Daily Archives: October 9, 2015

Reborn Pipes – Looking back 3 years ago to June 24, 2012

Blog by Neill Archer Roan

This piece originally was posted on Neill’s Blog – A Passion for Pipes (http://www.apassionforpipes.com/neills-blog/2012/6/24/reborn-pipes.html) not long after I had started rebornpipes. I had no idea that he was going to write this or what he would say. I was quietly starting the blog and the readership was really low. I did not know what I was doing I only knew that I wanted an online presence to put the pieces that I had written on refurbishing pipes and the extra ones that would come. I also wanted it to be a place that others could contribute to and share their work. I wanted a virtual community of amateur and otherwise pipe refurbishers. Now looking back three years or more after rebornpipes began I want to take time to thank Neill for his jump-start for rebornpipes. It was his publication of this piece on A Passion for Pipes that opened up a broader readership very quickly. I have read Neill’s blog for a long time now and when I read this piece he wrote it actually brought tears to my eyes. He got the point of rebornpipes. I can honestly say that it was his encouragement then and now that keeps me going. I want to take this venue to publicly thank you once again Neill. Your encouragement has meant the world to me. Thank you very much

RebornPipes As of my last researching the number, there are over 150 million blogs out there on the internet. By the time I finish typing this sentence there will probably be 160 million. It’s amazing how many people blog these days.

Steve Laug at breakfast at the Chicago Pipe Show

Steve Laug at breakfast at the Chicago Pipe Show

There is one new pipe blog out there that deserves your attention: Reborn Pipes, written by the Vancouver, BC pipe man Steve Laug. It is better than good. It is wonderful. Truly wonderful.

I became acquainted with Steve Laug through the popular Smokers Forums, an online pipes and tobacco forum. Steve serves as a moderator on that forum. Subsequent to my online introduction, I met Steve in real time at the Chicago Pipe Show quite a few years ago. I had already intuited Steve’s kindness and generosity; these things can be experienced in an online environment, but they are amplified in real time.

In real life, Steve is a member of the clergy. He is the sort of man whose flock I would immediately join if he lived within driving distance of my home. Thoughtful, quiet, and warm, Steve is, to my mind, an old-fashioned ministerial type in that his ministry emerges from serving others. I once learned of him bringing a homeless stranger back to his home and table for Thanksgiving dinner, an event inside his life that is probably so routine as to seem unremarkable. I’m sure he will be embarrassed to read these words, assuming he ever does. In other words, he actually lives the example of Jesus Christ as opposed to preaching the example.

I bring this up because that spirit of service comes across authentically in his writing.
In his pipe life, Steve brings homeless pipes to his workbench – pipes that have seen better days. In most cases, these are unremarkable pipes in brand or collectible terms. The one thing they seem to share is that they were once loved by someone. Most of them have had the tarnation smoked out them. As we would say of this kind of horse in Wyoming where I grew up, they were “rode hard and put away wet.”
Taking a gander at these pipes in Steve’s “before” pictures, most people would muse, “Why bother?” Why indeed?

It only takes looking at the “after” pictures to answer the question. When Steve applies his considerable refurbishment skills to these pipes, they are, in fact, reborn. Steve’s blog is aptly named because these pipes leave Steve’s bench more than refurbished. They are reborn to their purpose, ready to be smoked. Ready to be treasured.

In Reborn Pipes, Steve shares more than his refurbishment process, he shares his patience and his insights.

In practical terms, by reading Steve’s blog, you can learn how to restore your own pipes to their former glory. If you are new to the pipe world, or trying to build your rotation without draining your bank account, you can acquire skills that make it possible for you to buy estate pipes, spiff them up, and then enjoy them. By so doing, you’ll learn that you can buy and smoke much better pipes than you could otherwise afford. Plus, they will be yours – truly yours – in terms that you could never understand if you haven’t gone through this process.

I’ve bought many a fine pipe in my nearly 60 years, many of them high-grade, artisanal pipes. They have come to me in exquisite and pristine condition. It has surprised and perplexed me that a pipe’s beauty is not only an attribute that conjures desire, it can also be a barrier to my enjoyment of the pipe. All that newness, all that perfection defies defilement by putting match to tobacco within its little chamber of perfection. I have pipes in my collection that have remained unsmoked and unenjoyed for over a decade. I own these pipes, but they certainly do not feel like they are mine.

