How to buy a Good Estate Pipe

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Briar Lee

Lifer
Sep 4, 2021
4,836
13,904
Humansville Missouri
I thought I’d share my obsession with accumulating good estate pipes for the sake of any lurkers and beginners.

First, buy brand new cheap pipes to start out. See if you like pipe smoking. Buying used pipes means sometimes you’ll get disappointed.

But when you want to add to your stash of pipes then it’s time to go eBay shopping.

First, don’t buy a brand name. Buy good briar. Don’t buy pretty. Buy good construction.

If a pipe was made of Algerian briar in France they’ll tell you that.

If it’s well constructed, you can see it.

And don’t buy new old stock or worn out clunkers. Buy fresh ones.

$14.65 tax and shipping this morning. Medium Pot Lovat, Mastercraft import from France.

IMG_6799.jpegIMG_6795.jpegIMG_6794.jpegIMG_6793.jpegIMG_6792.jpegIMG_6791.jpegIMG_6798.jpegIMG_6797.jpegIMG_6796.jpeg


When it comes I’ll write up how to clean it.

Good pipes don’t have to cost any more than a good breakfast at a cafe.
 

Briar Lee

Lifer
Sep 4, 2021
4,836
13,904
Humansville Missouri
More tips on buying used pipes.

You want a seller with a high favorable rating that posts lots of photos.

IMG_6800.jpeg


The seller made seven dollars for ten minutes work.

The post office made about five bucks. The seller added $1.66 for his packaging.

There was a dollar tax.

This pipe wasn’t smoked very much.

IMG_6801.jpegIMG_6802.jpeg


Odds are there’s no ghosts, no issues, and in ten minutes time it will look brand new.

In a day or two of use it will color to look like this.

IMG_6465.jpeg
 

lithicus

Starting to Get Obsessed
Sep 9, 2023
127
807
Pennsylvania
But when you want to add to your stash of pipes then it’s time to go eBay shopping.

First, don’t buy a brand name. Buy good briar. Don’t buy pretty. Buy good construction.

If a pipe was made of Algerian briar in France they’ll tell you that.

If it’s well constructed, you can see it.

And don’t buy new old stock or worn out clunkers. Buy fresh ones.
I don't think I have any Algerian briar pipes. Certainly none are marked as such. And as you point out, if it is Algerian briar they'd certainly tell you just that!

I'll have to take your advice and start looking for an inexpensive non-name brand one!
 
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lithicus

Starting to Get Obsessed
Sep 9, 2023
127
807
Pennsylvania
If it’s well constructed, you can see it.
I'd actually be curious if you could elaborate on this more. But, perhaps, it's not appropriate for this thread. If not, I apologize.

Some things seem fairly easy to tell given there are enough pictures. For example, is the draft hole bottom center? Does the stem sit flush against the shank? Is the stem/button shaped comfortably?

But others seem much more difficult to tell from pictures alone. Is the tenon the length is needs to be; no more, no less? On a straight pipe, passing a pipe cleaner doesn't necessarily ensure the hole on the tenon is perfectly aligned with the draft hole either. But, perhaps, the things from this paragraph point more to "premium" construction rather than something being "well" constructed?

I think this is a very interesting topic and appreciate you sharing tips and tricks! I think this thread will certainly help those relatively new to the hobby like myself.
 

Briar Lee

Lifer
Sep 4, 2021
4,836
13,904
Humansville Missouri
You couldn't pay me enough to want that pipe that has more bad fills than Carter has pills. (that means; a lot.)

True or not, our grandfathers actually believed good briar smoked better—tasted better- than cheap briar.

They tolerated a lot of putty for the sake of high end briar than we would.

One other sign of high quality on this $7 pipe is a total lack of stain.

Look at the tight grain:

IMG_6803.jpeg


Since it’s geniune, honest to God, grown on top of a mountain Algerian it will color in a dozen smokes to look like this.

IMG_6675.jpeg


And it will smoke as cool as a thermos jug, probably the most indisputable trait of ancient Algerian briar.
 

Alejo R.

Part of the Furniture Now
Oct 13, 2020
841
1,683
48
Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Something I wrote a few years ago. I don't know if I'm still thinking exactly the same thing, but whatever, here it goes.



