Published: 03 June 2013
Category: Pipe Rack
If you asked me my favorite shape I'd say without hesitation the Liverpool. The best part of the Liverpool in my opinion is how it pleases the eye. The longer shank and short stem just flows visually. I always think of all my pipes my Liverpools look best just sitting there. Somehow Canadians don't attract me in the same way, but I love a good Liverpool. It's the mild tweak to the billiard that sends it from attractive to gotta have it.
I'm fond of Lovats also. It's such a comfortable shape to smoke, and the smaller capacity of the average Lovat makes it perfect for Samuel Gawith flakes, which are what I smoke most often.
As I look at my rack there is one shape that is starting to dominate every tier. It's a shape that could be called pedestrian. It's certainly the poster pipe for what I used to consider boring, and I never would have owned one a couple of years ago, having a younger man's more superficial tastes in pipe aesthetics.
This shape has cast a spell of compulsion on me. I long to smoke this shape, and every time I acquire a new one for the rack, it seems that I redo my roadmap and add one or two more of them. No matter how many times I scratch this itch, it keeps coming back. I think in my mind I want to cover all the bases for this shape, so I set out to get, I don't know, three or four iconic versions, and then as I acquire them my eye falls on another version that has some trivial difference from the others yet seems like a universe of new experiences to me.
The shape I'm talking about is the mundane, amazing billiard.
Forget collecting for a second. Hopefully all of us who are driven to collect pipes are first and foremost pipe smokers. As a pipe smoker, the billiard is pure magic.
The billiard is the ultimate smoking machine. Light and balanced. Hard to find one that's a wet smoker. The taper of the stem gives the pipe maker the perfect medium to make a supremely comfortable bit.
Usually 30-40g in weight, anywhere from just under 5 inches to 6 inches long. Subtle differences in shaping, shank and stem work create new breeds. If you don't pay attention then a billiard is a billiard and that's what you see when you look at any billiard. For me, the differences between a Comoy's 64, Orlik 20, GBD 2515, Dunhill 60 or Loewe Falkland are wildly exciting. Saddle billiards? You just blew my mind. Square shanks and panels? Get the smelling salts.
This pedestrian, most basic of pipe shapes is so easy to walk past. The billiard is that mousy girl with glasses that you never once noticed in high school, and you see her on campus a few years later on some other guy's arm and can't believe your eyes. What a knockout! Man, how did I let that get by me?
The billiard was perfect from the start, I just had to mature enough to recognize how great it was. If you haven't figured this out for yourself already, pick up a reasonably priced classic English estate billiard sometime. It's insidious, the biliard. Before long you'll find yourself reaching for it more than your old favorites.
The billiard is the perfect smoking tool. Subtle differences in shaping by the maker create exciting and unique variations of a standard form. That's maybe what I like about the billiard best, as a collector. Every billiard is a billiard, but the great ones stand out. They draw your eye to differences in shaping, shank girth and stem work. The good creative decisions sing, and the bad ones stand out like warts.
It's not an elistist club, but it's not for every pipe smoker either. I think billiard appreciation more than any other area in pipe collecting develops your eye for pipes. Or maybe it's the starting point for advanced appreciation. In any event, the billiard is a fantastic smoking pipe whose beauty is there waiting for you to discover.