Category Archives: Pipe Related Essays

Short and not so short essays on pipes and tobacciana

The Minklings of Budapest

Blog by Laci Németh

Greetings pipe smokers of the world! 🙂 This post is coming to you from Europe. Budapest, Hungary. I am one of the many silent readers of this blog. I am a pipe smoker myself for arround 15 years now. This post has mentioned me. In October I gathered a group of pipe smokers to form a regular pipe smoking fellowship, and Steve asked me to share about it. So here we go.

Why a smoking fellowship?

Yes I know, pipe smoking is an “indivudual sport”, but it does bring an interesting experience when “simple” people share time, thoughts, hearts together. My first encounter with this experience was on a mountain overlooking the city of Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I was visiting a friend who was on a mission there and choose pipe smoking as a way to go deeper with those who are opened to him.

Two Americans, few Bosnians, me as a Hungarian, a bottle of whisky, our pipes, and an open fire.  It started with them chanting this quote almost as a prayer:

“I have some friends, some honest friends, and honest friends are few; My pipe of briar, my open fire, a book that’s not too new.” — Robert W. Service

Wood was burning. Pipes smoked. Books opened to read poems. One Bosnian fellow shared his own poem that he has wrote since the last time he attended. And I was just sitting there…breathing in every second, every emotion, every heartbeat. A wonderful, life changing memory from 2006.img_1015

I asked them where did the idea came from?

They said: Inklings. (few of them were big C.S. Lewis and Tolkien fans)

Later I found out that one of them was influenced by the Wheaton version of this group: Whinklings.

11 years later. In Budapest I got to gather several pipe smokers arround an open fire. We have called ourselves: Minklings (M stands for Hungarian in our language, and the first four words also mean “us”. So its a play with the words.) 🙂img_1016

Yes, I am aware that we are nothing to compare ourselves to these giants of world literature. We are counselors, buisiness people, church pastors, programmers, etc. But we have many things in common. Among which the pipe smoking might be the least important.

I was very much surprised that almost each person had a poem (or poems) written before. They shared it. It was unique time. One of us has brought his own home
brewed beer. Some played a song.

We got to know each other through what we brought to the table.

in my point of view, we are all unique, worthy and special. we all have talents, gifts, capabilities that can be treasures to others. But we have many things in common. Among which the pipe smoking might be the least important.

I was very much surprised that almost each person had a poem (or poems) written before. They shared it. It was unique time. One of us has brought his own home brewed beer. Some played a song.  We got to know each other through what we brought to the table.  Every human being is a treasure.

If you want to discover it, all you need to do is organize a meeting for people you know that are pipe smokers. Announce a subject, for example: Bring a poem, a song, or something that describes you, that introduces you. Have an open fire. And let the magic happened. You will not regret it.

We are now meeting (only) every three months in organized way. But several of us have posted times when “we ran” into each other for a smoke wherever we met in the country.



ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS: Aren’t all pipe reamers basically the same?

Blog by Steve Laug

This is another blog written in the Answers to Questions series. I have often been asked via email, messenger or phone call for a recommendation for a pipe reaming tool. I have answered that question so many times it is almost a script now. I basically use two different reamers on the pipes I work on. The first is a Kleen Reem Pipe Tool and the second is the PipNet Pipe Reaming set. I thought it was time to post this as a blog on rebornpipes and use it as a comparison between the original tools and others that I call “pretenders”.

Over the years of my refurbishing experience I have used and worn out many pipe reamers. I have tried older and newer pipe reamers that have all promised to be the best and last one that I will have to purchase. Needless to say, I have a collection of various reamers other than I like looking at the creativity that sent out such a variety into a limited world of pipe smokers who actually ream their pipes. I rarely use many of them but they are fun to look at. One thing I have learned that even with the reamers I use, that not all pipe reamers are the same even if they look the same. I want to take this opportunity to compare two different reamers – the Kleen Reem Pipe Tool and the PipNet Pipe Reamers what I call the originals with the ones I call lesser copies. I will also be looking at the PipNet pipe reaming set in the two iterations that I am familiar with – the clear amber version and the opaque tan version. Understand that I have used all of these reamers so I am not coming from a place of prejudice but rather from an assessment of durability and functionality.

