Pipes come in numerous sizes and shapes, and they are made out of various different materials. The materials most commonly used in pipe construction are wood, metal, ceramic, clay, and glass.
Each of these materials has its benefits and drawbacks. Metal is remarkably rugged and durable, for example, and will last a long time even with regular use. Wood provides a welcome flavor and smoothness that can actually enhance the taste of the herbs. Glass is usually the most desirable material for pipes due its inert properties, and the generally smoother smoking experience it provides.
When choosing a pipe based on the material, your choice should be dependent on your planned usage and personal preferences.
Types of Pipes
In terms of design, pipes can come in a varying array of forms, with some offering a combination of different features. Here are some of the more common types of pipes you can expect to find on the market.
Chillums are small, tube-shaped pipes with correspondingly small bowls. These types of pipes are usually large enough to contain only enough herbs for one or two full inhales. Compact, portable, and light, chillums are ideally suited for discreet medicating on the go.
Named because of their distinctive spoon-like curved shape, these popular pipes come in a range of sizes. They are also fairly simple examples of pipe design.
Sherlocks are named after the pipe used by the ace detective in the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle books. Featuring a curved design, Sherlocks may or may not feature a carb. Capable of holding a surprisingly large amount of smoke, Sherlocks provide a similar experience to a large water pipe, but without the filtration.
Steamrollers consist of a hollow tube with both ends open. A bowl where herbs are placed is located towards the end opposite the mouthpiece. In use, the bowl is lit while the end nearest to it is covered by the user’s hand. When the user has filled the chamber up sufficiently, the hand covering the end of the tube is removed, allowing for the inhalation of the smoke that has gathered in the chamber. Smoking from a steamroller tends to be quite a harsh experience, in most cases, much more so than smoking from a typical pipe.
Hammers are interesting variations on pipe design, with an appearance reminiscent of the tool after which it is named. With a stem on one side and a chamber on the other, the hammer provides an efficient smoking experience. Hammers can come in a number of different variations, with some designs even featuring bubblers and other accessories.
Sidecars are pipes that feature a stem connected to the side of the based or the main chamber. Similar in appearance to a hammer pipe, sidecars differ in that the stem is connected to the side, instead of on the top.
Narrowing Your Selection
Once you have decided which style of pipe you would like, you can narrow your options further by deciding which characteristics and features are most important to you.
A certain pipe may get consistently good reviews in the press but may not conform to your preferences. In the same way, you may find a favorite in a model that constantly gets slagged in online user reviews. The point is that you almost have to ‘bond’ with your pipe, so it is essential to choose one based on your specific needs and preferences.
Certain criteria can be applied to pipes in order to determine their feasibility for your purposes. These generally fall under functionality, aesthetic appeal, build quality, ergonomics, and cost-to-performance ratio.
The first and most important factor you should consider in a pipe is functionality. The pipe should perform as expected with no anomalous behavior such as flare-ups or uneven burning. It should perform smoothly and efficiently, and continue to do so for many years with routine maintenance.
Aesthetic appeal is one of the most compelling factors in purchasing a pipe. A pipe should not only work well, it should also look good and reflect your own unique personality and style. Wood pipes are especially suited for this purpose, with fine grain patterns adding considerably to their visual appeal.
Build quality is another important factor. A pipe should be solidly built from the finest quality materials within its price range. The joints should be totally flush and sealed in order to ensure airtight smoking. There should be no burrs, rough edges, uneven surfaces, or any other anomalies that compromise the pipe’s function and reliability, or otherwise get in the way of a satisfying smoking experience.
One oft-neglected factor in pipe-shopping is ergonomics. For a pipe to be ergonomically feasible, it should be easy to use and handle. It should remain upright when set down on a flat surface for example, and it should be balanced and easy to hold. It should not feel bulky or unwieldy in any way, and its weight should only be a positive factor.
For most people, the cost-to-performance ratio is the single most compelling factor in the decision to purchase a pipe. When choosing a pipe, you will have to look into factors other than cost, and consider the type and quality of performance you can expect from a pipe in your price range. In some cases, a highly priced pipe may not deliver the performance you need, while a lower priced model could be ideally suited to your preferences. Choose your pipe based on value for money, and you will be better assured of a more satisfactory experience.
We’ve got plenty of pipes available, including one-hitters, sherlocks, and chillums.