Quality Barrier



September 5, 2011

Intolerance is Futile

A few weeks back Erwin Van Howe, a highly respected pipe collector and fellow pipe smoker, brought to discussion the unfortunate but common issue of intolerance by some pipe smokers, towards other pipe smokers who happen to enjoy buying & collecting high grade pipes. Erwin is obviously one of these people who collect high grade pipes. Erwin pointed out that there are these lurking mobs out there, both in internet chat rooms and at your local pipe club, who view the act of a high grade pipe purchase as something that gives them the right to publicly go after, chastise and demean it. The main point of Erwins article was to ask these pipe smokers to leave him alone and let him enjoy his pipe collecting in peace, without the fear or annoyance of attack.

The simple fact that someone needs to ask the public to rein in their intolerant behavior on such a subject (pipe collection) is odd enough on it’s own, yet it unfortunately highlights a basic fact of life within our pipe community that is worth both discussing as well as exposing for what it is.

There is no doubt that Erwin is right, these people are out there and you know who you are dear guilty readers. With your pitch forks in hand and Spanish Inquisition like mentality, many of you lurk, ready to pounce on anyone holding a different idea from you regarding how people should spend their money and on what pipes they should spend it on. I myself have experienced this attitude and for lack of a better word, had my decisions on pipes that I have purchased, both high grade & other pipes which did not meet the standards of these particular pipe smokers, attacked, ripped apart and generally stomped on and made fun of. I brush off this type of behavior and chalk it up to what you are about to read. Nonetheless, it is present and unpleasant.

Joura King Grade – Courtesy of PulversBriar.com

Erwin correctly pointed out that this behavior, which completely mimics the actions of (insert immature like example of 10 year olds here), is now so pervasive that it has actually become extremely difficult for someone to naturally feel comfortable to simply share and discuss one’s new pipe in a public forum, if that pipe happens to be a high grade. No matter what they may do to try and minimize the perception of this simple act of sharing, the minute they open their mouth about the high grade pipe, the masses come attacking.

This group of attacking pipe smoker is clearly in the majority. The many people ‘without’ high grade pipes. While many of them perceive the high grade smoker as some snobby, stuck-up and wealthy person, these attacking people, quite humorlessly,  absolutely fail to see that their own collective behavior in these very moments, makes them in fact the ones who are acting stuck up. They are the ones acting high & mighty and looking down with disproving glances at the high grade pipe collector. It is that feeling, that they are better in some way, which gives rise to their actions. It creates a comfort zone for them to speak out loud and critisize someone else and their pipe purchase decisions. A high grade pipe comes out and they are the ones collectively sticking their noses up in the air. It is curious to see these pipe smokers acting just as foolish as the stereotype they ‘feel’ they are fighting.

Bo Nordh Pipe – Courtesy of ScandPipes.com

If there was intelligence behind their action, wouldn’t they feel responsible to try and show the high grade pipe smoker what he or she is missing from the world of non high grade pipes? Would they not want to share some unknown piece of information and possibly educate their fellow pipe smoker about an aspect of pipe collecting that they may be unfamiliar with? Some type of sensible explanation as to why they believe this purchase does not make sense to them. That should be the case. An informative exchange of perceptions, perhaps not even the most cordial exchange but an exchange of ideas nonetheless, to better understand the reasons behind a decision to collect this or that type of pipe. At least in this particular scenario, that is unfortunately not the case. The mob mentality rules in such situations and when the opportunity strikes to bring one’s behavior to a very low point, it is often too juicy for some to pass up.

Erwin’s article can be read on Nick Miller’s QualityBriar.com blog when following this link.



Kent Rasmussen Pipe – Courtesy of AlPascia.com

This writer dislikes any form of petty behavior. Whenever someone in front of me begins the petty behavior process and starts to point out some type of perceived fault within someone else, I cannot help but to immediately look directly at that person who is pointing their finger at someone else and I can’t help asking myself how they are living their life that much better, that it allows them to feel comfortable enough to wag their finger at and criticize someone else and their personal purchase habits? I have a lot of past experience with this key moment. I learned to do this evaluation by looking at myself whenever I have engaged in my own petty acts in the past. Doing that once or twice, you quickly learn to be quiet whenever you think you are about to make any type of sensible point on someone else’s purchase decisions by highlighting their ‘error’ and putting them and their decision down.

