Daily Archives: September 5, 2013

Why I smoke a pipe – Eric Boehm

Blog by Eric Boehm

Here is another of Eric’s pieces – this one is a great essay on why he smokes a pipe. I love the ideas that he has collected in this essay and his straightforward answer to those who question his pipe smoking. Thanks Eric for letting me post this here.

I routinely use this missive as a broad sheet to answer the question of “Why I smoke a pipe”. A question so often asked by many of my anti-tobacco friends. Friends, I might add, that give me a hard time whenever I light up my tobacco pipe. You see, I’m a reader, and my heroes are those I read about. And usually they involve men who smoked a pipe.

Run your eyes down the list below of names and see how many you recognize. Collectively, I would argue, these men actually made the 20th Century, both literally and figuratively. To a man, all avid pipe smokers, each and every one. Moreover, many lived well beyond the average lifespan of their day, many passing in their mid to late-eighties.

Albert Einstein, Mark Twain, William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, Norman Rockwell, Orson Wells, JRR Tolkein, CS Lewis, Douglas MacArthur, Admiral Arleigh Burke, Stanley Baldwin, Neville Chamberlain, Bing Crosby, President Gerald Ford, Carl Sandburg, Harold Macmillan, Konrad Lorenz, Errol Flynn, Edgar Rice Burroughs, John D. MacDonald, Warner Baxter, Thomas Selfridge, Charles Nelson Reilly, Ossip Zadkine, Max Frisch, Paul Casals, Jack Lynch, Patrick Moore, Anthony Hulme, Ronald Colman, Alexander Kent, Jacques Brel, Lino Ventura, Alfred Wainwright, Rudolph Bultmann, Philippe Sollers, Jean Gabin, Leo Malet, G.E. Moore, Gilbert Ryle, Edmund Husserl, J.L. Austin, Lalo Schifrin, James Whitmore, Anthony Quayle, Ralph Richardson, Bernard Grebanier, Jean-Paul Sartre, Stanley Holloway, Carl Jung, Paul Kruger, Curd Jurgens, Gerard Walschap, Trevor Howard, Tony Benn, Rod Hull, Trevor Baylis, Joss Ackland, Frank Muir, Manny Shinwell, Jack Hargreaves, Warren Mitchell, Rupert Davies, Russ Abbot, Van Gordon Sauter, Walter Cronkite, Robert Fulghum, Milorad Pavić, Glenn Ford, Erwin Shrodinger, Moustapha Akkad, Evelyn Waugh, Harold Wilson, Bertrand Russell, Alf Landon, Edgar Buchanan, Dean Jagger, Edward G. Robinson, Rudyard Kipling, Aaron Spelling, P.G. Wodehouse, Allen Dulles, Otto Klemperer, Henry Fonda, Lee Van Cleef, Jack Lemmon, Peter Cushing, Barry Fitzgerald, Hume Cronyn, Graham Chapman, Nigel Bruce, Bennet Cerf, Raymond Chandler, Alexander Graham Bell, Arthur Frank, Richard E. Byrd, Gregory Peck, Albert King, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Edward Abbey, Juan Trippe, Frank Sinatra, General George S. Patton, Jacques Derrida, Hurbert Hoover, Sid James, Fred Trueman, Vincent Schiavelli, Eric Morecambe, Stephen Fry, Fred Thompson, Roscoe Dickinson, Guy N. Smith, Gunter Grass, Sean O’Casey, A.A. Milne, Sir Compton Mackenzie, Laurie Lee, W. Somerset Maugham, J.B. Priestly, Andre Dubus, Gordon Parks, F.A. Mitchell-Hedges, W.W. Denslow, William Conrad, William Gillette, Edwin Hubble, Rober Oppenheimer, Niels Bohr, Robert Young, Clark Gable, Fred MacMurray, Ralph Bellamy, Cary Grant, David Ogilvy, Sir Winston Churchill, King George VI, Arthur Miller, Ernest Hemingway, John Ford, Shelby Foote, Herschel Burke Gilbert, Thomas Johnston Taylor, Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss), Sir John Mills, Owen Barfield, Alan Christopher “Al” Deere, Elliot Harold Paul, Healey Willan, Harold Tucker Webster.

After perusing such a list, I ask: Can it be that the greatest minds of the 20th Century were all common miscreants, who did not fully fathom “what they were doing to themselves”? Are we, with all our advances of modern science, more intelligent than they were? How many men today can you count that can measure to the list above? I am hard pressed to find a handful, if that.

We current tobacco pipe smokers actually represent the historical legacy of a community of world pipe smokers, a community which, in the not too distant past, encompassed some 35% of the adult males in the United States. Lest it not be forgotten, these anonymous pipe smokers were our grandfathers, and allowed for the freedoms many of us enjoy today. Although far fewer in number today, we nevertheless still hold the candle to the memory of these men and the deeds they accomplished, with, of course, a pipe in hand.
Thanks everyone for your positive comments. Whenever I catch flack from anti-tobacco folks, friends, wife & children included especially those do-gooder “soccer moms” driving minivans, who quickly shield their children’s eyes when they see me – I go to length to point out just exactly who historically smoked a pipe. If Albert Einstein saw the sense to smoke a pipe, just to name one – or Shelby Foote, one of my favorites – then who in blue blazes are they to question my choice to smoke a pipe in public? (I started this thread after coming home from a 4th of July picnic, where it was clearly intoned to me that pipe smoking was not allowed in a NJ public park! On account of the kids).

