Lights, Smokes & Leaves
    April 24th, 2013

The Care & Feeding of the Pipeman - by G. L. Pease
Indulge me.
Take a moment to close your eyes and reflect on your earliest experience as a budding pipe smoker. It could have been months ago, years, or even decades. Imagine that first bowl in as much vivid detail as you can conjure. How does the memory compare to your current experience?

Most of us, without much effort, can recall our first pipe, our first tobacco, our first smoke. For some, it was the opening of a sensory door that would lead to a wonderful new world of taste and aroma; for others, it was like entering a chamber of horrors, a dread-filled experience that, if lucidly recalled, makes us wonder why the hell we ever again chose to wander those darkly haunted halls.

Read the rest of this entry »

Covering My Ash
    March 13th, 2013

G. L. Pease
I’ve been saving the ash
from my smokes for a couple weeks, partially in response to some vocal claims made by a few that smoking to the bottom is either nearly impossible, or that doing so almost guarantees destruction of the pipe through burnout.

Truth is, I’m actually pretty far away from what anyone would consider an “expert” at smoking a pipe. I’ve somehow stumbled my way to a passable technique over the years, and I enjoy my smokes as much as anyone can, but thrown into the gladiatorial pit of a smoking contest, I’m always one of the first guys to find himself missing limbs, and the idea of sitting down with a pipe minus a full lighter and/or a box of matches immediately at hand fills me with terror.

Read the rest of this entry »

G. L. Pease
Last month (see Part I), we asked the the question, “why coat the bowl?”
and looked at some of the common reasons coatings might be used. Response to the article was just what I expected it would be, with people taking up residence in one of the three camps I mentioned—hate ‘em, rather not have ‘em, don’t care—though one respondent did say that he does prefer coated bowls. Now that the soup’s been stirred a little, we’ll talk about what these things, dreaded, tolerated or accepted, are, and how they might affect the smoking characteristics of the pipes to which they’re applied.

Read the rest of this entry »

G. L. Pease
One of the most contentious of the long-running debates
in the pipe community is the issue of bowl coatings. Why something so seemingly innocuous can drive discussions to a fevered pitch is intriguing, since, on the surface, it seems a fairly innocent thing.

When I’ve discussed the subject with other pipemen, the only ones who vocally defend coatings, sometimes quite vehemently, are the pipe makers who use them.

Read the rest of this entry »

Blinded by Science
    December 19th, 2012

G. L. Pease
Pipe smoking is at once
the simple affair of filling a bowl with some chosen leaf, getting it smouldering just right, and spending an hour or so enjoying the fruits of the effort, as well as a deceptively complex equation of too many variables to keep sorted. There are the obvious influences of the briar, the bowl shape, the tobacco, its constituents and its moisture content, how it is prepared and packed, and how we puff, but there are also the more obscure aspects.

Read the rest of this entry »

Mélange a Trois
    November 15th, 2012

G. L. Pease
I’m a collector.
It’s not just pipes that stimulate this peculiar but fortunately not uncommon affliction. There are a lot of things I find difficult to resist. The books are probably the heaviest, overall, or maybe the wine. Wristwatches have always appealed to me, and fountain pens, pocket knives, old coins. The list is long and ever growing. I’d collect cars if I had the money and space, and probably motorbikes, firearms, old radios, classic guitar amplifiers, fishing reels (even though I don’t fish, they’re beautiful things)…

Read the rest of this entry »

Learning to Fly
    October 18th, 2012

G. L. Pease
I’ve been smoking a pipe for about 30 years, now,
and I’m starting to get the idea that I just don’t know how to do it. Seriously. It’s not that I can’t stuff tobacco into a bowl, get it smouldering, and even keep it going more or less until I get to the bottom, but I know there’s more to it than that, despite the choir’s sustained insistence that “it’s easy,” or that I’m “over-thinking it.” Let me ’splain.

Read the rest of this entry »

Have Your Cake…
    September 10th, 2012

G. L. Pease
I love the first bowl in a new pipe.
The courtship. The anticipation. The excitement. I fill the bowl carefully, taking time to appreciate the workmanship, the grain, the balance, the cut. I test the draw, then strike a match, and slowly tease its fire over the surface of the tobacco, drawing softly, inviting the flame to caress the leaf, bringing it to life in wisps of fragrant smoke. I savour the taste of those first puffs, of the wood as it warms and begins to meld with my chosen tobacco, and contemplate the gradual increase of richness and flavour that will come through the first dozen or so bowls, and even beyond. The ritual engages my senses and my memory in a similar way to that of a fine old wine as I swirl, sniff, and explore it as it develops in the glass.

Read the rest of this entry »

Kansas City Made Me Sick
    August 10th, 2012

G. L. Pease
Not really.
Actually, it was some joker in the airport who decided to sneeze and cough all over everyone in sight that made me sick. But, it happened in Kansas City, and it made you look.

I’ve been back from the KC show for a few weeks, now, and I am still having wonderful flashbacks from my extended weekend there. It’s true that I spent a full ten days with the most tenacious cough and body-ache inducing case of the flu I’ve ever experienced, something I attribute to the heartiness of the corn-fed mid-western viruses, but it’s mostly behind me, now, I seem to have survived the ordeal adequately, and I certainly am not going to let it dampen the spirit of the show that welcomely accompanied me home. In short, I had a fantastic time. I ate far too much, drank a little too much (or, so I’m told, which may be an indication that it’s actually true), smoked too much and laughed a lot, and when the totting up is done, it was all fully worth it. What follows are a few random observations and experiences of the show. There’s no way I could do a thorough report, as it’s still sort of whirlwind blur swirling in my brain, but Kevin did a great job of that already in his show report, so read it for more reportage.

Read the rest of this entry »

Mind the Credibility Gap
    July 16th, 2012

G. L. Pease
A week or so ago,
as I sat on the patio with book and tea, puffing on an old, rather undistinguished billiard—one that is not particularly well constructed, in today’s terms—filled with a recently made tobacco, and having an absolutely brilliant smoke, it occurred to me that I was experiencing the impossible. The pipe does not have a “wide-open draw.” In fact, its airway is so narrow as to barely accept a thin pipe cleaner with a little cursing and coaxing. The bowl was probably machine made. Its wood is unremarkable, other than the fact that it lacks bald spots (I wish I could say the same thing for my own head at this point), and presents no apparent fills. The pipe’s mouthpiece is a bit thick, a bit round, and doesn’t quite fit securely between the teeth, meaning that my hand automatically reaches up to re-adjust it frequently.

Read the rest of this entry »