Getting to Know Your Pipe: Cannabis Pipe 101

So you’ve decided to invest in a new smoking device, and your choice is a classic pipe! The perfect companion piece for those who are looking for something that:

  • is quick and easy to pack;
  • isn’t too large; 
  • offers a dry smoke; and,
  • affords a medium to a large amount of cannabis for consumption.

Having narrowed your search down to the “pipe” category is a great starting point, but even pipes come in a variety of shapes, sizes and materials. With so many options available, it’s hard to know exactly which one will provide you with the experience you’re looking for. 

First and foremost, take some time to think about the reasons you like pipes in general. This will help you prioritize what’s most important to you in your overall experience, and will save you some time when you begin your search.

Are you looking for something that’s easy to clean, perfect for travel, or provides a quality dry smoke? Something decorative, modest, or classic?  Will this device serve for those cozy nights in with your boo, or something more suitable for a night out in the town with friends? 

What, where, how, and how much you smoke all have an impact on your overall cannabis experience so it’s important to take some time to think this through, at least until you’re satisfied with your top few priorities. After all, this could turn out to be a long-term investment, depending on which pipe you choose!

To identify the features that will best match your lifestyle, it’s helpful to understand what a pipe is at its most basic level, how it works, as well as its components and their respective purposes.  

Sneak peak of Jade Is Bliss Cannabis Pipe Design

 

So, what exactly is a cannabis pipe and how does it work? 

A cannabis pipe is generally considered to be a medium-sized hand-held device used for smoking cannabis. Its weight can vary depending on its size and the materials used to make it. 

Generally, a pipe is to be held by its base with your non-dominant hand so your dominant hand is free to light the cannabis when you’re ready to draw your inhale. Cannabis gets packed into the chamber of the bowl located at the base of the pipe, then when you’re ready, meet your lips to the mouthpiece and light the cannabis to draw your desired amount of smoke. 

Modern pipes have taken on a variety of shapes and designs, but when it comes to finding one that can provide a quality smoking experience, the most important part to consider is how the inside components fit together. While a pipe might look beautiful on the outside, you can expect to be disappointed by its (lack of) functionality if the inner components aren’t effectively built, and here’s why…

 

A Guide to the Components of Your Cannabis Pipe

If you’ve already started shopping for pipes, you might have noticed that some pipes are made of 1 solid piece while others come in 2 separate parts, usually for the purpose of making it easier to clean. To best help you assess a smoking pipe, we’ll describe all the separate components involved in a classic 2-piece pipe, inside and out.  

Internal and external components of a typical smoking pipe

The Exterior Components

1) Lip & Bit: 

The bit is the mouthpiece located at the end of the stem which fits behind your teeth when holding the pipe to your mouth, while the lip, specifically the very tip of the stem, can take on various shapes for the purpose of making it more comfortable for your mouth.

To protect your teeth and the pipe itself, it’s important not to clench down hard when holding the pipe with only your mouth but rather to let it dangle gently from your teeth.

2) Stem:

The stem is the long neck of the pipe. You might think the length of a pipe is just for aesthetics, but the truth is that it can have a big impact on your smoking experience, specifically the temperature of the smoke when it reaches your mouth. Longer stems afford a longer travel distance which gives the smoke time to cool down so it isn’t as hot on your throat.

Stems typically come in 3 general variations; a saddle stem, a tapered stem, and a combination stem. Designed for more comfort in the mouth, the saddle stem is flat and thin along its length near the mouthpiece and flares out near the end to match the thickness of the pipe’s shank.  A tapered stem slowly increases its size from the bit to the end until it matches the circumference of the pipe’s shank, and a combination stem will include both styles on opposing sides.

You might also notice that some pipe stems are bent or half-bent, while others are straight, and there are pros and cons to each. Generally, straight pipes will be much easier to clean as the pipe cleaner can fit all the way through the air passage. If, however, you make a habit of holding your pipe with your mouth (without using any hands), a straight pipe will feel much heavier than a bent pipe. 

3) Stummel: 

The entire base of the pipe is called the stummel, and it includes the bowl and the shank. 

4) Bowl:

The outer shell of the chamber, the part you hold in your hands. 

