On Pipe Smoking
    February 9th, 2015

Marshall "Butch" Armstrong
Have you ever thought about pipe smoking?
It must seem like a silly question. Of course we think about pipe smoking. We think about it every day. We think about our down time when we can enjoy that next bowl. We think about which tobacco we’re going to smoke next, and which pipe we’ll use. But what I’m getting at goes deeper than that. Have you ever really thought about why you smoke a pipe? This may seem a bit esoteric but I hope not. I think there are deeper reasons why we smoke pipes that we rarely think about. On the surface we like smoking a pipe because of the taste of the tobacco, because we want to try new pipes and new flavors. Because we like to share what we have with others. Because we want to collect pipes and tobaccos. But I still think there are other reasons we smoke that don’t always come to mind. Maybe some of those reasons don’t translate well into words. I’m thinking of contemplative and meditative reasons for smoking a pipe.

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The Great Northern Pipe Club
    January 6th, 2015

Marshall "Butch" Armstrong
The sun is shining, the temperature is 10° F/-13° C, the roads are covered with snow and the lakes are frozen over. It’s winter in Minnesota and I am headed to St. Paul for the Great Northern Pipe Club’s monthly meeting. (I like the name. It reminds me of the "Great Northern Railroad" which was started by James J. Hill who lived in St Paul. You can tour his mansion here.) I’ve been thinking about going for quite a while now but St. Paul is over 50 miles from where I live so I haven’t done it yet. Well, it’s finally time. My friend Ted, of "Vig Guitars," also in St. Paul, invited me up, so here I go. The Great Northern Pipe Club meets on the third Sunday of the month at the Golden Leaf Tobacco shop on West 7th street near downtown St. Paul, and the meetings are open to everyone. It took about 50 minutes to get there and another ten to find a place to park that I didn’t have to pay for. The Minnesota Wild hockey team are playing at home today so the streets are filled. The wind is up and it’s cold out here.

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Dreams Of Old Virginia
    December 4th, 2014

Marshall "Butch" Armstrong
It sounds like a book title, doesn’t it, "Dreams of old Virginia?" For all I know, it could be, but for the purposes of this article it has to do with the smoking of Virginia tobacco. I was browsing through the forums here at Pipes Magazine.com and found one titled, "The art of smoking Virginias." The entries were very interesting. Before I decided to write this article I had only smoked Dunhill Virginia Flake. My friend Ted ( check out his Facebook page here) gave me a tin and I didn’t like it the first time I tried it because it seemed to be so mild that there wasn’t much flavor. After smoking it a few more times I started to enjoy it. Then I read the forum posts and realized that there were a lot of subtleties to a Virginia Flake. I came up with a plan to find out more about this intriguing tobacco. I would buy a few different brands of Virginia Flake and smoke nothing but those for a couple of weeks to find out what they were all about. Sound like fun? Well it was and I learned quite a bit.

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Smoking Outdoors In Minnesota
    November 4th, 2014

Marshall "Butch" Armstrong
It takes a brave person to smoke a pipe outside when it’s below zero.
Or is that a foolish person? I don’t know. Whether brave or foolish, and sometimes they’re one and the same, that person is me. I smoke outside. My wife doesn’t smoke and we have our grandkids out here often so I respect that and don’t smoke in the house . During spring, summer and fall it’s not a problem but winter is another matter altogether. In Minnesota, winter is a force to be reckoned with. Last winter we had more than forty days when the temperature dipped below zero. We cannot do or plan anything in winter without considering the weather. If we do, we’re courting disaster. Storms can happen with little warning, whipping into a blizzard with white out conditions within an hour. On Halloween day 1991, the temperature rose to over 50 degrees during the early afternoon and by time the day was done we had over 30 inches of snow on the ground. It can make pipe smoking outside interesting to say the least.

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Rules? What Rules?
    August 7th, 2014

Russ Ouellette
In my early twenties I was fortunate to become friends with Mel Feldman,
who owned The Smoker in Albany, NY. Mel was kind enough to spend hours talking to me about blending tobacco, which led to some admittedly amateurish attempts at creating my own mixtures. With a little perseverance my work became good enough that we offered a few of my blends at The Pipe Den, also in Albany. They did reasonably well. Well enough, in fact, that some of them were used by other stores in the chain. As I did more blending, I tried to codify things so I had firm guidelines to follow.

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Being a Tool
    July 2nd, 2014

Russ Ouellette
Lord knows that I have been called a "tool"
by a number of people (along with a plethora of other choice epithets) but what the title refers to is the frequency with which we, as pipe smokers, have to serve as a tamper (your choice of finger), because we’ve misplaced a pipe tool.

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Pipeaholic
    June 6th, 2014

Russ Ouellette
I admit it. I have a problem.
Well, actually, I have a lot of problems, but I’m referring to one in particular. I love pipes. There, I’ve said it, but strangely, I don’t feel any better. One of the difficulties, here, is how I feel about the pipes I own. I don’t feel that I’m a very sentimental person. I’ll keep birthday cards for a month or so, and then they get tossed. But my pipes are a very different story.

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Post-Show Reflections
    May 16th, 2014

Russ Ouellette
Every time I go to a pipe show, I come away with new information, or, at least, a new perspective on a subject. Since the Chicagoland Pipe and Tobacciana Show is so large, and I get to speak to so many people, it usually takes me a little while to digest everything I’ve absorbed. This year, the traffic was so heavy, and I had the chance to meet and get reacquainted with such a high volume of people, it took an especially long time to catalog all the things I found interesting.

My angle on the overall pipe smoking market is much broader than most of the hobbyists, because we sell to the masses. So when one of the folks who stopped by our tables asked me a simple question, I got a real picture of what the enthusiasts think of pipe smoking versus the entire market.

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Function Over Form
    April 28th, 2014

Russ Ouellette
Last month, when writing about some random thoughts,
I mentioned that I had been smoking corn cob pipes frequently as of late, because of a project I was working on. Since that article appeared, we broke the news, here on PipesMagazine.com, that the project was the development of four tobaccos that will be sold under the Missouri Meerschaum name. I was honored to have the opportunity to help create new products bearing such an iconic brand name, and I gave myself the added challenge of trying to make blends that would taste their best when smoked in a corn cob pipe. Once I had completed my work on the project, it got me thinking about cobs, and I thought that I’d share my memories and thoughts with you.

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Random Ruminations
    April 2nd, 2014

Russ Ouellette
I used the word "ruminations" in the title of this piece.
The word begins with "rum". Coincidence? I think not. To give you some insight into the way my mind, such as it is, works, I’m the kind of person who thinks about things like this: When people are looking for a lost item, and they finally find it, the typical comment is- "It’s always in the last place you look." Duh! Why would you keep looking once you found it?

So that leads me to a collection of unrelated thoughts that I figured I would pass along. If you find them interesting, then you must be as confused and bewildered as I am. And if you find them strange, then you’re probably safe from being committed, at least for the time being. So let’s venture forward.

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