- Glossary of Tobacco Pipe and Pipe Tobacco Terms
Glossary of Tobacco Pipe and Pipe Tobacco Terms
Figuring out the world and culture of pipe smoking is difficult and treacherous. Just like any other hobby or practice in life, the right resources make developing a meaningful connection to the activity considerably easier.
When you dig into pipe smoking, you will quickly be bombarded by a vocabulary that seems like Greek to you. Even though context clues can help a little, there is still a massive gap in what you need to know.
That is why we have compiled this pipe and tobacco glossary--to make pipe smoking easier and more pleasant for you.
You can use this glossary as a simple reminder, tool, resource, or just about anything else. We just hope that it helps you make pipe smoking more enjoyable to you, no matter where you are!
The Acorn and Pear shaped pipes are synonymous with one another. The outside of the bowl is conical shaped, tapering towards the base. There are no hard lines or angles around the chamber of the pipe. The rounding edges are the defining feature of an Acorn shaped pipe.
African Block Meerschaum is similar to tradition meerschaum found in Turkey. The difference is that it is slightly darker in color and heavier than tradition meerschaum. Pipes made from African block meerschaum are seldomly seen today but they can still be found with a bit of effort. This material is mined from Tanzania.
Aging tobacco is the process of allowing either a tobacco leaf or an unopened tin time to rest and mature. This process, similar to aging wine, allows flavors to blend and develop over time.
Agonya tobacco is a strand of Kabakolak tobacco, which means the stem wings extend beyond the leaf. This tobacco, which can have a light and smooth body, grows in the Sea of Marmara in the region east of Kanakhale, Turkey.
Air-cured tobacco is synonymous with Burley. It is the only leaf that is air-cured. As soon as the tobacco leaves are cut they are hung in a shaded place--usually a barn--that is extremely well ventilated. Over a period of a few months, the tobacco turns from brilliant green to warm yellow and finally to an earthy brown hue. Once the tobacco leave reach the desired color, they are ready for either immediate processing or fermentation.
Before acrylic and acrylic stems became popular in the late 19th century, amber was a common material chosen for the construction of a stem. Amber comes from the hardened resin of old trees. While the material is beautiful, it is brittle and hard. Amber stems require much more maintenance and care than the acrylic stems we see today.
While American blend tobacco are simple to make and understand, there are not as many of them out there as you might think. American blends consists of Virginia, Burley, and Oriental tobaccos and are often topped with aromatic scents.
An Apple-shaped pipe is a rounded, more spherical version of a Billiard. However, it isn’t a pure sphere. The bottom and top of the bowl can widen and shrink from model to model, just like the fruit. The pipe was named after the fruit it takes its appearance from.
The army stem is also known as the military style. This style often increase the collectability of a pipe. These pipes are often banded with a thick metal ring of nickel or sterling silver. On an army stem there is no tenon. The entire stem is placed in the morise. The shape and design of army mount stems vary greatly.
Most new pipe smokers begin smoking with an Aromatic pipe tobacco blend. An aromatic tobacco is a mixtures of components that have a liberal casing or top flavoring different than the natural tobacco. Typically aromatic tobaccos are sweet or fruity and have an excellent room aroma to accompany them.
Author pipes are known for their large bowls, in comparison to most other pipes. The large bowl attracts many smokers who love to smoke for extended periods of time. Usually made from briar, the super thick chamber walls absorb vast amounts of heat and oil from burning tobacco.
Bafra style tobacco is the same as Samsun. Often, Bafra has small red or brown smudges of color in the leaf. There is a naturally pungent odor that accompanies this tobacco. This blend has a decadently rich flavor.
Bakelite is a chemically complicated plastic that is a bit harder than vulcanite but is softer than a traditional plain acrylic. Technically bakelite is polyoxybenzylmethylenglycolanhydride. The material is usually an off-white or yellow color. It is a common choice for intricate bands.
As common as the term “Balkan” is, it is not a historically or academically official term for pipe tobacco mixtures. However, since its popularity shows that it is a term many have heard and use, it must be given a more firm working definition. The most simple and least controversial definition of what a Balkan blend means is a Latakia based blend which contains more Oriental and less Virginia leaf than a traditional English blend.
A band is a ring of metal, acrylic, or some other material that is bound around the shank, stem, or joint of a pipe. A band is purely aesthetic and offers no functional benefit.
Basma is a tobacco grown solely in Western Greece. The stems of the leaf do not extend beyond the leaf of the main stalk. This tobacco strain is considered by many to be the finest natural aromatic tobacco in the world.
A bead is an engraved line running through the stummel. Bead lines are most commonly seen on bulldog shaped pipes, where there are two running parallel to one another. Bead lines are put into a pipe with a lathe. They were once much more popular than they are now, but are still used by some artisans.
Referring to a pipe as “bent” is a geometric phrase used to describe a pipe that has a curve or angle in the shank or stem.
The Billiard shape is without a doubt the most popular tobacco pipe shape in the world. Billiards feature a perfectly cylindrical chamber and can be found with either a bent or a straight stem. The key to a classic Billiard is a cylindrical shank equal in length to the height of the bowl.
Birdseye refers to a type of grain that appears on a pipe when the straight grain has been cut straight across horizontally. The effect is a gorgeous dot and bubble pattern across the cut area of the briar. Birdseye pipes are highly collectable. Only a master carver can properly bring out the beauty of the birdseye grain.
Bit is a slang term used to refer to the stem or mouthpiece of a pipe.
There are two different definitions of bite: 1) When a tobacco smokes harsh, it can often be said to “bite” the tongue. This is a result of excess topping and oil on the tobacco rubbing the surface of the tongue raw. Tongue bite often feels like burning your tongue on a hot cup of coffee. 2) A bite, or bite zone, is the part of a stem where the teeth meets the pipe. It is generally the last quarter of the stem that goes into the smoker’s mouth.
