The Art in the Artisan Pipe Part II: Nate Rose of RosePipeCo and ‘The Willows Pipe’

“How would you like to own a badger pipe?”

This question came to me via Instagram this past January. I was in a conversation with Nate Rose of RosePipeCo about unusual pipe shapes; when out of the blue, he asked me about collaborating with him in creating a new pipe for my collection. Of course, I’d pay for it, as pipe carvers should be paid for their work, but Nate assured me that I would be involved in the creation process. I didn’t have the money at the time, but I told Nate that I’d be happy to for my birthday. As soon March came around, my wife and I set aside the needed funds and sent them to Nate.

Nate Rose, Pipe Maker Extraordinaire

Nate Rose

First, let’s get to know a bit about Nate’s story. Nate Rose is a relatively new pipe carver, having started his craft four years ago up in St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada. Despite being new on the scene, Nate’s been featured on both the Pipes Magazine and Maple City Pipecast podcasts. In fact, I highly recommend you listen to the March 20th 2019 episode of the Maple City Pipecast, where my buddy Dave interviewed him for his carver series.

Nate has been busy since he picked up his first briar block, and constantly has new projects sitting on his workbench. His pipe portfolio ranges from smooth billiards and classy Bings, to craggy pokers and rugged bulldogs. Never satisfied with simply repeating his greatest hits, each pipe Nate has their own embellishments that give each pipe their own unique personality. Nate also dabbles with bamboo shanks on occasion, producing stunning pipes that catch the eye— and let’s be honest, pipes with bamboo shanks never disappoint. Although Nate’s carved a variety of different shapes, he’s always eager to stretch his creative muscles and venture into uncharted territory.

“I really enjoy my billiards, but there are so many shapes I haven’t tried,” said Nate, on which shapes he’d love to try carving. “[I’d] like to try prince or author, [that] would be different.”

From my time getting to know Nate over this past year, it’s easily apparent that he takes his carving with the utmost seriousness. Nate doesn’t just rely on his own judgment when carving his pipes, but shows his finished pipes to another, more experienced carver for a second opinion. “I have someone I look up to,” explained Nate. “He’s my mentor/master if you will. All my pipes go through his ‘grade.’ I call him my Qui Gon Jim. Honestly, I’ve been under his teaching for 2 years.”

For all of his impressive pipe carving skills, Nate’s pretty humble about what he’s accomplished so far in his short career. Though pipe carving is just his side hobby, it’s his true passion in life. “Pipe carving truly gave me some of the most confidence I’ve ever had as a human,” he told me. “[I] wasn’t great in school. I work a pretty standard blue-collar 9/5 factory job, but when I walk into the shop and throw my apron on, I come to life. It’s incredible.”

Since pipe carving is only a hobby at this point in Nate’s life, it’s not always easy for him to devote time to his shop. “The biggest challenge I currently have with running my business is honestly finding time to carve,” admitted Nate. “With the new baby and balancing life, kid, and my relationship, my carving time is limited.” As a writer, I can relate to Nate’s struggle with juggling a passion with work and family. Sometimes you have to put your passion aside and spend time with the more important parts of your life. But when there’s a free moment, you go out there and get to work.

I first became aware of Nate through Dave, as Nate was already working on a commission for him for a riff on the Missouri Meerschaum Cobbit pipe. Since Nate had a partnership going with Dave, I felt confident enough to take the plunge and commission my pipe through him. It also helped that Nate had an Instagram page where I could check out his previous work. Nate had countless pictures of himself working in his shop, as well as various photos of completed pipes from his portfolio.

As I mentioned in Part I of my Art in the Artisan series, it’s essential for pipe carvers to have some sort of presence on social media. Otherwise, their work gets lost in the void, overshadowed by tech savvy pipe makers that know how to market their work. Nate understands this, and uses social media to not only increase his brand awareness, but to interact with the wider pipe world.

“If it wasn’t for social media, I probably wouldn’t have become a carver,” recounted Nate on his social media use. “Instagram gave me a platform to learn and interact with other carvers. It’s also is my main source for sales. The only time I spend marketing is when I post general stuff going on in my day-to-day shop life.”

The Creation of Willows Pipe

Nate in his workshop

Once Nate received his payment, we went straight to work messaging each other over ideas for this badger pipe. Now, as a writer, I like coming up with stories for my commissioned pipes, giving them a kind of backstory so the pipe has meaning to it. In my head, I envisioned the pipe as something Mr. Badger from The Wind in the Willows would carve for himself. I wanted the pipe to look like Mr. Badger picked up a gnarled block of briarwood out in the woods and carved a pipe for himself, keeping most of it’s original appearance intact. The pipe itself would resemble tree bark, with a hint of green moss showing in the wood. I knew this would be a challenge, as an effortless looking pipe requires a lot of skill and craftsmanship. However, Nate was more than up to the task.

As for the shape, I wanted to do something a bit different than the norm. With pipe shapes on the market, it’s rare to find a pipe that veers from the standard shapes out there. Because of this, I like combining or mixing shapes for my commissioned pipes, just to try something different. For example, my Marvic commission pipe is a mix between an Egg and Cutty shape, something veering on the nautical side.

For the Willows pipe, as Nate dubbed it, I’d combine two of my favorite shapes—the Lovat and the Dublin. I love the almost stumpy quality of a Lovat stem, and knew I wanted to incorporate it into the body of the pipe. Instead of the usual Billiard bowl, however, the pipe would be in the shape of a Dublin. The cone shape of a Dublin pipe makes it a perfect selection for flakes, and mixing it with a Lovat body would give the pipe some originality.

After giving Nate my directions for the shape and look, I gave him complete control over the carving of the pipe. When I work with a pipe carver, I try to give them the bare essentials for a direction to go in, and set them loose. I wanted Nate to have fun carving the pipe and not bog him down with micromanaging every little step along the way. After all, this wasn’t just a pipe for me, but something I wanted Nate to show off to others and increase his business. As great as it is for me to get my commissioned pipe, I’d feel even happier knowing he got more customers out of working on my pipe.

As I guessed, Nate prefers having the freedom to take a commissioned pipe in the direction that speaks to him. “I really do prefer mostly freedom other then obviously picking the shape and maybe a particular colour you’d like incorporated,” he said about dealing with commissions. “But there is something pretty special when you are given super specific details and can manage to knock it out of the park.”

Of course, when you commission a pipe, you’re not just ordering it off a shelf and expecting it to arrive in a few days. Nate already had a few pipes already on his bench ahead of mine, so I’d have to wait a bit before he could get started on it. However, patience is the hallmark virtue of pipe smokers, so I bided my time as I waited for Nate to start working on my commission.

One of Nate’s strengths is that he’s a great communicator. I never had to send him messages inquiring as to the status of my pipe. While waiting for him to start, he kept me updated on how long he thought it would take before he could start on mine. Once he did, he sent me constant updates, from pictures of his sketches on the briar block, all the way to completion. With every message, he checked with me that I was happy with the direction he was going in, giving me plenty of chances to make changes if they were needed. Nate offered his input, and generally I’d listen to his suggestions. For example, I originally picked out a red stem to go with my pipe, but he thought a green stem fit better with the tree theme. However, Nate didn’t want to make the change without my consent. I agreed with his assessment, and we made the change.

It’s suggestions like this that reveals Nate’s thought process when he tackles a new project. When he picks up a block of briar, he doesn’t just go straight to work, but takes a thoughtful approach in how the pipe will end up when it’s all said and done. “I find when it comes to a new shape or style of rustication, I get over excited to dig in,” he explained. “So I have to make myself take a day or two just to look over my sketch and ideas on paper before I begin.”

