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Are high end pipes really worth it?

This is a discussion on Are high end pipes really worth it? within the General Pipe Forum forums, part of the Pipe Smokers Forums category; Just looking for other opinions. I'm divided on this myself. I own a Radice and a Ser Jacopo and I'm ...

  
  1. #1

    Leading Puffer Fish Jeff10236's Avatar


     

    Are high end pipes really worth it?

    Just looking for other opinions. I'm divided on this myself.

    I own a Radice and a Ser Jacopo and I'm not 100% sure if they really smoke any better than my Savinellis and Hardcastles. They certainly do look nicer though (and some of my Petes, Savs, Hardcastles and similar are some pretty good looking pipes).

    So, for someone like me who is a smoker, who appreciates a nice pipe, but is not really a collector, is there really any advantage to the higher end pipes? If not, at what level do things start to tip?

    I'm thinking about adding another pipe. While I do love my Ser Jacopo and Radice, I also love the lower lines I mentioned above. I do think my high end pipes smoke better, but I'm not totally sure if that is just psychology since I paid so much.

    I'm thinking about ponying up some money and buying something from Northern Briar, Ferndown, Ashton, or possibly even Dunhill to add a high end English to my high end Italians (and I love the mid-level English pipes). For someone who is more a smoker than a collector, is there really any value to buying at this level over just adding a Parker or another Hardcastle, Ben Wade, or Invicta?

  2. #2

    The Cheese stands alone Commander Quan's Avatar


     

    Re: Are high end pipes really worth it?

    Factory pipes are like cars, as you go up in price you should expect a better fit and finish, and the less likelihood of a lemon but it's not guaranteed.

    With an artisan pipe as you increase in price you are paying for craftsmanship, uniqueness, and should expect a high level of quality.

    I recently had the chance to inspect an estate Peterson that was a pretty rare pipe. Brand new it probably cost $300, and the drilling on it was Basket Pipe quality. So just because you pay a premium price does not indicate a premium product.
    ďIn my world, everyone's a pony and they all eat rainbows and poop butterflies!

  3. #3

    Sot-weed Bohemian freestoke's Avatar


     

    Re: Are high end pipes really worth it?

    Dunhills seem especially overpriced among the common pricey pipes. Personally, I think pipes smoke only so well and that's it. An extra pretty pipe or rare pipe costs extra, but your basic great looking pipe with premium smoking characteristics can be had for far less than one might think in the estate world.
    Vegetarian -- that's an old Indian word meaning "lousy hunter". -- Andy Rooney

  4. #4

    Full grown Puffer Fish Thirston's Avatar


     

    Re: Are high end pipes really worth it?

    Very subjective topic but Iím currently selling many of my high priced pipes not just to pay some unexpected bills, but because Iíve become reacquainted with my Savinelliís and I like how lightweight certain shapes are, the thin bits, and how well they smoke. Never thought that would happen and everyone is different, but you have to try a lot of pipes to really find what you like and determine for yourself.

  5. #5

    Elder Puffer Fish Leader MarkC's Avatar


     

    Re: Are high end pipes really worth it?

    Tough one... I mean, you're already smoking Radice and Ser Jacopo, so it's not like you're going to be jumping from Dr. Grabow. I can't really say, but then in my case, there is a big difference between my Radice and my Savinellis in my mind (keep in mind my Savinelli's are cheap: EX Baronets). From what I understand (as I haven't moved very far up the chain myself; my 'biggest name' is a Castello) there is a law of diminishing returns, just like in stereo equipment. Jumping from a fifty dollar pipe to a hundred dollar pipe is probably going to get you a lot more improvement than a jump from $500 to $1000.
    ********.com

  6. #6

    Elder Puffer Fish Leader dj1340's Avatar


     

    Re: Are high end pipes really worth it?

    My .02 and nothing more. I like a pipe that I can run a cleaner through. That to me tells me the maker took the time
    To ensure it was drilled properly. Also I look at the grain and general craftsmanship of the pipe. Does more money buy
    You that? Sometimes but not always. As always, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, I really like Karl Erik pipes and
    Randy Wiley ones. Depends on what fits yor hands and mouth.
    The older I get, the better I used to be.

  7. #7

    Alpha Puffer Fish laloin's Avatar


     

    Re: Are high end pipes really worth it?

    I don't have any high end pipes. Think my most expensive pipe was a Peterson Irish army pipe that rarely gets smoked, caz the bowl is huge. I bought it caz I always like the Irish army design. I have several estate pipes. my cheap basket no named bent dublin smokes like a dream.
    If I were you, and you states your more a smoker then collector, I would spend that money on tobacco then pipes. You never know when they will shut off internet sales of tobacco.