5) Shank:

The shank is the part that branches out of the bowl and connects directly into the stem. The shank and stem are the parts through which the smoke travels, making up the air passage known as the bore, before it reaches your lips at the bit. 

6) Chamber: 

Located inside the bowl, this is where you insert the screen and pack your cannabis into the pipe.

7) Carb:

Found on the side of the bowl about where your thumb lies, you’ll find a small hole called a carb. The carb is meant to be blocked by your thumb as you start your inhale so you can collect a controlled amount of smoke in the chamber. When you release the carb, the smoke will get rushed through the stem and into your mouth as you finish inhaling.

Essentially, the carb can help you manipulate how hard or soft the smoke (and your high) will hit you. The longer you hold down the carb and accumulate smoke, the more smoke you’ll inhale at once, and the stronger the effect of the plant.  The less you inhale, the weaker the effect. With practice, you’ll find a flow that works for you.

If properly located, the carb also helps to reduce any waste. By blocking the carb as you inhale, the air pulls downward through the bottom of the chamber and up the stem, burning all the weed through to the bottom of the chamber. 

Smaller, more portable pipes like One-Hitters might not need a carb because of how small the chambers are. As One-Hitters are only meant for (you guessed it!) one hit, there’s no need to keep the bowl lit over several puffs.

The Interior Components

1) Draught Hole: 

This is the hole located inside the chamber that connects through to the stem, creating the air passage (a.k.a. the bore).

It should be located at the very bottom of the pipe’s chamber to ensure you can smoke all the cannabis you packed. If the draught hole is located off to the side, any cannabis packed below that level risks getting wasted. 

2) Bore: 

The bore is the entire air passage, from draught hole to lip. The shank and the stem together make up the outer components of the bore.

This air passage should maintain the same circumference from the draught hole through to the bit. Only the exterior components might change for usability or style.

3) Mortise:

The stem connects directly to the stummel by way of tenon and mortise. The mortise is the inner dugout of the shank where the tenon is meant to fit into, and the way these 2 pieces fit together can make or break the quality of your dry smoke.

An alternative, though less effective, system for attaching a 2-piece pipe is to use a screw fitting and evaporator rather than a tenon and mortise. 

4) Tenon:

The tenon is the smaller piece that sticks out from the end of the stem and fits into the mortise, and it normally sticks out from the end of the stem at a 90-degree angle. 

There’s also, however, another option called a Military or Army stem. This stem does not have a tenon, rather it’s tapered all the way down and gets inserted directly into the mortise. This feature exists to reduce any damage that could be caused to the pipe by pulling the tenon out of the mortise when the pipe is still hot.

Both the tenon and the Military stem should completely fill the mortise so that there’s no space in between them. If a gap exists, the smoke will expand in the air pocket causing the smoke to cool and the moisture to condense. If too much moisture builds up into this area, it will feel more like a straw when you draw from the pipe… yuck! As insurance for a dry smoke, pipe makers will often shave the corner edges from the tenon ever-so-slightly in hopes of trapping any condensed moisture.

There’s still some debate on whether bent-stem pipes lead to an increase in moisture build-up because of how the bore is constructed and how the tenon and mortise fit together. In a straight pipe, the bore connects directly from the draught hole to the bit which isn’t possible in a bent-stem pipe.

A popular solution to this is known as the “Peterson System”. Invented and patented by Charles Peterson in 1890, the Peterson System drills a much larger mortise into the shank. The bore then connects from the draught hole to about midway through this larger mortise, leaving space below this intersection to trap any condensed moisture. This apparently creates a dryer smoke because the airflow from the draught hole to the mouth remains uncontaminated.

Extra Components to Consider

1) Screen (Optional): 

The screen and the filter are largely considered optional, but here at Jade Is Bliss we wouldn’t go without them.

To better protect your lungs and mouth from debris, you’ll want to consider adding a screen to your pipe. The screen rests over the rim of the bowl and fits into the chamber. It acts as a protective layer that keeps the burnt remnants of cannabis from flying through the stem and into your mouth.

Using a screen has the added benefit of preventing the draught hole from getting clogged, hindering your ability to effectively draw from the pipe.

