Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Vintage Ad (1941): Kaywoodie Flame Grains

The Flame Grain was Kaywoodie's name for their top-quality pipes. There were occasionally a very few pipes produced that were ranked higher than the Flame Grain, but they were special limited runs. The Flame Grain was the top of Kaywoodie's mass-produced line.

Shape names from left: bulldog, Dublin, apple, a slightly bent Dublin which Kaywoodie called a "yacht," and last, the Rhodesian.

There is some dispute among pipe smokers (at least, those who care, I don't particularly) about shape names. One such question is exactly what constitutes a bulldog, and what constitutes a Rhodesian. As you can see, the bowls are similar. I'm going by the rule that a bulldog has a diamond shank, while a Rhodesian has a round shank.

I have neither shape in my collection, but the picture above makes me think it might be time to start scouring eBay for a refurbishable Rhodesian.

I might take this opportunity to mention what Kaywoodie called "export" pipes. I'm reminded of them because I do have a yacht that is an export pipe. At some point Kaywoodie decided to market their pipes in Europe, but someone high-up in the company decided that pipes with the screw-in stem that Kaywoodie relied on as one of their trademarks would not sell well in Europe. So they manufactured pipes with a traditional push-stem to sell there. They called these "export" pipes. My "export" yacht, however, is not a flame grain, and unlike the one pictured above, has the white cloverleaf on the side of the stem.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Pipes in Literature: Smoke-rings

...Then they went back and found Thorin with his feet on the fender smoking a pipe. He was blowing the most enormous smoke-rings, and wherever he told one to go, it went--up the chimney, or behind the clock on the mantelpiece, or under the table, or round and round the ceiling; but wherever it went it was not quick enough to escape Gandalf. Pop! he sent a smaller smoke-ring from his short clay-pipe straight through each one of Thorin's. Then Gandalf's smoke-ring would go green and come back to hover over the wizard's head. He had quite a cloud of them about him already, and in the dim light it made him look strange and sorcerous. Bilbo stood still and watched--he loved smoke-rings--and then he blushed to think how proud he had been yesterday morning of the smoke-rings he had sent up the wind over The Hill.

--J.R.R. Tolkien
excerpt from "An Unexpected Party"
from The Hobbit

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Featured Pipe Smoker (Fictional): Bilbo Baggins

Bilbo Baggins
The Road goes ever on and on,
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.
Bilbo is such a well-known character I'm sure anyone who sees this already knows about him. If you don't, you really shouldn't waste any more time reading this blog until you've read The Hobbit.

The pipe in the top picture appears to be a version of the Tyrolean, and is a good pipe for relaxing and perhaps visiting with friends or chatting with a passing Wizard. The one just above looks like a standard briar, probably a bent apple or pot, and is handier and more appropriate for a session of memoir-writing. Both pictures are stills from the Rankin-Bass animated movie of 1977.

Although pipeweed, or westmansweed as it was known in Gondor, grew wild throughout Middle Earth, the hobbits of the Shire were primarily responsible for cultivating it for smoking, and there were at least three distinct varieties: Longbottom Leaf, Old Toby, and Southern Star. Bilbo's favorite leaf--if he had a special preference--was never mentioned.

For many more illustrations of Bilbo and a discussion of them, please click on PowerOfBabel: Bilbo Baggins.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Vintage Ad (1970s): THE PIPE (again)

click to enlarge

There it is, in all it's terrible splendor. The "pipe" made superior by a total absence of briar and a bowl lining made of the stuff that coats the nose-cone of a Polaris missile. If you can look at these and not think of Mr. Furley's wardrobe, then I envy you your ignorance. A classic ad from the same decade that gave us the disco version of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony and the infallible pick-up line, "What's your sign?"

The Pipe: when clothing styles, modern technology and pipe smoking collided to create something with bad taste that tastes bad.

I'm sure there are still thousands of THE PIPES out there, since there's no way they could be broken or worn out--save for the stem, which was soft plastic and could be bitten through by a teething 3-year-old. In my dreams there are still an uncounted number of THE PIPES lurking, forgotten, in the pockets of abandoned leisure suits in the backs of closets and Goodwill centers all over the world.

These are the dreams that haunt me.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Gee, thanks, I never would've figured that out...

Found on the end of a box of Penley kitchen matches.

I think this rates right up there with the toothpick instructions from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Rehydration: another option

I'm sure all pipe smokers eventually run into the problem of having some tobacco that has become too dry. There are numerous methods of rehydration, some more sophisticated than others. My last batch of Gray Ghost from C&D was a little too dry already when I got it, so I have been rehydrating small quantities of it as I go along.

