How many pipes do you need to have a decent rotation? The answer has to be based on several variables such as the following:
How often do you smoke?
What type of tobacco do you smoke?
Does your smoking style lend itself more towards ending up with a somewhat dry or wet pipe?
Do you smoke the same tobacco all day?
As a general rule you should allow at least 1 to 2 hours for your pipe to rest after you finish smoking. This allows enough time for your pipe to properly cool down and dry out ... for the most part. The time of tobacco you smoke plays a role too. Aromatic tobacco burns slightly wetter and tends to cause a pipe to retain moisture longer. Virginias tend to burn cleaner and drier and sometimes the pipe can be put back in action in as little as 30 - 45 minutes. If you are accustomed to smoking your pipe enough to conflict with these suggested times then you should be using 2 or more pipes in your daily rotation. If you are a "wet" smoker or have a few cherished pipes that matter to smoker a tad on the wet side than you should also be using 2 or more pipes in your daily rotation. It is best to dedicate a pipe for each type of tobacco that you smoke. So, if you smoke more than one type of tobacco during the coarse of the day than you'll need to add more pipes into your daily rotation. Each pipe in your rotation should have the minimum of 2 days off after being used for the day and cleaned every 5 - 10 bowls depending on the tobacco smoked and your smoking habits.
Hmmmm ... So let's do the math ... well let's not and say we did and sum up with the following general rules of thumb; If you smoke on a daily basis and have a good pipe cleaning and care schedule established the bare minimum amount of pipes in your rotation should be no less than 3. 7 would be the ideal minimum and would ensure well rested, fresh pipes and spread out your time spent cleaning. What's right for you? Simply take these suggested minimum rotations and factor in the four questions above.
Chris Rehers writes: I use a minimum of 10 pipes but I also clean mine after complete cooling. So I am able to smoke the same pipe 2-3 times in a 24hr period. I also like to have a couple pipes dedicated to particular blends that are always in my pipe tobacco rotation. For instance I have one pipe I smoke nothing but Frog Morton out of. Then I have a pipe dedicated to random english blends and another for aromatics. Your pipe dedication is completely up to you and how much you want to devote to your hobby. Also the more discerning your palate becomes the more you will probably move toward a consistent pipe dedication.
Hope this helps and until next time, may your pipes be lit and your cellars full!