Hank 15: Fast Smoking and Pipetroversion

A. Miller
In January of 1997 I opened a mason jar and blew a puff of Vanilla Cavendish in the top before racing to throw a lid on the top. I then buried that mason jar under the steps of a mountain cabin a friend of mine has near Vail.

It’s been twenty years and I decided it was time to go open that jar and smell the smell of twenty-year old smoke. I have wondered since High School, does smoke age as well tobacco?

The answer is no. There. I saved you a lifetime of wondering. And hopefully I also spared you the weirdness of digging up a jar under the stairs of a cabin your friend sold a long time ago. The flood lights came on, there was some screaming and a barking dog. It was really very awkward.

Let’s get to some questions.

Dear Hank,

I attended a couple of pipe shows this year and participated in the slow smoking contest at each. I was never even in the final 10 contestants, but I did give it everything I had. As the new year rolled around I determined I would make it a resolution of mine in 2017 to win a slow smoking contest.

No sooner did I make the resolution, and communicate it to my wife, than I realized this was a terrible idea. I have zero desire to be the best at prolonging a bowl of tobacco. In fact, if there is one thing I’m good at, it’s smoking through a two ounce tin in less than a day.

I’d like to propose a fast smoking contest—who can get through the most tobacco the fastest dammit. This is what really matters. Do you have any connections with the folks who run pipe shows to make this happen?

Making an affordable habit expensive,
Chimney Dan

Dear Chimney Dan,

While I am connected to a few of the fine folks who run slow smoking contests and even the pipe shows themselves, I have some bad news. I save and then expend any personal capital I have with these people schmoozing my way in to the most exclusive pipe lounges in America. I’m afraid that, while I see your cause as a good one, I don’t feel it’s worthy enough to keep me out of the backroom at the few places I’ve selected for 2017.

What I can do is strongly encourage your habit, introduce you to a few blends that you’ll love (and for which I’ll receive royalties). I can also teach you a few tricks I’ve learned over the years about smoking quickly.

1) Never sit calmly if you’re in a hurry to get through a bowl. Find some sort of focused activity to ensure you never slow down enough to relax in to a smooth and careful rhythm. I suggest shoveling a snowy driveway, watching a football team you despise win a game, or advising a neighbor on steak grilling technique.

2) Find a wide-drilled pipe, most high-quality briar make terrible quick smokers as they’re simply not drilled wide enough. If you have the tools to make your own pipe, make a chamber about 2.5 inches in diameter and at least as deep, then drill a shank with a quarter inch diameter. Your bit will need to be a work of art, but it’s worth it.

3) Conventional wisdom would tell you to stay away from high-nicotine blends, but that’s because most people stop smoking as soon as they begin to sweat from nicotine overload. I say most people, because only a select few of us have pushed through it to where we’ve seen the light. Once you’re past the nic-sweats, you’ll begin something of an out-of-body experience. A feeling where you’ll be able to smoke at least twice as quickly, and you’ll just feel better and better. Push through, it’s worth it.

4) Smoke a clay, stone, or exhaust pipe, as fast smoking can cause the bowl to get excessively hot and might crack. Clay, stone, and exhaust pipes can take the heat.

5) Take lots and lots of selfies, post them to the forums or on social media and brag about how fast you’ve gotten. Not only will you become the talk of the town, it’s your best chance for getting sponsored by a budget tobacco blend to quick-smoke full time.

I hope this helps. If we ever run in to one another at a pipe show, I’ll challenge you to a quick-smoking duel. May the best man win.


Dear Hank,

I’m a cigarette smoker of 20+ years. About a month ago I was watching television and noticed that cartoon characters who smoke a pipe seem to be able to go anywhere, do anything, all while smoking a pipe. They can battle, dance, battle dance, and even woo women, all without taking the pipe out of their mouth. I knew I had to try it, and the local tobacconist was able to fix me up with a briar pipe and a couple of ounces of something cavendish that I seem to really be enjoying.

I’m a few weeks in, and I now know the pipe will do in place of my need for a cigarette, but I’m still getting used to smoking a pipe, any pointers?


Dear Freddie,

I have four children aged 6-8 (yes it’s as crazy as it sounds) and I distinctly recall a few years ago when one of them pointed at someone smoking a cigarette and asked me, “Daddy, what’s that?”

I’m sure they had seen cigarettes before, but this was the first they took notice. To this question I crouched low and looked my kids eye-to-eye and answered, “That’s called a cigarette. When people aren’t awesome enough yet to smoke a pipe, that’s what they smoke. It’s way worse for their health than a pipe, and it tastes terrible, but they just haven’t seen the light yet. When you see someone smoking a cigarette, just think of them as a future pipe-smoker.”

On behalf of every pipe-smoker everywhere I’d like to welcome you to the other side. You’ll note that the variety of flavors is incredible over here. The grass is greener (and the leaf is slightly darker), the people are kinder and more beautiful, and folks say things like, “No no, keep smoking, I love the smell of pipe-smoke.”

And yes, like the cartoon characters you mentioned, there is literally nothing I can’t do while smoking a pipe. If I have done it without a pipe in my mouth, I have done it with a pipe in my mouth.

Just allow your mind to wander for a moment.

Now let me fill in the details. I have shopped for groceries with a pipe in my mouth. I have ridden a motorcycle, run a race, shaken my cane in anger at youths at the mall, ridden a skateboard, and performed open heart surgery—all while smoking a pipe. It can be done.

As for pointers? Nah. You got this.

I’m glad you’ve seen the light (in your bowl, instead of at the tip of your cigarette),

Dear Hank,

What is more important, alone time at home in my leather chair smoking a pipe, or the ability to have a normal social interaction without thinking about how much I’d rather be smoking than talking to this imbecile?

Pipetroverted Steve

Dear Pipetroverted Steve,

The ability to handle “normal social interaction” is vastly overrated. For example, every time I am invited over to someone’s house I am sure to bring along a vest-pocket pipe. After dinner when I pull out my pipe and light it up people almost always act astonished. I’ve even been kicked out of a house on an occasion or two.

I have to say, if this is “normal social interaction”, I personally want nothing to do with it.

And you’re right, almost everyone you can meet on the street is a complete imbecile. Just the other day someone wanted to talk with me about dogs. I’m sure dogs are interesting and all, but as my grandfather used to say, “If I can’t eat it, drink it, or smoke it, I don’t want anything to do with it.” And frankly what is a dog except for an offensive flavor found in some of my older (poorly sealed) tobaccos?

If I’m to be spending time conversing with someone, I’d like it to be about one of three topics in this order:

1) Pipes
2) Tobacco
3) Everyday objects which can be used as tampers

I must take my position (as the writer of this column) to highly advise against getting out and meeting people. If they’re not already at your local B&M or pipe club chapter, they’re probably not worth knowing.

And you did mention your chair is made of leather right? Frankly I’m a bit confused why there is any question here.

Pipes are the best kind of people,

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