1. Kleen Reem and Senior Pipe Reamers.

I remember that when I first saw these two reamers for sale on eBay I thought they were the same. I had never seen either of them up close so I had no way of truly knowing. Since then I have had both of them in my refurbishing arsenal. I have used them both and I have no problem saying that the Kleen Reem tool is by far a superior product. The first photo below shows the Kleen Reem Pipe Tool and the second photo shows the Senior Pipe Reamer. Looking at the two pictures above I want to do a bit of comparison. The adjustable cutting head on the Kleen Reem tool is made of thicker hardened steel and no matter how often I have pushed the blades against hardened carbon on the inside of a bowl they have not grown dull. The blades in the closed position are very close together allowing you to ream the bottom of a bowl. The profile of the blades is different – the senior reamers blades look more flat and angled, while the Kleen Reem blades have a flowing curved shape. The cylinder between the blades that expands and contracts them differs in shape. The Kleen Reem cylinder is more bullet shaped with a pointed end and the Senior is flatter and more cylindrical. I think this explains why the Senior reamer cannot be closed as tightly for use in a smaller bowl. The drill bit/ that is in the handle of the reamer looks the same but it is not. It is more substantial and solid in the Kleen Reem tool than the one in the Senior reamer. The drill bit has a hole in the end of it that you can wrap up the grooves of the bit, dip in Alcohol or liquor and scrub out the inside of the shank. Kleen Reem’s come with a bunch of the short pipe cleaners inside a little ring that holds them. The weight of the Kleen Reem tool is substantially heavier than the Senior reamer.

I have learned from using the tool that the Kleen Reem mechanics never seems to stick no matter how dirty the tool I have used. I have three or four of these in different cases and all of them seem impervious to dirt and carbon. I have bought all of them on eBay in a variety of conditions and with cleaning all work well. They keep on going no matter what they are put through. Their durability can also be seen in that they have lasted through the years and the originals are still sold on eBay.

You can see my preference in the above is for the Kleen Reem tool. It seems that they were first made by the B.A.C. Needham Company and later by the W.J. Young Co. in Peabody, Massachusetts. Each Kleen Reem pipe reamer came in a variety of packaging styles. The original BAC Needham’s came in a cardboard case (this is the first one that I purchased over 20 years ago). The earliest versions sat in a soft green bedding and still had “Pat. Pend.” stamped on the cap for the drill bit. I have other ones that have a red bedding.

2. Pipnet and Castleford Reamers.

Pat Russell did a great comparison review of these two reamers in an earlier blog on rebornpipes. I am including the link if you want to read it fully. I will summarize some of the major differences that I have found between two very similar looking reamers.I first bought a PipNet Pipe Reamer on eBay almost 20 years ago. It came in a plastic box imprinted with the PipNet stamp and information. It had an instruction sheet on the inside of the cover. It was made of an opaque tan coloured high density plastic that is very strong. I have used it heavily over the past years, reaming literally hundreds of pipes and it is still in great condition. The thick carbon steel blades have held their edge and work as well as they did when I received it. The hard plastic T-handle and four detachable cutting heads have not cracked or broken. The heads still fit well in the handle, snug and tight with no rattle or looseness.

Not long after that I was gifted a Castleford Reamer. It came in a cardboard box with a clear plastic insert in the lid. The T-handle and cutting heads were black plastic and on first glance, they appeared to be the same as the PipNet set. However, it did not take long to learn firsthand the difference in the two sets. I used the Castleford on a thickly caked bowl that the PipNet easily handled and the blades had a hard time cutting into the cake. The handle felt flimsy in comparison to the PipNet and as I turned it, using the smallest cutting head the square end of the cutting head snapped off. I figured it was a fluke. I put the next head in the handle and turned it. This time the T-handle itself snapped, rendering the set useless. To have both the handle and a cutting head snap was no accident. I compared the two T-handles and could see that the Castleford was significantly thinner than the PipNet handle. The square slot that held the heads had thin walls. The plastic itself seemed lighter weight and more brittle than the PipNet. Looking at the material it seemed be less dense on the Castleford.

I went on to compare the square end of the bits on both. The Castleford was cast different from the PipNet. It seemed to be thinner even at the joint of the square with the blades. I compared the cutting blades and found that the steel on the blades of the Castleford were not as thick, beveled or hard as the ones on the PipNet. I knew that the PipeNet blades were carbon steel but the blades on the Castleford did not seem to be made of the same steel.

3. Pipnet clear amber and PipNet opaque tan Reamers.

For comparison sake I thought I would end this blog on my favourite reamers with a comparison of the PipNet reamer that is opaque tan with the clear amber one made by the same company. This may seem unnecessary but I have found that even these two sets are different.

The carbon steel blades are the same and cut the carbon cake very well. They both hold the sharp edge very well and do not wear. The difference lies in the durability of the plastic T-handle and cutting head. The opaque plastic seems to be harder than the clear amber plastic. I used the amber plastic (which is a newer reamer) reamer for several weeks. I began to feel it flex as I turned it in the bowl. After a few uses it started to show cracks in the plastic T-handle around the connection with the cutting head. The heads began to fit more loosely in the handle than when I started. I continued to use it for the entire two weeks.

