Pipe Smoking Lifestyle

Rain Falls

Michael Brennan Smith
Bowl coating is probably the pipe world’s biggest controversy.
Pipe makers assert that the prudent course to prevent burnout is coating the bowls of their pipes even though very few, coated or uncoated, burnout. Carvers want to afford their pipes every protection, feeling, like Bob Dylan in his song, "A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall," that burnout is as sure as rain. However this article insists that rain must fall.

Do carvers see this issue best? In my experience, consisting of owning and smoking 100 pipes of many different brands through 15 years, I have not had a single burnout. 15 years X 365 days X 3 bowls a day equals 16.5K smokes, and not one burnout. GL Pease gathered more extensive statistics attesting to drought, not rain, writing about his findings in this magazine’s "Out of the Ashes" on February 12, 2013, saying:

Most burnouts are the result of a flaw in the briar, usually a soft spot, or a void just below the surface of the wood. When such a pipe burns out, there’s no way to know if a bowl coating of any kind would have prevented it, and if it does not, there’s no way to know if it was the bowl coating that was responsible for its durability, so all we really have is anecdotal evidence. (As I mentioned, the only two pipes I’ve ever owned that burned out had heavily coated chambers.)

I corresponded with several pipe makers and sellers regarding defect rates. Specifically, I was interested in how many uncoated bowls were returned for burnout, in order to get a baseline. The responses were anywhere from a low of "zero in 17 years," (about 3000 pipes) to a high of 15 pipes out of about 11,000 (0.13%). Collectively, the burnout rate was less than 1 out of every 1000 pipes made/sold. Interestingly, one seller replaced 3 out of about 3200 pipes sold last year, two of which were coated bowls. One maker reported 3 returns out of approximately 2500 pipes, two of which he said were his fault for making the bottoms of the bowls too thin. Another maker of about 300-400 pipes per year has not had to replace a single burnout in the last five years.

From the numbers in my experience and those from Mr. Pease, we see that the rate of burnouts is inconsequential. In this regard, displeasure about the coating is the only rain that falls on the customers’ pipe parade.

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Dylan continues, "Oh, what did you see, my blue-eyed son?" Pipe maker Todd Johnson saw the wisdom of coating, supporting by the results of his Youtube video "Sodium Silicate versus ‘Raw Briar’ ", as commented on by pipe maker David Huber on the pipe forum "Brothers of Briar." The video demonstrates that a coated piece of briar, compared to an uncoated piece, holds up about twice as long before burning, suspended over a tea light flame. But Mr. Huber said in his comments on that forum that the temperature of the tea light flame is 1300 degrees while the tobacco burning in the chamber is 550 degrees, which is almost a 3:1 variance, and thus hardly conclusive. Johnson’s forecast may not predict the drought of no burnouts, but on the other hand it doesn’t effect the rain carvers fear. Huber, who now coats his pipes, was influenced but not persuaded to coat by Johnson’s video until he was struck by coated pipes’ quick caking and thus quick break-in. But again, posts on the forums do not substantiate that pipes without coating are such a chore to break-in such that the owners wished the pipe had been coated. Instead posts lament the thunderheads in carvers’ minds that augur rain.

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The carver may assert that burnout is a fact and that bowl coating remains a prudent measure. But the numbers above show that carvers see gloomy clouds that to them portend rain.

Obviously, there are options to handle this issue to the satisfaction of both parties. But carvers control the matter, and to the best of my knowledge, are not interested in dialogue. The forums, however, regularly have long threads on the issue. But Dylan continues, "I heard the sound of a thunder, it roared out a warnin." The carver controls coating, and smokers have no thunder capable of contesting that control, but it is a fact that they will continue to agitate for reform, and though the carvers have their forum and the smokers theirs, the complaints and the ill will about this issue will not go away anytime soon. By their presence in the smokers’ forums these threads spill over to the carvers forum, and carvers must also listen to the ire of unhappy customers. The warning of the thunder is not burnout but the antagonism it generates.

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Carvers assume they know the customers’ needs better than the customers. In so doing they ignore the buyer, the most important person in the pipe maker/vendor/buyer transaction. The buyer pays for the pipe, and by this the carver earns his livelihood. The buyer should control coating because he pays for the pipe! Let’s say that again. Because the buyer pays for the pipe, he should control if the pipe is coated!

Control doesn’t work because it is unilateral, yet the reality is that in the course of any relationship, unless there is a clear acknowledgement of subordination, control is negotiated by the parties involved.

The carver can only claim that his artistic vision gives him total control over creating pipes, but once challenged by the buyer, a negotiation starts, even if the carver refuses to speak. The issue then is not artistic control but control of a detail for which no statistics vouch.

Castello is a prestige maker. They don’t coat bowls, yet they prosper. Regarding Castello’s methods, Dylan wrote, "I’m a-goin’ back out ‘fore the rain starts a-fallin’ ". Were coatings necessary, why would Castello send their beautiful, expensive pipes out into the rain without them? Perhaps because the rain that threatens to fall doesn’t, remaining in the gloomy clouds that besiege carvers. Pipe smokers looking at the purported clouds see only sun.

I’ve also read that carvers coat because they claim it looks better. Both Larry Roush and Kurt Huhn prefer to coat as a way to cover the exterior stain’s penetration to the chamber walls. The pipe maker is concerned with making a beautiful object, and in this instance coating, though unneeded, is understandable.

It would appear that since many makers prefer the way coating looks in the chamber, they assume that the buyer does, too. I would argue instead that it is the shaping and the exterior of the pipe, especially the bowl and the stem, that command the buyer’s attention. To say otherwise cannot be supported.

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But after writing this it occurs to me that carvers insist on this cosmetic because of their picture of pipe perfection and don’t care if the buyer sees this or not; or just in case the buyer shares their perception. Of much more importance, however, is that they wish to have their vision of beauty fully displayed during the few seconds in which a prospective buyer first looks at their pipe. This would perhaps be an important point supporting coating were it not for the impossibility of measuring the buyer’s increased regard for the pipe, occasioned by the cosmetic flourish. But if the buyer bites, money rains, and by this at long last a plausible rationale for coating is made; coating links to sales.

To conclude, it is as unproven that coating prevents burnout as it is to contend that a coated chamber adds visual appeal. Carvers coat as they control pipe making; but in so doing they create animosity. The only substantive conclusion is that they coat to make the best impression of the pipe in the moment the prospective buyer’s eyes first see it. Although we know that this is their perception, the success of which amounts to a grace note in the musical phrase of the buyer’s perception, it is as hypothetical as rain that doesn’t fall.

Michael Smith was raised in a Chicago Southside neighborhood in the 60s, and educated in Catholic schools through HS. He has been a poet since college. Attended Graduate school in the early 80s. He has studied and practiced Buddhism and Raja Yoga, and has been a pipe smoker since 2001.

He works for 4noggins.com, and is known on the forums as 4nogginsMike.