“Also a coffee and pipe will slow me down,” he added. “That helps.”

After Nate finished carving the block, he went straight to work on rusticating the pipe. Playing off the tree bark theme, Nate came up with a complicated effect that he called a ‘Wasp Nest.’ This involved carving out multiple tiny panels into the pipe, while filling the grooves with countless tiny dots that went all the way down and into the stem.

“I find most of my inspiration comes from nature or pictures in general,” reminisced Nate, when I asked him about his inspiration behind the rustication. “I see something and start wondering ‘if that wasp nest was a pipe, what would it look like?’”

Satisfied with the rustication results, Nate next moved onto staining and finishing the pipe. Since the Willows pipe is supposed to look like tree bark, Nate went with a dark red and black color scheme. As an added element to the finish, Nate applied the tiniest hint of green shading to give the tree bark some moss. While the moss effect isn’t immediately apparent, upon closer inspection the shading adds a bit of whimsy in the design that is often lacking in pipe making. It’s details like this that elevates the Willows pipe in ways that few carvers think to include in their pipes.

With the Willows pipe completed, Nate packed up the pipe and shipped it off to the USA. As any pipe smoker will tell you, waiting for a new pipe in the mail can be an agonizing process. Each day I checked the mailbox, hoping to see that rectangular box waiting for me to open, but walking away in disappointment. The box showed up on a Friday afternoon in April, which was a welcome surprise to kick off the weekend. It didn’t take me long to open the box and admire the beautiful craftsmanship of the pipe.

From Carver to Customer, A Review of the Willows Pipe

The Willows Pipe

The first thing that sticks out to me when looking over the Willows pipe is how different it is from all my other pipes. The oval bowl is reminiscent to some of the Dublins I own, but the unusual sloping rim at the top is a wonderful touch by the carver. The swirling red and black colors on the panels is truly a sight to behold, with no two panels having the same color pattern. The hints of green moss in the cracks of the wasp nest shows Nate’s expert use of color, just having enough for the observer to notice without it taking away from the overall color scheme. This is a pipe you want to sit down with and study under a bright lamp, just so you can notice all the little details that went into the carving.

The overall weight of the pipe is just right, not too heavy to clench, but not too light so you have that nice “pipe” feel when holding it in your hand. The airway has been properly drilled, something some of my factory pipes can’t say, and easily passes a pipe cleaner without any issues.

If I have one criticism of the pipe, it has to be with the stem. The stem itself is nicely carved, and the added rustication detail Nate did on the portion closest to the shank is a fine touch I never would’ve considered. While the stem is a bit longer for a Lovat, overall I can’t complain. The silvery green stem dazzles the eye, and to lose any of it would be a crime according to pipe law.

The issue comes from the button, as the edges are a bit longer than they should be. It makes clenching the pipe a bit difficult, as the pipe jostles around if I bite down on it, and it’s not easy to keep my teeth past the button. Looking back on the stem, Nate concurred that he wishes he could’ve adjusted it a bit more.

“The only thing looking back that I might consider changing on Willow would maybe be her stem. I wasn’t in love with it when I was done, also the button wasn’t [what] I [can] do now.”

While the button has its issues, I found an easy solution to the problem that required no modification to the pipe. At the most recent Chicago Pipe Show, I purchased some rubber stem bits and fit it over the Willow’s stem. The soft rubbery bit instantly solved the button issue, and now I can clench the pipe without any hassle. No harm, no foul as far as I’m concerned.

As soon as I filled my Willows pipe with some tobacco, I sent Nate a picture of me enjoying his latest work. For Nate, seeing his customers enjoying their new pipe is his greatest reward as a pipe maker.

“The best part honestly about being a carver is seeing photos of people enjoying my work. That’s a pretty fulfilling feeling.”

When looking back on the Willows pipe, Nate is proud of his work, as he should be. “Honestly, lately I think my pipes have taken a whole different level, which is great. BUT I’m pretty proud of Willow, that pipe was the beginning of some seriously new things coming out of my shop. I love that pipe.”

As do I, which is why I’ve already commissioned a new pipe from him. While we’re still getting ready for the planning stage, I’m already thinking of different shapes I’d like for Nate to try. I can’t think of a better show of endorsement of someone’s skills than a repeat customer, and Nate has my full backing.

Without a doubt, Nate has an unbridled enthusiasm for pipe carving. It’s in his blood, and creating with his hands keeps him going every day. “I’ll never stop carving. Hard to give something up that fulfills you internally from a creative standpoint.” And you can’t argue with that kind of passion.

While Nate has multiple projects in the works, you can still commission him for a new pipe. “I’m currently working on a pretty special pipe that’s important to me for personal reasons, [so] stay tuned.”

If you’re interested in commissioning a pipe from Nate, you can contact him via direct message on his Instagram and Facebook pages at RosePipeCo. There, you can follow Nate’s adventures in pipe carving and see his latest work, as well as previous pipes he’s completed. Nate’s prices are reasonable, and within range of budget minded pipe smokers looking for an artisan pipe without breaking the bank. Send him a message, and you too can own the RosePipeCo pipe of your dreams. Be sure to tell him Badger Piper sent ya.

Until next time, you can find me here, enjoying my very own badger pipe as I write my next update. Happy puffing my friends.

-TheBadgerPiper

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No Boundaries for the Briarhood

Living out away from civilization does the introvert soul well, but as a pipe smoker, it admittedly has its disadvantages. Granted, I can smoke my pipe where I want and not have to hear any complaints, but there’s also a dearth of fellow pipe smokers in the neighborhood to chat with in person. Of course, you could live in a city where you never see any other pipe smokers, so that’s out of our control. However, most cities and suburbs have a brick and mortar tobacconist, which offers a better chance at meeting someone smoking a pipe. Even then, if the tobacconist focuses almost completely on cigars, then the pipe smoker is out of luck.

Now, where I live, there are good tobacconists that have nice pipe selections, but they’re all at least an hour away in different directions. Unless I feel like driving an hour each way just for the chance to maybe run into one of those rare pipe smokers, I’m stuck here at home with no one to chat with about pipes.

I have to confess sometimes I look back and pine for the past, when pipe smoking was a more universal hobby. You’d have a greater chance of meeting other pipe smokers and share in the community. Then again, the way we approach our hobby is different than how things were done in the past. Pipe smoking was a way of life, and most pipe smokers picked a favorite blend and smoked it in one of their handful pipes. With pipe smoking being the world of eccentrics and hobbyists today, our enthusiasm would contrast severely with the codgers of old.

It goes against my curmudgeonly pipe smoking ways, but I think I’d rather be a pipe smoker today than one from yesteryear.  As much as I hate to admit it, the internet has done a world of good for pipe smokers. The little computer screens might be rotting our brains, but at least we’re having them rot together.

See, we can be the only pipe smoker in a 100-mile radius and still be part of the pipe smoking community at large. Sure, we don’t have a buddy sitting next to us, puffing our pipes together while chatting about our favorite blends, but with web forums and social media, we have countless fellow pipe smokers sitting with us in spirit.

I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve smoked my pipe with a fellow pipe smoker in person outside of a pipe club or show. Yet every night I smoke my pipe, I’m chatting about it with people from all around the world. Heck, every week I record a podcast with Dave from the Maple City PipeCast while we smoke our pipes. Those are better odds than traveling to my closest brick and mortar. I can tweet out a blend I’m smoking, or post about it on the ThisPipeLife forums, and get into a conversation with multiple people about the tobacco and hear what they think of it.

