Thursday, February 28, 2008

R.I.P.: Bjarne Nielsen

Legendary Danish pipemaker Bjarne Nielsen recently passed away. It is a great loss to the pipe smoking community and he will be missed by us all.

Friday, February 22, 2008

New Acquisition for 2/22/2008

Stuck at home during a snowstorm I was able to catch today's update at Boswell's site. I saw this chubby bulldog and immediately grabbed my Blackberry and called in the order.

I really love these chubby stubby pipes.

My First Estate Pipe

I've never been one for used pipes. Nothing wrong with them, it's just been a personal quirk for me. I saw this Cristiano on the Briar Blues site and could not resist it. Fortunately for me, it looks like it was only smoked once or twice at the most.

I doubt that I will become a regular buyer of used pipes but this one is a keeper.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Escudo vs Luxury Bullseye Flake

I love a good spun-cut tobacco. A "spun-cut" is the blending of tobaccos rolled up into a big giant "cigar" then sliced into this discs. For several years my favorite spun-cut blend was Escudo. A couple of years ago, Peter Stokkebye released a new spun-cut of their own called "Luxury Bullseye Flake". Many smokers touted this new blend as "the New Escudo" while others felt that it was inferior to the ancient incumbent. Let's compare the two blends here and then see what the Straight Grain readers have to say.

The escudo was the currency of Portugal prior to the introduction of the euro. Escudo is Portuguese and Spanish for "shield". Escudo is a Virginia and Perique blend with brown and gold strands of leaf visible in the discs. The size of the disc is that of a U.S. half-dollar coin. Upon opening a tin of Escudo, one smells the scent of a fruity wine. The flavor is subtly sweet with a good deal of spiciness from the Perique. Popular opinions of Escudo is that the nicotine content is quite high.

Luxury Bullseye Flake is a coin of similar size with strands of bright and brown Virginias and dark Perique. One noticeable difference in appearance from Escudo is a large black center of cavendish. The flavor of this blend tends to be more on the sweeter side with less spice. Popular opinion is that the nicotine content in this blend is not nearly as high as Escudo.

So there you have it, both blends are up for comments. Which is sweetest? Which is spicier? Is there more of a "nick-kick" in Escudo or Bullseye? Let's hear from you!

Building and Maintaining Cake Pt. 1

Hello again!

I have recently taken part in some interesting conversations and debates about the topic of building and maintaining the carbon cake in pipes and I thought it would make a good topic for The Straight Grain.

For the purpose of this article, I will assume that you, the reader, already have a basic understanding of what carbon cake is and how it effects your pipe and it's smoking qualities.

I have heard many theories on what builds cake including, but not limited to, rubbing honey along the inside of the bowl, sanding the chamber to roughen up the surface, smoking only a third of a bowl for a few smokes then graduating to two-thirds, etc. While it is true that some pipes seem to cake faster than others, the same basic principles apply.

What will build cake is the burning of tobacco directly against the wood inside the pipe. This sounds simple enough but how exactly does one do this in a way that can produce more efficient results? What I, and other smokers I have spoke with, have found is to make the "Orange Ring". While this may sound like a pastry, it is actually the method of keeping the outer ring of the tobacco burning right up against the bowl walls throughout the duration of the smoke. To do this, one must tamp and relight often keeping the flame around the outer edges of the tobacco. One should lightly push some of the unburned tobacco towards the outside of the plug to maximize the outer ring's combustibility. Tamp in a circular motion when doing this and tamp light enough so that only the weight of the tamper itself is the only pressure applied.

You will know that you are doing this correctly if you see a bright orange ring in your pipe after a relight. Do not worry about having a glowing ember in the center. The purpose of this techniques is to build a strong even cake along the walls of the pipe. After puffing for a few minutes, let the pipe go out on it's own and slightly cool. Tamp lightly in a circular motion around the tobacco to flatten the ash and gently push some unburned tobacco to the outer ring of the plug. Light your pipe with the flame walking around the outer edges and then check for the Orange Ring. Try to get a complete circle of orange to avoid uneven cake buildup and the dreaded "hot spots".

With the proper care and skill, you should soon start to see a nice carbon caking all along the bowl of your pipe. Be sure to smoke the tobacco all the way to the bottom of the bowl using this technique.

In Part Two of this topic I will discuss maintaining cake and the technique known as "Ashing" and how that may also aid in cake buildup.

Please feel free to contribute your thoughts, comments and tips!

Friday, February 01, 2008

Grain Pictures

I was messing around with my new Canon Powershot tonight and I took a couple of shots of my new Winslow Poker. I tried to be "artsy" by doing a B&W one but you get a good idea of the grain on it. These are big pics so they may take a bit to load full-size.