The last time I used it, the connector on the handle cracked and a chunk of the plastic fell off. I switched to the opaque T-handle and kept working and in short time the cutting head also broke off. It was very clear that it was not as durable even when using it in the same manner as the opaque one. The remaining cutting heads fit in the opaque T-handle so they remain usable but I am quite disappointed in the quality of the newer amber plastic version. I will always continue to hunt for and use the opaque (older reamer) one. I have bought several and given them away to others as gifts. I need to find a backup set for myself as well.With that, I conclude my answer to the question regarding the pipe reamers I use and the comparison of the real and the pretenders in my opinion. Over the years, I always reach for these two reamers without giving the choice much thought. I just unthinkingly choose these two. However, it seems that I reach for the PipNet reamer first. It is my go to reamer. I start with the smallest cutting head and work my way up to the largest one that will fit in the bowl. The Kleen Reem is always the second choice for most pipes. Sometimes for a deeper, tapered and narrow bowl, I will start with the Kleen Reem. Both occupy a drawer right next to my worktable.

With the last comparison, I end this Answers to Questions blog. I hope that it has given you some insight into why I chose the tools that I use. You should know, if you are a frequent reader of rebornpipes, that there is always a rationale to my choices. They generally come from much experimenting with a variety of reamers with many discards that go either into my collection of reamers or into the dustbin. I hope that it has been helpful for you in selecting the reamer that you will purchase. Thank you for taking time to read this blog. Cheers.


Wally Frank Pipe Pump Kit – Vintage Pipe Cleaning Kit, Wally Frank, NYC

Blog by Steve Laug

My brother Jeff is really good at finding tobacciana items that are intriguing and this is certainly one of them. He sent me a link to this item on eBay to see what I thought. Of course I was hooked and said let’s go for it. He contacted the seller and made an offer and today he informed me that we now own the item. The seller described the item and included the photos that follow in his ad. “Here we have a nice vintage Wally Frank pump pipe cleaner. Still in nice condition, though the box is in distressed condition.  Please check out the photos. The little cup that the dirty water goes into is missing but almost any kind of cup or the sink would work and there is no cleaner liquid in bottle. The empty bottle of pipe elixir and the cover of the box are cool in and of themselves.  Would be a nice one to add to your collection.  This kit was originally sold through Wally Frank Ltd’s mail order department or in either of its two New York City stores.”

The cover of the box shows an illustration of the pump with a pipe in place in the pump mechanism. It says that the pump kit cleans, sweetens and deodorizes the pipe. The box says Wally Frank Pipe Pump Kit is for real pipe hygiene. It puts the OK in Pipe SmOKing. Along with that description is the address for the Mail Order Department along with the stores in New York City. The box is a little frayed and worn around the edges and missing one end on the box top.The inside of the lid reads: DIRECTIONS For Real Pipe Hygiene. It gives the directions on how to use the Pipe Pump.

  1. Remove all tobacco from the bowl of the pipe.
  2. Place bowl of pipe directly over pump intake and using the thumb screw tighten down until bowl is firm and airtight.
  3. Pour enough cleaning fluid into glass container to cover the tip of the pipe stem.
  4. Placing stem of pipe in fluid, pump until you feel sure that the pipe is sufficiently cleansed. (If the fluid should become very dirty, repeat operations 3 and 4.)
  5. Then remove pipe from glass container and continue pumping air for a few second to dry out the bowl and stem of the pipe. THE PIPE NOW WILL BE SWEET AND ODORLESS ENABLING YOU TO ENJOY PIPE SMOKING AT ITS BEST.
  6. Pump can be adjusted by tightening or loosening the hexagon nut at the end of the plunger.

Reorder Wally Frank Pipe Elixir when present supply is exhausted from Wally Frank, Ltd., 150 Nassau St. New York 7, N.Y. 4oz. Bottle 49 cents Postpaid. Use only the Wally Frank Pipe Elixir for Best Results. Do Not Use Elixir on Meerschaum Pipes.The seller included pictures of the inside of the box. It included the pump unit and the Elixir bottle. It was missing the glass jar that the stem sat inHe also included pictures of the pump unit and also the empty bottle of pipe Elixir. The bottle reads: Wally Frank Pipe Elixir for cleaning and sweetening briar pipes. The only fluid that gives perfect results with the Wally Frank Pipe Pump. For use in briar pipes only. The address follows.I did a bit of hunting on Google and found pictures of another Pipe Pump Kit. It was complete so I had an idea of what the missing bottle looked like in my boxed set. I am looking forward to getting the Pipe Pump package from my brother so I can try it out. The concept looks like it would work. I am wondering if I could pump isopropyl alcohol through the stem, shank and bowl and clean it out. It almost seems like it could do a similar job to a retort. When I get it I will work over a few pipes with it and see what I can find out about it. Thanks for looking. When I find stuff like this I love sharing it with folks who might possibly be interested in it as well. Thanks for reading.