Thanks to the internet, I’ve made countless friends with pipe smokers from all around the world. Almost all of my friends don’t even live in the same state as I do, and without the internet, I wouldn’t have these friendships. From Montana, to New Jersey, to Oregon, Canada, England, and so on, I’m surrounded by like-minded souls who enjoy the briar and leaf.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve truly come to appreciate the power that social media has to bring pipe smokers together. In contrast, it seems as if social media is dividing people further and further away over their differences. Yet in the pipe smoking community, I only see pipers sharing their love of pipes and tobacco, and encouraging each other when they need an ear to listen. I’ll go so far as to say the pipe smoking community is the best community out there on the internet. For all of our differences and diverse backgrounds, pipes and tobacco are the glue that brings us together to find common ground. Some of us might get into squabbles, but in the end we all can go back to our pipes.

If you’re reading this, and you’re not plugged into a pipe smoking forum or group on social media, I mean it with all sincerity that you’re missing out of the greatest and largest pipe club in the world. You don’t have to be an island, smoking your pipe alone with no one to share the experience with after a long day. So ignore the curmudgeon side of yourself and find a place to join and share your knowledge and experiences. Sure, you might not like everyone, or enjoy every community out there, but if you take the time to look, there’s a place to call your own.

You’ll be glad you did.

Until next time, happy puffing my friends,

TheBadgerPiper

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Tobacco Review: Gawith, Hoggarth & Co. – Black Irish X Unsliced

My apologies dear readers, as I had to put off my “Art in the Artisan Part 2” article for next month. I’ve been focused on making headway in my novel, but I didn’t want to let June pass by without an update. Instead, I’m cheating a bit and reposting my most recent tobacco review on tobaccoreviews.com.

I’ll be the first to admit tobacco reviewing isn’t my specialty. Yet I felt the same way about poetry, but that changed after spending some time on it. I tend to only review blends that leave a distinct impression on me, and boy did this blend do that and more.

I’m sure you already know this, but if you haven’t visited tobaccoreviews.com, you’re missing out on one of the most valuable website for pipe smokers, only second to The Briar Report of course. You’ll find reviews for every blend under the sun there, and I’ll often read it when I’m bored or researching for my next tobacco purchase.

There are two methods to writing a useful review. On one hand, a review should strive to be factual and descriptive, giving the reader all the information they need to make a well informed opinion for themselves whether the blend is something they would enjoy. The other method is to entertain the reader with humor or include anecdotal stories about their experience with the blend. The following review is more of the latter, but there should be enough information there for you to decide if this blend is for you. Now then, let’s take a trip to a place where pipe smoking angels fear to tread.

Gawith, Hoggarth & Co. – Black Irish X Unsliced

There are some pipe tobaccos out there that will test the mettle of a piper. Now, I’m no stranger to strong pipe tobacco. Old Joe Krantz and Haunted Bookshop are both daily smokes for me, and I love Kajun Kake and War Horse Green. Yet with all my experience with vitamin N, I’ve never had the courage to order Gawith & Hoggarth’s Black Irish X. I had heard of this blend’s ability to knock a man down to size, so I stayed away, giving the blend a wide berth.

Recently during a pipe trade with an online friend, he offered to send me a sample of Black Irish X. So for a laugh, I decided I’d throw caution to the wind and give the blend a try. After all, what’s the worst it could do?

After sitting on my sample for a week or two, today I gathered my courage and pulled the sample out. Black Irish X comes in a rope, so you need to slice it with a knife to smoke it. In a way, it’s fitting that you have to use a knife with this tobacco, as you’ll need all the protection you can get with this sucker. I cut a few coins off the rope, rubbed the coins into ribbons, and loaded it into a Canadian pipe that has a smaller bowl. If this is your first time with the blend, then a small pipe is a must, or you’ll be at the blend’s mercy.

Upon the first light, I noticed a unique smell that I’ve never encountered before with a pipe tobacco—BBQ. This has a good, smoky BBQ flavor, much like a dry rub. In fact, I’d compare smoking this blend to sitting down with a huge steak dinner right off the grill. And this isn’t a fancy steak dinner prepared with some newfangled culinary techniques. This is a huge chunk of meat, and you’re going to have to finish the whole thing like John Candy in The Great Outdoors.

So I sat in my chair and puffed away, not letting anything else distract me from my pipe. You’ll want a drink with this tobacco, too. I had coffee, but I’d imagine this would pair well with a good scotch.

The first half went by without any issues, but the further down I smoked, the more I could feel the effects of the tobacco seeping in. The BBQ steak flavor never left, but I never found it to be dull or boring.

By the time I reached the end of the bowl, I felt the threads of reality beginning to split. Somewhere in the smoky haze, I could see a realm in the distance, some far off tavern with wizards, knights, rangers, and clerics. They sat around long tables, singing songs of pipe tobaccos gone by as they drank from their tankards and puffed their pipes. I could see them motioning for me to join them, to leave this world behind and disappear forever. Had I smoked Black Irish X in a larger pipe, I don’t think I would’ve been able to resist the call.

Overall, I have to say that I have a healthy respect for this tobacco. It’s rich and flavorful, and unlike any other blend I’ve tried. Should this blend come back in stock, I’d gladly order a tin or two for my cellar. I would then lock said tins inside an old chest with heavy chains around it, and nail a sign that said “Beware.”

Take caution, dear piper, for this blend will sneak up on you like a bandit if you let it. Even if you smoke this in a smaller pipe, it will punch you in the head until you’re silly. Despite the risks, I’d say everyone should give this blend a try.

Now you’ll have to excuse me. I realized I typed this all out using my toes. I think I better head to bed before something worse happens.

Pipe Used: A Small hand carved Canadian

TobAge When Smoked: Unknown

Until next time, happy puffing!

-TheBadgerPiper

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The Art in the Artisan Pipe

If you’re like me, when you took up pipe smoking, you started off with a factory pipe. For me, I started with a Peterson, but Savinelli’s, Stanwell’s, Nording’s, Comoy’s, etc are all great first pipes. Go on your online vendor of choice, and you’ll have all sorts of pipe manufacturers to pick from that are in your price range. Heck, you could just buy one brand of pipes for the rest of your life and be happy.

            Spend any amount of time on the pipe section of social media, though, and you’ll discover an entirely new world of pipes. These pipes aren’t made in a factory, but rather in the garages, basements, and workrooms of hard working and pipe carvers. All around the world, talented men and women spend all day taking blocks of briar and carving them into stunning works of art. These countless men and women have taken their love and appreciation for tobacco pipes to the next level, leaving their mark on the pipe world with their own personal style.

            I have a ton of respect for these entrepreneurial pipers, as being an independent pipe carver takes hard work and dedication. It’s easy to be a bystander and take independent pipe carvers for granted, but we shouldn’t. To be a pipe carver and survive in this market, one must wear many hats to succeed and make a living with their passion.

First, they have to have the talent to shape a briar block into a desirable pipe. Just one misstep or mistake, and that billiard that would’ve gone for sale now becomes their own pipe in a best case scenario. It also takes multiple pipe carvings before a pipe maker can start offering their pipes for sale. Some pipe makers even choose to live with another pipe maker to learn under them as an apprentice. That alone is an investment, as that takes time away from their families and their non-pipe carving work, not to mention money spent on travel, food, or room and board. Not to mention, a pipe carver must decide whether to follow the light side or dark side of pipe making in their apprenticeship. I’d say more on the subject, but George Lucas did a few pretty good (and not so good) allegory films for pipe making. Just replace “Jedi” and “Sith” with “pipe maker”, and you’ll understand fellow padawan.

