I have been lurking on here at least a few weeks now, gathering information from here, another forum and numerous online vendors. I had some log-in problems here, so I could not post for a week or so. That got resolved, so I can finally post. Sorry about the very lengthy post and I understand if people do not want to read the whole thing or if I get little feedback. In the week or so that I could not log in, a lot has transpired.
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My step-daughter bought me a crappy Chinese pipe as a gag gift for Christmas. You know "old man" joke, primarily because my current winter beater is a Plymouth Acclaim. I guess she figured that I have the old man car, now I needed an old man pipe. Well the funny thing is that although it in no way would be worthwhile to smoke (being some synthetic "stone" material) at a distance it looks pretty cool (smooth apple type shape, medium colour with bent stem).
Innocently enough, I went online to see what the thing was made of and whether it was even cleanable, let alone smokeable. Well I got straightened out pretty quick and decided to leave it as a prop or conversation piece. But in the meantime, some childhood pipe nostalgia hit me and I remembered my Dad dabbling with (likely a cheap pipe) at about my age. I also had an old English gentleman that lived next door when I was very young and I remembered him sitting out enjoying his garden and a bowl. Long story short(er), I got bit with the curse and now find myself very intrigued with pipes and the whole ritual. I am currently a cigarette smoker and would love to cut down or abandon that habit for something a little more refined and redeeming. So I am in the very early (crack-whore like) stages of PAD.
About a week later, I had a chance to visit a not so local B&M (two cities away, as we don't have a real tobacconist here, just a couple "head shops"). I was honestly quite disappointed this store's offerings and apparently I have acquired more taste in pipes than this B&M. I saw a few Medico's that were so-so...one of which was so tight I could barely pull it apart to inspect it at about $50 depending on the model. Then in the basket he had mostly straight designs and I am interested in bent stems (at least right now), especially smooth or partially smooth designs. But amongst the basket pipes he had one rustic curved for just shy of $30 by some unfamiliar Italian manufacturer. It didn't seem to be all that well finished (bore alignment) so I resisted the impulse and put it back down. His rack pipes all seemed to be rather dusty Medico's, with a couple Brigham's thrown in and even with the basket pipes likely only had 2 dozen in the store. I thanked him for his time and high-tailed it out of there. There is one more B&M about an hour from me in the opposite direction, but I have never been there and figure I will probably be similarly unimpressed.
So I am pretty certain I will want to pick up one of the economy Savinelli's online or maybe even a clean estate Sav or similar from eBay. But I will list some of my top wish list contenders and welcome any feedback anyone would like to share with me. I will also say that I am barely employed at the moment (trying to start a small business) so my budget is extremely limited and I may have to wait and save before I have all I need to enjoy my first real bowl. I am fully aware of the corn cob suggestions and may get a couple just to be able to have an econo rotation, but that would be strictly out of frugal necessity and practicality as they are not really my style. So please omit any corn cob suggestions as I am pretty focused on briars. Here are the current pipes that catch my eye around $60 or less. They are sorted somewhat by preference.
- Savinelli Duca Carlo Bent Billiard, Brandy or Pot (For an econo line, I have heard these are good smokers.)
- Savinelli Florence Smooth Bent 602, 607, 611, 622, 626 or 628
- Savinelli Trevi Liscia 602
- Morino by Savinelli Smooth Bent Apple
- Brigham _23 or _84 (What can I say, I am a good Canadian kid and gather that Brigham's are good smokers?)
- Bjarne Viking Classic Smooth or Polished Bent Acorns, Apples, Billiards, Dublin or Eggs
- Viking Viking Matte Bent 4, 18 or 21 (Apparently Viking is made by a former Bjarne master carver and the quality is supposed to be equivalent to a Bjarne.)
- Viking Viking Smooth Bent 5
- Viking Viking Polished Bent 1 or 9
- Viking Viking Houston Bent 16
- Viking Viking Skagen Virgin 14 or 21Upd
- Tsuge Super Smooth Bent Billiard or Brandy (These pipes look really nice for $50 but I have not found many mentions of them or reviews.)
- Chacom Luxor Smooth Bent [various shapes] (Cheap price on this one, curious about quality/)
- BC Bistro Smooth Bent 132
- Kriswill Smooth Bent Walnut Volcano
- Vuillard Smooth Matte Bent 42, 43, 184 or 867 (I haven't heard a lot about this brand, but they look decent.)
- Vauen Basic Smooth Bent 1500, 3500-1, 3500-4 or 3500-5 (I also found a Vauen Starter Kit that contains this pipe and tools for about $70. I am not that interested in a typical filter pipe but figure that being German, they should be quality.)
- Dr. Grabow Smooth Bent Full Bent, Royal Duke 1 or Savoy (I'm not real hot on these pipes as I have a hard time telling whether they are real or synthetic, but they are cheap and I have read that some find them good value).
If anyone recognizes one or two on my list that are exceptional value or quality for the dollar, please let me know. I had to actually make an excel sheet with 91 different pipes to narrow it down to a somewhat manageable list.
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So a few days after my first B&M visit, I went to my second B&M, an hour long drive in the opposite direction and was equally underwhelmed. There was some selection on tobacco, but even Captain Black White went for $29 a pouch. They did have some decent pipe selection, but the pricing was out of my budget (and for lesser pipes in most cases). Even their basket pipes started at $45. I had planned to snag a czech tool, some Captain Black White, some pipe cleaners and a corncob, if I could do so for under $50. But they only had the wood MM's and mini MM ones there. So between the lack of corncob selection and crazy prices on basic tobacco, I kept my money in my pocket.
I wish we could bring more tobacco across the border than 200g. I have seen some amazingly priced samplers or even larger econo priced bags of tobacco online, but they are all closer to the 1 lb mark. I guess I will save my pennies and order things in small shipments to hopefully avoid import duties. I have found some great deals, just not all from the same store unfortunately.
I have also been watching estate pipes on eBay and elsewhere because on my budget, that is really the only place I will be able to afford to build a rotation or be able to dedicate a pipe to a certain blend. That or a mostly corn cob rotation. I am eager to get "my feet wet" but don't want to spend my limited budget on false economy purchases.
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So I am still saving up for a nice briar, should I enjoy the pipe as much as I expect. But last Friday I was down in a major city and just managed to hit a chain B&M half an hour before closing. For the $50 I had for just a pipe, I was able to get a MM Legend Bent, a pouch of Captain Black White, a czech tool, some pipe cleaners and some matches. Yep B&M prices are high in Canada, but I couldn't wait to give it a shot. I will be ordering the rest of my pipes and tobacco online now, once PAD and TAD are in the budget. I really would like to try some of the popular blends, but there is such scarce selection at most B&M's around me.
So in the last week, I have had about 6-8 bowls now with mixed results. For some reason by second and second to last ones were the best so far. I guess the learning curve is steep at first, but I am reading a lot and watching videos on YouTube, so it should start coming together gradually. I can't wait to try another tobacco, but it will have to wait until I can place an order and wait for it to finally arrive. So many choices and such individual differing preferences. I am not sure that I know where to start, but I will begin assembling a "short-list" of possibilities.
The attached photos show what $50 gets you in BC, Canada:
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Thanks, to those of you that endured this ridiculously long post.