The King of Pipes: The Meerschaum

by Chris on January 20, 2011 · 83 comments

in Blog

The Song of the Pipe

When the night air is shading ’round you,
And the lake is lying still;
When you hear the evening tuning,
Of the lonely whippoorwill;
When the woods are big and silent,
And the world seems all at rest;
And the cheerful fire is blazing,
Then your good old pipe is best.

When you are tired out from tramping,
Through the winding forest ways;
And you’ve had your trout and coffee,
And you dream of future days;
When you sit close to the fire,
Then the time is surely ripe;
With the owl’s bark resounding,
To fill up the good old pipe.

When the dreary rain is falling,
And the world is wet and gray;
When the loon’s long, dismal holler,
Rolls out clear and dies away;
When the woods are all adripping,
From the alder to the oak;
Then just lay back in your chair,
And hit good old pipe, and smoke.

-Earle P. Stafford

Whether clamped between the teeth of General Douglas Macarthur as he surveyed the progress of the Allied efforts from aboard ship during World War II, or nestled in the weathered hands of your grandfather as he sits back in his favorite chair and relives the adventures of yesteryear to a captive audience of grandchildren, the tobacco pipe exudes manliness. And while Macarthur’s oversized corncob pipe and your grandfather’s traditional briar pipe are certainly pipe smoking classics, nothing reflects the character of the smoker more than a meerschaum. Simultaneously a smoking implement and a work of art, meerschaum pipes not only boast stunning visual appeal but are known for the quality smoke they provide as well.

And Just What Is Meerschaum Anyway?

Meerschaum is a clay-like white mineral known for its porous nature. The use of meerschaum for pipe making dates back to the early 18th century, and many examples of meerschaum pipes still exist, some even unsmoked, as they were often seen as art as much as smoking implements and were kept behind glass. Meerschaum is valued by pipe makers and collectors for three reasons. Most notably for the tobacco enthusiast, meerschaum does not burn as opposed to briar or other traditional pipe materials, allowing for a purer smoke. Aesthetically, meerschaum is noted for two key characteristics. First, the softness of the mineral makes it very suitable for carving, with designs ranging from basic to extravagant.

The characteristic most prized by collectors, however, is due to the composition of the mineral itself. Meerschaum is by nature extremely porous. Indeed, the quality of meerschaum can be tested by wetting your finger and rubbing the mineral. If the moisture absorbs, you know you’ve got the good stuff. Thus, when a meerschaum pipe is smoked, the oils and other byproducts of the process are absorbed into the pipe itself, eventually coloring the pipe from its original whitish-cream color through a spectrum of woody yellows, nutty browns, and deep reds. This coloration only adds to the individuality of each meerschaum pipe. As pipe smokers usually consider their pipes a very personal item, these characteristics, which combine to make each pipe not only unique but decidedly personal, are what make the meerschaum pipes the king of the tobacco world and a must have for collectors.

Making the Meerschaum

While meerschaum deposits are relatively rare, there are several located across the globe, most notably those of the Eskişehir region in Northwest Turkey. The overwhelming majority of meerschaum pipes on the market today are crafted with material from the mines in Turkey. Several grades of meerschaum pipes exist, and the quality of the pipe depends not only on where the meerschaum comes from, but the process with which it was obtained.

A quality meerschaum pipe must be carved from a solid block of meerschaum, and the deeper the meerschaum deposit, the better quality of mineral you will have. By utilizing a solid block of meerschaum and carving out the pipe design, all the attributes of the meerschaum, its porous and easy to carve nature, are perfectly preserved. Lower quality meerschaum pipes are made from the dust and shavings that are left over from the mining and carving process. These leftovers are then mechanically pressed into solid form, resulting in a product which is to solid meerschaum as particle board is to oak. Pressed meerschaum pipes do not retain the porous nature of their solid block counterparts and are typically sold at bargain prices to amateurs who do not know any better.

From Simple to Extravagant

Your first mental image of a meerschaum pipe is probably that of a white pipe carved to resemble a pirate head, or possibly a Viking. Such designs are relatively common, and certainly the most memorable, but there exists a myriad of styles and designs ranging from the simple to the simply ostentatious. Many meerschaum purists prefer simple bowl designs which resemble standard briar pipes and showcase the coloring and smoking quality of the meerschaum the best. Others, however, are drawn to the ornate carvings and designs available. Designs range from simple patterns carved into the bowl of the pipe, to a bowl being cradled by a hand or claw, to heads of various historical characters and beyond. Here’s just a few examples of the artwork that can be created in the hands of a skilled meerschaum craftsman:

Photo by Kathy Gray. Taken in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul.

Photo by Supies Dad

A Buffalo Bill Cody meerschaum pipe illustrating the coloring of a pipe that occurs with regular smoking.

Another popular variant of the meerschaum is the calabash pipe. Traditional calabash pipes are honed from the stem of the calabash gourd, which is treated and lined with meerschaum. Modern variants have replaced the calabash gourd stem, which is extremely costly to produce, with less expensive mahogany, which retains the original design but loses value as a collectible. This pipe, made famous by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, is known both for its beautiful simplicity and the quality smoke provided by the meerschaum lining and the “cooling chamber” that exists below the bowl, allowing for a cool, smooth smoke.

A calabash pipe in the hands of Mark Twain.

For both the connoisseur and the beginner, choosing a pipe is a very personal choice which can potentially reflect your personality in a way few other personal items can. For the quiet, brooding types, a large bowl with a simplistic design will allow for long, ponderous smokes without drawing unwanted attention. For the more extravagant among us, nothing says “look at me” more than lighting up a smoke atop this fitting example:

{ 83 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Will January 20, 2011 at 8:15 pm

My dad’s been smoking/collecting meerschaum pipes for years. He recently introduced me to smoking and buying them – way better smoke than briar I think. Love some of the bowl designs in this article!

2 James January 20, 2011 at 8:28 pm

Personally, I don’t think there’s anything attractive about tobacco, pipe or no. However, I can respect the craftsmanship. I’m an outspoken Cannabis user and glass-pipe enthusiast. The best taste I person can ever have from any smoked herb is vaporized cannabis. And the aroma is quite pleasant too.

3 tudza January 20, 2011 at 8:29 pm

A calabash pipe is a very nice pipe indeed. I don’t believe Sherlock Holmes in the books ever smoked one though.

1) An authoritative book on calabash pipes that I’d have to be at home to reference says, as I remember, that they didn’t make such pipes when Holmes was around.

2) While checking on things I found a pipe authority who opines that since Holmes was known to prefer very strong tobacco he would have avoided a calabash which tends to mellow things out ( which is why I like mine ).

3) Wikipedia states “In fact, most stories, particularly The Adventure of the Copper Beeches, described him as preferring a long-stemmed cherry-wood or a clay pipe.”

4 Rob January 20, 2011 at 8:31 pm

Great introduction to pipe collecting.

Please, though, don’t smoke them. Smoking kills.

5 technology workgroup January 20, 2011 at 8:44 pm

A Lt. Col. I served with in the Army used to say, “A pipe gives a wise man something to ponder and a fool something to suck on.” Funniest insult ever heard him use. Nice post on pipes and pipe collecting.

