Archive for August 2011

Weekend Science: The Physics Of Smoking A Pipe

Hank Campbell

If you’re one of those cultural mullahs who thinks smoking causes lung cancer – even a cigar or a pipe – you can stop reading. This article is not for you. I have never smoked a cigarette in my life but gradual efforts by the modern temperance movement to ban smoking everywhere(1) should be resisted by anyone claiming they care about independence, tolerance and diversity.(2)

Cigars and pipes are the perfect way to clench your fist in indignant rage at yet another progressive inroad into our personal lives(3). If your significant other is on the fence regarding your new potential pastime(4), I recommend a pipe and an aromatic tobacco – they’re quite nice. But smoking a pipe isn’t as easy as you might think and you will still need the awesome power of science.

If you are like me, and you grew up watching Sherlock Holmes, heck even if you watch “Mad Men” today, you see pipes. Once a minute, someone will thoughtfully take a puff, a cloud of smoke will appear and something intelligent will happen.

I call rubbish on the media. If there is one thing I know, it is that you, being a novice pipe smoker, have zero chance of looking intelligent smoking a pipe. Instead, you will be spending all of your time lighting it. A lot. I am here to help.

If someone is smoking a pipe, they automatically get +30 IQ points. You never see dumb people smoking a pipe. (5). Courtesy:

The pipe itself

A pipe is essentially just what it is called – a pipe. That means the laws of physics trump what you see on television. Fluid dynamics is crucial and because bodies are different, so will the best pipe be but you can narrow down your odds. If you are getting a new pipe or trying out an ‘estate’ pipe you found at your grandfather’s, the simple test is to draw air through it, just like you might when smoking, so take your best guess. Whistling is bad because of our friend Bernoulli. If the airflow is restricted the air is moving faster and you hear that turbulent whistling sound. Restricted airflow means it will be a struggle to smoke and stay lit, the turbulence in this case is the smoke being separated from the air; smoke is essentially heavier moisture particles and it is being pushed to the sides when that happens.

If you are looking at a cheap pipe, try a different pipe, they’re all machine-made to tolerances but you may just have gotten a bad one. If the pipe is an older one, there may just be some build up in it. If your pipe is curved, like my Stanwell, boring is crucial so if you are getting a cheap pipe, keep it straight and there is less chance of getting a bad one.

Here you can see why pipe smokers yell at each other – a lot – over the physics of the draw. If my Stanwell is changing height and diameter (bad drilling or buildup), in a time we call dt the fluid at a will move a distance ds1, while the fluid at c will move a distance ds2. If smoke is incompressible, then conservation of mass plus a change in kinetic energy means turbulence – and to a lot of confusion, since anecdotal evidence is often considered valid in the pipe world. Companies like ANSYS, Inc. regard turbulence as the multi-billion dollar problem they want to solve well. Fluid mechanics diagram: Texas A&M


If airflow is a concern, the obvious question becomes why don’t pipe makers just make a bigger aperture and bore out the stem. There’s an aesthetic and structural concern. People want a pipe to look like a pipe so boring a larger aperture means less structure. A novice smoker will be more likely to bite through the bit and claim the pipe is lousy.

My Stanwell is a briar pipe, but if you want to just try a pipe, get a cheap corn cob variety. Seriously, it is a low cost way to figure out what you like. A Briar pipe is made from the burl of the Erica Arborea tree and it is literally the default in the pipe smoking world. You can’t go wrong if it is decently made. You may even get crazy and try pipes made from different woods, like Rosewood or whatever – due to the many factors that go into taste and the numerous ‘tones’ it has, materials and structure and type all make a difference, just like in music.

Like an iron skillet, you want the pipe to be a little seasoned. If you got an old one, no issue, but if you have a new one you may get inconsistent behavior. The fast route to seasoning your pipe is to ‘cake’ it. Take some honey or scotch, depending on how hardcore you are, mix in some pipe tobacco ash so that it is just like it sounds, a cake, put a pipe cleanere in the stem airway so it doesn’t clog and spread a thickness of about a U.S. dime coin in the heel of the bowl and the bottom half. Let it dry for a day and then smoke a bowlful all the way to the bottom. The heat does the work for you. If you bought an old pipe it may have a substantial cake and you need to ream it out. You can use anything for that, though in modern times pipe aficionados will tell you to buy a tool for 20 bucks.

