Pipe Grading

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mso489

Preferred Member
Feb 21, 2013
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It's true some brands have distinct grades on their pipes, XX's, or distinct names that categorize price and quality levels. I have always been suspicious of such tactics. I say, simply state the qualities of the pipes, by specifications and description, and let me decide what quality level I would assign. Let me be the judge of that. But I guess many pipe buyers are more passive and want to be told, if they pay a lot they get a good pipe, and if they pay less, they get an okay pipe, or maybe a not-so-good pipe. No thanks.
 

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STP

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Sep 8, 2020
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I’ve seen Smoking Pipe EU do this on their blemished Petersons in 3 levels… I believe A, B, & C, but I don’t see this generally published by others. As mentioned, it’s typically an internal grading system.
 

pauls456

Junior Member
Aug 19, 2020
80
167
Grading is an arcane art, different for each maker that chooses to grade their pipes. But in my experience grading usually refers to certain aspects of 'grain' that most of us seem to agree are desirable.
 

sablebrush52

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There are no objective standards, like a GIA grading. Everyone makes up their own, based on some personal set of standards that is mostly opaque to others. At best tells you something about what the maker thinks of the piece, at worst it's a marketing gimmick to fleece the suckers.

For that reason, I ignore gradings as part of my decision making as they're essentially meaningless to anyone other than the maker. I'm not going to buy a pipe because the maker wants me to know he/she thinks it's cool. I'll buy it because I think it's cool.
 

pauls456

Junior Member
Aug 19, 2020
80
167
That's is an interesting point of view, but not one that I would share. In every category of artistic endeavor there are are somewhat abstract standards of 'quality' and 'desirablility' that are coveted by both maker and consumer. When a seasoned veteran pipe maker (independent or manufacturer) attributes a higher grade to a pipe, it means a lot to many of us.
 

telescopes

Preferred Member
It's true some brands have distinct grades on their pipes, XX's, or distinct names that categorize price and quality levels. I have always been suspicious of such tactics. I say, simply state the qualities of the pipes, by specifications and description, and let me decide what quality level I would assign. Let me be the judge of that. But I guess many pipe buyers are more passive and want to be told, if they pay a lot they get a good pipe, and if they pay less, they get an okay pipe, or maybe a not-so-good pipe. No thanks.
Totally agree. Suppose a pipe maker offers a buyer a choice of two identical pipes but offers to mark one up as being a higher grade. There are people on this forum who would no doubt choose the marked up pipe simply due to the markup in grade.
 
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Merton

Senior Member
Jul 8, 2020
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Boston, Massachusetts
That's is an interesting point of view, but not one that I would share. In every category of artistic endeavor there are are somewhat abstract standards of 'quality' and 'desirablility' that are coveted by both maker and consumer. When a seasoned veteran pipe maker (independent or manufacturer) attributes a higher grade to a pipe, it means a lot to many of us.
It is both fine and fitting when an artisan or maker designates a particular pipe or group of pipes into a special catergory as representative of their view of a pipes beauty or the makers skill. Lots of makers do this. However, it is also good to remember that quality producers pipes smoke great no matter what line or designation they hold. For example, the wood in a castello sea rock is the same wood used in the great line or Fiamattas. My Eltang rusticated poker does not have a snail grade, but I suspect that it smokes just as well. The same is true for all good artisans and quality makers
 
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pauls456

Junior Member
Aug 19, 2020
80
167
For most makers who chose to grade, the following are excluded from grading: fit and finish, mechanics and smoking quality. Grading is usually based on certain other artistic and aesthetic considerations.

The idea that a maker could make two identical pipes and charge more for the one with the higher grade stamp has no equivalent in reality. Such a maker would not survive in the marketplace for more that a few minutes. Castello's elaborate grading system is just one example of successful grading in pipemaking.
 

sablebrush52

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Jun 15, 2013
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That's is an interesting point of view, but not one that I would share. In every category of artistic endeavor there are are somewhat abstract standards of 'quality' and 'desirablility' that are coveted by both maker and consumer. When a seasoned veteran pipe maker (independent or manufacturer) attributes a higher grade to a pipe, it means a lot to many of us.
I wouldn't know much about artistic endeavor, as I've been a successful professional artist, both in fine arts and in commercial art, for close to 50 years. While there are a few foundational building blocks, mostly it's one person's subjectivity. In fine art it's do something new or unique. In commercial art it's communicate. Frankly, commercial artists generally have much better technique than what I've been seeing in galleries, but it's not about artisanry, it's about spin, and a lot about tax evasion.
PIpemaking is a fascinating corner of artisanry. And, like other parts of the art world, it's some solid technique and some sizzle and spin.
My take on pipemaker's grading is consistent with my view on assessing an artist's work. In my case I don't give a shit what others think of my paintings and I hope that they don't give a shit what I think of my paintings. Everyone makes their own personal contact and connection, or doesn't. A lot of pipe carvers, some of the very best, don't grade. They see no point to it. Others do grade and they see some point to it, but it's not a necessity. If grading matters to you, it matters to you. It doesn't matter to me. The pipe I'm looking at, the actual work, matters to me.
 

pauls456

Junior Member
Aug 19, 2020
80
167
Paying attention to a pipe maker's grading can be very helpful in seeing aspects of quality that might not be immediately obvious. A maker defines a challenge when he selects and shapes a block, and the grading reflects both the innate beauty of that particular piece of wood, and the success that the maker has had in shaping it.
 