6 Gal @ Equally Happy January 20, 2011 at 9:01 pm

Why hold up this custom, which we now know is very harmful to your health, as a sign of manliness? Cigarettes used to be “manly” as well but we’ve since realized they were harmful not just to the smoker but also to anyone around them. No offense, but if I see a man smoking a pipe, a cigar or a cigarette, especially around his family or kids, I tend to think less of him for being weak enough to fall prey to this addictive and destructive habit.

I would much rather men focused on healthy, productive habits. Let’s get men back into the great outdoors. Let’s teach them to hunt and to fish. Let’s take our boys camping and teach them how to start a fire, to build a tent or to handle a firearm. Let’s teach men the basics of home repair, something I think we’re woefully ignorant off. Those are the signs of a man. Not smoking an addictive substance that’s slowly killing you and those around you.

7 Gal @ Equally Happy January 20, 2011 at 9:05 pm

You know, I just reread my own comment and I think I was being too harsh. So first of all, my apologies to you Chris for being an internet troll.

What I’m trying to say is that some of the “old” ways of being a man, can and should die a quick death. Not all old habits are good habits and not all traditions are things we should carry on.

That’s all. My apologies again for being too quick on the old SUBMIT button.

8 Gal @ Equally Happy January 20, 2011 at 9:07 pm

lol, one more correction. I meant, *I* was being an internet troll, not you Chris.

Ok, it’s clearly time to go do something off the computer.

9 August January 20, 2011 at 9:25 pm

Nice recovery Gal, while I agree that one should not include others in their personal choice habits such as smoking, and smoking is indeed bad for your health…
All things in moderation, work hard and sweat to earn your vices/fun, mindful they don’t harm anyone.

ps, non smoker personal trainer here.

10 Charles the Brewer January 20, 2011 at 10:07 pm

Worth noting:
1. “Meerschaum” is German for “sea foam.”
2. The calabash was first associated with Sherlock Holmes in film adaptations. The calabash shape makes a more dramatic silhouette than pipes described in the original stories and its size is more noticeable at a distance.

11 Dan January 20, 2011 at 10:24 pm

In rebuttal to Gal, I am a relatively new pipe enthusiast and own 7 not including my own block of briar that I have been slowly shaping into my first hand made piece and have maybe 8 tobacco blends also. While I do not smoke anything else the art of smoking a pipe at all is surprisingly difficult as weather, the pipe, the blend, your packing technique, and smoking pace all can ruin it. I only sample a bowl about a month or so, but it is really the mastery of a centuries old art that draws me in. Alcohol is known to increase cancer risks of the esophagus, but in light moderation the stress relieving social advantages of partaking have been shown to aid longevity. Pipe smoke is not inhaled, nor is it even near the same amount of tobacco as a cigar. My point being, the contemplative and artist aspects of a centuries old tradition that requies an individual to relax for a moment just to smoke it correctly, may have a unique appeal to men given the current state of modern life and resurgence of lost manly traditions.

12 jon @ gal January 20, 2011 at 11:09 pm

Actually, smoking pipes or cigars is not addictive. One should not be inhaling these smokes into the lungs, only into the mouth for the flavor and slight tobacco high. This is like saying people shouldn’t do wine tasting because binge drinking is bad. Two very different things- a cigarette habit vs. A pipe/cigar habit. I understand the sentiment, and I agree, the habit is only as manly as the intelligence of the choices for or against the hobby. Boxing is another very dangerous hobby. Do be kind enough to objectively consider its real pros and cons and do not rely only on “tobacco-free America” commercials to form your opinion. My deepest respect, but even deeper conviction to thorough research and then the truth.

13 Phil January 20, 2011 at 11:34 pm

Two months ago (remember Movember?) the idea was to become aware of men’s health problems such as prostate cancer. Talk about a mixed message.

Thankfully Michael Douglas seems to have beaten his cancer. Will he celebrate with another cigar?

14 Jacob January 21, 2011 at 1:16 am

I loved this. I have a meagre pipe collection, and have loved the smell of pipe tobacco since I was a child. While it’s true that tobacco is addictive, due to the nicotine, the fact that you don’t actually inhale it directly means the addictive substance in it is almost not even worth mentioning. Also, smoking a pipe isn’t any more harmful than eating hot dogs roasted over a camp fire. All that aside, it’s a pleasant quiet hobby in which I think more people should involve themselves. This article has inspired me to start looking at good meerschaum pipes as soon as I have some money for it. Thank you.

15 Jacob January 21, 2011 at 1:22 am

Side note: When filling out a form at the hospital, my dad came to the segment where it asks “do you smoke?” He marked “Yes”. Looking over the form, his doctor said he was remarkably healthy for a smoker his age. My dad says “Well, I only smoke pipes and cigars, and in moderation.” His doctor gave him the form back and said, “Scratch that out then. Pipes and cigars don’t count.”

16 Nick January 21, 2011 at 2:35 am

@James there’s nothing manly about being a pothead.

17 Nick January 21, 2011 at 2:43 am

@Jacob that’s awesome. It always amazing how big a difference a small amount of fact checking would do. All those who criticized this post would do well to read a little.

18 Splashman January 21, 2011 at 5:43 am

I’m on Gal’s side on this one. It should be obvious that the mouth is not designed to contain any kind of smoke. It should be equally obvious that using any part of our body outside of its design parameters entails risk to our health. The fact that some manly men smoke does not mean that smoking is a manly attribute. On the contrary, I posit that a goal for every man should be to resist the temptation to indulge in an unhealthy practice. For those who would justify it on the basis of reducing stress (or other physical benefits), I respond that God has given us plenty of life- and health-giving activities to indulge in, and being reliant on a physical substance to relieve stress is not something any person, male or female, should aspire to.

And to Jacob and Nick, I can only say that if you were aware of what insane practices have been approved by the medical establishment over the years, you might be less inclined to cite a doctor as support for your position.

19 Gal @ Equally Happy January 21, 2011 at 6:20 am

Ok, I’m well rested and ready to hold forth in a civil manner!

@August
All things in moderation, including the rule about things in moderation. :)

For example, I would not consume heroin, even in moderation, because it’s extremely harmful and addictive. I do however, consume alcohol in moderation because I judge that it’s not that addictive nor harmful in the amounts in which I consume it. However, I believe that nicotine is far beyond alcohol in terms of being both addictive and harmful. Thus, it should not be enjoyed, even in moderation. Feel free to disagree of course, I am not in fact the authority on all things addictive.

@Dan
Even in moderation, it’s still an unhealthy habit and nicotine is a very addictive substance that makes moderation difficult to maintain.

@Jon
Tobacco contains nicotine, which is an addictive substance no matter how you consume it. I suppose if you never inhale you may not suffer from the addictive consequences, but I find that unlikely. Also, pipe and cigar smoking may actually be more dangerous due to the unfiltered nature of the smoking. There’s quite a bit of literature on this, enough to convince me it’s not a healthy habit.

@Jacob
My apologies, but your father’s doctor was a fool.