My usual method of rehydration is to put some tobacco in a Mason jar, then place a small medicine cup (of the kind that you get any time you buy any kind of liquid medicine these days) upside down on top of the tobacco. I moisten a little tissue paper, fold it into a square and squeeze all the excess water out, then place it on top of the inverted medicine cup and close the lid. Give it 24 hours or so before smoking any of it. Sometimes it might also help to take the cup & paper out and mix the tobacco up, because the top layer will be more moist than the bottom, then return the cup & paper to their positions and give it more time. I use the cup so that the moist paper does not come into direct contact with the tobacco.

Another method would be to take a small amount of the dry tobacco and mix it with another tobacco that is already extremely moist. You can mix it with an identical blend that is plenty moist, always making sure that the dry stuff goes in in small quantities so that you don't dry out your good tobacco too much. I have done this in the past with some Dunhill Nightcap that I had let get too dry, by simply adding it into a new tin of Nightcap.

In the last couple of weeks, a side-effect of my mixing Gray Ghost with Perique has been to rehydrate the Gray Ghost. I have purchased straight Perique from two sources: C&D and Cup O' Joes, the latter of which is McClelland's brand Perique, and is the version I am using at present. Both versions have been quite extremely moist. So moist that it has tended to balance the overall moistness between the GG and Perique quite well.

This method of rehydration may be something to keep in mind next time you have some tobacco that has gotten too dry.

Featured Pipe Smoker: J.R.R. Tolkien

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (1892-1973)

"My political opinions lean more and more to Anarchy (philosophically understood, meaning abolition of control not whiskered men with bombs) -- or to 'unconstitutional' Monarchy. I would arrest anybody who uses the word State (in any sense other than the inanimate realm of England and its inhabitants, a thing that has neither power, rights nor mind); and after a chance of recantation, execute them if they remain obstinate!...

Government is an abstract noun meaning the art and process of governing and it should be an offence to write it with a capital G or so as to refer to people...

The most improper job of any man, even saints, is bossing other men. Not one in a million is fit for it, and least of all those who seek the opportunity."

Since I'm now trying to get back into my old routine of regular posts here at The Briar Files, I will attempt to resume regular posting of a featured pipe smoker every Saturday. I can think of no better person to begin (again) with than J.R.R. Tolkien.

Tolkien is far too well-known for me to add much information about, since you probably already know as much or more than I do. What I can write about is how I came to discover Tolkien myself.

I first encountered him via the chapter of The Hobbit titled "Riddles in the Dark," which was included in my seventh grade literature textbook. But it was only one chapter lifted from the middle of the book; out of context I found it a good story but not enough to ring any bells.

I was a voracious reader when growing up, but I largely avoided fantasy literature in favor of science fiction. I view this as a rather silly delineation today; still, that's how I was as a kid. My first real encounter with Tolkien was via the Rankin-Bass made-for-TV animated movie of The Hobbit.

That book was in our high school library, so I checked it out and my viewpoint of fantasy changed. I became a fan. It wasn't long before I had also checked out and read all three books of LotR. That year I asked for and received all four of these volumes as a birthday gift. Later on I also read The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales. I have never really delved any more deeply into his works than that. These days, when I get into the mood to read him again, I always start with The Silmarillion and work my way forward.

When I first began this collection of famous pipe smokers many years ago, there wasn't much to be found in the way of this kind of graphical information on the WWW. The picture at the top of this post was scanned (with a hand scanner!) from one of my own books. I don't remember where I got the second picture--either downloaded or possibly received by email, but I'm sure such photos are now easy to find and plentiful.

I would now like to take this opportunity to link to my friend Brer's series of posts on books by and about Tolkien. Just click on PowerOfBabel: J.R.R. Tolkien. I give these posts my stamp of Official Recommended Reading.

UPDATE: Here is one more photo that I had forgotten I had, and in which he appears to be much younger than the first two pictures. I don't remember where this came from.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Vintage Ad (1945): Kaywoodie Pups

Before I decided to take a break from this blog several months ago, it was my habit to post a vintage pipe-related ad every Wednesday. Well, I think I'm ready to begin again, and this being Wednesday, here is a vintage ad.

As I have said before, Kaywoodie "never let a hunk of wood go to waste." So in this case, what I think happened is that they had a lot of small burls that weren't big enough to make real pipes. Solution: make small pipes. The Pup line were made to look exactly like the same model/shape of regular-sized Kaywoodies, except in miniature. They were technically able to be smoked, although I don't know if such a smoke would be very enjoyable. I have managed to get my hands on only one Pup, a straight bulldog with a diamond shank, but it is no longer smokeable because a previous owner burned through the bowl. This doesn't surprise me much, because these small pipes had consequently thinner bowl walls.