Also known as plume, bloom is a white colored substance that appears on the outside of well aged tobaccos. Although the bloom looks like white mold, it is actually just the maturation of sugars emerging from the tobacco. This is a sign that a tobacco has taken well to an aging process. Bloom is more commonly seen on cigars, but is also often apparent in pipe tobacco.
The most important feature of the Blowfish shape is the briar’s grain pattern. The sides of the bowl are large and round and will always have a birdseye grain, while the front and backside of the bowl has a straight grain running perpendicular through the tobacco chamber. To imagine a Blowfish, picture a bundle of pipe cleaners held out in front of you. The birdseye grain is the end of each cleaner, creating a popcorn style pattern, and the straight grain is the length of the cleaner running left and right of your position.
This is the less specific term for the chamber of a pipe. Sometimes the term bowl is used to describe the entire stummel of the pipe.
Many pipe makers apply a material that coats the inner walls of the chamber, usually to promote smooth smoking and a proper build up of cake. The bowl coating also reduces the odds of a burnout. Artisans often use a bowl coating as an artistic choice, as well. Whether or not to use a bowl coating is a controversial issue and there are valid opinions on each side.
The Brandy-shaped pipe was designed to look a brandy glass. The bulging shape of this pipe makes it comfortable and easy pipe to hold in the hand. Imagine a Billiard shaped bowl, but with a sizeable chunk of briar left on the front of end of the bowl, giving it that rounded brandy glass look.
Breaking In is the term used to describe the process of preparing a new pipe for regular smoking.
Not all types of tobacco pipes require a break-in process. Many pipes are pre-treated. Meerschaum and clay pipes don’t need any type of breaking in. However, most pipes made of wood or corn cob should go through a break-in process (Follow this process for breaking in your new pipe).
Briar is, without a doubt, the most popular choice of material for pipe makers. Technically speaking, briar is the root of the Erica Arborea tree, which is almost solely grown in the greater Mediterranean region. The roots of the tree are harvested when they are around 30 years old. Then, they are dried out, cut, and shipped to pipe carvers around the world. Briar is an excellent material for pipe making, because there are microscopic air pockets in the wood which excel at absorbing heat and oil from burning tobacco.
Brindle is the more technical term for a cumberland-style stem. Brindle-style stems were made popular by the Dunhill brand and add collectable value to pipes today. A brindle stem is made by adding red or brown pigments to the raw vulcanite material.
Brylon is a cheap alternative to briar which is used for pipemaking. This man-made material was invented in 1966 by S.M. Frank & Co., or Yello Bole today. The material is a mixture of sawdust, typically briar sawdust, and acrylic resin. While the end product is durable, many smokers feel that it smokes too hot and can even burn the hand.
The Bullcap shape is not very common, but is growing in popularity among individual artisans around the world. The largest difference between a Bullcap pipe and other pipes in the Bulldog family is the addition of a saddle bit stem, for a pure and correct Bullcap will always have the saddle stem.
To envision a bulldog-shaped pipe, imagine the larger sides of two cones rests on top of each other. Then, the small half of the top cone is cut off. The twin bead lines running parallel across the bowl characterize a pure Bulldog. For a Bulldog pipe, the smooth bottom of the briar bowl always transitions to a diamond shaped shank with edges pointing up and down.
The easiest way to picture a Bull Moose is to compress a Rhodesian from the top. The chamber walls are significantly larger and the chamber is shortened by as much as twenty-five percent. In addition, the shank is considerably beefed up. The length of the tapered stem is trimmed down, which makes this pipe short and fat in every aspect.
The burl is the tumor-like knot of wood that comes from the roots of the Erica Arborea tree. The burl is cut into chunks and sold to pipe makers for carving.
Burley is the most common tobacco in the world. Used mostly for cigarette production, this component is grown almost solely in Kentucky and Tennessee. This tobacco naturally has a low sugar content and must be sweetened to fit the needs of most blends. It ranges from mild to full-flavored depending on the growth and harvest.
When there is a spot of char that continues to penetrate deeper and deeper into the briar of a pipe, the result is called a burnout. Generally, when the outer layer of briar is penetrated deep, that pipe will no longer smoke properly. Some minor cases of burnout can be restored by the hands of an expert pipe restorer. Usually a burnout occurs when a smoker smokes the same pipe too hot for too long. It can also occur from a natural imperfection in the pipe, but user abuse is the most common cause.
The button is a raised lip at the tip of the stem. The button makes the pipe easier to hold in the teeth without it slipping out. The button receives particular attention from pipe carvers, for many this is the most crucial point of contact on the pipe.
Cake is the slang term pipe smokers prefer when discussing the buildup of carbon around the chamber walls of a pipe. To learn more about properly maintaining the cake on your pipe, visit How to Ream Tobacco Pipes.
There are two different forms of the Calabash: a Gourd Calabash and the general Calabash shape. The principles of the two shapes are the same--the solid wood version of a Calabash has a large, usually briar bowl, with a tapered rim and flares before transitioning down the chamber walls. The chamber of the pipe is often quite deep.
In order for a shape to be deemed a Canadian, the length of the shank must be at least one and a half times the height of the bowl, but cannot exceed double the length. In addition, a traditional Canadian will always have an oval shaped shank and a tapered stem.
Carnauba is a vegetable wax derived from the fronds of copernicia cerifera, or carnauba tree, a Brazilian native tree. Pipe makers often use this wax to coat the outside of their creations. It shines, is difficult to dull, and handles the heat of smoking well.
A casing is a spray or sauce applied to unfinished tobacco. A casing is usually used to sweeten a tobacco. In contrast, top flavor is the addition of scents and flavors to the blend at the finish.
The Cavalier shape is unique because the air hole in the shank continues past the chamber, down into the shank extension. This feature traps the moisture of the tobacco in a cavity, which needs to be regularly cleaned. This keeps illicit moisture away from the tobacco and the smoker’s mouth. It is this moisture chamber that defines a Cavalier-shaped pipe.