If you want to read more:

http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199906103402301
http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Tobacco/cigars
http://jada.ada.org/cgi/content/abstract/130/1/57
http://www.joponline.org/doi/abs/10.1902/jop.2000.71.12.1874

There are quite a few more easily available studies out there but I think my post is already at risk of being labeled spam by AoM spam filter :)

Bottom line, we should encourage men to pick up healthy habits, not potentially addictive and health destroying ones. Young men have enough temptations in their life with drugs and other potentially harmful addictions without us holding pipe smoking up as something to be admired.

20 Reuben January 21, 2011 at 7:12 am

I do strongly suggest digging at some of the smoking risk “facts” that are bandied about, before assuming applicability to a particular manifestation of smoking.

Multiple research has shown that baseline lung cancer risk, at 1.0 for the normal non-smoker, is only 1.05 for the typical pipe smoker, and goes up to only 1.26 for the pipe smoker who smokes two bowls a day.

http://profiles.nlm.nih.gov/NN/B/C/X/B/ is a link to something important from the Sugeon General, so I will quote, because the relevant sections are scattered throughout the document.

““Death rates for current pipe smokers were little if at all higher than for non-smokers, even with men smoking 10 pipefuls per day and with men who had smoked pipes for more than 30 years.” On page 92 the report also stated, “Pipe smokers who inhale live as long as nonsmokers and pipe smokers that don’t inhale live longer than non-smokers.”

Note that this is a Surgeon General’s Report. Now sure, one needs to be careful, and mind the issues. Eating fast food OR steak can be bad for you, drinking whiskey and too much wine can be bad for you, even jogging can put strain on your heart and joints…living life is fundamentally hazardous to your health. Just like this, smoking can be a problem, or, it can be a vice that is enjoyed responsibly.

21 RJ January 21, 2011 at 8:20 am

I applaud the group for rounding out the crits here.
God also allowed man to make wine.. which is a substance if used in excess can harm.. but if used properly gives Mirth. It is lauded and warned.. just like anything else. Moderation is a manly trait. We are here to Honor God.. Obey / Respect Government , find something for our hands to do.. and Enjoy life. That is what GOD gave us to have meaning in life.
I think Pipe smoking is a calming and wonderful thing. I have a nice Brier of my own.
and have a Favorite blend or two I use. I have fond memories of the smells of Pipe tobacco on relatives as I grew up. It is memorable.. and tends to cause you to stop.. relax and think.
There is more to be said here on this.. but I do not think it is Unmanly or Dangerous. Unless you want to include all the other foods and items we use daily into that margin. Relax a bit..

22 Dan January 21, 2011 at 8:39 am

Ah! It is nice to know this place isn’t afraid to countermand the social tabboos of smoking! I’ve smoked a pipe almost 40 years now, and I have greatly enjoyed reading all the shared info from making ones own corn cob pipe to the collecting of meerschaums. Keep up the great work guys!

23 Jordan January 21, 2011 at 9:05 am

As a pipe smoker (1-2 bowls at most per week) I think that the relaxation and meditative qualities of pipe smoking far outweigh any health consequences.

(See the SG Study linked above for more evidence of this)

I’d love to find a nice ‘special occasion’ Meerchaum that will only come out once in a while. I’ve got my Savinelli briar for everyday.

24 Peter January 21, 2011 at 10:22 am

My grandfather never smoked, until he was given a pipe when he was about 50. He liked the look of it, and for a number of years carried it around without smoking it. But he also enjoyed the scent of pipe tobacco, and eventually did start smoking the pipe, but was convinced that “the smoke isn’t inhaled” = no problems.

But even that un-inhaled smoke eventually became a nicotene addiction, that migrated into cigarette smoking. Which he smoked until he died 10 years later. He is the only smoker I know of who didnt’ start smoking as a teenager

25 Jeff Bujass January 21, 2011 at 10:43 am

I’ve always wanted a custom meerschaum carved to look like me, smoking a meerschaum that looks like me.

26 Native Son January 21, 2011 at 11:28 am

In the American Indian heritage smoking a pipe is a religious experience. The act of smoking is much like meditation clearing the mind and giving you a sense of peace. With all the hustle of today’s society it may be beneficial to take 20-30 minutes to smoke a pipe. It sure beats all the anti-anxiety drugs almost everyone is now on. Who knows what the long-term effect of those drugs could end up being.

27 Phil January 21, 2011 at 11:39 am

The boyscout handbook must’ve got it wrong on the topic of smoking.

If you want to feel relaxed then just relax.

28 mick9 January 21, 2011 at 12:05 pm

There are now electronic pipes that deliver the flavour and the nicotine ( or without nicotine) just harmless vapour. no smoke. a very reasonable simulation.

29 Gal @ Equally Happy January 21, 2011 at 12:07 pm

@Reuben & Jordan
That study is from 1964, a time in which we barely recognized the danger of nicotine and smoking. I’ve posted a number of links to more recent studies but the post is in moderation (I’m guessing because of the number of links in it). Much of this new information can be easily found with a simple Google Search.
Gal

30 A. v. Mausheim January 21, 2011 at 12:12 pm

In many of these comments, I find that the rash criticism aimed towards those inclined to enjoy a fine blended tobacco via use of a pipe, the very antithesis of what this community is supposed to stand for. And to one particular commenter, to criticise pipe tobacco while vaunting the merits of illicit drugs use? Poor form, indeed.

AvM

31 mick9 January 21, 2011 at 12:52 pm

my great uncle smoked cigarettes for 60 some odd years and died just short of his 99th. I dont think tobbacco is as bad as everyone makes it out to be. My grandparents all smoked (both sides ) and died well into old age 80 plus. what gives?
12% of smokers get lung cancer what about the other 88%?Why do some people live long lives smoking and others dont. What about Japan? High national average smoking and also longest life expectancy. I quit 15 years ago due to cost. I still miss it once in a while. Highly addictive habit.

32 Gal @ Equally Happy January 21, 2011 at 12:59 pm

mm… it seems like my post in moderation has been deleted. I’m guessing it was because of the amount of links in it. My own fault. I should have known better having configured Akismet on my own blog to autoblock any post with more than one link.

@A.v. Mausheim and others.
This criticism is not rash. I have no qualms with certain forms of relaxation, even though they may be harmful if not used in moderation. Alcohol for example, can be both addictive and destructive, and yet I do imbibe an occasional drink. However, nicotine is far more destructive and addictive than alcohol, as numerous studies have shown.

What this community is supposed to stand for is manliness, hence the name. Manliness does not necessary have to mean reviving every old tradition, it simply means being a man; a strong role model, a provider for his family, a protector for his loved ones, a scholar, an adventurer and whatever else may fit into this word. It does not necessarily have to include old traditions, although some of them are quite good.

While there are a variety of old traditions which modern men can learn from and imitate, there are also a variety of old traditions which I’m quite happy to see dead and buried. We should encourage our young men to learn from the mistakes of previous generations and engage in healthy activities, not repeat the mistakes of the past.

