Here is chart of the basic shapes you will encounter in Pipe shape selecting; minus the churchwarden and semi-churchwarden.
There are basically three types of tobacco pipes commonly used:
COBCORN - A great beginner pipe; if you decide pipe smoking is not for you, you haven’t spent a lot of money. Actually made from corncob, it is easily cared for, very durable, and disposable. Eventually they wear out but you can always buy another one for about $5.
BRIAR - This is the closely grained burl joint between the stem and roots of the Heath tree, which grows in rocky slopes on the hillsides of Mediterranean countries. This burl is very tough, close-grained, and porous. It will not crack when exposed to heat. Good briar is hard to find, as the larger shrubs take a very long time to mature. The most suitable root may be 80 to 100 years old, and the finest pipe briar may be from a shrub that is over 200 years old.
he easiest way to tell if you have a well-aged briar is by the weight. A pipe that is made with well-aged briar will be very light in weight. If you hold two similar pipes together by the stem, the lighter, more balanced pipe will inevitably be made with older briar. Many of the very inexpensive drugstore pipes, like Dr. Grabow, are made with very young or flawed briar. Many of these cheaper pipes rely on filters to keep the smoke cool. A properly aged briar does not need a filter because the briar is extremely porous. Briar pipes are rated by the purity of the grain. A perfectly straight grain or Birdseye grain (little tight grained swirls), will command a very steep price. These pipes are purely for aesthetics and prized by collectors. They do not smoke any differently than a less-than-perfect grain. You can also save a considerable amount of money if you are not concerned with grain quality.
f you really want to find a good pipe for a bargain, you might want to opt for a sandblast briar. The briar used for these pipes have flaws in them such as very ugly grain or little holes in the wood. These pipes are then sandblasted into a rough grain. Sandblasted pipes are extremely porous and smoke very cool. Briar pipes are also sold as seconds. The tiny holes or imperfections in these pipes are filled with putty and then stained. Many of these pipes can be purchased for $5 to $20. If perfect, these pipes would sell for considerably more money.
MEERSCHAUM - Composed of the fossilized shells of tiny sea creatures that fell to the ocean floor millions of years ago, the highest quality meerschaum is found in only one place in the world: Eskisehir, in central Turkey. Many meerschaum pipes are hand carved into works of art. The meerschaum pipe gives the tobacco a very unique, cool smoking flavor. It absorbs far more moisture than a briar pipe. The pipe starts out pearl-white and eventually becomes a beautiful deep-brown color as it breaks in. This is one of the most appealing features of this type of pipe. Meerschaum pipes are a prized addition to many smokers’ collections.
Q: I'm a relatively new pipe smoker. .... how much should I spend on a pipe? Rich S.
A: There are several factors to consider when purchasing a pipe as a new smoker. The first, and probably the most obvious, is a function of your individual financial situation. $100 for some is a lot of money and for others not. Secondly, what brought you to pipe smoking? Cigars? Quitting cigarettes? Curiosity? What I'm getting at is ... might this be a fad or is it something you are willing to put the time into? Lastly, do you plan on smoking mainly outdoors or in the comfort of any easy chair? Based on your thoughts about what I've posed to you, here are our recommendations; Buy the most pipe you can afford at this time. Whatever you do, do not buy a cheap drug store type pipe. They simply do not smoke very well and will give you a bad first impression of pipe smoking in general. The smoking quality of pipes does increase as the cost of the pipe increases until you get to the $100 - $150 range. After that you start to pay for the aesthetic qualities of the pipe. There are some great smoking $40 pipes on our web site such as the Savinelli Budget Pipes and the Brindisi line. A step up from there would be the main line Savinelli, Brebbia and Stanwell. When selecting a pipe I believe pride of ownership plays a role as well. Also remember to leave a little room in your budget for a decent tamper and tobacco pouch. These two items will greatly enhance your smoking pleasure. As to why I asked where you'll be smoking your pipe for the most part ... the answer is simple. If you plan on doing a lot of smoking outdoors, while working in the yard and such, you might what to consider a rusticated pipe. The wear and tear of being outdoors will be far less noticeable on a pipe with a rough finish. Rusticated pipes generally cost less than smooth pipes. If you'll be smoking mostly indoors treat yourself to a smooth, polished pipe with as nice a grain pattern as you can find in your price range. As you sit and enjoy your pipe indoors you'll find that your senses will come alive. Smell, taste and touch all play a role. With a handsome pipe even sight becomes a pleasure.
Q: I'm interested in buying my first pipe. Should I get a bent style pipe or straight? Malcom T.
A: Pipes are like shoes in many respects. What is attractive and comfortable to one person might be all wrong for another. From a technical stand point, here are a few considerations. Straight pipes tend to burn a little more evenly, cleanly and perhaps even a little cooler. The trade off is that holding it firmly in your teeth requires much more effort than a bent pipe due to basic leverage. If you tire of holding it in your teeth you'll need a free hand to hold it. Also, those of us who, over the course of time, have traded in our natural teeth for the man made kind might not have an easy time with larger straight pipes. I find straight pipes with saddle stems to be the most comfortable ... but that's me. Bent pipes are much easier to hold in your mouth and do not exert nearly as much leverage as a straight pipe. They also allow the smoker to catch an occasional whiff of their own tobacco directly from the bowl. Most people find them much easier to light and keep lit because you can see more of what your doing. The downside? When holding a bent pipe in your mouth over an extended period of time saliva tends to run down the stem causing moisture in the bowl which leads to a hot, gurgling pipe. Some less expensive bent pipes will not pass a pipe cleaner through without taking the stem off. That's OK when the bowl is cool but a major no-no when the bowl is hot.