Cavendish is made by taking a particular tobacco and pressing it into a cake, heating the tobacco, then storing it for an allotted period of time, allowing it to ferment. Often flavoring is inserted into the cake while pressing, giving the tobacco a distinct flavor for each batch. This is a process of curing tobacco, rather than a specific leaf.
The chamber is where the tobacco is placed in a pipe. The term chamber and bowl are often used interchangeably, although to do so is technically slang.
Char is a common term and refers to the early stage of burning which blackens the wood. This usually happens along the rim of a pipe due to excessive flame from a lighter.
From a design standpoint, the Cherrywood and the Poker pipe are synonymous with each other, except for the bent balanced style of the Cherrywood. A cylindrical chamber and bowl with thick briar walls make this a cool smoking pipe. The shank of the Cherrywood is typically slightly shorter than the height of the bowl.
At one time the wood of a cherry tree was popular for pipe making. Since the popularity of briar has emerged, the use of cherry in pipe has decreased dramatically. Many novice carvers practice pipe making with the wood of a cherry tree.
If you’ve ever seen a Chimney-shaped pipe you’ve probably conjured a memory of a cheery roughtop. The tall bowl looks like the chimney of a grand estate, especially when smoke is billowing from the chamber.
A Churchwarden pipe is not so much a pipe shape as it is a length and pipe stem. Generally, the stem will be between nine and eighteen inches, but as long as it can still be held and smoked practically it will qualify as a Churchwarden. Technically speaking, any shaped bowl can become a churchwarden.
The first tobacco pipes were made from clay. There are two styles of clay pipes: hand-rolled--which are shaped by the hand of a master potter or carver--and slip cast, which are molded like plaster into a cast. Clay pipes burn hot, but are still used by many smokers today. Clay pipes are popular for historical reenactments and as “tasting” pipes.
A coin is a single slice of tobacco which is cut from a twist or a rope of tobacco. In principle, a coin cut is the same as flake cut tobacco, just circular instead of rectangular and is often thinner.
A pipe is said to have a combination finish when it has multiple textured finishes on the stummel.
This is a melding of the tapered and saddle style stems. For a combination stem, the tenon, mortice, and immediate stem shape is identical to a saddle stem. The difference is when the stem “drops” off the shape is no longer flat, instead it is tapered. The combination stem is saddle in the front, tapered in the bit.
Usually referred to just as a “cob”, this is the cheapest and most available material for tobacco pipes. The interior of an ear of corn is hollowed out, dried, and sometimes coated in a protective resin or wax. Many smokers prefer their cobs to other pipes, claiming that they smoke dryer and cooler than all others.
A tobacco pipe with a cross grain has bird’s eye grain on the sides and a straight grain running through the top and bottom. A great example of a cross grain pipe is the blowfish shape.
Cube cut is a style of cutting tobacco. The name is fairly self-explanatory, for the tobacco has a cube shape. To make cube, a cake of tobacco is diced into evenly sized chunks.
Cumberland-style stems (see also, Brindle) were made popular by the Dunhill brand where it was called brindle. A cumberland stem is one made of vulcanite or ebonite with red and/or brown pigment added which create a marble-like look and/or texture. Modern artisans often use other vibrant colors, besides the traditional red and brown, to create a similar effect.
Curing ages tobacco to develop the flavor and chemically alters the leaf. All tobacco must go through some form of a curing process. Tobacco can be fire-cured, flue-cured, air-cured, sundried, or even fermented. This term simply refers to the aging process of the tobacco before it is blended.
A tobacco that has been curly cut was pressed and twisted into a rope and then cut into slices. This cut is smaller and thinner than a traditional flake cut.
Cut refers to how the tobacco is present after preparation. The term refers to how it is divided into pieces for packing in a pipe and smoking.
There are seven common cuts for pipe tobacco. They are:
Flake - refers to slices cut from larger cakes. This cut is popular for its versatility. Straight Virginias and Virginia/Perique blends are often presented this way.
Broken Flake - Broken flake comes from cakes or plugs. Unlike the uniform sheets of flake, the pieces are uneven and irregular.
Coin - Refers to a blend that is sliced from twists, ropes, and navy plug. Coins are fairly uniform circles that can be stacked, rubbed out, or folded for packing.
Plug - Square bars cut from larger blocks of layered, heated and pressed tobacco. This blend is perfect for aging, but does require careful preparation before smoking.
Ribbon - By far the most popular cut, Ribbon refers to small strands cut by a machine.
Rope - The name is apt, Ropes are long cylindrical cords that must be sliced and rubbed or folded before smoking.
As far as we can tell, the Cutty shape is the oldest pipe shape still made today. The Cutty has a conical shaped chamber. The largest difference between a Dublin, whose family the shape falls in, and a Cutty is that while a Dublin has evenly thick chamber walls that move down the bowl, the Cutty has more of a rounded shape.
A Czech tool is the most common and generally most affordable pipe tool. A traditional Czech tool is a three-in-one piece containing a tamper, a dottle shovel, and pick for clearing the air. These tools are named so because they were once mostly made in the Czech Republic.
DGT is the act of smoking half, or roughly half, of a bowl of tobacco then leaving the rest--ash included--to sit for a few hours or even a few days before finishing. Many tobaccos have a slight change in flavor when allowed to sit partially smoked, and many smokers prefer to smoke their tobacco in this manner.
Derlin is the short term for the plastic often used by pipe makers to construct the tenon (See Tennon term). Derlin is technically polyoxymethylene, also known as acetal, polyacetal, and polyformaldehyde. This plastic material is strong, durable, has a low moisture absorption rate, and has low friction, which is quite valuable for a pipe tenon.
The Devil Anse pipe began as a Cutty, and as it evolved adaptations changed the shape to a shorter and lighter model. It eventually dropped the spur on the base. Now, the Devil Anse is a straight-stemmed pipe which sports a forward canting bowl. The bowl is more spherical in nature than the Cutty pipe, which is quite tall.
