Monday, March 31, 2008

Kaywoodie Lady Briar

Another pipe of interest, by which I mean, a pipe which interests me because it teaches me about yet another kind of pipe that was once made, and helps me fill in a little bit more of Kaywoodie history, but which I have no desire to actually own myself. As usual, photos grabbed from a recent eBay auction. Click on them for larger versions.

The Kaywoodie Lady Briar. A slim pipe with an elegant sweep and rhinestones adorning the bowl. Yes, you read that right. Rhinestones. Because lady pipe smokers won't touch a pipe that doesn't sparkle, I guess.

I'm sure there's a lesson about sexism in here somewhere, but I don't particularly care to look for it. This pipe did have some otherwise collectible value, because for a 40 to 50-year-old pipe, it had never been smoked. It sold for $66.

I am always interested in documentation that comes with old pipes, too (sometimes the documentation is more interesting than the pipe itself), and this one was still in the original packaging with smoking instructions included. These specific instructions on breaking in a new pipe are, to me, quite amusing. Exactly six half-bowls must be smoked first. Clean the stem after every ten bowls.

But the rhinestones. Oh, the rhinestones!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Featured Pipe Smoker: David Blair

David Blair

No birth and death dates. I don't have that kind of information for him.

David Blair was Second Officer for the Titanic. A few days before the ship made its fateful voyage, he was "bumped off the ship." He wrote to his sister: "Am afraid I shall have to step out to make room for chief officer of the Olympic. This is a magnificent ship, I feel very disappointed I am not to make her first voyage."

He supposedly accidentally took the key to the locker which contained the binoculars with him. So the lookout who took his place did not have access to the ship's binoculars, and therefore didn't spot the iceberg.

A lame excuse, it seems to me, and a crackpot theory to impugn a probably innocent man.

More details at the Daily Mail.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Vintage Ad (c. 1950s): Kaywoodie Gale

The "Gale" from Kaywoodie with a flip-top wind shield. Exact date unknown but probably from the 50's based on the cloverleaf and the price. A neat little lid on the bowl to protect against the wind when you're outside.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Parfait

No one ever said that when you load your pipe, you can use only one blend of tobacco at a time. Well, maybe someone did say it, but if so, he was wrong.

The parfait is made by layering different blends into your pipe. How many layers and how widely divergent are the blends is up to you. There are practical reasons for doing this.

You may have a blend that is difficult to light. You could load your pipe with this blend, and then top it off with a layer of some similar-tasting blend that is more easily lit. This top layer can serve as "kindling" to help get the lower blend burning.

You might have a blend that you enjoy on occasion, but the flavor or the nicotine kick is too much for a full bowl. You can put a milder blend on the bottom and the more potent blend on top, so you can still smoke a full pipe in one sitting.

Maybe you have a blend that tastes fantastic until you get near the bottom of the bowl, and then for some reason just turns sour. Put a layer of something else in the bottom to help shield against the souring effect.

Perhaps you have a pipe that needs to build up some heel cake. Put a blend in the bottom that you know from experience you are able to smoke all the way down, with something else on top for variety.

Or maybe you just want to try the experience of loading two or three different blends into a bowl just to see how the flavors interact with each other as well as your palate as you work your way down.

The possibilities are endless, and you may find that you prefer certain blends when they are layered with other blends. Or, you may not. Like everything else in pipe smoking, success means you enjoy it, and that's all that matters.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A website I just recently learned of is the Online Tobacco Cellar. It provides an online database to keep track of your personal tobacco stock, and if you wish, to share it with others. Both interesting and useful.

I do not have any entries there, yet. After things settle down here and I replenish my stock, I will probably create my own cellar there. I am always amazed at how much tobacco some pipe smokers keep in store.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Featured Pipe Smoker: Walter Cronkite

Walter Leland Cronkite, Jr. (1916-2009)

Cronkite was born in Missouri, grew up in Texas, and attended college at the University of Texas (but dropped out after getting a newspaper reporting job). He reported on World War 2 battles in North Africa and Europe. He was recruited in 1950 by Edward R. Murrow to join CBS. He was the first anchor to break the news on television that John F. Kennedy had been assassinated. "Following Cronkite's editorial report during the Tet Offensive that the war in Vietnam was unwinnable, president Lyndon Johnson said 'If I've lost Walter Cronkite, I've lost Middle America.' Soon after Cronkite's report, Johnson dropped out of the 1968 presidential race." [Wikipedia]

During the height of his popularity, he was known as "the most trusted man in America." Since retiring from an official anchor position, he has remained prominent in journalism and has lent his voice to many and various causes.

