Pipes for beginners - What to consider when buying.

In addition to aesthetic considerations, there are other important criteria for buying your first pipe that you should consider. These are the length, the height or even depth, the capacity and the shape. Other criteria are the surface treatment and the type of mouthpiece. Even if some will smile about it: A pipe is like a piece of clothing, it should also visually fit the wearer.

Pipes in general

altIn general, the pipe for beginners should not be too thin-walled. But also not too thick-walled, so that one notices that one smokes possibly too hot. 

The bowl should have a diameter of 30-40 mm and a height/depth of 40-50 mm. The tobacco chamber should have a width of 20-22 mm, so that the ring or index finger fit comfortably inside. These are absolute estimates that serve only for orientation!

For the surface of the pipe bowl, a distinction is made between smooth or sandblasted or rusticated. The latter two have a better cooling effect and do not get so hot in the hand due to the larger surface.

As a general rule, if the pipe gets hot in your hand, you should put it directly aside and let it cool.

If you prefer a model with a smooth head, you should choose pipes with waxed or oiled heads here. These are easier to care for and do not resent the occasional hot smoke, which certainly happens to every beginner. With lacquered pipe bowls, there is a risk that the lacquer can flake off at too high a temperature or that bubbles can form.

If you look at the inside of the pipe bowl, you will notice that most pipe bowls are coated with a black paste. This is called smoking paste. It supports an even formation of the charcoal layer when smoking the pipe and thus protects the wood. Especially with high-quality pipe bowls, which also have a very beautiful and uniform grain on the inside, this smoke-in paste is dispensed with.

Choosing the shape of the pipe

As a pipe for the beginner, the original shape of the pipe, the billiard, has proven itself for years. The billiard format is a classic, simple shape with a straight stem. 

As an alternative to the classic form billiard is also recommended slightly curved version of the billiard, called Prince. Another alternative to the format Billard is a pipe format called Apple. Yes, you read correctly and no, this is not about an app on the iPhone.

The classic Apple shape is good for beginners because it is neither too thick nor too thin walled. The head of the Apple is round ground, the bore and height are mostly medium. The shape is similar in structure to a billiard, but looks a bit more squat.

Basically, the rule of thumb for the shape of a pipe is:

  • Straight pipe: can be smoked drier
  • Curved pipe: tends to accumulate moisture in the bowl, which can cause bitter notes during smoking

Filter pipes or filterless smoking

Then there is the question of whether to smoke the pipe with or rather without a filter. We say: start with filter (9 mm). This way the tobacco does not taste too strong, and a filter pipe has the advantage that you can smoke the tobacco without a filter by leaving the filter aside. Conversely, you cannot smoke a pipe without a filter chamber with a filter. 

The pipe shapes at a glance

The shape of the pipe is basically based on the bowl of the pipe, with a distinction between three shapes:

  • Straight: pipes with a straight mouthpiece
  • Half-Bent: pipes with a slightly curved mouthpiece
  • Bent: pipes with a strongly bent mouthpiece 

The aforementioned billiard, the archetype of the classic pipe par excellence, is a model that is easy to smoke and is recommended for beginners in medium size. 

A real classic is the Canadian, which is very elegant due to the oval, long stem. The Lovat also belongs to the family of long-stem pipes. Its distinguishing feature is the short saddle mouthpiece. Similar is the Liverpool, only here the stem is round, and the short mouthpiece has no saddle.

The next form, which evolved from the Billiard, is the Pot, a pipe with a short, top-flattened bowl and rounded base. It has very good smoking properties due to the thick wall of the bowl. 

The Dublin is also a variation of the Billiard. The main difference is the straight upward funnel-shaped bowl. The equally funnel-shaped combustion chamber creates a special effect: the aroma gathers in the lower part of the combustion chamber when smoking and opens up only gradually. A careful smoking is definitely recommended here. 

The already mentioned Apple has a lower and rounder head, which appears slightly flattened. The handle of the Apple can be straight or slightly curved. It has the same good characteristics as the Pot, but is softer and more pleasant in the hand.

Prince is the name given to pipes with a somewhat compressed, flat and spherical or even tomato-shaped bowl. Similar to the Apple, the Prince has an asymmetry at the leading and trailing edges of the bowl. The spar is short and round. It is therefore one of the narrowest and lightest pipes. 

Bulldog, also known as Rhodesian, are pipes with an angular stem and sharpened bowl.

If pipes are provided with plug mouthpieces, one speaks of an Army; if this pipe is now bent, it becomes a Bent Army. The epithet Army is probably due to its use in the army, because its stability made it ideal for use in the field.

The mouthpieces at a glance

In addition to the bowl, the appearance and smoking characteristics of a pipe are determined by the mouthpiece. It is used to draw the resulting smoke, which glows in the tobacco chamber, into the mouth. In the past, mouthpieces were made of natural rubber, Dunhill pipes and Freehand pipes are still equipped with this mouthpiece today. However, most mouthpieces today are made of acrylic, a heat-resistant plastic. The advantage is that acrylic does not discolor over time and it is very difficult to bite through. However, advocates of rubber mouthpieces say that it is more comfortable to hold them in the mouth because the material is softer.  

There are several forms of mouthpieces that can be distinguished. The most common is the fishtail shape. The fishtail mouthpiece gets its name from the fact that its shape is reminiscent of a fish fin. Pipes equipped with the wide and flat "fishtail mouthpieces" can be held well in the mouth, are easy on the teeth and the jaw shows only a slight tendency to fatigue.

The saddle mouthpiece has a "step", so to speak. It has the same diameter to the pipe stem, but then runs out abrubt in a flat step.

In the case of the Army mouthpiece, the end of the stem is shod with metal. Thus, the spar is protected when inserting and removing the mouthpiece.

The spigot mouthpiece has metal ends on the spar and additionally on the mouthpiece. Mostly they are made of silver or gold, which contributes to an elegant appearance.

Finally, mouthpieces are divided into two types of bite: mouthpieces that allow the smoker to hold the pipe in his mouth with his teeth are called normal bite. With these mouthpieces, the smoke opening is directed at the tongue, which is more sensitive to taste and temperature.

In a lip bite, on the other hand, the smoke outlet is located at the top of the mouthpiece. Particularly sensitive tongues appreciate the pleasant guidance of tobacco smoke along the palate so that the smoke does not flow directly onto the tongue. The companies Vauen and Peterson are known for their lip bite mouthpieces. These mouthpieces can also be held with the teeth.

For the indecisive, there are pipes beginner sets with filters:


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