  8. #8

    Elder Puffer Fish Leader MarkC's Avatar


     

    Re: Are high end pipes really worth it?

    Troy has a good point. I'll admit, I've been more diligent about building my cellar than buying pipes for that very reason: I figure I can always get pipes; tobacco might not always be easy to acquire.
    ********.com

  9. #9

    Full grown Puffer Fish


     

    Re: Are high end pipes really worth it?

    Quote Originally Posted by freestoke View Post
    Dunhills seem especially overpriced among the common pricey pipes. Personally, I think pipes smoke only so well and that's it. An extra pretty pipe or rare pipe costs extra, but your basic great looking pipe with premium smoking characteristics can be had for far less than one might think in the estate world.
    Totally. Really valuable collectors stamps probably don't stick any better to the envelope than any other stamp.

    Good estate pipes from less well known and sought after makers are the next best deal in the pipe smoking world after Cornell and Diehl bulk tobacco.








    f
    If I could write poetry, I'd be a poet. I can't, so I smoke a pipe instead ....

  10. #10

    Alpha Puffer Fish nikonnut's Avatar


     

    Re: Are high end pipes really worth it?

    Quote Originally Posted by Irfan View Post
    Totally. Really valuable collectors stamps probably don't stick any better to the envelope than any other stamp.
    Amen! This is the second reason I love my Stanwells (The first is that they are great smokers!). I can get pretty pipes designed by the greats for not much money. Makers like Tom Etlang, Sixten Ivarson (and family), Jess Chroswitch, and Anne Julie for a faction of the real deal.
    Now with 96.5% more Wub Wub! http://www.tobaccocellar.com/NikonNUT

  11. #11

    Snuff-hound steinr1's Avatar


     

    Re: Are high end pipes really worth it?

    I've got a few Pre-transition Barling pipes. These were at least towards "high end" in their day. Wood selection is superb (in terms of weight and water absorption; not graining. That's irrelevant when smoked.) Construction is superb. Design is "standard". Overall quality and finish is very good indeed. The pipes are all comfortable in the hand and mouth. They all smoke faultlessly. They are among the most expensive pipes I own. Are they worth the extra?

    A resounding "Yes".

    Quote Originally Posted by freestoke View Post
    Dunhills seem especially overpriced among the common pricey pipes.
    True, true. Dunghill are masters of marketing.

    Personally, I think pipes smoke only so well and that's it. An extra pretty pipe or rare pipe costs extra, but your basic great looking pipe with premium smoking characteristics can be had for far less than one might think in the estate world.
    Perhaps a Pre-transition Barling. I wish I had access to the estate pipes that you have in the US. A couple of hundred dollars will get you the best constructed pipe you could ever wish for. And it will keep its value after you are finished with it. Not that you will ever be.

    Quote Originally Posted by Commander Quan View Post
    Factory pipes are like cars, as you go up in price you should expect a better fit and finish, and the less likelihood of a lemon but it's not guaranteed.
    I agree totally. Not quite a guarantee, but much less likely to have problems and much more chance of redress if there is one. With an inexpensive factory pipe it would be churlish to expect a replacement if it gurgled a bit.

    With an artisan pipe as you increase in price you are paying for craftsmanship, uniqueness, and should expect a high level of quality.
    True, but the second part (uniqueness) could work against you in a smoking device. The standard shapes are, in my opinion, standard for a reason. They work. There has been plenty of time for designs to be optimised. If not using "new materials", I find it hard to believe that a modern pipe maker will suddenly achieve a sea change in how a pipe performs.

    I recently had the chance to inspect an estate Peterson that was a pretty rare pipe. Brand new it probably cost $300, and the drilling on it was Basket Pipe quality. So just because you pay a premium price does not indicate a premium product.
    Hmmm. I understand that this is somewhat of a risk with Peterson, even today. QC seems to be a bit sketchy (I have read). Possibly due to the amount of Guinness consumed at any particular time.
    Last edited by steinr1; 04-19-2013 at 07:57 AM.
    "Never keep up with the Joneses. Drag them down to your level." - Quentin Crisp

  12. #12

    Puffer Fish with some spikes Variables's Avatar


     

    Re: Are high end pipes really worth it?

    I don't regret any of my high-end pipe purchases. I enjoy the craftsmanship that went into them, and smoke the heck out of them. If you find one that calls out to you, and you are able to afford it, go for it! BTW, Ashtons are killer pipes, and worth every penny. Jimmy Craig is a fantastic pipe maker.

  13. #13

    The Cheese stands alone Commander Quan's Avatar


     

    Re: Are high end pipes really worth it?

