If you're new to pipe smoking, you've probably already noticed we have some pretty unique jargon. When we write our pipe descriptions, blog posts, and newsletters, we try to describe the pipes as accurately as possible; often that means using a specific set of terms recognized by the pipe community to mean very specific things. Now that can be intimidating at first, but it doesn't have to be. To help you out we've compiled a list of 7 terms from our glossary to expand on here, so check them out and never be left scratching your head again.
Cake is an interesting term, in that it has a different meaning depending on whether you're talking about pipe tobacco or pipes themselves. In the context of tobacco, cake indicates a ribbon-cut blend that has been pressed into a block or cake. Though they may look similar, cakes are very different from plugs and flakes, which require the use of whole leaf. It's also worth noting that these types of pressed tobaccos don't necessarily require heat for their production. A cake's density also differs depending on the intended outcome; a crumble cake, for example, is less dense than a traditional plug, and can be broken off and rubbed out a little easier.
In the context of pipes, cake refers to the thin layer of protective carbon that forms and lines the chamber of a briar pipe. While that might not sound great at first, building the right amount of cake is essential for an enjoyable smoking experience. It protects the briar from burning and reduces the amount of external flavors in your smoke; that being said, you'll need to keep an eye on the thickness of your cake, as too much can actually cause your pipe to split or crack due to uneven heating when smoked.
If you've been smoking a pipe for any length of time, you've seen dottle. You may have just not called it that at the time. Dottle refers to the small amount of unburned tobacco left in the bottom of your pipe's chamber after a smoke. Most pipe smokers discard it with their ashes once the bowl if finished, but you may come across references to some folks who save their dottle. In Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes tales, for example, the legendary consulting detective was known to dry out his dottle and save it for a later smoke — though in that context, it seems Doyle was more trying to emphasize Holmes' desperation.
What is a ferrule? Simply put, a ferrule refers to an accent at the end of a pipe's shank that's either one solid piece of material or a combination of materials bonded together. Unlike traditional army or spigot mounts, which we'll talk about a little later, ferrules do not actually surround the mortise, but rather have the mortise actually drilled into the accent material itself. You can find a range of these types of accents on the site, in myriad materials like horn, acrylic, or even various hardwoods.
The mortise is an integral part of any pipe. It's the hole at the end of the shank that connects the stummel to the stem. It goes hand in hand with another term, the tenon — which is the projection at the end of the mouthpiece that fits into the mortise. Put together, the tenon (male) and mortise (female) form a joint, which is typically the weakest part of the pipe. Hence care must be taken when removing the tenon from the mortise, especially when the pipe is still hot and the mortise may have expanded.
Army and Spigot mounts take care of the issue of mortise/tenon joints being notoriously weak by reinforcing the mortise with a metal band or cap, and by using a stem that doesn't include a traditional tenon, but instead tapers down to point where it can fit into the mortise. We tend to call this style of mouthpiece a tapered-tenon or push-style tenon. A Spigot mount follows that same approach, with a reinforcing band around the mortise and a tapered tenon design, but it adds a little something extra. In spigot mounts, the tapered tenon is also wrapped in some sort of metal — typically sterling silver.
Army mounts are said to originate during WWI, when (if you believe the old apocryphal tale) a soldier fixed a broken shank by sheathing a spent shell casing over the mortise of his pipe. This prevented the crack in his shank from expanding, and thus secured the mortise-tenon fit. Today, Army and Spigot mounts make for some of the most practical pipes around, as they remove that traditional weak point, and the tapered tenon design reduces the surface area in contact with the mortise, thereby reducing the amount of grip, allowing the stem to be removed easily. When in use the mortise swells and grips the stem, so the stem won't simply fall out of the mount.
If you've ever placed a pipe in your mouth, you've already taken note of the button. Essentially, the button corresponds to the raised lip at the very end of the stem, and often incorporates the slot, or opening at the end of the stem that serves as the terminus for the airway, where the smoke leaves the pipe and enters the mouth. In modern contexts, the slot is a horizontal expansion of the draft-hole at the button, which may allow for a smoother flow of the smoke-stream and make it easier to clean your mouthpieces with a pipe cleaner.
Many pipe smokers and pipe makers pay quite a lot of attention to buttons and slots, as this is the area that the smoker is most often in contact with. This leads to a lot of variation and individuality between pipes from different makers and marques; in fact, buttons and slots are probably the most individualized area in terms of a maker's signature, and while most will accept other makers emulating shapes, pipe makers are quite protective of the design of their buttons and slots.
If you've read any description on the site, you've probably seen the word stummel used a lot. It may sound cryptic, but it actually refers to the main body of the pipe itself. On a classical pipe shape, it typically consists of three distinctive sub-parts:
- The bowl - the part of the pipe which houses the tobacco chamber.
- The shank - the part of the pipe that joins the bowl and the stem.
- The transition - the junction between the bowl and the shank of a pipe.
So the stummel is basically everything excluding the stem and any other accouterments (accents, mounts, windcaps, etc.). Obviously, with more complex freehand designs, the difference between the above sub-parts can become a bit ambiguous — in these cases, having "stummel" in your vocabulary can prove quite useful. We use this term a lot on the site when we're discussing aspects of the design that only concern the pipe's main body, or inversely how a pipe maker has combined several elements in relation to one another to create a balanced composition.
So there you have it: the 7 words every pipe smoker should know. Of course, there are myriad other terms we use frequently on the site. If you feel you need a refresher or want to learn more about pipe terminology, head on over to our glossary page — where you can find detailed descriptions of pretty much everything pipe and pipe tobacco related.