            Then there’s the money investment to become a pipe carver. The pipe maker has to buy the necessary tools, briar blocks, and stem materials to make a pipe. Even if they already have the needed equipment, the supplies alone comes out of their pockets. That’s a lot of money to spend on following your dreams of having your own line of pipes.

            So you have the necessary equipment and supplies and can carve a billiard, so you’re set, right? Not so fast. After learning how to carve a pipe, next you have to develop a style, a signature look that’s all your own. This comes with practice, and lots of it. You carve a pipe how it’s supposed to look, and then look for ways to separate yourself from the pack. If you only carve generic pipes, you’ll easily lose yourself from the rest of the pipe makers out there. That doesn’t mean you have to create wild, out of this world briars, but you need something that screams you. You need a brand to distinguish yourself.

             Even if the pipe carver has the skills and style down, there’s still an uphill battle to become established as a successful pipe maker. The pipe maker has to juggle being a pipe carver, as well as a business entrepreneur and a brand marketer. The pipe carver can’t just worry about carving a good pipe, but learning how to sell their pipes. Otherwise those beautiful briars are going to languish on their shelves, gathering dust as they wait to be bought.

            What does this all mean? Well, the pipe maker can’t hide in their workshop and carve; they have to get out there and sell their wares. The pipe maker can’t put all their hopes into being picked up by an online pipe retailor; they’ve got to get noticed first. The good news is that there are a wide variety of methods to get your name out there to attract prospective buyers. The pipe maker isn’t limited to making a webpage or etsy store to sell their pipes. Some pipe makers have managed to make a decent business by simply selling their newest pipes on Instagram, even before they’re finished. It might take a bit of time before the pipe maker gets to this point, but the tools are there.

            Likewise, social media is a great place for a pipe maker to connect with a wider audience. It’s a way for the pipe maker to show pictures of their work as it’s being done, as well as adding a personal touch by being personable to commenters. By interacting with fellow pipe smokers, the pipe maker can develop lasting relationships with potential customers. The person complimenting your new Dublin might not buy that specific pipe, but later down the road when they’re looking for a new pipe, they’ll know whom to contact.

            This, of course, adds an additional wrinkle to the mix— customer service. The pipe maker has to reply to emails and direct messages, answering inquiries and potential commissions. And when the pipe maker sells a pipe, they also have to address possible issues the customer has with the pipe. The pipe maker can pour their heart and soul into a pipe, but if it’s not what the customer wants, well, then it’s back to the workshop and hope it doesn’t affect their future business prospects.

            Also, as a pipe maker, they’re at the mercy of what their customer wants. While they can make the kind of pipes they want to make, many take on commissions. The pipe maker might want to be creative and carve all sorts of shapes, but if it’s not what the customer wants, then they have to put those ideas aside and make their commissioned pipes. Want to carve an egg or cutty? Tough, you have to carve five poker pipes in a row for your clients. And if you make it big with a certain shape, expect to make more just like it.

            With all this in mind, I have the utmost respect for the hard working pipe makers out there. Having followed the pipe world on social media for the past five years, I’ve seen promising pipe makers come and go. Some pipe carvers will work hard to establish themselves from the rest of the pack, put out their hard work, and disappear a year later after failing to find an audience. It’s not an easy line of work, and the market is full of competitors, all looking to have a piece of the proverbial pie. And let’s be honest here, there’s not a massive amount of pipe smokers out there. To make it as a pipe maker, you have to be determined and be willing to keep going through some lean times.

            And these are all the possible issues that I, a non-pipe carver, can see from the outside. There could be other hurdles that I haven’t accounted for in this article. It’s a tough business.

            Now, with that preamble out of the way, why should you consider buying your next pipe from a pipe carver? Don’t worry, I’m not going to stand in some derelict pipe workshop and beg you to buy a pipe from a poor, needy pipe carver like I’m in some commercial in the middle of the night. I get it, it’s easy to just go onto a pipe website and simply pick a new pipe from what’s available. However, having purchased a few artisan pipes myself, I can tell you, buying a pipe from a pipe carver is a rewarding experience.

            Let’s get the negatives out of the way first. First, you’ll be paying more for an artisan pipe. Normally, you’ll find factory pipes priced around $100 or less, depending on the brand and finish. Some of those factory pipes can still cost as much as $150, but $100 is the baseline from what I’ve found. You can find some artisan pipes around the $100 mark, but for the most part you’re looking at $150 or more, especially if it’s a commissioned pipe. If you want one of those fancy schmancy blowfish or reverse calabash pipes, expect to pay more.

            It’s a simple matter of economics. A pipe carver doesn’t have the same resources that a factory does. They work at a slower pace than the factories, because it’s usually a one-person operation. While a factory can churn out many pipes in a single day, the pipe carver can take multiple days on one pipe, depending on what they’re making.

            Likewise, when you order an artisan pipe, expect to wait a few weeks before it arrives. This is especially true if you’re commissioning a pipe from scratch. You have to wait while the pipe maker finishes the pipes they have on the bench before they can get to yours. Then, the pipe making process can take a few days, depending on the shape and finish you want.

            Also, depending on the pipe maker, you might not have much to go on in terms of their general reputation. If you’re working with a new pipe maker, you’re trusting that they’re competent at their job. It’s an investment to their work, and sadly not all investments work out in the end.

            Finally, once you get your pipe, if you’re not happy with it, you have to deal with the pipe carver to get the issue sorted out. You can’t just contact smokingpipes and try to return the pipe. It all depends on the pipe carver you’re working with, and when you’re dealing with a person rather than a company, there’s a chance you might run afoul with the pipe maker. And should that fight become public on social media, well, no one wants to see that. Thankfully, I haven’t heard of too many instances of this.

            Now that we have the negatives out of the way, let’s get to the fun stuff!

            When you’re commissioning a pipe, you’re creating the pipe YOU want! You’re not limited to the available stock on a website or in a pipe shop. If you’ve always dreamed of owning a full bent poker pipe, there’s a pipe carver out there that’ll make it for you. If you want a billiard with a grey finish with rustication, there’s a pipe carver that’ll make it. Want a Bing pipe with an apple bowl? There’s a pipe carver that’ll make it. The only limits with a commissioned pipe are your imagination and the skills of the pipe carver.

            When you work with a pipe carver, they’ll generally be in contact with you every step of the way. With all my commissioned pipes, I received constant updates of the progress of my pipe, with questions and suggestions of what to do next. I’ve never been out of the loop during the carving process, and every decision was made by me, unless I gave the carver the freedom to do what they wanted. From the rustication on the pipe to the choice of stem color, I had the final say. If I wanted a billiard with a neon pink stem, and they had that stem, they’d shrug their shoulders and do it as they questioned my taste.

            When you own a commissioned pipe, it’s completely different from owning another factory pipe. Every pipe has a story behind it, and with a commissioned pipe, you’re part author. You know where it came from, as well as who carved it. And one day, when you reach the end of your pipe journey, you have the chance to gift it to someone else. One day, I’ll be able to give my commissioned pipes to my son (should I have one), and tell him the story of each pipe as I pass it along to him to keep. You’re not just commissioning an average pipe; you’re creating an heirloom.

            By commissioning a pipe, you’re also investing in someone’s personal business. You’re not handing your hard earned cash to another company, but to a person who’s following their dreams. That pipe you ordered helps someone keep their business open, and the feedback you give helps the carver develop their skills. It’s a real win-win situation, you get a pipe to treasure, and the carver gets to make more pipes.

            If you’re buying a pre-carved pipe from an artisan pipe maker, you’re still helping them out. By buying one of their pipes, you’re not only helping them out financially, but also letting them know that something they made caught their eye. This helps them in knowing which styles and shapes to focus on in their spare time. That alone is valuable feedback to the carver, and they’ll appreciate your business.