Realizing my dream for a rebornpipes community

Blog by Steve Laug

Over the years of my dabbling in pipe restoration and refurbishing I have experienced many helpful individuals who took time to school me in the work that I do. Both repair people and pipe makers took time to answer my questions as they arose. They would do so by email, phone or in person. I never ran into a situation where they were not willing to be interrupted to help me out with what to me was an “urgent” question. They often would follow-up on what I had asked to see if it had worked out or if I had further questions. I experienced a great sense of community with them in our common love of the pipe. When I could visit them, I did so and enjoyed a bowl together. The comradery was unequaled to other experiences I have had both in the hobby and outside the hobby in my various jobs.

When I started dreaming and working on the concept for rebornpipes it was early in 2012. I knew that I wanted to create an online community of pipe refurbishers – both amateur and those who make a living at it. I wanted that community to be like the one I continue to experience to this day. When I run into questions and want some advice from someone who has already done the repair I just reach out with an email or a phone call. I wanted to create a place where folks who refurbish pipes could share their expertise and methods with one another and continue to learn new ways of working on the briar we love. I wanted it to be a judgmental free forum of methods and ideas of restoration. I wanted it to be a place were a beginner and a veteran refurbisher would find a forum of ideas and methods. What I am speaking of is quite simply an interactive community where there are no “dumb questions”. All of us can reach forward to someone who knows more than we do and back to someone who is just beginning. I was hoping that kind of place would be possible to start.

When I began the blog in May of 2012, I had no idea whether it would fly or whether I would be closing up shop soon after opening. I knew that I was putting together a repository of the methods of restoring pipes that I had collected over years of working on my own pipes. I have always recorded the process of restoration as I often posted them on the various pipe forums that I frequented at that time. I had a backlog of files with photos and step-by-step procedures that I had taken on each pipe I worked on. I established a template for the writing style and the form of each piece I had written. At that point in time, I could find no one who was doing anything remotely like I wanted to do, so I had to invent it myself.

I researched the web to find some kind of place to build the site I had in mind. I knew that I did not want a website or a forum. I wanted something that did not limit the number of photos or the number of words I wrote in a post. I wanted something that would grow with time and be able to incorporate the work of others, not just myself. I wanted the site to have the capacity for discussion and interaction on each post. I had a lot of ideas that needed to be available for the site to work for me. My youngest daughter, Sarah had started a blog on WordPress and suggested that a blog might be the right kind of format for what I wanted to do. I went on the WordPress site and read through everything they had on setting up a blog on their site.

I worked through the site and everything I looked at seemed like it was perfect for my demands. I took the plunge and registered for a free blog on WordPress. I knew next to nothing about setting up a blog and adding text or photos. I knew next to nothing about inviting others to use the blog. I had no idea how to monitor it and screen out the incessant spam that comes with any internet adventure. I was as green as could be with regard to the world of blogging. I knew how to write and I had a large backlog of pieces that I could post. The adventure began. I don’t remember how many posts I put online before I advertised it on Smokers Forums and other Forums – maybe 25 or so. I did not know at that time how to link it to Facebook or Twitter for a larger reach. I just dived in and went from there. Not long after I began, a friend from England on Smokers Forums drew a header image for the new blog. Kirk sent me the following piece that he had put together. I grace the top of every page of the site for several years. I have included it below, because even that was a foretaste of the community I was dreaming would form around rebornpipes.I will never forget the moment that Neill Archer Roan read a couple of pieces on the blog (maybe more) and recommended my blog on his Passion for Pipes site. That is where things really took off for rebornpipes. Traffic increased over time. I asked Al Jones (upshallfan) if he would consider writing for the blog about his restoration work. I started haunting the restoration and refurbishing sections on the forums and asking people to contribute to the blog. Slowly at first, then with increasing momentum, new contributors were added and the blog began to come alive. The one piece I had yet to unravel was how to get readers to interact with the writers of each blog. I invited them and emailed others to kind of seed the idea but nothing seemed to work. I laid that aside and hoped that one day it would just happen.

