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Question on Pipe Quality

Discussion in 'Pipes' started by StPaulGuy, Jan 8, 2014.

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  1. StPaulGuy

    StPaulGuy Member

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    I’m pretty new to pipe smoking, and only have a half-dozen pipes. I’m writing to ask a question about pipe construction and quality. Given the obvious frequency of pushing pipe cleaners thru the stem and into the bowl, you’d think quality pipes from reputable makers would consider it a basic design characteristic for any pipe they put their name to, to make this a seamless, easy process. Sadly, this doesn’t seem to be the case.

    I own pipes from Radice, Peterson, Savinelli, ASPC, and Comoy, and pipe cleaners routinely get stuck in all of them where the stem enters the shank. I usually pull the pipe cleaner out, and put a slight bend about an eighth of an inch from the end, and then twist and push the cleaner at the joint until it finally finds its way thru.

    I prefer bents, which I’m sure present a bit more of a challenge to pipemakers in this regard, but even my straight Radice suffers this problem. I’d like to hear from more experienced pipe guys on this. Is this a common problem? If so, how can that be? From a manufacturing standpoint (especially with straight pipes) it would seem an easy problem to solve by drilling the shank mortice first, followed by a drill centered in the mortice that’s slightly larger than the diameter of the air channel in the stem, to fit a stem molded to be centered on the tenon.

    I’m really surprised (and a little annoyed given the cost of quality pipes) to see how common this problem is. At first I thought I just bought a one-off pipe, but it seems to transcend brand. It’s not the worst problem in the world, but given the emphasis on design, tradition, and quality that seems so evident in the discussion and marketing of briars, this seems like a problem that should have been solved a hundred years ago.

    Your thoughts?
     


  2. AlexanderM

    AlexanderM Member

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    My cheap meer has this same problem, while my even cheaper briar doesn't. Go figure.
     
  3. dmkerr

    dmkerr PG- free since '83! Moderator

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    I feel your pain, although I have to ask why you bought these particular pipes if you're so annoyed by this. I'm guessing you purchased via the internet?

    That said, you're right - this should not be an issue. To me, it's a fundamental thing. If a pipe fails this test, I don't buy it. And it's especially common in the meerschaums I prefer, although less common over the last 5 years than it once was.
     
  4. AlexanderM

    AlexanderM Member

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    While looking at Turkish made meers I get the feeling they put the smoking mechanics in last place while designing a pipe.
     
  5. javajunkie

    javajunkie Member

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    FWIW, you can have pipes smoke for crap that have perfectly drilled airways and stem transitions, and ones that will NEVER pass a cleaner that smoke brilliantly. but, yeah, i'm with you on the cleaner test. most of my preferences lean toward straight or 1/4 bent for just such a reason.
     
  6. dmkerr

    dmkerr PG- free since '83! Moderator

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    The lowest price point on a perfectly executed meerschaum is quite a bit higher than for a briar. There are a lot of crap meers on the market. But if you sink your funds into a Baki, Altinok, IMP or Yanik, you're golden. There are other good ones as well, but cheap out and you'll feel the pain.

    For comparison purposes, the two best meerschaum brands from the 1980's (when I started) were SMS and CAO. Neither compares favorably to the best available today, although I've saved one of each with some fairly minor surgery.
     
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  7. Rodfather

    Rodfather Active Member

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    Awwwww, the old bend and twist. I have 3 or 4 basket pipes that I bought when I was in college some 50 years ago. I suppose the only reason I still have them are sentimenal. Now if when I buy a pipe and it doesn't pass a cleaner it is a deal breaker for me, I know I'm anal.
     
  8. StPaulGuy

    StPaulGuy Member

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    Thanks guys.

    Dmkerr, As I said, I’m a relative newby to pipes. When I first got started I, like so many others, started buying pipes before I knew what I was doing. I bought the first 4 from a local B&M, and didn’t know enough to check them before buying. I was more interested in how they looked. I also bought two on the internet, and ironically, while these two also have this problem, it’s not to the extent of the ones purchased locally.

    Rodfather, I’m with you. From now on this will be a deal breaker for me too. Life’s too short.
     
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  9. Spillproof

    Spillproof Mostly Harmless Moderator

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    You have a wonky Radice?

    Got any pics?
     
  10. taharris

    taharris Sales Account

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    From a pipe maker's point of view there is no excuse for not being able to run a pipe cleaner cleanly through to the bowl except for deeply bent pipes.

    It is not unusual for an Oom Paul to have this problem, but with the right construction it can be avoided. The last Oom Paul I made will pass a pipe cleaner easily to the bowl.

    [​IMG]

    It does, however, take a little extra time and patience to make this happen, which you don't get with a "factory" pipe.

    Todd
     
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  11. martydrmr

    martydrmr Enjoy every pipe.

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    Warning, new piper question. So the idea is that when stem is connected to the shank, a pipe cleaner should pass all the way to the bowl? I've seen this discussion around but never took the time to ask.
     
  12. Spillproof

    Spillproof Mostly Harmless Moderator

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    Yes.
     
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  13. dmkerr

    dmkerr PG- free since '83! Moderator

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    You and me both, brother! :ohyh:

    But now you know what bothers you, so the initial ordeal has been worth it.
     
  14. bubbagump

    bubbagump Sales Account

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    Yup. While there are no guarantees...the ability of a pipe to pass a pipe cleaner does make it highly likely that it will be a good smoker. On the other hand, a pipe that cannot pass a pipe cleaner has a greater likelihood of not being a good smoker. The idea being that if the stem and stummel aren't lined up well enough to pass a pipe cleaner...they're likely not lined up well enough to promote good airflow.
     