Do we have an official Science 2.0 pipe? We should, we have stuck our logo on everything from video cameras to wine bottles.

Keeping it lit

Good luck. I will give you advice, just like I could give you advice on starting a site like Science 2.0, but experience will make the difference. Heat, like airflow is a killer. Airflow is a controversy, like I said, because of the aperture. Some say a wider bore will be too hot and the pipe won’t stay lit, others feel it is a better draw. How will a new person know? If you are buying a pipe in a store, they are not selling you something bored at 5/32 inches or larger and if I wanted mine larger, well, look at the thing. It’s curved. Not a trivial matter to re-bore a curved pipe.

If the draw is too little, you will get a sore mouth – you are literally working pretty hard at it, and the same goes if you are puffing all of the time trying to keep it lit.

Intuition says staying lit is a matter of making sure the material is dense so heat transfers easily. Not in this case, though you are right with a cigar and its gigantic draw. The bite and a sore mouth are a sign the pipe is packed too tight.

To get the best chance of having an even draw, fill the bowl up, and press it down lightly. Then fill it again and press it down firmly. Fill it again and press it down with a pretty good use of your finger. It will be below the rim. Use a match and try to light the entire thing evenly at first, charring the tobacco a little, then light it and take 5 or 6 puffs. Don’t puff too often, even if you are worried about it going out. The throat strain is not worth it. Tamp it down here and there and that should help. Some people recommend blowing gently into the stem and then covering the chamber and drawing on it but use with caution until you know what you are doing.

With practice, it will come to you but get used to the idea of re-lighting it a lot at first. If you need a dramatic pause in the conversation before saying something pithy, that is a good time to re-light your pipe. Then you can lean your head back and intone, “You know, it’s all inductance when you get right down to it” and people will nod their heads as if you said something profound – because you are smoking a pipe.


(1) Dal Baffo in Menlo Park, California was one of the best cigar restaurants in the entire country. When California did its back-door banning of smoking in restaurants, not only did it eliminate a thousand businesses that did not have outdoor patios for smokers, it eliminated an elegant pastime and further homogenized California culture into being mainstream, vanilla plastic people. I literally have not been to Morton’s or an expensive steakhouse in California since. It feels wrong to not have a cigar afterward.

(2) Yes, of course smoking is bad for you. Everyone knows this. Continuing to pile on smokers with fundamentalist nonsense is pointless, some people are going to do it. If your next argument is “society will have to pay their medical bills’ then you obviously recognize we should not be paying medical bills either. 10% of smokers get lung cancer and 50% of lung cancer victims never smoked. It is a risk factor, and smoking certainly aggravates it, but medical science finally got called on the carpet after three decades of a supposed ‘war on cancer’ so they have stopped exaggerating.

(3) Not in the house. Divorce will not be all that great for you either.

(4) I also tell young men who ask for advice to not only introduce every flaw, vice and bad habit early on in a relationship, but to throw in a few new ones as placeholders. It has been long established that significant others allow bad habits you showed up with – but not a single new one. Ever.

(5) Curious George, for example. No one ever called him dumb.

In defense of tobacco

BY DAVID HAMMOND August 23, 2011 11:52AM

Tobacco leaves can lend a smoky flavor to custards and sauces. (AP)

When Europeans arrived in the New World, they found the natives smoking tobacco, an indigenous leaf the Dominican chronicler Bartolome de las Casas said made them “benumbed and almost drunk.”

From the start, however popular it was among some, tobacco was judged by many to be very bad. King James I of England wrote a treatise against it, damning smoking as “a custome lothsome to the eye, hatefull to the Nose, harmefull to the braine, dangerous to the Lungs, and in the blacke stinking fume thereof, neerest resembling the horrible Stygian smoke of the pit that is bottomelesse.”

Tobacco is a member of the nightshade family, whose siblings include potatoes, tomatoes and chili peppers, all of which contain some nicotine.

Even those among us who don’t smoke may confess that the smoldering aroma of good pipe tobacco or a fine cigar can be pleasant. The good news is that tobacco can be enjoyed in ways that don’t involve sucking hot smoke into your lungs.

