In Praise of Fills

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mso489

Preferred Member
Feb 21, 2013
25,923
95
Fills are those little repairs done by pipe carvers (most often on factory pipes) where they putty in flaws in the briar. They can be small, almost invisible, or quite large and quite plentiful. Usually they are the mark of seconds and basket pipes and appear on pipes in the economy price category. One of my pipes that is about thirty five years old now, is likely a Savenelli second but didn't get stamped because of its several conspicuous fills. If you get a pipe with fills that is a good smoker, like this one, there is a certain pleasure in these patches. Obviously, the pipe is a pocket pipe, a beater, an outdoor pipe, but it is also has a great draw, a sleek and lithe shape (straight billiard with a tapered stem) a bit of length, light weight, and a ample medium size bowl, plus good drilling and an easy draw. As a second, it was sold without the Savenelli balsa filter. Despite not being a looker, it is a fine pipe, a good smoker, durable, nicely shaped, and well-maintained. So, here's in praise of fills. It's like a person with a spotty transcript from school who has gone on to do good things with his life, and in fact, better than many, or better than most.

 

pipesmokingtom

Preferred Member
May 4, 2015
3,213
0
I like these praise posts you do! Giving some love to the unsung heroes and oft-overlooked little guys that really are the backbone of the hobby. Cheers.

 

tarak

Preferred Member
Jun 23, 2013
1,527
0
South Dakota
I have such a waxing and waning love for different pipes...at times I crave a flawless artisan pipe, and then I go through phases where I just want a normal, working man's pipe, imperfections and all.
I do not own any truly high grade pipes- the nicest pipes I own are a Mastro de Paja and a Savinelli Punto Oro Mister G....new each one is worth perhaps $260.
But for some reason my favorite pipe is not those, but a Savinelli 90's era Toscana half bent apple. It is nothing special- mixed grain, some fills....but darn it, I just love the thing. Feels right, smokes right...I like it enough to take care of it, but I'm also not afraid of hurting the thing. Its just perfect.

 

maxpeters

Senior Member
Jan 4, 2010
435
0
Well mso, I feel a little different about fills. If I were traveling and forgot or lost my pipe, and all I could find was a $30.00 to $50.00 pipe full of fills at a shop somewhere, I might buy it to tide me over until I got back home, but for the most part I won't buy a pipe with fills.

I think they are ugly abominations. Yep, the pipe smokes OK with them, but just having to look at them while I smoke is annoying.

If you ask me, all pipe bowls that need putty fills should just be rusticated or sandblasted. The smooth bowls should not have fills. It just smacks of cheap to me.

But I am glad that they don't bother you and that you can enjoy your pipe regardless.

 

pipesmokingtom

Preferred Member
May 4, 2015
3,213
0
I have such a waxing and waning love for different pipes...at times I crave a flawless artisan pipe, and then I go through phases where I just want a normal, working man's pipe, imperfections and all.
Luckily I've never phased in to wanting expensive pipe, though it may come someday. I'm just a glutton for the practical these days with a three year old and all that. I ride the bus and a cheap bike.. I have an expensive guitar, but that's payed for itself so I can justify it. Maybe someday I'll have a high-grade pipe, but no day soon!
Edit: unless I can find a way to get paid for smoking a pipe.

 

clickklick

Preferred Member
May 5, 2014
1,673
0
Some of the older wood was filled . . . which detracts nothing from the smoking qualities. The wood that shows those types of blemishes in this day and age becomes sandblasted or rusticated as generally fills are frowned upon in the market.
There is some great old wood out there with fills!

 

bonehed

Preferred Member
Nov 27, 2014
643
0
I have a GBD Xtra bent bulldog (pre-'37) with a few fills... among others, of course - including a couple Savinelli unfinished... all wonderful performers. The fills don't bother me in the least.
''GBD Xtra and GBD Special were very early models who’s names indicated special final treatments and / or fitments. The standard quality was stamped simply with GBD.''

 

rblood

Member
Mar 2, 2015
250
0
I don't mind fills, but I would still rather see a pit left alone and not filled.
I have resisted "collecting" pipes, so I really do not see it from a collector's perspective. I am sure that if I were, I would want the most perfect examples I could find. Fills to me are a reminder that I am a smoker, not a collector of pipes.
To me, pipes are to be smoked and sometimes smoked hard. That means that the most important factors (in fact, the only factors) are, do I like the shape and does it smoke well. Everything else is just part of that pipes personality, fills and all.

