Tag Archives: pipe smoking

Day Trips and Memories

Family day trips were always popular in our family. Many is the time I remember going for day-long rides with my Papaw in his pick-up truck – Granny was usually at work since they worked opposite shifts – out country roads many of which don’t exist today. We would stop at mom & pop stores and get our lunch. Papaw would tell the old man behind the counter he wanted whatever lunch meat he was in the mood for that day, cut about half an inch thick, on bread (white bread was a given) with mayonnaise and then asked what I wanted; I always wanted the same thing he’d ordered – even when I had no idea what the lunch meant I was getting was. The old man would get the items from the deli case and start making our sandwiches while we picked out a pop, soda for you northerners, which was usually a Hire’s Rootbeer. Papaw would toss a bag of chips on the counter and we’d set our rootbeers up there, too. He’s then dig out his billfold, as he always called his wallet, and tell the man, “Put it all in a poke for us, please.” (That’s a paper bag, again for you younger and/or norther folks.)

We’d load into the truck, always a Chevy or GMC and usually orange or red in color, and drive down the road a few miles until we found just the right spot, where we’d pull off the side of the road in the shade and park. The tailgate served as both our picnic table and benches. Occasionally Papaw would light up his pipe; he only had one that I know of. More often he would get a jaw-full of Redman or Levi Garrett afree we ate and we would talk – for hours some days. I honestly can’t remember most of the conversations we had on those drives. But the memories I do have are vivid and very dear to me.

Now I am the “Papaw” and we still carry on this tradition, granted, in a slightly modified version; we usually pack a lunch (there aren’t many mom & pop shops that fix you a sandwich anymore) or hit a restaurant. And there’s always at least three of us: Papaw, Granny, and grandson. Occasionally our son goes along too, if he’s not working.

A week or so ago we had one of these all too rare times when the four of us took a spontaneous road trip to Carter Caves State Park in KY. The drive isn’t too far and, while not as popular a destination as it once was, it’s a beautiful place to visit with a lot of activities if you plan for them.

We arrived around 1:00 pm I think and drove a little loop through the main part of the park to 1) get the lay of the land and 2) give Granny and the grandson a bathroom break. Once the “necessaries” were out of the way, we drove back down to the entrance of the park no began our look for the spot. My son and wife both had input on where it should be; neither agreed, to no big surprise LOL. But none of them were right in my mind. I suddenly stopped the truck, scanned the area and decided this was it! To some protest, I pulled off the road onto a parking shoulder and parked my Silverado. While the other two questioned my judgement, I asked my grandson what he thought about the spot. “If you like it it’s perfect, Papaw.” Issue settled.

We unpacked what little we had taken and set up next to a real picnic table with real benches and the dispute quickly dissipated: it was shady, comfortable, had a great view and was close to but a safe distance from he creek, perfect to hear the water gently flowing by.

My son and grandson geared up for their hiking adventure, my wife settled into a comfortable spot at the picnic table, and I got set up in my bag chair. The young ‘uns headed off on their adventure and I broke out my pipe. I loaded it up with a favorite blend; it took fire nicely, enhancing my anticipation of a nice, relaxing afternoon. As I sat there, bluish smoke gently swirling around me, listening to the gentle babbling of the creek, I was transported back in time it seemed. My wife was walking along the creek’s edge picking up interesting rocks for my grandson and me (we have 3-5 stones from everyplace we visit, another hobby/collection we share) and she seemed 20 years younger – as did I! It was a most perfect, peaceful, and serene few of hours spent just enjoying each other’s company and God’s wondrous creation.image

All too soon the sun had moved as the hours ticked by and devoured our cool shade. It was well timed though as about the same time the boys were winding up – or winding down from – their adventure. My grandson had packed back 5 stones, the same number I had collected with my wife’s help. We settled on 6 or 7 to bring home and packed them and everything else up in the bed of the truck. It had been a splendid day indeed!

