So, I really do love briar pipes, however, I also have a very short attention span. I don't know what exactly it is that draws me to other types of pipe smoking experiences. I love the corn cob. The one I made for myself is more of a labor of love, but the ones you purchase from a tobacconist are just good clean fun! I love how smooth they smoke and how much of a "working man's" pipe that they are. I only recently purchased a general cob and have been surprised with how cool the things smokes. It gives a sweetness that is very nice and for just under 8.00 it simply can't be beaten. I can't remember where I read it, but it is widely known that Mark Twain enjoyed smoking a corn cob pipe. However he hated breaking them in, which is not a very painful process compared to breaking in a briar pipe. Nevertheless, he would he would find a man who didn't seem to be very important ( to Mr. Twain, anyhow ) and pay him some pittance to break the pipe in. Once it was broken in he would replace the stem and smoke it until it fell apart and repeat the process again. Funny things!
But I have been smoking corn cobs for years, so this is not much of a new adventure. I have always had an interest in clay pipes. I even made an attempt at making some clay pipes a few years back. However I used a crafting clay. It worked well and smoked fine (after being oven fired). It never seemed to impart a special taste...it just made me nervous smoking tobacco out of something that was intended for nothing more than making pins and buttons for small children. Thus I got rid of them, and let myself wonder at when I would have a shot at a real clay pipe.
I am attracted to clay pipes for a number of reasons. Firstly, they are quite simple. They don't seem to have any extra amount of "bells and whistles" they are just pipes. Of course, there are beautiful and ornate clay pipes available, but these are not the ones that are currently holding my interest. The second reason that these clay wonders are attractive to me is because they seem to have a "working man" quality to them. This is also because of the type of clay pipe I am imagining. There were, of course, shorter pipes for work and longer pipes for house or pup smoking, but I love the utility of this inexpensive pipe (I got two for less than 10 dollars on ebay). The third reason is that there are rumors floating around that clay doesn't get "seasoned" like other pipes. Briar, specifically, is known for carrying a "ghost" of whatever tobacco you last smoked in it. I have tried some experiments in dedicating certain pipes to certain blends and have not been altogether disappointed in the results. Clay, however, doesn't hold the same residue that other materials do.
The last reason? I love the scene in the first Lord of the Rings film where Aragorn is smoking his short clay pipe and staring at Frodo across the room at the Prancing Pony. Tolkien was also very careful to always make sure his readers didn't operate under the illusion that anyone was carrying around a church warden (or wizard's pipe) underneath there robes and pulling it out for a nice long smoke on the road. That would simply be silly! Though Bilbo's smoking pipe at HOME did go nearly down to his neatly brushed wooly toes!
So there it is! The clay pipes shipped today and I will give you more information on the experience they offer when they come in. Another interesting factiod: clay pipes can allegedly be cleaned by throwing them into the embers of a fire, or by heating them in the oven. I'm always fascinated by things that are purified by heat and not destroyed by it.