The Worst Pipe Ever Made, And A Half Decent One

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sasquatch

Preferred Member
Jul 16, 2012
1,193
716
Okay, lots of "old briar" posts, lots of "good ole days" stuff, and lots of questions about the mechanics of pipery. So, let's just do a visual.
Here's the worst pipe I've got in the shop. Part of a big load of factory stuff. Surely a second of some line.
Anyway, here's a factory bulldog from 40 years ago, and a Canadian I made from scratch.

Both pipes, yeah?
Let's take 'em apart. Oh god, there's some kind of weird spaghetti-strainer in the bulldog. Damn. Handmade pipe has a nice smooth tenon with a little bevel on the inside to keep that airflow nice and smooth.

The other end now, and things are going from bad to worse... the business end on this factory abortion is .045" tall, the slot, and about 4 times as wide.. you can't ram a pin up this thing let alone a pipe cleaner. The handmade pipe has a nice wide slot, deeply V internally. Makes for a nice thin stem and good smooth airflow.

This is worth a close-up

So a nicely made stem, you see little micro-bevels on the inside of the slot, tongue-friendly, well polished. Factory stem looks like it might fuck you up in an alley.
Let's light these up. Put a bright light in the bowl.

Handmade pipe - nice and smooth inside, hell you can see right to the bowl, everything lines up, it's all pretty.
No light through the stinger pipe - doesn't mean it won't pass air, you can get some air through it, but it's... tight... Pulling smoke through this contraption is going to cause condensation - gurgle city.
Oh and did you SEE that fill??? LOLZ

There's that briar I just.. .can't... get... anymore. :oops: :nana:
So it's handmade pipe for the win, boys. Is this a fair assessment? Hell no. It's a rigged sample, this is, as I said, the worst pipe I've seen. And yet the stummel is drilled DEAD on. Has to be to accept that crazy stinger. But this pipe is.... bad. and lots and lots of pipes, while not this bad, are this bad in some specific way.

 

sasquatch

Preferred Member
Jul 16, 2012
1,193
716
Oh, and the briar on the Canadian? That cheap greek stuff on eBay. Smoke as dry as desert bones, no grain at all, it's ugly. So you texture it.

 

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cigrmaster

Preferred Member
May 26, 2012
16,209
21,325
United States
Sas, great post, thank for your efforts. I have never understood why people would use a stinger, or filter or even filter adapter.

I can't believe system pipes exist, who wants a well of nasty tobacco juice in your pipe?

 

sasquatch

Preferred Member
Jul 16, 2012
1,193
716
I call it the "space race" in pipes - if someone had a doo-dad, your pipe needed a bigger, better doo-dad to gain market share. I mean shit, if you don't have a doo-dad, what kinda janky pipe are you even making?
Making simple, perfect pipes should be dead easy in a mechanized environment. Apparently it's not though, because the dearth of those pipes proves it. Why does Castello stand out as a smoking tool? Because they are pretty smooth inside and the holes line up? Geez that's kinda sad!
It's a no doo-dad zone here too, I can't stand stingers or filters - to me pipe smoking is at it's best when you have a simple, functional, well made tool, and some tobacco to go with it, and the tool helps you enjoy it rather than making things difficult in some way!

 

cigrmaster

Preferred Member
May 26, 2012
16,209
21,325
United States
Sas, great post, thanks for your efforts. I have never understood why people would use a stinger, or filter or even filter adapter. I want no obstructions in the way of the pipe smoke going though the bowl to my mouth.

 

mso489

Preferred Member
Feb 21, 2013
32,575
21,577
My one remaining stinger pipe (not counting a few where I've just removed the stinger) is a Kaywoodie Drinkless that smokes pretty well, and only takes a minute to unscrew the stem and clean it. But I agree, why do this to a pipe? It was a gimmick to sell pipes, and blessedly has almost disappeared.

 

jpmcwjr

Moderator
Staff member
May 12, 2015
17,770
10,030
Carmel Valley, CA
Thanks sas. The "fill" is the biggest piece of crap I've ever seen on a pipe that's unsmoked- or at least, unabused. Could the briar have moved between shaping and finishing, as in a crack in the briar?

 

sasquatch

Preferred Member
Jul 16, 2012
1,193
716
No, it's putty, like, a tablespoon of putty.
This is a poor grade of pipe, and I almost feel like they made SURE that it would be a bad pipe so that next time, the purchaser might spend a little more.

 

georged

Preferred Member
Mar 7, 2013
2,981
1,835
The worst pipe ever made?
Nah. Not even close.
That would be THIS masterpiece: :lol:
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husky

Member
Jul 1, 2019
137
9
Perhaps this has been discussed in a previous thread but I had that thought yesterday while I was watching Father the flame.

What is it that makes an artisan pipe such a great smoker that Peterson hasn't been able to incorporate into their production line? Also, I read somewhere that the ideal stem channel has the same cross section all the way as it transforms from round to oval to a slot. My factory pipes though have a slot only a fraction of an inch deep before it just becomes a small, round hole. The slot is just for show?