The years have actually flown by and I can hardly believe that five years have already passed. Much of what I dreamed would happen has happened. New people write regularly thanking me for starting this blog. Others post on Facebook, Twitter, and the forums referencing to rebornpipes and thanking the writers and contributors of blogs to the site. The interaction between readers and  writers grows every month and new followers are added daily. A growing and vibrant community of refurbishers provides the knowledge base to folks who are just beginning to explore the world of pipe refurbishing. Questions are asked, comments are made and recommendations are given through the comment feature on the blogs. A store, selling refurbished pipes is also available and links to other refurbishers who are selling their work are regularly provided in the pieces that they  write. I am thrilled with the life that rebornpipes has now as it is daily growing into the place that I dreamed it would be.

On June 1, 2017 I wrote a blog reflecting on rebornpipes fifth year in existence. You can read the entire blog at this link: I want to quote just a part of it here as it illustrates how my original dream is being fulfilled. Today at the five-year mark, I look back and the blog has taken on a life of its own. It has grown from just my own posts to those of over 20 contributors. Al Jones (upshallfan) has been with me from the beginning and I am thankful for his support and friendship. Throughout the years, other contributors have come and gone and new ones are added regularly. Each one brings their own flavor and flair to the work of refurbishing. Their style and innovations leave me excited to read the next post… I thank each one of you who have contributed to the blog so far and remind the readers that the door is always open for you to make your own contributions to the hobby. Email me at for information on post formats and details.

What does the future hold for rebornpipes? To be honest it is just now coming to life in the way I had dreamed it would. Out of it, others have created their own blogs that contribute to the love of pipe restoration. Some of them certainly could speak for themselves how rebornpipes contributed or has not contributed to their own blog and I will leave that to them if they choose to do so. I have no idea where the blog will go or what its life expectancy will be but I am committed to continue to post and pay the bills to keep it going as long as I am able. It remains a major part of each day to read and do the housekeeping on the blog. I have the app on my iPad and my iPhone so I can do the work wherever I am at the moment. My morning begins with a cup of coffee and reading what others have posted and commented from around the world while I slept.

Once again I want to thank you all – those dreamers among you who contribute your own work, those of you who read and comment faithfully now, those of you who read and email to let me know how much you are enjoying the blog and all who are loyal readers and enjoy the blog on your own. Thank you to each of you who send questions and now contact me through the contact button on the front page for help in your own restorations. It is a pleasure to be able to help you as you work on your own restorations and repairs. It is a joy for me to see my dream coming to pass. It is a joy to be a part of the community that has formed around rebornpipes.

I raise my pipe to each of you who love the work of refurbishing, bringing old pipes back to life and passing on the trust that is symbolized in a briar that outlives each of us. It is because of that commonality that I continue to work and continue to post. Thank you all.

The Solitary Pipe Smoker Revisited

Blog by Steve Laug

This drawing came to me from Bill Cumming as a gift. He found it on his journeys. To me the illustration captures the solitary nature of the ritual of the pipe.

A few years ago, I wrote a blog called The Solitary Pipe Smoker in which I spoke of my own predilection toward being a solitary pipe smoker. I wrote it with no disrespect for the community of pipe smoking folks – male and female with whom I have had the pleasure of communing while enjoying my pipe. Rather, I wrote it because in my life I need time that is not filled with “noise” – good, bad or neutral – to recentre and refocus my life. I wrote of how the pipe is able to give me space and time to do just that. The ritual of the pipe is almost sacramental, in that it creates the space in my head and in my life to step away and regroup. The link to the original blog is ( For me, the fact that I have to pay attention to the ritual and move through the steps of loading, packing, lighting and tamping my pipe in itself pulls my thoughts into the circle of the bowl.

Like others, I thoroughly enjoy the comradery of a group of pipe folks – sharing tobaccos, while swapping stories and pipes is a pleasure I don’t take lightly. Several years have gone by since I wrote that blog and I thought it was time to revisit my thinking. I have bought, sold and traded quite a few pipes over that period. I have had great visits with pipe folk around the world over a pint or a coffee while enjoying a favourite bowl together. I wondered with the passage of time if my understanding of the solitary habit of my pipe smoking had changed at all. Had my need for space and time alone made any radical shift since I wrote that? Have I become more social in my pipe smoking and less solitary? These and other questions ran through my mind. Yes, it is time revisit my thinking on the solitary dimension of my pipe smoking.

I set aside some time over the past weeks to think about the questions that I posed above. I have reflected on my thoughts from the previous blog and have read others who have written on the communal aspect of pipe smoking. I wanted to compare my earlier thinking with what others have written about the communal nature of the pipe. Some of them have gone so far as to say that pipe smoking is best as a communal experience. For me that has not necessarily been true in the past. Therefore, to check my experience I have taken time for introspection and self-examination; I have to say that I have become even more committed to the time of solitude with my pipe since I wrote the earlier blog. The solitary nature of pipe smoking is sacred to me. It addresses a need in my life for time that is free of the interruption of speech or noise.