33 Bill January 21, 2011 at 12:59 pm

@Gal

Firstly, I wanted to touch on your post much earlier where you referred to addiction as some sort of character “weakness.” I wouldn’t characterize it in that same sense. A character flaw would be someone prone to lying to their family or some such thing. Addiction to cigarettes is largely glossed over by people unfamiliar with it as a “bad habit.” Studies show it’s as addictive as heroin. It’s a big struggle and there are a lot of men who recognize it’s harmful and want to quit — people who’ve never experienced the addiction can’t understand it.

Also, regarding 2nd hand smoking, the studies that have brought about that current craze are flawed, if you look into the various rebuttals to them. They’re paraded around by groups that want to control others. Personally, I’d rather a child stand next to someone smoking than stand next to the exhaust pipe of an ice cream truck while deciding what flavor of milk shake he or she wants.

I just felt the need to respond since this is all very timely — I had already decided to try to quit again tomorrow morning (cold turkey this time). Please wish me luck. It’s a very difficult thing to get through, even though I don’t consider myself to be a “weak” man.

34 Gal @ Equally Happy January 21, 2011 at 1:01 pm

@Bill,
My apologies, the word “weakness” was indeed poorly chosen. An addiction is not a sign of an actual weakness within a person, only of a, hopefully temporary, condition.

Good luck to you with your attempt to quit this habit.

Gal

And now, I’m off to do some actual work. :)

35 Bill January 21, 2011 at 1:16 pm

@Gal
Thanks, I appreciate it. Good luck with the work (I can’t wait to get out of here myself).

Also, if anyone’s interested on the 2nd hand smoke issue and have never seen the show Penn & Teller’s Bullshit, they do an episode on the topic. Whether or not you agree with them, it’s thought-provoking. Of course 2nd hand smoke isn’t good, but I don’t think it’s the devilish weapon of mass-murder some groups make it out to be.

Finally, one last thought. Does anybody think government taxes on cigarettes are evil? In my mind, they’re no better than tobacco companies — the only difference is they take a large amount of your money and then pretend they’re doing it “for your own good.” Thanks a bunch, but you’re just profiting off of addiction and health problems.

36 Bill January 21, 2011 at 1:28 pm

@Gal
Thanks, I appreciate it. Good luck with the work (I can’t wait to get out of here myself).

For those interested in the 2nd hand smoke issue, if you’ve never seen Penn & Teller: Bulls@#$, they do a pretty good episode on the topic. Worth checking out, as all of their shows are pretty thought-provoking, even though I don’t always agree with them.

And one last thing — does anyone find government taxes on cigarettes to be sort of evil? I don’t really see a difference between the government and the tobacco companies. The only difference is the government is also profiting off of addiciton and health problems, but they turn around and say it’s “for your own good.” Thanks a bunch.

37 Bill January 21, 2011 at 1:30 pm

Haha, sorry for the double-post. thought my first one was left out because of the word “bullshit,” but it turns out I just have no patience.

38 Aron January 21, 2011 at 1:52 pm

Hi,
I’m from Hungary, and really fond of this website.
According to an urban legend (what can possibly true) the first meerschaum pipe was sculpted by Karoly Kovacs, a hungarian shoemaker at Budapest.
The story says, that in 1723 when count Andrassy returned to Budapest from his jurney to western Asia, he took this unknown, suprisingly light, stone-like material with him. He gave two pieces of meerschasum to Kovacs, who was known as a very handy sculptor. The count might thought, that the shoemaker would make a nice box, or a chess set
A few days later, when Kovacs accidentally broke his clay pipe, and the shop ran out of it, the two chumps came to his mind.
He decided to make pipe from it. When he finiched, he tried it, and wondered how great it was. Quickly he made the other pipe too, for the count, and gave it to him. Count Andrassy was so amused that he even forgot to say thanks to the shoemaker.

39 Samwise Grangee January 21, 2011 at 2:42 pm

Great article, but you’ve hit one of my pet peeves at the end. Let me be clear . . .

SHERLOCK HOLMES DID NOT SMOKE A CALABASH PIPE.

I am a pretty big Sherlock Holmes fan and when my friend (who is 60 and an incredibly more devote fan than I) wanted to buy a pipe we researched Holmes’ smoking habits. In the stories and the illustrations, nowhere could we find the Calabash pipe depicted or described. However we did see a Churchwarden (Gandalf pipe) in the illustrations and in the Granada series with Jeremy Brett (THE Sherlock) Sherlock had a shelf full of Churchwardens. So as far as we can gather, Sherlock Holmes smoked a Churchwarden rather than the legendary Calabash, which arose out of characterizations by actors who needed an impressive pipe to compensation for so-so acting . . . unlike Brett. :)

Food for the thought. Great discussion in addition to the article by the way.

40 Yates January 21, 2011 at 2:53 pm

Good discussion. I really appreciate the civility of this community.

41 Bill January 21, 2011 at 3:09 pm

@Yates
You hit the nail on the head. That’s one of the best parts of this site. It’s like an oasis in the internet desert of anonymous, hateful attacks people are so happy to launch on each other.

42 Louis House January 21, 2011 at 4:01 pm

As soon as we’re born we start dying, so we might as well have a good time.

43 Native Son January 21, 2011 at 4:54 pm

@Louis
I agree life is about the Journey, so sit down, shut up and enjoy the ride.

44 danny dailey January 21, 2011 at 5:52 pm

To those who criticize pipe smoking:

1. When a person smokes a pipe, he does not usually inhale the smoke. (I tried once, and it was a terrible experience.) Since the smoke does not enter the lungs but in minuscule amounts, the threat of lung cancer and nicotine addiction are practically non-existent. (Have you ever heard of a chain pipe smoker?)

2. Since the smoke does enter the mouth, there is the possibility of it causing cancer in that anatomical location, but the threat is approximately that of getting cancer from the sun.

These facts being known, if you still equate smoking a pipe to smoking cigarettes, I hope you also avoid every contact with the sun as well.

45 Reuben January 21, 2011 at 6:20 pm

@Gal,

The link to that particular report was mostly due to the fact that this report is the granddaddy of all “smoking is bad for your health” reports. And to be sure, there is a risk in smoking a pipe, although the risks associated with pipe smoking, even in the current literature, are incremental in comparison to other forms of smoking.

This of course bypasses the tooth issue for pipe smoking. Of course, the literature doesn’t make any linkage that to the process of pipe smoking being effectively chewing on a stick, which I find odd. I am curious if they could control such a study against regular gum chewers or hard candy eaters, and find a less pronounced effect associated with tobacco, rather than just having something in your mouth, like a lolipop.

Smoking risk factors are, according to the research, substantively lower for pipe smoking compared to all other forms of tobacco use, including snuff/chew, cigars, et al. I feel that this point still stands. Certainly, eating certain foods, like HFCS, has been demonstrably linked to dire health effects, and yet, the backlash against all sweet stuff is still at a early stage, in comparison to the backlash against all smoking. I rather find that pipe smoking is rather like enjoying a nice slice of pie every now and then, and I suppose one could equate cigarette smoking to having a 2 liter of soda a day.

46 Basil January 21, 2011 at 6:43 pm

Balls to all your babble about the badness or goodness of smoking. Stop fretting about it. You can wring your hands and have a glass of mineral water, I’ll relax in a comfy chair with my pipe. That’s all there is to it.

