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Aged Brit Pipeman rambles on about cobs.......

Aged Brit Pipeman rambles on about cobs.......

Postby Falconeer » Thu Jan 17, 2013 9:30 am

Corncob pipes have never really taken off in Britain the way they did in America.

Standing outside a British pub puffing away one of mine I have often been asked “Is that a Meerschaum?” and have been able to reply like Mark Twain - “No Sir, that is a Missoura Meerschaum!” before going on to say what it's really made of and getting disbelief - “You mean it's like that corn on the cob stuff you eat!”

It's not that they can't be had in the UK - even when I was a teenager in the 60s, in possession of all my hair and sporting the finest crop of zits ever seen in Scotland, corncob pipes were sold in the main tobacconists in a provincial one horse town like Falkirk. Even in Northumberland now the local newsagent in Alnwick keeps a stock of them ( which turns over ) and they can readily be bought in Morpeth, Hexham and Newcastle.

Obviously people buy them but I simply never see anyone smoking them.

The look of corncobs doesn't appeal to everyone, I know, and many regard them as “toy” or not “real” pipes...I was in the latter category for most of my pipe smoking career and when by chance I came across an Internet Article advocating that anyone considering a pipe for the first time might be well advised to try a corncob, I frankly dismissed the idea.

In my own case that goes back to my unfortunate experiences with such a pipe which my pal and I owned jointly in Falkirk in the said 60s. Neither of us knew much about pipes then other than that we'd both seen the same Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes films and thought we'd like to become pipesmokers.

I find it impossible to believe now looking back but we truly never even tried taking the thing apart never mind buying pipe cleaners for it – or any other pipe for that matter. We smoked Condor in it, were both wet smokers and quickly found the thing's draw bunging up and the taste getting worse and worse. Then over zealous digging out of its copious wet dottle knocked a hole in the bottom of it and it was consigned to Pipe Heaven or El Rio Carron, it's nearest approximation.

That ended the corncob experiment for me until about four or five years ago when I happened upon the article mentioned earlier which led to me buying a corncob out of curiosity to see, what, if anything I had missed all those years. This time I did take it apart and found, Lo and Behold, it contained a filter which got quickly wet and caused the draw to block!

Further reading told me I should really keep the thing as dry as possible and that it mightn't be a good idea to let it build up a cake. I found myself liking it and even bought another half dozen. In time I was gifted a new “natural” cob ( without plaster ) and found I enjoyed it even more.....and that was me....

....until Winter set in. Back in the wet West Central Region of Scotland wherein Motherwell lay I found if I went round the town on a damp day smoking my cob it started to taste “off” and I'd trouble keeping my tobacco alight – my cobs started spending their off duty time on a shelf above one of the central heating radiators and this helped greatly.

That winter I also found that Gawith's moister than moist tobaccos were not the ideal thing to try in a cob either – the result came out the same as walking round the town on a damp day and that perhaps is one of the other reasons why cobs never caught on in Britain – unlike Americans we prefer our tobaccos moist and rarely dry them out before smoking unless in emergency such as getting a smoke out of a bulk delivery of St James Flake!

I'm lucky enough to be able to live in Spain for at least half of the year ( and frankly if Britain gets many more “summers” like last year will probably move there permanently in the end ) - right down south in Andalusia where the climate is hot and dry and in such conditions, for me, my cobs come into their own, especially when loaded with an American OTC Burley or a drier aromatic like Amphora Red.

Each to his own and happy smoking whatever your preference in pipes and tobaccos!

Gerry
"I don't think it matters what kind of pipe you smoke, so long as it is well broken in." - Trevor Baylis former Pipe Smoker of the Year
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Re: Aged Brit Pipeman rambles on about cobs.......

Postby William » Thu Jan 17, 2013 1:39 pm

Very nice ramble Gerry! I enjoyed reading that and I too came on to cobs later for the very same reasons you mentioned. It took reading about the joys of the cob by others (online) to convince me I needed to at least try one. I did and now understand why so many like to smoke them.
Anyway, well done.

All the best,

William
The meaning of life becomes irrelevant once I'm smoking my pipe.
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Re: Aged Brit Pipeman rambles on about cobs.......

Postby Frizz » Thu Jan 17, 2013 4:07 pm

Very enjoyable read Gerry and the perfect accompaniment to a morning's smoke, thanks for that. It's true that it doesn't get much better than a cobful of burley.

Mark Twain on the burn, that's gonna keep me smiling all day! :D
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Re: Aged Brit Pipeman rambles on about cobs.......

Postby englanddave » Thu Jan 17, 2013 9:13 pm

Great post Gerry very interesting and entertaining welcome back
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Re: Aged Brit Pipeman rambles on about cobs.......

