The Meaning Of Pipes
The Meaning of Pipes by Jeffery Sitts - Smokingpipes.com

When I started working at Smokingpipes in the Shipping Department in 2017 I knew virtually nothing about pipes and their importance to people around the world. Sure, I'd dabbled with pipesmoking during my undergraduate studies in college and had seen countless representations depicted in television shows and movies like Hatfields & McCoys and Sergio Leone's Spaghetti Westerns. I gradually became intrigued and wanted to see for myself if I'd reap any enjoyment from pipes, so one day I went to a local brick and mortar, bought a corn cob and a couple ounces of house blend tobacco and off I went to explore the world of pipesmoking.

Unfortunately, no one among my family or friends had smoked a pipe and I struggled to find a definitive guide, so the inevitable complications and frustrations of undertaking any new hobby were overwhelming and I lost interest. Constant relighting, tongue bite, difficulty finding a rhythm to my puffing cadence, packing bowls too tightly or loosely, and struggling to find a favorite blend plagued me throughout my initial trial runs. I chucked my cob in that miscellaneous drawer of junk that everyone has but no one can justify, never expecting to attempt pipesmoking again.

Nearly a decade later, I was searching for a job after receiving my master's degree from Coastal Carolina University. Granted, everyone tells you that obtaining a diploma from an institution of higher education makes you more desirable in today's job market, but landing interviews and successfully finding something you'd actually enjoy doing for years as a career is easier said than done. During my search I stumbled upon an online ad for Laudisi Enterprises for a copywriting position, more specifically an opening for Smokingpipes. I figured, why not submit my application and resume, the worst they can say is no or completely ignore me. After all, I had some perceived prior experience with pipes and could finally put my degrees in communication and journalism to good use. While I was at it, I also submitted an application for a spot as a Shipping Associate, not only to double my chances of getting a response but also because I desperately needed a job, and one that would hopefully be fun.

Constant relighting, tongue bite, difficulty finding a rhythm to my puffing cadence, packing bowls too tightly or loosely, and struggling to find a favorite blend plagued me throughout my initial trial runs.

Within a day or two I received an email requesting an interview, so I wasted no time responding and eagerly awaited interview day. Taking no risks, and knowing that first impressions matter, I wore a suit and tie, had extra copies of my resume and cover letter, and a detailed mental map of potential interview scenarios and questions.

I was nervous, of course, and barely remember the interview. Unfortunately, the copywriting spot wasn't viable at the time, possibly due to my utter lack of pipe knowledge and inability to spontaneously name any pipe shape or maker (which thankfully wasn't one of the questions), but the Shipping position was still feasible. The next day I received a follow-up email asking if I could come back for a second interview with some of the Shipping supervisors and possibly take a tour of the entire warehouse. "That's certainly promising," I thought to myself, and within the next few days I found myself back at the office in a conference room.

The Meaning of Pipes by Jeffery Sitts - Smokingpipes.com

The interview was structured and incredibly organized, but the questions weren't the same old tired inquiries such as asked at other interviews seemingly read from a script. Suddenly, I found myself being asked what my hobbies and interests are, what my favorite movie of all-time is, what music I listen to, and what my dream job would be — questions that I'd never been asked in a formal interview. For the first time, it seemed like an employer was actually interested in me as a person and didn't simply view me as someone who could fill a position. After being shown around the entire facility and seeing each department in action, I was astounded at how thriving this industry is and how it's not exactly a small, niche hobby like most people believe. I went home feeling confident about my interview and was trying to gather my thoughts when I received a phone call from the office offering me the Shipping position.

For the first time, it seemed like an employer was actually interested in me as a person and didn't simply view me as someone who could fill a position.

I officially started working the week after, initially learning where all of the various products were, how to weigh and pack bulk tobacco, how to pull orders, and pick pipes that were to be shipped out. And with the holidays approaching, I made sure to learn what I could quickly so we could get packages out the door and fulfill as many orders as possible each day. I must admit, even during the most hectic days where orders seem like they're endlessly coming through during promotions, sales, special releases, and holidays, the Smokingpipes Shipping crew is an unstoppable force taking great pride in what they do each day. It was during this wild time that I received a crash course in pipes and tobacco, constantly being exposed to many new brands and companies and asking questions of my more experienced coworkers to gain a deeper understanding.