            The relationship between pipe carver and customer doesn’t end the moment the pipe arrives in the mailbox, either. Once you have that pipe, you have the chance to support their work beyond the money you sent them. Take pictures of the pipe! Post the pictures on social media and tag the pipe carver. Talk about the pipe on your pipe forums and social media. Show the pipe off and tell people where you ordered the pipe. The pipe carver can only do so much in self-promotion.

When you tell people about your artisan pipe, you’re giving the pipe carver valuable help in getting their brand out to the pipe masses. A happy customer showing off their pipe does more for the pipe maker than countless Instagram photos of their work. There’s no better way of saying thanks to a pipe maker than spreading the word about their skills.

            Over the years, I’ve purchased four artisan pipes, three commissioned and one purchased from etsy. All four of them are fantastic pipes, and I couldn’t be happier with them. I heartily recommend that all pipers take a chance on an artisan pipe maker at some point in their hobby.

            So, for part 2 of this series, I’ll be talking about my most recent pipe commission. So stay tuned to learn more about the pipe, and more specifically, the pipe maker: Nate Rose of RosePipeCo. Hopefully, by the end of this series, you’ll consider saving up and taking the plunge with a pipe carver.

Until next time,

-TheBadgerPiper

The 100% Factual Guide to Pipe Smoking

Guest Article By Sargent MacBadger the Third

            [Sargent MacBadger marches into the conference room, dressed smartly in his fully decorated military uniform. The badger paces back and forth, puffing his MacArthur cob with a steely look on his face, glancing at the soldiers lined in front of him from underneath his helmet. He stops suddenly and pivots to the men and clears his throat.]

            Ah-ten-shun! So, you maggots want to start smoking a pipe, eh? Well, this is a man’s hobby, and if you lily livered crybabies show even the slightest hesitation, it’ll chew you up and spit you out like the dottle you are.

            To be a pipe man, you have to throw yerself into it like you mean it! I don’t want to hear any whiny excuses like “I have tongue bite” or “My wife says I spend too much money on pipes and tobacco.” Ha. By the time I’m through with you, yer tongue’ll think ghost peppers are candy, and the direct deposit for your paycheck’ll go straight to smokingpipes.com, as it should. If that’s too much for ya, you can go to yer local Vape shop and work on yer manbun with the other hipsters. Bah, hipsters. I’d spit on ‘em, but that would disrespect my saliva.

            Still here, eh? Heh, well, there might be hope for ya after all. Now then, pay attention and ya might learn somethin’ if I can get through that thick skull of yours. I’m only goin’ through this once, so take notes. Yer life might depend on it.

Selecting a Pipe

            Okay soldier, so first things first— and this is the most important part, ya need a pipe. Can’t call yerself a pipe man without ownin’ one, right?  Right. If you couldn’t figure that one out, ya might as well get outta my sight.

            Now, some blogs on that world web wide’ll tell ya you should start off with a cob or an affordable briar. Maybe some’ll point ya to one of those so-called starter kits. Sounds like good advice, right?

WRONG!

If yer gonna smoke a pipe, ya might as well dive head first into the hobby in the deep end of the pool. Sink or swim’s my motto, and I’m the lifeguard tossin’ ya in the pool without arm floaties.

A cheap pipe’s just that, cheap, and more importantly bo-ring. I don’t want to see any Kaywoodies stickin’ outta yer gobs, an’ Dr. Grabrow’s a quack. Fake news. If the pipe has a stinger, then it’s a stinker. Remember that, maggot.

No, whatcha want is one of those fancy shmancy ‘art-i-sanal pipes. Ya know, one of the ones with a pipe maker tied to it. Take a look at yer online pipe retail site of choice. What yer lookin’ for is a pipe with at least three digits in the price, preferably four. The more numbers underneath the pipe, the better it is. That’s pipe law.

Oh, I can hear ya right now. “But Sarge, that’s out of my budget.” Pah, hogwash an’ pipe mud. Get used to workin’ two jobs if ya want a pipe, or ya don’t really mean it.

Found a maker with a large price tag? Good. Now then, let’s find a shape for ya.

First rule of finding the right shape—if the pipe has the word “reverse” in it’s title, then yer on the right track. Reverse Calabash, reverse bulldog, reverse prince, any of ‘em will do. If the man upstairs grants me one favor, it’s that I can live to see the day some genius out there makes the fabled “reverse reverse” shape. I heard the pipe prophet Hacker wrote about it in one of his pipe books.

Second rule, the fancier the shape name, the better it is. I’m talkin’ ‘bout Blowfish, Tomatoes, Anvils, Hammerheads, Large Halogen Collider, all fine pipes if I do say so meself. So buy at least a month’s worth of those, an’ yer set to go. After all, if ya smoke the same pipe more than once a month, then yer ruinin’ it.

Of course, ya can’t go wrong with a good cob. If you ask me, though, there’s only one cob worth ownin’— the MacArthur. Nothin’ sets you apart from all the normies an’ civilians out there more than walkin’ down the street while puffin’ on one of these. It’s a statement that tells ‘em you don’t care what they think.

As for meerschaums, I don’t have time for ‘em. Unless of course it’s in the shape of a dragon. Come on, it’s a dragon pipe.

Now that ya have a dufflebag’s worth of pipes, we’ll move on to the next lesson.

Selecting a Tobacco

            Can’t smoke a pipe without baccy, otherwise yer an ignoramus. But all those blends can make a private quiver in fear in his foxhole. Don’t you worry that little head of yers, ol’ Sargent MacBadger’s here to help you out.

Let’s get this outta the way first. I see ya eyein’ those purdy smellin’ aromatics. Stop right there, soldier. This ain’t no vape shop with cotton candy or strawberry juice. So put that pouch of Lane 1-Q down. I’m here to show ya the real stuff. These blends’ll put hair on yer chest and tell the world yer made of stronger stuff.

Now, my own personal blend is a mixture of 90% Perique with some Latakia to scare away the riff raff. If the blend doesn’t knock ya right on your behind, knock the tobacco out of the bowl and try again. Some people, like my personal blender, have called me rabid over this blend, so out of respect of the weaker individuals out there, I’ll give ya my top five recommended blends for lightweights.

Cornell & Diehl’s Old Joe KrantzA loose-leaf mixture of Burley, Perique, and red Virginias. Old Joe’s like the old tuff guy drinkin’ his scotch in the back of the bar. His arms are covered in faded naval tattoos, and the stubble on his face is as coarse as sandpaper. Oh, he’ll share a drink with ya, but one wrong look an’ he’ll knock ya flat with one punch. He’ll then pick ya up off the ground and toss ya through the window, tellin’ ya you better not show your stinkin’ face in the bar again; unless you want your head mounted on the wall. Recommended for beginners.

Captain Earle’s Ten RussiansA Krumble Kake of Cavendish, Latakia, Oriental/Turkish, Virginias. There’s no collusion with this blend. If you want to dip yer toes in the world of English blends, you might as well start here. Upon lighting this blend, you’ll summon the titular ten Russians, who’ll proceed to take you for a night on the town, drinkin’ more vodka than ya thought possible. Next thing ya know, you’ve been shanghaied on their ship, where the process’ll begin all over again. Remember boys, with Ten Russians, the pipe smokes you, so mind yer step. Recommended for Yakov Smirnoff aficionados

Samuel Gawith’s 1792 FlakeA pure Virginia Flake with Tonquin flavoring. Here’s a flake that’ll take ya back to the times of the great Revolution. Ignoring the fact this blend comes from the Crown, all you patriots out there won’t find another finer flake out there. Just stuff yer pipe with this flake an’ puff away with your tri-cornered hat on yer head. Don’t panic if ya start feelin’ dizzy, it just means you’ve found yerself in a time slip, goin’ back to the good ol’ days. Tell General Washington ol’ Sargent MacBadger sent ya. He’ll be just as confused as you are. Recommended for tea parties, revolutions, and bloodletting.

