Handmade Smoking Pipes

Bondarev Pipes are handmade briar smoking pipes from Latvian pipe maker Alexandr (Sasha) Bondarev. Noble materials, perfect engineering, accurate making.

Available Pipes

reserved
Rusticated Bent

Sold Pipes

Lumberman
Billiard
Smooth Canadian
Billiard
Billiard
Chubby Prince
Long Canadian
Straight Bulldog
Bird-eye Billiard
Bent Egg
Liverpool
Smooth Bent
Bamboo Liverpool
Buddha Apple
Lumberman
Pot
Blowfish
Apple
Black Canadian
Smooth Canadian
Liverpool
Lovat
Bent Pot
Pot

About Pipe Smoking For newbies

Smoking pipes is one of the ways to consume tobacco. In these modern days, smoking a pipe became a delicacy for those who are looking for taste and aesthetics. It’s not about looking to appease nicotine hunger, far from it...

This is absolutely a different kind of smoking, which has no similarity to cigarettes. You can't smoke a pipe during a 10 minutes timeout at work. You can't smoke a pipe while waiting for a bus. A pipe requires time and attention.

An average pipe provides smoking pleasure for about an hour or more. And you have to pause most other activities for that hour. Pipe smoking can only be combined with something automatic, such as reading, driving or gardening.

Smoking a pipe requires some care, and tobacco needs special handling. To get the best smoke with good taste, you need some experience. Some make mistakes in filling the pot the wrong way, or try smoking too fast, all of which can ruin the taste

But in return for your diligence, time and attention the pipe will provide you with a really tasty smoke, which is absolutely unreachable with cigarettes. There are lots of tobaccos, which differ as strongly as, for example, alcohol drinks differ from each other. Some like whiskey, some prefer wine, some drink beer. Some smoke Perique and hate Latakia, while others prefer Burley instead. Some smoke only clear Virginia, while others prefer highly flavoured mixtures.

Meanwhile, the taste of most drinks doesn't depend on the shape of the glass, but the taste of tobacco does indeed depend on the pipe it is smoked from. A tobacco from the same tin can have a different taste if you smoke it in different pipes. Next to the tobacco, the pipe is just as important in your smoking experience.

Pipe smoking will cost some money of course, but it’s not as expensive as some might think. Smoking a pipe can open up a whole new world of novel impressions for you. If you have the time and desire to explore that world, throw your cigarettes out and join us. :) But if you just want to get your nicotine dose once per hour, pipe smoking is not for you.

How pipes differ?

1. There are filtered and non-filtered pipes. This is perhaps the most important difference. Most pipe smokers use only one kind of pipe. Usually it depends on the first experience. If you start pipe smoking from a filtered pipe, you will probably use filters your whole life and will most likely not change your decision. If you start with a non-filter pipe, you probably will never like filters.

A filter takes some taste notes away from tobacco smoke — that's the price for a theoretical health advantage. And filtered pipes are a bit easier to smoke for beginners. I don't use filters, because I want to get the maximum taste from my pipe.

2. Pipes can be straight or bent. That's mostly an aesthetic factor, but straight pipes have simpler engineering and are easier to smoke and to clean. Bent pipes often require pipe makers to search for compromises in engineering when they craft pipes with strong bents. So I prefer straight or slightly bent pipes.

3. Some people clench their pipe between their teeth, while some prefer to hold their pipe in their hand. If you have free time without any other activities, you best keep your pipe in your hand. In that case it’s not even a problem if the pipe is heavy and long. But if you smoke for example while driving, you should choose a light or short pipe. Bents are more comfortable to clench between teeth when compared to straights, with the same weight and length.

I smoke mostly in a car or at work, so most of my pipes are light enough for holding between my teeth. But I don't like short pipes (nosewarmers), I prefer thin but not too short pipes.

4. Pipe shapes are categorised between classic and freehand. Classic pipe shapes were mostly designed for lathe production. Freehand is a pipe shaping method, which was created by Danish pipe makers, searching for new ideas. They decided not to use a lathe for pipe shaping, so they got their hands free to craft any shape they could imagine.

The shape does not really affect the smoking. It’s mostly an aesthetic factor. For me personally, I especially love classic shapes while I see some magic aesthetics in them. But I make different kinds of pipes, and freehands too of course.

5. Pipes can be finished as smooth, sandblasted or rusticated. Smooth pipes are often more expensive, because not every briar block can become a smooth pipe. Briar is a root, and it often has some flaws inside. If a big flaw appears on the surface, the craftsman throws the pipe into the fire place. If the flaw is not so big, the craftsman uses a sandblasting machine to give the surface an interesting relief, while the wood year rings become grooves. Sometimes craftsmen use different tools to get other kinds of surface finish — that's rustication. Only if the surface is clean or contains only very small sandpits, the craftsman uses the smooth finish. He sands the pipe with sand paper and polishes it.

