Unanticipated Havoc

I reached for one of my most trustworthy pipes, a Castello Sea Rock made in 2000, and was surprised to detect a small gap between the stem face and the end of the shank that should certainly have attracted my attention before now. It's rare to find such a manufacturing error in a Castello. I tried pushing the stem back to acceptable orientation, but it wouldn't go. What had happened to my beloved pipe?

I held it in front of my computer monitor to check the profile in silhouette, and there was a definite gap, so I took it apart. I rarely take the stem off a pipe. I run pipe cleaners through a pipe during and after each smoke, and repeat until the cleaners reappear white and clean, but I break down a pipe for thorough alcohol cleaning only every six months or so, depending on how much smoking time it gets and how it performs. That isn't laziness; it's a regimen intended to reduce wear in the mortise. I also remove stems by turning them in a consistent direction (clockwise is easier for me to remember) so that the wood fibers aren't potentially weakened by the alternating forces of erosion caused by twisting a mouthpiece back and forth. I prepared to measure the length of the tenon to see if it was longer than the depth of the mortise, which would account for this weird spacing.

It's rare to find such a manufacturing error in a Castello.

But there was no measuring what I discovered. It was a deplorable nightmare of gunk and pipe cleaner fuzz, and generally a loathsome accumulation of immeasurable wretchedness. It had become so abominable that it was achieving sentience and beginning to push the tenon out for more aggressive colonization.

I couldn't remember the last time I'd cleaned this pipe. It's such a dependable smoker that its flavor hadn't noticeably diminished, at least not to my conscious mind, and evidently I just kept reaching for it because it continued to perform well. I usually find myself smoking a pipe more infrequently as it gets dirty because I'm enjoying the smoke just a little less than in previous sessions, until I realize I'm smoking it less because of diminished flavor and clean it.

This Castello is so dependable, though, and so nonchalantly overcame internal performance reduction, that I didn't notice. Without realizing, I'd kept pushing that pipe until it pushed back, in this case pushing the stem itself back.

I've learned how easy it is to take our best smokers for granted.

It was a new experience for me, and I'm pretty disappointed in myself, but also particularly impressed with the pipe. And I've learned how easy it is to take our best smokers for granted. Those that are especially consummate smoking instruments may be more neglected than we think, because they don't complain the way less accomplished pipes may; they just keep performing. Our best smoking pipes warrant watching. It's up to us to anticipate the issues that they are too resolute and loyal to acknowledge.

Category:   Pipe Line
Tagged in:   Castello Humor Pipe Culture Satire


    • Mark S on March 12, 2020
    • I suppose that's why I love cobs so much: anticipated havoc that usually disappears on its own over time.

      Cracks in the bowl? Don't worry. They'll seal up on their own over time.

      Loose stem? Don't worry. It'll snug up over time on its own.

      Tight stem? Don't worry. It'll loosen up over time on its own.

      I love my briars. But no doubt about it, they require a lot of fannying about.

    • KevinM on March 12, 2020
    • You omitted particulars on the cleaning out of the abomination. Was it a DIY job? Or did you get a bit of experienced help from the experienced hands in the estate dept?

    • Chuck Stanion on March 13, 2020
    • KevinM:

      It was an easy chore, and one I should have attended to earlier; just a matter of swabbing out the mortise multiple times with Everclear-dipped pipe cleaners until it was clean. It was probably a year past due for that procedure, I'm disgusted to admit. I should find a better way to keep track. I considered a spreadsheet, but keeping up with a spreadsheet is harder than simply keeping my pipes clean.

    • KevinM on March 14, 2020
    • I keep a hard copy diary of which pipe I smoked and what tobacco I smoked in it. So I can tell you what I smoked on Mar. 14, 2010. 🤔. But spreadsheets seem too nerdy 🤭😳

    • Howard R. Houck on March 15, 2020
    • Pedantic for sure -- but well written, of course.

    • Willard C. Dobbins on March 15, 2020
    • A very small flat-bladed screwdriver makes short work of mortise gunk, accompanied afterwards by Everclear swabbing and pipe cleaners. Just be gentle, of course. When a pipe tastes a bit nasty, that gunk is usually the culprit. Plus it never dries out, at least not in a daily war horse like yours. Can't believe you went that long before mopping it out. Tsk! Tsk!

    • Mark on March 16, 2020
    • KevinM:

      I also keep a small notebook wherein I jot down which pipe(s) I smoke each day, mostly to prevent myself from smoking my favorite pipes too often. I’d never remember otherwise. Hadn’t thought of recording the tobaccos, however. I have also tried keeping a separate record of when I do thorough cleanings of each pipe, but I kept forgetting to update the notebook, so I rely on the pipes themselves telling me when they need extra attention.

    • Madstork on March 19, 2020
    • That was one of my favorite P&T pipes, that at the time I couldn’t afford. Whatever happened to the P&T pipe stock that didn’t get sold?

    • Chuck Stanion on March 20, 2020
    • Madstork:

      The pipes were not part of the sale when Dayton Matlick sold SpecComm International, of which _Pipes and tobaccos_ magazine was a part. He loves those pipes and wouldn't give them up. As far as I know, the pipes are in storage, along with the pipes from the _P&T_ pipe museum. He may permit his family to sell the pipes of the year eventually, most likely online through some vendor or another, but I doubt we'll see any of the museum pipes on the market during Dayton's lifetime. I'm no longer involved, but that's what I've extrapolated, and who knows how things may change.

    • LarryJ on March 22, 2020
    • Interesting to learn what became of P&T and the commissioned pipes. And good to see that Chuck S., a very talented writer and editor, has found a new home in the pipe and tobacco world.

    • Madstork on March 22, 2020
    • Thanks for the update Chuck. I guess I have to live with that. We all know about PAD, so now I can coin FART (Funds Unavailable Regret Trouble)!

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