Reddog Pipes is all about Cobfoolery

I "met" Basil on the Pipe Smoker's Forum, but many months later had the pleasure of enjoying a few bowls of tobacco across the table from him at the T.A.P.s pipe show in Raleigh NC. 

Basil's expertise is pimping-out the lowly Missouri Meerschaum corn cob pipe with a new finish and a shiny new spent bullet cartridge ferrule.  
My son "Boy" and I had a ball talking with Basil, and the time flew by as we smoked and laughed.  As we parted company we made sure to get one of his business cards and I made note of his Etsy page Reddog Pipes where he sells his modified cobs asthe "Bullitt Proof Cob", as well as some cleverly refinished estate briar pipes.  We won't hold that against him, though.  

(Click pics to Biggie-Size)

Riccardo Santia Shares Some Cobfoolery Tips

Riccardo Santia, the pipe maker behind the R. Santia Ultimate Corn Cob Pipes blew my mind by taking us into his shop to show us some tips and techniques that he uses when he crafts his pipes from original Missouri Meerschaum corn cobs.  Folks, this is professional Cobfoolery!  Riccardo is one of the judges of the Amateur Category of the 2013 Cobfoolery Contest, and is entering a pipe in the Professional Category as well.  Good luck "Carlos"!   

Missouri Meerschaum's General Manager on Cobfoolery

Missouri Meerschaum's General Manager Phil Morgan (and Cobfoolery judge) offers some valuable insight for making your Cobfoolery entry.  Thanks Phil!

Some Cobfoolery from Missouri Meerschaum!

Missouri Meerschaum has been playing with some new (and old) styles of pipes, and we are happy to now have several of these available at Aristocob.com.

One exciting new pipe is the re-introduction of the original pipe that was smoked by General Douglas MacArthur.  Here's an article that explains the story of this pipe: http://tinyurl.com/q6yysvb

We also now have a new option in the Legend line, and last but not least, after a two-plus year absence we have the Missouri Meerschaum Egg back in stock!  Isn't Cobfoolery great? 



Have your seen the Amber Danish Stem?

The Danish stem (bit) that some of our pipes feature has been a popular upgrade for the pipes that feature the standard filtered stem, but in 2012 when Missouri Meerschaum launched their larger maple pipes they adding an amber version of the Danish stem that has quickly become my favorite.  Besides being a bit firmer and wider than the standard stem, an unexpected surprise came after a dozen of so smokes when it started developing a deep patina.  The attached photo shows a cob with a new, unsmoked stem, and the other is a pipe that has been in regular rotation for a few months.   

A few more recent examples of Cobfoolery

I've been traveling non-stop for ten straight weeks, and haven't been finding the time as I would have hoped to keep this blog fresh.  Anyway, here are a couple recent entries in the Cobfoolery contest, remember, your entry isn't due until September 10th, so there's plenty of time.

Cobfoolery Tip: Replace the Bit, Mouthpiece or Stem

When we started selling Missouri Meerschaum corn cob pipes online at Aristocob.com back in 2007 one of the biggest internal debates I had was what to call the part of the pipe that people put into their mouth.  I had always called this the "stem", but others called it a "mouthpiece".  To make things even more complicated Missouri Meerschaum referred to this as a "bit".  My understanding was that the "bit" was the far end of the stem, where the biting takes place.  At any rate, we decided that for the sake of continuity that we would refer to them as bits, just as Missouri Meerschaum (MM) did, but to this day I feel that was a mistake, so from here on in this post I wall refer to these as stems.

Anyway, one of the fastest ways of modifying a corn cob pipe is to swap the stem.  You can do this between genuine MM bits, as long as you understand that there are two different tenon sizes.  Oh yeah, the tenon is the part of the stem that is dowel-like and inserts into the wooden shank.  All of the MM filtered bits have an O.D. of 8.7-8.8mm and an I.D. that will accommodate a 6mm filter, bit it's important to note that they can be smoked with or without a filter installed.  The I.D. of the wooden shank is approximately 9mm and this hole is often ever-so-slightly tapered. And all of these "filtered" bits are interchangeable, so if you want to switch the stem from black to amber, or if you want to swap it for a thinner or wider stem, you can do this at will.  My personal favorite is the Danish stem in either black or amber.

Amber Danish stem from Aristocob.com

Another range of genuine MM stems is the non-filtered "slim" stems.  These are found on the smaller pipes, like the Pony Express, the Mizzou, the Patriot, the novelty miniature cobs, and on the other end of the size spectrum this stem is standard on the MacArthur pipes.

Lastly in the original MM range is the non-filtered vulcanized rubber stem that is found on the Freehand pipe.  This stem is only available in a bent shape, and though it is an unfiltered stem, the tenon is sized to fit into the filtered shanks only.  That makes this stem an ideal upgrade for the bent Legend, Washington, Country Gentleman, the Diplomat, the General, the Kolonel (5th Avenue) the Ozark Mountain, the Missouri Pride, the Woodie's and the Spool.  Find all of these stock replacement stems at Aristocob.com.

