Monday, 18 August 2014

Tobacco pipes

One day I happened to bump into a link that shows the world of pipe collection. The pipe designs are really creative and the pipes are also exquisitely made with a hefty price tag on them. I remembered I also have a pipe which I bought in the states when I was there in the mid 70s (some sort of students exchange program). I bought the pipe as I liked the carving of a red Indian chief on the bowl. I used it to smoke tobacco for a few months before I gave it up (didn't quite enjoy pipe smoking).

My very own pipe
Tobacco pipe or smoking pipe, often called simply pipe, is a device specifically made to smoke tobacco. It comprises a chamber (the bowl) for the tobacco from which a thin hollow stem (shank) emerges, ending in a mouthpiece (the bit). Pipes can range from very simple machine-made briar models to highly prized hand-made artisanal implements made by renowned pipe makers, which are often very expensive collector's items. Pipe smoking is the oldest known traditional form of tobacco smoking.

The bowls of tobacco pipes are commonly made of briar wood, meerschaum, corncob or clay. Less common are other dense-grained woods such as cherry, olive, maple, mesquite, oak, and bog-wood.  Pipe bowls are sometimes decorated by carving.

The stem needs a long channel of constant position and diameter running through it for a proper draw, although filter pipes have varying diameters and can be successfully smoked even without filters or adapters. Because it is moulded rather than carved, clay may make up the entire pipe or just the bowl, but most other materials have stems made separately and detachable. Stems and bits of tobacco pipes are usually made of mouldable materials like vulcanite, Lucite, Bakelite, and soft plastic. Less common are stems made of reeds, bamboo, or hollowed out pieces of wood. Expensive pipes once had stems made of amber, though this is rare now.
Sherlock Holmes smoking a pipe
I am sure you are familiar with this picture of the renown detective Sherlock Holmes of the old Scotland Yard, he was often seen with a pipe in his hand while scrutinising the minute details at the crime scene.
Cross-section of a pipe
There are a few vivid collectors of pipes in China. However, most of the master pieces come from Europe, especially from Denmark where the masters reside. The Chinese collectors pay tens of thousand of dollars for the creative pipes made by the European masters.

This one even has the master's name engraved on the stem of the pipe. Just like teapots, there are masters who specialize in the pipe making business.

Pipe collecting is exclusively men's hobby. Whether they smoke or not, they like pipes for their unique designs and treat pipes as their play toys. Mature western men like to be seen holding a pipe since this is their culture, pipe smoking.

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