You may also be interested in G. L. Pease’s take on this subject in his two-part article:
Bowl Coatings – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly – Part I

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    whitewolf
  • July 3, 2015
Nicely written Michael. Castello used to coat chambers many years ago and stopped. Radice used to coat chambers and stopped. For me it's almost 100% of the time a deal breaker. The only time it's not is if I can remove the coating easily.
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    ssjones
  • July 3, 2015
I've only had positive experiences with "the right bowl coating". Most makers seem to use a concoction of activated charcoal and gelatin. This type of coating can easily be removed if necessary. I find it tasteless and in such coated pipes, they have broken in faster than un-coated similar pipes. We have probably dozens of forum threads on this controversial topic and it will never get consensus resolution.
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    warren
  • July 3, 2015
Coated and non-coated pipes sell. I have strong feelings on both side of the issue and so have decided not to have an opinion. To bothersome to do the research.
I suspect only a small percentage (worldwide) of pipe smokers are pipe fora members or readers, were I a carver or manufacturer, I would put little weight on what is written in those places. That is, unless the manufacturer's sales are dependent on fora word of mouth. The bottom line is that economics will make the decision for the manufacturers. If there is insufficient profit to be made vending coated pipes, such will cease to be offered for sale.
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    peckinpahhombre
  • July 3, 2015
I have bought a few pipes in my time and have broken in literally dozens, and I much prefer an organic bowl coating to no bowl coating. I believe they make for a much easier break in, based on my own personal experience. Further, the central theme of the article seems to be that carvers should not coat their bowls because there is no proof that it prevents burnout or faciliates the break-in of a pipe. However, this proposition can just as easily be turned on it's head: there is also no proof that bowl coatings don't help in this regard. I would add that I also much prefer the look of a pipe with a coated bowl, but I recognize that may just be my own personal aesthetics at play. It is a factor that I look for when buying a pipe.
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    4nogginsmike
  • July 3, 2015
But my head, and I dare say some others, cannot be turned by what is in essence a facile argument. Yes, the inverse has appeal, reaching toward reciprocity, one pole of the dual; that what is said to be true can be as easily argued false. Yet in this case we are constrained to abide by the facts in this matter, that pipe makers coat, among other reasons, because they say that it prevents burnout.
But coating has little to do with burnout. This is fact, as supported by my 16.5K smokes and Mr. Pease's record of 3000 pipes. It is also fact that this issue does not go away; it continues to cause controversy in our community. I would wager that if pipes are still being smoked in the future, some smokers will object to coatings. To say that it will never be solved is but a prediction.
The burden of proof is then on carvers. As they are taking an additional measure, coating briar, the wisdom of which cannot be demonstrated, it is up to them too justify the practice, not for me to have to prove the negative case. We are not discussing the negative case, and to suggest that we should can perhaps be seen as a glib response for the slim rewards of leaving a digital trail.
But perhaps I misunderstand what would appear to be hastily framed responses?
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    cigrmaster
  • July 3, 2015
I really dislike a bowl coaating and try to buy new pipes that have none. It is not a total deal breaker, but it is pretty close. The worst I ran across were those from Rainer Barbi, those were just plain gross.
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    warren
  • July 4, 2015
I am not sure why it is incumbent upon the manufacturer to prove any need for coating the bowl. It's a product. If you are buying a custom then you can simply specify "no coating." Otherwise I think it is the maker's choice and his reason for coating really doesn't matter, except to a few pipe buyers. Until you buy it or a reseller does, it is his product. What you want or desire is simply not relevant.
If the coating serves no purpose why would a manufacturer go to expense of coating? The maker has no "burden of proof" as to the necessity, it simply is what it is; a distraction to some, an obsession to others, and of no matter to many.
A coated bowl is obviously desirable to the majority of buyers, or at least not a factor in the "to buy or not to buy" equation. Some makers feel the coating inhibits burn-out, others cite esthetics, and still others obviously feel buyers like the look.
You do a disservice to your readers with your final remark. We took the time to read your missive and had the interest to respond. Very dismissive of you!
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    warren
  • July 4, 2015
4nogginsmike: Your last sentence does a disservice to the people who took the time read your article and thought it worthy of a response. Very dismissive!
The very idea that pipe manufacturers have a burden of proof with respect to bowl coatings is absurd. They provide a product which people can purchase or not.
If a carver/maker feels the need for a coating, whether for aesthetics, protection against burnout, or just to upset those that detest coatings is purely their choice. Then you as the buyer have the choice to purchase or not.
I still do not understand all the furor regarding coatings. The buyer simply exercises his right to purchase or not. Very simple really.
If you want a certain shape, hand crafted bit, etc. without coating order it up from a carver, custom to your specs.
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    warren
  • July 4, 2015
My apologies for the two similar posts. The first took a couple of hours to appear.
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    ssjones
  • July 4, 2015
Wow, 4noggins, I apologize for our disappointing responses. Perhaps you were into a scotch bottle when you posted that last reply.
Let me be crystal clear as to where I stand:
Me like bowl coatings. Me buy coated pipes. Me happy.
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    shaintiques
  • July 4, 2015
I've always heard that bowl coating is often done to cover up stain that has gotten into the bowl. I prefer a bare bowl personally. I like the initial briar taste and the pipes color faster with bare bowls.
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    anchovyd
  • July 4, 2015
Who cares? After a dozen bowls or so what does it matter? I've got dozens and dozens of pipes that I've bought new over the last 25 years, Petersons with stain in the bowls, coated Savinellis, uncoated italian hand made from Rinaldo, Ser Jacopo etc. It really doesn't make a difference to me. The coated bowls seem to break in and cake faster than the stained or bare bowls and the coating does cut down on the unpleasantries of smoking the first few bowls with bare un-oilcured briar but after you get a handful of smokes on a pipe, you can't tell a difference anyway.
All this hand wringing over bowl coatings and stain in the bowls is ridiculuous. I can't believe people actually feel it is a deal breaker one way or the other. Be a man, stop whining and break in your god damn pipe.
I always thought bowl coating was to aid in pipe break in and to eliminate the sometimes funky first bowls on a pipe, like Dr. Grabow and his pipe smoking machine or those old ads from the 20s where you could get a hobo to break in your pipes for you. These hipsters with their artisan toast and fair trade organic coffee getting their painties in a bunch over this make me sick. Grow a pair and smokae your pipe like a man.
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    romeowood
  • July 5, 2015
Ah, one of the many never-ending debates! I find my bases covered by enjoying both coated and uncoated bowls for their own merits–problem solved. :)
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    mso489
  • July 6, 2015