Want to bend a stock MM pipe?  Watch this video.


There are now several aftermarket options available if you want to move away from the stock range of stems.  Here are a few of your choices:

Custom Made Stems:

Walker Briar Works:  Dave Wolff has been expertly repairing and restoring pipes for years, but recently launched a line of Vulcanite and Lucite (acrylic) stems for MM pipes that he calls the "Forever Stem".  I purchased one of the Lucite stems for one of my pipes and found it to be of high quality and a good value.

An example of Walker Briar Work's "Forever Stems"


CustomCornCobs: This is an aftermarket stem maker who has been offering his wares on eBay for a short while.  I have no personal experience with their product, and frankly am shocked at their high price is on stock MM stems, they have been mentioned on the Pipe Smoker's Forum as a budget alternative to Walker Briar Works.

If you are a woodworker or at least are handy with a file and sandpaper, then there is no reason you can't make your own stems.

Here are some DIY Stem options:


Pipe Makers Emporium: The grandaddy of suppliers to pipe makers in the USA has to be Pipe Maker's Emporium in Phoenix, AZ.  Paul Hildebrand was an avid pipe collector and enthusiast who had an interest in making and repairing pipes, so in 2004 he purchased Pipe Makers Emporium (PME), now the largest supplier of pipe making materials.  Paul has since retired, but the business is still going strong in the hands of General Manager, Carolyn Perea.   I had the pleasure of getting a tour of their operations by Carolyn in the Fall of 2012, and was thoroughly impressed by her knowledge of pipes and supplies.

Pipe Makers Emporium carries over 2,000 items; from Briar, Vulcanite stems, Lucite stems, Ebonite rods, buffing compounds, dyes, bands, and specialized tools for pipe making.  They supply both professional and novice pipe makers from around the world.

UPDATE: PME has announced that they are closing after 11 years in business. They may still have inventory, so check them out ASAP.

Pen makers will find that their acrylic offering is vast and very reasonably prices.  One important fact to note: The stem blanks that they sell are rough, unfinished and feature an oversized tenon blank that will not fit a pipe shank.  You must cut the tenon to size, remove rough casting lines and finish the surfaces yourself.  That's your reward for going it alone, so if that sounds daunting you might just want to click one of those links listed above under "Custom Made Stems"
 An example of a vulcanized rubber stem blank from Pipe Makers Emporium

Do you really want a challenge?  I like your style.  You can do like many professional pipe makers do and create your own stems from wood, bone, acrylic or hard rubber.  While you can get some of these from suppliers who cater to pipe makers (PME, for example), many of these components are also sold by knife making suppliers and woodworking stores such as Woodcraft and Rockler.  Search their sites for "Pen blank".

An example of an acrylic pen blank from Woodcraft

That about wraps it up for now. Don't forget that the Missouri Meerschaum stems are very inexpensive and therefore you can swap them for a new one for pennies!  Check them out here: Spare Pipe Stems/Bits

Cobfoolery from the Web: DGE Handmade Pipes

One of the fellows who has been modifying Missouri Meerschaum corn cob pipes for some time and whose creations have been catching my eye on the Pipe Smoker's Forum over the years is Doug, (aka: DGErwin11 on the Pipe Smoker's Forum). 

From pens that are hand-turned from corn cobs or wood, to badger-hair brushes, Doug's work is all about hand craftsmanship; but it's his "cobfoolery" that really catches my eye.  For example, the pipe below that Doug calls a "cobwarden" is based on a classic churchwarden design.  He started with one of my favorite pipes, the Missouri Meerschaum Country Gentleman cob, and from there he replaced the original birch shank with one he turned from olive wood, and fitted the pipe with a long, unfiltered churchwarden mouthpiece made from vulcanite (vulcanized rubber).  As a matter of fact, like most high-end pipes, Doug's pipes do not (and according to him, will not) accommodate filters. See more of his work at www.dgehandmadepipes.com

Cobfoolery Pro "SparkysPipes" Raises the Bar

As I mentioned in a previous post, Scott, (aka: SparkysPipes) is one of the judges in Aristocob's Cobfoolery Contest, but he also indicated that he would be entering the "Pro" category as a contestant.  He just posted the following video that has blown several minds.  Enjoy.

(Click the pipe to Biggie-Size)


Another fine example of Cobfoolery

Here's another fine example of Cobfoolery, or as this fellow likes to call it, "Rewster-fied".  Rewster66 is one of the active posters on the Pipe Smokers Forum, and this pipe, like so many others he has modified, is a thing of beauty.  This one began life as a Missouri Meerschaum General pipe, but to it Rewster added the cap from a 50 caliber rifle cartridge and an antiqued finish and a sassafras shank.  Notice the ferrule?  It's a copper cap from the plumbing department.  The 50 cal. cartridge used was actually fired in Iraq by his nephew, who completed three tours there.  Nice work, Rewster, and please thank your nephew for his service to our country. 

(Click the pic to Biggie-Size it)

Another Cobfoolery judge weighs-in with a how-to video

Pipemaker Joe Case is another judge in the 2013 Aristocob Cobfoolery Contest, and like several others he has posted an excellent video documenting some if his tips on how to construct and modify a corn cob pipe. Check it out below.

