Article On "The Myth of Brand and Maker in Pipesmoking" Good Read

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rx2man

Preferred Member
May 25, 2012
586
0
The Myth of Brand and Maker in Pipesmoking
By Dr. Fred Hanna, Ph.D
http://www.greatnorthernpipeclub.org/Myth.htm

 

mrjerke

Preferred Member
Jun 10, 2013
1,317
0
Midwest
Interesting read. Good to know it doesn't take a ton of money to own a fantastic smoker. I myself have an old Comoy's that was very cheap that is one of my best smokers.

 

mso489

Preferred Member
Feb 21, 2013
27,639
3,664
I agree with Hanna on the major point, that excellent smoking pipes can be found at nearly all price levels.

I think at the low end, you have to exert a lot of energy shopping to be sure you're getting something that

has a good probability of smoking well. The joy and prestige of smoking a high-end pipe has a lot to do

with the beauty of its craftsmanship and quality as a piece of wood and stem sculpture -- which I think

is an excellent reason to pay a lot for a pipe, not a misunderstanding of why you are paying a lot. The

principles of pipe engineering are both simple and subtle. The lower end pipe makers have the advantage

of not having to figure out the optimal engineering with each pipe, in terms of bowl size, airway width and

length, and so on. A good design properly executed can produce a good pipe ninety-plus percent of the

time. Whereas an artisanal pipe must be subject to judgement for each original piece. But the pipe smoker

who can never pay more than seventy bucks, or fifty bucks for a pipe can reach the heights with most of his/her

pipes if the purchases are made carefully.

 

sfsteves

Preferred Member
Aug 3, 2013
1,282
0
SF Bay Area
I've subscribed to this line of thinking for more than 35 years ... long discussion with the owner of a high-end pipe/tobacco shop in Orange, CA taught me that technical perfection and name recognition are far greater drivers of price than is smoking quality ... the best smoking pipe I ever owned was a 'second' that did not command top price due to a 'flaw' in the grain pattern ... oddly enough, that 'flaw' was on the bottom of the bowl, so neither I nor any observer could possibly see that 'flaw' and far more than the Ivory Soap percentage of folks couldn't understand why it was considered flawed, even when it was pointed out to them ...
As a result, ONLY the second pipe I ever bought was decided upon based on name recognition ... since then, my purchase decisions have been based on other factors, chief among them being whether the pipe appealed to me ... sure, I've ended up with a few less than wonderful pipes, but I'm not heavily invested in them meanwhile the overwhelming majority of my purchases have been highly satisfactory smokers ...

 

sablebrush52

Preferred Member
Jun 15, 2013
10,248
2,262
Good to know it doesn't take a ton of money to own a fantastic smoker.
It never has. People get sucked into the myth of brands. That's precisely why billions are spent on advertising and promotion. One of my best pipes is an Ehrlich that I picked up for $2. One of my worst pipes is a Pre-Trans Barling that cost nearly 200 times more than the Ehrlich.
A good smoking pipe can be bought for a modest sum. The factors involved in super pricey pipes revolve around factors other than smoking quality.
That is one of my favorite articles.

 

ravkesef

Preferred Member
Aug 10, 2010
2,531
14
Cheshire, CT
Some of my best smokers are basket pipes, along with a handful of GBD and Charatan rejects. Sure, they're marked as such, but I'm the only one who can see that, along with the minor cosmetic flaws that led to their rejection in the final inspection. And like Sable, I've got an Ehrlich poker that I picked up for $2 in 1970 and I'll stack it against any pipe costing many times as much.

 

bigvan

Preferred Member
Mar 22, 2011
2,193
0
I'm going to respectfully disagree with Dr. Hanna (as well as with quite a few of you). Yes, we all have inexpensive pipes that smoke very well. But if I had to define what makes a "good smoking" pipe, I would say it's a combination of good wood, proper curing, good engineering, expert carving and a comfortable stem - or at least that's how I define a good smoking pipe. If you disagree then you can stop reading right now, because if we can't define our terms then definitions are impossible.
Anyway, all of the above factors take time and attention to create. Yes, it's possible that an excellent piece of briar can find its way onto an assembly line of basket pipes, but will that block also be well cured, drilled and cut perfectly and fitted with a comfortable and high quality stem? Possibly, but unlikely. I believe it's attention to detail that will yield a "good smoking pipe". And either you believe high end factories like Dunhill or Castello, or individual artisan carvers pay this requisite amount of attention to these details, and therefore charge more for their time and materials, or you don't.
Also, if you think that the overall beauty of the pipe lends to the overall smoking experience, then there's no "myth of brand".
And though it's a great article, until we can all agree on a definition of what a "good smoking pipe" is, all we're left with are opinions.

