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Of Clay Pipes

Discussion in 'Pipes' started by CMAsailor, Jun 30, 2011.

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  1. CMAsailor

    CMAsailor Active Member

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    I've been rather exhilarated by the gent making his own, have done some research on some of the historical significance, seen videos and read great reviews by converts to clay.

    I have a concern, a question really, of the composition of the clay. You see, in history tomatoes were once thought of as poison, because of the plates and ceramics of the day. the acid from the tomatoes was enough to leach out a deadly chemical from the pottery and kill who ate from the plate with tomatoes on it. which brings me to the clay pipe. how worried should I be, about buying one of those reproduction tavern pipes from modern day pottery barns looking to fill a corner in someone's throwback to the turn of the last century themed room in their Victorian home... when I would smoke it, as it seems many of the sellers of clay pipes market this way; to poise it for a photo shoot. Not to insult the makers of clay pipes in any way of smoke-ability, however, to pose a question regarding which clay pipes to smoke, and from whom. And just as well, are my phobias of the clay of today of any consequence or merit?
     
  2. dwaugh

    dwaugh Moderator Moderator

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    CMAsailor, You ask a very tough question, unfortunately, I can only give you what amounts to a non-answer. It is very easy to throw out "rights and wrongs" when it comes to things like how to polish a stem or how often to tamp your pipe. It's another when it comes to personal safety issues. I am not a toxicologist, medical doctor, or lawyer, and therefore my answer is really an opinion, further, an opinion that I am not qualified to give. So, please read my answer in that light.

    The clay I am using is non-toxic which I checked before using it, after reading you post I double-checked with the maker (I realize your not talking about the clay pipes I have made, but you got me thinking). As far as the tomatoes (high acid levels as you point out) leaching toxic stuff, I would guess that the issue was the lead found in the glazes (there is lots of information on lead glazes). Generally, most food safe glazes do not contain lead. That being said, there are many leaded glazes that are perfectly safe to use because the lead is unable to leach out of the glaze. Firing temperature and the degree of chemical balance in the glaze all factor in. I prefer to use lead-free glazes regardless, as I would rather error on the side of caution.

    Most clay pipes are not glazed. Glazes are also the most likely to contain the toxic ingredients. The biggest danger from clay is the silica and what-not that can become airborne (sanding etc.) before the clay is fired. I'm not saying this as a joke, but my understanding is that any toxins (no lead in the clay) in the clay I use are in small enough amounts (near drinking water levels) that I could eat the amount of clay that goes into the pipe and suffer no toxic effects (don't think I would feel great though). Because you don't eat the pipe and it's fired encasing much of what could be toxic, I FEEL, that the risk from the pipe is significantly lower than effects of what I smoke in it (which I consider, within reason, to be low).

    To the extent that commercial outfits making clay pipes might use clay that has higher level of toxins, and to what extent that would actually alter the exposure levels while smoking the pipe, I have no idea. Most people are buying their clay from larger producers, who generally have an interest in making a safe product, as much of it might be used in dinner plates, mugs, etc.

    So the issues really are, what are the toxins, what are the amounts of the toxins, and to what extent are you going to be exposed to the total amount of toxins present. Not to mention what are the real effects of those toxins.

    Sorry to be so long winded, one does need to worry about these things and the answers are never clear.
    -David

    T

    I
     
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  3. yinyang

    yinyang Some rim charring is to be expected.

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    What David said...but condensed:

    You'll be fine, so long as you purchase from makers who specifically fire pipes for actual use.

    This is a quick pic of a clay David made...yeah, looks rough, but smokes great! Even with it's questionable looks ATM, I'm feeling no ill effects at all...smoking 3+ bowls a day in it.
     

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  4. CMAsailor

    CMAsailor Active Member

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    I appreciate the elaborate "non-answer" as it's what I was looking for, this kind of discussion. the grades of clay used in pipe construction and the dangers, if any, of the contents of the clay. Variations of clay source and if and what could leach out.
    The "toxic stuff" I spoke of previously was of the instant, or relatively instant killers vs lead which has a detrimental effect over time, granted *the dose makes the poison* and I believe you're correct in having the poisons be mainly in the glaze as the clay's composition in early days were quite simple, but thinking as such doesn't rule out today's industrialized production where we make simple products complicated in composition for ease of mfg, adding chemicals and preservatives to foods for example.
    You are correct, and your due diligence is applauded. I guess the next step now, is to figure out the answers to those questions. what's in the clay and at what exposure would it become a toxin. Is there a difference between non-toxic and food-grade between clay composition or are they the same?

    FWIW, you've got my vote for a future purchase as we at least know you're conscious of the issue and your choice of clay, barring that your source is reputable.

    crap. how'd this get so complicated?:doh: I'm going outside with some MB Mixture Flake to relax
     
  5. t-bear

    t-bear Well-Known Member

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    As to the "poison tomato" issue. High end flatware back in the day was made of pewter...in itself, "relatively" safe to eat from. The problem came when the acids from tomatoes reacted with the pewter. This created the chemical which was poisoning those who ate from pewter dishes. Up side was that only rich barstids like kings, dukes and such tom-fools could afford the fancy plates.....serves them right! LOL

    You can check this out by rubbing a tomato slice on some pewter...I have a vase here and an old salt cellar. The pewter will turn an ugly black that will rub off when you touch it.

    Glazed pottery is neutral. The glazes used are specifically "food safe". As David said, the clays themselves that are being used in this project, are rated "food safe" also, so I feel that the safety of these clay pipes is a non-issue here. They won't kill you unless you are clenching the pipe, trip, fall, and jam one down your throat..... LOL

    You could ask David to glaze the tip of yours for you, but he'd pro'lly use a sissy-pink glaze.................<devil_grin>
     
  6. Kiowapipe

    Kiowapipe Active Member

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    Where's Herb? He should be able to settle this for us. Turns out he's not only a doctor, he also works in a law office.
    ;)
     
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  7. yinyang

    yinyang Some rim charring is to be expected.

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    He also moonlights as a comedian. Herb is a multifaceted fellow, no doubt! :ohyh:
     
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