Daily Archives: November 9, 2012

Kiseru Pipes – A Unique Experience, But If You Blink You Will Miss It

Blog by Steve Laug

A few years ago a friend of mine called and said that he wanted to stop by for a bowl on the front porch and that he had an interesting gift for me. I don’t know about you but that kind of phone call makes me wonder. I loaded a pipe and sat on the porch to await his arrival. I had no idea what he was bringing. When he arrived he opened his pipe bag and took out the gift he brought for me and another for himself. Until that time I had not heard of the Kiseru pipe and knew nothing about it. Now if you have not smoked a Kiseru you have no idea how small the bowl is or how fine the tobacco is. I personally did not have a clue. So I looked the box and small envelope over before opening either one of them. I did not have the benefit of the photo above that gives you an idea of what to expect.

The photo above shows the box of tobacco and the envelope that held the pipe. If you can imagine the small envelope that holds take out chop sticks then you have an idea of the size of this little envelope. The box is also pretty small. I have no idea what the characters say and would love to know what they say. The label on my little box is identical to the one in the opening photo that I took off of a Japanese catalogue of Kiseru pipes.

I decided to open the envelope first and took out the spiraled brass pipe. The brass is polished and golden in colour. The airway is very open and the pipe is a solid unit. The tip has a formed button that can be held in the teeth to clench the pipe. The other end of the tube is upturned and flared into a bowl. The spiraling on the shank is actually quite beautiful. In the photo below I took a picture of it with a measuring tape so you can get an idea of the overall size of the pipe. It is about 4 ¼ inches long. The bowl is about a ¼ inch in diameter and height.

After I had blown through the pipe and looked it over bow to stern I opened the box of tobacco. In the picture below you can see the finely spun tobacco. The smell is of a Virginia tobacco and the cut is a very fine angel hair like cut. It smells grassy and sweet. It is condensed and pressed into the box and held in a waxed paper envelope. The box is about 3 ½ inches long by an inch wide and an inch high. I have smoked probably 20 or more bowls and the tobacco does not seem to disappear. As I pull off a small chunk to roll into a ball the remaining tobac springs into place.

To load the Kiseru you take a small clump of tobacco and roll it into a small ball and press it into the bowl of the pipe. It honestly does not take much so the tobacco that comes with the pipe lasts a long time. My box has been in my humidor for probably 4 or 5 years and is the same moisture level it was when I first opened it. Lighting the bowl is very simple and takes a flick of the lighter and a single light. There is no tamping involved and no fiddling. It is a quick smoke that tastes delightful and burns easily. The flavour is a rich grassy Virginia taste that makes you want to smoke more. The nicotine hit on the bowl is minimal. One day I will have to try it with a small ball brown rope. In the photo below you can see the dottle that is removed from the pipe. There is also a ball of the tobacco in the ashtray that was not smoked for comparison sake.

If you have not tried a Kiseru it is worth the experience. They do not cost much in the grand scheme of things and they will provide you with an experience that is comparable to nothing else that I am aware of. Now that I have written this I think it is time to go and load the bowl and have a puff. One caution though. Once you have lit the pipe, do not blink or you might very well miss the smoke.

About Stem/Bit Shapes

Blog by Steve Laug

The matter of bit/stem shapes can be confusing when speaking about our pipes to others or inputting information on stems into database programs such as Pipe Smokers Unleashed or P&T Foundations. I have been asked several times to put together a simple article on the shapes of stems. So here it is. It is not rocket science or anything profound, it is just a simple method that I use in differentiating stems. I have found several pictures that are from different websites to help with the explanations.

There are three basic stem shapes SADDLE, TAPER AND COMBINATION. The MILITARY OR STICK BIT stem is a variation of one of the other three. The stems can either be straight or bent according to the shape of the pipe. Each stem shape also has variations on the theme – gentle taper, fat taper, long taper, thin taper etc. Same with the saddle there are variations on the saddle – 1/2 saddle, full saddle, etc. Both of these also come in geometric shapes Diamond, Triangle, Square, Round and Oval.

The stick bits or military also come in the same shapes though the taper is fairly standard. Add to the confusion regarding bits, the Peterson faux military or stick bits which have a tapered tenon that fits the shank and the various freehand stems that have unique shapes and you get the picture.

Tenons are either push style or threaded. The push style can be integral to the stem or can be a Delrin insert. Both hold the shank by friction. I personally find the push tenon more to my liking than the metal or bone threaded tenon. The threaded tenon is screwed into the matching threads in the shank of the pipe. In both the bone and the metal versions these are often over or under turned in estate pipes. Generally, heating the tenon allows the tenon to be readjusted to fit properly.

The shape of the bit from the button forward is also varied. I was able to find the following picture that spells out the various shapes of the bits. There are basically five bit shapes that also have variations in their form according to the pipe maker or manufacturer. These are the standard straight bit, fishtail bit, p-lip bit, denture bit, wide comfort bit and the double comfort bit (stepped bit that was developed by Charatan). The bore on the bits is generally a single bore as pictured below. But the double bore or twin bore was also developed to make a bit more bite resistant.

The slot or airway in the button also has three variations – the circle or orific hole, the straight slot and the oval. The descriptions are pretty clear from the names of the airway or slot. The orific or circle is exactly as it sounds. It is generally used on older pipe stems – both meerschaum and briar. I have found it on pipes from the 1800’s and early 1900’s. The oval and straight slots are similar. The oval is a reworked and opened slot. The oval gives the opening a wider more open draw.

It would be great to hear if others of you who read this have further explanations that add clarity to the discussion. Please feel free to post a comment to this regard.