47 Andrew January 21, 2011 at 9:13 pm

There is a risk (however large you may think) to smoking a pipe or a cigar, as i believe we can all agree. There is also a risk to drinking, eating fast food, being out under the sun, eating smoked meat (or smoking that meat…), driving a car, and many many other things we do in life. This site is about being manly, so how about we all be manly and decided for ourselves which risks are worth taking and which ones are not? I, for one, know that smoking and drinking addictions run in my family, so i know to be very careful when i partake of either of those. I know that if either of those ever start to get out of hand, i will have to cut them off for good, and i have laid down a few restrictions for myself to help keep them from going that far. In my mind, it is more manly to see your own limitations and weaknesses and chose which daily risks are wise to take and which are foolish.

48 Splashman January 22, 2011 at 12:35 am

@Andrew wrote: “This site is about being manly, so how about we all be manly and decided for ourselves which risks are worth taking and which ones are not?”

I must point out that you had no problem with Chris (the article author) attempting to influence you on the subject of pipe smoking. The only difference seems to be that you agree with the author, and disagree with some of the commenters.

I will take the proffered opportunity to try to persuade with substantive arguments, and I won’t complain when you try to persuade to a viewpoint I vehemently disagree with. Will you grant me and others the same courtesy?

As to the substance of your argument, you attempt to equate the risk of various activities (eating fast food, driving a car, etc.) with the risk of smoking a pipe. Your list is quite varied; some of those equations may be valid, while others certainly are not.

For instance, “driving a car” is an activity which most adults engage in for a substantive purpose: to get somewhere. Yes, there are other modes of transportation, but any movement involves risk, so there is no way to avoid some level of risk if we are to move and thus lead live happy, productive lives.

Compare that to pipe smoking, an activity upon which no person on this planet depends upon to live a happy, productive life (with the exception of those who are addicted to nicotine and those in the tobacco industry, of course).

You have stipulated that there is some level of risk to smoking a pipe or cigar. I am open to your arguments about why I or anyone else should take that risk.

49 RJ January 22, 2011 at 1:58 am

@ Ray. Lighten up.
We like this site for many reasons.. one is to be Civil and learn the ART of Manliness.
Respect , Honor , Learning and Growing up. Wisdom .
Everyone else.
Smoking a Pipe has it’s benefits. A Calming , Contemplative enjoyment. As said by another.. in this day and age.. a much needed thing. We are here to learn and Enjoy life. Enjoy life is not rigid. As Men we may choose our types of Enjoyment.. ranges of risk and choose for ourselves if Diving off the cliff into the waves is Safe enough.. or Jumping from the Plane with a shoot. For some , it is for them and for others , not so much. Let each choose for himself. That is also a respect we should develop. Are we choosing for others what is acceptable? To each his own beliefs here. But it is an Old Tradition and one that can be respected weather we enjoy or approve of it or not. There is nothing wrong with the Article at all. It is one of many choices we can make as Men , with the Risks for each to choose. As Splashman asked , benefits..are up to the one who chooses them. You sound like you are making a Rule for all to follow. Some don’t like meat.. some do. Some Hunt , some think it is cruel. The manliness is in the choosing and respect for those choices. We are not a sterile community , that must choose for all what is fully acceptable , are we ? The warnings are out there for those willing to look them up.. and the risks are for us to chose what we wish to try. I find Pipe smoking a relaxing , thoughtful practice. It brings memories up and time for story telling. The smells bring back memories of relatives and can endue others with the same effect. I think there is nothing inherently wrong with it. If you find it not to your liking then choose not to. But I am FREE to choose if I like it for me and if the risk is acceptable for me. As to second hand smoke.. again that is dubious. Especially when concerning Pipe smoke. Is manliness rated by conformity ? We are not talking of learning how to make an H bomb here. Some thing Coffee or Tea is evil or really unhealthy. That is a choice for Me to make. Some keep a ridged Livitical Bible type diet.. that is up to you and GOD. I am free to make these choices. I choose a Pipe and Bacon for that matter. If we don’t allow for that.. then we are going to be choosing the food we eat , the clothes we ware and wives we marry or where does it stop ? I am for Men Making choices. Well thought out , weighed and wise choices. I have no fears that my Son’s might suddenly chose to smoke a Pipe. I think honestly I am more concerned if they choose to be a Dancer or an Artist. I have still more things to grow in.

50 RJ January 22, 2011 at 2:24 am

OH I should have pointed out. The Poem says a great deal to answer Splashmans question.
Why should one risk Smoking a Pipe? A cigar is a bit more of a Risk.. but the article is about Pipes. Are you asking why do it when I can live Safely without it? Why Jump out of a plane . A completely safe plane? Jump off a Bridge on a Rubber band? Climb a Mountain ? Light a Fire in the woods when we have a Stove at home ? The Poem describes a very relaxing , De stressing , Memorable moment. There is something of Pleasure in each of these. Why drink a Glass of Wine ? It is a type of Poison is it not ? To some , these things may have more benefits than for others. But are they needed for everyone ? I think adventure is a needed thing. Smoking a Pipe is a choice for De Stressing one’s life. A memory maker. I have a Friend who smokes a Cherry Almond Tobacco. It is so ingrained in my memory , related to him.. that it is hard to remember him without the Smell around. It is Pleasant.
It seems to induce thoughtfulness. It is not as much of a nicotine Addiction issue as say ” smoking ” is. The Smells and Tastes , The feel and calming effect are definitely valuable.
It’s a Choice. Like some foods are choices.. some foods can shorten your life. They are also Choices. I prefer the Freedom to chose those for myself. And have my calming Smoke
and Memories just the same.

51 Andrew January 22, 2011 at 2:38 am

@Splashman

Oh I’m all for a friendly discussion. Whether or not I enjoy it at the time, it is always good to understand where the holes in my reasoning are. So thank you for your response. I have never been very good at putting my thoughts down on paper, so I apologize in advance.

I’ll try to simplify my point a little bit. I do not think smoking a pipe is either right or wrong. It is an area that each individual should decide for themselves whether they want to put their health at risk to enjoy it. I think that there are many risks we all take every day for the sake of enjoyment and this, for some people, is one of them. I understand the health concerns (both sides) and see it as a risk I am willing to take. If you, or anyone, sees it as an unwise risk for whatever reason, then I say more power to you.

As far as the “manliness” of it goes, to dive in blindly without considering the consequences would not be manly. To weigh it out with understanding and make an informed decision is manly. And perhaps to say no and avoid the risk all together just might be the manliest of all, but I’m man enough to be OK with that.

That is where I stand. Chances are I wont be changing my mind from it, but if you see any major flaws besides health concerns, I’m open to hear them.

52 Splashman January 22, 2011 at 3:06 am

RJ, I think you will agree that some go looking for adventure in places they shouldn’t go. “Adventure” is not an excuse, nor a synonym for “needless risk to life and limb.”

You and I agree that “climbing a mountain” is a legitimate adventure. I assume you and I would also agree that “attempting to set a world record for number of beers downed in five minutes” is not. Between the two is a vast number of activities we can politely disagree on. Smoking, it seems, is one of those.