And so it goes...

UPDATE: Mr. Cronkite passed away on July 17, 2009 of cerebrovascular disease.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Vintage Ad (1908): Old English Curve Cut pipe tobacco

Here is another ad for Old English Curve Cut, with last week's old English guy and his clay churchwarden in the background as the motorcars race past.

Were they really offering the monumental sum of $3,750 (in 1908!) to complete a limerick? Apparently, they were. That's more than $80,000 in today's dollars.
Cried a smoker, "Alas for my plight!
"Wife objects to my smoking at night."

But his friend said, "Tut, tut,"

"Smoke Old English Curve Cut," ...

I can't think of anything right now to finish it. However, I will say that if your wife likes the smell of your pipe, you probably won't. But then I prefer pipe tobaccos that repel mosquitoes and can make certain people recoil in horror.

Okay, I'm kidding on the mosquitoes.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


Things may slow down around here in the next couple of weeks. And then I'll most likely disappear entirely for about a month. We're going to be getting a new house will be moving in with my dad for a few weeks while the old house is hauled out and the new one brought in. During that time, my internet access will be very limited to none. I also have some preparation work to do before we actually move out.

So when things slow down, it's not because I've stopped blogging. It's just because I'm occupied with other things. I hope to be back to normal around the end of April, and by then I should have plenty of new tobaccos to comment on.

Featured Pipe Smoker: Sir Ranulph Fiennes

Sir Ranulph Twistleton-Wykeham Fiennes (b. 1944)

One of the first men to circumnavigate the Earth from pole to pole using only surface transportation. His journey of 52,000 miles took place from 1979 to 1982. Author of several books. In 2003 he suffered a heart attack and underwent double-bypass surgery. Four months later he accomplished the near-impossible feat of completing seven marathons in seven days on seven continents.

He served eight years with the British army as a specialist in demolitions. He attempted to climb Mt. Everest in 2005 but turned back after reaching 28,500 feet.

He currently lives in England where he owns and operates a sheep and cattle farm.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Vintage Ad (early 1900s): Old English Curve Cut Pipe Tobacco

I don't know the exact year of this ad, but I'm fairly certain it's around 100 years old, because I have two other ads for this type of tobacco from 1900 (posted last week) and 1908.

This is a color version of the ad (one of the others is an older black and white version), which I obviously had to stitch together because the original (wherever I snagged it from--I don't remember) was cut in two. The stodgy old English guy portrayed here was apparently a somewhat regular fixture of this brand--he also appears, though must less prominently, in another ad I'll post in the future.

The pipe portrayed in this ad is a clay churchwarden, which he is correctly holding by the stem because the bowl of a clay gets much too hot to hold with bare fingers.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Tamping and lighting

Another post for new pipe smokers.

So once you've gotten your pipe packed more or less properly, what about lighting it?

According to the absolute gospel of pipe smoking, you should first perform the false light, or charring light. This is done only to char the tobacco evenly all across the top. You allow this to extinguish, lightly tamp the charred leaf even, and then perform the first real light, after which you smoke the pipe all the way down without any further lights.

This is a great theory, but necessary only if you are taking part in a pipe smoking contest.

Yes, there are pipe smoking contests, and the winner is the one who comes in last. The object in such a contest is to be the last one with his pipe still burning. Only two lights are allowed, and the second light must be performed within one minute of the first light. I think that's how it works, anyway. All contestants are issued identical pipes and tobacco with which to load it, so everyone starts out the same.

But back to the real world. Often, after performing the first light, the unburned but heated tobacco near the top will expand quite a lot, and "sprangle" (a word I read on alt.smokers.pipes once, and liked, so I'll use it again) upward and outward. This all needs to be tamped back in so you have an even surface. But don't worry about performing a perfect false light. I do a lot of pipe smoking while driving home from work, and I want to get it pretty near perfect to minimize re-lights while I'm driving. Sometimes I'll do two or three false lights followed by appropriate tamping before I get it just the way I want it.

The important thing is to get the tobacco even all the way across the top, and to evenly and thoroughly light the entire surface.

