Advantages of Factory Pipes

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mso489

Lifer
Feb 21, 2013
38,067
47,364
Artisan pipes are generally believed to be superior to factory pipes. One artist/craftsperson does the whole pipe with undivided attention and usually a comprehensive understanding of the whole process, from selecting the materials, to drilling, to applying the finish to exacting standards. In many cases the price reflects this extra quality.

However, most pipe factory craftspeople are long-experienced and trained under watchful eyes. There is an advantage to turning out hundreds or thousands of pipe on the same design, and repeating the same drilling, carving, and finishes, over and over, in a highly uniform way. There are usually few surprises, and the uniformity in design makes flaws stand out, for quality control.

So not everything about factory pipes is inferior. There can be advantages, and certainly, except with a few brands, the prices are much more moderate with factory products.
 

anotherbob

Lifer
Mar 30, 2019
11,288
21,339
44
In the semi-rural NorthEastern USA
It's like you reached into my brain and then edited everything into a much clearer and more articulate form.
Another thing I've thought with factory pipes is the person doing the shaping or the drilling does that and only has to be good at the thing they do. I also think it's funny that before the internet I thought a hand made pipe made by an artisan was done more like factory pipes are. In fact I think most people would be surprised how not automated and factory pipes are, I think they'd consider it hand made. Almost like it's more team versus solo project.
Finally both have advantages and disadvantages. And price isn't necessarily an indication of quality, but of time. In fact the first thing I heard about why artisans are worth more wasn't they smoke better but that the carver works with the wood instead of starting with a template. They can see how the grain is forming how it's coming out. They can change the shape to deal with pitting.
 
I am so glad to see this thread start. Factory pipes can do miraculous things in terms of smoke. I find it interesting that if one really wants that $1000 smoke, having a pipe man open the draft and work on the bit end the stem that goes into the mouth can usually be enough to ensure that the pipe will smoke as well as anything that is out there.

What are your thoughts?
 

J-Evverrett

Starting to Get Obsessed
Dec 17, 2021
198
429
39
Meriden, CT
I believe a good number of makers have designed pipes for stanwell over the years. I agree on the benefits of factory pipes also. They have a consistent quality that is reliable, and with different brands you come to know what you’re getting. Im not certain it is restricted to the larger names either. There has to be a reason Dr Grabow sells so many pipes every year.
 

clynch

Starting to Get Obsessed
Feb 3, 2013
262
612
Pensacola Florida
Boswell pipes are artisan and their prices are great for artisan. Anywhere from 150- 500 with most in the middle. I also love factory pipes. I'd like to get a fine fun example from each major player. I LOVE my Petersen System Ebony. Black shiny smooth and beautiful. I want an Irish pipe from them because they are Irish. When I see a new model come out for St Patrick's day that I want, I'll grab it. Factories do make an effort to keep the prices down. You can get a fine factory pipe for 100 or less and if you want more bling the cost goes up with each sparkle. No wonder you guys own dozens and dozens of pipes. I don't expect to have a lot of pipes. I sneezed and the my Savaneli was joined by 6 other pipes in as many months. I have slowed down on purchasing. Still the new factory pipe on smokingpipes.com is only an advertisement away. Wife going to shoot me.
 

Briar Lee

Part of the Furniture Now
Sep 4, 2021
756
1,736
Humansville Missouri
I am so glad to see this thread start. Factory pipes can do miraculous things in terms of smoke. I find it interesting that if one really wants that $1000 smoke, having a pipe man open the draft and work on the bit end the stem that goes into the mouth can usually be enough to ensure that the pipe will smoke as well as anything that is out there.

What are your thoughts?
There was a time within living memory of very old men when the huge American pipe makers churned out millions of pipes a year, and each one made by hand on machines from a cured (and hopefully aged) chunk of briar.

Already by then. the standardization of shapes of pipes meant each large maker was making essentially the same product, stamping different brands on the shank.

Grabow did it more efficiently and advertised more effectively, and today is the last truly large producer of briar pipes in America.

Lee used three ways to differentiate his product. First, each pipe was graded and gold stars inletted into the stem. Second, Lee used a Kaywoodie style screw stem with a removable stinger. It must have been cheaper to make push stems, as this feature disappeared on the last Lees. The third thing Lee did was chose only the finest briar, oil cure it, and then have the most skillful craftsmen available make it. Lee pipes are all perfect smokers. On Three Star Grade and better there are no fills. I’ve never been able to improve one by drilling out the air passage. While the Pre War Kaywoodie Flame Grains are the highest expression of an American factory pipe, of American factory pipes made after the war Lee is by far the best, of a good lot of well made, excellent pipes.

Peterson today is the finest maker of affordable production pipes. But all my Petersons have a hard shell finish no early Kaywoodie or any Lee would have been allowed to have. It’s attractive and durable, but a fine pipe ideally has little or no stain and no varnish used to make it.

Most factory smokers are improved by drilling out the air passage.