Thank you, Michael. This is a good, evenhanded discussion of bowl coatings. My personal preference is for an uncoated bowl in a new pipe. I am not a cake-builder, but require only a light coating of carbon on the inside of a bowl, which readily develops after a few dozen bowls in a new pipe. I wipe out the excess cake building ash and build-up after each bowl. This is my way of going, and I am not recommending it; if one finds cake satisfying, that is the way to go. I have bought many pipes with coatings applied, and they have not presented any problems, no unpleasant flavors. One Parker did seem to have excess coating that remained in the shank for a number of weeks, but that problem resolved itself after vigorous pipe cleaner uses. Pipe carvers and manufacturers should know that with this pipe smoker, an uncoated bowl is a definite plus. I'm intrigued that at least one high volume pipe maker, Savenelli, delivers pipes both ways, some coated, some not.
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    brass
  • July 6, 2015
Good cover, Michael. I don't really lose any sleep over the coating questions. My sense is that coated bowls break and cake faster than non-coated. I've never had a briar pipe orc ob burn out on me - coated or uncoated. Coversely, I've broken in a few pipes without coatings and I don't find it a burden to do so. As someone else in the thread mentioned, they all look pretty much the same after the first dozen smokes. Pax
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    captpat
  • July 6, 2015
I prefer uncoated bowls, like another said it's interesting to see the briar inside the bowl before it's smoked the first time. OTOH I haven't experienced any bad issues with the pipes I've purchased that were coated. I guess I'm on the fence on this question.
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    rigmedic1
  • July 6, 2015
J.T. Cooke coats his bowls, as I recall, and states that removal of the coating would effect the smoking characteristics of his pipes. I have a Molina with an uncoated bowl that developed a hotspot on the side in less than three smokes. I own over a hundred pipes, of both types, and have never had any pipe develop a burnout or a hotspot before this Molina.
Does that mean the Molina should have had a coated bowl? I do not think it would have made a difference. The pipe smokes beautifully, but it is marred by the growing black spot on the side. I choose pipes for their ascetics and reputation, and I find that the only difference is that coatings sometimes taste funny until the cake develops, about 3 to 5 bowls. On a well seasoned uncoated bowl, I might get the briar taste for 3-5 bowls. After that, no real difference either way. I would think it is about time to put this debate away.
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    oldtom
  • July 7, 2015
I've had three pipes that either suffered from burnout or nearly.
I believe all were caused by very thin bowl thickness.
One was coated and was replaced by the pipe shop. It was a new rusticated pipe that I had bought and burned out within the guarantee period.
The other was new freehand pipe that showed evidence of a possible future burnout as one side of the bowl turned a darker brown than the rest of the bowl. I traded it away.
The last one was a sandblast pipe that had shown perhaps years of heavy smoking and I applied a well-known bowl coating and then traded it away.
All three had thin walls.
All three were by well-known pipe makers and were not cheap.
I note to carefully examine each pipe before you purchase.
I have no feelings about pipe bowl coatings other than they might hide finish flaws in turning within the bowl.
If coated, I go ahead and fill up and smoke.
If uncoated, I may or may not provide a thin coating of saliva or honey and do the same.
If an estate, I just fill up and smoke.
I've owned perhaps close to 400 pipes over the years and enjoyed everyone.
Still it's buyer beware.
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    spartanfan
  • July 8, 2015
The video talked about in the article was very interesting - certainly provides some evidence. However, I do not like the taste of sodium silicate bowl coating. To me it has a very off taste. I want to smoke a briar pipe not a sodium silicate pipe that happens to have some wood around it. Of course there are many different formulations of coatings. It is my preference to only buy pipes without a coating.
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    4nogginsmike
  • July 8, 2015
After writing about bowl coating and thinking about the many responses, I'm considering a different conclusion about the matter. It would appear that logic doesn't govern the views of either those that advocate and those who oppose bowl coating. Carvers may have other reasons, and the first of which I am aware, of which I wrote, is that coating prevents burnout; but there is no support for this. Their other reason is that the pipe benefits aesthetically, but if does so, that appeal is minimal and ironically disappears with the first few bowls. I see no logic in this.
On the other hand it is also irrational to object to coatings as the evidence says that they do not detract from the pipe's performance.
So, then, we have this ongoing dispute but with neither side offering conclusive logic or fact.
I can think of no resolution beyond reiterating that pipe makers owe their livelihood to those who buy their pipes. Since the value of coating cannot be demonstrated, it makes no sense to ignore a sale or in making it, displease a customer.
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    4nogginsmike
  • July 8, 2015
I'm reminded of a old-timer who, peering into the bowl of his pipe at a coating, shouts, "I don't want anything between my tobacco and the wall!!!" Why? No reply. After a pause he repeats himself, at the same volume.
Another why without reply?
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    pipesmokingtom
  • July 10, 2015
It's obvious coatings are purely to hide stain and other aesthetic "imperfections" inside the bowl.
They say it "protects" the pipe, but we know they're lying. And they know we know they're lying. They're not going to own it, but why should they? They're making the damn things.
I sell insurance - I'm going to call you and tell you I'm checking on your satisfaction with your current auto policy, but why I am REALLY calling is to sell you additional life insurance or a policy on your wife's jewelry, whatever. You know this. I know this. But - doesn't the world spin just a little smoother when we allow each other the courtesy and dignity of covering our imperfections and sometimes our agenda?
Women wear makeup - we don't run up to them and and demand they take it off because we know that's not what they REALLY look like underneath the paint. We allow them the dignity of covering what THEY perceive as an issue.
Buy what you want, don't buy what you don't want, and chuck the bowl coating issue in the "who cares" pile where it belongs.
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    ssjones
  • July 10, 2015
It looks like EVERYONE cares. Passionately....
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    4nogginsmike
  • July 11, 2015
When I asked a respected pipe seller about Castello, a prestigious pipe maker, about their practice of not coating the bowls of their pipes, he retorted that given that they air-cure for 10 years to maximize the excellence of their wood, why would they possibly want to subtract from its ability to breath? (He also said the Castello buys 7000 blocks a year. The best customer gets the prettiest wood.)
Could I tell the difference between the performance of Savinelli's coated wood and Castello's? More than probably not. Could a smoker whose marriage with a pipe has been much longer and deeper, who by achieving a unity of mind, palate and smoking technique, who has found a deeper savor of the smoking experience? I think yes.
I can only speak to my smoking experience. But I know that if I'm busy doing something else I lapse into puffing, not tasting, and my palate turns off; that's what I've told it to do. When I come to I notice that not only am I not tasting but also that I cannot taste. This is my best understanding why for years the tobacco loses its flavor. And though I try and try to sip, not puff, I smoke too fast, with the inevitable result of scorching my mouth, the discomfort of which solidly impacts my enjoyment of the smoke.
With loss of taste and discomfort in the smoking experience, I am barred from the halls of pipe smokers Valhalla. There quite probably are other factors in play, but until I correct these two problems, a 30-year old Comoy is as good to me as a Castello. My briar collection is replete with pipes of this ilk. Were my income in the six figures I would more than probably have a dozen Castellos with pretty wood, and I would be puffing away, not sipping, and by inattention be turning my palate off. Whatever subtle signals the uncoated, premium briar was sending me would be lost in the shuffle.
