On this Saturday, the heat and humidity reign in Homewood, AL. I'm not sure they're at the same measurement, but they miss a fine opportunity. Aubrey and I are at the end of a little rush. Aubrey finds some cigars for one while I weigh up tobacco for another, and someone else pays for some cigarillos. These finish their purchases as a newcomer pulls into the parking lot.
A man [let's call him Bob] bounds out of his car to our porch. Bob strides across the porch and opens the door into a metal ashtray. "Sorry," he says, "guess I got carried away."
Aubrey assures him there’s no problem. "How can I help?"
Bob scans the showroom. His posture would challenge the strictest drill sergeant to find a problem. A smile stretches across his face to show some teeth. He says, "It's new pipe day, but y'all have a lot of tobacco pipes."
Aubrey pounces from behind the tobacco bar. Aubrey says, "Yes, sir, largest selection in the South." He reaches for the Mark Tinsky tray, pulls one out, and asks, "What about this Mark Tinsky?"
Bob takes the pipe, turning it in his hand. "This one's nice. Most of my pipes are bent, and I really enjoy them. Why this one?"
Aubrey glares in my direction. "Because, sir, the straight smoking pipe has a more gentlemanly look, is easier to clean, and has fewer moisture problems. It really is the superior dry smoke."
Seemingly, I roll my eyes loud enough for Bob to hear because he turns to me. I say, "Straight pipes might be easier to clean by default. The smoking pipe is straight, and the pipe cleaner is straight. If that's a concern, we can always do a pipe cleaner test. However, you can't beat a bent pipe for comfort and relaxation. Most of my collection is bent too, sir. Let me show you one." I bump Aubrey away from the case for a Briar Works. "How about a Briar Works?"
Bob nods at the Briar Works tobacco pipe and asks me to run a pipe cleaner. After the cleaner passes from stem to bowl easily, Bob squints at the tobacco pipe. He says, "I'm not wild about this texture here. What's that about?"
I smirk at Aubrey, who's already digging in another case. I tell Bob that the Briar Works is sandblasted. In my opinion, sandblasting reveals the most about a pipe carver's skill because you can't sandblast a bad piece of briar wood. The carver carefully preserves bowl shape while launching stuff at the smoking pipe. The maker brings out beautiful ring grain, creating a ruggishly stylish pipe.
Bob looks at the pipe with renewed interest, and Aubrey shakes his head calling out, "Sir, a smooth finish is the real success for a pipe maker." Aubrey holds up a Northern Briar, and Bob walks over to him after giving me the Briar Works. Aubrey lays on the spiel. "Smooth finishes show that the pipe carver worked with the briar. A maker doesn't have to do anything extra to the briar for a great smoking pipe. Rather, the carver shapes the bowl around the grain for a naturally stylish tobacco pipe."
Bob holds the Northern Briar and clenches his lips. He apologizes for being picky. He says, "This is really big bowl. I don't have the commitment for this thing."
I shrug walking back to the tobacco bar, and Aubrey's chest pokes out a little. "Well, sir, have I got the pipe for you." Aubrey crosses the store before handing Bob a Graco. While Bob's eyes gleam like a child on his birthday, Aubrey points out every feature of this briar pipe.
Bob says, "This is the one."
I weigh up a couple ounces of Cube Cut while Aubrey gets a sock for the tobacco pipe. Bob leaves with his brand-new smoking pipe and plenty of thanks.
New pipe day is one of our favorite days. Remember to start your hunt with how the pipe looks. It doesn't matter the cost. If you don't like the way it looks, you won't smoke it. Bent versus Straight is a major concern about whether you clinch or hold your pipes while you smoke. This is about your comfort. Meanwhile, the finish [sandblast or smooth] features plenty of craftsmanship either way, so this one is more about your own personal style. Keep in mind what appeals to you. Lastly, bowl size determines length of smoke, so how long do you have? New pipe day is all about you and your preferences. Follow the links to make this new pipe day for you.