Young And A Pipe Smoker


If you browse around The Bootleg Bon Vivant, you might notice some comments regarding being a young pipe smoker. If you’ve read anything about me, you’ve probably found out that I’m 29 years old and tattooed. While the average pipe smoker tends to be upwards in their 40’s-50’s. With people my age and younger, pipe smoking just isn’t what friends would consider “cool”. Teens and college students are still faced with peer pressure to stick with cigarettes or nothing, and we all know about the chemicals that are now being put into cigarettes. Some people may actually venture to smoking a cigar from time to time. Picking out a good cigar can leave one a little frustrated. Especially to a young person who doesn’t have any experience with them. Why? Because everyone has an opinion as to what is good. This same thing applies to pipe smoking.

Being young, I can get some strange looks, but everyone I’m around says it suits my personality and they enjoy the aromas the tobacco has to offer. If you’re uncomfortable smoking one out in public, then smoking one around the house is always an option. Beginning to smoke a pipe can be confusing and can easily turn someone off from exploring. However, when you talk about all the different materials, shapes, etc. think about the fun you could have collecting vs. buying any pipe you find. I collect some just for show, while others are my routine smokers. But picking out a pipe is all about one’s own personal taste. The main difference I’ve found is that straight stemmed pipes can smoke hotter than bent stemmed pipes.

What are the materials? What kind of tobacco should I start off with? What tools do I need? How do I pack my pipe? All of these are valid questions.

  • Briar – Briar is a Mediterranean shrub or small tree. Pipes are made of the roots of this plant.
  • Meerschaum – A fine, compact, usually white claylike mineral of hydrous magnesium silicate, H4Mg2Si3O10, found in the Mediterranean area and used in fashioning tobacco pipes and as a building stone. Meerschaum meaning “Sea foam”. It is a porous mineral.
  • Corn Cob – Exactly what it says, made from maize cobs that are dipped in a plaster-based mixture and varnished.
  • Other wood – Cherry, Pear, Olive wood, etc.
  • Metal Pipes – For examples, look up Kirsten, and Falcon
  • Clay Pipes – Fine white clay, or low grades were made with porcelain
  • Calabash gourd – Think Sherlock Holmes

Here are a few tips for young people who are interested, yet shy to try.

  • Find a quality tobacconist in a pipe and tobacco store and ask questions. They can show you how to pack a pipe, what tools you’ll need and can better explain the pipes they have in their shop.
  • A local tobacconist might also be a part of a pipe smoker’s club in the area, or know how to find one. There you will find like-minded people to enjoy this new-found hobby.
  • College students do tend to experiment. Most often, you’ll find other people who are closet pipe smokers, or they might be hiding out in some local cafe’s, parks, etc. in the college town.

One of the biggest problems for young people tends to be lack of money. We may make some of it, but it tends to go towards cars, tuition, and other living expenses. Being young, we’re also learning sometimes how to manage our life after high school. Some do better at it than others. Therefore, one may not want to invest too deeply into an expensive pipe. No worry there. There are plenty of places on-line where you can find estate (used, or previously owned) pipes at a great price. If you have any antique stores close by, there might be some fantastic deals hidden. I’ve bought several pipes between $5-$35 and have gotten a few more rare pipes for $50-$75. They are all estates, so I know that I will have to clean them. If you want to skip all that, one can look into American carvers like J.M. Boswell, who from some recommendations, make a great starter pipe starting at fifty dollars. Corn cobs are another possibility and many people swear by them, but in my opinion, one may want to try a briar pipe, or a meerschaum pipe instead. Meerschaum pipes can be relatively cheap. They look great and smoke extremely well. They’re just much more fragile.

Lastly, get online. There are several sites where brethren of the pipe help newcomers to the hobby. They are always full of advice on pipe care, tobacco preferences, where to buy your tobacco for the cheapest prices, and where you might be able to find some great deals. A newcomer might just find someone in their local area who is already connected to some local clubs. Don’t worry about the pipe smoking community. Everyone I’ve ever talked with are very patient, easy to talk with and ask questions.

Happy puffing and exploring!

A special thanks to Adam, Todd Platek, John, Nathan, Tre, and E. Spear for their recent comments for the inspiration to write this post. I’m sure there’s plenty that I’m missing, but this is definitely a start for this post.

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15 thoughts on “Young And A Pipe Smoker

  1. dude, this blog makes my whole life worth living. keep it up man! consider yourself blogrolled.

    Awesome and thanks! Good thing blogrolling isn’t like TP…I really don’t wanna have to clean up the mess.
    ~BBVV

  2. I love this so much. Thanks for the comment on my blog, by the way! Pipe smoking has brought quite a bit of warmth and joy to my life, my roomate and I spend many a summer night on our roof with a corncob and a La Rocca briar. Also pumped to read some of the Jesus blogs too. “Arson” is the greatest thing EVER to put next to a holy spirit tattoo! Love it.