 

SparkysPipes posted an AWESOME how-to video for the Cobfoolery contest!

This is just amazing!  Scott (AKA: SparkysPipes) has posted a great video where he uses common hand tools to modify a Missouri Meerschaum corn cob pipe kit from Aristocob.com!  The results are fantastic, and the video is quite entertaining.  Thanks Scott!

Announcing the First Annual Aristocob "Cobfoolery" Contest

Every pipe smoker knows that Missouri Meerschaum corn cob pipes have been cool and sweet smoking since 1869, but some smokers want something more.  For some the classic, utilitarian cob is just the starting point.  They add new mouthpieces, new shanks and finish and refinish the cob itself to make something special and unique.

That's the spirit of the new, annual Aristocob "Cobfoolery" Contest, which will run from August 1st 2013 until September 10th, with the winners announced LIVE on September 13th at the Southern Fried Pipe Club's First Annual Music City Pipe Show & Sale in Memphis TN!

There are just a few simple rules:

  • Entries must feature original Missouri Meerschaum Corn Cobs.  The cob can be from new, used or estate Missouri Meerschaum pipes.  (New cobs and even special Cobfoolery kits are available at www.Aristocob.com
  • Entries are to be submitted to aristocob@gmail.com in the form of photographs taken from all conceivable angles, and are due on or before 11:59PM September 10th 2013. 
  • There will be at least one award/prize given in the Professional (Pro) and the Amateur  (Am) category of Judges Choice, as well as categories to be named later.  Who is a Pro?  Any pipemaker who sells or has sold pipes that they have made or modified.
  • Entries must be original to the entrant, meaning don't enter a pipe that was modified by someone other than you.
  •  You need not be present at the Southern Fried Pipe Club's Music City Pipe Show & Sale in order to win the Grand Prize, but why would you deprive yourself?
  • International entries are welcome.
These rules are subject to change, so check back before submitting your entry.

Welcome to the Cobfoolery Blog, by Aristocob.com

OK, now that we have that over with, what happens here?
Well, the Cobfoolery blog is here to support your efforts to improve and/or modify the venerable Missouri Meerschaum (MM) corn cob pipe.

Why would someone want to "mod" a cob?  Good question, and I'm glad to see that you are still with me.

There are several mods and a few reasons why, off the top of my head:
  • Replacement of the Mouthpiece (or "bit" as MM calls it) to either an acrylic or hard vulcanized rubber.  Many pipe smokers find that the standard O.E.M. mouthpiece is a little light/weak, and if they tend to clench the pipe they can crack or deform.  Vulcanized rubber replacement mouthpieces are known for their long life and their comfortable mouth-feel, while acrylic mouthpieces are available in many unique colors and styles.  Vulcanized rubber bits for Missouri Meerschaum pipes are available HERE from Aristocob
  • Apply a finish/stain/veneer to the cob.  While it is true that the original US Patent that was granted to the founder of Missouri Meerschaum was for the plaster-filled and lacquered finish that is found on may of MM's pipes today, some folks desire a different look or feel for their pipes.   This can range from simply smoothing the original surface with a light sanding, all the way through encapsulating the cob in a veneer of paint, clay or plastic.  MM offered painted cobs in the 1960's and while they were fashionable, purest found that they lost much of their cool-smoking properties and were slow to dry-out following smokes.
  • New wood shanks.   The shank on a corn cob pipe is the hollow wooden piece that enters the cob near the bottom of the chamber, and provides a transition to the mouthpiece.  On wooden pipes this is usually incorporated into the same piece of wood as the bowl itself; but on a corn cob pipe the shank is a separate piece.  Some smokers desire the shank to be installed at a different angle, while others are out to lengthen or shorten the shank.  We've seen mods from everything from long churchwardens to short "nose warmers".  Another reason for a custom shank is to incorporate individualized species of wood.  Stock MM shanks are made from birch, and many "cob-modders" (I just made that up) are using woods like cherry, maple and even briar.
  • Modifications to the shape of the cob.  Cobs can be shortened, shaped and sculpted using a bandsaw, scroll saw, lathe or hand tools to effect the smoking characteristics as well as for style.  For example, a thinner bowl will feel warmer to the touch, but that transference of heat provides the smoker with a cooler smoke.  Additionally, the shape of the cob and the position of the shank can have a huge effect on the stability of the pipe when clenched between the teeth.  A classic example of this is the pipe that was commissioned by General Douglas MacArthur.   
  • Modifications to the ferrule.  From the Latin viriola, meaning "small bracelet", a ferrule is a ring used for fastening, joining, sealing or reinforcement.  Ferrules are found on many hand tools, like chisels, where the tool steel is driven into a wooden handle and where the ferrule prevents the end of the handle from splitting.  On pipes ferrules are often made from precious metals like gold and silver, or are turned from a complimentary acrylic.  Stock Missouri Meerschaum pipes feature a stamped-steel ferrule.
More to come.