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How do I tell if a pipe is a high quality pipe?

Discussion in 'Pipes' started by JimTrail, Dec 29, 2012.

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  1. JimTrail

    JimTrail New Member

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    Greetings Forum!

    Question: How can I tell the difference between an expensive (i.e. high quality) pipe and an inexpensive (lesser quality) pipe?

    I have got four pipes:
    1). an Erik Nording freestyle pipe
    2). a Saseini Four Dot pipe
    3). a Saseini Four Dot pipe (broken stem)
    4). a Meerscham pipe (made in Turkey)

    All four of my pipes are really good, high quality pipes. I bought all four of them back in the 1990's decade. I can't remember what I paid for the pipes but they cost from about $75 to $100 each.

    The Saseini pipes are no longer in production I have been told.

    The tobacconist from which I bought them steered me right on the purchase of the pipes. I have been told that he passed away earlier this year.

    Several years ago I bought three or four Aldo Velani (Italian) pipes. I think I paid something like $30 or $50 sum total for all of the pipes. They looked like good pipes. However, the quality of the pipes was so bad I threw them away.

    It's my understanding that the age of the briar wood used to make the pipes is a key factor in the quality of the pipe:

    - The older the briar wood the better the quality of the pipe.

    - Pipes made with un-aged or newer briar wood have a lesser quality.

    Is the age of the briar wood the only factor in determining the quality of the pipe?

    Before I buy any more pipes I want to educate myself on how to tell a good pipe when I see one.

    Thanks.
     
  2. Buckshot

    Buckshot Member

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  3. WrightwoodJohn

    WrightwoodJohn Wrightwood expatriate

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    Well welcome aboard, and that is is wide broad stroke of a question. Soon you'll get responses of the big "3" being Savinelli, Peterson & Stanwell. All good choice's, and yes those damn cobs are very good smoker's.
    I'm partial to Dunhills. I like being able to date a pipe, and I like the history of the company. Ya they can be expensive but mine are estates and there are good deals out there. When restored properly, they are good as new. There are "seconds" that are also very good "Hardcastle" "Parker" just to name a couple. Go to Pipedia for further research. One of my very best smokers is a "Mountbatten" ($45). (Recently purchased another for $17)
    The other old english name pipes of Comoy's, Barling, BBB,... it's endless.
    You can shoot straight to the top with a BST (Sasquatch), I have a DGE Cob that I love to smoke...:bing:
    Browse through the forums here, you'll see what folks here really enjoy, the hunt can be the best part.
     
  4. ruffinogold

    ruffinogold Ruffinogold-Mayor, I.R.G.E.--At Large. Mayor

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    The briar used in pipes isnt from the truck of the " tree " [ it's more shrublike ] .... the trunk goes below ground to a rootball and from there branches out with roots . The older the rootball , the more dense and better use for the pipe . The quality issue is where the block is cut from the rootball . The further in toward the center of the rootball you go , the lesser quality . The " outside " blocks are called Plateaux , the next sections down are called Ebauchons . The center of the rootball is the weakest quality and I'm not sure if it's even used .. lots of cracks and pits . You can have a younger briar block make a fine pipe . How old younger is compared to older I'm not 100 % sure . I'd guess at least 30 years or so for young . Back in the day they had some serious old briar .. like well over a hundred years . Or Hundreds . Then theres deadwood also .

    The Curing of briar is huge in realtion to quality smoking ... I've read / heard enough on it to know that theres only a few people/company that harvest and basic cure the briar and then it's sold to everyone else . I've also read enough to know that I'm not sure what each do , as far as curing , after they buy the briar . But I know this ... if briar wasnt cured , one way or another .. you wouldnt be able to smoke through it . Randy Wiley Oil Cures his briar and has had it nailed down longer than any American Pipe maker I know of . The difference in a oil cured briar is two fold , imo . First , the flavor of a brand new oil cured pipe smoked the first time is much better than a non oil cured pipe thats brand new and smoked the first time . Second , the coloring of your briar is much quicker . A smooth finished wiley will color out quite a bit within a dozen smokes . Many American pipe makers buy Briar from Randy , who has had the same Greek source for a few decades . Youre best bet is to get on the web and try to find info on it . :th1: There isnt a ton of info cause the guys that do the harvesting and curing dont have web sites . And the pipe makers who further cure their briar arent really giving away to much info about it .
     