    Quite welcome and thanks for this comment. Pipe smoking is definitely a great way to pass time with friends. Enjoy it all you can. I figure pipes and tattoos shoulda gone together a long, long time ago. I told my wife that she’s starting a revolution of sorts with that tattoo.
    ~BBVV

  3. Excellent blog, as an addition, some great Briar’s can be found for under $30… I picked up a Angelo Briar Bent-Stem from my local tobacconist and it smokes great.

  4. Hey again

    This blog is EXCELLENT. Really inspires me to check in a little more often, offer some moral support, and encourage younger pipe smokers.

    Yeah, it’s true that if you’re in your teens, 20s, and even 30s, people may look at you cross-eyed if they see you with a pipe. When I first learned how to enjoy pipes and pipe tobacco, I was intimidated and frustrated about learning. I was in my teens when I started. My only pipe was a Dr. Grabow, and the only tobacco I could get was Captain Black. Nobody was going to show a 16-year-old how to smoke a pipe, but I got the hang of it from older friends.

    When I turned 18, I went to a tobacco shop where the guy didn’t really take me seriously at first because I was so young. He checked my ID and asked me if I was “interested” in pipes. Yeah, I was interested – little did he know. I picked out a nice mid-range briar and then settled on a tasty Cavendish. Once I fired up my new pipe, the guy seemed kind of amazed that I already knew how to smoke it. From then on, I got great service and advice from that pipe shop, which became kind of a regular hangout for me and my cigar and pipe friends. I totally agree with your advice to find a good tobacconist who knows pipes. Get a couple of good briar pipes and treat them well (I fooled around with cobs – don’t recommend them).

    Except for an expensive Savinelli that my dad gave me, my pipe collection consists of pipes that all cost me under $60 or so (including the Dr. G, which is still a fine pipe). You don’t have to spend a lot of money for a briar pipe that smokes well – you just need to learn what to look for (reputable pipe maker, minimal putty fills and flaws, a shape you like, a comfortable bit). On a budget, you can manage with three or four pipes, if you smoke as often (or infrequently as I do). I smoke five or ten times a week. I smoke one pipe for a day or so, then let it rest while I smoke another one. And I keep my pipes super clean.

    The variety of tobaccos available is AMAZING! And a little goes a long way. Friends who smoke cigars can drop $15 on just one cigar; $15 can net me three or four ounces of delicious tobacco that lasts me more than a month. And if you buy your tobacco in bulk from a good tobacconist, chances are good that you can sample a bowl or two free before you settle on a blend. Always worth patronizing a friendly tobacco shop.

    I know what you mean about closet pipe smokers. I have a half-dozen friends who pretty much smoke their pipes only in private or maybe at parties (where other people are smoking other stuff 😉 … ). Anyway, they feel like I used to feel: They think people will laugh at a 20-something-guy puffing on a briar. I slowly got over that inhibition when I started college, where you might be surprised to find quite a few stealth smokers (of cigars, pipes, and – of course – the almost ubiquitous hookah).

    Here’s the thing about pipes: Lots of people object to tobacco smoke and make those of us who choose to use tobacco like we’re criminals. I’ve found that almost no one reacts negatively to my pipe. Quite the opposite. Apart from occasional surprise (“YOU smoke a PIPE??”), the most common reaction is “Hey, that pipe smells great. My dad used to smoke a pipe.” When my friend’s g-f spotted his pipe in his room, she practically begged him to smoke it for her – she loved the scent. I’m not saying a pipe is always a babe magnet, but people are almost always intrigued and generally find the aroma very pleasant.

    One more thing that makes me fairly comfortable “coming out” with my pipe is that I got over hiding it. Yeah, I know I shouldn’t have gotten such an early start with it, but when my dad found out I owned a pipe, he didn’t freak out. He knows I enjoy it as a hobby, not a habit. I don’t really mind being seen with my pipe in public, and I’ve gotten quite a few of my friends to try a pipe and stick with it.

    Thanks again for this great blog. I hope we see a lot more posts, especially from those of us in the “younger” category.

    Tre

  5. greetings,
    Was doing a little pipe collecting surfing, and ran across this site; and my attention was caught by “young pipe smoker.” I am 53 yo, and bought my first pipe at 15; but there were a lot of pipe smokers in my family, including my grandfather, father, uncles, etc. As a university alumni I know a few young pipe smokers on campus, and have such visitors that want to try one when at my house. I have an observation, and a comment about Pipe smoking in public for you guys, and yes, sometimes girls. Most of you stand out not because of your age, but because of either the awkward, and self conscious way you handle your pipes, or the exact opposite; trying too hard to look cool and relaxed. These of course are things that only time, more or less for some than others, will will cure, like a good tobacco. Once you become relaxed and comfortable with your pipes, smoking and handling them will become, to coin a phrase, second nature. Besides, we all know that the least cool thing you can do, is to worry about being cool. Cool just is.