But the pipe is an instrument to the complexity of smoking in much the same way as a quality guitar or saxophone is to playing music. Given the choice I would certainly choose the finer instrument; perhaps with its truer signaling my journey to Valhalla would end sooner.
You might object that then I would be dead. I'm good with that. The gods don't believe in smoking restrictions.
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    gloucesterman
  • July 11, 2015
An interesting presentation but one that will not be resolved by logic alone. It's a matter of preference. Personally I've always thought it to be a "tempest in a tea pot". Coated, uncoated, after a half dozen bowls you can't tell the difference. In the lifetime of a pipe a half dozen bowls seems somewhat inconsequential either way. But each to his own. I just can't get fired up about it.
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    4nogginsmike
  • July 12, 2015
The arguments of logic for an against coating are not persuasive, though in the end logic is all we have. In an unoriginal irrationality the issue drags on. I started this examination and even I tire of it. Intractable issues have the low charm of an oyster that will not be pried open, but we don't give up because we will have our meat.
I continue to feel that carvers need shoulder the burden of proof by the simple facts, logical, I'm afraid, that they coat over the buyer's objection.
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    pipesmokingtom
  • July 12, 2015
With all due respect, asking a manufacturer to change their process to suit your whims, especially, like gloucesterman says, it doesn't matter after a few bowls, starts to just seem whiny after a while. I'm sure there are plenty of carvers that will take a custom order, but if they aren't willing to change their process and put out a product in a manner they aren't comfortable with, why should they have to?!
I get that you're buying it so you should get what you want, but if it's not what you want, go buy it somewhere else. I enjoyed the original article, but it's on and on about buyer's objection this and they need to shoulder burden of proof that. No, they don't. They don't wanna, and they don't hafta. Their process is their process. Just like you don't hafta buy their pipe if a coating in a bowl is so off-putting. It's like a customer at a pub I'm playing at coming up and telling me to put such and such line at the end of a verse of a song I wrote. Bugger off.
This constant drumming about what people "should" do is exhausting.
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    4nogginsmike
  • July 13, 2015
I think your first point is pointless. To say that we should be allowed to disguise our imperfections and that it is incumbent on the person affected by them to keep silent, and to typify the silence of the affected person as courtesy, perverts the meaning of that word. Although this does apply in the world of makeup, it does so only because makeup has an insubstantial effect. Women have the right to make whatever ripples they chose. It is a matter of appearance only. Back in the world of pipes, which is in fact the world under discussion, the payment for the pipe gives the buyer the right to object to coating. The social arrangement of money for service is the timeless underlying principle of all economic exchange. Without exception the person paid for the service tailors that service so as to please the buyer; he in fact works for the buyer.
“They don’t wanna, and they don’t hafta..Their process is their process.” Though simplistically expressed, your words go to the essential weakness of the carvers’ position. Carvers control coating. They have finished the pipe. The pipe is as beautiful and well executed as it will ever be. But then they do something extra, the wisdom of which only they can see. They coat the bowl and do so for their idiosyncratic purposes. Only they understand the logic of this, and I use the word “logic” loosely, as the act is illogical. Yes, it is their process, but the worthiness of their work in no way depends on coating being applied. If I like a pair of shoes but object to the middle layer of the sole, the manufacturer can justifiably say that that layer is part of his process, and to change it just for me would be cost prohibitive.
But the case for coating is entirely different, and if the carver chooses not to coat, that decision in no way affects his process, as the coating is optional, it is an extra step. He coats without reason and simply because he chooses to do so. This could be called creative excess or quite simply arrogance, but the judgmental nature of the latter word is not needed to demonstrate that carvers flout the governing principle of economic exchange.
One can argue who has the burden of proof in various ways. Although I may be using it idiosyncratically, what I mean is that it devolves to makers to make the case for coating, and that they have not yet done so. In the absence of a reasonable explanation, from the outside, we see this as capricious, as whim, as “They don’t wanna, and they don’t hafta.” To continue this language, I state that it is their burden to prove, idiosyncratically perhaps, but I “wanna hafta.”
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    emarkle
  • July 14, 2015
First off, kudos for tackling this topic. I've seen more than one pipe-phile throw up his hands in exasperation after vigorous debate over coat vs. no coat.
Here's a rough sketch of my opinion and practice. I coat my bowls as a default. My primary reason for doing this is what I consider to be aesthetically motivated: I like the way a black bowl looks when I'm done. A pipe simply doesn't feel complete until the bowl is coated. This is not a moral position, and I'm not in the least offended if someone requests a pipe without a coating. I don't look down on people who don't like coatings; I view this solely as a matter of preference.
Interestingly enough, I have almost no customers who request their commissions sans coating. I do have at least one buyer who makes purchases at shows (so again, the bowls are coated by default) who does not like coatings, but even when I offer to take the pipe back home and sand the coating out for him, he refuses. He just buys the pipe, sands out the bowl to his liking and smokes it. If I had a majority of commissions requesting no coat, I would likely stop doing so as a default position. Until then, I don't see a reason to stop. I like the way it looks, and honestly, the entire pipe is a product of my preferences so why would this aspect be different?
Just to clarify, the number of commissions I receive asking for no coating is less than 5%.
Anyway, I hope this is helpful for the conversation. Thanks for the read. Carry on!
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    4nogginsmike
  • July 14, 2015
Ernie Markle's response is much appreciated as thus far all the comments about coating have been from pipe smokers. Wanting dialogue with carvers, as without such the issue will simply drag on, I contacted a number of them, and their private email response, saying that in the past discussing the issue as only caused bitterness and discontent, has been neutral.
They are protecting their businesses. They have good reason not to engage. And as open war is painful, and as buyers have options, there is ample reason to discontinue my comments.
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    johnklose
  • July 14, 2015
I'm one of the J's from J&J Pipes. I am in complete agreement with Ernie Markle's perspective.
As carvers it is our job to guarantee a satisfaction of our product/service. We have tried Todd Johnson's experiment ourselves and find it convincing in the result that water glass bowl coating is far more fire retardant than no bowl coating. The reality is that Briar has been used for a very long time because of its natural resistance to heat. In response to Huber's comment on the temperature difference between tea lights and burning tobacco, this is true if you are smoking correctly. I have personally seen people smoke and burnout pipes with bowl coating by smoking as hot as tea lights (myself included in the beginning years). So, the number one cause of burnouts is bad smoking habits (which most of us don't have a problem with). However, large unseen pits can greatly aid a burnout or lead to a burnout, nothing can be done to avoid the unseen. Bowl coating is a precautionary measure, because it HELPS protect your pipe from the unseen, potential bad habits and gives it a finished look. After 100 bowls in a given pipe it hardly matters whether it was coated or not.
It is precautionary, often helpful in cake building and helps us sleep well at night, but in no way is it mandatory!
Cheers!!!
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    caskwith
  • July 14, 2015