For fun, I just looked up the definition of the word “adventure”:

– to gamble; take a risk in the hope of a favorable outcome
– to venture, put at risk; “I will stake my good reputation for this”
– a wild and exciting undertaking (not necessarily lawful)

I’m big into all sorts of adventure. Mountain climbing. Homeschooling my children. Long bike trips. Building an addition on my house. Training my dog. Breaking a decades-old bad habit. Cutting down 100′ alders. Replacing the radiator on my car.

Some of those things may not seem like an adventure, but they all involved definite risks for me. I dove into each without knowing much, made lots of mistakes, but was excited to learn, and now enjoy much satisfaction from the feeling of accomplishment. For me, that is the essence of adventure.

53 Darren January 22, 2011 at 3:22 am

Occasionally eating fatty foods and refined carbs is likely just as detrimental to one’s health as occasionally smoking a pipe. Neither is essential for happiness or life. But I would venture to say that Splashman, while eschewing the latter, occasionally dabbles in the former. Why? Because it brings an extra bit of pleasure to life. A degree of pleasure that outweighs the risk.

54 Splashman January 22, 2011 at 3:54 am

@Andrew, every person is free to choose for themselves at every moment. I don’t think that fact needs to be reiterated any more than it already has been. The point of this blog, and the point of your comments and mine, is not to attempt to remove someone’s ability to choose, but to persuade someone to choose differently. You are legitimately attempting to persuade me; I am legitimately attempting to persuade you. So let’s dispense with the comments about freedom of choice, eh?

As for the substance of your comment, I addressed it somewhat in my comment to RJ above. I’m sure you would agree that not all risks are equally wise. Driving to work is generally considered to be a wise risk, skydiving less so. Why? Because of the risk/reward balance.

But just as all risks are not equally wise, not all rewards are equally wise. Heroin use involves many risks, but (for some, at least) a huge reward. Is it wise to be desiring such a reward? I’m sure you would agree it is not. (And no, I’m not attempting to equate heroin use with pipe smoking. I’m simply trying to establish some parameters.)

So now we regard pipe-smoking in the risk/reward spectrum. You and I agree there is some level of health risk to any kind of smoking. As I understand pipe smoking, my guess is that risk is not very big. As a non-smoker, I’ll stipulate the potential rewards mentioned by you and others: relaxation, nicotine high, good memories, fun hobby.

Most people would end the list there. I would add a few things to the “risk” column, though:
1) Person learns to disregard the body’s design and purpose. (Surely the mouth was not designed to contain smoke. If you didn’t learn smoking from someone else, would you ever think of taking smoke into your mouth on purpose?) This can lead to other unhealthy practices.
2) Person learns to be dependent on a physical substance for relaxation, etc.
3) By spending time & money on this hobby, person has less time & money for a more rewarding hobby (i.e., opportunity cost).
4) Person teaches others all of the above, by example.

I assume your list would look quite different, and that’s fine. As you said, part of being a man is to make informed decisions. If you consider my arguments honestly, and decide it’s all hogwash, I can honestly say “Okay! Have a great day!”

(And truth be told, in the Hoyle Official Ranking of Vices, pipe smoking would be way, way in the back, right after “Oreos” and right before “DWTS”. But that doesn’t mean a discussion isn’t useful.)

55 Splashman January 22, 2011 at 4:19 am

@Darren, I can’t argue with you there. My eating habits are generally quite healthy, but I do indulge myself on dessert nights (Thursday and Sunday). “Life is too short to worry about an extra scoop of ice cream” tends to be my usual excuse. Sigh. I’m so ashamed! (heh)

My only nit-pick would be this: the body is designed to process food. And not just the good stuff, and not just in perfect amounts — the body is able to get rid of excess nutrients and even neutralize poisons, within limits. Yes, we will be healthier in the aggregate if we avoid sugar, etc., but the digestive system was designed to deal with inconsistent eating habits (storing energy as fat, for instance).

As I mentioned previously, I don’t think anyone can argue that the mouth was designed to contain smoke.

Okay, I’m off to get a bowl of . . . er, I mean, I’m off to bed now!

56 Splashman January 22, 2011 at 4:24 am

Oh, one more thing, Darren: In comparing pipe smoking to eating junk food, keep in mind that this entire discussion is in response to a blog post promoting pipe smoking as a manly activity. If the next blog post promotes eating junk food as a manly activity, you can bet I’ll be infesting that comment section as well. :)

57 derrick January 22, 2011 at 4:34 am

art is dead ernest mop brown is alive

58 Paco January 22, 2011 at 7:17 am

Gal: People drink and run over others with their vehicle. But no one sits in their chair, smokes a pipe, and then goes out and runs someone else over. No matter how dangerous you may think smoking a pipe may be, it’s not nearly as dangerous as drinking. Moreover, it would require a substantial period of time to harm someone from pipe smoking. But it only takes one time for the “moderate” drinker to drink and then go run out and kill someone with a vehicle.

Splashman: I saw no commentator suggesting anyone “should” take up pipe smoking, so your openness to an argument for why anyone “should” smoke a pipe is, though well-meaning, a bit pointless. Those who smoke a pipe may argue in favor of why they personally do so, and their reasons, being subjective, do not address what others “should” do. Though I think you’re right to say driving is not a proper analogy to pipe smoking with regard to risk, most other comparisons are quite legitimate.

RJ: I’m a professional artist. What the heck is wrong with that? Now, if your son wants to be a “dancer”, then I’d understand your concern…

59 Paco January 22, 2011 at 7:23 am

Oh, incidentally, the early illustrations of Sherlock Holmes often depicted him with a straight pipe (perhaps a billiard or straight pot). As for why plays and films had him use a calabash, I’ve always read that bent pipes allow the actor to deliver lines with the pipe in mouth (because the pipe hangs, and requires little effort to hold), while straight pipes make line-delivery more difficult because they do require more attention to clenching one’s jaws to hold it in place. I don’t know how true any of this is, but it makes perfect sense to anyone who has tried holding a straight pipe in his mouth while speaking for any length of time.

60 Herr Doktor January 22, 2011 at 8:51 pm

“People drink and run over others with their vehicle. But no one sits in their chair, smokes a pipe, and then goes out and runs someone else over” – Paco

Herr Doktor believes no one sits in their chair at home with a drink and runs anyone down. The key is to sit at home with a pipe *and* a drink.

61 KOHNAN January 22, 2011 at 10:45 pm

I really think that everyone here is looking way to far into things. Smoking a pipe is like enjoying a glass of fine wine, or a well crafted micro brew, or listening to the classical rendition of someones life work, or tasting pure Belgian Chocolate… so on and so forth…

People who smoke a pipe usually do so with purposeful moderation. No one smokes a pipe like they do cigarettes (although I daresay the pipe would be healthier for you)

I smoke a pipe because it forces me to sit still for 15 minutes. It takes me away from the computer, the TV, and the radio. It forces me to sit either in silence or simply with the quiet whispers of nature. In this regard I believe a pipe to actually be beneficial to me, as it is a motivation for meditation, which we all know has great benefits for health and long life. The Native American Chiefs smoked a pipe, the Philosophers of ancient China smoked pipes, the great thinking men of this country saw the beginnings of America itself in the smoke of their pipes.