The culinary possibilities of tobacco have been explored by innovative chefs such as Thomas Keller of California’s French Laundry, who infused coffee-flavored custard with tobacco leaf and served it to fellow chef and TV personality Tony Bourdain.

About two years ago, I ate a dinner at Tru that paired small batch Pappy Van Winkle bourbon with several dishes, including a lobster lightly smoked with tobacco. The beverage and leaf, both sons of the American South, were quite complementary, reflecting the fundamental culinary principle that what grows together, goes together.

The James Beard award-winning Chicago chef Carrie Nahabedian of Naha warns, though, that, “You need finesse when dealing with tobacco and food. It’s a fine line between beauty and nausea, just like using too much lemon balm: one minute beautiful and fresh, too much and it’s like a bar of soap.”

Nahabedian once prepared sweetbreads with a veal reduction infused with high-quality tobacco at the Four Seasons in Los Angeles for an Academy Awards party. She remembers the dish as “haunting in flavor and aroma, with a rich, smoky, earthy, leather-scented finish.”

“Haunting” is a good way to describe the flavor of tobacco, which we do not usually associate with fine dining, except, perhaps, in the form of an after-dinner Cohiba.

Which brings us to chef Rick Gresh of David Burke’s Primehouse in the James Hotel, who has been experimenting with a medium amber ale finished with Blue Note pipe tobacco, a relatively sweet and mild Black Cavendish.

Gresh says he brewed this beer without a lot of hops to achieve “a sweet tobacco finish and that sensation of ‘I just smoked and now I’m drinking a beer.’ “

David Hammond is an Oak Park writer, Chicago Public Radio contributor and founder/moderator of culinary chat site E-mail

Rolling with it

Make-your-own-cigarette stores are popping up all over South Florida. But will new regulations stub out the trend before it truly ignites?

by Colleen Dougher
2:22 PM EDT, August 22, 2011

Tobacco Factory manager Jonathan Silva (photos by Colleen Dougher)

Given all the people who’ve quit smoking and the rising cost of cigarettes in an already tough economy, it’s surprising to see businesses opening throughout South Florida with names such as Miami Smokes, Cigarette Station, Ciggy Mart and Tobacco Factory. These new stores, which offer an alternative to smokers tired of forking over $66 for a carton of cigarettes, allow customers to make their own cigarettes for as little as $19 for the equivalent of a carton.

Cigarette manufacturers must obtain a license and pay hefty fees and taxes, including a federal excise tax of $1.01 per pack of cigarettes. But those people who make cigarettes for personal use are not, for tax purposes, considered manufacturers. The shops opening in South Florida and around the nation help smokers take advantage of that personal-use exemption. Their customers can make cigarettes using a hand-cranked device that takes 90 minutes to produce the equivalent of a carton; an electric tabletop machine estimated to take up to 35 minutes; and RYO Machine Rental’s RYO Filling Station. This last machine weighs more than 700 pounds and can churn out 200 cigarettes in eight minutes. The owners of Golden Smokes in Hollywood and Flat Out Smokes in Fort Lauderdale claim their stores will soon open with machines that work twice as fast as RYO Filling Stations.

These stores plan to sell tobacco, cigarette tubes and smoking accessories, and to offer verbal instructions on how to operate the machines. “We, as a retailer, are not allowed to put the tobacco in the machine or touch the tubes,” says Rick Stevens, of Golden Smokes. “It’s completely up to the customer.”

Stevens will use a chart to replicate a customer’s favorite brand of cigarette. “If they smoke Marlboro Light but want it a little more bold, we can adjust that,” he says. “So I’m looking at it more like a connoisseur.”

He says the tobacco is grown in America and free of chemicals, additives and the steep federal tax that was levied on “roll-your-own tobacco” two years ago. Before the passage of the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (CHIPRA) of 2009, the federal excise tax on a pack of cigarettes was 39 cents, and roll-your-own and pipe tobacco were taxed $1.09 per pound. But the act increased the per-pack federal excise tax to $1.01 and raised the tax on roll-your-own tobacco to $24.78 a pound. The tax on pipe tobacco went up to $2.83-per-pound. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) acknowledges that the disparity between the two tax rates created a reason for people to use pipe tobacco rather ¿than roll-your-own when making their own cigarettes. The agency also has noted that no regulatory standard, other than some statutory definitions, differentiates the two products.