I make a good number of pipes each year and a good proportion of those are commissions. Over the years I have had 1 customer request I remove a bowl coating and as far as I recall only 1 commission where it was requested as a bare bowl. Now of course I cannot know how many people have not contacted me about purchases or commissions due to my use of bowls coatings but I can't imagine it to be that many since I am sure anyone who liked my work would at least ask. I understand that people have an opinion and that may influence their purchasing habits, but I can say that it certainly doesn't seem to bother my customers. All I can conclude is it's either because it simply isn't a big deal to most pipe smokers, or those that don't like coatings also don't buy my, or many other artisans, work.
As to my personal motivation, I like the look of a coated bowl, I think the black looks smart and I hate seeing stain spots in the bowl which are a frequent occurrence for me since I blast a lot. The bonus of added protection can't hurt either. Can I say it prevents burn out on my pipes, well no I can't since I have never had a pipe returned due to burnout, if that is because of coatings we will never be able to say.
For what it's worth I have had a few customers say they like my coating having had bad experiences in the past, a few have said they found it neutral, none have said they had a problem with it or had to remove it and the vast majority just don't say anything about the coating.
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    4nogginsmike
  • July 14, 2015
Emailed response to the article from a pipe maker, who wishes to remain anonymous:
My personal view on bowl coating is this: people follow what they believe, wether it is right or wrong. It is ultimately a discussion of opinions, and even if scientific facts were presented, would change very little the opinions and beliefs people hold so dear. People fall in love with their own ideas, opinions can become facts in our fallible minds, and we fiercly and defensively hold on to them. I do not pretent to be immune from this phenomenom. So, all I really have to offer is another opinion, of which I'm sure will be torn apart.
Early in a pipe makers career, especially when he or she decides to make it a career, must decide to coat bowls or not. Once that decision is made, it is better to stick to it. I did experiments with bowl coatings before going at it full time, so there are precious few of my pipes out there with a bowl coating. At first I believed all the hype about protecting a pipe from the initial breaking in period, or giving a pipe a more finished appearance. I did my own experiments with water glass and a micro torch long before there was a youtube video on the subject, and indeed it did protect the wood. But I noticed a few things. One, after a time, the coating slowly turned grey and then white. To me, that ruined whatever "finishing touch" that I was after. Two, I noticed that it would sometimes flake off at the rim, further detracting from the appearance. I'm not saying that all coatings do this, but some do, including pipes from other makers. Three, I noticed that some customers didn't like it, but rarely was there a complaint about an uncoated bowl. So I decided to never again coat another bowl. First because I personally didn't like the appearance, finding an uncoated bowl more beautiful. Second because the pipe buyer needed an informed choice about the condition of the chamber. A bowl coating takes away this choice. Third, there were so many high grade pipes out there without a bowl coating that didn't suffer burnout.
I understand the concept of bowl coatings for appearance sake, yet part of me doesn't understand it. One argument is that bowl coatings cover up stain in the chamber. I'm confused as to why a pipe maker would get stain in the chamber in the first place. During staining, it's not difficult to avoid with a careful hand. A little stain around the inner rim is easy to remove with sandpaper wrapped around a correctly sized dowel. I also don't understand stain bleeding through from the outside into the chamber. Perhaps certain types of stain do this, but it has never been my experience.
I have had some blocks of briar, after drilling, that "tore" at the wood. My method of sanding a chamber is to sand it while it is spinning on the lathe. Even after this, there remained some small remnant of the tear out. It would be easy to cover this up with a bowl coating, and the temptation can sometimes be strong. But I don't, because I believe the buyer needs to see it and make an informed choice whether he/she is bothered by it. As for mail order, they can return it. There is also the temptation to cover up a sand spot. A pipe makers reaction to a sand spot is usually, "will it cause a problem"? Again, my choice is to let the buyer decide, and opt to show all. My experience so far is that I've sold pipes with a sand spot in the chamber, and have yet to have a pipe returned damaged. Anything larger than a small spot doesn't get sold.
Last, and this might make a lot of people angry (especially pipe makers), is that bowl coatings are used to hide stuff. "Stuff" could be stain. It could be sand spots, pits, and down right bigger problems. I know it is done because I've been privy to conversations among other pipe makers that confess to the practice. I've seen pipes in more than one workshop with chamber flaws, and when pressed about it, was told it would be fine once coated. Coatings can be used to cover up a multitude of issues. The more pipes a pipe maker turns out, the percentage of problems becomes greater. So do the pipe makers in question toss it, knowing an otherwise attractive, saleable pipe is at stake? Not when the gas bill is due, he doesn't. Coating bowls from the beginning / early on a career avoids all this. That way it won't ever be questioned by the buyers. The majority of his/her pipes will be absolutely fine. A few will be saved from the garbage, and some unlucky person will buy it. I'm not saying all pipe makers in the bowl coating camp do this, in fact I think just the opposite. The majority are honest guys that really believe adding a coating does something good. But my experience is that some do coat bowls to cover chamber defects, and no, I would never dream of naming or shaming, knowing the damage it would cause to that person. Covering up a problem may not cause a pipe to burn out, but it certainly could cause it. I'm not trying to stir the pot here in troll fashion, but to add a truthful dynamic to the practice of bowl coatings that hasn't been openly discussed. I personally find it unethical and bad business, and it makes me sad. If you think it's a lie and that I'm just trying to cause trouble, then I guess you'll have to go on believing whatever you want to about me, because that's what I believe people do anyway!
___________
This pipe maker makes the comment for me that some makers undoubtedly use coating as a disguise for flaws in the wood or in their workmanship. Not many, not most, but human nature being what it is, the ability to sell what should not be sold, at least not without a disclaimer, in a way begs for misuse. The easy way to get some money from a flawed piece would be to identify, not coverup, the flaw, and depending on what impact it makes on the pipe, sell it at a variable discount.
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    smokershaven
  • July 14, 2015
Burnouts are caused by one of two things.
1. User error - After being behind the counter of a Retail Tobacco shop for over 30 years, I have noticed a pattern of certain customers that have frequent burnouts or the new pipe smoker that is smoking too hot. It usually happens to an uncoated bowl and it usually is in the middle or where the draft hole meets the chamber.
2. Flaw in the briar - And by flaw, I do not mean small pits. Usually it will be a soft spot in the briar that is undetectable to the maker. Again, most of the burnouts that I have seen by flaws occurred in uncoated bowls.
I cannot speak for all pipe makers, but those that I closely work with and communicate with coat the bowls to prevent burnout and for the look. Not 1 of them, coat to hide anything.
There are bad bowl coats, and good bowl coats. It is all in the recipe and application. I have smoked pipes with some nasty bowl coats, and I have smoked many pipes with very good bowl coats. The real good ones are better than bare briar in my opinion.
There are many pipe makers that use the same ingredients I use, which was shared to me by Mike Butera. Mike is the one person I know that has an extraordinary palate. He is still continuously experimenting with curing and bowl coating to further perfect it. Like Mike, other pipe makers including myself have done our own experiments. I am not wary to smoke a bowl coated by an experienced maker that has done the work, or a new maker that is being guided by an experienced one. I would be wary about someone who is new that has not done the work to ensure that there is no issue with their bowl coat.
