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Are All Stems Created Equal?

(18 posts)
  • Started 4 years ago by owen
  • Latest reply from gloucesterman
  1. owen

    owen

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    Guys
    for those of you who have pipes by a single maker across their price range (Savinelli for example) does the quality of the stems vary? Or improve with price? Im not interested in acrylic only vulcanite.
    owen

    Posted 4 years ago #
  2. delro

    delro

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    The material doesn't change, but the way it is handled does. Higher priced pipes hand crafted stems will have a finer attention to detail, meaning a more brilliant glossy finish, perfectly fitted to the pipe itself. Also the drilling and shaping of the stem will be more finely tuned than say a factory pipe. I prefer acrylic stems since they do not oxidize and have a variety of interesting colors etc etc. I won't buy a pipe with vulcanite anymore - just my personal preference.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  3. mrenglish

    mrenglish

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    Yep, what delro said.

    Pre-molded stems can be custom made to fit pipes somewhat quickly. When you start to get into artisan pipes, they usually cut the stem from a solid piece of vulcanite or lucite and all of the shaping, fit, finish is done by hand. This is very time consuming. It can take as long, if not more time to make a stem from scratch than to make the the briar part of the pipe.

    A lot of artisan makers also sell a line of pipes that have a pre-molded stem custom fit to good briar. This saves them a lot of time and they pass on the savings, making the pipe less expensive.

    Michael
    Posted 4 years ago #
  4. samcoffeeman

    samcoffeeman

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    I still prefer vulcanite over acrylic. I'm not a fan of the colors and sometimes cheaper acrylic can impart a flavor. The tars also adhere to acrylic moreso than vulcanite. Stem engineering is very important in the smoking quality of a pipe. You have to experience the smoking quality of a really well done handmade stem to appreciate the difference.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  5. cosmicfolklore

    Cosmic

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    On the Savinellis, I don't notice any differences in the stemwork between their regular offerings and their Autographs or hand-mades. The button still seems to be a square slot with no special attention to it. But, then the price range between their factories and their top end isn't really that much either. I am fairly sure that the extra money goes on the warm and fuzzy feeling of the briar shape and treatment, not the rubber meets the road parts like stemwork.

    Michael
    Posted 4 years ago #
  6. mso489

    mso489

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    The higher mid-range Savs I have are all acrylic stems, so I can't compare, but the older Vulcanite stems on Savs are durable and comfortable, though certainly entirely mass produced.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  7. okiescout

    okiescout

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    It seems to me that cosmic is right. Personally, it does not matter to me what the bit is made off as much as what the briar and shape look like. I will say though that I like the colors and the way the new stems can be matched to the color of the stain.

    "Work as if you were to live a hundred years. Pray as if you were to die tomorrow."
    Benjamin Franklin
    Posted 4 years ago #
  8. owen

    owen

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    Thanks guys
    I have to say im all about the button. My two favourite pipes are nothing special to look at but have great buttons and a nice draw. Thanks Cosmic for the Savinelli feedback as I really want a few. Im vulcanite all the way, my acrylic stemmed pipe I really don't like. Thankfully this is also keeping me away from Castello, as SS Jones mentioned in another thread.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  9. samcoffeeman

    samcoffeeman

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    Me as well, no Castellos or JT Cookes for that matter.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  10. lordofthepiperings

    lordofthepiperings

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    The best stem I have has to be my Icarus. The button is done perfectly and it's cut just a bit thinner than your average stem, so it's much more comfortable to clench. It also has a draft hole that's a tad wider than most and it fans out at the end which I haven't seen too often in stem work. This makes for an effortless draw.

    As far as factory pipes are concerned I've noticed Peterson tends to use vulcanite on their higher end pipes and they tend to be fitted better and have a more precise drilling. These days the lower end Peterson pipes all have acrylic stems.

    Personally I prefer the acrylic stems. As stated they don't oxidize and they come in some very unique and interesting colors.

    "The thinking man always smokes a Peterson." -Peterson of Dublin
    Posted 4 years ago #
  11. allan

    allan

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    Stems.

    To me, they are nearly everything. Not everything, but nearly.

    The debate between older briar and newer briar is a valid one-old briar such as from Barling's (pre transition, way way back) has ancient Algerian briar aged in some cases near 100 years, and for those folks who feel that ancient briar is the only way to go, excellent.

    On the other hand, frequently, engineering can take a back seat for those involved making ancient briar. I have several Barlings and Dunhills that are quite old, but the stem work leaves everything to be desired. I own a 1925 Bewlay with an orithic stem (round type stem frequently used in the past) that smokes very well, but the stem, well, just sucks.

    To sum it up, stems (with appropriate engineering which we are not discussing here) are nearly everything. Just smoke a pipe made by Rad Davis after 2006 and that will answer any doubts about whether a stem matters or not. Jerry Crawford, Scott Thile, Michael Parks, Clark Leyton, just to mention a few. There are so many modern craftsmen who have studied stem work and their degree of importance.

    These gentlemen (who mostly make vulcanite stems) know how to cut a stem. (apologies to the very many that I left out)

    Allan
    Posted 4 years ago #
  12. allan

    allan

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    Pardon me, I think I may have strayed slightly off the subject.

    BTW, Vulcanite modern stems do not oxidize anything like their grandfathers'.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  13. peckinpahhombre

    peckinpahhombre

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    Ingo Garbe once said that the most important part of a pipe is the last inch.

    Ingo has it right.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  14. allan

    allan

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    Well, Peck, at least we can agree on something!

    Posted 4 years ago #
  15. buroak

    buroak

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    The good news, as samcoffeeman well knows, is that you can always put some of those hand touches on a pre-molded stem. His work inspired me to open the button end of the airway on several of my low-end smokers. I have been able to do pretty much everything I want with four needle files. Perhaps samcoffeeman will share his knowledge on opening the airway through the entire length of a stem.

    Life contains a particle of risk. - Allardyce T. Meriweather in Little Big Man
    Posted 4 years ago #
  16. cigrmaster

    cigrmaster

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    There is a huge difference in the vulcanite on the market. There is some cheap stuff on the market that smells and tastes like crap. I bought 2 pipes from a guy and I couldn't smoke the pipes because the vulcanite was so bad. If memory serves, the best vulcanite comes from a company called SMS, I could be wrong on the name but there is a company known for very high qaulity stuff.

    In terms of stem design, it makes a huge difference in how the pipe will smoke. If a stem is designed poorly, you will get a wet smoking piece of garbage. I am very particular about the stems I put in my mouth and therefore only buy pipes from certain artisans who I know spend a lot of time on their stems and who only buy the best vulcanite.

    Harris
    Posted 4 years ago #
  17. maxx

    maxx

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    Petersons are Vulcanite, with few exceptions. By the way, I've got a Radice in transit (expect it in the morning) and according to the smokingpipes site it's got a Vulcanite stem, whereas mostly I see Acrylic listed for their pipes. It might have been a mistake, though.

    "Curiosity is one of the most permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous intellect."
    ~ Samuel Johnson ~
    Posted 4 years ago #
  18. gloucesterman

    gloucesterman

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    I agree with the idea the most important part of the pipe is the last inch. It what you taste and feel. Poorly designed and/or of inferior material and you'll never enjoy smoking that pipe.

    Posted 4 years ago #

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