Make Every Pipe a Perfect Pipe
Posted on 04 November 2016
Here at the Blue Room, we offer all our customers the opportunity to have our team of professionals alter their new or estate pipe’s internal engineering to the exact same standard as our own high grade artisan pipes. This service is free of charge for everyone who buys a pipe from us. We can also alter pipes not purchased from us for a small surcharge. We think this service is one of the many reasons you’ll choose Blue Room Briars as your favorite source for quality pipes. But, many customers don’t know exactly what this elective service entails. I’ll describe the process as best I can, but each pipe is an individual case, so keep that in mind as we proceed.
Contemporary artisan pipe makers who have stood the test of time have, at least in the past decade or so, become obsessed with some very fundamental questions. What makes one pipe smoke better than others? How can I make all my pipes exceptional smokers? While the journey to answering, these questions is a fascinating story, I’ll only touch on the results here.
As a general rule, most engineering conscious artisans subscribe to several fundamental characteristics of proper pipe engineering. First, an open draw (the amount of air capable of being pulled through the pipe while smoking) is preferable to a draw that is constricted. There seems to be some debate about the ideal diameter of the draft hole in the stummel, or the wooden half of the pipe, but most American artisans use 5/32” or 9/64.” For our European counterparts, that’s roughly 3.5-4.0 mm. Second, the path for the smoke to travel from bowl to bit should be as smooth, straight, and as free from obstruction as possible. The idea is that less condensation will develop during smokes which eliminates or greatly mitigates gurgling or wet smokes. On bent pipes this can be a challenge, but a good artisan should be able to keep the smoking characteristics of straight pipes and bent pipes near identical with the proper modifications. Third, a pipe should be able to pass a pipe cleaner from bit to bowl so the airway can be swabbed out or be cleared of obstruction mid-smoke. On bent pipes where the draft hole is not in the center at the bottom of the mortise this may require a procedure called “ramping” the airway. In this technique the pipe maker “drags” the opening of the airway to the center of the bottom of the mortise with a burr, file, or similar cutting implement. The “ramp” is then smoothed out and enlarged to the proper diameter. This ensures that 90% of pipes will pass a cleaner. Many factory-made pipes are not engineered in the preceding fashion, and albeit some smoke great or even phenomenally, the growing popular opinion in the pipe world is that artisan pipes tend to smoke better more consistently.
Improving the engineering on a pipe can turn a mediocre smoker into something truly exceptional. And many smokers take these alterations upon themselves. While I’ll never criticize someone for doing what they want with their pipe, I do recommend leaving this alteration to the professionals. For those unfamiliar with the process the risk exists that they could irreparably damage their pipe. Trust me, I’ve seen some horror stories.
The bottom line is this, if you’re one of the many pipe smokers who prefers an open draw, or a pipe that passes a cleaner, or a pipe that smokes dry, buy from Blue Room Briars with confidence. We will gladly alter the pipe if it doesn’t meet your specifications. That takes much of the risk out of online buying, which unfortunately, is the only choice for many pipe smokers. Please don’t hesitate to contact us and ask about a pipe currently in your collection or one that you have spotted in our inventory. We will do whatever we can to put the best smoking briars possible into your hands, be they from the Blue Room or anyplace else.