I do coat my bowls with a non-dairy, edible mixture. It is easily removed with water. Of course, like most other makers, I will always not coat if the customer requests it.
Most Pipe makers are not hiding something when they coat a bowl. At least the ones I know and work with are not.
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    4nogginsmike
  • July 15, 2015
Four carvers have joined the discussion: Eureka! Thank you very much.
I would request that a carver(s) specifically address these issues:
Issue 1) How do you justify controlling the matter? Maybe only a few smokers care about coating, but those that do care care passionately. I cannot think of a single business transaction outside of pipe selling where the person being paid gets to define the qualities of the thing paid for. Well, yes, insurance companies get paid but then turn around and force the definition of what they will pay for down the insured's throat. But big business skullduggery is not what this issue is about. Pipe smoking, buying and selling is much more small scale and intimate.
Thus as the buyer, the one who is paying you to provide the service, there should be no doubt that because I am putting cash in your fist, you work for me; and as we know the employee does what he is told. Period. End of story. And since this is the blatant fact, those of us who abhor coating, and we are not going to go away anytime soon, would implore you to put a coating button on your website. Then the matter can be handled for commissions. But for indirect purchase, simply don't coat. Your stated option would then be to allow the person who buys the pipe to return it to you. You could make them pay postage both ways. You could charge a fee to coat the pipe. You could not allow returns after 30 days. As a person who hates coating I would readily agree to all of these provisions. Since it's going to be my pipe, leave it alone and let me make that decision.
My point is that there are simple, no-fuss solutions out there. But no; you decide that a bowl should be black, so you make it so, and thus if I like that pipe but not the coating, too bad. It's maddening.
Issue 2) In the comments to Mr. Pease's article on coating, "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly," he makes the crippling point that if it were true that makers should scratch what amounts to their coating itch, and thus in their minds "do the right thing for the customer," by coating, scratching the itch, how then do you explain decades of uncoated pipes not having large issues with burnout, before coating came into vogue?
In the end I am not paying you to coat the pipe, whatever your reasons. I am not paying you for your thinking that makes you decide to control the matter. Think whatever you want, but I am paying you for the pipe. You get my money but that's all you get. Once I pay you we are done, and that's as it should be, as I want to be left alone to enjoy the pipe. I bought the pipe and now it is mine; the pipe is mine. What I want as regards the characteristics of the pipe prevails as I am paying for it.
How dare you decide what is good for me? An American pipemaker just told me that in his many years of pipe making, burnout occurs in 1/2000 pipes, which indeed is the fact made over and again in the article and the comments. I'll take that chance; keep your hands off my pipe.
__________
Be back soon with more comments made by anonymous pipemaker X.
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    mattia76
  • July 15, 2015
Well done, Mike!
A few observations on the topic:
1. While people are, and certainly should be, passionate on this subject, I don't think this should be anyone's "hill to die on" in the pipe-smoking world. There are much better things to offend people over. Like Briar Curing times and techniques!
2. I would bet we have all had great smokers come from the coated and non-coated bowls.
3. I personally love the look of a non-coated bowl when I've got a natural stained pipe with great grain. If it's a blasted or rusticated piece, for some reason I never expect it to be uncoated.
4. The only brand I steer clear of because of burnouts are Neerup pipes. I had 2 burnouts on 2 Neerup estates I sold to different buyers that appeared otherwise sound. Some forum research I did at the time confirmed some Neerup problems.
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    caskwith
  • July 16, 2015
Mike I can't agree with your point that this is being forced on customers. The customer is totally free to talk with his/her wallet, if you don't like pipes with bowl coatings, don't buy them, just as if you don't bulldogs, you don't buy them. Nobody is forced to buy a pipe they don't like and there is no shortage of pipes to choose from. If you order a pipe from a maker and don't want a coating, simply ask. You will get one of two answers, either "yes that's fine" or "sorry I always coat bowls", you can then choose whether to continue with that order. As I mentioned before, for all this controversy over bowl coatings, it just simply doesn't factor in my pipe making, out of the many hundreds of pipes I have made (probably over a thousand by now actually) I have had 1 commission request for no coating and 1 request to remove an already coated bowl, I get a few comments each year, nearly always good but for the vast majority of the time it just isn't even mentioned. I have 1 customer who owns 55 of my pipes, he has never even discussed bowls coatings with me, good bad or indifferent. I'll be seeing him next week along with a few other customers at a UK meet, I'll be sure to garner some opinions if I can.
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    4nogginsmike
  • July 16, 2015
Chris, thanks for the reply.
My best thinking at this moment is that coaters and those who moan about coating are two halves of the same person, neither complete without the other, and by dint of some force able to look at the same set of facts with continuing opposite perceptions, and thus opinions. Neither can be persuaded by the other that their position is incorrect. Also because they need each other in some important way, they cannot change the other.
They are destined to talk, war, talk, war for eternity. By definition every problem has a solution, but the status today, and it seems everyday, is that there will be no solution today. So that's it for this post; very short, I know, but I've got at least an hour of typing to do to talk about email conversations that I've been having with carvers. I'll be pounding away at the keys when the fever gets me.
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    caskwith
  • July 16, 2015
I see the solution though, talk to the carver. If you want a pipe with no coating, ask for one. Similarly if you are a person who likes coatings and you see a pipe without one, ask for it to be applied.
If the pipe is already complete and has a coating, don't buy it, instead ask if it can be removed or ask for another to be carved without the coating.
I see no need for war over this, we don't see the acrylic stem lovers fighting with those who make ebonite stems or vice versa and surely that is a much bigger issue?
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    smokershaven
  • July 16, 2015
I will try to address the issues you set forth:
1. This issue is resolved by offering to not bowl coat or remove bowl coat for a customer. Most of us have a very easy to remove coating. If you were to do a survey of say 1000+ pipe collectors that buy artisan pipes and the results are overwhelming for the no coat, maybe that would sway some to not bowl coat on all their pipes, but your preference and the small amount of data you have shown contradicts what the pipe makers customers are telling them. You have a very strong opinion about no coatings, and you have every right to it. Most pipe collectors do not share your strong opinion and there are many that do not share your preference.
2. Not all people think like you do. For many of us pipe makers and pipe collectors, the business is very personal and we become friends and keep in contact. The transaction is not so simple as you have money, you give me money, I give you what you want. There is more to it for us and for our customers. As to the large amounts of uncoated bowls that have no problems: Is the data coming from pipe smokers that smoke pipes properly? If that is the case, then of course, there is little chance that they will ever burn a pipe out. I have never burnt out a pipe smoking normally. I have burnout a pipe smoking real hot while conducting tests. How dare we decide what is good for you? We do not. You do not have to buy pipes from us. We are not forcing them on you. Plus, most of us offer the option to not coat a bowl, or remove a coating.
