Archive for 12th August 2009

Buying A Pipe Online

There is no substitute for buying a pipe in the real world. You get to feel it’s heft, how the bowl fits in your hand, see how deep the pipe is, how wide, the texture of the pipe.

SK112-107 11 14 Skull Pipe 4Online pictures don’t necessarily give you a good clue as to any of these things. When I saw the Halloween skull pipe, it looked like a normal sized pipe. When I got it, the bowl was as big as my fist. It could be used as a blunt weapon. Since I just wanted it for display, it worked out, but wow, that thing is huge!

Peterson pipeBy the same extent, I bought a Peterson pipe, again it looked normal sized in the picture. When I got it, it was the size of your finger. I had to send it back. Considering how I smoke, a bowl for me would last about 3 minutes at best.

I like my pipe stem, bowl, and bowl depth to be in a specific range. So how do I know for sure what I’m getting online?

pipe of unknown sizeTake a look at the image on the right. How big is that pipe? There’s two ways to try to get a better idea of how the pipe actually is sized. The first is to call or write the website. Look for the contact link on the site. E.A. Carey and Outwest Tobacco, as two examples, don’t list their dimensions on the website, but you can always contact them for details on any specific pipe. Gene, over at Outwest Tobacco, was terrific at answering my questions about a specific pipe. This is their contact page.

The second is to buy from a site that offers you exact measurements if possible. I’m going to show you a few examples of what I mean. The Pipe Den & Cigars and Fine Pipes International, are two examples, gives you a comparison to a ruler. This does give you length, and you can estimate how big the bowl is, but it doesn’t give you the depth. I’ve had pipes with large bowls with a very shallow depth.

AAA Meerschaum and Smoking are two examples of sites that give you very detailed information about the pipes. Clicking the pipe on the right side of this paragraph should give you an example of what I mean.

Another way that some shops show their pipe sizes is to use 1 inch graphic squares for dimensions. This really helps when looking for a pipe with a seriously bent stem. and Cup O’ Joes are examples of sites that use this method. This Kirsten is from, and uses the square inch method. Click on the link to see a bigger picture.

As I said, there is no substitute for buying a pipe in the real world. Whenever I go to Chicago, I have to visit Iwan Ries. Somewhat hidden in the back is a small elevator that takes you up to Pipe Heaven. It’s like a secret passage, only not secret. They keep “you can touch them” pipes in drawers, and when you find one you like, they go trotting off to get you a new one in a box.

If that isn’t enough, they also have their own smokers lounge, called The Front Room.

Iwan Reis does sell online, and it’s a huge selection! They currently have over 12,000 pipes in stock. While they don’t give detailed information about the size of the pipes, they do send out a catalog, with a special ruler. Each photo is set to the same scale, and by using the ruler, you can get basic dimensional information. And they have, of course, their own contact page.

So, summary: If you aren’t sure of what you’re getting, contact the seller. Some pipe sites provide very detailed dimensions. And it’s extremely important to know what the seller’s return policy is, in case you still end up with a pipe you don’t want.