What makes a good pipe?
February 25, 2017 8:59 AM   Subscribe

I have a good friend who is a master wood worker and made me a pipe as a gift. It sucks, and he admits it. Beautifully crafted, just doesn't work as a pipe. Very harsh. There must be some sort of science to this, but I'm at a loss. This has to be a solved problem, what do I google for this?

As an engineer by trade, I really want to get this down. He's retired, and has been woodworking his entire life but oddly has not never made a pipe and really wants to get this down. Every time I google making a pipe, it is some silly thing about making a pipe with an apple or coke can.

First, he made it with cherry wood and there is no "carb," and hits very "harsh." My best guess is that the chamber area doesn't circulate the smoke enough to cool it before it enters the "neck" area.

I know this sounds silly, but he has an amazing woodworking shop including a machine that has some sort of CAD thing attached to it (again, sorry I should have written it down), so I think he can do pretty much anything. He's just used to making things like canoes and statues. The fact he can't do this is giving him a lot grief.

This might also be the type of wood being used, but he literally has every type of wood including those he's collected that are no longer available for import and he's willing to use those.
posted by geoff. to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total)
There are lots of resources out there, but the tooling is slightly specialised. One place to start might be with a pre-drilled "hobby block".

he literally has every type of wood including those he's collected that are no longer available for import and he's willing to use those.

Maybe you're both overthinking it in terms of wood choice? The best wood pipes are briar for a reason.
posted by holgate at 9:12 AM on February 25, 2017

There's a wiki for this...

Not a pipe smoker, but the commonality here is I play woodwind instruments (and a little guitar) and "woodworker" /= woodwind tech/maker or luthier. So he shouldn't be too hard on himself.

What little I read on this wiki suggests there are some components one could buy and make at least a basic pipe with, such as a pre-made stem.
posted by randomkeystrike at 9:14 AM on February 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

Full disclosure I know nothing about woodworking so I just did a braindump on what he has and what I saw, if I said something that is irrelevant please disregard.
posted by geoff. at 9:17 AM on February 25, 2017

The only serious mistake I can think of is making a square bottomed bowl instead of round. Also the longer the stem the cooler the smoke.
posted by Mitheral at 9:18 AM on February 25, 2017

Also because I'm a nerd, would it be possible to completely or nearly completely be able to use a 3D CNC router to create a pipe? As you can see I have some time off and have access to machinery.
posted by geoff. at 9:34 AM on February 25, 2017

If you're not smoking tobacco, also keep in mind that wood pipes are a pain to clean resin out of.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:50 AM on February 25, 2017 [4 favorites]

Does this help?
I googled handcrafting a tobacco pipe.
Looks like there are even some YouTube's on it.
posted by BoscosMom at 10:52 AM on February 25, 2017

Have you smoked whatever you're smoking out of another wooden pipe? I ask because once on a lark a friend and I bought a super cheap wooden pipe (factory-made, briar wood, plastic mouthpiece). It "worked" in that smoke came out of the pipe, but it didn't work in that the smoke was harsh and charred-tasting.

My husband also points out that wooden pipes are for cigar-style smoking (puffing in and out of your mouth and throat), not lung-filling hits, because the smoke is hotter and unpleasant to suck in deeper.

I hate to be like "adjust your expectations" but I think that wooden pipes are less popular than other methods of smoking because they are different qualitatively than other methods.
posted by holyrood at 11:55 AM on February 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

FYI: Pipe smoking is always really harsh. Have you tried buying an inexpensive pipe and comparing? Also, pipe smokers don't inhale. On preview, what holyrood said.
posted by xammerboy at 3:07 PM on February 25, 2017

I am not a woodworker or smoker. One thought I had is that the bowl needs to be broken in. Could it be that you are also getting wood smoke and that once the inside of the bowl is chard it will be a smoother smoke.

breaking in a pipe
posted by tman99 at 4:32 PM on February 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

If I was making a pipe, I'd try to make the path from bowl to mouth widen from narrow at the bowl, to (slightly) wider it the mouthpiece, going with the theory that an expanding gas cools down.
posted by quinndexter at 8:09 PM on February 25, 2017

A calabash gourd with meerschaum bowl.
posted by hortense at 10:57 PM on February 25, 2017

« Older Cheap, boring, unhip housing needed in Boston or...   |   Should I get the Apple Store to check my Macbook... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.