Mike, I appreciate a strong opinion, and in no way do I have bad feelings toward you or your expression. It is good to discuss these things with respect.
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    4nogginsmike
  • July 16, 2015
I hope no one has taken offense to my strong opinions. At the end of the day everyone has an opinion, and human nature being what it is, many opinions are wrong. Moreover, being Mike, I only perceive and understand what Mike is given to understand; and that is to say that everything I've contributed in the article and in my comments could be wrong. My vehemence, although it says that I am right, does not make me so, and is in no way intended to be disrespectful.
But having been involved with this issue at close quarters for two months, writing the article and then the comments, has, I think, acquainted me with the facts of the matter, and to me the solutions are staring us in the face; and I become impatient with wading through these many, many words in the absence of most carvers' participation, and in the face of so many solutions. Why we have been at this impasse for years, in the face of easy solution, is beyond me.
But first, again, why do carvers coat?
1. to cover errors that either can be fixed or would take too long correct. A pipemaker told me one such error is stain in the bottom of the bowl. Although stain on the sides is not hard to remove, the bottom is. He also said that there are sometimes tool marks in the bowl. Coating is faster than the fix. I was told that some carvers coat every pipe from day one as insurance against the time when they would prefer that their work not be visible.
2. Everybody coats so everyone coats. It is the standard and as such is not questioned. I went to the pipe carver's site and read threads, and no one there discusses the reasons to coat or not coat; they transmit information on how to coat.
3. Despite every long-term gathering of statistics, despite the many decades of successful pipe smoking before the plague of coating broke out, carvers are of the absolutely unfounded opinion that coating prevents burnout. I'd mention names but have been in contact with a number of carvers that do not want their names mentioned, but what they've said is that no one knows what causes burnout, that coated pipes burnout, at a rate of 1/2000 or 1/3000, and uncoated pipes with a flaw as big as a city in the bowl, smoked regularly, do not.
4. They coat as they prefer a black to a wooden bowl. I thought they were concerned about how the buyer perceives the pipe during the seconds that he sees it, feeling that for some reason, a buyer who beholds uncoated briar behold Medusa, and his inclination to buy turned to stone. After listening to carvers, I now feel that they themselves prefer the coated look.
Whatever the mixture of the above, a certain segment of the smoking population finds coating abhorrent. I've been reading however that the number of buyers who state that they don't want a coating is very small, that the largest number of smokers don't care one way or another; but I would wonder how many don't care because they perceived, correctly, that they didn't have a choice, because carvers have obdurately refused to grant it.
It's not my place to insist on anything, but it is disheartening to shop online only to find that most pipes are coated. You know how it is, you're looking for the pipe that has these half-dozen characteristics, and should also have another three or four which are negotiable. After looking for an hour or two, perhaps repeatedly, over the course of a few weeks time, you narrow it down to two or three pipes; and then the time comes to decide. But then you remember that you find coating disgusting and that all three pipes are coated. I wish I could say that at this juncture I say "aw shucks. Should have remembered that makers are obsessed with coating for whatever formulation of reasons that sold them on the idea. Should have remembered that they are an inflexible lot and don't give a flip about what I want even though I paying them for their work. Aw shucks." Believe me, that's not what I say.
I'm sorry but my search for a pipe should not be increased by a factor of 5 or 10 over a feature that is extra, additional, a choice, an add-on. and according to my set of facts, of absolutely no value. I'm not speaking to Mr. Askwith and Mr. Cheddah here, as they have happily considered a flexibility that would accommodate the buyer's coating preferences, but they are not representative of the pipe making community that almost to a man adheres solely to their own fixed choice, brooking no discussion and most certainly no willingness to the flexibility miraculously broached above.
For example, I like the classical shapes of the English school. I usually buy Ashton or Ferndown. However, both are coated. I bought one each in the last year and was very pleased with the pipes but upset about the coating. Why would the majority of makers who are inflexible want to coat so many, many pipes they sell such that my selection process is more a process of exclusion than inclusion, just to find uncoated pipes.
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    smokershaven
  • July 17, 2015
Mike, the question has already been answered. Why do carvers coat? 1. to prevent burnout, 2. for the look. There are other reasons as well. 3. to help with break in, 4. (not any that I work with) to cover up flaws or stain or whatever else.
Again I will say, most carvers will accommodate a customer and not coat a bowl, or remove the coating. There really is nothing that they are hiding. At least most carvers.
The data that the pipe makers you have been in contact with really is not reliable. Unless they were in contact with each and every buyer and followed up with them. There are many people that may have burnouts in their pipes and not contact the pipe maker about it. In order to really get accurate data, you would have to get more than just a few pipe makers to track each and every pipe over a period of years.
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    4nogginsmike
  • July 17, 2015
Thank you for your reply.
I've smoked 16.5 bowls without a burnout; at least that's what I've been saying. Coming clean I did have a Larsen lovat over 10 years ago that suffered grief, not burnout per se, but about a 6 or 7 mm patch on the rim, about 4 mm deep, developed; like a scallop. (Impressiveness in a presentation doesn't come through falsehood; sorry.) But, that's it. 16.5K other smokes without burn damage.
Mr. Pease's findings from several carvers quoted in the article was "Collectively, the burnout rate was less than 1 out of every 1000 pipes."
So we have my record of no burnouts to Mr. Pease's finds of rare burnouts.
In your original post you said:
Burnouts are caused by one of two things.
1. User error - After being behind the counter of a Retail Tobacco shop for over 30 years, I have noticed a pattern of certain customers that have frequent burnouts or the new pipe smoker that is smoking too hot. It usually happens to an uncoated bowl and it usually is in the middle or where the draft hole meets the chamber.
2. Flaw in the briar - And by flaw, I do not mean small pits. Usually it will be a soft spot in the briar that is undetectable to the maker. Again, most of the burnouts that I have seen by flaws occurred in uncoated bowls.
30 years of contact with customers and their pipes. But your observation one in so doing says that most were caused by smoking hot. But the vast majority of customers don't smoke hot as the oral tissues won't let them. As soon as my mouth starts hurting it subtracts at least 50% of the enjoyment, and I'd rather not have that pain, particularly as it means that I can't smoke that next pipe as soon as I would like to smoke it. But my point is that in the end we are responsible for everything we do, everyday, and many of us would say that it's not the carvers' business to protect me from myself. If I blow out a pipe from huffing on it again and again, I'll learn to smoke more slowly. My second point in this regard is that the vast majority of pipe smokers who love the habit or addiction, you choose, don't smoke hot.
The system doesn't like my long posts, so I will post in two parts.
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    4nogginsmike
  • July 17, 2015
Second part of July 17th, 2015 at 8:59 pm
Then too I had a telephone conversation with a carver who has made thousands of pipes, and he said that their is no issue, as his statistics for burnout are as low as mine and Mr. Pease's.
In an email a highly regarded maker told me that burnout was a myth, and that coating was a coverup for mistakes. Another quoted above said the same thing, "Coatings can be used to cover up a multitude of issues."