Pipe tobacco has become the key ingredient at shops that are appearing in South Florida at roughly the same rate as Wells Fargo bank buildings. The Wall Street Journal reported that in the 14 months following the federal tax placed on rolling tobacco, pipe tobacco sales in the United States tripled.

While many smokers appear to love the shops, tobacco companies, anti-smoking proponents and government officials are less receptive to them. In Arkansas, the shops prompted a law that banned the use of in-store commercial rolling machines starting in 2012. And in September 2010, the TTB announced that retail establishments using commercial cigarettemaking machines would be considered manufacturers under the Internal Revenue Code. By that time, David Rienzo, the assistant attorney general of New Hampshire, had sued two roll-your-own shops, arguing that companies using commercial rolling machines — some of which he said are marketed as “typically providing a whopping 300 percent return on investment in the first year” — are profiting from cigarettes being made in their stores, and therefore are manufacturers subject to fees and taxes.

Phil Accordino, an owner of the Ohio-based RYO Machine Rental, which claims to have more than 1,000 RYO Filling Station machines in 35 states, including Florida, has argued that allowing customers to use such machines does not make a shop owner a manufacturer any more than a grocery store becomes a coffee manufacturer by letting customers grind beans. Accordino contested the TTB’s ruling and was granted a preliminary injunction allowing stores using his machines to continue operating — at least for now. After Michigan’s Treasury Department subsequently advised 300 shops that it considered them to be manufacturers, RYO sought and won another preliminary injunction in an Ohio court. That decision is reportedly being appealed in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.

As legal matters surrounding rolling machines continue wending through the courts, the TTB is evaluating how to distinguish pipe tobacco from roll-your-own and has stated that its findings may lead to new rule proposals. Meanwhile, the roll-your-own smoke shop trend marches on. Smokers want cheaper cigarettes and more alternatives, and people who provide a means for them to achieve that goal stand to profit.

Ciggy Mart, which opened last month in Palmetto Bay and soon will open another store in Miami, invites customers to “avoid paying federal manufacturing excise taxes” by making cigarettes from a variety of “all-natural and chemical-free tobacco” from the fields of North Carolina. General manager Scott Acker says customers can produce cartons using three options that take anywhere from eight to 90 minutes to complete and cost from $19.90 to $27.90.

Cigarette Station, which opened stores in Hialeah and Homestead and is planning six more, also offers several options, including the RYO Filling Station. Josh Gimelstein, who owns the business with his two brothers, says their father was a cigar and cigarette manufacturer and that their 86-year-old grandmother still works daily at Zelick’s Tobacco Corporation, her store on Lincoln Road in Miami Beach.

Roll-your-own shops are as much about offering natural tobacco as they are about affordability, says Gimelstein, whose prices begin at $21.99 a carton. “You’re going back to an era when people rolled their own, before they started adding horrible chemicals to their tobacco,” he says. In addition to pipe tobacco, Gimelstein plans to sell certified organic tobacco.

While he acknowledges that cigarettes are unhealthy, he says his goal is to allow customers to choose the best possible tobacco within their budgets. He says the concept has been warmly received, and the Hialeah store is selling more than 30 cartons a day just seven weeks after opening.

Stevens, of Golden Smokes, says he and partners Same Yorlendis and Tim Foran, all of whom work together at a Fort Lauderdale company that sells marine-waste-management systems, are anxious to open their shop. So is their co-worker Bill Demler, who will open Flat Out Smokes with partner Colleen Shobert.

These co-workers became interested in the roll-your-own concept after their general manager opened a store in Washington state. Within six weeks, Stevens says, the store was selling 65 cartons a day. Stevens and his partners approached RYO Smoke Smart about purchasing a $5,000 territory and two $25,000 rolling machines. Stevens says the $5,000 will ensure RYO Smoke Smart will not sell another machine in his territory, which he says is about five square miles. Demler and Shobert struck a similar deal and have decorated their shop with a Key West-style theme. Both shops planned to open in early June. But the machines have yet to arrive from RYO Smoke Smart, which Stevens says has experienced “manufacturing delay after manufacturing delay.”

