Tobacco Pipes

A Brief History

Pipes smoking become a symbol of class and sophistication in the western culture after the discovery of tobacco and common in the communities.

At the beginning, European imported the tobacco from America, it is circa 16th century, the tobacco pipes used for smoking making from a clay.

The clay known as kaolin or China Clay where the clay dug from. The clay materials are fine, but there is dense material that offers its users a clean smoke but would often burn hot. German antique clay pipe

As smoking pipe become more popular in Europe, there are more design coming from the producers, it is more detail and more artistic.

Smoking Pipe And Tobacco On Brawn Wooden Table.
Smoking pipe and tobacco on brawn wooden table.

The price of tobacco pipes also not cheap that is why at that time smoking pipe becomes a symbol of class in the society.

The situation makes the producers become more attractive and more innovative in making the tobacco pipe.

In the 18th century there is a new materials found for making a pipe, that is meerschaum, a mineral from the deposits around the world but most notably near Eskisehir in Turkey.


Meerschaum or sepiolite actually is foam from the sea, is soft white clay, a complex magnesium silicate, it can be present in fibrous, fine-particulate, and solid forms.

The name of meerschaum given by Abraham Gottlob Werner  in 1788, and the name sepiolite given by Ernst Friedrich Glocker in 1847 for an occurrence in Bettolino, Baldissero Canavese, Torino province, Piedmont, Italy.

The name took from Greek sepion that meaning cuttlebone (the porous internal shell of the cuttlefish), plus lithos or stone, after perceived resemblance of this mineral to Cuttlebone. meerschaum pipe

Until today we still found both the clay pipes and the meerschaum pipes.

Meerschaum pipe become popular because it is easy to carve and the coloring.

Another material is a variation of meerschaum that called as calabash gourd and inserted with meerschaum.

This new pipe with the distinctive of shape gave the user more mellow smoke as there was a large air chamber under the bowl. In the story of Sherlock Holmes, this type of pipe is one of his favorite. calabash Sherlock Holmes

Tobacco and other exotic materials became more widely available after the formation of the East India’s Company (EIC).

The company also known as the Honourable East India Company (HEIC), East India Trading Company (EITC), or British East India Company that formally known as John Company.

The company was formed to trade in the Indian Ocean region, later spread out to the Southeast Asia and China.

Although tobacco was costly, the people are smoking the leave in small clay pipe.  This time sometimes it still found a people smoke clay pipe like that along the banks of the River Thames, London.

The popularity of pipe smoking becomes spread out, especially in the United Kingdom, and it is a good business for a profit.

In 1907, the inventor of the windshield pipe and entrepreneur Alfred Dunhill opened his tobacconist’s shop in St James.

The shop not only selling pipe, but also offering tailored tobacco blends. As he was unsatisfied with the quality of pipe available in the market, he decided to set up his own pipe workshop.

And in 1920 he opened his shop in Paris and New York, which are his international ambitions to sell modern luxury goods.

In more recent time, smoking tobacco pipe are still popular. Pipe tobacco is often a lot moister, fresh and flavorful giving a completely different takes on smoking altogether.

Bowl materials

Briar – root of Erica arborea, prevalent material. Meerchaum – mineral sepiolite called “sea foam”, Clay, Gourd, Porcelain, Synthetics, Ebony (“Zappi”), Cherry Wood, Beechwood, Corn Cob, and Metal – used by Japanese kiseru and Arabian midwakh.


Most of the tobacco pipes in the market today. Both of handmade or machine-made are fashioned from briar (French: bruyère).

Briar particularly selected for pipe making because of its characteristic that resistance to fire, beside its inherent ability to absorb moisture.

Briar is cut from the root burl of the tree heath (Erica arborea), which is native to the rocky and sandy soils of the Mediterranean region.

The briar burls are cut into two types of blocks; ebauchon that taken from the hearth of the burl, and plateaux taken from the outer part of the burl.

The artisan’s pipe more prefers to use plateau because of the quality of graining.

The finishing of the briar bowl is; smooth, rustic, sandblast, brushed, and carved.

Stem materials 

Most the tobacco pipe are uses an acrylic material, but there are another materials than acrylic, that is; Amber, Bakelite, Cumberland (Brindle), Ebonite, Horn (Keratin), Plastic, Metal, e.g. Aluminum. Metal stem serves as a heat sink.

Stem shape shape of stem

Stem shape normally are three models; tapered, saddle, and combination of that two shapes.

And the curvatures are; straight, slightly bent (semi-straight, half-bent), and full bent.

Hopefully this little information about tobacco pipe will help as information.

Pics: Old German Clay – Smoking pipe;; eBay; Dunhill;


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