To make a Diplomat, an Apple bowl is squashed, by as little as an eighth of an inch. An oval-shaped shank--roughly as long as the bowl is tall--is added. The larger size of the Diplomat bowl is what makes is the preferred pipe for smokers. The difference between the Diplomat and other Apple family pipes is that it does not have as perfect of a sphere.
In many cases this tobacco is referred to as Xanthi-Djebel. This tobacco is used mainly for cigarette production but is often added to pipe tobacco blends. Djebel is grown near the base of the Rhodope Mountains of Bulgaria above the town of Xanthi. A djebel is a range of mountains or hills, and is where the name of the tobacco comes from.
The term dottle refers to the unburnt and ash left over in the heel of the chamber after smoking a bowl of tobacco.
The draft hole refers to the point where the bore of the air chamber meets the tobacco chamber of a pipe. The draft hole is usually centered at the back of the heel, but can be elevated in certain situations.
Drama is a small-batch and very specific blend of tobacco prized by many smokers. Drama is grown in Rhodope Mountains in eastern Greece, and is named after a town in the area. The tobacco is said to have an olive oil fragrance that naturally fills the space. Drama is a member of the Kabakolak variety, meaning it has wing-shaped stems on the leaf.
The dimensional standards for a Dublin pipe are open to interpretation compared to other shapes, making it a shape we see with endless variations. The only diehard qualification a Dublin must meet is the conical shaped bowl and chamber--the chamber must taper to a smaller diameter down the bore.
The Duke shape has a perfectly cylindrical bowl and chamber with lines, each parallel to one another. The foot of the bowl has been cut flat at a slight angle, redistributing the weight, allowing it to sit upright effortlessly. What separates the Duke from every other tobacco pipe is that there is no briar shank, either a vulcanite or bone two-piece stem is attached to the mortice by an inserted aluminum band.
Chemically speaking, ebonite and vulcanite are the same material--hard vulcanized rubber. Ebonite received its name from a material it was designed to replace and occasionally imitate, ebony. This stem material is often hand-cut by artisans and is used in many high level pipes. Ebonite stems are very soft on the teeth.
An Egg-shaped pipe is a tall and elongated pipe. It has the smallest circumference of all pipe shapes in the Apple family. With a tall bowl and relatively thin chamber walls, this is a gentle pipe, meant to be held carefully and smoked in appropriate situations.
There are many different opinions on what constitutes an English blend. What is agreed upon is that the blend contains a significant amount of Latakia. English blends contain varying amounts of Virginia (sometimes used as the base) and Oriental, with the occasionally dash of Perique. The term “English” has its roots in the now dead Tobacco Purity Laws and was used to classify tobacco from the United Kingdom.
English Cavendish blends are not a combination of English-style and Cavendish-style blends. Rather, an English Cavendish is usually a Virginia tobacco that has been flue-cured or fire-cured, pressed, then allowed to age for weeks at a time. This process results in a blend with an earthy rustic flavor, but has a much more gentle flavor and room note than one might expect.
An estate pipe is a smoked or an unsmoked pipe that has been previously owned by another pipe collector. The term estate pipe is widely used to refer to a pipe that is not purchased brand new.
The function of a ferrule on a tobacco pipe is the same on most other pipes/handles. It is a ring that decorates and strengthens the end or joint of a pipe. Often on tobacco pipes the ferrule is a decorative piece. It is important to note that the mortise is drilled into the ferrule.
Occasionally a pipe, especially a briar pipe, will have a hole or a void in the material. This is natural and more common than you might expect. A fill is used to fill in the hole, giving it the appearance of a flawless and even surface. These holes are filled by taking a sharp knife, removing the defected chunk, then filling the void with a putty or some other material. These fills are for aesthetic purposes and are not detrimental to the function of a pipe.
The finish of a tobacco pipe is any effect applied to the outside of the pipe. This can include a rustic texture, smooth texture, carved body, stain color, or added material.
Fire curing is a method of maturing the flavors in a tobacco by hanging the bundles over an open flame and allowing the heat and smoke to chemically react with the leaf. Fire Curing a tobacco generally results in the tobacco retaining a rich and intense flavor. Dark Fired Kentucky and Latakia tobacco are the most common fire cured tobaccos.
A popular way to package tobacco is to press it into a cube. Flake cut tobacco is just slices cut off the pressed cube. Flake tobacco usually has a concentrated flavor compared to ribbon or shag cuts. It can be sold as whole flake, broken flake, or ready rubbed.
Flame grain is a style of grain in the briar similar to a straight grain. The difference with the flame grain are the angles. When the briar is cut in a certain direction some lines will be thicker than normal, much like how a square is longer when angled 45 degrees. This is a gorgeous pattern and is often accented with a bright stain and smooth finish.
The main component of flue curing tobacco is subjecting the bundle to heat from a fire but directing smoke away. Flue cured tobacco goes through an intense chemical change from the dry heat. By avoiding the smoky flavors, the tobacco turns a brighter color, like yellow or orange, and the sweet flavors emerge from deep within the leaf. This process is difficult to do correctly and requires a sophisticated space with great ventilation.
The foot of the pipe is the bottom or base of the bowl, which contrasts the heel which is the bottom of the inside of the chamber.
The Freehand style/category of pipe is unlike any other pipe shape. A Freehand pipe is created when an artist decides to follow the contours of the briar, not the plan they had when beginning to carve. It is the chunk of briar determines the final shape of the pipe. There is a significant difference between a Freehand and a Freeform pipe, where a Freehand begins as a specific shape and is transformed into something else, a Freeform is not defined by anything.
A ghost is the leftover flavor of a previously smoked tobacco. Ghosting is generally considered a negative side effect that most smokers want to avoid. Ghosting can be caused by residual moisture resting in the shank or stem of a pipe but is usually blamed on the the cake.
