Clay tobacco pipes are an old tradition, going back hundreds of years. Clay pipes are simple to make, relatively inexpensive, and higher grade clays give a clean smoke without altering the taste of the tobacco much. Clay pipes are breakable, but easy to replace when you know how to make them. These instructions explain how to make a simple earthenware or stoneware pipe that you can decorate or embellish to your liking.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Earthenware or stoneware clay
- Cocktail stirring straw, or a stick of the same diameter
- Scoring tool
Roll a piece of clay until it is about 4 inches long and ½ inch in diameter.
Gently push the stirring straw or stick into the clay lengthwise until it comes out the other end. Make sure it doesn't poke a hole anywhere else in the stem.
Move the straw or stick back and forth gently from both ends until it slides out easily.
Trim the ends of the stem with a knife, and then squeeze the ends gently to make sure the holes are still open. Smooth the edges of the ends with your wet fingers.
Gently suck and blow through the stem to make sure it is clear, and then run the straw through it again if there are obstructions.
Cover the stem with a damp (not wet) cloth and put it aside.
Roll a 2 inch ball of clay and then press into the top of it with your thumbs to make a bowl shape.
Pinch around the edges of the bowl until it is the size and shape you want. The sides and bottom of the bowl should be uniformly about ¼ inch thick.
Use a sharpened pencil to poke a hole in one side of the bowl. The hole should be slightly closer to the bottom than the top, and no larger than ¼ inch in diameter or you will end up inhaling pieces of tobacco when you smoke the pipe.
Set the bowl aside uncovered to harden for 15-20 minutes, depending on how soft it is.
Score one end of the stem with the scoring tool, and score around the hole you made in the side of the bowl. Wet the scoring marks.
Press the stem onto the bowl, and smooth around the seam with your wet finger. Strengthen the area around the seam with some slip (a thick paste made of clay and water).
Let the pipe harden uncovered for 15-20 minutes, and then gently suck and blow on the pipe to make sure it is clear. If there are any obstructions, clear them away with the pencil, knife, or straw.
Leave the pipe to dry for about one day. It must be completely dry before firing. Fire the pipe according to your kiln's instructions.
Tips and warnings
- You can vary this shape as desired, and you can decorate the pipe without glaze by etching into the clay or using clay to add designs to the outside.
- If you decide to glaze the pipe, do not glaze the inside of the bowl. This can release dangerous chemicals into your lungs when you light the tobacco.
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