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Clay Pipes


May 16, 2023
Cape Town South Africa
Good day from a wet, windy and wintery Cape Town.

I've collected and restored plenty of briar, meerschaum and cobs. But a few years ago I pulled the trigger on a clay tavern pipe. As can be expected, the careful handling and great speed at which my pipe arrived ensured that it arrived with a broken stem. Luckily (well in this context at least) the breakway was at the midway point. So my long stemmed tavern pipe was about to become a cutty. The good thing is that the pipe was unglazed and with normal wet sanding I easy reshaped the stem.

It's pretty easy to do, and I admit I did it more as a throw of the dice, rather than through skill or knowledge. Seeing that I could shape it using basic sanding, I also cleaned up the surface and "polished" it. I gave it a final coating of wax for a bit of a shine.

The last step was to make it easier on the teeth, so a cut a 1" piece of electrical heat shrink, fitted it over the button, and heated it to get the correct fit.

So after a couple of years of smoking my clay it was now taken on the sort of discoloration/patina you would see from a meerschaum. I was not aware that clay did this, but considering that it is porous, it makes sense. It almost looks like an antique pipe at this point.

Some things I learned since I got my first clays;

They smoke really really dry. There is no moisture at all, and especially in the beginning it's a weird smoking experience. However it seems that a layer of carbon/soot deposits inside the stem and eventually it retains the dry smoking character but without a "ceramic" taste.

They get hot, but you quickly adapt to holding the pipe differently. The smoke is pleasantly cool though, so unless you have a very very short nosewarmer, none of the heat ends up in the actual smoke.

The pipes do not impart any kind of flavour, and I understand why these pipes were popular for so long. There is no ghost of tobacco's past. The smoke is always pure. It is also excellent for trying new tobacco's because of that very reason. You could smoke a Lakeland, Aromatic or Baboon Crap (in Africa we make do) without having to worry about ghosting.



Founding Member
Oct 18, 2012
NE Alabama
The heat shrink tubing is a great idea. I never liked the mouth feel of mine. I'm going to give the shrink tubing a try. Thanks alot!
I reduced the size of my bowl with a belt sander so I could take a few puffs of my cigarette blend in the winter when it was too cold for a whole cigarette. Works like a charm and I'm not wasting tobacco.