As a cosmetic to cover stain it works, but who cares about how the interior bowl looks? We put tobacco in the chamber and we can no longer see it, and after a half-dozen bowls the cake covers it, and it is never to be seen again. More, I spend zero time looking inside the bowl when I am deciding about a purchase. It would be of absolutely no moment to me if briar suddenly turned blue after I had spent a lifetime of looking at wood. I'd notice but I simply wouldn't care. I look at design, shaping and finish. Carvers may like a black chamber, but that is only their perception. Some of your customers may like it but as it will very soon vanish, under the cake, why should they? This business of aesthetic appreciation of a coating that is evanescent is the smallest of arguments.
Finally, my revelation for the week about coating came by a dream. Although dreams aren't reality, I think what I understood is important, although controversial, and I will, for the sake of truth, write about it. I'm not saying that there exists a coterie of evil makers, the pipe world's Illuminati pulling the strings of power for self-aggrandizement; nothing of the sort as the percentage of good and bad in pipe makers probably parallels the general population. But like everyone I'm sure they have their faults. The fault in question is a megalomania, accumulated over a career of success and its rewards, and by the ability to craft objects of great beauty, or at least appeal. Humility is not easy to acquire, and success by itself pushes it away. In this matter the rigid adherence to coating that flies in the face of the fact of the rarity of burnout speaks to an over-investment in power and control. My experience just this week testifies to their existence.
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    4nogginsmike
  • July 17, 2015
Mr. Cheddah, I appreciate hearing about your decision to coat or remove coating in any of the pipes you sell. If that's the one idea that comes of all these words, particularly if your influence persuades other makers to do the same, this exchange will be a great success. But what about my Ferndown and Ashton pipes; neither maker has a website. Am supposed to persuade those who have contact information to share it with me, when apparently both prefer making pipes over managing customers, vendors, etc. Tonni Nielsen doesn't have a website, and I'm sure there are others. I called a pipe seller who I thought might have a English-speaking contact person with the Castello organization. He did, and he was helpful, but he couldn't share the number.
It's all fine and good for you to aver that most makers will coat or remove coating, but I think that day waits on a lot of conversation to persuade makers to change what their doing, and what they prefer to do. Most American carvers have their own site, but what about those that don't. My only remedy for getting the Ashton coating removed was smokingpipes, the vendor. When I called to request this customer service told me no. But my reply convinced them that this was serious and would affect my future patronage, and they transferred me to Mr. Swearingen, who was very helpful, telling me to send the pipe to them and they would remove the coating. I did, but when it came back it looked as someone had taken a dozen swipes at the job; 90% of the coating was still there. I was a customer making an unreasonable demand, and I'm sure the employee had other items commanding his attention.
What was I supposed to do? I've tried the job and cut my fingers, and in the process sanded off part of the interior rim. These were $300.00 pipes, and I didn't feel I could proceed.
I was stuck with it, without a remedy. The pipe making culture will need a lot of persuasion to flex to your readiness to accommodate customers with an issue with coating. It's naive, perhaps facile, to think otherwise.
I find a good deal of irritation in the facts that although I am the buyer, the person who has paid to call the pipe mine, that it is for my use and thus should be tailor made to my specifications, that culture insists on a feature over my objection that has no demonstrated purpose. My facts as given above and the makers I have spoken to say the same. It's malarkey, a cover-up, a small twist in the aesthetics of makers who declare how a bowl should look even though no one really cares about a cosmetic that has very little to do with the appeal of a pipe, and for whom those who insist on it, will vanish very quickly.
Then too there are many solutions available, which moves me from irritation to the outcry of my many words.
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    smokershaven
  • July 17, 2015
Mike, There are a few repairmen that offer this service for a small fee. They do an excellent job at it. It is difficult to take out some bowl coats that do not dissolve with water, and sanding them out is the only way.
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    ssjones
  • July 18, 2015
Wow, you are really over-thinking this.
I'm with Chris Askwith:
"Mike I can’t agree with your point that this is being forced on customers. The customer is totally free to talk with his/her wallet, if you don’t like pipes with bowl coatings, don’t buy them"
And by the way, Chris is a maker of those "right bowl coatings" I described in my earlier post. I smoked a new, coated Askwith alongside and new, uncoated Bretagne Ligner and noticed no difference in the taste but the Askwith broke in much sooner. My Chris Askwith WAS THE PIPE that made me a fan of the RIGHT bowl coatings.
If this subject was a horse, consider it severely beaten.
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    4nogginsmike
  • July 18, 2015
Yes, I think I will taper off or perhaps even stop posting. I'm repeating myself and the participants have become few. I want to thank all of the participants, especially Messrs. Askwith and Cheddah, for supplying the sorely needed carver viewpoint.
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    4nogginsmike
  • July 22, 2015
From my 7/14 post, quoting a pipe maker who wished to remain anonymous:
People follow what they believe, wether it is right or wrong. It is ultimately a discussion of opinions, and even if scientific facts were presented, would change very little the opinions and beliefs people hold so dear. People fall in love with their own ideas, opinions can become facts in our fallible minds, and [originally "fiercly"; and with ferocity] defensively hold on to them."
When two camps can look at the same easily understandable facts, something important is being missed. Missed why? Something involving self/brain/mind, worthy of at least as many words in this thread and not readily incorporated in an online magazine about pipes and tobacco.
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    napalmbbq
  • October 3, 2015
So beyond aesthetics what other effects do bowl coatings cause? Taste?
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    billkay
  • February 17, 2016
I'm astonished that one key variable in this has been totally overlooked: the taste that a given piece of briar imparts, even after long use. Family-era Barling YOWs, pre-60s Dunhill black shells and Castellos are justly renowned for the way they taste. It's not that other pipes can't or won't be equally good, but the consistency with which these deliver this is legendary, and accounts for no small part of their reputations/value.
Conversely, a pipe made from inadequately boiled-out or improperly/inadequately cured briar will taste like crap and alienate a customer (who is likely to post his experience with it, besmirching a carver's good name over something he has no control over). And some briar, in terms of taste, is just garbage, pretty or not.
Artisan pipe crafters, no matter how accomplished technically and aesthetically, are at the mercy of their briar source(s). That's an uncomfortable place -- especially when your livelihood's riding on customer experiences with your products, and you're not such an important customer that you get the creme de la creme.
The solution ? Insulate the briar from the tobacco smoked in it by a bowl coating. It's a CYA strategy, and a good one. What may have been a really great tasting pipe will will have its flavor muffled as a result, but at least it will never taste bad. As Chuck Noll observed, "In order to win, you first have to not lose." And to most smokers, that's complete satisfaction right there. As witnessed by the sheer number of coated bowls in the marketplace. And leading at the same time to the widespread comprehension that the step-up from a well made mass-produced pipe to an artisan will be in aesthetics, finish and airway fine tuning with the taste of them being essentially indistinguishable.
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