About Chamber Sizes

The most important factor in pipe characteristics is the chamber size. I make pipes 18 to 24 mm wide and 30 to 45 mm deep. I prefer wide chambers for Latakia and smaller ones for strong Virginia flakes.

The depth affects the smoke taste less, but it is important too. When the hot smoke passes through the tobacco in the pipe chamber, it takes some notes from deeper layers and leaves some substances there. So the taste of higher layers will differ from deeper layers. I don't like deep chambers, 40 mm is the maximum depth for me. I'd rather smoke two small bowls instead of a single deep one.

If you are looking for your first smoking pipe, it's better to choose medium size chamber: 19 to 20 mm wide and 35 to 40 mm deep.

What are pipes made from?

Most smoking pipes are made of briar. It’s the root bowl of a tree, which grows around the Mediterranean sea. Before French craftsmen discovered briar, people had tried lots of materials to make pipes. But now that all researches are finished — briar is absolutely the best material.

You can still find pipes made of other materials, but each of them has its own bad characteristics. There are meerschaum pipes, which is a white fossil mineral. They provide a rather good smoke, but the stuff is extracted in Turkey, and Turkish law prohibits to export raw meerschaum. So there is a Turkish monopoly on such pipes, and they often use their monopoly to sell horribly made pipes, which are not worth the money. There are also morta pipes made of fossil oak wood, but nobody can offer a stable supply of this rare stuff. Besides, one morta pipe can provide perfect taste, while another turns out to be disgusting. This is because those tree trunks were submerged and fossilised in many different conditions for thousands of years.

Other materials are just compromises for a lower price. You pay less, while you get worse smoke. But the positive thing here is that briar is not very expensive. The most affordable briar pipes cost about $50 — that's a comparable price to just a few tins of good tobacco. I don't find any reason to use cheaper materials. If you have money for tobacco, you will find some money for a briar pipe too.

Meanwhile, there is one extremely cheap material to make pipes from, which is popular enough: corncobs. They cost just a few dollars for a piece. Some smokers even don't clean them and treat them as expendable material. It was interesting for me to try corncob pipes, but I didn't like them. They have some popcorn taste, they are often horribly made, and they can't provide that aesthetic feeling I love pipe smoking for.

Pipe mouthpieces can be made out of two materials: ebonite (vulcanite) or acrylic. Ebonite is softer, so ebonite mouthpieces are more comfortable to clench between teeth. Acrylic mouthpieces are harder and have a longer lifetime.

Some think acrylic is for cheap pipes and ebonite is for expensive handmade pipes. That's not true. Indeed, affordable pipe manufacturers use mostly acrylic stems, and pipe craftsmen use mostly ebonite. But the real reason is quite simple. Acrylic is just more suitable for mass production, but ebonite is easier to work with files. Either way, nobody forbids pipe makers to work with acrylic rods the same way as they work with ebonite.

I prefer acrylic for heavy pipes, because they will be smoked while being held in hand. And I prefer ebonite for light or short pipes, because ebonite is more comfortable to clench the mouthpiece between teeth.

Aesthetically these materials differ not so strongly. They both can be black. Acrylic may have many other colours, but now there is one German ebonite supplier who offers very interesting colours of ebonite too.

The second most popular colour of ebonite after black is cumberland. That's a common ebonite coloured mostly with black and brownish lines, or some other colours. I tried different colours of both materials, but it seems pipe smokers are too conservative for such experiments. :) They prefer black mouthpieces, or black and brown cumberland. Amber-coloured acrylic sells good too. But when I make pipes with red, yellow, green mouthpieces, they often stay available for months. That's the only reason I stopped looking for other colours.

How Many Pipes Do You Need?

A smoking pipe has no life length. It can provide smoking pleasure for your whole life span. But you can't smoke it too often either. Briar requires at least 24 hours to dry between smokes. It's even better to smoke a particular pipe not more than 4 to 5 times per week. That's why owning one pipe is usually not enough. And if you like to smoke different kinds of tobaccos, you'd better get different pipes for each one of them.

Sometimes you have time for a large bowl, and sometimes you want to smoke just half an hour. That's why experienced pipe smokers have many pipes in rotation. I think that if you try pipe smoking and love it, after some years you will have a big collection of pipes. But for starting your pipe smoking experience, 2 to 3 different pipes will be enough.

Alexandr Bondarev

Sasha Bondarev Latvian pipe maker

I started making pipes in 2011, and now it's my only job. I make about 5 to 8 pipes per month, spending 2 to 3 working days on each one.

For my pipes I use Italian briar and German ebonite or acrylic rods. I pay special attention to pipe engineering: accurate drilling, fine stem fitting, comfortable mouthpiece button, deep V-slot.

Every single one of my pipes provides a perfect smoking experience. Just try one of them, and I’m sure you will want to get a second one soon.