Estate Pipes

Soon after starting this hobby we discovered a painful truth, good quality pipes are expensive.
Most of us start by entering a tobacco shop and buying a pipe and tobacco. We run with luck if the clerk recommends us to take clean pipes and a tamper.
Soon we look for information on line and we realize that there are different types of pipes, thousands of tobaccos and that it is also advisable to have more than one pipe.
Then we see the budget of our hobby shoot up.
There are those who choose to smoke in the popular and cheap corn cobs, but for those of us who like the classic briar pipes, the thing is different.
Some time ago an interesting option has been popularized. Estate pipes.
A pipe is a simple device built with durable materials. There is no reason, in addition to abuse, to not easily resist the passage of time.
The habit of pipe smoking was widely spread through the 20th century and by the conjunction of the two reasons (durability and quantity) there are many pipes of the golden age waiting for us.
The problem is, then, where to find them.
The Internet brings us closer to a great offer of used pipes. But we are also part of a great demand. EBay is the site. Already with many years of sale of Estate pipes the market is mature and although the offer is very broad, the prices are established and we hardly find a bargain. But it is the perfect place to find that pipe difficult to find that has become our object of desire.
In my opinion, the best places to find pipes are antique fairs, antique shops and flea markets. Among many other things we can find jewels at a very low price.
The points to take into account when buying used pipes are the following.
First and foremost we must know what it is, know about pipes. The difference between a hoarder and a collector is knowledge. Building a collection of pipes requires knowledge. Knowing what we are buying is the best guarantee for not making mistakes.
The next thing is to know how to restore a used pipe. Knowing which pipes are beyond the possibility of repair helps us not to buy pieces that only have a future in the trash.
Last but not the least is patience. Finding good used pipes requires going through a lot of mediocre and bad pipes. Having 10 dollars in your pocket does not mean you have to buy that dubious pipe that you find in the flea market.
There is nothing left but to encourage you to get involved in this interesting hobby, surely you will make some mistake, but after a while you will find beautiful pieces and you will have a lot of fun.
 

Briar Lee

Lifer
Sep 4, 2021
4,836
13,904
Humansville Missouri
I'd actually be curious if you could elaborate on this more. But, perhaps, it's not appropriate for this thread. If not, I apologize.

Some things seem fairly easy to tell given there are enough pictures. For example, is the draft hole bottom center? Does the stem sit flush against the shank? Is the stem/button shaped comfortably?

But others seem much more difficult to tell from pictures alone. Is the tenon the length is needs to be; no more, no less? On a straight pipe, passing a pipe cleaner doesn't necessarily ensure the hole on the tenon is perfectly aligned with the draft hole either. But, perhaps, the things from this paragraph point more to "premium" construction rather than something being "well" constructed?

I think this is a very interesting topic and appreciate you sharing tips and tricks! I think this thread will certainly help those relatively new to the hobby like myself.

Tip for identifying good construction

First do a search on the brand.



Royal Ascot is a dead brand today but it made Pipedia. This is a Royal Ascot Deluxe. A Deluxe sounds better, than if it was just a Royal Ascot.

Why this matters is Mastercraft is trying to build brand loyalty. It’s not an unmarked basket pipe.

It’s a Kaiser or Hudson or Studebaker only a pipe instead of a car.:)

Then let’s look at the stem. Cheap pipes had cheap stems.

This one has a truly deluxe, extra fancy, polished stepped stem with a well shaped button. It looks hand made. The stinger will go in a drawer first thing.

IMG_6804.jpeg

Does it have decent thickness bowl walls?

IMG_6801.jpeg

Is it proportional? An unstained smooth pipe is what we like. And this is a nice Lovat with a tapered stem.

IMG_6793.jpeg

This ought to be a good one.

We have drills to open airways and files to open stems. We aren’t worried about those at all.

A few days and we’ll see if it’s a loss of $15 or a new treasure.
 
Last edited:

Alejo R.

Part of the Furniture Now
Oct 13, 2020
841
1,683
48
Buenos Aires, Argentina.
I'd actually be curious if you could elaborate on this more. But, perhaps, it's not appropriate for this thread. If not, I apologize.

Some things seem fairly easy to tell given there are enough pictures. For example, is the draft hole bottom center? Does the stem sit flush against the shank? Is the stem/button shaped comfortably?

But others seem much more difficult to tell from pictures alone. Is the tenon the length is needs to be; no more, no less? On a straight pipe, passing a pipe cleaner doesn't necessarily ensure the hole on the tenon is perfectly aligned with the draft hole either. But, perhaps, the things from this paragraph point more to "premium" construction rather than something being "well" constructed?

I think this is a very interesting topic and appreciate you sharing tips and tricks! I think this thread will certainly help those relatively new to the hobby like myself.
There are certain characteristics that, in general terms, define a quality pipe. There are thousands and thousands of drugstore pipes, which are of no great interest. A pipe of interest is found among dozens of those pipes. In my humble opinion the execution of the mouthpiece and how it fits the shank gives me a quick overview of whether this is a quality pipe or not. Then I check the bowl, if it has breaks, too much putty, etc. Unless I find a collectible pipe at a very good price, I don't buy broken pipes.
 

Briar Lee

Lifer
Sep 4, 2021
4,836
13,904
Humansville Missouri
Only if you strip the finish and then slather it with beeswax.

I’ve been stripping varnish (which this seven dollar special likely doesn’t have) and using beeswax and other waxes on used pipes for about thirty years.

But the Algerian ones color easy, and to a shade of red. Hides lots of fills.

Why varnish, and to a lesser extent cake, stops the coloring I have no explanation for, it just does.

Even the high dollar Algerian pipes colored red, like this Sidney P Ram

IMG_6585.jpeg

Or this C size Marxman

IMG_2320.jpeg
 
Last edited:

lithicus

Starting to Get Obsessed
Sep 9, 2023
127
807
Pennsylvania
Tip for identifying good construction

First do a search on the brand.



