It may seem like just a prop but smoking pipes is a real and dedicated passion for those who really understand them. Those who really appreciate smoking pipes know all the types of them there are and how to choose a suitable one.
A pipe should satisfy a number of requirements. For one, it has to have aesthetic value meaning it must look and feel good. If not, it will soon be put aside no matter how expensive or esteemed a brand it is. To one who is new to smoking pipes choosing one can be a challenge. The solution is to simply look at as many of them as possible and go for the one that pleases you the most.
Another consideration is the mechanics. It should be flawlessly designed and be easy to light up and to clean. Know what to avoid and watch out for parts that are poorly aligned. Good quality piping systems will have a well aligned and smooth airway going from the draft hole in the bowl to where the mouthpiece ends. Interference in this line such as a poorly aligned mortise and tendon joint will cause havoc and the pipe will have odd sounds and possibly be wet when it is on. Pipes have moisture traps which some pipe smokers appreciate but they can malfunction.
Look out also for fills which are big holes or crevices in the pipe that fill with putty.They may not cause problems with the actual smoking but they may make the pipe look odd as they take on their own color and age badly compared to the rest of the briar. Look out for metal filters as well. These inserts which are found in some stems of low grade pipes will bring on condensation which gives a loud and wet smoking experience. Check the varnish too. When looking at the finishing, avoid varnish or a sealed finishing as they will most likely bubble or flake off.
Apart from the construction, you also want to look at a pipes grain. A pipe with a uniform and tight grain will cost more but this has little effect on the smoking experience. Weight is another consideration with the lighter pipe being better. A lighter pipe is also more likely to have been well cured and free of moisture.
Sandpits are to be watched out for. They are not really harmful but the less there are in a pipe, the better. The fit and finish also matter. Sandpaper marks should not be obvious nor should uneven stains or bald spots with no wax. The interior of the bowl should have no stains and the stem and shank joint should be smooth.
Check the draft hole as well. It should be as close as possible to the middle of the bowl and should be well aligned with the air hole in the stem. It should also end at the bottom of the bowl rather than put on the side.
The final consideration to make is about cost. Prices vary a lot from the low to the high end and the general rule is to simply buy the best that you can afford. With smoking pipes, it is not so much the quality of the pipe but of the smoker or so they say.