Postby englanddave » Thu Jan 17, 2013 9:13 pm

Great post Gerry very interesting and entertaining welcome back
Dave

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Re: Aged Brit Pipeman rambles on about cobs.......

Postby Bob » Fri Jan 18, 2013 1:26 am

A good read Gerry.

I've never smoked my cobs in foul weather. It makes sense they would absorb a lot of moisture.
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Re: Aged Brit Pipeman rambles on about cobs.......

Postby Smitty » Fri Jan 18, 2013 1:40 am

Entertaining read Gerry. I have noticed the "off" taste in damp weather too. Days like that I take my Falcon and/or a Dr. Grabow or two.
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Re: Aged Brit Pipeman rambles on about cobs.......

Postby Falconeer » Fri Jan 18, 2013 9:15 am

Agreed Smitty - at that point the Falcons and briars return to active duty.

Horses for courses as we say in Britain!
"I don't think it matters what kind of pipe you smoke, so long as it is well broken in." - Trevor Baylis former Pipe Smoker of the Year
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Re: Aged Brit Pipeman rambles on about cobs.......

Postby Anthorn » Tue Apr 30, 2013 10:01 am

I think the problem with cobs in United Kingdom is cost: If we want a MM Country Gentleman the cost is about the same as a Falcon bowl and if we order direct from MM the minimum shipping is $16.50. If we are new to pipe smoking and want to start with the almost obligatory two pipes, a Falcon year pipe set with a standard stem, two bowls, 25 dry rings and a measly 3 pipe cleaners isn't really much more than two Country gentleman MMs (Falcon Year Pipe 2010 - around £32; Two Country Gentleman - around £26). Probably if MM cobs cost less than Falcon they would be an alternative but as it is Falcon is the better alternative.

btw when buying a Falcon Year Pipe set by mail order ensure that two bowls are specified in the description or confirm it by contacting the retailer: Some of them have the extra bowl removed which is not apparent from the illustration and the price is not very much discounted.
Favourite tobacco: Gawith Hoggarth Sliced Kendal Brown Twist (Sliced Brown Bogie), Gawith Hoggarth Rum Flake, Dunhill My Mixture 965, Ashton Artisan's Blend, Peterson Irish Flake. Most disiked tobacco: Peterson Sunset Breeze, Samuel Gawith Perfection.
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Re: Aged Brit Pipeman rambles on about cobs.......

Postby PufferBilly » Tue Apr 30, 2013 12:40 pm

Nice post Gerry! I know that I enjoyed my cobs when I had them. I think I left them at a hotel and have not ordered any more. Maybe they will have some in Chicago at the pipe show this weekend!
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Re: Aged Brit Pipeman rambles on about cobs.......

Postby KevinM » Tue Apr 30, 2013 4:26 pm

Great post Gerry. I amassed quite a few briars before finally purchasing my first cob two or so years ago. I picked it up on a fluke wondering myself what the fuss was all about. I don't enjoy them as much as my briars, but I like them when working outdoors. I never considered weather and it's affect on the smoking qualities, but will definitely pay attention to that in the future.
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Re: Aged Brit Pipeman rambles on about cobs.......

Postby NoBail » Tue Apr 30, 2013 4:38 pm

As others have written I like a cob for yard work and I don't worry about chewing the bit. They are great for fishing in the ocean, if I drop it, no big loss. I use them to test out tobaccos that I fear might ghost a briar pipe. I have six cobs and use them more in summer due to the yard work angle, and the fishing!
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Re: Aged Brit Pipeman rambles on about cobs.......

Postby RompinDonkey » Tue Apr 30, 2013 6:04 pm

I've got four cobs, but hardly ever smoke them. Maybe sometimes I might smoke one if I'm trying to identify the "component parts" of a blend - as well as smoking that blend in "say" a meer or a briar. I can't fault them at all. I think that it may just come down to the fact that I like to feel something "substantial" in my pipes.

I don't consider them "toy" pipes by any means - it's just that they sort of feel a bit light and flimsy.

I smoke all of my pipes outdoors (including falcons, which sometimes get remarks like "very 60's" or "very retro"). Those remarks surprise me as I would have thought that everyone has seen a falcon before - obviously not. I would expect comments from people if I was smoking a cob in public - probably Popeye related :)

Anyway, thanks for the post Gerry - 1st class as ever.
Alan

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Re: Aged Brit Pipeman rambles on about cobs.......

Postby HCraven » Wed May 01, 2013 4:55 am

Falconeer wrote:...Obviously people buy them but I simply never see anyone smoking them.