STG- Five BrothersA Birds-eye Burley Shag tobacco. They don’t make tobacco like this anymore. This is pure Burley goodness down to the last crumble. There’s a reason pipe smokers keep a pouch of this handy, it’ll exorcise any of those no good ghosts hauntin’ yer pipe faster that you can say “Who are ya gonna call?” Why, back when I was a Private, some of the boys back on base dared me to stay in the local haunted house fer a night. So I loaded my MacArthur cob an’ spent the night puffin’ away with my trusty side arm. After an hour, the ghosts came out wavin’ the white flag. To this day, there’s a court order that I can’t come within 50 feet of any ghost huntin’ shows, for fear of spookin’ the specters. Ya won’t need to burn any sage after smokin’ this blend, and that’s a badger promise. Recommended for Priests and Paranormal Investigators.

Gawith, Hoggarth & Co.’s Black Irish XXXA thick black rope of Burley and Virginia. Don’t let the look of the tobacco scare ya away from this blend. If ya ask me, all pipe smokers should cut their tobacco with a knife. It adds to the experience. As for the blend itself? Well, once while I was in the war, I was taken by surprise by an enemy squad. Luckily for me, they were all pipe smokers, so bein’ the gentlebeast that I am, I offered ‘em some of my Black Irish XXX as a sign of respect. Some pipe smokers they were, they all passed out from the nicotine. Took ‘em all captive an’ earned another medal out of the whole thing. Recommended for dreamers an’ those seekin’ visions, because after smokin’ this blend, you’ll have an encounter with the divine or one of those eldritch gods. Recommended for memory loss and madness.

Other Tools

            So you’ve picked out a blend to go with yer pipe, so think yer ready? Wrong! Drop an’ give me twenty! Well, much like a solider, a pipe smoker must always be prepared with the proper tools. There’s a lot of misinformation out there, so let ol’ Sarge set ya straight.

            Now, if ya go onto these pipe sites, you’ll see ‘em offerin’ all sorts of pipe tools, tampers, lighters, an’ all that ballyhoo. Wanna know a secret? Its all jus’ to nickel an’ dime yer wallet.

            See that digit on yer hand you call a thumb? That’s as good of a pipe tool as any! You don’t need some shiny tamper to press down the pipe ash, jus’ use the thumb God gave ya an’ save that money fer somethin’ else. Likewise, when yer pipe’s finished, all ya need to do is give it a good whack, an’ all that ash’ll fall right out. I’ve even used it in battle to knock out an enemy soldier or two. Yer not jus’ knockin’ ‘em out, but yer blindin’ ‘em with the pipe ash. Best of all, there ain’t no rule from Geneva tellin’ ya you can’t do it. If ya ask me, the Swiss should jus’ stick with hot chocolate and step outta the way when it comes to pipe warfare.

            Pipe cleaners, ya ask? You mean the silly things kindergarteners use for an arts an’ crafts project that their parents toss in the trash when their brat isn’t lookin’? Don’t have time for ‘em. If my pipe starts actin’ up, I remove it from my jaw an’ give it a good tongue lashin’. If it still acts up, then it’s time for it to go to pasture with a well-placed slug in the stem. I can’t stand traitors, an’ that goes for briars.

            Finally, every pipe smoker needs a trusty knife for cuttin’ their baccy. While any ol’ pocket knife’ll do— here’s a tip between you an’ me. You want a baccy knife that gets the job done, the bigger the better. That’s why I use a machete to cut my rope an’ plug tobacco. A bayonet works, too, but you run the risk of accidentally shootin’ yer tobacco, an’ that would be a shame, unless it’s grape flavored. If that’s the case, then yer doin’ the baccy a favor.

How to Pack a Pipe

            If there’s one question I get tired of hearin’, it’s “Sarge, how do I pack my pipe?” It ain’t rocket science, idjit! Forget everythin’ you’ve heard about “the three pack method” or “the Frank Method”, they overcomplicate the whole dang thing.

            Here’s the trusted MacBadger method, passed on from badger to badger. Take yer baccy an’ stuff as much as ya can inside it. Is there still room at the top? Fill it some more! Every square inch in that chamber should be stuffed with baccy. Yer wastin’ good smokin’ time if ya leave any space in yer pipe. Trust me, it works. An’ if ya can’t get any airflow from the stem, puff harder. Builds up the lungs till they’re made of iron.

How to Light a Pipe

            Again, it ain’t rocket science. Don’t waste money on matches or one of them fancy doohickey pipe lighters. Don’t even get me started on those willy-nilly cedar sticks. Go drink yer soy latte in that case, hipster.

A humble flamethrower’ll do the job better than any of those fire makin’ tools. It not only lights yer pipe in one go; it also sends a firm message to the enemy that ya mean business. No need for a second light, too. Ah, I do love the smell of pipe tobacco in the morning.

Pipe Maintenance

            So you’ve finished yer pipe, how do ya take care of it? Simple, jus’ toss it in yer pocket, or fill it again. Too many folks out there pace around, goin’ “oh, I have to clean the stem an’ the bowl or my pipe’ll go bad.” Malarkey! A pipe doesn’t need any cleanin’. Ruins the natural seasoning.

            An’ don’t get yer drawers tied in a knot over this cake business. I smoke my pipes till I can’t fill ‘em anymore, then toss ‘em before buyin’ another one. It’s not like we’re in danger of runnin’ out of briar. I mean, there’s trees everywhere, so its one of them reusable resources. As they say, keep it simple soldier!

Final Thoughts

            There, I’ve taught ya everything I’ve learned in these long years since I started smokin’ a pipe. All these self-indulgent pipe metubers have made the whole thing a lot more complicated than it needs to be. Any knucklehead with a pipe an’ baccy can figure it out, it jus’ takes determination an’ ol’ fashioned will power.

           Now yer a red-blooded pipe smoker, ready to take on the world with briar in hand. Do me proud, soldier, an’ show those anti’s an’ hipsters out there how it’s done. Don’t ya fret one bit, Sargent MacBadger’ll lead the charge an’ bring you all to victory.

            DIS-MISSED!

Till next time soldier,

Sgt. MacBadger the Third

            Note: We here at the TheBadgerPiper pipe blog apologize for any misinformation mentioned in this piece. Sargent MacBadger has been reprimanded and posted to a base in the frigid Alaskan wilderness where he will hopefully reevaluate his controversial pipe opinions.

Smoke and Be Silent

            Traditionally, March has been one of my favorite months of the year. I must admit that it’s purely out of selfish reasons, as March is my birthday month.  Though most people will tell you it’s immature to be excited for your birthday; I’m still a kid at heart, so I can’t help but look forward to it every year.

            This year has been a bit of a downer, as I came down with a particularly nasty chest cold the Monday after my birthday. It’s the lingering kind of chest cold that’s persisted ever since— not strong enough to keep you in bed, but persistent enough to keep you from doing what you want to do. I’ve had multiple moments where I think it’s almost over, only for it to hang on like an unwanted guest. Even now, I’m still fighting the remnants of it.

            Originally I had a different blog post in mind, one that involved a bit of research. However, due to my cold, I ended up spending most of March indoors, putting my pipes and writing on the backburner while I recovered. As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, I don’t smoke when I’m sick. If I’m not feeling well, then I’m not going to waste good tobacco. As a result, I’m saving that post for a different month.