Point is, use your brains (moderation) to keep something as it should be. People have become slaves to the pipe I’m sure, but they were weak in discipline. Anything great can become spoiled due to overuse and disrespect. if you keep it special, it will stay special.

62 KOHNAN January 22, 2011 at 10:46 pm

one last thing though… where can a person buy a good pipe like the ones above?

63 Steve J January 23, 2011 at 6:37 am

Sir, A briar pipe is in my own view the ‘king of pipes’. Equally suited for a hard afternoons lounging session or for pointing out features of interest on a map to the children.
I refer to my bulldog briar as my ‘action pipe’. Whereas a Meerschaum is more suited to the opening of a significant event such as the Olympic poetry reading competition.

64 Darren (not the earlier Darren( January 23, 2011 at 2:48 pm

Disclaimer: I used to work in public health on chronic disease. We hated smoking.

That said…I choose not to smoke. If I did choose to smoke, it would be a pipe.

According to my old public health sources (the CDC), in 2010 about 1.4 million people were diagnosed with from lung cancer. 85% are attributable to cigarette smoke, and the other 15%…well, stuff happens. Oral cancer (75% attributable to smoking) had about 30,000 cases, and about 8,000 deaths.

Oral cancers are actually more common in pipe smokers as they tend to hold the smoke in their mouths more than inhaling. In other words, pipe smoking is activity, smoking is a nicotine delivery mechanism.

I would rather people not smoke, but if they do, a pipe is better than a cigar or cigarette, and you are not going to smoke 30 bowls a day like a chain smoker.

Be healthy,

Darren

65 Herr Doktor January 23, 2011 at 4:22 pm

‘Be healthy, Darren’

Whilst one might appreciate your concern and gift for statistics; life comes with inherent risks. I have seen many pedestrian accidents as a result of some careless bicyclist. You know where I’m going with this, lets just accept that walking, bicycling and pipe smoking carry risks and resolve to do each responsibly.

66 KOHNAN January 23, 2011 at 7:29 pm

Like the disclaimer at the top says, we all already know the dangers of smoking anything… That being said, let the people who already know that and choose to post anyways ABOUT this pipe or others have their OWN discussion. No one here is going to suddenly find out for the first time that smoking is supposed to be bad for you…

So please, keep on topic. I want to hear more about different types of pipes and where they might be obtained, and not hear the same thing I hear in every commercial, radio advertisement and magazine article. I’m going to smoke my pipe anyways ;)

67 Brian C January 23, 2011 at 11:57 pm

While it’s undeniable that smoking anything is unhealthy, its actually been discovered that pipe smoking is on an entirely different level from other means. The lack of additives and lower burn temperature make it much better for you. Some studies even think that smoking a pipe once a day or less can actually be healthy, and that the beneficial gains of reducing stress and overall relaxation can outweigh any damages to the throat or lungs.
Everyone should obviously still make up their own mind on the issue but knowledge is power so its always good to be know as much as possible.

68 A.v. Mausheim January 24, 2011 at 12:58 am

I must say, that I enjoyed TWO FULL BOWLS of a delightful blended english latakia in my claw-footed meerschaum during my walk through the countryside this morning. I very much appreciate these walks with my pipe as a time of quiet contemplation, and I wish not to entertain those who desire to take this small pleasure from me as well. Good day.

69 Shane January 26, 2011 at 8:40 am

@Brian C

That’s right. There have actually been studies that show pipe smokers live longer than complete non-smokers, because of being “laid back”.

70 RJ January 27, 2011 at 7:31 am

@Paco
haha… I did say I have things to learn / grow in. I was only saying it would make me nervous. But , I will grow with this one too.
@Splashman. Well thought out. I could argue some points.. but the Points are made already. It is a choice. One you chose not to make. One I am very comfortable to make. I will not here make more comparisons or debate it all. I am just glad we seem to all agree.. The Manliness of it is not an issue. At least it seems so. It is only a choice not favored by the Mainstream right now. Lots of debate on its medical issues.. like to point out that it can not just be slumped into the same category easily as Cigarettes. I could go over the status of our water and the carcinogenics in it.. or other things.. including most preprocessed foods.. but again, not the issue. It is a choice.. one not in favor right now.. wonder how it will be looked at in a hundred years. I will say I have not enjoyed a discussion with a bunch of men..( nods to the lady posters ) on the net , like this in a long time. Nicely educated.. Civil.. Manly.. I Love this. I cant wait to get into another “thinking it out” discussion in here. Leaps better than any sort of online forum I have read .. and honestly.. it is nearly a spiritual thing to be moving in Affirming and Restoring a reference to manliness in the Nation. Bravo to you and your site.( You and Your wife have done a great job ) I ran into you by accident a few years ago.. and though I rarely post.. I nearly broke my printer in the first year giving some of these Gems to friends and Co Workers.

71 NS January 28, 2011 at 3:05 pm

Thanks for the cool poem. It reminds me to relax at some time every day and enjoy the moment.

72 LEANDRO P DIAS January 28, 2011 at 7:52 pm

Achei muito interessante os cachimbos do bazar de stambul

73 Perry February 1, 2011 at 8:01 pm

@Steve J: “Sir, A briar pipe is in my own view the ‘king of pipes’. Equally suited for a hard afternoons lounging session or for pointing out features of interest on a map to the children.”

I am inclined to agree–the rustication on a briar pipe gives it, I feel, an air of timelessness.

74 Erik December 16, 2012 at 4:42 pm

Pipe smoking is an art, a form of meditation, of pondering, of enjoying and reflecting. I am so tired of all those holier-than-Thou people warning of the dangers of this and that. We are men. We do what we want with our own bodies. Stress causes cancer, too. Lighten up a bit, and for God’s sake, mind your own business, I’m trying to enjoy my pipe.

75 Drew February 3, 2013 at 12:45 pm

Who ever would have thought there would be so many milquetoasts commenting at a website called The Art of Manliness? A full third of these comments are sissy tobacco “warnings”. Yes tobacco kills, and that is manly. From pugilism to camping to wet-shaving to hunting, most manly activities mandate a degree of risk and often actively engage risk for its own sake. It vexes me to find the modern man as a coward searching for symbols (see e-pipe) of manliness to accessorize his image. Men do the hard things; they smoke, they fight, they treat women well, and they never complain about smoke.

76 Richard February 7, 2013 at 5:46 pm

Let’s not kid ourselves by trying to prove that tobacco has no effects on our health, gentlemen. It does. That shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone old enough to read. That being said, what is surprising to me is that so many of those posting comments mention that fact. As manly men choosing to read a website which endeavours to encourage our mature, informed and downright manly independence of thought and deed, are we not able to at least discuss pipe design without ‘reading all the warnings labels’ first? Please, gentlemen, let’s not use every mention of the word ‘tobacco’ to launch into a public heath announcement. If you don’t want to smoke, don’t.
PS there is a study (I’ll look up the reference and post it on a diferent site of your choosing if anyone really wants to start a p*ssing competition) which actually showed that occasional pipe smokers lived slightly longer, on average, than non-smokers. Probably because they were too relaxed and mellowed out to suffer from stress-related heart disease. Just sayin’.