Royal Ascot is a dead brand today but it made Pipedia. This is a Royal Ascot Deluxe. A Deluxe sounds better, than if it was just a Royal Ascot.

Why this matters is Mastercraft is trying to build brand loyalty. It’s not an unmarked basket pipe.

It’s a Kaiser or Hudson or Studebaker only a pipe instead of a car.:)

Then let’s look at the stem. Cheap pipes had cheap stems.

This one has a truly deluxe, extra fancy, polished stepped stem with a well shaped button. It looks hand made. The stinger will go in a drawer first thing.

View attachment 280373

Does it have decent thickness bowl walls?

View attachment 280388

Is it proportional? An unstained smooth pipe is what we like. And this is a nice Lovat with a tapered stem.

View attachment 280386

This ought to be a good one.

We have drills to open airways and files to open stems. We aren’t worried about those at all.

A few days and we’ll see if it’s a loss of $15 or a new treasure.
I greatly appreciate this! One piece in particular I never thought about was the stepped tenon. It certainly takes an extra step to do that. And, if they weren't cutting corners with the tenon there's a good chance they didn't cut corners in other places either. Makes sense!

There are certain characteristics that, in general terms, define a quality pipe. There are thousands and thousands of drugstore pipes, which are of no great interest. A pipe of interest is found among dozens of those pipes. In my humble opinion the execution of the mouthpiece and how it fits the shank gives me a quick overview of whether this is a quality pipe or not. Then I check the bowl, if it has breaks, too much putty, etc. Unless I find a collectible pipe at a very good price, I don't buy broken pipes.
Much appreciated as well! I still have a lot to learn about stems. Time and experience will certainly help!
 
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Chasing Embers

Captain of the Black Frigate
Nov 12, 2014
43,431
109,328
This one has a truly deluxe, extra fancy, polished stepped stem with a well shaped button. It looks hand made. The stinger will go in a drawer first thing.

One piece in particular I never thought about was the stepped tenon. It certainly takes an extra step to do that.

They're molded like that then cleaned up and shaped to fit the pipes.

Screenshot_20240117-194802_eBay.jpgScreenshot_20240117-194821_eBay.jpg
 

Briar Lee

Lifer
Sep 4, 2021
4,836
13,904
Humansville Missouri
Hand made or moulded, you want an extra fancy stepped stem, with a good button.

Royal Ascot Supreme

IMG_6810.jpeg

Virtually all Pre War Kaywoodies were 99% machine made, stummel and stem.

For $7 you aren’t buying a hand made masterpiece.

And the tool marks where the stem is hand fitted will still be visible.

IMG_6811.jpeg

Stepped stems are one out of very many pipes. The customer can’t see them.

It’s like buying a car with insulation and a light that comes on under the hood.

It doesn’t mean it was a Cadillac or Lincoln or Imperial but they were trying.
 

Briar Lee

Lifer
Sep 4, 2021
4,836
13,904
Humansville Missouri
You will seldom find one but if a used pipe has a hallmarked Sterling silver band, it wasn’t on the bottom of the display rack in the gas station beside the peanuts.

LHS Silvercrest Second

Marked Algerian

Imported Briar means post WW2

Hallmarked Birmingham 1943

IMG_6814.jpeg

And it’s nice to see the pipe was a sitter.

IMG_6812.jpeg
 

telescopes

Pipe Dreamer and Star Gazer
You will seldom find one but if a used pipe has a hallmarked Sterling silver band, it wasn’t on the bottom of the display rack in the gas station beside the peanuts.

LHS Silvercrest Second

Marked Algerian

Imported Briar means post WW2

Hallmarked Birmingham 1943

View attachment 280444

And it’s nice to see the pipe was a sitter.

View attachment 280445
I don’t believe anyone believes or is arguing that the above pipes are defective: However, the argument can not be made that they represent a significant level of quality comparable to “high end“ pipes. A stepped stem not withstanding, quality is measured in terms of fitment, material perfection, finish, and design as well as other variables Such as drilling and bit to stem finish. A lower quality pipe can and many times is highly functional and capable of delivering a high quality smoke. I think you may be confusing functionality with quality. Marxman pipes are highly functional. They are not high quality. Does that possibly clarify the misconception many perceive in your argument?
 

Briar Lee

Lifer
Sep 4, 2021
4,836
13,904
Humansville Missouri
Bottom feeding for good pipes under $15 on eBay is a lot of fun.

Some more tips.

During the height of pipe smoking in America over 30 million briar pipes a year were made and sold by domestic USA pipe makers.

When a pipe was imported the law required it be stamped where from. Most will say England, France, or Italy.

So if there’s a pipe that reads only

Edward’s

Algerian Briar

730

That was made in the USA

Out of the last stash of geniune, real coin Algerian briar

And Edward’s had enough models they called this extremely fancy stepped and faceted square panel square saddle stem unvarnished unstained Algerian a 730.

Remember Fred at the gas station sold pipes cheap out of a rack. He didn’t have to reorder a 730 when it sold out.

All these things indicate an effort to sell a better than a mill run pipe.

IMG_6817.jpeg
IMG_6819.jpegIMG_6818.jpeg
 

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