    Quote Originally Posted by steinr1 View Post
    True, but the second part (uniqueness) could work against you in a smoking device. The standard shapes are, in my opinion, standard for a reason. They work. There has been plenty of time for designs to be optimised. If not using "new materials", I find it hard to believe that a modern pipe maker will suddenly achieve a sea change in how a pipe performs.
    Standard shapes are standard because they can easily be reproduced, and can be done so from a standard stummel. Any shape can smoke well if it drafts well, but a Dunhill Microphone or a Kei'Ichi Gotoh speared fish will never be a standard shape because it takes too much effort for them to be replicated. Likewise you probably won't get your Rad Davis Bent Billiard confused with another at your monthly pipe club meeting, but I'm sure it smokes wonderfully.
    ďIn my world, everyone's a pony and they all eat rainbows and poop butterflies!

  14. #14

    Elder Puffer Fish Leader MarkC's Avatar


     

    Re: Are high end pipes really worth it?

    When you look at the actual functioning parts of the pipe (the chamber and the airway), there just aren't that many different shapes out there. They may be surrounded by different patterns of wood, but I don't see a whole lot of variation other than angle. Obviously, there are small variations, or one pipe wouldn't smoke better than the other. But if anyone is going to tell me that a standard bulldog smokes so much better than a standard pot when they're both the same friggin' pipe, I'm going to have to see a little more explanation than 'gut feeling'...
    ********.com

  15. #15

    Snuff-hound steinr1's Avatar


     

    Re: Are high end pipes really worth it?

    Quote Originally Posted by MarkC View Post
    When you look at the actual functioning parts of the pipe (the chamber and the airway), there just aren't that many different shapes out there. They may be surrounded by different patterns of wood, but I don't see a whole lot of variation other than angle. Obviously, there are small variations, or one pipe wouldn't smoke better than the other. But if anyone is going to tell me that a standard bulldog smokes so much better than a standard pot when they're both the same friggin' pipe, I'm going to have to see a little more explanation than 'gut feeling'...
    On the whole, I agree. But where's the fun in that...

    Fluid dymanics is difficult. Very hard sums, long division and more. Particularly when forced draw is combined with convection and a non standard "user". I don't have that knowledge and skill (very few really do...) and won't attempt to explain anything theoretically. However, empirically, there are differences in how a Pot smokes in comparison to a Bulldog. Bowl height to width ratio, the bulk of wood in the bowl and much else, I'm sure, go into this. Regardless, the fact is that they smoke differently. I'm assuming that they are both "blueprinted" and of excellent material quality. One will be "better" for a particular tobacco and, most importantly, smoker and situation. And so will the other one.

    I alluded to the last point in a thread about relighting a pipe and the "perfect smoke". That's so much more to it than just the processing of tobacco into ash and saving on matches or lighter fuel.

    I can't deny that I get a kick out of smoking a pipe that was made more than a century ago. It doesn't make it smoke any better for that, but to me, the experience is enhanced. There is a direct link with the grand tradition of pipe making and the events of the past and I would and do pay a premium for this. Many pay the (to my view) excess to smoke a Dunhill pipe. I don't deny them the pleasure they get. That pipe is better for them.

    On the more technical side, the fact that a pipe is particularly well finished probably has no effect. I can't see it. But the care in construction and the quality of the wood does show itself in the smoking experience. Not to say that you can't luck out and get a basket pipe that is technically perfect and of superb wood. It just ain't that likely.

    Pipe construction is a compromise. It seems pretty obvious that the common entry point of the draw hole is wrong if you want to have an even burn across the tobacco. A central, vertical bore seems better. But the practicalities of keeping the tobacco from falling out (given the inconsiderate location of the human pie-hole; a blow-hole on top of the head should be considered), preventing the condensate and "bits" from the burn getting into the mouth, cost considerations, etc., etc. mean we have the standard shapes we know and mostly love. Opinion seems to be that the bent pipe is intrinsically "better" at resolving most of the technical issues. Straight pipes are a relatively modern affectation. The standard bent in itself is a compromise. Getting the drilling to the right point is a nightmare for smooth gas flow. But they are generally good enough for the money. To do it "right" costs a lot more. To my knowledge only Genod ever bored a bent pipe properly, at least commercially. If you wanted the high end smoking experience that this brings (I am told) then you had to pay the high end price.

    A pipe stem is just a tube shaped in a particular way. These can be made of many materials. I don't think that anyone would make much of a case that one material will make the pipe smoke better than another. However, one is acrylic and one amber. Which one is better? Many protest that pipe smoking for them is a hobby, not a habit. For the nicotine addict, the material should be immaterial (hah!); for the hobbyist it makes for a better experience and this, I contend makes for a better smoke and the cost can be easilyt justified by this.

    Huzzah for the useless high end pipe! Of which I don't own enough.
    "Never keep up with the Joneses. Drag them down to your level." - Quentin Crisp

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