Rob is one of the oldest and well respected members of the Dutch pipesmokers forum. He is a pensioned man who knows the ropes of life. Nonetheless he always stays positive and is an inspiration for many. Rob is a very experienced pipe smoker and he regularly writes nice pieces for the Dutch forum. This is one of them, “Considerations when buying a pipe”:
Buying a new pipe is simple. You step into the pipe shop and after some searching and comparing you pick a pipe that you think you are going to be content with.
Unfortunately / fortunately it’s not like that. Buying a pipe requires insight and a bit of experience.
How are you being received by the shop owner? Do you get coffee? Do you feel that he takes the time for you?
Are you a tobacco omnivore, or do you only smoke shag cut (in Dutch: baai) tobacco, Virginia, latakia or aromatic mixtures?
If you smoke everything you basically can buy a random model pipe. But if you prefer a specific kind of tobacco you are more bound to a model which best fits that choice of pipe leaf. A restriction.
Tobacco gets hot during smoking. That is why many smokers prefer a bowl with a bigger wall thickness.
Do the pipe cleaner test. If the cleaner passes the mouthpiece easy into the bottom of the bowl you can be sure that the pipe has been drilled correctly.
Fortunately, nowadays the pipe makers drill their smoke channels more broad, which makes smoking more pleasant. It also allows better cleaning. If the smoke channel is too narrow you can always try to clean it with a swab.
Ask the seller if he wants to turn the stem of the pipe because you want to see the neck and mouthpiece. (E.g. for cracks)
Ask if you can view the pipe in daylight.
See if the pipe fits well in your hand. Try to sense the weight of an average pipe that you already have at home. Take that pipe to the store and put it next to the pipe you want to buy. That way you can compare both.
Nowadays many pipes are fitted with acrylic mouthpieces. But if you like an ebonite one (softer feel for the teeth) remember than that this mouthpiece requires maintenance from time to time.
The mouthpiece is a part of your pipe that I consider very important. Generally it is found not appropriate when you are in the store and take the pipe between your teeth.
Your teeth have a certain position. Actually a mouthpiece should be made to match that.
You may laugh, but I have a lot of pipes that I do not smoke solely because the mouthpiece does not fit me well.
Take note of the finish of the stem, this way you can recognize a good pipe maker.
As indicated above the shop owner would not be amused when you put a pipe in your mouth. This way you can’t check / feel if the pipe is balanced.
If you are planning to smoke in public you have to be sure that the pipe fits your posture. Unfortunately there are no changing rooms with mirrors in tobacco shops. When your wife / girlfriend is able to satisfactory judge if a pipe fits you, ask her along.
The price… That is different for every pipe smoker. Below a certain amount I never buy and above also not.
Remember that a pipe between €50 and €100 can give you the same smoking pleasure as a top notch museum piece of €10.000.
When, after careful consideration in the store, you have chosen a “technical ok” pipe it could still be that in daily use it does not meet expectations.
In short, buying a pipe is a serious business. It will be clear that a picture on a website or on e-bay is not enough for me.