            I normally don’t have much of a chance to smoke outside during the daytime. Due to my job and household responsibilities, by the time I’m ready to write and have a pipe, it’s pitch black. However, with spring and the end of Daylight Savings, there’s more sunshine to work with when I get home from my commute. So today, when I arrived home after a long day, I decided I’d smoke a pipe before getting ready for dinner. My job is a bit mind numbing, so I needed a bit of a mental recharge.

            I changed out of my work clothes into something more comfortable and headed outside with pipe in hand. After going into my garage and lighting my pipe, I was ready to sit down with a book and read for a bit. However, as I glanced over towards the garage door and saw the sunshine peaking through, I made an abrupt change of plans.

            All winter long I’ve spent cooped up in my garage, huddled in front of my computer screen trying to stay warm. Now that spring’s here, the snow has melted away, and there’s a mild temperature outside. After months of the same environment, it was time to get some fresh air. So I snatched my pipe tool and lighter, and off I went for a short stroll.

            I took a walk down the driveway and into my backyard, which leads to a small channel and pier. Just last week, most of the channel was frozen over, but now there’s not a single trace of ice left on the water. I stepped on the pier and began walking around, puffing away as my mind drifted along with the smoke.

            I stood on the edge of the pier and glanced out over the water’s horizon, watching tree branches sway all around the channel. I could hear the cries of seagulls as they lazily landed on the water’s surface. Nature surrounded me on all sides without a single computer screen in sight. At that moment, I felt completely at peace, puffing contently on my pipe as I basked in the sunlight. After being stuck indoors for most of the month, I felt unshackled from the burdens of life and my current illness, relishing the freedom of being outdoors and enjoying the simple comforts of a pipe. Spring is known as the season of rebirth, and while I wouldn’t go so far as to say I was reborn at that moment, but I felt alive.

            In my momentary reverie, I recalled the beginning to one of my favorite novels, The Wind in the Willows. In the first chapter, Mole is busy in his home working on some spring-cleaning. Tired of the banality of his surroundings, Mole escapes his home and charges down to the waterfront, where he becomes enamored with the world outside his humble home. Here, he meets the Water Rat, and the two form an instant friendship over an interest in boating. In that moment, Mole escapes his solitary life and begins a great adventure.

            No, I didn’t meet someone in a boat and go on an adventure myself, but I found myself relating to Mole at that moment. It’s easy to get sucked into a repetitive lifestyle, sticking to routine and never venturing outside. With our modern comforts, there’s a temptation to be passive and simply absorb artificial entertainment. As an introvert, I’m especially susceptible to these feelings, but a life spent indoors is a life wasted.

            Likewise, it’s easy to get into a routine with pipe smoking. For me, I can take my pipe to my garage and enjoy it there without much thought. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing bad about that, but sometimes a change of scenery can add something to the smoke. Taking a stroll with a pipe won’t change the flavor of the tobacco, but adds to the experience.

            There’s a reason why there are multiple sayings about pipes and recharging the soul. For example:

            “A pipe is to the troubled soul what caresses of a mother are for her suffering child.” –Indian Proverb

“There is nothing like being left alone . . . to walk peacefully with oneself in the woods. To boil one’s coffee and fill one’s pipe, and to think idly and slowly as one does it.” –Knut Hamsun

“Smoke your pipe and be silent; there’s only wind and smoke in the world.” –Irish Proverb

The answer is simple, really. A pipe forces us to slow down and take in the world around us. As we puff our briars and cobs, we catch the little things that others pass by without thought. So next time you decide to fill your pipe, go somewhere different from your usual spot and take the scenery in for a while. Who knows, you just might gain a new appreciation for life.

Processed With Darkroom

Until next time, happy piping!

-TheBadgerPiper

The PAD and TAD Zone

            It happens to every pipe smoker eventually. You’ve bought a starter briar or cob, as well as a few ounces of a pleasant sounding aromatic. You’ve struggled with learning how to pack and light a pipe, as well as how to smoke it properly. You’ve watched a few youtube videos, maybe joined the Instagram pipe community or a pipe forum to learn the secret knowledge of the briar. You’ve joined in some conversations with fellow pipe smokers, perhaps even met up with a few to enjoy a bowl. Over time, the pipe becomes easier to smoke, and you’ve come to the decision that you want to stick with it.

Soon, that pouch of tobacco nears the bottom, and now you need to order the blend again. You’re no longer the cautious newbie looking for a way into the hobby; you’re a pipe smoker through and through. Maybe not a “pro” or a distinguished piper, but you’ve dipped you’re toes into the pastime, and now you want to spread your wings a little. You like that nice aromatic, but you’d like to try something else in addition to your favorite.

Other pipers have suggested other blends for you to try, blends with tobaccos that veer perhaps less in Cavendish and more in Virginia, Burley, Latakia, or even that mysterious Perique you’ve heard so much about.

It’s not just tobacco you’re looking for, either. That starter briar or cob has served you well, but perhaps it’s time to look into adding a second pipe to your rotation. After all, variety is the spice of life, and you’ve seen other pipers with all sorts of interesting briars and cobs in their collection. A straight Billiard is a solid shape, but there was a rugged bulldog pipe that caught your eye. Maybe you can find something similar on a pipe website.

So you log onto the page of your preferred pipe retailer of choice with that faithful credit card and start searching around. You have the name of a blend and shape of a pipe on your mind as you click around, astounded by the sheer amount of options before you. You add that blend into your cart, but in the process you spotted another one that had a name you recognized. Soon, the number on the cart icon at the top of the page increases as you add blend after blend, tin after tin, a bulldog pipe and a diplomat cob. You can’t buy every blend you find, so you jot down the names of blends in a document for next time.

By the time you’ve clicked the order button, you’ve gone way past your initial budget. You scratch your head in bewilderment, wondering just how you’ll explain to your significant other why the credit card bill is higher than normal.

How did this happen? Why are you suddenly investing in boxes of mason jars? Why are you already counting down the days until the next time you can place your order?

There’s no need to panic my friend. As your unlicensed and unofficial doctor, I can tell you the obvious diagnosis— you’ve taken the turn right into… the PAD and TAD Zone.

Image of the Twilight Zone belongs to CBS

            Do do do doo, do do do doo, do do do doo, do do do doo.

The Pipe Smoker’s Dictionary defines PAD and TAD as “Pipe Acquisition Disorder” and “Tobacco Acquisition Disorder” respectively. Symptoms include: dizziness, sweaty palms, daily visits to tobaccoreviews.com, memory loss upon viewing a pipe webstore, naming children and pets after pipe brands, and hallucinations of packages arriving on your doorstep. There is no known cure for PAD and TAD. Please do not consult a doctor if you recognize any of these symptoms, they can’t help you.

If you haven’t come down with a case of PAD or TAD, don’t worry, it’ll happen eventually. I’ve seen plenty of forum posts of pipers admitting to contracting PAD and TAD, and often the replies only encourage the sufferer to embrace their affliction.

I came down with PAD not long after I started smoking a pipe. At that point, I only had two briars to my name, and once I knew that pipe smoking was for me, I wanted to add more pipes to my collection. Granted, I had my eye on smoking a pipe for about two years by the time I started, so I had an idea of shapes and brands I wanted to purchase. Being a poor grad student kept me from buying new pipes, but I soon found an enabler by the name of eBay. Over time, I saved what money I could and snagged a few pipes (as long as they weren’t sniped from me…) at a cheaper price.