The material of choice for a traditional Calabash pipe is gourd. Usually South African gourd is preferred for pipe making. The material is cut then dried in the sun to cure. The pipe itself is usually lined with briar or meerschaum to make it smokable.
When tobacco leafs are initially cut from the plant, they are bundled and knotted up. This bundles is called a hand.
The dimensions of a Hawkbill pipe are more specific than other Apple family pipes. The bowl is especially spherical, with more rounded proportions than the Tomato or Ball shape. The rounded shank begins at the base of the bowl, and has a consistent curve that rounds out and ends even with the top of the bowl. A Hawkbill maintains a smooth and even taper from the base of the shank all the way to the tip of the stem.
Heath is the tree from which burls of briar are derived. The technical name for the plant is Erica Arborea. The tree usually measures between 1-2 meters tall. It is grown almost exclusively in sandy soil of the greater Mediterranean region.
The heel of a pipe is the bottom of the inside chamber.
A Horn shape is defined by the absence of any hard lines or angles. The entire pipe is one large curving taper towards the stem. The only lines on a Horn pipe are the angles at the chamber rim.
This leaf of tobacco is synonymous with Smyrna. They are the same. Izmir is named after the region in which it is grown. Overall this tobacco has a strong flavor, but ironically has a low nicotine content and smokes very cool. A majority of the time Izmir is used as a supplemental flavor enhancer in pipe tobacco blends.
Jatim is a pure Indonesian tobacco. The name Jatim comes from a combination of the regions in which it is grown, Jawa Timur. Jatim is a common component in cigarette tobaccos and is used as a supplemental flavor enhancer in pipe tobacco.
Googling a phrase like tobacco pipe joint brings you to different search results than most of us want. When pipe makers refer to the joint they are talking about one of the oldest practices in woodworking. For pipes, the joint is the point where the mortise accepts a smaller tenon.
The mortise-and-tenon joint is a common type of woodworking joint. It has been in use almost since wooden tools first began. This type of joint is created when two pieces fit together to form one whole piece. The precision required to construct the joint is often the most difficult part of making a pipe.
At the most basic level, Kabakolak is a classification or family of tobacco. It is a cross between Bali and Basma. Kabakolak is different from other tobaccos because the stem extensions that cover the natural curvature of the leaf much farther out than a regular tobacco plant.
This component is generally used in small quantities as a flavoring component. Katerini is grown in the Greek province of Macedonia. Katerini is known for being a mild and sweet Oriental tobacco.
Kentucky tobacco is usually referred to as “Dark Fired Kentucky”. This is made by gathering a select crop of burley, hanging it over a fire and allowing it to cure in the smoke. This gives the tobacco a smoky flavor.
Latakia is named for the port city in Syria where it originated and is by far the most common turkish tobacco. This blend is cured over either a wood oak or stone pine fire, giving the tobacco a bold smoky flavor.
The Liverpool shape is a deviation from the Canadian and sports a shank that is one and a half to twice as long as the chamber is tall. To separate a Liverpool from other long shanked pipes, look at the stem and shank, Liverpool’s have a round cylindrical shank and a tapered stem.
A Lovat’s shank is roughly one and a half times longer than the height of its bowl, and is seldom longer. The Lovat originated when a pipe carver decided to extend the shank of a Billiard (into a Canadian) and give it a saddle bit stem.
The Lumberman is an esteemed member of the Long Shank pipe club. In order to be considered a Lumberman, the pipe must have a Billiard bowl, and then be given a shank that is one and a half to two times longer than the bowl’s height.
Lucite is a version plastic/acrylic used in making stems for pipes. Lucite is a solid but transparent plastic (naturally that is, but color is often added for aesthetic purposes) made of polymethyl methacrylate. While it stands up to the test of time well, it is not one of the softer materials on the teeth.
This is the Turkish word for “meerschaum”.
Mahale is a Turkish tobacco. It has a fine leaf, decadent aroma, and delicious medium flavor.
Maryland is strand of American pipe tobacco. It is less popular than Burley or Virginia. Maryland tobacco is a very mild mixture. It is used to sweeten and add a nutty flavor to American tobacco blends. Unfortunately, due to legislation this tobacco is produced less and less in the state of Maryland.
Chemically, meerschaum is a complex material. Technically this clay-like material is hydrous magnesium silicate, or sepiolite for short. Genuine meerschaum is found almost solely in Turkey near the Black Sea. When wet, meerschaum is easy to carve, which is what allows it to be the material of choice for the most meticulous carvers in the world. A meerschaum pipe is difficult to burn out, absorbs heat and oil effectively from the tobacco, and turns a beautiful brown/bronze color as it is smoked. When hot, meerschaum is extremely fragile and can easily shatter if dropped from a low height. Meerschaum means “seafoam” in German.
Melding refers to the process that happens as a tobacco blend ages over time, each different component in the blend begins to take on the flavors of the others. As time goes forward, the flavor in the tobacco becomes more and more consistent.
Mellowing is a term that refers to tobacco’s natural tendency to become less potent while aging. A mellow tobacco is a smooth tobacco.
Second only to briar wood, morta is the most prized wood material for tobacco pipes. Morta is harvested from trees that fell and were submerged in bogs. The wood, while being buried for around 5,000 years become near totally petrified by the acidic and oxygenless conditions of the bog. Morta is a nutrient rich material, which causes it to be quite resistant to fire. The natural dark color and magnificent grain make it a favorite of artisan pipe carves. Morta is known to carry quite a putrid stench during the carving stages.
The mortise is the opposite of the tenon. It is the opening at the end of the shank in which the stem tenon is inserted, making a joint. Following general woodworking law, the joint becomes the weakest part of the pipe, which means the smoker should be sure treat the mortise carefully.
This is a more general term than stem or bit. The name more or less describes itself, for it is the part of the pipe designed to go in the mouth of the smoker.