 

sasquatch

Preferred Member
Jul 16, 2012
1,193
716
Husky, we've chatted about some of these things before, but I'm happy to run it down again here.
A) my best smoker, the absolute best performing pipe I have... is a Peterson. The 140th Anniversary pipe. It was a game-changer for me. In fact it spurred my pipe making career in that owning a pipe so good made me wonder what was wrong with my other pipes. So Peterson CAN do it. But they can't do it on every pipe because it costs a bit more to do it. A pipe that retails for 80 bucks is not going to get much fine tuning. So the run of the mill Peterson is a reasonably good pipe and smoked carefully, probably even an excellent pipe in many ways. That said, I threw out a handful of Petersons that never, ever worked anywhere near as well as my 140th. I bought Petes thinking they must be great, as this one is... and ... they weren't. That's my personal experience, others will have bugged-out eyes reading either that I had bad Petes or that I had a good one!
B) the ideal airway: What's the UN-ideal airway? Probably something like the pipe I have shown in this thread - a tortuous route with bumps and turns. Plenum spaces inside the pipe where there is a pressure change for the smoke will cause a certain amount of condensation. So a weird, wild, lumpy airway is going to be a gurgling horror. The opposite, of course, is a smooth, consistent airway that the smoke is NOT abuse in, where the interaction with the walls of the "tube" is minimized. This can be done by what you mention, a constant-volume airway where the tube is carefully carved from being round to rectangular, and theoretically with an identical cross-sectional area the whole way - no reduction of flow as the smoke comes out the stem. (On top of this, we need a slot so that we can make that part of the stem nice and thin. So it's not "just for show", it's for comfort. Old pipes with an "orific" mouthpiece can be found, and the stems are 1/4" thick, it's like having a hose in your mouth!)
C) The factory stem has a slot with intersects the "tube", and that's about it, usually this intersection is pretty rough. How rough? Pretty often it will whistle if you draw air through it. This is cavitation, an indication of turbulent airflow (by definition). Pretty likely a condensation point.
So, thinking about all this stuff, if I go to the trouble to cut a slot of a certain size, make it super smooth inside, make sure the drilling on my pipe is absolutely perfect, make sure I have a little funnel cut on the end of my tenon for smooth flow, all these little details... it's going to take time. I'm not simply grabbing a stem from the box of 1000 identical stems and popping it in the pipe and sending it down the line. And this is what Peterson (or whoever at that low price point) is doing. Fit it, ship it, repeat. When you spend 300 bucks on a Peterson, you generally get a hell of a nice pipe, better in basically every way - the stem is thinner and more comfortable, those little details of airflow are in fact taken care of, and the pipe smokes nicely. This is again why Castellos are 400 bucks not 80 - much more intensive hand-work in the process.
Can you get a great smoking 90 dollar pipe? Hell yes - these things are (ought to be) simple to make, and lots of pipes are just fine.
But as a maker, I get lots of emails from guys (and I'm not alone, this is not me saying how uniquely great I am) who are so pleased with how their handmade pipe smokes that they are in some cases nearly angry. "What the hell am I supposed to do with all these crummy pipes I have??" I don't think it's because they are hypnotized by my rhetoric. I don't think it's because they are pipe-maker groupies. I think it's because the pipes smoke better than their other pipes.
I wasted thousands of dollars on pipes that will never smoke gurgle free. Peterson, Chacom, Savinelli (who honestly make a pretty decent pipe, mostly), when I got that really nice Peterson, it was a huge eye-opener for me, and I wish for my compatriots to have that same experience. I truly cannot understand the "all pipes are the same" crowd, either they have some magic technique for smoking that I don't, or their experience is so vastly different either in expectation or result than mine, that I have a tough time understanding. To me, pipes are individual, not even by brand, or shape, but by pipe, case by case. They all seem a little different.

 

haparnold

Preferred Member
Aug 9, 2018
1,484
1,987
Lexington, KY
Old pipes with an "orific" mouthpiece can be found, and the stems are 1/4" thick, it's like having a hose in your mouth!
I just always remember that "orific" sounds like someone with a Cockney accent saying "horrific" :puffpipe:

 

jpmcwjr

Moderator
Staff member
May 12, 2015
17,770
10,030
Carmel Valley, CA
'E's right, that 'Ap fellow. It's a 'orrific experience to 'ave a pipe what gurgles.
But then, for the most part, pipes don't gurgle, people do!

 

husky

Member
Jul 1, 2019
137
9
Sasquatch, thank you for that thorough explanation!

I find this topic very interesting!

So with a needle file and some pipe cleaners covered in polishing paste

I could perhaps improve my 90$ pipes?

Getting rid of the filter voids would probably be the place to start...
Edit: I seem to have the winning bid on an early Robert Vacher on ebay.

 

sasquatch

Preferred Member
Jul 16, 2012
1,193
716
A lot of pipes can be improved with just a little effort, yes. There are a few genuine duds that just... don't seem to want to work, but by and large, you can tweak a pipe and get it to work better.
The voids in a filterless pipe are probably sub-ideal, and I suppose that's why some companies offer an "adaptor", a little plastic tube to fill it. I'm not convinced that the adapter makes things better in practice, but it doesn't hurt to try these things.

 
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