Lee got it right the first time.
 

mso489

Lifer
Feb 21, 2013
38,067
47,364
Dr. Grabow makes or made a beautifully turned Royalton bulldog. I think the carver who made those has retired, since I no longer see them offered new. If an artisan pipe were made with that elegantly turned briar, I believe they would charge quite a bit. It illustrates, there are artisans at the pipe factories.
 
There was a time within living memory of very old men when the huge American pipe makers churned out millions of pipes a year, and each one made by hand on machines from a cured (and hopefully aged) chunk of briar.

Already by then. the standardization of shapes of pipes meant each large maker was making essentially the same product, stamping different brands on the shank.

Grabow did it more efficiently and advertised more effectively, and today is the last truly large producer of briar pipes in America.

Lee used three ways to differentiate his product. First, each pipe was graded and gold stars inletted into the stem. Second, Lee used a Kaywoodie style screw stem with a removable stinger. It must have been cheaper to make push stems, as this feature disappeared on the last Lees. The third thing Lee did was chose only the finest briar, oil cure it, and then have the most skillful craftsmen available make it. Lee pipes are all perfect smokers. On Three Star Grade and better there are no fills. I’ve never been able to improve one by drilling out the air passage. While the Pre War Kaywoodie Flame Grains are the highest expression of an American factory pipe, of American factory pipes made after the war Lee is by far the best, of a good lot of well made, excellent pipes.

Peterson today is the finest maker of affordable production pipes. But all my Petersons have a hard shell finish no early Kaywoodie or any Lee would have been allowed to have. It’s attractive and durable, but a fine pipe ideally has little or no stain and no varnish used to make it.

Most factory smokers are improved by drilling out the air passage.

Lee got it right the first time.
5A46D3C6-1D60-4B49-BD0C-65206053D3A6.jpeg
E4C2450F-9D7A-4C21-A3D0-C958776DA02B.jpeg
I beg to disagree.
 

FurCoat

Lifer
Sep 21, 2020
5,234
43,634
North Carolina
Dr. Grabow makes or made a beautifully turned Royalton bulldog. I think the carver who made those has retired, since I no longer see them offered new. If an artisan pipe were made with that elegantly turned briar, I believe they would charge quite a bit. It illustrates, there are artisans at the pipe factories.
I was fortunate to pick one up.20210526_185314.jpg
 

sablebrush52

The Bard Of Barlings
Jun 15, 2013
15,884
27,938
SoCal
jrs457.wixsite.com
Artisan pipes are generally believed to be superior to factory pipes.
Not by collectors familiar with both. I have both factory made and artisan made pipes and find no inherent superiority on either side. My Piersels, Von Erik’s, Fillenwarths, Ruthenbergs, Talberts, Tatums, etc smoke wonderfully well, but so do my Barlings, Sasienis, Comoys, Kaywoodies, Brebbias, etc.
As for widening the airway, I find that’s a choice, not a necessity.
A well performing pipe is a well performing pipe wherever it comes from.
 

Sharp_tungsten

Starting to Get Obsessed
Aug 25, 2021
223
381
Evans City Pennsylvania
Not by collectors familiar with both. I have both factory made and artisan made pipes and find no inherent superiority on either side. My Piersels, Von Erik’s, Fillenwarths, Ruthenbergs, Talberts, Tatums, etc smoke wonderfully well, but so do my Barlings, Sasienis, Comoys, Kaywoodies, Brebbias, etc.
As for widening the airway, I find that’s a choice, not a necessity.
A well performing pipe is a well performing pipe wherever it comes from.
Need saseini help. Family era and it says Perth on it. 4 dot. Would this be a good oil cured one?
 
  • Like
Reactions: Ronv69
Jun 23, 2019
1,542
10,470
I would argue if you're grain-hunting, it's almost a mathematical guarantee that 'factory pipes' will have a superior grain pattern - your favorite solo dolo shop probably sees a couple hundred blocks a year and the best grain is the best grain, whereas a factory will probably see a couple orders of magnitude more pipes. Inevitably, you'll find more unicorn grains.
 

mso489

Lifer
Feb 21, 2013
38,067
47,364
White Spot/Dunhill pipes are most certainly factory pipes, made in many duplicates of the same shape and finish, and among the most expensive factory pipes. Whether they are suitable to their price, they are extremely handsome to me. I think the pricing is a marketing accomplishment.

The factory has been the training ground for many superlative artisan pipe carvers, including Les Wood, who made Ferndown pipes for many years. As I note from time to time, in the 1950's, Kaywoodie pipes were the primo pipe on the market in the U.S., and Dunhill's ran second. Neither was as expensive, relatively, as White Spots are today.
 

sablebrush52

The Bard Of Barlings
Jun 15, 2013
15,884
27,938
SoCal
jrs457.wixsite.com
Of curse they had pits. They were an inexpensive, mass produced pipe.

That doesn't make them bad smokers, just not nearly the level of quality from the standpoint of flawlessness that some need to believe and portray.

Amongst the mass of classic American made pipes, Pipes by Lee wasn't even a blip on the radar. But maybe giving them some acknowledgement that they exist isn't a bad thing as they may present a good affordable alternative that's been largely overlooked.