It is always a pleasure and interesting to discuss pipes: observing their craftsmanship, manufacture, air hole / bore forature and finish help pipe enthusiasts feel that they are increasingly an integral part of this fascinating world, and of the pipe itself (if the tobacco is the “fuel” of our briar, the smoker is the “accelerator pedal”, ready to regulate the fuel and speed properly).
In addition to the briar, its appearance and the various shapes associated with it, one highly important aspect is the stem, an essential component that deserves special attention: let’s not forget that it is through this part that the most intimate contact is established, the real point of contact between the device and its owner.
The stem can be crafted in three main different types of material: ebonite, Lucite and the highly esteemed Cumberland, the latter being considered in the middle as far as durability and lack of oxidation are concerned. However, our main aim for now is to focus our attention not so much on the materials mentioned above (which will be dealt with in the future), as on the shapes of the stems themselves.
The following are the most common, basic types of stems:
The famous ARMY MOUNTED stem deserves a special mention.
This type of stem lacks a true tenon, and the conical end of the stem fits snugly with slight pressure directly into the shank. The real advantage for this type of mount is that the pipe can be easily pulled apart during a smoke, or when still hot.
A variation of this type of stem is the SPIGOT: an army mount with a metal (usually silver) covering on the end that fits into the shank. Apart from having the advantages of an army mount, its value lies in its aesthetic appearance.
Having outlined the main shapes of a pipe stem, we can now turn to the three basic types of bits at the tip of the mouthpiece, whose features are evident through simple observation.
Of course, all the features described above may be applied both to straight and bent models of pipes.