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Sunday, November 18, 2007

A Pipe Review

No biz news today, but since I have a few idle minutes, I thought I would post a pipe review of my new greenie. One of the great ironies of the pipe hobby is that pipemakers are usually among the best qualified to review pipes (having a good understanding of the processes involved in making the things, and why this or that quirk exists), yet it's completely impossible for us to review the pipes of others without seeming to be in bad taste. But I hope no one will mind if I pick apart one of my own creations!

So, I've smoked this pipe for two days now. Initial impressions are pretty good. I absolutely love the draw in this thing - It just puffs effortlessly and I haven't had to use a cleaner during smoking yet. I used the curved tenon inlet trick with this one also, so the airflow is angled within the tenon to allow a cleaner to pass smoothly and keep the smoke stream from encountering any sharp turns. A pleasant surprise that I noticed is that not only does it smoke dry, but it smokes extremely clean... Afterwards, cleaners come out with hardly any gunk at all, meaning it isn't generating a lot of whirling condensation in the smoke path. Cool.

It is smaller than I like, but it does OK. The chamber is actually larger than one might guess from the overall dimensions - compare to the Safferling in the photo. The only weird thing is the feature it shares with all bowl chambers that are really wide at the top and taper to points - You light it and smoke and smoke, and the tobacco doesn't seem to tamp down at all, and then when you finally get to what seems like the middle of the bowl, suddenly *PAFT* it goes out and that's all the tobacco gone.

The stem fits without any light gap, and retains this after several smokes and room temperature changes. I used to have annoying problems with this, but these days I think I do OK. And I love this new German ebonite - VERY shiny and glossy, yet with nice soft give. I cut this bit to be one of my "super thin" mouthpieces and cautioned on the catalog page that it should not be clenched hard, yet I missed an advantage that I've found in smoking it, namely that it is so incredibly light that I don't have to clench hard anyway. It takes no effort at all to hold it in my teeth, which is cool. The downside, however, is that making these extremely thin bits requires me to use a smaller bit slot than I personally prefer, though apparently plenty of other smokers don't mind. I like a slot that's 2mm high or so, for easy passage of extra-fluffy cleaners. This slot is around 1.4mm high to allow the OD to be thinner. I made it very wide and deep to compensate, but that only goes so far, and I'll have to stick with normal cleaners for this stem. The nice part is that it's virtually unnoticeable in the mouth because it's so thin, which is really pleasant. For me, though, I'm willing to give up a little ultra-thinness for easier passage of fluffy cleaners.

The bowl carbon coating did its job nicely, making the break-in smokes as pleasant as they ever can really be, and more importantly, helping me avoid those nasty bottom-bowl splits that can occur when a new bowl is smoked too hot. I used to use a waterglass mixture which provides better protection from heat, but I've since changed to an edible mix. Despite not being as tough, it seemed to function well.

The pipe is also retaining a pleasant low sheen. I've largely stopped buffing with carnuba wax and instead just compound very fine and sand to a gloss, since all wax does is liquefy with the first smoke and leave the whole pipe looking dull. This is actually retaining more shine than a waxed pipe would. Makes me happy.

Unfortunately, I'm still getting a very little bit of stain bleed-off during these first smokes. Greens are as bad as the popular reds and oranges about bleeding excess stain on start-up, and mastering and eliminating the bleed has been an ongoing project for me. This is far better than some earlier green pipes, but still after a full bowl I can detect a very faint trace of green tint on my fingertips. Unfortunately, I'm not sure there's any way around this other than to heavily lacquer the whole bowl to seal it, and obviously this is something I don't want to do.

The verdict? I like. If I'd paid 500 bucks for it, I'd have been very pleased (and I did, really, in terms of working time). It's going to be a favorite for any hands-free situations because of its light weight and easy clenching - probably a perfect pipe to take to a pipe show.