The drive home was a much quieter one than the trip there; everyone had worn themselves pretty much out. As I drove with the radio softy playing, I couldn’t help but reflect on those trips with my Papaw. And wonder how much he must have enjoyed them; I often wish he was still around to talk about those and many other things. But the main thought on my mind during that drive home and in the days since was quite simply this: it’s really good to be the Papaw.

Pipe Mentoring and the New Pipe Smoker – BillyPM

Blog by Billy PM

When I read Billy’s original post on Pipe Smoker Unlimited I immediately wrote him and asked if I could post his piece here. It is a well written article that gives some basic startup advice to the beginning pipe smoker in a clear and manageable manner. I think that many of us have similar beginner pipe smoking stories like Billy’s. I asked Billy to write a bit of an introduction of himself to the rebornpipes readers. Thank you for letting me put this on the blog. I appreciate your willingness to let this be posted here. Without further adieu here is his article:


I’ve been a pipe smoker twice in my life. The first time was in college and I certainly gave it the old college try. I saved up for what I thought were reasonably good pipes, but that was the only thing I did right. I made it up as I went along, smoking fast and furiously. Years of tongue bite later I simply gave up. Nothing this painful, no matter how cool, could be worth continuing. Broke my heart.

Years later, around 2000, I came out of the cigar craze and decided to try pipes again. But THIS time I had the internet, which included a sweet little newsgroup called ASP. What a difference! There were dozens of experienced pipers more than happy to help me get my act together and tell me what I had been doing wrong. Which was just about everything. 14 years and many online forums later I’m a happy smoker, with a small collection of great performing pipes and a small cellar of my favorite tobaccos.

When I recently helped a good friend get started with a pipe and some tobacco, I thought I’d just set down some basic truths that I wish somebody had told me way back when. There’s always more to learn in our gentle art, but there’s no need to reinvent the wheel, either.

Pipe Mentoring
downloadI recently hooked up a good friend of mine, who expressed interest in our gentle art, with a sweet-smoking old Czech billiard, some Carter Hall, BBF, Pembroke, pipe cleaners, and a pipe tool, and the following start-up advice. There’s no need for any veterans to slog through this, but I thought I’d post it here in case it was of any use to anybody.

I emailed him this:

Pipe smoking is the only kind of smoking you have to actually learn. It’s an art and will reward you many times over once you get the hang of it. Trial and error is the way to go and plenty of both. It’s amazingly subjective, meaning that what works for me may or may not work for you. But here’s some good starting points.

— Packing a pipe properly is pretty crucial. Too tight a pack and the draw will be difficult and the burn a problem. Too loose a pack will burn way too hot and will taste nasty. Pack your pipe in thirds or so, smallish pinches that you push down with your pipe tamper (that metal tool) or your finger. Then draw air through the pipe. Too loose will feel like no resistance and too tight will feel like too much trouble. It should draw like sucking on a straw- a bit of resistance, but not a lot. Trial and error.

— Light the entire top surface of the tobacco with your trusty bic. Three or four good draws to get the top all charred. Then tamp down the surface gently, just to even it up (some tobacco may have risen up from the flame). Then light again. Don’t honk on it, just slow gentle draws.

— Here’s the fun part. You’re now smoking the son of a gun. The slower you smoke the better. Remember, you’re sucking on a fire through a 4 inch tube. Don’t burn your tongue if you can help it. If you do, wait til it heals up to try again. Slow smoking is the best flavor by far, and it means the smoke should be entering your mouth VERY slowly and gently. Just a mere trickle really. Novice pipers want to see a lot of smoke, but veterans want to see as little as possible. Keep the pipe barely lit. When it goes out, and it will, relight it. Do NOT try to keep it from going out by drawing rapidly. This leads to tongue bite.