Sixten Ivarsson Pipe – Courtesy of DanishPipeMakers.com, Photo by Lars Kiel

When you separate the act that Erwin discusses, place it on it’s own and evaluate it as a whole, what do we see? We have the pipe smoker, let’s call him Eddie, who just bought a high grade pipe and is obviously overjoyed with his purchase, just as any pipe smoker is with any pipe that they buy. Then we have the critical finger pointing individual, let’s call him Nancy, who is preparing his discussion points with the exclusive goal to degrade all of the pleasant reasons of joy that Eddie is expressing. The critical Nancy is clearly not focused on engaging in a discussion to find out why this pipe is so special for Eddie. There exists no natural and honest inquisitiveness in Nancy’s comments. Nancy does not care to find out the details behind the purchase. There is nothing natural at all about Nancy’s actions. Nancy is simply focused on being 100% intolerant to the act of the purchase.


Jess Chonowitsch Bird Pipe – Courtesy of QualityBriar.com

The general procedure that Nancy undertakes can be visualized easier when one compares this behavior to the act of intolerance. When one is intolerant, the person engaging in this act can also be defined as a bigot. A bigot is a person stubbornly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices, especially one exhibiting intolerance, and animosity toward those of differing beliefs.

Not surprisingly, we will not be able to find a single word in that definition which improperly assigns a descriptive characteristic to the particular occurrence that Erwin discussed.

Bo Nordh Pipe – Courtesy of ScandPipes.com

Is it possible for the high grade pipe smoker to explain to the intolerant pipe smoker why the ychose to purchase a high grade pipe? Could they explain the value of art to such a person? Would such a person be able to understand why certain works of art are valued more than others? Could this person comprehend the idea that some people can do vastly more than others with their hands? Could this person understand the idea of highly valued aesthetics, especially when they are rarely seen? The answer to all those questions is yes, someone could easily understand all of those concepts and be able to fully agree with them. However when we have the term ‘stubbornly’ added to the definition of intolerance, we realize that although they have the ability to fully comprehend their absolute and complete folly, they will choose not to do so, at least not publicly.

Even though high grade pipes seem to be the biggest target, we can easily venture beyond them and see intolerance rear it’s ugly head with different types of pipe purchases. We have such a wide variety of different pipes out there which people have the option to collect. There is so much variety in the community that in fact at least every single pipe smoker has the ability or option to have at least one type of pipe out there that he or she could choose to ‘absolutely and positively’ be against. Each of us has a pipe that rubs our sensibilities the wrong way. In this, there is nothing wrong. We are not required to love all pipes. How we choose to express this form of displeasure is however rarely explored. More often than not, it is done through some form of intolerant Nancyism. I hear some version of it almost every week at my pipe & pint. Some form of intolerant and negative evaluation about some new pipe that someone purchased or is considering to purchase. I can’t help but shake my head each time I see a Nancy in action.

Corn Cob Pipe

Normally we all sit around and share our pipe stories. We show the new pipe we just bought. We congratulate each other on the new purchase. We discuss why we love this pipe so much and we talk about what makes it so special to us. We ask questions about the new pipe, and we learn more about the artist and the method of carving they employed. Why do we do this? Because this is what we do. First of all, we do it together. We do it to enrich our collective pipe knowledge. We learn from each other. While there are clearly some high elements of ego involved in this interaction and our pride can easily shine through, that is a natural side-effect that each of us exhibits when we buy anything and it becomes our own. Let us at least focus on the elements that do not bring negative disorder to our community. In the end, we all share and share alike. There are a lot of mostly pleasant or at least no unnecessary side-effects that occur from this basic process of pipe community. A common source for a lot of this pipe community discussion comes from innovation. New pipe concepts for us to evaluate and consider. This should create the environment for additional and previously untapped pipe stimulation.

Stephen Downie Hyperatomic Strato Pipe

The side-effects from Nancy’s actions are quite the opposite.  The Nancies rarely make suggestions that offer us contemplation and the eventual suggestion of alternate paths. They have killed the desire within the Eddie’s to want to share their pipe with the pipe community. Eddie’s openness and camaraderie to his fellow pipe smokers is being replaced by Eddie’s new wall around himself which shelters him from Nancy’s arrows. All of the pleasant, normal and natural side-effects discussed above are gone. On the other side we have a Nancy who is walking around with a falsely inflated sense of ego. Nancy was able to effectively execute a ‘make someone feel bad’ maneuver and they did it well.  Nancy’s actions do nothing except incite confusion, distrust and as we clearly see, create anger. All useless endeavors that do not lift the hobby forward. The intolerant act provides us with zero progress, breeds negativity, creates groups and clans and in general does absolutely nothing to further us along as we collectively watch ‘the pipe’ evolve. There is in fact no side-effect except for the ones I just listed. Has Nancy been able to make a point of any kind or has Nancy just highlighted their inability to be tolerant of other people and their pipes?