I’ve never felt this way when buying an estate. As I have assembled my Comoy Blue Riband collection, I have wound up with more than few pipes in need of refurbishment. When I’ve finished restoring the pipe, the work has created a bond of affection for that pipe that only time and labor can endow. I appreciate its qualities in deeper, more meaningful ways than I have ever felt for any of my brand-spanking-new treasures because I have had a hand in revealing its better qualities.

If you haven’t sussed out my point by now, let me state it outright: Steve’s blog addresses in metaphorical terms more than the refurbishment of pipes. He reveals that all things under heaven may be reborn through love, and not through love as it is so popularly and shallowly understood, but rather love as it is expressed by the farmer or the gardener.

The farmer and gardener express their love of the land by working it. They endow their land with purpose through the dignity of stewardship. There is not only affection here, but economy, thrift, and satisfaction that comes from the husbandry of more than oneself.

There aren’t many blogs out there that improve oneself by reading them. Reborn Pipes is special in this way. It deserves an audience. I invite you to join me as part of it. Navigate to Reborn Pipes by clickin here.

Article originally appeared on Pipe Blog (http://www.apassionforpipes.com/). Used by permission from the author. See website for complete article licensing information.

Reflecting on the illusive “magic” smoke and what makes it happen

Blog by Steve Laug

Avatar3In between traveling and working I had a day free in Budapest, Hungary. I had finished the work I had gone there to do and had some free time. I needed time alone after several weeks filled with people and meetings so I could recharge and regroup. So, I slept, wandered, ate and took time to write. I wrote a reflection on pipe smoking in Budapest that I posted earlier. I also wrote this reflection on what makes a magic smoke. I sat in a nice sidewalk café near my hotel with a pen and paper and wrote the outline for what later because this piece. I am sure that over the days ahead I will add to the thoughts I am expressing here and certainly invite you who read it to add to it as well using the comments box at the end of the blog.

Much has been written about how drilling and airflow dynamics affect the way a pipe smokes. And while that certainly is true there are other things that also affect a smoke. The reality is that the basic mechanics of a pipe are quite unremarkable. There is a furnace chamber for burning the tobacco and an airway on the bottom side of the bowl with a tube that runs out to a mouthpiece. The tobacco is lit; the air is pulled through the tobacco from the top of the furnace and is drawn through airway into the mouth. Diagramming it is quite simple. Think of a larger U or V with a line running from just above the bottom of the letter (U—–) and you have a pretty good picture of what the general furnace looks like. There are modifications of course such as bent pipes, partially bent pipes, system pipes etc. but even then the basic diagram is accurate.

I have been refurbishing pipes for over 15 years now – slowly, steadily learning more and more about the craft. One thing I have learned is that the basic mechanics of a pipe do not change. The externals may vary from pipe to pipe and maker to maker. The diameter and shape of the bowl differs. The diameter of the airway differs. The configuration of the airway in relation to the bottom of the bowl differs. The fit of the tenon into the mortise will either be tight or loose with arguments for both. However, the basic mechanics remain constant. The changes in bowl size and airway size affect burn and draw rates certainly. The larger the bore of the airway the easier it is to draw the air through the tobacco to the mouth. However the route is the same. I liken it to adjusting the flue on a woodstove. The more open the flue the more quickly and easily the wood burns. The more closed the flue the longer the burn. To some degree this is true of pipes as well. Kirsten pipes for example have a flue system to adjust the airflow in their bowl with a mere turn of the end cap. This controls the burn and openness of the airway.

I would say that while certainly the rate of burn, the flow of air and the ease of draw all contribute to a good smoke they are not alone in defining what makes a great smoke. They merely adjust the rate of burn of the tobacco and the duration of the smoke. Some of you might say that the bellows (the smoker) on the end of the mouth piece end also sets the cadence for the burn and the flow of air through the tobacco and draws the fire down into the bowl. But even this is still part of the mechanics. Think in terms of a bellows that draws air to the fire in a forge and intensifies the burn and the heat of the fire. It is part of the mechanics of the burn.

