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Are we in a golden age of pipes?

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CPT/VSG

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Obviously, in earlier decades pipe production dwarfed today's production and many grand old names--that are now defunct or a shadow of a former self-- were available as regular production pipes. But, the choices of the 1950s or 1960s smoker were essentially limited to factory production pipes. While much of the factory production was very good, are we not now in a golden age of pipes in that what many of us are smoking are better made, better engineered handmade pieces?

I suppose it could be argued that the briar now is not as well aged as in the past but many of the artisans appear to take great pains to acquire fine briar and prepare it well for carving.

Shapes, too, are arguably more interesting. While I love the classic shapes, especially, of the English pipes from earlier times, I can still find those shapes plus many more variations and innovations in addition.

As I examine and buy more pipes, and, especially, as I choose between estates and handmades, it just seems to me that, although the pipe smoking culture is much smaller than in past decades, those of us sensible enough to enjoy this great hobby are buying and smoking an overall better quality pipe than our predecessors.

Thoughts?
 

pipedumb

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I agree pipe making is becoming a cottage industry, but I disagree that they are engineered better than mass produced pipes.

I could argue that the drugstore pipes are better engineered. Albeit over engineered at times. I believe that was the Golden age. The Drugstore pipe era ain't over yet!

Artisans today are getting back to the basics: Quality over quantity which certainly marks the beginning of a NEW era.
But, where their predeccesors erred in over engineering (gimmicks etc.) I think some pipes being carved today are overly artistic.

I think it is the golden era for pipes, (but not for pipesmoking) because we can choose from mass produced or from the individual carver. To keep the drugstore pieps alive we got to buy them. Same for the artisans. So mix it up Gents and enjoy.

Tom
 

Winslow

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A very interesting thread!We nowadays have the option to have a pipe of our own design created by some of the individual carvers at a reasonable price.I know that Mark Tinsky for one,will make whatever you want within reason.Shape,finish,color,stem to your taste.......... I don't know if that was possible in the old days.Altinok will carve you a portrait pipe of meerschaum from a photograph.I saw a civil war re-enactors pipe that Mark made for a guy and it was very nice,historically correct for the period.I believe the quality from the individual carvers meets or exceeds factory pipes or these guys couldn't survive in the business. :) :)

Winslow
 

Natch

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I quite agree with Winslow about Mark Tinsky, as he's presently making me a BoB Pipe of the Year with a number of unique options I requested. Mike Brissitt and others have also made customized pipes and bowls for me for some time. I've been puffing for over 35 years and the choices I have are better today than at any time in my life.

Yes, there are fewer of us today than in the recent past, but I would argue we're a much more discriminating, educated, and enlightened (at least to our passion of pipes) group than in the past (present company excluded, of course :mrgreen: ) and with access to our fellow stokers opinions and experiences through sites such as this, I also believe a much better informed as to our options and choices.

Believe me, brothers and sisters, in a few years we'll lament that these were "the good old days".

Natch
 

puros_bran

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I'm unsure what the term 'drugstore' pipe means.

The only pipe available at local drug stores is Dr Grabow. No thanks, on a certain level I wish they would go out of business as I believe they have 'ran off' as many potential pipers as the anti-joy police have.

As for being the pinnacle of engineering, I find it odd that I have seen so many 'off drilled' examples of Grabow,Yellowbole, and Kaywoodie.

Support these companys to keep them alive? Why? If I turn my hobby money to a company that produces product I neither enjoy or desire I am taking money from the companys that do provide products I desire. Where's the logic in reducing cash flow to companys I desire to purchase from,risking them going under, to prop up a company that someone else prefers?
 

Justpipes

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S. M. Frank (Kaywoodie) has dramatically improved the quality of their offerings in order to keep up with the higher level of quality demanded by today's pipe smokers. I can't anwser for Dr. Grabow as I have not purchased one in a long time.
 

BubbaL002

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As a new pipe smoker I haven't had the luck to be around many of the so called "Old School" Pipes. But I have been looking at about a million pipes on the internet. I think that is what makes this era of pipe smoking different is the ease that a smoker can find an individual pipe that expresses their individual personality. I read everywhere that a pipe is most times an extension of a person. I truly believe this. Being of the younger generation of pipe smokers I think this new era of hand carving is the best thing to happen to pipes since BJ Long pipecleaners. My generation seems to strive to make themselves individuals and I believe that will bring back the great hobby of pipe smoking. The internet has also made it easier for us to bridge the generation gap. This forum shows that to a great degree. I have found the advice given to me on this forum to be of the highest quality. For that I say Thank you. And now I will stop rambling and go smoke a bowl.
 

pipedumb

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Drugstore pipes are pipes that are available or where available at drugstores.