Why is that true for me? My every day work life is crowded with people and conversations. I spend 8-12 a day, 5-6 days a week talking with people face to face, on the internet, or the phone. By the end of my day, I am certain that I have used my quota of words. I am talked out and have nothing left to say. I long for the quiet of solitude. No sounds, no talking, no music, no need to respond or pay attention to another person – just quiet, alone time.

However, this is where the problem comes into focus for me. I am not a hermit who lives alone in his cabin in the woods. I live in community with my wife of 40+ years and 3 of our adult daughters. When we get home from work in the evenings, everyone wants to engage and be family – except me. I want to disappear and I get that haunted look in my eyes of a captive who cannot hide. What am I supposed to do? Do I just ignore the needs of the family and selfishly cling to my own needs – real or imagined? Do I stuff my need for quiet and just man up and do the work? Do I come up with an alternative that works for all of us in my family?

Together my wife, daughters and I came up with a workable solution for us – it allows me some solitude before I engage with my family. It is simple and it gives me the space I need and gives them the Husband and Dad they want. When I get home from work, I go to my workshop and fiddle with restoring pipes or have a bowl of tobacco on my front porch or maybe both. By the time dinner is ready my equilibrium has been restored and I can be present in the family. The time with the pipe – either puffing it or restoring it or both gives me the separation that I need to leave the talking of the day behind me. It gives me the solitude that is so necessary for the introverted me to be able to be ready to re-engage with my family. This solution has worked for us for many years now and I find that relieves a lot of pressure that they or I can impose on myself for not being able to listen well to my family after spending a day listening to others.

My reflections confirm that solitude is important not only for my own spiritual and emotional health but for my ability to engage fully in the events of my life and enjoy the present. However, I have also learned that no matter how important solitude is for me, it remains elusive in my life if I do not make space for it. My life filled with noise, busyness and the intrusion of the internet will always take precedence if I do not challenge it. It is hard to leave the noise behind and spend time alone. Many people do not like to spend time alone. They find it uncomfortable and hard to do. To take the time to be alone is actually countercultural and challenging. To maintain a routine of solitude is even harder.

Solitude – where all external communication, noise and internal noise and chaos stops is becoming a fading memory for most people I know. The idea of stopping the doing and just being is becoming harder for folks to imagine. However, I have found that it is a necessity that if neglected has consequences for me. Those consequences range from malaise and weariness that can easily progress to burn out to being so busy that I forget to care for myself with all of the accompanying issues that arise from that. So how do I ensure that I take the time to be solitary? How do I maintain this needed respite?

I have learned that this is where my pipe can facilitate the introspective, quiet time that I require. It is a pleasure that I enjoy and a past time that provides me with the quiet I long for. When I settle on the porch or shop with my pipe and a favourite tobacco the move into solitude begins. The smell of the unpacked pipe begins the process of transporting me into quiet. The feel of the pipe in my hand is inviting. I open the tin or pouch of tobacco and inhale deeply of the aroma. I love that moment when the components of the blend spin around and come together with a delightful pouch note. I slowly breathe out, exhaling the stress of my life. I put the pipe bowl in the pouch or the tin and push the tobacco into the bowl with a finger or thumb. If it is a flake tobacco, I rub it out between my fingers and thumb or on the palm of my hand until it is the right consistency for a smoke. I pack the bowl almost unthinkingly now as I have done it so long. I am often far away in my thoughts as I load the pipe. I use my thumb to test the pack of the bowl. All of these minute steps cause me to focus on a singular task and leave behind the events of my day.

When the flame is put to the smoke and the slight draw of smoke flows into my mouth it is like a sipping a good wine. I savour the flavor of the tobacco as it swirls around my mouth. I sip on the pipe, slowly setting a cadence to the smoke. A good smoke has to be unhurried and uninterrupted if it is going to be a quiet place for me. I find that when my wife or daughters talk with me in the process of the smoke, I lose the cadence and the magic is gone. That slow sipping of smoke into the mouth and letting it slowly leave through the mouth brings focus and quiet. As the smoke ascends and wreaths my head, reaching to the ceiling of my porch I sense the pipe drawing me into the circle of solitude. It is this moment where I could stay forever. Pipe smokers speak of a magic smoke, but for me each smoke that transports me to a peaceful spot is magic.

