Ask Hank #3

A. Miller
Whew. That was a holiday season. Am I right? I had two solid weeks of family visiting, first my family and then my wife’s. It was…. Well, let’s just say sometimes my tobacco stockpile feels wholly insufficient. I did enjoy a number of bowls of Daughters & Ryan Rimboche S.J. Do yourself a favor and don’t write that off as a roll-your-own tobacco. I’m very impressed with the quality of that smoke and will be buying many more.

Most of the time I was smoking my cobs while sledding down a much-too-steep-for-comfort hill outside of Westbend, WI. Who decides to fly to Wisconsin for winter instead of a place like Florida? I don’t know. Apparently I’m a moron (I know you wouldn’t know it from my answers in this column). But our flight did manage to land in the midst of the snow storm that gave us our 18 inch cushion for sledding. So it’s not all bad.

Anyhow, I had some good questions from far and wide come in this month. Keep ’em coming.

Dear Hank,

I’m awful at predicting the future, but am a keen observer nonetheless. With as many great craftsmen around today, there has been a revival of cool pipe accessories. Handmade tampers, trays to prepare flake tobacco in, better pipe bags than ever before, stone ashtrays, clever pipe racks, and the list goes on and on. What is the next great pipe smoking accessory?

My wallet thanks you,
The Opportunist in Michigan

Dear Opportunist in Michigan,

I appreciate the question. First of all, it is truly an unprecedented time to be in our hobby. There are incredibly skilled craftsmen out there spending all of their energy focusing on the things we love. I’ve seen pipe racks built with more complexity and beauty than an old sports car. I’ve seen pipe bags built with a whole cow hide and fashioned without a single cut or seam, simply folded like an origami to perfectly handle as many as three pipes even leaving room for tools and tobacco.

I’m personally excited about the upcoming hookah hat which looks something like a beer helmet, but holds a water filter on one side and a large bowl of tobacco on the other. The hose hangs down within reach of your lips for easy hands-free smoking. Perfect for those times when you want your hands free and a bucket-load of tobacco.

Unrelated but also interesting, a well known artisan carver was recently seen at a pipe show holding an Apple Pencil that he had whittled down to double as a tamper, I suspect we’ll see more like this in time to come.

The Pipe Lanyard has been available for a few months now and I see very little mention of it. Basically it’s a lanyard that can be worn around the neck and attaches to a pipe. It sounds simple, and it really is. But rather than needing a specific type of pipe for stuffing in a jacket pocket (and a jacket designed to hold it), this allows for all kinds of pipes to be worn over your shirt and jacket for quick access and convenience. Like the chords that loop around the back of the head to keep glasses firmly in place, these can be a fashion statement in themselves. It allows people who don’t smoke from dawn to dusk to still accessorize with their pipes or the lanyard can simply be a practical way to carry your most prized Dr. Grabow.

I also suspect we’ll soon be seeing leather wrapped pipes again. I’d personally like to see someone do something in the arena of pipe socks, perhaps a type that could double as athletic socks.

For now these are the trends. You heard it here first.

Typing this from my tamper/keyboard,

Dear Hank,

First, I must solicit your strictest confidence in this transaction. This is by virtue of its nature, as being utterly confidential.

I am Prince Alyusi Islassis of Nigeria, interested in exportation of tobacco pipes into your country for sale/profit. However, by virtue of my position as royalty, I cannot export these pipes in my name. I have therefore I am looking for an overseas partner into whose garage I would like transfer the following: 120,765 Peterson Pipes, 14,540 Chacom Pipes, 201,121 Savinelli Pipes, and 78,355 Caminetto Pipes. Hence I am writing you this letter, I can agree to share these pipes thus: 20% to you for the use of your garage, 80% for me to sell upon arrival in your country.

Please note this transaction is 100% safe and I hope to commence the shipment within four business dates. For questions please contact information tel: 234-1-7740449.

I am looking forward to doing this business with you and solicit your confidentiality in this transaction. Please acknowledge the receipt of this letter using the above tel/fax numbers. I will send you detailed information of this pending project when I have heard from you.

Yours faithfully,
Prince Alyusi Islassis

Dear Prince Alyusi Islassis,

Please send one Caminetto Billiard to 
Hank, C/O Kevin Godbee
1602 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington DC

I’m afraid I simply don’t have the room for the rest.

Thanks for thinking of me though. I recognize there are a lot of people in this world to whom you could have sent this email, and I’m flattered to have been the only one you considered. A prince, who would have thought!


