Smoke The Pipe Of Peace (Dec, 1941)

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Smoke The Pipe Of Peace

Your Pipe Can Be Your Best Friend Or Your Worst Foe-Here’s The Way To Select It, Break It In, And Care For It.

by Rory O’Shane

THE saddest men I know are those who have tried everything in the way of pipes and have yet to find something that is sweet, cool, and dry. Most of their complaints about sour pipes and rank tobacco could have been avoided by exercising a little discrimination in the selection and care of a pipe.

The rules for choosing a pipe are on the same par with picking a wife. You look for graceful lines, a sweet disposition, and the ability to improve with age. Three types of pipe embody these characteristics in more or less varying degrees.

Undoubtedly the aristocrat of them is the genuine meerschaum, so-called because of its resemblance to crystallized seafoam. There is no other known quality which is as light, cool, and absorbent.

There are various schools of thought as to the means of breaking in a meerschaum and at the same time turning the bowl to the glow for which it is famous. Perhaps the best plan is to use a fake upper bowl which will fit inside the bowl of your pipe; this prevents the rim of fire discharged by the burning tobacco from overheating and thus undercoloring the upper part of the bowl.

Your meerschaum should be smoked slowly and thoroughly down to the heel of the pipe. Do so indoors, if possible, for a Meerschaum does not take kindly to sudden climatic changes. To prevent the sweet dryness from dissipating, it should never be re-smoked until it has had a chance to cool. Some smokers think a chamois jacket sewed around the bowl aids the “breaking-in” process. This is not strictly so, but it does protect the bowl from being spotted by the hand, since any grease, dirt, or perspiration on the fingers will discolor the pipe while it is cooling.

There are various imitation meerschaums on the market capable of fooling anyone but an expert. Burnt gypsum soaked with lime in a solution of gum arabic forms a lustrous plaster exactly like meerschaum and with the same polished surface. There is also a hardened plaster of Paris model which almost defies detection. A third kind is an ingenious derivation of the chips and dust collected from the real meerschaum and bonded together with various chemicals. The price of an imitation is about half that of the genuine. It is advisable, therefore, to buy meerschaums only from the most reliable of sources.

Several million pipe smokers in the United States own another kind of meerschaum—the Missouri meerschaum—or just plain “corncob” to you.

Selling for a thin dime, it is one of the best ] things a man can smoke because it is extremely porous and moisture-absorbing. Although their low price makes them convenient { to smoke and throw away, you should know | that the larger the cob and the woodier the fiber, the better the smoke.

It is said that the corn-cob leads a double life—for every one smoked in public there are ten cached away in office desks, bookcases, and easy chairs. The people who look down their noses at the lowly cob might take a lesson in democracy from Walter Pidgeon, Mayor La Guardia, General Pershing, Burleigh Grimes, Senator Bennett Clark, H. L. Mencken and a host of others, none of whom is afraid to smoke his ten-center in public.

With the experienced pipe smoker the wooden pipe with the short stem has taken its place as the favorite by reason of its excellent consolidation of durability, coolness, and light weight. But the trouble with most native American pipes is their tendency to char and crack under the heat of burning tobacco, i Cherrywood is especially sweet smoking, but the interior of the bowl fails to carbonize well.

In the imported bruyere we have a wood that heats slowly, is beautifully grained, and absorbs moisture rapidly. It is sapless and non-odor-retaining so that when heated, the fragrance of the tobacco is not mingled with the smell of the wood and lost.

Algerian and Corsican white straight – grained bruyere make the best briars because the wood is very old and extremely light. It is doubtful whether or not the direction of the grain augments the smoking quality, but today pipe connoisseurs value highly any briar which has grain running vertically up and down the bowl of the pipe. On the contrary, in former years, the gnarled and knotty parts of the root, when incorporated into the bowl, became its strongest selling point, the idea being that this was the hardest part of the root and thus the most fire-resistant.

Although a great number of pipe smokers satisfy their aesthetic senses by watching for the flawless beauty of a perfectly grained bowl, the economical buyer would do well to take advantage of the large number of briars called “seconds” on the market. If you follow along the grain with a keen eye, you can see where the wood has been chipped, marred, or worm-holed, then refilled with other material. These defects permit a sale at much lower prices, but there is no difference in the smokability, and it is a splendid opportunity to get two good pipes for the price of one.

As far as the sales claims for pipes that are treated with honey or boiled in oil that “imparts to the briar a spicy flavor that is unique and delightful,” don’t you believe it. The processes function only to sweeten the smoke, not the pipe, and quickly wear away. It is also well to remember that the thicker the wood in a pipe, the cooler the smoke.

Varnished pipes are not too highly recommended since certain types of varnish fill in the pores of the wood and prevent absorption of stale tobacco fluids. These are to be distinguished from briars -whose luxurious color is the result, of staining or being steamed under low pressure.