Your right, today Dr. Grabows are the default. I guess I'm either dumb or lucky or both because I have only one Grabow that is mis-drilled but maybe my sampling isn't large enough.

Winslow has a good point. Yes, most makers will tweak a design or come up with a new one all together to please their customers. It is a great opportunity to have this option, which reminds me. Its also nice to know the person who made your pipe.

The Golden age? Yeah, I'll buy that.
 

Doc Manhattan

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If we're making a real "Golden Age" argument, Dr. Grabow isn't terribly relevant--but neither is Dunhill, nor any of the ultra-high-grade craftsmen. That's no insult intended to either. Demand for the highest-end and lowest-end are the most resilient in any market, because their customer bases are so consistent.

The tiny Renault hatchback and the Aston-Martin Vanquish will always sell, and rarely to the same folks. When the market changes, you see it first in the Jeeps and the Saabs, the middle of the pack. Quality, quantity, and demand improve or slip, not necessarily in that order. The quality and competition in the volatile middle of the market, that big bell curve, tell you how good or bad things are.

And the mid-market for pipes seems to be booming: good materials, appealing aesthetics, wide selection, and competitive prices. I can have a fine, hand-crafted pipe (and some fine, hand-crafted tobacco to burn in it) for less than the NYC price of two cartons of cigarettes. Even many higher-grade and custom briars start comfortably in mid-range for price. And, just as important, people are actually buying them.

I have no frame of reference, so I can't compare today to previous markets and call this era a "Golden Age" standout. The divide between the high and low end has never been greater, but the middle has never been better. Things do seem pretty good for people who love pipes.
 

puros_bran

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JP. I had heard that but I have yet to experiance any of their new products.

PipeD, good for you Bro. I don't share that experiance but that doesn't really matter. What does matter is that we support the hobby, more specifically that aspects of the hobby we enjoy.
Rereading my post this morning I see I probably came off like a butthead, I really wasn't trying to be.

I smoke estates almost exclusively (man I wish I had spell check on this thing :) ) I think its the best deal going,it keeps folk like Frenchy and Briarblues in business and it free's up the sellers money to go buy new pipes and continue the circle. That's my niche and I will say without a doubt it must be the golden age of estates.
 
A

Anonymous

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Justpipes":pqryfgwm said:
S. M. Frank (Kaywoodie) has dramatically improved the quality of their offerings in order to keep up with the higher level of quality demanded by today's pipe smokers. I can't anwser for Dr. Grabow as I have not purchased one in a long time.
I have a number of Kaywoodies that were my dad's, most of them are in the 1930's to 1950's range and are really fine smokers. They did hit a dry spell for some time and had a somewhat shoddy reputation. The "new era" Kaywoodies are in my opinion back up to par with their older brothers. Of the six or so I bought in the past couple of years only two had drilling that wasen't right on the money. For what I paid for them, that is acceptable to me.
 

Justpipes

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Highstump":a9kzdq5s said:
Justpipes":a9kzdq5s said:
S. M. Frank (Kaywoodie) has dramatically improved the quality of their offerings in order to keep up with the higher level of quality demanded by today's pipe smokers. I can't anwser for Dr. Grabow as I have not purchased one in a long time.
I have a number of Kaywoodies that were my dad's, most of them are in the 1930's to 1950's range and are really fine smokers. They did hit a dry spell for some time and had a somewhat shoddy reputation. The "new era" Kaywoodies are in my opinion back up to par with their older brothers. Of the six or so I bought in the past couple of years only two had drilling that wasen't right on the money. For what I paid for them, that is acceptable to me.
I also have some of the much older Kaywoodies from their hay day and they are fine pipes indeed. At one time they were actually the Creme De La Creme of the pipe world.

Some of their current offerings in my opinion rank right up with the best on the market.
 

adauria

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I think Doc Manhattan is onto something, or at least has hit upon what's relevant for me here. I don't buy drugstore pipes, nor have I spent over $100 on a pipe. And yet within my price range the choice, quality, and beauty of what's available is simply astounding. (And that's not even getting into what's available used in that price range on ebay, etc.).

I'm not very old and haven't lived through too many "ages" of pipe smoking, but for me this is a great time to buy pipes. For that matter, the quality and variety of tobacco is also marvelous.

-Andrew
 

mark

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Interesting topic, yes we are blessed with a huge cottage industry supplying high grade pipes at reasonable prices. And factories producing the full spectrum, something for everyone. Choose your style, pay for whatever level of quality you desire, enjoy. What I'm concerned with is the availability of the tobacco.
 