If you feel the fire beginning to go out during the smoke, do not try to fan it back to life by bellowing air in and out of the bowl. This will cause a hot spot in the tobacco, and cause it to burn unevenly. Just lightly tamp the ash flat and re-light, making sure to light it evenly across the entire surface of the tobacco just like the first time.

How many times to re-light? As many times as you need to finish the bowl, or until you get tired of it and decide to quit. I remember someone on a.s.p once flatly declared that "if you're re-lighting more than five times during a smoke, you will burn out your pipe." I laughed out loud at this, and my reply to him was, "if that's true, then I would have burned out about 150 pipes by now." That was several years ago. I'm sure I'm up to 500 or 600 pipes by now.

On a related topic, if you feel that your pipe is getting to hot, just stop. Let the fire extinguish and allow the pipe to cool. Once it cools, you can always re-light it. A rule of thumb for checking the heat of the pipe is to place the bowl against your cheek. If it's so hot that you can't keep it there for more than a few seconds, it's too hot. Of course, if you find your fingers getting too hot, then that's a good indication that you're smoking too hot, also. This is something I have to always watch myself for, because I tend to be an aggressive puffer. I love to have thick wreaths of smoke floating about me, and sometimes I generate too much heat.

I would also like to add that you shouldn't have to "suck" your pipe. If you feel like you are "sucking" the air, then you probably packed it too tightly, or there may be a leaf or some ash (or excess cake) blocking the air passage. You can loosen the pack with the pick from your pipe tool, or a nail or anything similar to that, if necessary. The movement of the air through the pipe is better described as a "draw" than a "suck." You should be able to draw all the air your pipe needs by slowly drawing your tongue back.

I have a few other things to say about packing and smoking, but I'll save them for another post.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Kaywoodie: Never let a hunk of wood go to waste

This pipe turned up on a recent eBay auction, and although I was not inclined to bid on it, I did grab the photo for curiosity's sake. Not really a good photo, but still.

The Kaywoodie company was very good at coming up with any excuse they needed never to waste a piece of briar. You got a leftover piece that might make a pipe except it's too narrow? Don't throw it away! Let's make a pipe anyway and come up with a good reason for it later.

This is the EZ Set Vest Pocket pipe in shape #66. It looks sort of flattened because it was, so it would fit in your pocket more comfortably (yes! really! we meant to do that!).

I find a study of Kaywoodie pipes fascinating partly because of all the reasons they came up with never to waste a piece of briar.

Oh, by the way, this is the white briar finish, "the feel of briar with the look of meerschaum," ostensibly for those who wanted the classic look of meerschaum but the smoking qualities of briar, as if something was wrong with the smoking qualities of meer.  I think the real reason is that they had some wood that was going to look horrendous without a think coat of paint, and this was the best they could come up with.

You might think from this post that I have some sort of grudge against Kaywoodie, but that is not the case at all. I have several Kaywoodie pipes and smoke them often. I just don't have any reason not to call 'em like I see 'em.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Sometimes a pipe is only a pipe

My friend Brer has found an action figure of of Carl Jung, with a pipe!

Monday, March 10, 2008

To stuff or not to stuff...

Aye, that is the question.

Slartie recently wrote up an excellent post about popular packing methods. I recommend it, especially if you are new to pipe smoking.

I smoke mostly bulk, non-flake type tobaccos (but I'm soon going to remedy that--I have smoked flake, it's just been a while). I started out many years ago trying to adhere religiously to the three-layer method as described to me by an occasional pipe smoking penpal of mine at the time. Back in the days before I had Internet access, and we actually used snail mail. Even then, I typed all my letters, since my handwriting has always been pretty near atrocious and I get a sort of pleasure out of typing. But I digress.

The best I can describe my current packing method is that it's a combination of scooping and layering. I often scoop the first layer. One thing I always do is that for each layer I tap the bowl with a finger to help settle the tobacco before I push down on it. For the following layers, I trickle the leaves in as slowly as possible. This can be difficult depending on the cut of the leaf. But as for hitting exactly three layers every time, ha! I usually end up layering it four or five times before I'm finished. I suppose my layers just aren't thick enough. But I don't try for any exact number of layers. I just keep going until the bowl is full.

