Getting Started-Part 1: Choosing a Pipe

Jul 2011
In this thread I will introduce you to the different types of pipes out there, and give some helpful tips of what you may want to purchase if just starting out.

We begin with the most common pipes found in this hobby: the Briar Pipe.

Briar Pipes

Briar pipes are machine and hand made from briar wood in countries uncluding France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States (this is not an all exclusive list). Being the most popular type of pipe, they range in price from $15-$7000+. Briar pipes can sometimes be coated inside the bowl with a carbon layer,which can hinder it's ability to build a cake*. Unless buying an Estate (used) pipe, building a cake on a Briar pipe can take a while. Briar pipes also tend to **ghost when smoking many different tobaccos in them. This is due very much to the expansion of wood as the temperature increases, and will capture the flavors of tobaccos especially very strongly flavored ones. Due to ghosting (which can be corrected to an extent) and the absorbtion of water from the tobaccos, Briar pipes need to rest for 1-3 days before being used again. (Excess moisture can lead to the pipe souring). Also because of it's tendency to ghost, a pipe per type of tobacco is recommended.

Popular Brands: Dunhill, Savinelli, Peterson, Cavicchi, Radice

Meerschaum Pipes
Meerschaum is a soft mineral material often found in the Black Sea. It can be carved into various shapes and styles, and can be very intricate in design. Meerschaum pipes can be slightly more in price, usually ranging from $40-$$$$+. Meerschaum not on has the ability to be carved into intricate designs, but also does not ghost. You'll want to make sure that no cake builds up in your Meerschaum pipe as it can make it crack. One downside to Meerschaum pipes is that they can be very fragile. They come in their own hard cases to ensure protection, but if you drop it you can be sure it will at least crack and make it un-smokable.

Popular Brands: Baki, IMP, CAO

Corn Cob Pipes
Corn cob pipes are often associated with hillbillies and a "less than average" intelligence. These pipes offer many benefits. First that are cheap. They run $3-$25 ($25 being for custom made corn cob pipes). They do not ghost, and you do not need to spend time building a cake in them. They are the best bang for your buck, and smoke like champs (If you can't tell already, I really like corn cob pipes!) These pipes often with filters, but can be removed if desired.

Popular Brands: Missouri Meerschuam Corn Cob Pipes

Clay Pipes
Clay pipes are probably one of the oldest styles of pipes in existence. Like Meerschaum they can be very intricate and are likewise very delicate. You do not need to build a cake in a clay pipe, and their tendency to ghost is very low. The downside to clay is that their bowls get very hot, which cause many to hold it by the stem while smoking.

Popular Brands: Unknown

Other Styles

Other Woods- Pipes can be made of other woods like Burl and Olive wood but are not as common as briar.

Shell pipes- I've seen one shell pipe and it reportedly smokes similar to clay pipes. These tend to get very hot.

My advice for beginners would be to purchase a Corn cob pipe. These are perfect for beginners as they are cheap and fairly durable.

*Cake is a layer of ash, tar and moisture that insulates the pipe from the burning tobacco.

**Ghosting is when a pipe imparts the flavors from a previous tobacco to the flavors of the tobacco currently being smoked.
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Aug 2007
Somewhere down in Texas
Great post MJ !!! Very informative!

Looking forward to seeing what else you post on pipes! As I've said before. I'm ready to take my pipe smoking to the next step.