Pipe mouthpieces - texture and materials
The right mouthpiece - not to be underestimated!
In addition to good wood quality, the mouthpiece of a pipe should not be neglected. It is, so to speak, the interface between the bowl and the smoker, and a good part of the smoking quality of a pipe depends on its quality and condition. For many freehand pipe makers, the production is rather unloved work, but if it is not shaped well enough, too thick, asymmetrical or too hard, there is little pleasure in smoking the pipe. There are various materials that are used in pipe making nowadays. We will now take a closer look at the most common ones.
Most mouthpieces are now made of acrylic, because the material has significant advantages:
- It does not discolor with prolonged use.
- It remains handsome and shiny even over a long period of time in the display of the pipe merchants.
- Acrylic is relatively hard, making it difficult to bite through and robust.
However, the disadvantages should also be mentioned:
- The bite is comparatively thick, and thus for many pipe smokers not so pleasant to hold in the mouth.
- Acrylic is relatively brittle, so only certain shapes and bending radii are possible.
Due to its good workability on lathes and CNC milling machines, this material is preferably used by series pipe manufacturers. Acrylic mouthpiece blanks are also offered, which then only need to be adjusted a little for the individual pipe.
Still, some freehand or handmade pipe makers manage to work an acrylic mouthpiece so that it is not too thick and comfortable to hold in the mouth. Poul Winslow and Castello are to be mentioned here in particular.
Pipe smokers who like to deal with older pipes or have discovered the advantages of the material for themselves, Parakautschuck or also ebonite (meaning the same) is already a term.
Again, let's briefly discuss the advantages and disadvantages.
- The mouthpieces can be made much thinner.
- In addition, these are much softer in the bite, thus more pleasant to wear in the mouth.
- There are almost no limits for the pipe maker in shaping, it is very easy to work with.
The disadvantages should not be concealed:
- Ebonite mouthpieces discolor with prolonged use, the so-called "tarnishing".
- With longer time in the display of the pipe dealers, the mouthpieces also discolor, and become beige-gray.
- They are easier to bite through and generally less robust.
Basically, ebonite is the more "natural" material. It consists mainly of vulcanized rubber. However, oxidation causes sulfur components to come to the surface, and the mouthpiece acquires its characteristic discoloration. Contact with saliva intensifies this effect.
Pipe makers and advanced pipe smokers nevertheless appreciate its pleasant mouthfeel. Especially high-quality freehands and pipes from English production use this material nowadays.
Appreciating the advantages of this material, many pipe smokers obtain equipment to regularly polish ebonite mouthpieces back to a respectable appearance.
Polishing wheels, machines and polishing waxes are available in specialized shops. If you have two left hands or simply no time or desire to polish your pipes yourself, you can also give them to a professional who will take the best care of your beloved pieces. Particularly noteworthy is the work of Christian Oehme, who offers his service on www.der-pfeifenputzer.de. New mouthpieces are also individually made and pipes repaired here.
Signs of wear on an ebonite mouthpiece can look like this:
After a short treatment with the polishing machine, the pipe can shine in new splendor:
Of course, there are other mouthpiece materials. These include the beautifully marbled Cumberland, which is essentially a dyed version of ebonite. It actually has the same properties and doesn't discolor quite as quickly. Used frequently in higher quality English and French pipes, this material is also used in Freehands.
In the enumeration of mouthpiece styles, the lip bite, also called "P-Lip", must not be missing. This mouthpiece has the advantage that the smoke is not directly directed to the tip of the tongue, but to the top of the palate. Thus, especially the beginner has the advantage of avoiding tongue bite, and the connoisseur appreciates how conveniently these mouthpieces can be held between the teeth. Peterson originally invented this principle, and Vauen now offers almost all models with either a lip bite or a conventional mouthpiece. Less frequently, this variant can be found at Savinelli or Hilson:
Basically, there are mouthpiece variants for every kind of pipe smoker. Every now and then there are also mouthpieces made of horn, but it is very sensitive.
Find out for yourself - are you more of an ebonite or acrylic fan?