(originally posted on my own blog The Exilefiles )
I have a good selection of tobacco pipes. Not a large collection by any standards, but I have about sixty pipes and they are all in good condition. I keep them that way by constant care and maintenance. I polish them, ream out the bowls, draw a cognac soaked pipe cleaner through the mouthpieces once in a while and place them lovingly in their cupboard when I have finished smoking them to dry and recover. I believe in looking after my friends.
As any pipe smoker will tell you, one has pipes and then one has oneÃ¯Â¿Â½s pipe. You get to have a favourite. It is never bitter or sour, burns evenly and always to the bottom, is easy to hold in the hand or between the back teeth and just seems to fit you, almost like a part of your body. I have two such pipes. They are identical in design, made by the same manufacturer and are now about 20 years old. You wouldnÃ¯Â¿Â½t think so to look at them. I have looked after them. This was confirmed for me the other day. I decided to get the old bakelite mouthpieces replaced with the newer acrylic material that mouthpieces are made of today. I drove to the original pipe makers with my two favourite pipes and presented him with them, explaining what I wanted done. He couldnÃ¯Â¿Â½t believe the condition they were in and was highly impressed. Ã¯Â¿Â½You havenÃ¯Â¿Â½t smoked them muchÃ¯Â¿Â½, he commented. Ã¯Â¿Â½Only once or twice every day since IÃ¯Â¿Â½ve had themÃ¯Â¿Â½, I replied. He was shocked, or pleasantly surprised. Ã¯Â¿Â½Wow. Then you really have looked after them wellÃ¯Â¿Â½, he said. Much to my satisfaction.
I got the guided tour round the factory. He showed me all the processes involved in pipemaking, the briar blocks that get fashioned into pipes, the machining, the hand finishing and polishing, and the factory museum. Handsome old pipe models in their original showcases. Some of which I have, most of which I donÃ¯Â¿Â½t. A collection representing fifty years of pipe manufacture. I spent almost an hour with the pipe maker discussing the art and beauty that comes from a thing so simple as a tobacco pipe.
My pipes came back to me by post today. The old mouthpieces were included in the package, with the new mouthpieces fitted to my pipes. They look wonderful. The pipes, newly polished with coal black mouthpieces, look wonderful. The new mouthpieces are slightly longer than the originals but that only improves the look of the pipes. ItÃ¯Â¿Â½s like having a new pipe all over again. Except they arenÃ¯Â¿Â½t new. They are my old and trusted friends that have come back after a break at the pipe spa. Refreshed, renewed and ready to pick up where we left off.
IÃ¯Â¿Â½m looking forward to my evening pipe and glass of scotch. ItÃ¯Â¿Â½s good, seeing old friends again. I missed them.