Corey Fischer, the president and CEO of RYO Smoke Smart, didn’t return City Link’s phone calls, but Golden Smokes and Flat Out Smokes are scheduled to open Sept. 5. “Our machines are to be delivered the week prior,” Stevens says. “We’re keeping our fingers crossed.”

Jonathan Silva, the manager of Tobacco Factory, doesn’t need superfast machines at his shop in a Pompano Beach strip mall. The former signmaker owns several electric tabletop devices estimated to produce a carton’s worth of cigarettes in 20 minutes. Customers load the tobacco, insert a tube, push a button, hear a whir, remove their cigarette, and repeat the process until they’re finished. In addition to tobacco and cigarette tubes, Silva plans to stock hookahs, cigars, packaged cigarettes, rolling papers and other smoking needs. He’ll also sell coffee and bowls of yuca soup from an old family recipe.

His Fresh Choice machines don’t promise a carton in four minutes, or even eight, but they also weren’t a $25,000 investment. Fresh Choice sells its machines for $499; Silva sells them for only a dollar more. “They’re household items,” he says. “You can put them in a house, buy the tobacco from us and roll your own.”

Charging $2.83 a pack and $18.87 a carton, Silva isn’t worried about competition from stores that use faster machines. “I tell everybody, ‘We have more time than money nowadays,’ ” he says. “If it’s going to take a little longer, and you’re gonna save the money you have, it’s a big deal.”

By using Fresh Choice machines, Silva’s business may escape the federal scrutiny faced by his competitors, who are wondering how long they’ll be able to keep things rolling. It seems their ability to continue connecting smokers with a faster means to make less-expensive cigarettes will be decided by the courts.

Flat Out Smokes’ Demler says he initially was concerned about potential rulings, but after conducting some research, he felt confident enough to venture into the business. “Something might come along down the road,” he says. “But what it is, I think, is, ‘Just get into the business, try to make your money and if it happens, it happens.’ ”

Contact Colleen Dougher at

“Contract Hotels Djangan Loepah” (Do Not Forget)

DVD Now Available  – “Contract Hotels Djangan Loepah” (Do Not Forget)

Documentary from Holland with English subtitles

  • What happened when Indos first arrived in Holland from Indonesia
  • What was it like to speak the same language but treated as foreigners 
  • What was it like to have the same citizenship but treated as aliens   
  • Why did the booklet Djangan Loepah create such a stir 

Find out in this compelling documentary and learn of their journey.

Help preserve our Indo heritage.  Share with the next generations.

The Indo Project has a limited amount of DVD’s available for distribution.  With your donation of $25 you will receive this moving documentary and help support The Indo Project mission. Proceeds directly support the work of The Indo Project.

Why should you have this film in your home library?  

  • This documentary is evidence of the hardships endured after massive evacuation from the Dutch East Indies.
  • This documentary presents an opportunity to teach the younger generations about their Indo heritage and what their parents and grandparents experienced.  
  • Excellent gift for anyone interested in this part of history.
  • Easy to use.  This is an NTSC version with English subtitles.  Just pop into DVD player rather than having to find a player that will play the PAL version

This particular version contains extra footage about the production itself and includes the booklet Djangan Loepah in Dutch.

Description of the Booklet Djagang Loepeh:

The producers of the documentary titled the film after an instructional booklet written by the Dutch government.  This booklet titled Do Not Forget (Djagang Loepah) was a clumsy attempt by the Dutch government to orient and train the new repatriates to Dutch society and learn their ways.

The irony of course is that the new arrivals were already fully educated in the Dutch school system and spoke perfect Dutch, amongst many other languages.  The difference was that they came from the tropics and some happen to have darker skin.  Naturally, this manual to living in Dutch society was insulting, patronizing and eventually became a source of amusement more than fifty years later.  It was not amusing at the time being in a state of complete displacement.

This booklet and documentary is testimony to the remarkable fortitude of the Indo people.  It is a treasure to add to your collection.

Trailer (in Dutch):

Payment Instructions

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Check or money order in amount of $25 US payable to The Indo Project

Mail To:
The Indo Project
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