We have the basics down of what a tobacco pipe is and its finishes. Now I will introduce you to some of the many shapes you can have. Most of us got to know pipes by watching movies with Sherlock Holmes and his Calabash pipe. This kind of pipe is quite peculiar but not for the shape only, let me explain why.
Blatter is the creator of this kind of pipe. I will try to be brief; during the Boer War, briar was scarce, so Blatter had to find a new material to use and chose Calabash gourd. You are not mistaken; this pipe is made out of a pumpkin with a meerschaum bowl and a plastic stem. The Calabash has a dramatic bend in the pipe’s body, nearly assuming the shape of a “U” and has a drastic but gradual and uninterrupted taper from bowl to stem.
Nowadays, this shape is also made in briar but is not as dramatic as it would be in Calabash gourd. Once the choice of the soldiers during wartime, then (after King Edwards made smoking fashionable) the new trendy smoking pipe of English society and now a rare beauty.
Billiard pipes are the most common, straight, bowl height like the shank length, a timeless shape. This shape also has a bent variation, with the same principle.
The Apple shape can be either straight or bent, the same proportion of a billiard but with the bowl rounded off like an apple would be, Easy!
The Bulldog shape is apple’s edgy brother with a squared shank and some horizontal lines carved onto the bowl. If you are not into corners but like bulldogs overall shape, a Rhodesian is the one then.
As always, these pipes can come either bent or straight.
If you are looking for symmetry, then look no further. The Poker shape is the right one for you. It is turned on a lathe with two cylinders at 90-degree angles to each other, the larger for the bowl and the thinner for the shank. Simple but perfect. Can you top perfection? yes, you can! This pipe has a flat base which allows you to put it down without a stand. I know, mind-blowing.
Are you looking for a long relaxing hand free smoke? Pick a Hungarian Shape/Oom Paul, and you won’t be disappointed.
Some people like to distinguish the two by defining them by the bowl shape and proportions: full bent Apple(Hungarian) or Billiard(Oom Paul). Either way, generously sized tobacco chamber, fully bent with a shank about the same diameter as the bowl. This shape allows you to have long and relaxing smokes and allows the pipe to rest on your chin, so you don’t have to clench your pipe.
Quick history note: State President of the South African Republic, Stephanus Johannes Paulus Kruger, known as Paul Kruger and called by his people Uncle Paul (Afrikaans: “Oom Paul”), used to have a Hungarian pipe sitting on his beard all the times and was also known for that, hence the origin of this pipe shape second name.
Speaking of a bearded man, I’ve had some people coming to the shop looking for “Gandalf’s pipe”… They were looking for a Churchwarden pipe. Many iterations of this shape, different lengths, bowl shapes, and finishes, but the general rule is that it has to be a long-stemmed pipe with a relatively small bowl. This shape is ideal for people who like long, cool smoke and they like to read. I know that’s oddly specific, but in Europe is called the “reading” pipe, so i guess you could try it if you like reading.
One shape leads to another one, ready for another chain of shapes?
A shape that I like a lot is the Chimney shape, great if you want to pack a good amount of tobacco. It’s a Billiard variation, with a chimney(bowl) that is about 50% taller, which means around twice the length of the shank. Use it as a general idea.
I’m going to close this post with my favorite shape: the Horn shape. In my opinion, it is one of the most elegant pipe shapes. It has no “junction” between the bowl and the shank. The lines flow seamlessly back and forth along the length of the pipe. The defining characteristic of the Horn is its continuous and uninterrupted taper from front to back. Only the imagination is the limit: square, round, or freely shaped bowls, full of details or completely plain with one or multiple types of finishes. Just stunning.
As you can imagine, there are many more shapes, but I will let you discover them. Head over to our guide, in which we go in-depth on each shape available.
Christian – Pipe Expert