So you think coating the chamber of a tobacco pipe is blasphemous, huh? This is a hot button issue for many pipe smokers, with stark opposition on both sides of the argument, so we’re going to demystify the subject for you. What’s the big idea behind bowl coatings, anyway? Many individual pipe makers and large factories alike put the finishing touch on each of their pipes by painting the tobacco chamber with something the pipe community has dubbed a “bowl coating.” They claim it offers a head start to the smoker while trying to build up precious “cake,” and even protects the chamber from burning during the initial break-in process. On the other hand, many pipe smokers adamantly refute these supposed qualities, and go a step further in contending that bowl coatings actually ruin the taste of good tobacco. Others claim that bowl coatings are simply a ploy to hide ugly flaws in poor quality briar.
So who’s right about all this? At the risk of being burned on the altar, the short of it is, the makers and factories are right. I could hear hell raising as my fingers tapped those keys!
The Pipe Guys have spoken with many professional pipe makers and even visited major pipe factories abroad, and all the evidence points to bowl coatings being fair game. Most bowl coatings are made with activated carbon as their main ingredient, which is the same stuff a lot of you use to filter your water and make it taste better. Plus, activated carbon traps contaminants and is sometimes prescribed for oral consumption to combat food-borne illnesses, so there should be no major health concerns about it.
The Pipes Speak for Themselves
Secondly, if we can use the attestation of the professional community as backup, take a look at how many respectable and long-standing pipe makers have been using bowl coatings regularly. We’ll give you a hint; there are a lot of them. We know that these makers are using some of the best quality briar in the world, so what would they have to hide? Some offer both coated and non-coated bowls on their pipes to satisfy the entire crowd.
With all that being said, however, bowl coatings on a very cheap pipe, such as a basket pipe, may very well warrant the grumblings of the pipe community, as they may certainly mask some of the inferior briar’s exposed flaws. Then again, if you’re in the market for a basket pipe, you shouldn’t let your expectations run wild.
We feel that all this naysaying about “bowl coatings” is unwarranted when it comes to quality smoking pipes, but many people still remain on the other side of that fence.