–Use your tamper to very lightly press down the ashes on top of the embers. Maybe once every 5 or 7 minutes is enough. Don’t compress the tobacco much, just keep the embers in contact with the rest of the tobacco. And if and when the pipe starts to gurgle a little just run a pipe cleaner through the stem and rock on. No need to smoke all the way to the bottom at this stage unless you want to. Just use the spoon part of the pipe tool and dig the remaining baccy (called the dottle) out of the pipe. Don’t knock it out on your heel unless you want to break the pipe. Run one last cleaner through to dry it a bit and Bob’s your uncle.

— A briar pipe needs to be broken in when it’s new, and it’ll taste pretty heinous til it gets some cake built up on the walls of the chamber. The one I gave you is already broken in and is a pretty good, though cheap, pipe. Once smoked it’s a good idea to rest your briar and let it dry out — maybe a day or two minimum. So if you want to smoke a pipe more often than every couple three days, guess what? More pipes!!! If you get to that stage holler at me and we’ll go through that stuff. It won’t ruin your pipe if you smoke it a lot right now, but long term it’s not a good idea.

— There are like a bazillion pipe tobacco blends in the known universe, and finding your faves is part of the fun. I gave you three different blend from some of the basic categories. Sweet aromatics are OK, but not really the best tasting to most confirmed pipers, so I didn’t include any– don’t think I HAVE any. If you wanna try some I can recommend a few. But Virginia tobaccos are my fave, although they can be the hardest to smoke, being hotter burning and sometimes bitier than most. So don’t try the Best Brown Flake for a while. Carter Hall, a time-honored old burley blend should be your first pipeful. And your second, third, and fourth. It burns easily, tastes nice and won’t fry your mouth. The Esoterica blend I included is what’s called an “English” blend– meaning it’s got Orientals and Latakia along with some Virginias. Those first two are smoky, incense-like and delicious to those of us who like that sort of thing, but will send most women and small animals screaming from the room. Smoke at your own peril. I could go on and ON about various tobaccos. Be patient.

— Any tobacco you may buy should probably be dried out a bit before smoking. It’s generally sold too moist and needs to be air dried until it feels pliable but dry to the touch. Trying to smoke wet tobacco is frustrating. It won’t get lit, stay lit, and will fry your tongue. Steam is not what you want, both for best flavor and comfort. Oh, and don’t inhale unless you really want to. The smoke is alkaline and harsh to the lungs (which ain’t got no taste buds anyhow).

OK that’s enough for now. You should visit http://www.tobaccoreviews.com — a GREAT site with thousands of blends reviewed by hundreds of smokers. Also, try to find Pipe Smokers Unlimited forum (Google it). It’s a fabulous bunch of guys (and one girl) from all over the world yakking about this stuff. And I have been one of the regulars there for a while.

I hope he enjoys his new pipe. I’ll keep you posted if he checks in.

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.

A Book Review: Pipe Smoking in Middle Earth – Mark Irwin

Blog by Steve Laug


I have been putting off reviewing this book for quite awhile now. I ordered it from Mark at the end of May and read it the first time in June, soon after it arrived. The reason I put it off is because I have also been rereading The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. I don’t know what read this is – I have been reading and rereading it for over 50 years probably. Each time I do I learn more and get more lost in its brilliant images and the magnificent tale. Well, since this is not a review of the LOTR but of Mark’s book I better get on with it.

Mark has done a masterful job in describing the pipes and tobaccos as he imagines them from many years of reading and rereading the books. His own book is filled with descriptions of the tobacco and the pipes of Middle Earth. He has hand drawn illustrations of the pipes of each of the pipes from a combination of his imagination and the descriptions provided by Tolkien of both the individual and their pipes in the pages of the Hobbit and the LOTR. He draws both his words and illustrations in marked contrast with those seen in the movies by Peter Jackson.

