape that features a longer, round shank and an abbreviated saddle stem, that stem being the only difference between it and the Liverpool.
Another pipe in the Billiard/Canadian family, the Lumberman offers a long oval shank with an abbreviated saddle stem.
As with most pipes named after produce, the Mushroom resembles its namesake. It features a rim that is broad and curvaceous, like the cap of a mushroom. That defining characteristic provides many possible permutations in terms of overall bowl shape, size, and stem-and-shank configuration.
Another shape originated by Bo Nordh, the Nautilus most prominently avoids straight lines, its entirety made up of sweeping curves. Named for the mollusks that inspired it, the shape most often features a rim that is scooped from front to back and chamfered as the rim reaches the tobacco chamber, while its shank is carved to emulate the spiraling of the seashells for which it is named.
A Nosewarmer is virtually any pipe that is short enough to almost warm the nose as it is smoked. Nosewarmers can manifest almost any shape as long as their length is abbreviated. Obviously practical for pocket carry, lightweight, and attractive in their moderate overall length reduction, they most often maintain normal dimensions for the bowl and tobacco chamber, but any permutation is possible.
Oom Paul (Hungarian)
The Oom Paul (Afrikaans for "Uncle Paul") is a pipe shape named after Paul Kruger, President of the ZAR (Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek) during the late 1800s. It's defined as a fully (or at least very deeply) bent shape, typically with a cylindrical, Billiard-like bowl and a nearly vertically upturned shank. Generally, the Oom Paul is noted for being comfortably clenced while also offering a deep bowl with plenty of tobacco capacity. The shape is also sometimes called a Hungarian.
The Opera is a pipe shape that, in profile, often resembles an Apple, but the sides have been compressed for a more slender overall width, creating an oblong chamber — though some renditions feature a standard circular chamber. The shape was designed for formal occasions to fit comfortably in the breast pocket of a jacket without disrupting the suit's lines.
The most famous example is the Foursquare, defined by its Billiard-style bowl and four flat panels. However Panels may manifest any number of sides, and the panels needn't be perfectly flat; they are most often slightly convex to harmonize with the shape of the bowl. The incorporation of a single panel or multiple small panels doesn't necessarily make a pipe a Panel; rather, the panels should be a defining characteristic of the shape.
The Pickaxe is an Acorn-like shape featuring an upward flaring, Dublin-like bowl but with the base tapering to a point past the transition for a profile reminiscent of its namesake. The pointed heel is most often curved backward to harmonize with the curvature of the bowl, and the shank joins the bowl somewhere around the middle of the flanks of the bowl.
The Poker is a straight pipe with a cylindrical bowl and a flattened heel, with the transition often raised slightly to create a profile that resembles a judge's gavel. Typically, Pokers are made to sit upright, making them ideal desk pipes, and bent Pokers are known as Cherrywoods.
The Pot shape is similar to a Billiard in overall shape, but with a shorter and typically broader bowl. The tobacco chamber is usually wider than is typical for a Billiard, and less deep. It truly resembles a cooking pot in miniature.
The Prince shape has a squat, rounded bowl similar to that of an Apple or a Tomato and a proportionately longer stem that can be either straight or slightly bent, though it is most often bent. The name obviously has a royal heritage. It was named for Prince Albert, later known as King Edward VII. With its slight forward cant, large, vertically compressed bowl, and long willowy character, it's been a favorite of pipe smokers for many generations.
Yet another Bo Nordh original design, the Ramses is similar to an Oom-Paul in curve of shank and stem, but with a shank wider than the bowl and circumvented by a flat panel. The rim is most often generously chamfered down toward the tobacco chamber. Most effectively rendered in smooth finishes, this shape provides ample opportunity for spectacular grain to commend itself, especially in the birdseye that most often manifests along the top and bottom of the shank and the straight grain that personifies the circling panel.
The Rhodesian is essentially a Bulldog but with a rounded rather than a diamond shank.
Virtually any pipe that can stand (or sit) on its own is considered a Sitter. Any shape, any size, any configuration will work.
The Skater displays a forward heel whose curvature resembles that of the blade of an ice skate. Most often found with a flaring rim to visually emphasize that heel, it is a bent pipe with a sense of forward momentum appropriate for such a kinetic name.
Resembling an Apple but with squashed height, the Tomato presents an organic and rounded bowl, sometimes symmetrical but often introducing subtle asymmetry, just as might be found with garden tomatoes. They can be straight or bent in any configuration as long as the bowl retains that identifiable vegetative aspect.
A Sixten Ivarsson shape similar to a Diplomat, when viewed from above it resembles its namesake. It has a trimmer shank in terms of width than does the Eskimo, more in line with the shape of the musical instrument, and often features a more curvaceous bowl.
An unusual and compact shape whose closest relative would be the Opera, the Vest Pocket is defined by an oval or oblong bowl, compressed on the sides for a slender breadth and without a discernible shank. The draft-hole is instead simply drilled at a downward angle from the back of the bowl and into the chamber, with the stem mounted vertically and bent to roughly 90 degrees for a pipe with a very reduced profile whose stem can be rotated to hang over the bowl, allowing it to fit comfortably and unobtrusively in a pocket. Like the Opera shape, Vest Pockets are also commonly found with oval-shaped tobacco chambers.
The Volcano shape is defined by a tapered, Brandy-like bowl whose base is clearly defined, often with ridgelines, creating a more flattened, separated heel and an overall profile that resembles the design's namesake. Tapering dramatically toward the rim, usually with a concave curvature, it's a near inverse of the Dublin.
Also known as the Yachtsman or the Woodstock, the Zulu shape consists of a forward-canted and flaring, Dublin-like bowl, a gentle transition that expands from an often oval shank, and a stem that curves softly downward to a similar degree as the bowl is canted.