A

Anonymous

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Looking at the picture as a whole, we probably are in the Golden Age of pipe crafting in this respect : that there is simply no comparison in performance between (to pick a few out of a hat) a Rad Davis or a Mark Tinsky and nearly anything made in the 1950s (the twilight of the Golden age).

(With exceptions) companies then kept their airways (particularly in their stems) fairly restricted. They did this because custom (and customer expectation) obliged them to give away free replacements for pipes that burnt out, and tighter airways were a prudent measure of insurance against this. The resulting pipes tended to smoke wet, of course. But since they pretty much all did, people came to accept it as par for the course and leared to fine-tune their smoking technique to minimize it.

So in a forced-choice situation, having to go to the usual desert island with either old off-the-shelf Barlings, Charatans, Dunhills &c. or off-the-shelf moderns, selected moderns it is. Hands down.

(The best of both worlds solution arguably being to send the old favorites to George Dibos for airway optimizing).

I would, with that said, venture to brave the wrath of the brethren by pointing out that the whole allure of "hand craftsmanship" centers largely in the romantic imaginations of people who have never been "hand-craftsmen" themselves, coming to realize in the process that not only is time money in principle, but that it has been a good 14-hour work day when time has successfully managed to become money in actual practice.

Where the promise of the current era to become a golden age has failed to materialize, IMHO (and your milage has already varied by now anyhow, so no big deal), is in the same "market reality" that constricted the airways of the classics and shouldered bands like the Jefferson Airplane out of the way for hair bands and "c*ck rock.
"
(Bracing for NAR wrath explosion) Marketing perverts everything it touches. When your ability to make a living depends on being able to sell what you make at a decent price, you tend to make what sells. This is not a bad thing in itself, but it's become the rudder that, IMHO, steered contemporary pipes as a whole onto the rocks.

Lane started it with the "double comfort" stems he mandated on Charatans. Hi-Tone product has to be visually distinctive. (Think Rolls Royce grill here). The Danes picked up on this and ran with it very successfully, at several "price points." Still doing it too. Because it works.

The objectionable results of this include "supersize it" (BIG sells). You would get the impression, from scanning pipe makers' and dealers' offerings, that bigger is better. (It isn't. But in "the marketplace," Sooner be dead than out of fashion).

Worse is that it is a seriously demanding task to find a nice ("classically" proportioned) new billiard in the welter of visually distinctive briar out there in the at-least-one-step-up-from-mass-production realm. To this reactionary old fart, the world of contemporary pipes looks not unlike a hall full of middle-school kids at recess -- each one trying so hard to be visually distinctive ("different" and hip) that they just look freaking bizarre.

Hold the Flying Eskimo Foot, please.

:face:
 

Islander

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I think several generations have been and are in the golden age of pipes. My Dad enjoyed many offerings from fine craftsmen, as did my Grandad before him. I'm not a person of great means, but IMHO the Petersons, Stanwells, etc. of the world make pipes of fine craftsmanship at affordable prices. My collection includes pipes from Bari, Bjarne, Comoy, Parker, Peretti (Boston tobacconist), Peterson, Savinelli and Stanwell. They all smoke well as long as I keep 'em clean, but I'd give the edge to my Petes.

Congrats to those who can afford the top shelf briars, but regardless of our means, I think we have an enormous variety of pipes and tobaccos to enjoy. We're lucky generations indeed.
 

howellhandmade

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Yak":e4aclrfr said:
snip

The objectionable results of this include "supersize it" (BIG sells). You would get the impression, from scanning pipe makers' and dealers' offerings, that bigger is better. (It isn't. But in "the marketplace," Sooner be dead than out of fashion).

Worse is that it is a seriously demanding task to find a nice ("classically" proportioned) new billiard in the welter of visually distinctive briar out there in the at-least-one-step-up-from-mass-production realm. To this reactionary old fart, the world of contemporary pipes looks not unlike a hall full of middle-school kids at recess -- each one trying so hard to be visually distinctive ("different" and hip) that they just look freaking bizarre.

Hold the Flying Eskimo Foot, please.

:face:
Oh, I dunno. I see a fair number of classically proportioned new billiards, and I've made a few of them myself. My own preference runs to smaller pipes, but why should it be up to either of us to say what someone else should like? If someone wants a huge pipe, my job is to make the best huge pipe I can, not to tell the customer what he should buy because *I* say it's the best. Seems to me, a move like *that* is what takes marketing.

 

alfredo_buscatti

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I'm no pipe expert, so I'll leave the posting to others.

What I can say is that this is one of the best threads I've read on BoB.

Great job, great comments! It's been a pleasure to read, and it's this quality that keeps me coming back.
 
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