I was standing in my man cave (I don't really care for this trendy reference, btw) which is nothing more than a spare bedroom in the basement, and I was fiddling about with my pipes, trying to find a stem that would fit on a Whitehall that had a filtered stem I wanted to replace. As I looked through the box containing about 20 or more pipes, I came across a pipe I had never even bothered to smoke but had just tossed it in the wooden orphanage box of shunned, discarded, unwanted and unloved pipes. I pulled the pipe out and looked it over. I remember buying this pipe and having it appeal to me for whatever reason, but when I received it in the mail, didn't care for the actual aesthetics or weight (too lite to be of any quality wood, thinking initially). So this little French estate pipe (red rusticated bent billiard) found itself excommunicated from the other more 'desirable' pipes and thrown aside. As I picked it up and looked it over, I determined I'd give it one chance to see just how bad it was as a smoker. I loaded it up with Balkan Sasieni and off to the back deck I went for my morning pipe. When I put the pipe in my mouth I noticed right away how comfortably it sit in my bite. The flame from the lighter was right in sight and far enough away to focus on lighting the bowl without guessing if the contents were properly/evenly lit. The draw was even and smooth. As I continued to smoke for a while it remained consistent to the initial lighting, drawing smooth and easy, staying cool all the while. I was pleasantly surprised to say the least. And that's when it occurred to me... I have fallen prey to pipe snobbery. See I've come to the thinking that if a pipe was considered a drug-store pipe, or if it was an unnamed "basket pipe" that it couldn't possibly be a pipe worthy of owning, much less mentioning. Because only a pipe with the nomenclature: Peterson, Dunhill, Castello, Charatan, or the like could be of any possible value as a quality smoking pipe. Of course in reality, it's only hit-n-miss with these manufacturers. Because there are frankly, no guarantees with anything mass-produced for market sales. The possibility of finding a gem in a basket is just as likely as finding one with renowned name scribed on the wood. That's just the way it is. I've come to the conclusion, that the best pipe is the one that performs for you as a smoker. And if you're going to invest in a quality pipe, perhaps having one commissioned for you by an actual artisan is a wise choice. You can take a gamble on a bargain, or a well-known manufactuerer; or you can have a pipe crafted to your specific ergonomic design and aesthetic appeal. And having such a pipe isn't at all snobbery, per se. But a guarantee you'll find exactly what you're seeking in a pipe. For me, having something made by an artisan (Sas, for example) or Wiley, West, or any other craftsman, is about spending your money once and getting what you want. A guarantee, not a stroke of luck, as with me this morning. I'm not interested in bragging rights, or having a better stable than anyone else. But I am interested in having a finely crafted pipe that enhances the pleasure and overall smoking experience. I mean that's what this is all about, isn't it? So in my pipe smoking future, I resolve to save and invest my hard earned money into something that is truly what I'm looking for in a smoking pipe. As far as I'm concerned, anyway.