 

rx2man

Preferred Member
May 25, 2012
586
0
For our veterans the article is nothing new. I am still learning about pipes and their making. Junkyarddawg and bigvan sum it up nicely. When you buying a high end pipe you are paying for a pretty piece of wood or should be lol. The engineering and bit comfort are expected. Dropping down in price it is up to the buyer to be educated and know what to look for to get a diamond in the rough, which sablebrush touched on.

 

settersbrace

Preferred Member
Mar 20, 2014
1,565
0
I read Fred's essay when it first came out in the NASPC news letter and more recently again on the kindle edition of his book. I agree now as I did then that Fred is correct although I respect the opinions of the counter arguments of which there are many. My own experience from back when I could afford some of the big name hand mades and some old school estates taught me that there is the possibility of getting a poor smoking pipe at any price point as well as finding that magic smoker, again at any price point. When you work hard for your disposable income, its devistating to find out you got a lousy smoker that only looks like it should smoke like a dream. One of my best ever smokers was an old Wally Frank that I got off E-Bay with a lot of estates for like $50. As I learn more about crafting pipes, it's obvious that there are many, many things the pipe maker can do on his or her part to insure the best possible smoke and that includes selecting the right pieces of briar. The clincher for me is having had pipes that were drilled poorly, had thin walls, etc. yet still despite all those issues, smoked extremely well.
The briar vs. brand debate is like the Kennedy assassination, some people believe one scenerio, others don't. We just have to stick to what works best for each individual.

 

cosmicfolklore

Preferred Member
Aug 9, 2013
19,193
3,037
Outer Space
Sure, a Kia or 74 Pinto may get you to and from work just as well as any luxury car, but some cars just get you to work with more style :wink:

 

allan

Preferred Member
Dec 5, 2012
2,429
1
Bronx, NY
This can be a touchy subject. Individuals' disposable income varies as well as the desire to use that income on non necessities also varies.
As Ae1p points out, I've seen videos of people drinking what they thought was 'Evian' water when the bottles were filled with the garden hose outside the restaurant. The interviews of the patrons were predictable, "ahh, the flavor, the taste", etc.
Having said that, if I was in the income bracket to only afford Dr Grabow pipes, that would be just fine for me. I don't drink wine, and really could not tell the difference if the waiter gave me the cork to study under electron microscope or not. Yet I acknowledge that those people who really know, can tell the difference. Granted, at someone's house who was gracious enough to invite me, I would certainly not offend them was saying that their cheese tasted like it came from home depot. LOL
What I'm trying to say is that in my pipe smoking experience, I've owned Dr. Grabow and other pipes like that type of manufacture (no offense to Dr. Grabow) when that what was what I could afford. That was the best pipe I ever owned, up and until I experienced the pleasure of an artisan pipe. Along with the briar, I have found that the stem work is extremely important to me. Especially the button and the taper leading up to the button. The care and time it takes to do that makes it worth while to me for the extra $$.
I own very few pipes compared to many on the forum, but almost every one is a has certain characteristics that appeal to me, and they are worth the extra bucks.
Born in the Bronx, NY from immigrant parents, I did not come from luxurious surroundings. Spending money for conspicuous consumption is not my way. If I can pick up a fine artisan pipe on ebay or through any estate, I will certainly do so.
Again, no offense to anyone here.

 

igloo

Preferred Member
Jan 17, 2010
4,086
0
woodlands tx
Beauty aside a pipe has two holes a big one and a small one .You can carve and shape it but in essence it is just a piece of wood with two holes . If this is not so then why are there so many beautiful estate pipes up for sale they cant all be dead mans pipes. To hear tell you would think some people have ultra sensitive lips being able to ascertain the minutest difference in diameters .It is all in the luck of the draw folks .YMMV :crazy:

 

cosmicfolklore

Preferred Member
Aug 9, 2013
19,193
3,037
Outer Space
I really think even the snobbiest of snobs would agree (maybe once arm is twisted) that any price range pipe could end up being an awesome smoker... if just being a great smoker was all your looking for in the hobby. I have many cheap pipes that I grab more often than most. However, I got tired of reeling in cheap pipes once I had a great rotation. Sure, I could quit buying pipes altogether. I am set for life. But, for some of us the beauty of this hobby is more than just getting the tobacco to burn. I am not a rich man by far. I'll never own a Ferrari or a Jaguar. Heck, I refuse to buy a new car of any sort, LOL. But, if I save up, I can get me a Viprati or Becker hand made pipe, IMO the Ferraris of the pipe world. I can't buy more than a few a year, whereas I could hit ebay and buy lower than $50 pipes every week. But, why would I want boxes and boxes of these when I could have something that brings me an aesthetic pleasure to hold and admire while burning the leaf, something that pleases my eye, my hand, my nose... I don't have a ton of vices. I grow my food, and live in a cabin, and make my art. Smoking my pipe is my absolute luxory. My shoes may get holes and my car may need tires, but I am smoking something that excites me and makes my spirit soar. YMMV :puffy:

 

sablebrush52

Preferred Member
Jun 15, 2013
10,248
2,262
Bollocks! While an interesting thread, it misses the point of Hanna's article entirely. It's not about whether you are justified in spending $10,000 on a gold plated magnum triple bowled billiard curvet covered in fossilized yak shit because it appeals to your highest sensibilities. Go on, knock yourself out! I've spent wads of cash on pipes that aren't going to smoke any better than their humble brethren, and I've done so because there's something about that pipe for which I'm willing to pay. I'm just not deluded that it's because I'm going to experience the ne plus ultra in smoking perfection.
Hanna is talking about the belief that a particular brand, by virtue of being that brand, is innately superior, or innately recognizable. Hold onto your seats. I'm going to use the "D" word! Dunhill is arguably the most recognized make in the world. Ask a non smoker to name a brand of pipe and you are much more likely to hear the word "Dunhill" than any other brand. Dunhill made a superb job of marketing their brand and creating the image of a Dunhill product as the epitome of quality, excellence, and the "good life". Dunhill isn't a pipe, it's an achievement, a destination, proof that you have taste and means. That's the point of the marketing. There's nothing like a Dunhill and you will instantly know that the pipe you are smoking is a Dunhill, because it will smoke like a Dunhill, because there is such as thing as a "Dunhill" smoke.
Feel free to take a deep breath and let it out. Everything is going to be okay. See? Lightning did not come down and strike me dead for using the "D" word. At least not yet.
Now go back and substitute any other make for "Dunhill" in the paragraph above. Any make would be equally valid from the standpoint of the thesis of Hanna's article. Are all of maker "X"'s pipes instantly and unutterably recognizable as maker "X"'s pipes? ALL of them,not just some? Do ALL of maker "X"'s pipes share exactly and recognizably the SAME smoking characteristics? Is purchasing maker "X"'s pipe an indisputable 1000% guarantee of a specific perfection of performance?
If you say no, then you are in agreement with Dr. Hanna and can return to your 4' long quintuple braided elephant tusk horn with unobtainium adornments, for which you sold your children, not to mention your wife's Bouvier des Ardennes, into slavery to raise the purchase price.

 

bigvan

Preferred Member
Mar 22, 2011
2,193
0
I don't think I missed Fred's point. I may not be able to instantly "know" that I'm getting a "Dunhill smoke" from smoking a Dunhill. But I do think I can perceive a superior smoking experience due to the high quality of materials and workmanship.

 

lochinvar

Preferred Member
Oct 22, 2013
1,346
161
It is really all of the above. Quality briar, proper cure time and proper engineering. Think of briar as concrete; you might do all the engineering spot on, but if you don't let the concrete cure, your foundation is going to have issues. Let an improperly engineered foundation cure out and it won't hold up anything either. Do all three by design or happenstance and you will have a good smoking pipe.
As for "brand perfection" or "the [brand] smoke" I have never found it. I love Castello and have a few, they all smoke great, but differently and I have never figured out the "Castello Taste." I believe Ferndown is the best pipe made today. I have never found a flaw in execution or smoking quality, but out of the three I have they all smoke a different type of tobacco best. As for Dunhill, I have two and have sold off two. The two I still have are good, dry smokes and are great with Latakia and Oriental blends, while the two I sold served Satan and sought to send my tongue to hell early, both made any tobacco smoked in them taste dull, acrid and ashy. I've never had luck with Peterson.
Really, the way I look at it, when you smoke a pipe you are dealing with two things which are living and evolving, the tobacco and the pipe. If you want to try and simplify things by the Brand Myth, I understand, but at some point your favored brand will let you down. Each piece of briar has its own set of peculiarities, strengths and weaknesses and works on its own timeline.

 

allan

Preferred Member
Dec 5, 2012
2,429
1
Bronx, NY
Sable
I understand what you are saying and I can agree to a certain point. If you read dr. Hanna's essay he does mention that in a blind pipe study he had the stems covered with plastic bits so as to disguise their maker
In my post I did not argue quality of briar; I was suggesting engineering of the stem, button, and the entire drilling process which is extremely time consuming if done to perfection
I am a jeweler and am acutely aware of the time it takes to file, fit and polish objects of art to perfection, and despite 44 years of doing it, I recognize that I am a mere amateur compared to true artisans in the jewelry world
I no longer buy pipes that are polished or have straight grain. After all, we can't smoke grain!

I buy pieces that are very light weight(a feat unto itself) and that I can perceive have those engineered qualities that make it worth the extra $$
If I am able, I will spend for those features

 
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