So if it is not just mechanics that make a good smoke then what is it that makes it happen? Is it the tobacco? Is it the cut and dryness of the leaf and the way the pipe man packs the bowl that makes a great smoke? Certainly these contribute. Add this to the mechanics of the pipe and you have another part of the answer to the question at hand. By itself, it also does not guarantee a good smoke. I am sure that many of us have experienced that accidental great smoke when we paid no attention to the pack of the bowl or to tamping correctly or applying the flame to the leaf. Most of us have experienced that magical smoke even in a poorly drilled and mechanically inferior pipe. So what is the deal? I know that one of my most magical smokes was in an old Medico Brylon billiard sans paper filter which made the draw wide open. I was packing it at a stop light and smoking it while I drove my car and the smoke was like a revelation of why I smoked a pipe. Nothing about the set up or the pipe precluded that I would have a magic smoke. In fact most of us would cynically have bet against it being a good smoke. So what is it that makes the magic? It is not mechanics alone. It is not your method of loading and tending the bowl alone. It is not the quality of the pipe alone. Though all of these contribute to the magic smoke to some degree but none of them, either alone or together, explains it.

I have read some who would say that the magic may reside in the briar or the meerschaum or the qualities of a particular piece of briar or meerschaum that is well seasoned. I am not convinced that this is altogether true. I have had both aged briar and new briar pipes that smoked both poorly and very well with no particular rhyme or reason. I have had the surprise of having Brylon and pressed meer pipes that have smoked really well and certainly a large proportion of them that smoked poorly. I have picked up cheap basket pipes or corn cobs when I was traveling on a short trip and left my pipe at home and found that some of them delivered amazingly great smokes. All of the curing, shaping, drilling did not guarantee a great smoke. I know that an aged piece of briar should deliver a better smoke but I have had older Algerian briar pipes that were well broken in and still burned both hot and sour. At the same time I have picked a newly carved pipe, loaded a bowl and was carried off by the magic. Certainly, quality briar and quality meerschaum that are well carved and well drilled increase the odds of a good smoke but they are not a guarantee.

Along with all of the things another contributing feature that comes to mind from my experience is the setting where I am smoking my pipe. It definitely contributes to the quality of the smoke for me. I know that when I find a good spot where I can relax and either disappear into a reflective state or sit and watch passersby both work well for me and they contribute in different ways to the nature of the smoke. I just came back from Berlin and Budapest where sidewalk cafes are everywhere and the amazing thing about these cafés and terraces is that they are smoker friendly spots. I spent quite a few late afternoons and evenings availing myself of the pleasure of the café. I was able to find the sweet spot on a few of those days and enjoy a magical smoke. In those cases I think I was able to disconnect from my busy day and slowly puff and slide into that space where pipe men go when they are alone with a good pipe. The quality of the smoke was definitely affected by the spot. But I have also enjoyed good smokes slowly walking through a park or down the street by my house as I head to an appointment or a meeting. So it seems that the setting contributes but it is not solely responsible for the moment.

That leads me to the last consideration of elements of the good smoke in this reflection – that of the internal state mind of the pipe smoker. What does it contribute? In my experience, my most magical smokes have oddly occurred during some of the hardest and most troublesome days of my life. The pipe allowed me to disconnect from the heat or weight of the moment and stand apart for a moment. It was that magical disconnect that allowed me to get lost in the smoke. It gave me a moment to move outside of the moment and just get lost in the smoke. In that quiet spot created by the pipe I was able to gain clarity and move forward with decisions and choices that had been weighed and considered with care. I know that some would argue that a calm spirit and quiet heart makes for a better smoke, but in my experience it is the ability of the pipe to take me to that place of calm and quiet that adds to the magic. For me the state of mind seems to come after the smoke has been entered into and not as a per-requisite for making the magic happen. I am sure for others this may well be the case but it alludes me when I seek for it and comes to me when I surrender to the quiet of the pipe.

I am sure there are other contributing features that can be added and certainly would love to have you add your own thoughts to these reflections in the comments section below. All I know is that for me it is that ever illusive but amazing magical smoke that keeps me coming back again and again to my pipe. Regardless of the circumstance I have learned that the mechanics, the tobacco, the setting and the reframed state of mind all contribute their part to the great smoke!