There are only two defining features of a Nautilus shape pipe. First of all, there can be no definitive angles or hard lines in the briar of the shape--must flow into each other. Second, the shank must curve back and rejoin the upper half of the bowl, leaving an absence in the middle of the pipe.
This term is used is many different trades and refers to the stamping, branding, or other identification mark on an object. For a tobacco pipe this can be a logo on the shape, a stamp on the band, a laser printed design, or other image.
Non-Aromatic means that a tobacco isn’t an Aromatic…Sort of.
Non-Aromatic tobacco blends are blends that have little-to-no topping. The lack of topping changes the texture and effect of the tobacco blend when smoked. The term “Non-Aromatic” is a catch-all. It identifies blends that are neither English or Aromatic. (Learn more about the differences between Aromatic and Non-Aromatic blends here)
Don’t mistake non-aromatic blends for choices with no casings. According to G.L. Pease, almost all tobacco blends have at least a small amount of casing.
A Nose Warmer is a pipe with a short shank and stem. It is called a Nose Warmer because when lighting the heat can sometimes warm the tip of your nose. This shape specific title of this pipe is the Stubby.
Olive is experiencing something of a renaissance in the hands of artisan carvers. The wood of the olive tree has been used for pipe construction for a long time.
As you might guess, Olive wood comes from the wood of an olive tree. Because olives are prized for their food value, they are not felled for lumber often. This means that olive wood pieces are usually small. They come from pruned branches, trimmings, and sometimes from damaged trees. These smallish pieces are perfect for making pipes.
Olive wood has a distinct scent. Many pipe makers believe that the properties of the wood’s oil can add to the experience of smoking a pipe. Olive’s grain is distinct. It creates stunning pieces in the hands of talented pipe makers.
The chamber and bowl of an Oom Paul shape pipe is synonymous with a Billiard. The shank of the pipe is severely angled up, with a saddle bit stem jutting out, close to a 90 degree angle. The angle makes this pipe a deeply bent.
Even though this term is often used interchangeably with Turkish, the term Oriental Tobacco covers a slightly broader area. Orientals are grown in the greater Mediterranean area, and many consider Indonesian grown tobacco to fall into this category as well. Oriental tobacco is typically sun-cured, and due to this and its location of growth, it often has some form of exotic or strong flavor.
Where most pipes have a perfectly circular chamber, the Opera pipes, another name for the Oval, has an oval shaped chamber. This style of chamber is most often used on Churchwarden and Vest style pipes.
Panel shaped pipes are closely related to the Billiard. The difference between the Panel shape and Billiard shapes are the contours of the outside of the chamber and shank, a Panel will have no less than four flat sides on the bowl, and can have up to eight, all running perfectly perpendicular to the next.
True Perique tobacco is grown in only one place: St. James Parish, Louisiana. The tobacco is stored in large wooden barrels at high pressure and allowed to age and ferment for years at a time. This processes produces a full-flavored potent tobacco prized by pipe smokers.
For our purposes, a pipe is a tube with a small hole on one end, and a larger hole on the other end. It is used to smoke tobacco.
The Pot shape is the shorter, more adaptable version of a Billiard. A Pot is born when a standard Billiard pipe loses the top section of the bowl somewhere in the area of one third the total height of the bowl. A Pot usually has a wider diameter chamber than the Billiard.
The Prince is a the longer, flattened version of an Apple. To get a Prince, take an Apple pipe, squash the bowl slightly, shorten the length of the shank--usually down to three quarters of the height of the bowl--keep the cylindrical shape of the shank, and add a lengthened slightly curved stem, you get a Prince.
The P-Lip is a patented design specific to one brand: Peterson of Dublin. A P-Lip is a stem that has an air hole on the top of the stem, rather than on the end. This redirects the ribbon of smoke away from the tongue, which decreases tongue bite.
A plug tobacco is different from a cake. The difference is that plug is made from pressing together whole tobacco leaves. Often the tobacco is aged for a period of time before packaging in this pressed brick shape. This tobacco is smoked by cutting slices from the brick and rubbing out the components.
The Poker pipe is the most famous and most smoked sitting pipe in the world. The outside appearance of a Poker is a perfect cylinder with a miniscule forward cant. The chamber will be cylindrical, with parallel walls on each side. A Poker nearly always has a flat chamber rim, which transitions to the wall and chamber at a ninety degree angle.
This is the process of removing the carbon build up, or “cake”, from the inside chamber of your pipe. To learn more, see How To Ream Tobacco Pipes.
A Rhodesian traditionally has a cylindrical shaped shank. The double conical shape and twin bead lines are the same on a Rhodesian as they are on the Bulldog. A majority of the time the Rhodesian will have an eighth to a quarter bent shank and stem, but can periodically be found in a straight design.
The term ribbon refers to a style of cutting tobacco. Ribbon is long and thin strips of tobacco.
The room note refers to the unique aroma that a particular tobacco emits into the room in which you are smoking.
When smokers refer to a rotation, they are referring to a certain order in which they smoke their specific pipes. For example, a person who smokes once a day and has seven pipes may have a week-long or seven day rotation, meaning they smoke a different pipe each day of the week. A smoking rotation is strongly suggest, for giving pipes time to rest and recover after smoking is important for retaining their effectiveness.
Smokers often refer to “rubbing out” a tobacco when working with a flake, plug, cake, or coin style tobacco. A “rubbed out” tobacco is one that has been agitate with the fingers, breaking it apart into finer strands. This allows the tobacco to fit more evenly in the chamber, be easier to light, and deliver a smoother smoke.
A pipe’s surface is described as being rustic when the stummel has been given some texture other than smooth.
The saddle bit-style stem is designed to make a pipe more comfortable when being clenched in the mouth. A saddle stem has a push tenon that slides in the mortice. The stem begins like a tapered model where it meets the shank, then, the stem drops off where the top and bottom of the stem disappears, leaving a wide but thin band. The bore is typically smaller than it is on other stems.