  5. Arkie

    Arkie Active Member

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    You will get a ton of opinions and advice in response to a question like that. IMHO, you generally get what you pay for but you do reach a point of diminishing returns on the extreme high end. Your four pipes are made by carvers who are well respected and who produce pipes that are a good value. When I buy a pipe (or anything else) I carefully look at the fit and finish. The devil is in the details and it's the attention to detail that separate the good pipes from the mediocre.
     
  6. ruffinogold

    ruffinogold Ruffinogold-Mayor, I.R.G.E.--At Large. Mayor

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    Something to keep in mind also is ... if you get a well smoked " estate " [ used ] pipe .. it's gonna be cured out . I think the harvesters cure the briar to be smokable to some point [ it's not like pipe makers are buying a big root and doing everything from scratch ] and from there the pipemakers do whatever it is they do [ oil , air etc .. ] . I have some cheap ass pipes that I've gotten from where ever and they were old well smoked pipes .. once cleaned and maybe deghosted ... they smoke as good as anything there is ..... so long as the mechanics of the pipe are done well
     
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  7. Sasquatch

    Sasquatch Sales Account

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    At the end of the day, you can assume that the briar is good, you can assume that the individual maker or manufacturer didn't screw up or cheap-out on something. It is probably impossible to visually determine which pipes are going to be really great vs pipes that are going to be "okay" or "very good". I think a guy can weed out a lot of crappy pipes visually.

    Really we rely on the pipe maker to do his part, the briar cutter to do his part, and if you get above, say, 100 or 150 dollars, you shouldn't have to worry about anything at all. You can certainly buy good smoking pipes for less than that, but it's more of a gamble down at 60 bucks for sure.
     
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  8. fogpipe

    fogpipe Member

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    IMO the best pipe for the money comes from the pre merger english makers, iirc the merger happend in the 70's. Estate gbd's charatans, comoy's are all pretty cheap on ebay so check the pictures carefully. Most of my best pipes, that i smoke every day, cost around 50$ or less. It also pays to do some research on dating these pipes. As an example, an estate pre-merger GBD would have "LONDON ENGLAND" on the shank rather than the round comoy type location marker.

    EDIT: Just as an example, not affiliated etc. etc. this pipe is likely about 40 years old or more and is probably a good smoke http://www.smokingpipes.com/pipes/estate/england/moreinfo.cfm?product_id=107261
     
  9. BradNTX

    BradNTX Well-Known Member

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    • If it's looks are appealing
    • If the draft hole is centered and at the bottom of the chamber
    • If the stem and shank joint meet fairly seemlessly
    • If the bit is comfortable
    • If it provides an enjoyable smoke
    ...then you found yourself a high quality pipe regardless of price. :bing:
     
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  10. Russell Hartman

    Russell Hartman Stay Silver

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    I will agree with Sas, and Fogpipe on this. Its pretty tough to just pick up the pipe--one can say--ok the bowl, drilling, and all look spot on. The finish looks super, The pipe over all seems good, great pipes vs. very good, or good--well for me that has been determined by spending money, and smoking pipes. I also agree with older pipes such pipes from the late 1970's, and back. ALSO I believe that when one goes with a artisan/carver pipe in todays world who has a good reputation your chances of getting a "Very good", or "Great"pipe are pretty good. I will admitt I have a single little pipe left in my box of perpetual pipe stuff that cost me about $25-$30. It is stamped with "Italian" on it---it was for a while in my rotation of work pipes---it is a super little smoker--LUCKY--that what that was. As far as picking it up--looking at the finish, drilling--its ok--nuttin special, but it surprised me. If during my purchase of it someone would had asked what I'd expected of it---medoicre at best. When you start getting into those cheap box full of pipes that are seconds, and such--well its a shot in the dark. By the way--SASQUATCH----whats up with your website??????????
     
  11. Longshanks

    Longshanks He who shall; so shall he... wait, who?

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    If I could add anything to BradNTX' comment regarding good pipe selection...
    * If it is made out of briar (okay, okay... or corn cob)
    * If it is NOT made in China
    * If it DOES NOT have a metal screen in the bowl
     
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  12. Degenetron

    Degenetron Member

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    Ok, i came into this planning to write up a whole load of info about how briar quality might not be as essential as people claim and write about grain and perfectly sized draft holes and stem material and so on.. but BradNTX summed it up brilliantly.