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anotherbob

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Mar 30, 2019
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In the semi-rural NorthEastern USA
It's true some brands have distinct grades on their pipes, XX's, or distinct names that categorize price and quality levels. I have always been suspicious of such tactics. I say, simply state the qualities of the pipes, by specifications and description, and let me decide what quality level I would assign. Let me be the judge of that. But I guess many pipe buyers are more passive and want to be told, if they pay a lot they get a good pipe, and if they pay less, they get an okay pipe, or maybe a not-so-good pipe. No thanks.
that kind of grading makes more sense in a brick and mortar situation then an online one. You know if you go into a big pipe shop and tell them what price range you're shopping in. Or what kind of pipe you'd like to have them order from their catalog. Also good for overcharging on a pipe too.
 

sablebrush52

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Jun 15, 2013
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Totally agree. Suppose a pipe maker offers a buyer a choice of two identical pipes but offers to mark one up as being a higher grade. There are people on this forum who would no doubt choose the marked up pipe simply due to the markup in grade.
It's called marketing and/or branding.
I had a girlfriend who worked in interior design and repped several makers of cloth for commercial use in public buildings, like lobby furniture, hotel furniture, etc. One of the makers brought out the same exact cloth, made on the same production line, but labeled with different labels, one for a lower end price point, another for a mid range price point, and still another for a high end price point. The low end sold for $20 a yard, the mide range was $50 a yard, and the high end was $100 a yard. Same exact product.

Low end buyers bought it at $20, mid range bought it at $50, and high end bought it at $100, and they sold tons of cloth in this manner, selling to all different markets. Each buyer was convinced there was a difference in the quality because of the label, but it was all in their heads.

That was a real eyeopener for me.
 

anotherbob

Preferred Member
Mar 30, 2019
7,879
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In the semi-rural NorthEastern USA
Totally agree. Suppose a pipe maker offers a buyer a choice of two identical pipes but offers to mark one up as being a higher grade. There are people on this forum who would no doubt choose the marked up pipe simply due to the markup in grade.
this gives me an image of the maker showing a pipe to a customer and saying this is a grade c pipe, then turning around 180 degrees waiting a second then turning back with same pipe in hand and saying "and this is the same model in a grade a++ for only 1000 dollars more."
 

anotherbob

Preferred Member
Mar 30, 2019
7,879
14,677
43
In the semi-rural NorthEastern USA
It's called marketing and/or branding.
I had a girlfriend who worked in interior design and repped several makers of cloth for commercial use in public buildings, like lobby furniture, hotel furniture, etc. One of the makers brought out the same exact cloth, made on the same production line, but labeled with different labels, one for a lower end price point, another for a mid range price point, and still another for a high end price point. The low end sold for $20 a yard, the mide range was $50 a yard, and the high end was $100 a yard. Same exact product.

Low end buyers bought it at $20, mid range bought it at $50, and high end bought it at $100, and they sold tons of cloth in this manner, selling to all different markets. Each buyer was convinced there was a difference in the quality because of the label, but it was all in their heads.

That was a real eyeopener for me.
labels are expensive. And it's not just a scam 100 percent. Marketing has costs and names are marketed more then products are. As weird as it sounds if label A was advertised in certain magazines and label c was marketed in another less circulated or less exclusive magazine with lower ad costs, then label c cost less to them to sell. Not sure if that's how that company worked or not.
 

jpberg

Preferred Member
Aug 30, 2011
1,770
2,971
Paying attention to a pipe maker's grading can be very helpful in seeing aspects of quality that might not be immediately obvious. A maker defines a challenge when he selects and shapes a block, and the grading reflects both the innate beauty of that particular piece of wood, and the success that the maker has had in shaping it.
If you have to tell me it’s there, it ain’t there.
 

kcghost

Preferred Member
May 6, 2011
5,352
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Olathe, Kansas
A maker can make up a system. Some do a reasonable job at it but others just put on whatever suits them. I have seen many highly "rated" pipes that were barely smokeable and other much lower grades that were excellent. Pure marketing ploy.
 
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pauls456

Junior Member
Aug 19, 2020
80
167
Interesting responses. Even though some of the most highly regarded makers practice grading, most of the posters here seem to reject the idea. Just goes to show how diverse our hobby is.
 

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