: As several newcomers have been asking about value for money and purchasing pipes in general , I thought I'd share some advice I gave in a PM . Be careful on e bay. As a newbie -
1) Don't be afraid to ask advice on the boards or by PM. By and large people won't bid against fellow members on e bay.
2) ALWAYS look at the sellers record. I generally won't bid if a seller has a less than 99% approval rating. Read his or her feedback.
3) Check Postage costs - some sellers charge a lot more - always find out in advance! If it's expensive and it's still a good deal, still bid but adjust your bid with the post cost in mind. It's worth asking the seller - before you bid - if they can ship at a lower price - some new sellers especially from the USA - don't realise that there can be cheaper options. I often ask them to ship the slowest way which although it can mean waiting 4 weeks rather than 5-7 days can cut costs dramatically.
4) Ask questions about the condition. If pictures aren't clear ask for more pictures - e.g if you cannot see the rim of a pipe, don't bid as it could be burned to blazes! If it's a falcon ask if the seller has unscrewed the bowl! If it hasn't been cleaned for 10 years it may in effect have ended up welded together by gunk! If the seller doesn't reply or isn't helpful or evasive, assume the worst and move on. There are thousands of pipes on e bay. Another one the same or close will come along.
5) ALWAYS check new price and check estate prices from dealers via Google. If the ask is higher than similar from a reputable dealer then don't bid. The price is too high!
6) Don't get into bidding battle with another seller.It's easy to fall into that trap. I was looking at a nice Brebbia that two guys were fighting over - in reasonable condition it started at $20 and ended up over $120 . That pipe is available new between $86 and $120. I was desperate to buy a pipe the same as my father had - I nearly entered a bidding war on one - it went at $60 - a month later I got another one the same in better condition for $16.
7) Check the conditions of payment - does the buyer take ****** ?
Certain sellers are reliable and excellent value. Get to know them and check their lists - Three whose pipes are always in good shape I have found are Mike Hammer, Gail's pipes, Hermit. Also an excellent seller - Frenchy's pipes. ( Disclaimer - I have no connection beyond having been a very satisfied customer with the 4 above mentioned sellers )
: If I can add maybe something... A member here, posted a fine, general list of questions one might consider asking an Ebay Seller. I've adopted it, with a few modifications. I don't always ask all these questions, depending on how good the description of the pipe and the quality and extent of photographs in the listing. However, I do use many of these questions, routinely. Also, when asking questions, keep in mind that many Sellers don't have much of a clue what they are selling at times, and avoid the use of "technical" pipe terms, whenever possible, or explain what information you are looking for from them.
Are there any cracks, chips, dings or dents anywhere on the pipe? If so, please describe and/or send me a photo.
Are there any fills or pits on the pipe, if so, where? ? If so, please describe and/or send me a photo.
Are there any teeth marks on the mouthpiece (stem)? If so, please describe and/or send me a photo.
What letters, numbers, words and/or symbols appear anywhere on the pipe?
What is the overall condition of the stem? Has it, for example, turned green over time?
Do the stem and shank come apart readily, but remain tight when reconnected?
Is the stem on the pipe, the original stem, if so, are there any repairs to the stem?
Is the original logo from the company who made the pipe, still on the stem of the pipe, if so, what is the condition of the logo?
What is the condition of the nomenclature stampings of letters, numbers and/or symbols, usually found on the shank of the pipe, between the bowl and the stem?
To avoid any unpleasant surprise when the pipe arrives, is there anything else I should know about this pipe?
Also, you may want to ask the Seller specific questions about a specific pipe. For example, some do not post the dimensions of a pipe. You can look at it, guess one set, buy it, and find it is not at all what you guessed it to be. Like other situations...when in doubt..ask. Plus, when I think the photos are not sufficient, and ask for more specific shots--and the Seller will not send them--the listing just gets dropped from my interest. There are some Sellers that say that "one picture is worth 1,000 words" for example. They only briefly describe a pipe, include one or more photo and barely respond to questions, if at all. I try to avoid these particular sellers, but there are some, from whom I bought anyway, successfully. It is a matter of trial and error, and trusting your own instincts about such listings.
A lot of pipes these days are far better described than they used to be. Sellers have responded to the market forces of Buyers asking a lot of questions, when the information was poor.
: Here's my two cents worth. Instead of discussing brands, let's just talk about the mechanics of what makes a pipe a good one. Starting with the briar used in the making of the pipe, it should be well cured which requires boiling it to remove the tars, saps and resins that will make a pipe a bitter smoke. The better the job done at removing these impurities, the better chance you have of experiencing the sweetness of a well made pipe from the first match.
There is no hard or fast rule about the exact shape or size. There is no question of recommending any one shape above any other, the taste and virtue of a pipe lies in the quality of the material from which it is made, but I think it's safe to say that extremes of any kind should be avoided. No matter what form the outside of the bowl may take, the interior must be of the straight-walled kind to ensure even burning. I would not recommend a pipe of which the top of the bowl is narrower than the bottom, that it should resemble a "V" rather than an "A".
I think the really important points about the bowl of a pipe are it's depth and the thickness of it's walls. The best smoking is to going to be had from a pipe that gets as little heated as possible, plenty of wood is going to produce a generous pipe, while a pipe with too little wood is always going to be quick to become heated and almost impossible to hold on to. It is therefore essential that the heating surface should be large so that the heat can be easily dispersed with only a minimum reaching the outer surface of the bowl.
It's my personal opinion that a larger pipe is superior to a petite sized one. They could both be made out of the same hunk of briar but they will probably not have the same taste. This is because the smaller one, having thinner walls will get hot at once. You will barely have the pipe lit to your satisfaction before the lower portion of the tobacco gets hot, and the moisture that's inherent in tobacco will start to boil, whereas in a larger size the superheating is reserved at the top of the bowl, with more room for combustion which will result in a cooler smoke.
Another important factor to consider is the size which the channel is drilled to from the drought hole to the stem. You should never feel like your trying to suck honey through a straw, but rather you want the smoke to come to you easily without effort which will encourage you to smoke as slowly as you can while being able to keep the tobacco lit at a low smolder.
Plastic or ebonite or vulcanite are your two primary choices in materials used to fashion the stem and mouthpiece. A quality vulcanite stem is more comfortable for some, but does require more maintenance in keeping it clean and shiny than a Lucite or plastic stem does. Whichever material is used, the stem should be design so as to fit comfortably in your mouth with the least amount of effort required to hold onto.
Lastly, I'd like to touch on the differences between machined made pipes and handmade ones. Since I insist that briar selection is the major factor that will contribute to your smoking enjoyment, who do you think takes the most care in that selection? The company that mass produces 20,000 pipes per year on machines or the pipe maker who carefully selects each piece of briar he or she will be using? Pipe factories that have their briar picked and the bowls shaped before reaching them don't have hardly any control over what briar is used. They just take the piece, finish it, stick on a stem, coat the inside of the bowl with some type of vile crap, and sell it. The pipe maker who not only hand picks the briar, but also puts the briar through his own aging and curing under a watchful eye, attempts to deliver the very finest product he can produce. It's those pipes that give you the highest odds of obtaining a fine smoking instrument the first time around.
Hope some of this helps you in your quest,,,good luck, great smokes and best wishes![/SIZE]