So if you manage to get your hands on a Pup that is still in a smokeable condition, be careful with it.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Making do

In case I haven't declared it recently enough, my favorite pipe tobacco is Bayou Night by Cornell & Diehl.  I ran out a few days ago, and I need to wait for the next paycheck before I order more.

I have plenty of other perfectly good--some excellent--tobaccos in my "cellar" (which is actually a cabinet), but none of them are Bayou Night.

And then I remembered:  I still have some C&D Gray Ghost, and I still have some straight Perique ordered from Cup O' Joes.  It's been a while since I mixed up any Don't Tread On Me.

DTOM is my own personal concoction, made by mixing Gray Ghost with Perique.  Gray Ghost is a blend of maduro and Virginia.  The "don't offend innocent bystanders any more than really necessary" mix is 3/16 Perique to 13/16 Gray Ghost.  A more robust mixture, which tends to drive away anyone downwind, repels mosquitoes and doesn't have so much a "room note" as it does a blast radius, is 3/8 Perique to 5/8 Gray Ghost.

I didn't really feel like digging out the digital scale and weighing out such specific amounts, so I just mixed it about half and half, along with about a quarter-pipeful of leftover Bayou Night.

A little rough.  Should be much better in a few days, when the flavors have had time to meld a little.  But it will do.  It will do.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Pipes in Literature: The Legend of the Pipe

The Legend of the Pipe

About 40 years ago, on one of those wet and dry evenings in the month of April, which are so common in some parts of Pennsylvania, and which may be called nondescript; for instead of being a regular and decent kind of weather, it continually flits about, and has more variations than a prismatic glass, or weathercock; for one moment, you will have a sousing rain that will soak you to the very skin, and then perhaps a sunny hour; but about the time you begin to enjoy its enlivening effect, and feel its cheering influence, you are saluted with a sharp skin-cutting north wind, accompanied by a mixture of rain and sleet, which comes as it were to destroy the equilibrium of the pericranium, and irritate us to the utmost, by playing with impunity, an unwelcome and discordant tune in our teeth:--Well, it was on one of these evenings that Hans Bradin was returning home from a trip to what was then Port Pitt, rather melancholy and depressed in spirits, on account of his bad luck that day in the sale of his produce, and was rendered pettish and irritable by the fluctuations of the weather. As night was a sneezing distance off, Hans was conscious that, in his present state of mind and body, it would be impossible for him to pass the Wizard's Cave which lay immediately in his way home, and which he would have to pass after nightfall; so to raise his spirits, he took a potation from an oddly constructed bottle, which he drew from a pocket made in his packsaddle expressly for its accommodation. By the bye, in those days, they made every thing to some purpose.--Having fortified himself he spurred forward his horse with increased courage, and spirits buoyed up by the "needful," till he came within an Irishman's mile of the cave, where, finding his spirits and courage flagging, he halted; and having refortified himself with many large potations, he again set forward. But the bottle is not always the true supporter of courage; so it was with Hans; for the nearer he approached the cave, the more his courage failed him. He tried to sing his song, and actually waded through the first verse without any very culpable aberration from the original, but the second was completely out of tune; from a proper pitch, it sunk down to a sort of quivering melody which perfectly coincided with the agitation of his body. "How cold it is," muttered Hans, his teeth making doleful music by chattering rather unneighbor-like against one another; "How cold it is," again muttered Hans. "A companion, even though an indifferent one, would be acceptable at such a time as this, for in an ill hour, bad company is better than none: if I could but whistle a tune now, I don't doubt but it would raise my spirits a little; but I'm so abominably chilled, that it's rather doubtful--I'll try however--it won't do; it's like smoking a pipe without fire or tobacco. Ugh! how cold it is! I shiver all over like an aspen leaf, and my teeth make as much noise as a wind-broken horse at a full gallop! I was never so cold in my life! my nose feels like a piece of ice--How unlucky I was to lose my pipe in town! If I had it now, I should be quite merry. Yes, it would make me as joyful as--as--a king. I wish I had one now; I'd give a dollar for one."