Of course there was plenty of fun to be had in Shipping as we'd constantly show each other incredibly expensive artisan pipes, historical pieces that were 100 years old or more, intricately carved meerschaums, and pipes we loved simply for their color or shaping. Back then, I never could quite contextualize and coherently explain to someone else what I liked about a particular pipe, but the more of them I got to study and inspect, the clearer it became. I'd go home after work and undertake some extracurricular research on our website by reading descriptions, blog posts, interviews, studying pipe shapes and distinguishing between the dozens of carvers, workshops, and marques we feature.

The Meaning of Pipes by Jeffery Sitts - Smokingpipes.com

Within two months, a company-wide announcement was made to notify everyone that a position for a Data Entry Specialist was available in Merchandising due to the sheer number of pipes we constantly receive from vendors, artisan pipemakers, and from our customers as estate pipes being traded in. Essentially the job would involve unpacking estate pipes and getting them ready for evaluation as well as titling, pricing, and weighing and measuring every single new pipe that came through our doors, and getting pipes picked and ready for our weekly updates. I absolutely loved working in Shipping, but I decided to apply and test the waters, hoping to advance in the company and at the very least let my eager interest in pipes be known. Plus, there would be the added benefit of gaining extensive pipe knowledge through familiarizing myself with many of the brands we carry, and talking to coworkers who are essentially walking encyclopedias with an endless knowledge and passion when it comes to pipesmoking.

I never could have imagined how closely knit the pipesmoking community is and how this mutual interest unites people around the world.

Much to my delighted surprise, I was offered the Merchandising position and started in January 2018, focusing much of my time assisting in entering the data for estate pipes that needed to be cleaned and eventually posted on our site. It was a crucial, transformative experience for me that rekindled my interest in pipesmoking and exposed me to literally thousands of pipes. From unknown makers to high grade artisans and legendary marques, I got to handle them all and studied them extensively, learning more than I ever thought was possible and developing a deep respect for the passion and creativity that goes into the craft. It's easy to take such a role for granted as I must have seen more Dunhills than even the most devoted collector, handled unfathomably rare pieces from masters like Lars Ivarsson and Jorn Micke, and could readily access any pipe in our extensive inventory, (which is typically around 14,000 pipes). Every day was unlike the last — I had no clue what to expect or what pipes would come through our doors. The random unpredictability of each day as well as the staggering amount of collective knowledge make Smokingpipes an endlessly fascinating environment.

These days, I find myself as a Copywriter, the job I first applied for, and I'm still amazed at the strange, enjoyable path that led me here. I never could have imagined how closely knit the pipesmoking community is and how this mutual interest unites people around the world. All of the enriching experience of working in different roles has allowed me to see the inherent beauty of each pipe, what draws people into the craft, and how our customers support us and make it possible for us to do what we love each day. During my time here I've come to formulate my own opinion that pipes, in essence, are functional pieces of art that should not only faithfully deliver in their roles as smoking instruments but should also be aesthetically pleasing and a point of pride for their owners.

The Meaning of Pipes by Jeffery Sitts - Smokingpipes.com

I'm also happy to report that I'm currently a regular pipesmoker and have fortunately conquered the various troubles that I experienced in my early days. I certainly benefited from being able to explore a wide-range of pipes across a variety of shapes, finishes, and sizes, and was able to find out what I liked and what I would like to try one day. It simultaneously allowed me to expand my developing collection and afforded me the opportunity to expose myself to brands and makers I'd never have explored if I didn't work here. The generosity and support of my coworkers helped tremendously, graciously allowing me to sample blends I've never tried before from their personal cellars and thoroughly, thoughtfully answering any questions along the way. For now, my main focus is overcoming my strong case of pipe acquisition disorder and finding a way to manage my chaotic cellar.