  6. hey, I’m a 17 year old that just ordered my first pipe. I’ve been in a few shops and looked around and did my homework. I sunk my money into a really nice Savinelli churchwarden that should last me a while, if not forever.

    I ordered some starter tobacco with little bite and some cheap caramel flavored stuff along with a tin of Savinelli Cavendish.

    I’ve read up and done my homework on all this stuff (packing, lighting, how to avoid burnout etc,even theres some things that only experience can teach) and pretty much everyone I’ve found is in love with smoking their pipes and I hope to be the same way.

    If anyone has any tips for some of less veteraned, feel free to fill me in.

    Hey Mike, welcome to a wonderful community! Savinellis are great pipes that can last a lifetime, so great choice there. Being that you’ve done so much homework already, there’s only one piece of advice I feel I can give right now based on your comment. Depending on the cavendish blend you purchased and the other two tobaccos, anything with added flavors is considered an aromatic. They tend to be a little more moist than straight tobaccos and can burn hotter. (Cherry flavored blends have been the worst in this from my experience.) If you think you might try a straight tobacco without the flavorings, be cautious of using the same pipe. The flavors and aromas will skew the experience of trying out a blend that is different than what you’ve been smoking. This is one reason (definitely not the only reason) pipe smokers tend to have more pipes in their rotation. Aromatics do tend to be where new pipe smokers start, so enjoy and don’t be afraid to try out other blends.
    Good luck and happy puffin’!
    ~BBVV

  7. Hey, guys –

    Interesting thread. Thought I’d add that my story as a pipe smoker is pretty similar to the other stories shared here. I can really identify with Tre: I also picked up a pipe when I was in my teens, and I kept my love for pipes under wraps until I got close to my 18th birthday.

    By that time, I already had two or three decent pipes of my own, and I knew the basics of smoking one. I think Colt’s right about how others perceive you as a pipe smoker. Being a young (teenage) pipe smoker can seem a little awkward, that’s for sure. But being taken seriously (or not) is maybe more of an issue.

    Mike and others are on the right track: Knowing a little about pipes, tobacco, and smoking techniques can go a long way toward getting good advice and decent service in tobacco shops. If you’re young AND insecure or awkward with your pipe, you may not be taken seriously (as I found out). One time during freshman year of college, I went to a pipe shop planning to buy a new pipe. I was ignored at first, and then when an employee asked if I needed help, I told him I was looking to buy a pipe. First thing he did was ask me if I knew anything about pipes, and then he carded me. Really turned me off – the guy made me feel embarrassed for no reason. A little later, I went to a different shop with a lit pipe in my mouth. TOTALLY different reaction. No questions about my age or whether I knew what I was doing. Instead, I got help picking out a nice pipe that would fit my budget and smoked a few bowls of excellent tobacco for free. I ended up hanging out at that shop on a regular basis, just shooting the breeze, talking pipes with the guys there, and sampling their bulk tobaccos.

    Mike – the advice on this blog is great. I’d take BBVV’s idea to heart: Definitely a good idea to build up a small pipe collection (two or three will probably do for a beginner). Smoking diff’t blends in a single pipe can interfere with the flavor experience.

    Enjoy, everybody.

    John

  8. I am a young pipe smoker (as well as maker). This is a great article. I am still in search of a pipe smoking buddy but i am even younger than you so it has proven difficult to find one. this article was an encouragement, thank you.
    -chase

    I know it’s been awhile since you posted this comment, but anyway, thanks! Where are you located, if you don’t mind me asking?
    ~BBVV

  9. haha this is an encouraging blog… right now i have about 14 tabs up on this window involving pipes and info and tobacco etc. i found a local tobacconist thru a PO who recommended him. i had decided cigarettes weren’t my thing and cigars, tho good, were not all to great for daily or use etc but thanks so much for this… i am pretty young too and i got my first weird stare on my first day trying it… a couple of em… but this is great advice… ever thot about venturing into Midwakh or Kiseru? they are pipes from other parts of the world

    1. Glad you stopped by. Yeah, there’s a lot of info about pipe smoking out there. With the pipes you’ve mentioned, no I haven’t given them consideration. Didn’t even know about them, honestly. I’m not into that style and prefer my briar or meerschaum. Plus, I don’t smoke for that quick nicotine fix, like those pipes suggest. The funny looks go away after time. I think that had to do with my own confidence more than anything.

  10. May I just say what a comfort to uncover somebody who
    truly knows what they’re talking about over the internet. You definitely know how to bring a problem to light and make it important. A lot more people have to look at this and understand this side of your story. It’s surprising you aren’t more popular given that you certainly possess the gift.

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