HOW MANY PIPES DO YOU NEED?
She didn't quite put it that way, but I'm extrapolating.
"One hundred and sixty?!? Good Lord, how many of those damned things do you really need?"
The short answer is the more the merrier. I've been smoking a pipe since I was a fourteen year old infant, and though I've owned more, one hundred and sixty is a good round number. But of those, only about half get smoked with any frequency, and the current rotation has thirty pipes or so.
Periodically I go through the collection and remember good times associated with certain pieces, which will then be put into regular use again for a while. There are some pipes which are permanently on the tray, others repine in boxes, hardly ever touched. A dozen are entirely unsmoked. I'm saving a few of them for the right woman.
But it's a good question: how many pipes do you need?
The answer depends on your habits.
The occasional smoker can get by with two or three, but someone who loads up a bowlful regularly should do the math.
A pipe needs a minimum of half a day's rest after each smoke so that it can dry out, and the carbon layer restore itself. Smoking a pipe creates compounds in the inside surface of the bowl, injecting elements which need to break-down and dissipate. If a pipe is smoked too much, there is no chance of that happening, and the result will eventually be a soggy, foul-smelling, sour-tasting pipe, that needs restorative surgery (see Sunday morning's post for an idea of what that means) to bring it back to life.
It is best to have enough briar on hand that each pipe can rest at least one or two days, preferably more. This way each one will last a lifetime, and with an occasional thorough clean & ream will provide years of pleasure.
Ideally then, a very bare minimum is two to three times the number of pipes as there are smokes in a day.
A person who smokes three bowls a day needs about eight or nine pipes, a five pipe a day habit requires between ten and twenty.
One pipe a week means just one pipe.
Two if your spouse joins you.
Most pipe-smokers are always on the prowl for just one more. Some shapes inculcate passion, and there are always examples that simply scream "this is the veritable golden fleece of pipe-dom, why, with this in my collection I can finally retire, I have reached profoundly woody perfection!"
Or, "hey, this will complete the set of ideal smokers!"
My dad gave me his pipes before he died. I had been lusting after them since my teenage years. They represented the perfect battery of briars to me, and seemed to encompass a totality of pipes that perfectly expressed sound habits and sure smokes. I've hardly touched them in the two decades since he passed away, but I'm incredibly fond of them. They recall the man, and the smell of his presence. They needed only a little restoration, because he kept them clean and took good care of them. New stems, and steaming out the dings, nothing more.
There are ten of them. He did not smoke very much.
I often match some of my pipes together to make an equivalent selection.
A couple of bent bulldogs, a few straight bulldogs, some Canadians, Lumbermen, or Lovats and Liverpools.
Plus a billiard and full-bent.
Ten pipes. That's all you need. Two or three bowls a day.
With ten pipes, you've got the perfect collection.
He had pared down the number from several dozen to the ten best pipes that he loved when we moved to Holland.
Ten was all he needed.
You should have ten pipes.
Several sets of ten, however, is a good idea.
But start with ten.
A minimum of ten.
NOTE: An argument could be made that women need fewer pipes than men, because they have less opportunity to indulge in the habit. Many women naturally tend towards discreetness regarding pipes ("I'm buying a present for my dad..."), and, being somewhat more thoughtful and circumspect about briar purchases, will have fewer clunkers in their collection.
Besides, many men might find it amusing to let their companions have a go at a pipe, whereas a proper young lady NEVER lends out her pipe to her young man. He might not know what he's doing, and he's probably not ready to listen to any advice about the proper use of briar from a girl.
Plus men get control-freaky about these things.
But if a man enjoys a pipe, the gallant thing to do is to buy his lady one that she can have. A nice piece, with fine grain. Tobacco can be shared, but people should have their own equipment.
A woman needs ten pipes.
NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
All correspondence will be kept in confidence.