It feels good to be here at last, and to at least superficially understand pipesmoking. I have much more to learn and look forward to a lifetime pursuing pipe knowledge. How did your pipesmoking journey begin? What tips or tricks did you use early on or continue to use? Feel free to comment below and share your thoughts to help out your fellow smokers.

Comments

    • LC Kid on September 26, 2019
    • Great article Jeffery!

      My personal journey began almost 30 years ago, when I was a 14 years old kid walking into a Brick & Mortar Pipe Store to buy my first Pipe, a Comoy's Grand Slam Sandblasted Dublin that I still proudly keep in my collection, along with some Pipe Tobacco and a Czech Tool.

      What can I say? How I miss those old days.

      A lot of water had run since then, and I'm more than happy to had enjoy it greatly.

    • Jack Gillespie on September 28, 2019
    • A really good article, Jeffery. My journey began over 20 years ago when a friend threw away his pipe bag that had gotten soaked in the rain. I rummaged through it and discovered an almost untouched Dr. Grabow pipe (I supposed the other contents of the bag protected it from getting wet). Nonetheless, I let it dry out for a few days and then took it to a local shop and asked, "How do I smoke this thing?" The person behind the counter went to the back and returned with an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper with a series of steps. I bought some Lane 1-Q, and they threw in some matches, pipe cleaners, and a pipe nail for free. And that was that! I was set for a lifetime of wonderment and contemplation.

      One of the things I learned later on was "a" proper way to fill the pipe bowl using a gravity method. I've used it for years now but, quite recently, I watched a video on the Smokingpipes YouTube channel, "All Pipes Considered - Peterson System Packing & Cleaning" in which Adam Wike and Shane Ireland explain Peterson's recommended way of filling and packing a Peterson System pipe. And while it still uses a gravity fill technique, there is a nuance to packing the tobacco that I didn't know before. Following that example has really enhanced my smokes from my System pipes. That video was published on 4 September of this year, so I'm still learning new things after such a long time smoking a pipe.

      Lastly, I come to this blog space, as well as Mark Irwin's PetersonPipeNotes.org to learn more and more about all things pipes and tobaccos. I appreciate these outlets (and so many others) and never take them for granted and point my pipesmoking friends to Smokingpipes for "all things considered"! (see what I did there?)

      Keep it smokey, my friend!

      Jack

    • Kameel Elian on September 28, 2019
    • For me it was complete accident. I went to buy some cigarettes at a tobacco store and had some extra money to spend afterwards. I saw a dr grabow pipe and something said buy it after I purchased it I realized I need something to smoke in it. The store offered some lane blends so I grabbed some BCA and Q-1 . I got home to try it out and being left to my own devices I did everything wrong ! Despite that I was hooked and started searching the web via YouTube and anything else that could help. Thanks to mutton chop piper I learned how to pack a pipe as well as other helpful tips I also learned there was much better pipe tobacco out there . I went straight to my local pipe shop bought some frog Morton , McClelland Matured Virginia # 22 & 24 , Dunhill flake and nightcap. I was in heaven. Soon after I met a old pipe smoker who introduced me to his cellar and got to enjoy some blends with well over ten years of age . I was schooled in all things Lakeland and introduced to rope and plug tobaccos. Just two weeks into pipe smoking and I was consuming mass amounts of brown Irish x and dark plug lol thanks to my two pack a day cigarette habit I survived. I was given a crash corse in all things pipes Artisanal pipes and tobacco. I have been very fortunate and very lucky that in my first month of smoking I knew the pleasure that is owning and smoking a fine Artisanal pipe. I now have so many pipes and sooooo much tobacco jarred and tinned that I use them to bait in and possibly hook new pipe smokers. I really enjoy passing on the pipes ,tobacco ,and knowledge of them to new smoker and be able to give back what was given to me free of charge.