 

agnosticpipe

Preferred Member
Nov 3, 2013
2,586
4
I had to undergo an attitude adjustment to have fills not bother me. I first read about fills in Hacker's book in the 1980s and had no idea they even existed! I remember him telling pipe smokers to avoid pipes with fills, as they were cheaper pipes and would not be very good smokers. He said you want to smoke briar, not putty. So now I was going over my few pipes with a fine tooth comb. Much to my horror, I found a couple of small fills in one of my favorite pipes a Savinelli. It always bothered me when I smoked it, and I couldn't understand how a top pipe maker could use fills. I finally gave it away, and carried on, making sure I only bought fill free pipes.
But over the years, I've found that many pipes that have a few little fills smoke just fine, some smoke great in fact. I just feel a little different now, although I still don't like to see fills, some of them don't bother me, and some are easily hidden. I have a small English Ben Wade Canadian pipe that I got about 12 years ago that has quite a few sand pits in it, and one tiny fill. I really like the pipe and kind of enjoy seeing them as I like the character they add. I feel if a pipe is well made, and is a good smoking pipe, the fills are irrelevant. Like others here, I'm not a collector, I just want a good smoking pipe.

 

mso489

Preferred Member
Feb 21, 2013
25,923
95
I don't want people to think I'm just a pipe-with-fills guy. I have a lovely Ser Jacopo and a Ferndown, several very pretty Mountain Laurel pipes, and some Savs and Petes of better, if not premium, grades that at least show no fills. And I always revel in seeing the magnificent artisan pipes posted by fishnbanjo, foggy, peck, and so on, the breathe a sort of perfection. I just have to admit that sometimes the unadorned item, with its flaws, also has qualities you can experience.

 

xrundog

Preferred Member
Oct 23, 2014
737
0
Ames, IA
I'm okay with a couple little fills on a 100+ year old pipe. But a shellacked pipe with a lot of big ones is a turn off for me. I find it aesthetically repellant!
But I won't bust anyone's chops for smoking one. What pipes you like is entirely your affair.

 

owen

Preferred Member
May 28, 2014
560
0
Does this also extend to rejects and seconds? About half of my rotation have fills or are 'London made' I have one Yorkist pipe an absolute favourite with a number of fills which is wonderful, another amazing sandblast which is heavily filled. That said on a smooth pipe I like to pick out the putty and fill with dust and superglue.

 

wyfbane

Preferred Member
Apr 26, 2013
4,040
0
I have nothing against fills. I have a really nice L'anatra that has a fill or it would have been a multi-egger and a no namer I got for $15 and coverted it to a churchwarden with a BIG fill on the shank. Smokes Great!
I think that there is a market for filled pipes. I have several myself.
That one guy who posted getting a Pete Supreme or something with a fill is a different story. When you pay big $, the understanding is it will be superior briar carved very well. Then pits are an issue.

 

gloucesterman

Preferred Member
Jan 4, 2015
1,861
0
Massachusetts
Fills usually mean I get a more expensive pipe for less. Big ones are something of a turn off but smaller ones are OK especially if the pipe is to be used in the field. I spend a lot of time outdoors and pipes with fills work out well in that setting.

 

philobeddoe

Preferred Member
Oct 31, 2011
4,509
14
East Indiana
I hate fills, and will not (knowingly) purchase a pipe with fills. It detracts from the aesthetics of the pipe to my eye and therefore lessens the whole smoking experience. However, this just leaves that many more pipes for those who can see past the putty and may get some great smokers I have passed up.

 

mranglophile

Senior Member
May 11, 2015
391
0
United States
Fills, shmills. Some of my favorite smokers have fills
I can't say it better
More than half my pipes are rusticated or sandblasted so there is a good chance they would of needed a fill to have been a smooth, and I have some smooths that have such nice grain it would be a pity to blast/carve just because of tiny flaw or two. I find it one of lifes miracles when it is flaw free but as many have said some of my best smokers have fills. I like when carvers carve a little feather or stamp on flaws like a BBB silver mounted billiard I had versus putty but for me it really depends on all the qualities of the pipe.

 

robwoodall

Senior Member
Apr 29, 2015
423
0
I doubt I own a single thing that I haven't dropped at some point. Even my new (not expensive) meerschaum hit the floor day before yesterday. Thank goodness for carpet, but I usually smoke outside on concrete, and that would have been the end of Mr. Meer!
I would have to become a MUCH more careful person before I concerned myself with fills. Seems like everything I have gets beat up, so it may as well be beat up when I first get it.
I only own two non-rusticated briar pipes. I'm sure they have fills, but I've never looked.

 

brudnod

Preferred Member
Aug 26, 2013
938
0
Great Falls, VA
My father's favorite pipe was a Kaywoodie with a big, ugly fill. He said it gave the pipe character and it smokes cool and fresh. I still have it and it is, in fact, a BIG, UGLY fill. But it does smoke well! I do make an effort not to be such a big, ugly pipe snob, with varying results. Some pipes are destined to be smoked for their craft, some for their effect, and a fill does not make any difference to the latter.

 

warren

Preferred Member
Sep 13, 2013
7,348
30
If a fill detracts from one's smoking experience, fills are bad. If it matters not to you, who cares!
If a small, well executed fill saves an otherwise gorgeous chunk of briar, which leads to a great smoking pipe, I have no problem with the blemish.