Everyone says they miss the America depicted by Norman Rockwell, or reminisces fondly on the “greatest generation” who fought against fascism in the Second World War. Well, nearly all those joes smoked a pipe! And I don’t mean hidden away in their man caves, but out on the street, holding their kid’s hand, or carrying groceries home. That’s why I like reading Marc Munroe Dion so much. Smoking a pipe in public puts the brakes on society’s mindless, head-strong rush into an uncertain future. In short, it puts the mute button on our infotainment world. Which is something I like. Thanks for letting me rant. I’ll get off the soap box now.
If I’m ever in London, I think I’ll go to the Speaker’s Corner – that point where Oxford Street and Hyde Park meet, in the shadows of Marble Arch – and carry on an oral tradition that is becoming somewhat lost to a modern culture of email and online chat rooms. For over 150 years, Speaker’s Corner has been one of London’s most eccentric attractions. Soapbox central! There, with a large clenched Dunhill group 6 billiard, containing smouldering Pirate Kake, and reeking of 70% Latakia – my chest festooned with a large placard bearing the likeness of Alfred Dunhill – there I shall read out the proclamation entitled “Why I smoke a pipe”. Should be able to get through the first several paragraphs before the Bobbies cart me away in a white coat!
Parting thoughts –
My comments were: “Wow! I am dumbfounded. Personally I don’t give a hoot how pipe smokers are perceived by the wider society. I smoke a pipe throughout the day because I am a pipe smoker. Period. I smoke in private and I smoke in public. I also smoke in the can. If someone has a problem with it, they can contact my lawyer. Really, I could care less what others think of me and my pipe. Life is short enough as it is to worry about what the neighbors think. Get a life. Smoke a pipe. And let’s try not to think too deeply about it. Eh?”

Stem Repair Failure – by Mark Domingues

This is an interesting piece that Mark wrote on a stem repair that not even I would have undertaken. To me this stem was a goner. The hole and missing vulcanite would make a patch virtually impossible in my opinion. But my hat’s off to Mark for giving it a go. He writes up the repair and the failure of the repair in a clear and concise way. Thanks Mark for blazing the trail on this and letting know about one that did not work.

I got a Peterson Shamrock off Ebay with a chunk missing from the stem near the bit. I figured I would try to shape a repair using black super glue and vulcanite dust from an old stem. Instead of using the Oxyclean soak, I “painted” the stem with a bic lighter to remove the oxidation. I put a piece of cardboard wrapped with scotch tape and smeared with Vaseline in the bit end. Then put some glue on the cardboard, sprinkled dust and dripped more glue to make a patch. Since it was a curved stem, I placed it in my bowl of sand I use to do the alcohol and cotton ball treatment. I used to do the alcohol/salt but this is far easier and has the same effectiveness IMHO.





After drying, I used files and wet/dry paper moving from 320 up to 2000 to get the stem shaped. I used a needle file to reshape the bit, and then took it to my buffer wheels to really shine it. I think it came out great. The camera has some white spots that aren’t on the stem. It looks like a new stem!



Well, the repair LOOKED beautiful but didn’t hold!! Running a pipe cleaner through it a week later, it cracked and just crumbled away back to the original picture. I’m wondering about the ratio of glue to vulcanite dust, or like someone said on a pipe forum, the 2 different materials will not hold due to expansion and contraction when heated. Maybe I will try again with more glue, less dust.

Peterson Pre-Republic Shamrock – by Mark Domingues

Mark has been following the blog for awhile now and posting his work on Pipe Smokers Unleashed pipe forum. I have been reading about his work for awhile now and invited him to write about his refurbs for the blog. I am hoping this is the first of many posts that he will do for us on his restorations.

This is my first full writeup on a pipe. I got this Pre-Republic Shamrock shape 106 billiard on eBay. It has the circle COM dating it between 1947-49. The pics from eBay were enough to scare away the casual smoker. The bowl was heavily caked and had severe lava flow on the rim. The calcified stem didn’t fit all the way into the shank, in fact it was stuck. But the nomenclature was crisp and when I saw the “Made in Ireland” circle format, I knew I had to have it!


When I got the pipe in, it was just as shown. The cake was so thick I couldn’t get my pinkie into the bowl very far. The stem had a tooth mark divot on the p-lip opening and was frozen into the shank upside down.




First thing I did was use a cotton pad to wipe the outside of the bowl to get rid of 65+ years of grime. The bowl stain was still in excellent condition. Put the pipe in the freezer for 30 minutes then was able to free the stem. I soaked the bowl with the alcohol/cotton ball routine overnight. The next day I reamed the bowl, worked an alcohol soaked shank brush into the shank until the buildup was gone. When dry, the stem fit perfectly!
Here is the stem after “painting” it with a bic lighter to remove oxidation and raise up tooth depressions. Note the large divot in the airhole.



I put a Vaseline coated toothpick in the opening and used the StewMac black superglue to close up the opening to a more normal size, filling in the divot over several days.


Using 320 grit wet/dry sandpaper on up to 1200 grit, I reshaped the stem where the glue was built up. Then moving to the Beall 3 wheel buffing system I hit the pipe with Tripoli, white diamond and carnauba wax. Each wheel is dedicated to each compound and is attached to a ½ hp motor on an old barstool in my garage (mancave). I put an old quilt under the buffer because occasionally the pipe or stem I am working on will jump out and hit the concrete. This gives it a soft cushion should it happen. Here is the finished pipe, one of my new favorites!