    • John M Wellings on September 29, 2019
    • What a fantastic and interesting article by Jeffery. Not only did he elaborate on his own efforts to become employed by Smoking Pipes, but he also gave us so many tidbits of what goes on there - all so very interesting. I smoked my first bowl of St.Bruno back in 1952 when I was a raw recruit at Royal Air Force boot camp West Kirby in U K. Between breaks on the parade ground and chewing out by inhuman D I's, the St. Bruno was Gods gift to the impoverished recruit. Smoked it and Erinmore Flake in my beloved Peterson bent system pipes until earlier this year when I was diagnosed with diastolic heart failure. So the medics have dictated that tobacco is a definite no-no. However, glad to say that I am still on Smoking Pipes email list and now so enjoy the wonderful articles written about my former love - the trusty Peterson pipe and a bowl of my favorite baccy from Smoking Pipes whose service was second to none.

      Thanks so much Jeffery for a splendid article,

      Sincerely - John. M. Wellings

    • James Schaeffer on September 29, 2019
    • A long long time ago in a Kingdom by the sea-just kidding. However, for me it was ancient times when high school threw a blanket of hope and happiness over myself and my friends daily. We were carefree and none of us indulged in any type of smoking. It was a time as described in the song by County Line titled Firecrackers and Ferris Wheels. Who’s idea it was to buy a pipe still puzzles me to this very day. However, there we were, in dad’s car the 4 of us smoking Middleton’s cherry blend at a local burger joint with the windows, naturally down. Cheech and Chong stole their movie idea, from us guys. Car looked like it was on fire and the interior was ghosted with wild fruit. Although 3 of those friends have passed, I feel fortunate to have shared these moments with those individuals of which one was my best friend, if only for 3 years before his accidental death. I know those guys are smiling from above now as I recount this story. I am now 71 years old and have re-engaged pipe smoking after a forty year absence. Happy piping.

    • Adao Pinheiro on September 29, 2019
    • Great article. Which makes us know why Smokingpipes is this great Deal in the art of Smoking.

    • Gus Kund on September 29, 2019
    • Great read !
      thank you

    • DAVE SOMMER on September 30, 2019
    • Jeffery
      I want to thank you for your recap of our hobby. Myself I started smoking a pie, because of the fact that the young lady I was dating in my first year of college HATED the smell of my cigars. The first time I visited her folks house she had given me an old Peterson and a pouch of her favorite to smell tobacco. That was an error in judgement on my part. It was quite bitter and a biter as well. I started my voyage with a couple of name tobaccos. I was also gifted a pre-smoked pipe by a co-worker that Christmas. Both of which I found to leave a bad taste in my mouth. I happened across a well known tobacco store here and I decided to purchase a real pipe and some bulk tobacco. The tobacco is long since gone but the pipe I still have. Thanks to our partners in crime my collection of pipes has grown by leaps and bounds. So again let me say since a modest collection of two has matured to around twenty and growing. This all happened in stages from fall of 1974 until now. It has been a wonderful trip and I really want to thank SMOKING PIPES for making it more of a pleasure than a pain!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Stan on October 2, 2019
    • Hard to believe it’s been over 50 years since I walked into the corner Newspaper / Smoke Shop and bought a basket pipe (an Oom Paul!) and a brief hiatus with only cigars about 10 years ago I’m re-appreciating my 40 year old briars!

    • Carlos Wells on October 2, 2019
    • My interest in pipe's, Began when i stayed in England with my Uncle. He was a Pipe man through and through and could barely be cought without a Dunhill or Comoy pursed between his lips. Of all of his pipes, i love a particular One, that i'd watch him smoke on Sunday evenings in his little study. A Large ( at least to me at that time.) Calabash. I adored that pipe and it filled my mind with images of Sherlock Holmes. When i was About Eleven, the Falkland war started, My uncle was called to Service and i found myself Headed back State Side. When i arrived in Los Angeles and began unpacking my Bags, to my surprise there was a Brown box, that did not belong to me. Eagerly i removed the lid and inside was the apple of my eye. That beautifule Calabash, along with a note. That said. Be a Good lad and keep this for me.
      I would be 16 before i ever actually smoked it, and had the great fortune of Finding someone who would help me in all the essential knowledge of Cleaning and caring for it. So now, at 50, almost every Sunday, i sit back in my chair and Smoke My uncle's Calabash and think of younger days.

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