"What's that you say, Hans Bradin" said a strange, harsh voice. Hans knew it was the wizard that spoke, for he was directly opposite the cave; so he pretended he did'nt hear him, and looked or tried to look in another direction: but Venificus (that was the wizard's name,) was not accustomed to be slighted or put off; so he cried out again. Hans knew the penalty of making him angry, and turned round, and threw his eye-sight in the direction from whence the voice proceeded. He nearly fell from his horse; he was astounded at the sight of the wizard, ('twas the first time he ever saw him,) who withal was not a very disagreeably looking personage.--"When I looked round," in Hans' own words, "I saw a short, portly looking little man, with a very large abdomen, which was held up by a stout girdle of leather, ornamented with magic signs. His legs were short, and of such an immense thickness, that it was matter of surprise to me that he could walk. He had the smallest head I ever saw, set in, or rather buried between a pair of expansive shoulders; large grey eyes which shone like two balls of fire; a mouth every disproportionate to the size of his head, reaching from ear to ear, and a nose which was a very prominent one, and turned up in the form of a pot hook, and all these were nothing to his pipe. Heavens! what a pipe! It was the largest one in the world! it actually frightened me."

The little man was sitting on the top of his cave about thirty feet above where Hans was standing, and his pipe reached to the very road.The bowl was about the size of a hogshead, and would have contained with ease a barrel and a half of tobacco. The stem or tube was made of blue glass, which plainly told 'twas not fabricated on earth, and at the base or at the place it joined with the bowl, it was as thick as a man's body, and tapered off to a point of about two inches in diameter. I now no longer wondered at the reason of the wizard's mouth being so large. Venificus gave a sagacious gurgling at my astonishment; and repeated his former question. I scarcely knew what to answer, but knowing he would be displeased if I did'nt reply, I plumply told him what I wanted. "Oh! is that all, Hans Bradin, is tht all, that's not much; we shall contrive to furnish you with a pipe but hark'e, Hans, have you ever a pipe of tobacco about you, my pipe's almost out, and I'd like to have a small smoke before I go into my cave."--Hans was thunderstruck--a pipe full of tobacco--a small smoke--muttered he to himself. Hans had that day laid out all his money in tobacco for the old folk, and although he knew there was no tobacco at home, he did not hesitate, but liberally pitched up his whole stock to Venificus who received it with a frown as black as midnight, and exclaimed in a voice of thunder, "What, is it you, Hans Bradin, is it you! you! that offers me this little bit of tobacco! bad luck to you, do you think this will fill my pipe? here give me some, you son of the world, for this is not hear enough!" Hans trembling and affrighted, told him it was all he had, and related to him his ill luck that day at market, &c. Venificus had only pretended anger, to try Hans, and with one of his own laughs, he cast part of the tobacco into the pipe bowl; when lo! the little bit of tobacco, the mite, swelled up, up, up, and increased, and grew larger and larger, till the pipe was completely filled: it took fire of itself, and he began smoking. After he had done, he jumped up, said a few words which Hans could not understand, and the pipe disappeared. Venificus then came down, notwithstanding his corpulency, with as much agility as Hans could have done it himself. When he had come close up to Hans, he told him to follow, but not to speak a word till he was spoken to. He then led Hans into a long winding passage for a great distance, till he came to what seemed the end; here he stopped, lit a fire, and said a few words over it. The fire then died away, and a passage opened just where the fire was; down went the little man, down went Hans, and the passage closed behind them. They were now at the end of their journey. Hans looked round, and found himself in a large chamber. It seemed almost a mile square, and was completely filled with pipes of all sizes and descriptions, and according to the fashion, from every quarter of the globe. "Hans," said the wizard after Hans' astonishment had subsided, "you have acted like a wise and liberal man tonight, and I'm about to reward you. You see all these pipes? Well, now you may take your choice of them, and learn always to oblige every body; for if you had not acted as you have, I would have put you in my pipe, and smoked you up." Hans then made choice of the smallest pipe he could see; it was a glass one; and as soon as he had taken it, he stood looking on it abstractedly. "Hans," said Venificus, "you are afraid you will not have enough tobacco to fill the pipe, (it was as big as a bushel,) but don't be alarmed; here is a bit of what you gave me; when you go home, throw it in, you will soon see the effect, and never more want for tobacco." He then led Hans to the outside of the cave to his horse. Hans got on, and arrived safe at home that night.

The fame of the wonderful pipe spread through the country, all flocked to see it, but Hans would gratify the curiosity of none by telling the Legend of the pipe, till pressed by my solicitations and unwilling to disoblige an old friend, he confided to me the above, and his posterity to this day possess the wonderful pipe.

--from The Hesperus, and Western Miscellany, 1828
reprinted in Witches, Wraiths & Warlocks: Supernatural Tales of the American Renaissance

Thanks to friend Brer via email.