77 Jer March 23, 2013 at 5:55 pm

Two pieces of advice. 1. When examining a meerschaum pipe at a tobacconist, handle it by the stem, not the bowl. Meerschaum is discolored by skin oils, and handling a fine meerschaum by the bowl will mark you as a looky-loo and may even earn you a reprimand from the proprietor.

2. Please, whatever you do, don’t smoke a pipe! Please also don’t ride motorcycles, engage in rock climbing or skydiving, drink fine beer, wine or spirits, eat red meat, especially grilled, or sour cream on your baked potato. By all means, please lecture every man you encounter to avoid said harmful vices. Since said men probably have no idea there are risks involved with those foolhardy activities, you’ll be educating them and changing their behavior, and they’ll thank you for it!

78 Ryan October 15, 2013 at 5:52 pm

I’ve recently been given a meerschaum pipe that belonged to my great-grandfather, then my grandfather and now me. It has never been smoked and my grandmother seems very adamant that smoking will ‘ruin’ it, though I tend to agree with the author of this article: that it will only enhance the pipe’s beauty. Anyone have any advice? It did, after all, belong to her father-in-law and husband for many, many years.

79 Lance December 24, 2013 at 5:24 am

Actually, meerschaum is also known as Sepiolite (the mineral), and two deposits exist in America of high-grade Sepiolite. One is in Yavapai County, Arizona (NW of Phoenix) and the other is outside of Las Cruces, New Mexico. You can still get chunks of this ‘talc-like mineral’ to carve into pipes, if you desire. If you know a carver that could make you one, great way to have a very custom ‘meerschaum pipe’ of your own.

80 Colin D January 3, 2014 at 8:37 pm

What bothers me here is that for instance: ONE type of (very common) cancer in cigar smokers (most statistics between cigar smokers and pipe smokers are rather similar, even though pipe smokers have significantly lower risks of ANY disease than cigar smokers)
is cancer of the larynx. But you see: cancer of the larynx is really uncommon. In fact. MOST cancer is pretty uncommon. In fact larynx cancer occurs in .0034% of the ENTIRE population. Now these are really rough numbers that I’m using. But it’s pretty general across the board.
And because the biggest concern amongst smokers is CANCER, I am having a hard time seeing how being “almost ten times more likely” to get cancer of the larynx (generally, it’s 4 times more likely for other types of cancer. Closer to 3x for pipe smokers) than a non-smoker is really that terrfying.
If you are ten times more likely to get cancer of the larynx than a non-smoker then BASICALLY this statistic states that most likely 3 people out 100,000 GET this particular cancer, and not all (actually, many DON’T) die from it.
So. YES smoking DOES cause cancer.
Yes, smoking is a bad habit.
But compared to drunk driving, hunting accidents, whittling accidents, car accidents, welding accidents, diy home improvement mishaps, etc. (all directly related to behavior APPROVED of by this website -except drunk driving. Drinking IS however endorsed to an extent-)
Is your FOUR PERCENT chance of getting cancer (national statistic, including every smoker and nonsmoker in america) really going to keep you from enjoying a tradition that actually CALMS many men at the end of a busy day of being a MAN?Need I remind you of the wildly high heart failure that plagues overly-stressed men?

Smoking kills… comparatively very few people.

Please, everybody. Live and let live. What part of being a man tells you it is ok to judge others for their vices?

As for the record I do not smoke. I collect old pipes because my dad smoked a pipe and I love the art and smell.

81 Colin D January 3, 2014 at 8:54 pm

I also wanted to post about 1: pipes
and 2: the way I view this site

I’ll discuss the latter first
This site seems to me to be based on masculine hobbys and self-improvements. Smoking seems to be a good hobby for many. And in this case it is in fact a hobby, not an addiction in the negative connotation that that word holds.
We are grown and we choose to partake in hobbies and deep thinking which are meant to improve our character if not always our physical bodies. It appears to me (in an overly simplified manner of stating) that to be manly, according to this site, is to sometimes sacrifice a little bit of time, effort, and on occasion a little of ourselves in the event of a mishap. But we practice these forgotten skills and hobbies because they connect us with an ancient understanding of what it is to truly be an improved, civil, thoughtful human being.

So! on to the glancing pipe comments

I recently got an apple meerschaum and I’m wondering how you guys keep the wax on it smooth and clean because it looks like people HAVE been pawing it before I found it and is there any way to add to the coloring, as in, does it keep seeping in over time?

82 Matt March 7, 2014 at 10:57 pm

A few important notes to consider when confronting the scientific literature regarding pipes and cigars:

1. The vast majority of the studies do not produce risk estimates for individuals smoking less than one pipe or cigar per day. The studies that do break smokers down by frequency typically have 1 bowl per day as the least frequent smoker. This is very important, as tobacco use (of any kind) clearly has a dose-response relationship with disease risk. We may assume that a person who smokes a pipe seldomly (once every two weeks? every month?) has a considerably lower risk, but we can’t really say how much lower.

2. Some studies that break down pipe smokers by number of years spent smoking show that risk doesn’t increase much until 30+ years of smoking accumulate.

3. Relative risk is virtually always the measure of association reported in these studies (sometimes odds ratio). It is important to understand that risk difference is just as important a concept here. If your risk of getting a rare disease doubles (RRs for pipe smoking and oral cancer are often somewhere around 2) because of some exposure, you may still be very unlikely to ever get the disease. To use completely hypothetical numbers: an unexposed person has a 10 in 100,000 chance of getting a disease and an exposed person has a 20 in 100,000 chance. The exposure doubles the amount of risk – but the risk was so small to begin with that the increase in risk would be unimportant to most folks. Pipe smoking is similar to this situation.

4. Methodology in any study assessing risk is EXTREMELY important to the validity of the results. Just flipping to the results or conclusion section is not enough. You must be trained in epidemiology or biostatistics to understand the literature.

Pipe smoking surely increases risk of oral cancers by some small amount, but exactly how much we don’t know. If you do choose to smoke a pipe, a few suggestions:

1. Consider taking your frequency of smoking down a few notches. I won’t suggest a number of times per month or week, but just realize that the less often you smoke the lower your risk will be. How often do you need to smoke to gain the benefits you feel you receive?

2. Don’t drink simultaneously, as there is some evidence (and common sense backs this up) that both alcohol and tobacco in the mouth at the same time is worse than using them separately.

3. See your dentist regularly and make sure he/she knows that you smoke a pipe. They can be extra vigilant for signs and symptoms of cancer. That conversation may be uncomfortable, but if you’re going to smoke a pipe you might as well be as smart as you can about it.

Source: I’m a chronic disease epidemiologist.

83 Julie Carver April 18, 2014 at 10:38 pm

Have a couple old vintage Meerschaum pipes. Needing advice on apprasials. Or if you could lead me in the right direction. Thanks in advance!
Julie Carver

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