    I have a few pipes.. 25 on last count.. which is a lot by some standards and barely a drop in the ocean by other standards.. I have 3-400$ pipes that arent great smokers though.. and 20$ ones who are. and corn cobs, in my opinion are the best ones of all.. sometimes one wants an aestethically pleasing pipe though.. cobs arent :)

    I know it's probably not what you wanna hear, but seems to me quality applies to the individual pipe. It might be a subjective thing.. i dunno.. i know i tend to like a pipe if i had a particularly good smoking experience with it.. one of those moments when it all comes together.. you're in the right mood, you put the right tobacco in the pipe and it smoked well.. thats how my favourite pipes are chosen.. does that mean they are inherently better quality? i dont know..

    Over time some manufacturers stick out though. Sasquatch makes great pipes.. i have 3 of them and they all smoke great.. 2 of them are in my daily rotation and the one that isn't i chose agaisnt simply because the chamber is enormous.. Peterson is a brand i like.. but their pipes dont really smoke any better than savinelli or stanwell or such.. i just liek the shapes.. and i like the feeling i get when smoking a peterson. I have savinellis and stanwells.. I just dont smoke them as much.. they do smoke great when i do light them up though.. I guess what im getting at is that quality is abundant and subjective.. i would say petersons have a higher quality than stanwell.. i cant really justify that claim.. The stem material Peterso sues seems to me to be of a higher quality. I prefer biting down on a Peterson stem. Aside form that i can't really tell any difference. Its a personal opinion and as such subjective.. I do prefer Petersons though.

    Briar quality is, to me, more a question of aesthetics. Pretty briar is nice.. but i dont taste any difference in old or new briar, pretty or ugly.. The quality of the tobacco makes the difference, not the briar.

    When going to a pipe shop, what i would be concerned with is the quality of the stem.. does it feel "right"? is the joint between the briar and the stem even? No Gaps? good.. It's hard to determine draw when picking pipes as you'r usually not allowed to put the pipe in your mouth, but if the shop allows it, do so.. empty the pipe should draw nicely, but a bit open.. obviously.. like a good pipe that has no tobacco in it ;)

    Ok, ranted enough.. there is no good answer to your question.. Good pipes come in many forms and at a range of prices.
     
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  13. user2453

    user2453 Member

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    I tend to agree about the comparison between stanwell and Peterson stems. My stanwell freehand is a good smoker, but the stem is lightweight and thin and not comfortable. That said I once owned a royal Danish that I for some reason traded away. It had a nice shape and feel from the stem down. The other three stanwell a I have owned all feel like a basket pipe with possibly an enlarged draft hole.

    I'm not trying to bash Stanwell, I probably chose based on price and looks.
     
  14. upinsmoke

    upinsmoke Member

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    mtschust: I am with you on Stanwell. One of my first pipes was an $18 Stanwell bought new over 55 years ago. It gave a very good smoke. I found out later that this was by accident. In five more Stanwells I never got a good one. With a good pipe brand there is consistency.
     
  15. fogpipe

    fogpipe Member

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    I have only owned about four stanwells and with the exception of a bent acorn, they were all good smokers. The problem with the acorn might have been due to the tobacco i was smoking at the time, but it seemed that with that pipe i would sometimes manage to suck a hot ember thru the airway onto my tongue near the end of a smoke. Its a real attention getter :) The guy i gave it to seemed to like it well enough.
    I do like thin or classically shaped stems though.
     
  16. Johnny Dingo

    Johnny Dingo Writer of wrongs

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    THIS.
     
  17. colorduke

    colorduke Active Member

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    All my high end pipes have a spade on the side of the stem. :whis:
     
  18. 1858remington

    1858remington Active Member

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    If it has the name "Falcon" or "Kirsten" its a quality pipe:byg:
     
  19. Splat

    Splat Member

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    The brands I own the most of are Petersons and Savinellis. The Petes smoke wonderfully, though I've come to the conclusion I don't like the P-lip after all though I own 3 of them. BUT!,..... the Savinellis smoke the best. I don't know why it is but the seven Savinellis I have outsmoke everything else I own. These topics always seem to come around to "best pipe for the buck" so I'll add my opinion For consistency and price Savinelli is among the best, if not the best pipe for the buck.
     
  20. ruffinogold

    ruffinogold Ruffinogold-Mayor, I.R.G.E.--At Large. Mayor

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    I'm with ya ... Savinelli pipes are stellar smokers ! They have an extensive line that cover all the bases . I cant think of another company that has so much to offer in variety , quality and price . In a way , they are the best pipe company there is . I've heard that they have an unreal amount of killer briar ... like crazy amounts
     
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