I have tried to move to that quiet place with others present on my porch. My son in law will join me for a pipe periodically and it is never quite the same. It is nothing he says or does, as often it is quiet.  It may be that my mind moves from that place of being unengaged to having to think about another person. I am not sure why but I know that doing that takes my focus off the moment and immediately makes it another social event for me. While it is often a pleasant experience for me, it still does not meet the need I feel for solitude.

I have found that it is only alone that I experience the magic of the pipe. I don’t think I have ever had the experience in the company of pipemen. No matter how convivial the gathering or how enjoyable the experience it is never the same. I think that the experience of the magic is linked to the solitude. I think that is why some have called pipe smoking sacramental. The pipe has the ability to transport the pipeman from the mundane of the day into a sacred place where the soul is at rest and prayer can happen without thinking. The wafting of smoke is not unlike the incense used in places of worship that lift the worshiper to a higher plane and out of their daily routine. The ritual of pipe smoking – the tamping, relighting and puffing slowly all work together the same way to lift me out of the day to day wrestling to a place of quietude.

As the last tamp is done and the last sip of smoke is drawn into my mouth I find myself moving back into the present. The pipe and the smoke have prepared me for re-entry into my home life. It makes the transition into the life of my family somehow more natural and less forced. I tap the bowl against the heel of my hand and tip the ashes into the flower bed below my front porch. I run a pipe cleaner through the stem and bowl and blow air through to remove any bits of tobacco in the bowl. Each step is part of the re-entry. The taste of the tobacco on the inside of my lips and the lingering smoke in my beard are reminders of the place of quiet I am leaving.

All that being said, I guess I am still a solitary pipe smoker most of the time. I am not a recluse or particularly anti-social but I long for and enjoy the quiet times alone with my pipe. The closest thing that provides me the same kind of moment is a pipe on a good walk. Each Sunday I walk to church with my wife and daughters. It is about a 30-40 minute walk and it provides a perfect opportunity to enjoy a bowl and some quiet. I dawdle along with a pipe in my mouth enjoying the day. If it is sunny so much the better and if it is raining it is not a deterrent.


I Bought a Collection of Estate Pipes

Blog by Steve Laug

One of the benefits of the blog is that I meet a lot of really nice people around the world – some of them pipe men and some of them family members. Not long ago I received an email from a fellow on the blog about some pipes that he had. His father had died in June and he was cleaning up the estate and found a box of pipes and accessories. He contacted me to see if I was interested in the lot. He did not want to piece them out; he wanted to sell them all. He sent me a small spread sheet of his Dad’s pipe collection so I could see what was included. He had a column with the stamping information on the pipes and noted any issues that he saw. We talked a few times on the phone about the condition of each pipe and I really enjoyed meeting and talking with him.We emailed back and forth and I called him several times. We chatted a bit about what he wanted to get for the collection in terms of a price and after discussing it with his wife and family we arrived at a fair price for the collection. He surprised me by adding all of the accessories along with the pipes as well as two pipe racks. I transferred the payment to him and the package was sent to my brother Jeff. It is simpler than sending it to Canada so it worked well for the seller to send it there.

When the package arrived in Idaho Jeff messaged me and said it was there. He took photos for me of the unpacking process so I could see what was there. This is the one thing I miss being far away – I don’t get the sense of surprise that comes as each pipe is unwrapped. No matter how well they have been described or how many photos have been included there is nothing quite the same as going over each piece in person.