It is desirable to have a stem that meshes with the shank rather than one that must be squeezed in. What very often happens when the pipe is being taken apart to be cleaned is that the thin part of the wood splinters. The proper way to dissemble a briar is to hold the stem in one hand and turn the bowl in the other.

The highly advertised metal inserts are of no practical value either in keeping the pipe cool or in protecting the smoker from bitter tobacco juices. Old-timers generally remove this “hardware” as soon as they buy the pipe. For one thing metal conducts heat so rapidly that the metallic taste mingles with the taste of the tobacco and stings the tongue. For another, most of the gadgets capture juices and then roll them in a flood down the stem when the pipe is tipped inadvertently.

In 1939 a famous aeronautical professor applied engineering ingenuity toward removing two objectionable features of the pipe—overheated smoke and acrid tobacco juices. His aluminum barrel in a fluted design increases the rate of heat dissipation in order to cool the smoke before it reaches the smoker’s mouth. Condensing tars are retained by a small radiator device until the pipe is cleaned.

There are more fallacies in existence on the subject of breaking in a pipe than in almost any other field. For instance I have been told, with all the seriousness in the world, that the only way to break in a pipe is to light it and hold it out the window of a car that is being driven rapidly. Nothing could be farther off the track. The terrific draft set up by the wind burns the tobacco so swiftly and unevenly that only part of the bowl receives the heat. Your pipe will taste like something fresh out of a fire-gutted building. Moreover, the heat expansion may crack the bowl. It is uniform seasoning that is required.

When a less expensive pipe is used for the first time, many smokers scrape the inside of the bowl to remove the varnish and fuzz, then moisten the interior with a damp cloth. This is to prevent the fine dust and residue from contracting the pores and scorching the bowl. It also keeps this extraneous material from adding a sting to the first few pipe loads of tobacco.

Though scraping the bowl of the more expensive pipes is unnecessary, since they are put through special processes at the factory to remove the fuzz, dampening the bowl is important. The tobacco being moist next to the wood will not char it there, but will allow a sooty film to form instead.

Before the moisture evaporates, pack the bowl half full of tobacco with just a little “spring” to it— neither too tight nor too loose. Pick a brand that is free from artificial coloring or else the gummy substances which do not burn will collect at the bottom of the pipe and turn it sour. Use the same kind of tobacco until the pipe is fairly well seasoned. Switching tobaccos on a new pipe will make it either too strong or too flat.

Don’t puff away at the thing as if your lungs were a pair of blacksmith’s bellows. Overheating a new pipe prevents a “cake” from forming. The well-broken in pipe is sweet from top to heel, so remember to smoke the tobacco all the way down until there is nothing left to burn.

For the first few loads leave the ashes in the pipe until it is absolutely cool—this gives the liquid residue a chance to soak into the pores of the fresh wood. Do not scrape the inner surface clear of the thin coating of carbon that has collected since it insulates the pipe against the heat and prevents the wood from cracking.

Too many smokers make mistakes in handling the carbon “cake” in their pipes. A thick “cake” never makes a pipe sweet, it only serves to overheat it, just as excessive carbon in a motor makes it sluggish and hot. A thin cake is cool and sweet, but it must be of uniform thickness in every part of the bowl.

Never use a sharp instrument to clean the pipe. Instead use a dull reamer* to prevent cutting through the cake and chipping the wood. The little nicks will destroy much of the sweetness of a pipe that is otherwise perfectly seasoned.

If your pipe tastes like a million dollars, don’t work a good thing to death. A pipe should never be in continuous use for more than a couple of weeks. Clean it out, run a pipe cleaner through it, and hang it bowl down so that it can rest. This will dry out any excess fluid that has collected. Some smokers recommend leaving it where the sun can play on it. Another good idea is to pack the bottom with powdered chalk before placing it aside.

One pipe isn’t enough for the man who smokes continuously. Puffing on the same pipe all day long makes it hot, strong, and evil smelling. Have several pipes in your collection and keep rotating them. Each will be cool and dry when its turn comes for the next smoke.

When a pipe goes strong, the place to look is in the shank. Here, rather than in the stem or bowl, the acrid juices and stale smoke accumulate. A foul shank will spoil the best tobacco, so run a thick pipe cleaner through it after every few pipefuls. If you have a metal guard in the pipe, use pipe cleaners frequently and clean it out with hot running water at intervals.

When pipe cleaners do not prevent a strong acrid taste, the pipe needs more than an ordinary cleaning. The best thing to do is blow steam through it. First remove the stem and hold the mouth of the pipe over a kettle of boiling water. You might as well throw the pipe away if you have cleaned it with soap and hot water since the taste of stale tobacco is preferable to the result of a soap and water bath.

If you have a cork that will fit into the bowl of your pipe, here is another good treatment. Cut a hole into the cork just the size of the nozzle of a seltzer bottle, then place the mouthpiece of the pipe into a pan. Squirt a small amount of the soda water from the siphon through the pipe. It works like a charm.

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