The screen can also allow for higher rates of THC extraction because it helps to pack down the cannabis more tightly, though not too tight so as to restrict airflow.  Ideally, the average light should last about 4 or 5 hits until you need to relight it, reducing the amount of lighter fluid that comes into contact with the cannabis you ultimately end up inhaling yourself. 

2) Filter (Optional):

The filter acts as a second layer of protection to help avoid any form of damage to the mouth, throat and lungs. When inhaling smoke from a pipe, tar, small burning particles and other contaminants often make their way through the screen and into your system. It’s especially important for those of us who enjoy smoking from pipes as we typically take deeper, longer draws.

The filter can also help you reduce the amount of moisture that builds up in the stem. If it builds up enough, it’ll make its way into your mouth... and nobody wants that.

The filter is another piece that can help to reduce the temperature of the smoke, but it may also serve to slow down your smoking experience. With all the benefits of using a filter though, we say it’s better to be safe than sorry! Although smoking cannabis has not been linked as a direct cause of lung cancer, the Canadian Lung Association states that combustion (i.e. smoking) of any kind can still cause lung damage. While the filter might be an extra inconvenient step in the cleaning process, it’s an easy solution that contributes to your safety.

Not all pipes, however, are constructed to fit a filter; in fact, it's often difficult to find one.  If you do choose to prioritize this function, the filter should fit snugly into the space between tenon and mortise. You’ll want to consider switching it out after each use as you’ll notice the filter will become dark and dirty quickly, and once it’s full of toxins it can’t effectively do its job. 

 

Before You Start Shopping

Phew, that was a lot of information! Hopefully, now you feel better equipped to assess the myriad of options you’ll come across as you search for your pipe, and to care for the companion piece you ultimately select. 

Before moving forward with your search though, take another quick pause to reflect back on the decision criteria you thought through at the beginning of this guide and compare them to the components and features you’ve just read about. Then, prioritize those that contribute most to YOUR dream pipe experience. 

Get as detailed or as vague as you’d like. This shouldn’t be stressful or overwhelming, so make this process your own and have fun with it! The point is to get at least an idea of what will best serve you to make the search a little less overwhelming. All that’s left to do is to sift through the remaining options and find a pipe that matches your aesthetic! 

Did you find this article helpful? Feel free to save this in your bookmarks and revisit this page as your go-to guide on Cannabis Pipes in case the details ever get fuzzy. 

Still have questions, or are you curious about anything else relating to cannabis equipment and lifestyle accessories? Send us an email to love@jadeisbliss.ca and let us know - we’d love to address them in another blog post! 

A preview of the first Jade Is Bliss cannabis pipe. Thank you for reading "Getting to know your cannabis pipe"

 

Sources

  1. “Accoutrements College: Pipe Accessories.” Tobacconist University, www.tobacconistuniversity.org/curriculum_tobacco_acc_college_pipes2.php. Accessed 9 Feb. 2022.
  2. “Cannabis Position Statement.” The Lung Association, 8 Jan. 2021, https://www.lung.ca/cannabis. Accessed 10 Feb. 2022.
  3. “How to Smoke a Pipe.” The Pipe Guys, thepipeguys.com. Accessed 10 Feb. 2022.
  4. “Marijuana and Lung Health.” American Lung Association, www.lung.org/quit-smoking/smoking-facts/health-effects/marijuana-and-lung-health. Accessed 8 Feb. 2022.
  5. Rather, Jack. “Glossary of Tobacco Pipe and Pipe Tobacco Terms.” TobaccoPipes.com.  https://www.tobaccopipes.com/blog/glossary-of-tobacco-pipe-and-pipe-tobacco-terms/#A. Accessed 9 Feb. 2022.
  6. “The Ultimate Guide To Marijuana Pipes.” Best Seed Bank, 26 Sept. 2019, www.bestseedbank.com/the-ultimate-guide-to-marijuana-pipes. Accessed 8 Feb. 2022.
  7. Wike, Andrew. “The Complete Guide To The Peterson System Pipe: Startling Revelations About Charles Peterson’s Greatest Invention.” Smokingpipes.Com, 7 June 2019, www.smokingpipes.com/smokingpipesblog/single.cfm/post/the-complete-guide-the-peterson-system-pipe-startling-revelations-about-charles-petersons-greatest-invention. Accessed 10 Feb. 2022.

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