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  15. buistd

    buistd Active Member

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    I'm going to go against the grain a bit here. It is commonly perceived that the only way a pipe will smoke well is if it passes the pipe cleaner test. This is simply not true. I have had pipes that are perfectly aligned yet still gather/gathered a bit of moisture. It seems that the problem there is either due to a large gap between the end of the tenon and the bottom of the mortise, or the tenon not being countersunk. Countersinking has pretty much eliminated gurgles in all of my pipes that had problems.

    Along the same lines, there is also a common misconception (no doubt exacerbated by the internet generation of pipe smokers) that pipes with the airway misaligned will never smoke well. This is not true. I have several pipes that will not pass a pipe cleaner (or only will with a fair amount of twisting and wiggling) that smoke completely dry. I also have pipes that have narrow airways that smoke completely dry and cool - again going against the common beliefs.

    Sure, it is true that a well made pipe, by the likes of taharris or sasquatch, will have a perfectly engineered airway and will pass a pipe cleaner without touching the sides. With that kind of pipe you are 99.999% guaranteed a great smoke every time with no moisture build-up. That is why these guys don't sell pipes for $75 like Peterson's; they are masters of their craft and are able to do things that cheaper factory makers can not (even on the pricier factory pipes). Also, the chances are much better that a pipe with a well-aligned airway will smoke better than a pipe that won't pass a pipe cleaner or needs wiggles and twists to pass a pipe cleaner. But - that is not always the case.

    When I was first starting out with pipe smoking, I had to run a pipe cleaner down the airway of every pipe I owned, at least three or four times during a smoke. Nowadays those same pipes are completely gurgle-free and only ever see pipe cleaners for post-smoke cleaning. The difference is that at the start I was smoking too quickly and consequently making my pipes bubble like a witch's cauldron. My fault - not the pipe's.

    Since you are relatively new to pipe smoking, I wouldn't worry too much. You will probably find that over time, as your technique improves you will produce less moisture when you are smoking. If you want to do something to improve your pipes in the meantime, try countersinking the tenon. That will help a fair amount.

    The internet has undoubtedly been a great help to all the pipe smokers (myself included) who have started in the youtube/forum age, and even to many who have been smoking for years before the dawn of this kind of community. However, I feel it has also made people quite paranoid a lot of the time (again, myself included) about what tobacco they should be smoking, how long to rest the pipe, how to get the "perfect pipe", how to clean the pipe, how to build cake etc. etc.

    I am not sure how long you have been smoking as you don't say precisely, so apologies if you are over the teething stage (which took me around a year), but for now just focus on trying to smoke more gently; puff less often and not so deep. And countersink your tenons!

    Good luck with it.
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2014
  16. buistd

    buistd Active Member

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    Apologies for the length of that post. It was longer but I deleted a fair amount!

    Just had another thought - in my experience a lot of gurgling is caused by moisture over the airway hole at the end of the tenon. When you put the pipe cleaner in, you may get away with just putting it in as far as the end of the tenon. That works for me if I get a gurgle.
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2014
  17. StPaulGuy

    StPaulGuy Member

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    buistd;

    I never raised the question of how well a pipe that didn’t pass the pipe cleaner test would smoke. My question was how frequent it was to find pipes that can’t easily pass a pipe cleaner. Since you raise the question, I think my pipes smoke well. You mention that one can’t expect the same quality from a $75 pipe as one from a master craftsman. That’s exactly my point. The pipes I own cost between $150 and $250, and were made by respected makers. My point was to say that even buying a more expensive pipe from a maker with a good reputation didn’t mean this basic function could be assumed. This surprises and disappoints me. I was just trying to see how common it was. From the responses, it’s more common than one would think.
     
  18. BigCasino

    BigCasino Member

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    As I agree with your statement some what, I would like to point out that air flows like water it has the ability to change it's shape and conform to it's pathway, a pipe cleaner does not, it has a very rigid path from which takes some fiddling to make it vary from it's natural course, also the pipe cleaner is forced in from a different direction, due to the way the mortise and airway are drilled and the end of a proper tenon is made the way out of the bowl maybe smoother than,and less obstructive than the way into it.
     
  19. buistd

    buistd Active Member

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    Aha I see now. I misinterpreted your question. I think I took the fact that you said that you have to use a pipe cleaner on a regular basis as the main point. No offence meant.
     
  20. taharris

    taharris Sales Account

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    There is no way to eliminate the formation of moisture during smoking. It is a natural product of combustion. So, if you are burning tobacco you will be generating moisture. Smoking moist tobacco will only exacerbate this issue.

    There are two basic strategies for how to handle the moisture that naturally occurs during pipe smoking.

    One strategy is to condense the moisture and have it collect in a reservoir. Peterson system pipes are an example of this method.

    The other strategy is to create an unobstructed, smooth path for the smoke to travel from the combustion chamber to the smoker's mouth and, thus, significantly reduce the amount of condensation that happens which, in turn, reduces gurgle.

    Leaving a gap between the end of the tenon and the bottom of the mortise is a good way to ruin strategy two as this gap allows eddies to form which promote condensation and thus, gurgle.

    A misalignment between the stem bore and the shank bore can create a similar issue by introducing turbulence which can also promote condensation and gurgle.

    So, while the pipe cleaner test will not guarantee a good smoker it can certainly alert a potential buyer to issues that will keep a strategy two pipe from working. (A pipe cleaner test is pointless for a strategy one pipe because it will fail the test every time.)

    Todd
     
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