Dear Hank,

A long time ago I read an article that said you’re an alcoholic if you drink first thing in the morning and do things like hide alcohol around the house. I find myself doing this with my pipes. Am I addicted? Am I a tobaccoaholic?

How much smoking is too much?

Tobaccoholic in Cincinnati

Dear Tobaccoholic in Cincinnati,

There is a simple axiom to remember. Too much smoking is defined as two more bowls than you were able to smoke that day.

Chain Smoking in Moderation,

Dear Hank,

I’ve been discussing the topic of what activity pairs best with pipe smoking with a few of my friends. One insists there is nothing better than fishing while smoking, the other says he prefers to enjoy his pipe while playing cards. I personally am partial to working in my workshop while puffing on a cob.

Can you put the argument to rest for us? What is the best activity to pair with pipe smoking?

Planning to win the argument in Portland.

Dear Planning to Win the Argument in Portland,

This is indeed a common question among pipe enthusiasts. It has been my experience that most people asking these kinds of questions aren’t much of pipe smokers themselves, they want an excuse to smoke a pipe. Perhaps they haven’t yet fully been given over to the dark side of TAD and PAD. I, personally, do not need an excuse to smoke, and find I quite enjoy myself simply smoking and staring at a wall. But I realize I do not represent everyone.

Lucky for you I have access to a controlled twice-blind study conducted by Washington State University in 1959 (when pipe smoking was still worth researching). This study took participants from all walks of life and surveyed the activities that most enhanced the enjoyment of pipe smoking. Participants were each given the same Medico Brylon pipe (no study is perfect) and the same tins of Prince Albert and asked to participate in both their daily activities and then a few unusual ones. The study took place over several months and in many states throughout the country and found out for us, with incredible objectivity, the five best activities to pair with our sport.

Presented here in order (#1 being the best activity to pair with pipe smoking):
5) Skydiving.
4) Beating an obnoxious non-smoking relative in a very active sport.
3) Holding a fishing pole and acting like you’re fishing in the presence of other’s who are actually fishing.
2) Relieving oneself in the woods.
1) Smoking a second pipe made of briar and packed with a premium tobacco.

So there you have it. The best activity to pair with smoking a pipe is smoking a second pipe. God gave us two hands, coincidence?

The issue is henceforth settled.

Smoking two pipes at once since ’59,

Dear Hank,

I think my wife is cheating on me. Lately she has been encouraging me to spend more time at the tobacco store and pipe lounge. At first I thought she was just being nice, but then I started noticing empty wine glasses in the sink whenever I returned home from the lounge. Suspiciously, one time the bed that she had already made that morning was unmade.

So, I decided to try and catch her in the act. I told her I was going out to the pipe lounge for a couple of hours but instead of leaving, I slipped into the den and hid behind my pipe cabinet.

Then I noticed it.

Several of my best pipes had excessive rim scorching. What do you recommend as the best method to buff out rim scorching?

Scorched in Seattle

Dear Scorched in Seattle,

I’m genuinely heartbroken to hear that you didn’t notice this earlier. Rim scorching is indeed a problem requiring your immediate attention. About 12 years ago I had a brief period where I got lazy and didn’t give my pipes the love and attention they deserved. Later I found I had grown so indifferent to a few of them, I let others walk away with them without a second thought.

Now, on to your actual issue. How to tackle such a problem. What works best for me seems to be to start with something extremely
coarse and then work my way down to something finer. For example, I like to take my finer pipes out to the street and hold them bowl down to the blacktop, with about 20-40 seconds of rubbing back and forth on the pavement I can usually get rid of the big patches of black. A good piece of blacktop will have anywhere from a 1-3 grit (the number of sharp points per square inch). Some neighborhoods that rely heavily on a smooth tar finish won’t suffice and you’ll have to visit an old elementary school or mall to find the good stuff.

I then find my cement driveway makes a good in-between grain, if I had to spitball it, I would guess this is somewhere more in the 10-20 grit range. Once that has really begun to smooth things out and you begin to notice a bit of the original shine, I move on to the steel wool we keep by our sink for tough to remove food.

After you’ve gone through these motions (and I recognize buffing is a slow and tedious process), your pipes will be as good as new. I’ve tried this with much success on a Savinelli Alligator, an Eltang, and a small billiard my cousin Billy hand-carved for me.

Don’t forget to care for your pipes. Smoke em dry, keep em cool, and my goodness, never grow so indifferent you miss rim scorching.

Genuinely horrified as I read your account and pictured those poor pipes,

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