The book is divided into two major sections for ease of reading. The first is a series of essays on the pipes, tobacco and smokers of Middle Earth. The second is an annotated concordance or all of the occurrences of pipes, tobaccos and smokers in the Hobbit and the LOTR as well as other books of Middle Earth. Each of these two major divisions is further broken down. The first is broken into an introduction and six essays/chapters on a variety of topics pipes and tobacco as seen in Tolkien’s books. This section is illustrated with pen and ink drawings by Mark. The second is broken into two parts – a concordance on the books (Hobbit, LOTR and other relevant Middle Earth books) and a concordance on the extended version of the movies by Peter Jackson. It also has a variety of pen and ink drawings. The book closes with end notes worthy of the scholar Mark is.

The little book opens with an essay entitled Charring Light in which the direction of the book is delineated. The essay poses two problems that face the pipeman as he deals with the pipes, tobaccos and smokers of Middle Earth. The first is diminishment, or downplaying the role of pipes and tobacco in the books. He sets out a convincing argument that this is what Peter Jackson does in the movies. The second is enlargement, or over emphasizing the role pipes and tobacco play in the books and neglecting the larger purpose of the saga and its author. Mark is convinced that Tolkien shows us the middle way between diminishment and enlargement. To illustrate this he cites “an apocryphal but probably authentic letter” where Tolkien writes that basically he has said all that needs to be said about pipe smoking and Hobbits in the prologue. Mark’s purpose is to strive to stick with the text and set out the facts regarding what the books say about pipe smoking and what can be inferred from the text. He seeks to leave behind his own opinions and ideas and search what is on the pages of the books.

The details of the first six essays/chapters need not be mentioned at this point, as you can purchase the book and have a read yourself. But it is enough to say that they cover a variety of topics pipes and tobacco such as pipeweed or leaf, the pipes of middle earth, smoker’s accessories and how to blow smoke rings. Mark covers each of these and other topics relevant to Tolkien and pipe smoking in the chapters of this part of the book. I was repeatedly amazed at what he lifts from the books in his descriptions and drawings. For example take this section from the chapter entitled “Tolkien’s Smoke Ring”:

The Hobbit begins with Bilbo’s smoke, continues through the narrative with another nine evenly-spaced references to the art of smoking (smoke-rings in particular), then ends as Bilbo hands Gandalf the “tobacco jar” – which are the last two words of the story. And let us never forget that Bilbo’s finding of “the precious” – the One Ring – is precipitated by his search in Gollum’s dark cave for another treasure, albeit one much less perilous – his pipe.” PSME pg. 13.

Mark goes on to note the number of references in each of the three divisions of the Lord of the Rings to show that the pipe smoking concern that is evident in the Hobbit is repeated in the LOTR. Each volume of the three part division has numerous references to the pipe and tobacco. In fact Tolkien considers it important enough to include a section entitled, Concerning Pipeweed in the middle of his tripartite prologue of the book. Mark writes in a clear and captivating style and demonstrates a grasp of the middle way that Tolkien set forth in the “letter” referenced above.

In each of the chapters of the first section he uses the same clear and forthright style to show the type of pipes the characters may have smoked according to their personality and style as described in the story and how they used the pipe in their lives. The section on the tobaccos of Middle Earth is entertaining and probably the best explanation of the kinds of tobacco that may have been in Tolkien’s mind as he wrote about them in his books. Well done Mark.

The second major section of the book is devoted to a concordance of citations about pipes, tobaccos and pipesmokers as I mentioned above. Mark has done a stellar job of cataloguing these quotations in an annotated presentation. He works through each – the Hobbit, the Lord of the Rings and other Middle Earth related books gathering the quotes and references. Each citation is complete with reference notes to the page, chapter and section of the book cited. He continues the same process with an annotated concordance to the Peter Jackson movies (extended version) and quotes the scene and segment of the movie where the quotation was used.

The book is a short 112 pages of interesting and imaginatively written material on what has to be one of my all time favourite author’s books. Thank you, Mark for a job well done. I only have one serious complaint for you – why didn’t you extend the book, and like Peter Jackson make and extended version for those of us who cannot get enough.