One of my first early purchases was a pipe rack, and let me tell you, pipe racks do not help with PAD. I’d have an evening smoke, place my pipe back on the rack, and notice the empty spots on the rack.

This won’t do, said the little voice in my head. I bet a nice Comoy would fit right alongside the others. So off I’d go onto eBay and I’d bid on a Comoy within my price range. After cleaning it up, I’d put it on the rack and be satisfied for the moment.

Then that nagging voice would come back once more.

You know, these five pipes are nice, the voice would say. But I’m so close to having a seven-day set. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a pipe for each day of the week?

Two months later, two more briars filled the empty spots, with one pipe resting on it’s own.

Sure is a shame to leave that pipe all alone by itself, I heard the voice say. Better buy a few more racks to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

Off I went to eBay, and won a lot of three pipe racks. That solved the problem! Or so I thought…

Over time, those empty spaces filled with briars, with empty beer steins holding the overflow of cobs and smaller briars in my collection. Now, one would think that PAD’s hold over me would finally break after collecting so many pipes, but that’s not the case. Even now, I find myself glancing over at eBay or a pipe store and think, well, one more couldn’t hurt…

However, much to PAD’s chagrin, there’s another voice that stops me from spending my hard earned cash on that new briar. Unfortunately for me, that other voice has ulterior motives and can be just as persuasive. That silky voiced tempter, if you haven’t guessed already, is known as TAD.

I’ve mentioned before that I got into pipe smoking over a fascination with pipes. When I started, tobacco was an afterthought. I spent so long agonizing over my first pipe that I realized I hadn’t even taken the time to pick out a tobacco to smoke in it. I had to make a completely separate order for pipe tobacco, as I didn’t even have a blend in the cart for my pipe purchase. I picked out a few aromatics and an English as my first order without giving it much thought.

It wasn’t until a year later when a friend of mine on the Christian pipe smokers forums sent me a huge sampling of tobacco to try. He had a pretty big cellar, and knew I had much to learn about pipe tobacco. Up to that point, I stuck with aromatics and the occasional English, only recently dipping my toes in other blends with MacBaren’s Navy Flake and Erinmore Flake. Thanks to his generosity, he opened my eyes to all types of blends, from flakes like Exhausted Rooster, to Kendal Plug. My palate changed accordingly, but that would mean investing in more blends. The TAD bug had latched its teeth on me, and it wasn’t about to let go.

I started off purchasing blends I enjoyed from my friend’s samples, such as Exhausted Rooster, Stockton, and Kendal Plug. As I smoked these blends, I searched forums and TobaccoReviews.com for more blends to try, jotting down suggestions I’d find from more experienced pipers. Eventually, I developed my own taste for blends, and I could easily hone in on ones I knew I’d probably like.

Eventually, my cellar had a large variety of tins and mason jars to pick from when readying for my evening smoke. I realized at some point that I needed to pace myself in picking out new blends, and instead focus on stocking up on blends I considered favorites. If I didn’t, I’d just keep buying new blend after new blend at the risk of running out of my go-to blends. I now have a system when ordering tobacco, limiting myself to only a few new blends while using the rest of my funds for favorites. That doesn’t mean I still don’t hear TAD whisper in my ear, but I have it contained (for the most part).

            So why do so many pipe smokers “struggle” with PAD and TAD? I think I have an idea why. See, pipe smokers tend to be of the collecting sort. Before I started smoking a pipe, I was a retro video game collector. Now, my funds are less focused on old video games, and instead go towards new and estate briars.

The pipe hobby is a deep, labyrinthian rabbit hole for the collector, from pipes, to tobacco, and to pipe ephemeris. Every pipe smoker has a different taste in pipes and tobacco, which means no two collections are exactly the same. Oh, everyone might have a billiard in their collection, but most likely, the two billiards will have a different maker, size, or appearance. Likewise, a pipe smoker might only collect Canadian pipes, but chances are, each of those Canadians have some sort of variation to them. Just as soon as a collector buys their latest pipe, a new one ends up at the top of his or her wish list.

With pipe tobacco, while some are content with smoking a single blend, more often than not, most pipers prefer having a variety of blends. Everyone has a favorite meal they like to eat. I love pepperoni pizza, but I wouldn’t want to have it for every meal. For one, I’d get tired of it eventually, and pepperoni pizza would lose its excitement.  

There’s a plethora of different pipe tobacco blends out there, and it would be a shame to limit oneself to a single blend, no matter how much one enjoys it. Likewise, with the sheer volume of pipe tobacco out there, I doubt there’s a piper out there that’s smoked every blend on the market. Still, no matter how many blends we try and enjoy, there’s always another blend we can add to our cart the next time we place an order.

From my own observations, PAD and TAD tend to strike those who are newer to the hobby. Speaking from my own experience, after diving into the hobby, I wanted to add as many pipes and blends into my collection as soon as possible. This is a natural response, as with all the shapes, brands, and blends out there, the new piper wants to find the things they’ll enjoy the most in the hobby. One can’t know what they like until they buy it for themselves, and unless you’re a millionaire, a cellar and collection takes time to procure. 

Another aspect as to why PAD and TAD can hit so hard is the desire to be part of the conversation. When the pipe smoker first joins a pipe forum or the pipe sections in social media, we inundated with images of pipes and tobacco from others. The new pipe smoker can only talk about so much about the handful of blends and pipes they own before they run out of things they can talk about from their point of view. We want to be part of the discussion, so we pay attention to the blends others are smoking and add them into the next online order.

I’m no stranger to this phenomenon. Every autumn, Boston tobacconist L.J. Peretti releases their limited batch pressed Thanksgiving Cake. In the past, I’ve seen others online rave about the blend, so I bought some for my cellar back in November. Now certainly, this is a quality blend, and I’m glad to have it. However, if it weren’t for the influence of pipe forums and social media, I never would’ve heard of the blend. Such is the power of TAD.

So, should you seek professional help if you come down with a case of PAD or TAD? I don’t think so. We all have our own manias from time to time, and as long as it’s not out of control, then I think it’s fine. Now, if you’re going into debt buying pipes and tobacco, then maybe you should give your credit card to your significant other, or keep that wallet far away from the computer. This is a hobby, not an addiction; and if you’re spending more money than you should, take a step back and reevaluate your purchasing habits. This is why I don’t save my cards to pipe sites, just so I don’t make impulse buys.

If you’re looking to keep PAD and TAD in check, then I suggest keeping a budget dedicated to the pipe hobby. Keep to that budget when making purchases, and don’t go overboard. Before making a purchase, have a list of blends you want to try. That way, you have a plan going in when placing an order, which should limit the damage from impulse purchases. Likewise for pipes, have an idea of what you’re looking for before you go searching. If the site doesn’t have what you’re looking for, then wait until your desired pipe is back in stock. Don’t buy a different pipe in its place just to add a new one to the rack. Otherwise, you’ll be kicking yourself when the one you want is back in stock.

Above all else remember, the pipe hobby is all about having fun. Patience and pipe smoking go hand in hand, and much like how it took time to learn how to smoke a pipe, don’t rush in building a cellar. It will happen over time, so sit back and enjoy the ride. Learn how to tune out the siren call of PAD and TAD, and you’ll eventually end up with a bountiful cellar.

Now you’ll have to excuse me, I’m meeting with someone to sell my television. There’s a beautiful shell Dunhill I spotted on eBay that’ll look great on my pipe rack. I don’t think my wife will notice, at least right away. The cardboard cut out replacement I put in its place is working so far, so I have about a few hours before she discovers what I’ve done. But by then, it’ll be too late, and that pipe will be mine!

Until next time, happy puffing, and send help.

TheBadgerPiper

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