I think the same can be said here in the States. As distinctly American as they are, and despite highly accomplished people like Mark Twain and General MacArthur being known for smoking them, it's hard for people to get past the stereotypical image of the hillbilly cob smoker here.
Image
...not that there's anything wrong with that. :shock:


I smoke mine at home or in the yard, and though I don't often take the opportunity to enjoy a pipe in a public place, the last time the missus and I went to a local festival where I could do so, she nixed my selection of a cob and asked me to go get one of my nice briars instead. Did I mention that it was the Johnny Appleseed Festival? Though I don't think Mr. Chapman was known for smoking any sort of pipe, I imagine he would have certainly approved of my cob.

Anyway, a great post, Gerry! Ramble on anytime, sir.
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Re: Aged Brit Pipeman rambles on about cobs.......

Postby Anthorn » Wed May 01, 2013 10:43 am

RompinDonkey wrote:I've got four cobs, but hardly ever smoke them. Maybe sometimes I might smoke one if I'm trying to identify the "component parts" of a blend - as well as smoking that blend in "say" a meer or a briar. I can't fault them at all. I think that it may just come down to the fact that I like to feel something "substantial" in my pipes.

I don't consider them "toy" pipes by any means - it's just that they sort of feel a bit light and flimsy.

I smoke all of my pipes outdoors (including falcons, which sometimes get remarks like "very 60's" or "very retro"). Those remarks surprise me as I would have thought that everyone has seen a falcon before - obviously not. I would expect comments from people if I was smoking a cob in public - probably Popeye related :)

Anyway, thanks for the post Gerry - 1st class as ever.


Personally, I regard a pipe as a tool used for smoking tobacco and I treat them as such: Dings and burns add to the character of the pipe, whack a bit of shoe polish on the bowl, etc. But notwithstanding that I never smoke a cob away from home: It's like wearing light-tan shoes with black trousers, I would be self-conscious about it. Falcon is different because I've been smoking them for so long they're almost part of me now. I can remember when they were "not a proper pipe", "a piece of plumbing" and "are you going to smoke that or stir your tea with it", etc.

But cobs do bring out the flavour and also the strength in a tobacco. I've noticed that SG 1792 is a lot stronger in a cob than in a Falcon or briar. Talking about briars, I'm highly attracted to a Stanwell No. 32 at the moment and resisting the temptation to buy it but I'll probably fail. Where's me cobs?
Favourite tobacco: Gawith Hoggarth Sliced Kendal Brown Twist (Sliced Brown Bogie), Gawith Hoggarth Rum Flake, Dunhill My Mixture 965, Ashton Artisan's Blend, Peterson Irish Flake. Most disiked tobacco: Peterson Sunset Breeze, Samuel Gawith Perfection.
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Re: Aged Brit Pipeman rambles on about cobs.......

Postby noodle » Wed Jun 11, 2014 12:07 pm

Interesting reading I've a few cobs and they are purely for home use, anyone care to guess why :D
They are mostly smoked when I'm doing something that may lead to the destruction or damage of a briar or meer. Think hovering over a black and decker workmate with power tools etc
Tbh they do smoke very well with only one or two drawbacks the biggest being my habit of getting a mouthful of hot ash at times when I fail to pay attention to the level of tobacco in the chamber.
Going back to the three I own two are the cheapest of cheap unplastered ones with the orange stem the third is a decent one a Great Dane spool
So they get used for any stuff in the garden DIY etc that doesn't give me oily hands one alco is reserved for that job and happily it makes it so shiney
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Re: Aged Brit Pipeman rambles on about cobs.......

Postby Condoranian » Wed Jun 11, 2014 7:32 pm

Cobs seem to be the only pipes I smoke these days. No problem smoking them in public either. Great smokers!! and thats what counts.

Happy Puffing!
Dave
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Re: Aged Brit Pipeman rambles on about cobs.......

Postby Bob » Thu Jun 12, 2014 12:35 am

I agree with the perception of cobs by the general public. Most likely from the movies. I also regarded them as a pipe more to just sample tobaccos. Over the last couple of years I smoke one once or twice a week because I like them. They do smoke well and I don't worry about cleaning them much so maintenance is minimal. I don't smoke them in public though. :oops:
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Re: Aged Brit Pipeman rambles on about cobs.......

Postby ratatosk » Thu Jun 12, 2014 1:05 am

I smoke cobs in public, at work. If somebody says anything about Popeye, I just reply "well, blow me down!" That shuts them up pretty quick. :lol:
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Re: Aged Brit Pipeman rambles on about cobs.......

Postby William » Thu Jun 12, 2014 1:10 am

ratatosk wrote:I smoke cobs in public, at work. If somebody says anything about Popeye, I just reply "well, blow me down!" That shuts them up pretty quick. :lol:

I bet that does shut 'em up! :lol:
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