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.