This Oriental tobacco is grown around the town of Samsun, Turkey. Used more often in cigarettes, this tobacco has a very low nicotine level. The Samsun tobacco plant has a famous heart shaped leaf, and when aged turns a very dark color, emitting an exotic flavor.
This is a process that pipe makers use to add texture to the stummel of a wooden pipe. High speed blasts of sand in a controlled environment strip away the softer layers of wood, usually briar, leaving the harder ribbons. This typically creates a beautiful wavy patterned finish.
The term Scottish, English, and Balkan terms are quite muddled. Most smokers seem to use the terms interchangeably. However, compared to the others, a Scottish blend contains less Latakia, a larger portion of the secondary component Virginia, and little to no Oriental.
The screw-style stem is not so much a shape or style of stem as a classification based on functionality. Many smokers love this style, because it is easy to repair--if the tenon breaks, it is easily replaced by another threaded tenon. On a screw stem, the tenon is threaded and inserts into a matching threaded mortise. The easiest way to picture this stem is as a nut and bolt. Pipes with a screw stem can have any stem shape, tapered, saddle, or a random freeform design. A stinger is often paired with a screw stem to assist in reducing the gargle of moisture which may collect in the shank.
A 7-Day Set is considered a complete beginner’s collection by many pipe smokers. The idea is to have a different pipe for every day of the week. This allows the smoker to rest their pipes for a full week before smoking them again.
Shag cut is a tobacco blend that has been very finely cut, even more fine than ribbon. Shag is often bought as a cigarette filler for smokers who roll their own cigarettes.
The shank is the portion of a pipe in between the bowl and the stem. It is typically made from the same solid piece as the stummel.
The majority of Shirazi tobacco is primarily used as a filler for cigarettes, but is quite popular in the pipe tobacco blending sphere. Shiraz tobacco was brought to Shiraz, Iran, the city it was eventually named after, from the Americas in the 16th century.
The Sitter pipe is not so much an individual pipe shape as it is a classification for shapes. A pipe that is referred to as a Sitter is a pipe that stands upright on its own due to a flat foot or shank.
The slot is the widened air hole near the front of the stem. Generally acrylic and vulcanite stems have a bore that tapers going down towards the pipe--this is the slot. The purpose of a slot is to improve the smoothness of the air flow and make it easier to use a pipe cleaner.
This tobacco leaf is grown around the Izmir region, and is often called Izmir, in Indonesia. Smyrna is a naturally strong flavored tobacco, but has a low nicotine content compared to its strength. In pipe tobacco, Smyrna is typically used as a supplemental flavor enhancer, but can occasionally be found as the base tobacco in a blend. It is a very cool smoking blend.
Soppeng is an Indonesian tobacco and seems to be the Oriental equivalent to Cavendish. Palm sugar is added to Soppeng to sweeten the taste, and the tobacco is then fired. Often times the finished leaf is stored in bamboo palms, which furthers the sweet flavor. Soppeng is most often smoked in cigarettes, but is commonly found in pipe blends.
Spider webbing occurs when a pipe is smoked a bit too much, and instead of a burnout or single char spot, the pipe has lines of burnt char grained into the wood. A pipe with spider webbing can be repaired by either building up the cake in the chamber or in cases with light spider webbing another bowl coating will do.
This is the name for the meeting between an army mount tenon and shank, both of which are coated in metal.
The spur is most often seen on a cutty shaped pipe and long clay pipes. Centuries ago when pipe smoking was growing in popularity, clay pipes were the sole means of smoking. Because the clay quickly became hot, a spur was added to the foot of the pipe for the smoker to hold on to.
This is a strong and potent breed of tobacco. Srintil is grown primarily in the Java region Temanggung Regency in Indonesia. To make Srintil only the top portion of the tobacco plant is harvested, the more potent and oily section of this particular plant. It is then air cured and allowed to ferment for varying times. Yearly yield is only around three tons. Srintil is most easily understood as the Asian equivalent of Perique.
A stain is a certain pigmented color applied to the outside of the pipe to achieve the look the pipe maker desires.
A stem is the part of the pipe that you put into your mouth. It extends into the shank of the pipe.
A stinger is commonly called a “condenser”, “cleaner”, and/or “metal filter”. The stinger fits inside the tenon and extends into the shank of the pipe. The purpose of a stinger is to reduce the moisture gargle when smoking.
A pipe is deemed as straight when there is no bend or curve in the shank or stem of the pipe. The bowl of the pipe can have a forward or backward cant and still be deemed a straight pipe.
When the natural grain of the briar is very densely packed together, it tends to run in one direction, with most of the grain being almost perfectly parallel to one another. This typically runs up and down the bowl of the pipe but can run side to side depending on the preference of the carver.
This pipe, which is based off of a Billiard, is a portable pipe, perfect for smoking on the go. This is because of its standard shaped bowl and relatively short stem. While this is not classic shape, it has become a recognized trend. This pipe is often called a Nose Warmer.
The stummel refers to the total pipe minus the attached stem. This includes the shank, bowl, chamber, and other materials that make up the end of the pipe.
Sun curing tobacco is a way of aging and drying out the oil in the leaves, which matures the flavor and enables the tobacco to stay lit. This method involves laying the leaves out in the open sun and allowing nature to do its work. This is a popular method for curing Oriental type tobaccos, but is used all over the world.
This tobacco takes its name from the region in which it is grown, Tambolaka on Western Sumba, and island in the Indonesian archipelago. What gives this tobacco its high nicotine content, strong flavor, and potent aroma is the limestone rich soil the tobacco is grown in. What is unique about Tambolaka is that when harvested it is rolled into long sticks and stored to age for around five years.
A tamper is a generic term used to describe a tool that a pipe smoker uses to push the burning ash downs towards the base of the chamber while smoking. This tool is necessary because the burning tobacco must be periodically pushed down so that it comes in contact with the unburning tobacco below it.