I think the best name for the way I do it is trickling and tapping. I am always able to smoke my pipes right down to the bottom. I'm not going to say that my way is the right way, but it works for me, and that's what counts. When you find a method that works for you, use it. Don't worry about it if someone else says it's not the right way to pack a pipe.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Featured Pipe Smoker: Sir Walter Raleigh

Sir Walter Raleigh (1554-1618)

Sir Walter Raleigh, who single-handedly introduced the scourge of the white man to the pristine and paradisal New World, while almost simultaneously introducing the scourge of tobacco to the civilization of Europe [/sarcasm]. Falling in an out of favor with the royalty of England, he was finally beheaded on October 29, 1618, ostensibly for sacking the New World Spanish outpost of San Thome, which outraged the Spanish Ambassador.

This pair of drawings illustrate an infamous incident which allegedly happened not long after he first brought tobacco back to the Old World. While relaxing with his pipe at his home in Myrtle Grove, his manservant thought he had somehow caught fire, and poured a bucket of water over him to douse the flames.

Favorite pipe: unknown, but it is almost certain that it looked nothing like either of the pipes pictured. Around 1600, no one knew about briar in relation to pipe smoking, the commercial clay pipe industry was not even a conception, and most cultures that used tobacco were still smoking it from a hole in the ground. Since Raleigh was smoking stuff that he had brought back from the New World, the pipe was mostly likely a very primitive affair, and much smaller, made of reed, antler or bone, or possibly stone.

Favorite tobacco: unknown, but probably whatever those primitives were growing across the pond.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

S.M. Frank-era Kaywoodie Red Root straight rusticated apple

This is a pipe that I had previously categorized as for sale, but I have decided to add it to my collection.

This is a Kaywoodie Red Root. The Red Root is not a part of the original Kaywoodie line. It is a style of pipe that was introduced by S.M. Frank after that company purchased Kaywoodie. All the Red Roots I have seen have a similar reddish-brown rusticated finish and the fancy screw-in bit. Fortunately, the previous owner saw no need to mutilate this one and it still has its three-hole stinger intact.

When I decided to collect Kaywoodies, I had at first thought I would focus only on the "originals." But what the hey, I'll keep some representatives of the latter-day pipes in the collection, too.

I took this shot from the top to show what's left of the Frank-era cloverleaf logo. These pipes have only a white outline of the cloverleaf and it wears off very easily, as you can see.

There are some light tooth scuffs on the bit, but otherwise this is still a good old pipe.

Vintage Ad (1900): Old English Curve Cut Pipe Tobacco

"Yachtsmen." That always cracks me up, for some reason.

Friday, March 7, 2008

New feature

In addition to the weekly featured pipe smoker which I intend to post every Sunday, I plan on posting a vintage ad every Saturday, beginning tomorrow. Some of these are ads for which I possess an actual paper copy, some are just ads I've found here and there on the Internet and saved for my own entertainment and education.

So...the first one is tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Action figure pipes

My good friend Brer (and I should specify that he is my real-life, offline friend), blogs about collecting action figures and various other matters at his blog PowerOfBabel. He recently wrote about one of the rarest of action figure accoutrements: the smoking pipe. Read about it and see his collection at Pipes.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Revisiting the Westminster: The Alpiner

I had mentioned this pipe back in January, but I recently uncovered information on it that warrants further mention.

"This will be, by far, the oddest looking pipe in your collection."

This is a House of Westminster one-piece cherrywood pipe. House of Westminster imported these pipes from Switzerland. This shape is called the Alpiner, and came in three sizes (2 oz, 3 oz, and 4 oz). This example is the "medium," or 2 ounce.

I found information about this pipe thanks to If you take a look at this page from their 1939 catalog, you can see that the stem for this pipe is very short and stubby. My pipe did still have the original stem, but it is badly chewed and needs to be replaced. This stem looks too stubby and awkward, to me. However, in order to preserve the original appearance of this pipe, I will request that the new stem match the old one. Who knows, maybe I'll like it. Also, I think a longer stem would make it hard to hold in the teeth. The longer the stem, the greater the leverage.

This pipe sold for 49¢ in 1939, postpaid. Thanks again to Chris' Pipe Pages for this excellent resource.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Kaywoodie Campus Dublin

click to enlarge

The Campus was a Kaywoodie line of smaller-and-lighter-than-usual pipes, with a purpose. A purpose that, in my opinion, doubles as a gimmick.