Rolando Negoita Conducta Pipe – Courtesy of SmokingPipes.com

I enjoy smaller sized pipes, around group 3 size. I don’t want them weighing anymore than 1.6 oz’s because I neither want to feel the pipe in my mouth, nor do I want to have to clench my teeth down hard to ensure the pipe’s stability. I multi-task a lot and very often, as I am right now, I am doing something else with my hands while smoking. I love small pipes. This is me. We however have a lot of pipe smokers who are the exact opposite and they enjoy large, hefty and enormous pipes. We are talking Paul Bunyan size hunks of briar weighing up to 4 or 5 oz’s and even more. Those pipe smoker’s are clearly very different from me. I understand that we have a difference in taste. Should I try and attack them and form some type of small pipe lovers mob and go after these pipe smokers who enjoy large pipes just because it is different from what I enjoy? Believe me I could create an argument that highlights why these large pipe smokers are bad for one reason or another. I would look completely foolish, idiotic, petty and childish but I could do it.

Exceptionally Large Meerschaum Pipe – Courtesy of 'The Tobacco Pipe Artistory', found on Facebook under the same name

I know collectors who are different from me and have pipe collections worth over $40,000.00, with none of the pipes in that collection defined as high grades. Could I chastise this collector for spending so much money on the 300+ pipes he owns and tell him that he could pare down his collection to 50+ high grade pipes?

Peterson Pipe – Courtesy of SmokingPipes.com

I know collectors who are different from me and who buy new pipes today costing above $500 because of the brand name on that pipe? Are they spending all their money just on a name? Could I find a reason to attack them?

I know collectors who are different from me and who buy very old antique pipes, most of which they wont even smoke. They won’t even smoke the pipes they buy! Could I create an argument around that?

Antique Meerschaum made by Tiffany – Courtesy of 'The Tobacco Pipe Artistory', found on Facebook under the same name

I know collectors who are different from me and who buy pipes that look very different from the pipes that I buy and you know what, this critical point will never change. This will not change for me, it will not change for you and it will not change for anyone of us, ever. This will always be present in our hobby. Different people will have different ideas on what they feel is worth collecting. It is the natural diversity in our community. All of us go about our pipe collecting lives in different ways.

Japanese Kereitsu Pipe

The Nancy’s out there can either choose to accept this basic fact or they can fight a useless and losing battle against it. You don’t have to love or like a pipe collecting system that is different from yours but that is where it should end. You dont like it, accept it and then move on. Even if you do not end it there and you go beyond where the sensible road ends and you continue spouting off reasons why such and such collection habit is full of absurd madness, trust me, no matter what, because the natural pipe collecting diversity is here to stay, you should end your rant there. It is not going anywhere and you cannot do anything about it. The route that Nancy has chosen to express her opinion offers no real education. Their words & effort are wasted because of the track they chose to follow. Because of the negative slant they associate with their ideas, their fight will always be a useless attempt to make some point which ultimately cannot be made. They will never be able to logically explain why someone else’s personal opinion on something they choose to collect is either wrong or bad.

Trever Talbert Morta Freehand Pipe

Even though the Nancy’s will neither gain traction or ‘progress’ for their speeches, they will continue to do it. They will continue to do it because the ability to build a negative concept around anybody’s individual pipe collecting preference is a simple thing to do. Led by a strong sense of self confidence, they will begin this process by imagining that whatever it is that they really like and enjoy is better than whatever it is that somebody else likes. They ‘know this’ absolutely. That is step one. Then they continue by starting to categorize those types of  other‘pipe collector people’ and they begin to define and solidify the us versus them mentality. Finally, all we need then is the Nancy’s personal will and desire and we can create a scathing comment/raging war over absolutely nothing at all. There are so many different opinions and desires in our small pipe community. There are so many different ways of approaching the one item we all truly love and enjoy. The Nancies could have a field day if they want to fully explore Nancyism in the community.