While all other pipes in the Sitter family have perfectly cylindrical bowls, the Tankard shape has a slightly larger diameter at the foot than at the chamber rim, however, the chamber remains perfectly cylindrical. The foot of the pipe is cut off, which assists it in standing on its own when filled with tobacco. Tankard pipes are usually small and very light.
The tapered stem is the most common style of stem. Carvers and smokers love this stem because it is traditional, easy to make, and has the option of a large bore. A tapered stem has a tenon that is securely held in the mortise. The tapered stem is thickest where it meets the shank, and smoothly tapers down to a more compressed size as it gets closer to the bit.
The tenon is the protruding piece of the stem that is inserted into the shank or stummel of the pipe. Tenons can be made from many different materials, including metal, acrylic, vulcanite, derlin, and others. Some tenons are threaded and screw into the stummel of this pipe.
The phrase tin note is used in reference to the specific smell of an unsmoked tobacco blend when you open the seal or lid of the tin.
The Tomahawk shape features a pointed base of the bowl and the shape of the bent stem resemble the ancient weapon. Really, these are the only defining factors of the Tomahawk.
It is quite apparent why the Tomato is named as it is. Sometimes, when the pipe is called a Ball, it is because the spherical shape of the bowl is readily apparent, not so much that it has a different design. It is up to the artist to decide, for there is no significant difference in design.
There are two definitions for the term topping within the world of tobacco smoking. The first isn't usually encountered by the average pipe smoker. The second definition is the one you’re most familiar with.
The first definition for topping refers to a technique used in the development of tobacco crops. It is the removal of the tobacco flowers before suckering (pruning out) excess leaves. Topping and suckering is a common agricultural process for large leafy plants.
The second, and far more common, meaning of topping refers to flavors added to an Aromatic blend.
When referring to blending, topping is the Aromatic flavoring added just before packaging. For example, your favorite Cherry blend has a topping of cherry flavoring added at the end of processing. Think of the topping for your favorite blend as a sauce, like the hollandaise to your eggs benedict.
This tobacco is grown in Turkey and resembles Samsun. Trebizond leaf is coarse in texture and light in color.
Turkish tobaccos are grown in either Turkey or the greater Mediterranean area. Often called “Orientals”, this family is made up from Yenidje, Smyrna, Samsun, Izmir, Drama, Xanthe, and often Basma tobacco. This tobacco can be difficult for pipe tobacco producers to get their hands on, for these components are in high demand in the cigarette market.
Twist is a form of forming blended tobacco into a roll. The leaves are pressed into a rope, which looks similar to salami, and they are then cut into coins and rubbed out. This is often referred to as “rope” tobacco.
The Ukulele -- sometimes called an “Eskimo” or “Snow Cone”-- is not generally thought of as a member of the Bulldog family. However, the contours of the bowl demand this pipe be classified in that family. The Ukulele has the same cone shaped bowl, length, and squashed design of other members in its family, with the exception of the bead lines. The Ukulele shape is usually seen with a straight design and tapered stem.
This abbreviation refers to a combination of Virginia and Perique tobaccos. This combination is treasured by smokers. This blend usually a sweet and sour contrast in the flavor and ages quite well.
A Vest pipe is a particularly unique shape made to carry in a coat pocket. There are three engineered aspects to this pipe that make the Vest so easy and versatile. First, the short stem swivels, which allows the pipe to easily be stored in a pocket. Second, the rounded base of the bowl is built to easily slide into a vest pocket for easy safe-keeping. Finally, the short bent design of this pipe makes it easy to clench and hold in your teeth or mouth.
Virginia is a strand of tobacco is the most common for pipe smokers, and is included in a large amount of blends. Often called “brightleaf”, virginia has a light color and texture when compared to other tobaccos. Virginia is typically grown in sandy soil, usually in the state of North Carolina, and has a naturally mellow taste. Virginia is a tobacco that holds up to the aging process exceptionally well.
The Volcano shape consists of a conical shaped bowl that widens closer to the base of the pipe. The foot is either flat or rounded. Volcano pipes have a small diameter rim than others. Because the chamber will typically have a perfectly cylindrical shape, the chamber walls thicken from the rim down towards the foot. The Volcano will almost always have a bent stem.
Vulcanite is a hardened rubber. Vulcanite can contain large amounts of sulfur and thus is subject to oxidation if left out in the sun. Vulcanite is a preferred stem material by many pipe makers. It is very soft compared to other acrylics used for stems. Vulcanite is naturally a dark black color.
White Burley is a term used to describe a lighter toned tobacco, and is slightly subjective. According to the traditional definition all burley currently grown is white burley. Producers often distinguish a white burley leaf from others when using multiple components of burley in the same mixture.
Xanthi is a leaf that falls into the classification of Basma tobacco. The leaf is named after the region in which it is primarily grown in Greece. Xanthi is a tobacco that has a particularly strong and pleasant aroma.
Yenidje is a strain of tobacco classified as a Turkish Xanthi blend and is considered by many to be the most prized Oriental tobacco. This leaf is named after the town Yenidje where it was once grown. It is now grown in northern Syria. This tobacco has a relatively low nicotine content and smoky flavor. Yenidje does not burn well on its own, so it is used as a supplemental flavor enhancer in blends.
Zebrawood refers to any number of tropical tree species. This wood is defined by a light and dark striping grain, which just so happens to look like the stripes of a zebra. This material is commonly used as a band around the shank of a pipe.
A Zulu bowl has a conical shape that tapers down to a smaller chamber diameter toward the bore. However, the Zulu often has slightly thinner chamber walls than other pipes, giving it its light design. Usually the bowl has an obvious forward cant. It is the bend of the Zulu that defines it. Unlike most bent pipes, the Zulu has a straight shank, jutting out of the bowl at a ninety degree angle. This results in an outward facing bowl, giving the illusion of an extreme cant.