The Campus pipes were supposedly intended to be used by college students and professors to get a quick smoke during breaks between classes. Small enough to fit handily in a pocket, and small bowl volume to produce a shorter smoke. This one is equipped with the usual screw stem and a 3-hole stinger.

In reality (in my opinion, of course) pipes made like this are usually too small. They don't have a lot of mass in the stummel, and have thin bowl walls, therefore they smoke hot. But, I should admit that I haven't actually smoked this one yet, so I may yet be proved wrong.

Someone had been smoking this one, but lightly. It had minimal cake and only light tooth scuffs on the bit. A small build-up of unburned leaves in the bottom suggests that the previous owner rarely finished the bowl. I would hazard a guess because it was uncomfortably warm by the time he got that far. It had barely any tar on the rim and the inside of the shank produced hardly any black stuff at all. I did give it a light reaming, since the upper part of the bowl had a disproportionately thicker cake than the bottom--more evidence that the previous owner had trouble finishing the bowl.

This pipe is so light, you might forget you have it in your mouth. At about 13cm in length, it weighs only 16 grams (about 1/2 ounce).

I'll be giving this one a trial run this week sometime, just so I can offer an honest opinion on how it smokes, but I can't see making this one part of my regular rotation.

UPDATE: Okay, I gave it a whirl. It did provide a very short smoke (20 minutes or so), and the bowl got so hot I had to hold it by the shank. Maybe it would perform better for someone who is not such an aggressive puffer as I. This one will go on the shelf as part of my Kaywoodie collection, but I doubt I'll be reaching for it very often.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Weekly pipe cleaning

Finished cleaning up this week's pipes. I smoked only 5 different pipes this week, but the Wellington and the Kaywoodie lovat got smoked every day with just quick clean-outs in between, since they were my truck pipes this week.

Next week's truck pipes will be the Wellington again, and the Kaywoodie yacht export pipe.

The Wellington can get really gunked up. I spent more time cleaning it than all four other pipes together, I think.

Featured Pipe Smoker: Hiram Percy Maxim

I have a collection of photos (digital, not hardcopies) of famous, somewhat famous, or otherwise notable persons who were pipe smokers. To be included in my collection, the photograph must show this person with a pipe (with one exception, which I'll get around to eventually). I made this a weekly feature on my other blog for a long time, and then eventually let it slide. But since this blog is devoted specifically to pipe smoking, I thought I might as well recycle the old posts here for the benefit of the pipe smoking community. I intend to make this a weekly feature here at The Briar Files. If I can stick with it, I have enough pictures to last for a couple of years.

Hiram Percy MaximHiram Percy Maxim (1869-1936)

Known to ham radio operators around the world as the original W1AW, the callsign which has been immortalized as the callsign of American Radio Relay League. A graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he was also an inventor, author and a pioneer of amateur radio in the early years of wireless, and was one of the instrumental founders of the ARRL. He was also an early experimenter in aviation.

H.P. Maxim was the inventor of the Maxim Silencer (or Suppressor) for firearms (the first commercially successful firearm silencer), as well as the inventor of a muffler for gasoline engines. His silencer design is still in use today, primarily in the building of mufflers for industrial and mechanical purposes.

This photo shows him at his radio station with pipe in hand. All the more impressive because he most likely was operating in CW (Morse Code) while at the same time smoking his pipe. A trick that I don't think I could ever pull off.

Favorite pipe & tobacco: Unknown.

By the way, his father, Hiram Stevens Maxim, was the inventor of the Maxim Machine Gun.

For more information about Maxim and his pioneering days in amateur radio, I recommend the book Two Hundred Meters and Down by Clinton B. Desoto.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

No rubber, no plastic: The Kaywoodie Allbriar

This pipe recently came up for auction on eBay, and although I couldn't get in on the bidding, I grabbed the pictures for my own benefit. I have seen illustrations of these pipes before, but not actual photographs.

As the name suggests, the Allbriar is made from all briar, including the bit. They were made in different shapes, and some with meerschaum inserts. According to The Collector's Guide to Kaywoodie Pipes by Robert Stokes, they were listed in the 1955 catalog, but by the mid 1960s were no longer listed.

The seller of this pipe specified that the stinger had been removed, something which usually decreases desirability of a Kaywoodie pipe. However, the relative rarity of this all briar pipe still generated a lot of interest, and it sold for over $50.