Even though the U-Haul box says it is small it was a large box and well packed. The racks and surprises were packed in paper and protected by the crumpled packing materials. The pipes were individually wrapped in bubble wrap. Jeff unwrapped the two pipe racks and took photos of them for me (Understand – the photos were coming on messenger as soon as he unwrapped them so I was virtually experiencing the thrill of each piece he took out of the box). The first rack was a 9 pipe circular rack with room in the middle for a humidor (which was missing). It appeared to be made of walnut and was in good condition. The second rack was a 12 pipe rack and was more worn. It too was probably walnut but had a dark opaque stain on it.The next item out of the box was a mysterious cedar cigar box held closed by a rubber band. This was the surprise I had not expected in the lot. I could not wait to see the next photo and know what was in the box. I don’t know about you but when I find this kind of closed box I have all kinds of notions as to what may be inside and over the years most of those notions have been realized.Jeff removed the rubber band and opened the lid. He took a photo of the contents inside without going through them so I could see what he saw. I could see a lot of different items from pipe knives to reamers to brushes to mysterious little tubes in the top right corner. Inside the box, before he could see the contents, he had to remove some leather pipe bags. These were stamped Amphora Xtra Holland.Jeff unpacked the surprise box slowly and photographed each step of his discovery. I have already written a blog on what the box contained so I won’t repeat it here. Suffice, to say that there were some reamers and pipe parts that I have been looking for and not found for quite a few years. Here is the link to the blog. The photos that follow tell the story better that words. With the mystery box unpacked and inventoried Jeff went on to unpack the carefully wrapped pipes. He took photos of the lot once he had removed them from the box and before he unwrapped them. The suspense was building for me. I wondered how each pipe looked. Descriptions and spread sheets can only tell so much but when you have the pipe in hand you know far more.The seller had put a small paper label on each pipe describing what he found as he went over them for me. The descriptions matched the spread sheet that he had emailed. Some of the pipes had pipe cleaners in the stem and shank. The photos show each set of pipes as he unwrapped them. As I saw them I was getting more excited about them. They were dirty and had cake in the bowls and wear on the stem but I was happy to see that the work needed was less than expected. The next photo is a little blurry but I have included it because I think it adequately captures the excitement of unwrapping each successive package. There were some very nice old pipes in this lot. Some were average and some were above average. It was going to be a fun lot to work on.Jeff took a photo of the rim top and bowl to give me a better idea of the condition of the pipes. There were no surprises here – mostly what I expected tired and dirty pipes that needed TLC. Jeff took a series of photos of side view of the pipes as a group. The pipes looked like they were in good shape. He set up all of the pieces of this purchase on his table and took a series of photos of the whole together – pipes, accessories, reamers and racks. It looks very good. I am looking forward to working on this batch of pipes and restoring them to their former glory. It is a nice batch of pipes and I am excited to work on them. The mix of brands is interesting and will make it fun as well. The additional surprise of the reamers, pipe knives and parts is a great bonus. I could not be happier with this estate purchase. I send my thanks to the seller and posthumously to his father the pipe man. I will think of you both as I work on each one.

Rediscovering my old Nimrod Lighter

Blog by Steve Laug

Not too long ago I was scrolling through the Gentlemen’s Pipe Smoking Society on Facebook on a lunch break and came across a post on Nimrod Pipe Lighters. The poster included a lot of sales brochures and booklets that showed how to use and care for the lighter. The first poster caught my eye because the gold coloured Nimrod in the ad was identical to the one that I have in my pipe cabinet. The post made me want to read further and copy the link and the pictures and leaflets that were posted. Here is the ad that caught my eye.When I got home from work I took my lighter out of the pipe cabinet and took a good long look at it. It is a lighter that I had not used for a long time. It is one I have not even spent time with for quite a while. It really is a nice accessory and one that is pleasing to the eye. While I looked at it I tried to remember how it ended up in my hands. I think it may have been a gift to me from a pipe man name Daryl in Washington. Over the years we sent each other tobacco and pipes. I did a few repairs for him and visited him in his home. We shared some bowls and stories together. The more I think about it the more am certain that it came from him. One day out of the blue he sent the lighter. He said that he had several and thought of me and sent it my way. It is a nice pipe accessory and make a great addition to my pipe lighters. It is gold/polished brass in colour with a brown vinyl lizard skin covering on the bottom half of the lighter. I took some photos of the lighter from various angles and sides to capture the uniqueness of the Nimrod.  The top of the lighter has a slotted screw that when unscrewed hold the flint. On the right or left side there is a striker wheel that when spun with the thumb against the flint produced a spark that ignited the wick in the other end of the barrel. The wick sat in a reservoir of lighter fluid so it ignited when the flame caught it. On the underside of the lighter the stamping is faint but in a bright light it reads NIMROD ® PIPELITER Made in the USA.There was great photo of the lighter with the flame captured. It is the same lighter I have and the look is the same.Going through the various sales brochures and inserts I could see that the one I had was labeled as a Nimrod Executive NO. 900E. It was described as having a gold anodized finish and vinyl lizard grip. I have circled it in red below.Mine is a top of the line lighter. There was also another model that I have had and passed on to others called a Sportsman. The person who posted on Facebook also included a display of this line of Nimrod lighter. I love the advertising on the card – America’s Favorite Pipeliter. At $4.95 and an unconditional guarantee with never a charge for repairs it was a great deal.The patent on the pipe was filed on May 17, 1946 by A.F. Ward Jr. and the patent was granted on December 9, 1947. The patent number is 2,432,265.Included in the post were two instructional brochures on the Use, Care and Feeding of Your Nimrod. I expect that these were in the boxes the lighters came in originally. When I received my lighter it did not include the instructions. However, the lighter was pretty self-explanatory. Now that I have read over these pamphlets and instructions I am even more interested than ever to refill the lighter fluid and start to use the lighter again. I love reading these old pieces of tobacciana that take me back to an earlier simpler time. Enjoy reading these documents.