Larrysson Partially Sandblasted Acorn Pipe – Courtesy of SmokingPipes.com

Personally, I enjoy variety and I like to celebrate diversity. Whether the Nancy’s realize it or not, life is more interesting and more dynamic with different sets of pipe collecting ideas floating out there. We have so much new information to learn from the many different ways of approaching the one common element that unites us all. Ye more and different ideas we have, ye better it is for all of us because our sphere of knowledge, pleasure and enjoyment in pipe collection should only be increasing with each such new idea.

Michail Revyagin Autumn Mushroom Pipe

The average pipe smoker deals with a slightly different form of stubborn and negative intolerance towards him or herself from the general public at large each & every single day and I know that they absolutely cannot stand that form of intolerance when it is applied to them. Yet some of these same pipe smokers still find the time to provide the same type of behavior to a fellow piper.

Manduela Pipe – Courtesy of DanishPipeMakers.com

I do not expect this behavior to go away. It is far too natural and feels far too normal to criticize someone with different habits from our own, for buying a high grade pipe or any other type of different pipe for that matter. I do however expect that the next time a Nancy comments negatively about this or that type of pipe collecting habit, that Nancy may consider curbing their speech and perhaps asking a serious question or two, to try and learn something about whatever it is that is so unfamiliar to them.




Copyright © 2011. TobaccoDays.com. All rights reserved.



  1. jazzmoke

    Intolerance is bread by frustration. Also there is a long way between intolerance and discontent. I can not agree with everyone’s habits and I can not treat all the people equally (once I get to know them, at first I consider everyone as deserving respect). I am in discontent with cigarette smoking, and I advise all the cigarette smokers to give cigarettes up, if not for good at least for pipe or cigar smoking, but that does not mean I look at them from a superior level. There is only one thing in this world that I can not tolerate and that is lack of common sense, which in my opinion is the root of all evil. Intolerance toward people that afford more than you it’s a classic example like “the fox and the grapes”. I will never forget (though I hold no grudge) that some of my college colleagues, treated me nasty because I had top grades (they didn’t ) even though I spent far more less time learning then they did and often came to the classes and exams straight after all-night-parties. One colleague once used the expression: “It is not fair” (that I never came to the labs until the day of the exam and got 100% while she came to all the labs and got only 70%). I’ve managed to get along with those people once I shared my knowledge, once they found out that they have something to gain from my potential. So that is my advice to all those people that are actually discriminated because they are high above the line in one way or another, show friendship, consideration and try to help those less fortunate. Do not come bragging about your new high-grade limited series pipe or your expensive collection when you are together with people that will never be able to afford it. Such behavior is unethical, and ethics is one of the first things expected from a pipe smoker (this is valid for both sides)

  2. Warren Wigutow

    Thank you for this, David. It would be so much easier for all of us if we could celebrate our differences. Should someone have a different take on _____ (insert: pipes, politics, religion, sexuality etc etc) than I do, I hope my response will always be to say, “Please tell me more, I’d like to know why you feel that way”, instead of some sort of knee-jerk dismissal (and I am certainly guilty of that!). There is room in this world for all views that are not oppressive or violent. So, as long as some well muscled pipe smoker doesn’t belt me over the head with his Ardor super giant, there is no right or wrong in this hobby – only interesting and necessary differences of opinion. Is it so hard to enjoy someone else’s good fortune? I don’t need or want to own every wonderful pipe I see in the hands of fellow smokers but I can understand the excitement of ownership that a treasured pipe provides whether it is a beloved Peterson or a Bo Nordh. Let’s enjoy this hobby, not fight about it!

  3. Ed Lebeau

    This is a compelling article, but I’m reasonably certain that I disagree with it entirely. And I say that as someone whose accumulation of pipes is all over the place–from Custom-Bilts to fine artisan pipes.

    I’ve been hanging around internet forums and pipe shows for years and I’ve never really seen or heard the kind of intolerance that forms the premise of your article. I just don’t see the hordes of cob-smoking proles hostile to all things straight of grain and high of price. This depiction of the pipe community makes it unrecognizable to me.

    I’d also like to see a little more balance in your argument. If we grant (and I do so only for arguments sake) that there is a mob of mouth breathers out there mocking the buyers of high grade pipes and that they are wrong to do so, can we not also grant that there is a pathology attached to highly visible high grade collecting?

    We live in challenging economic times. And we’re not the first generation to go through this kind of thing. The great depression of the 1920s put a crimp in the age of conspicuous consumption that preceded WW1. My question for those who feel the need to shout, “Look what I just bought!” is, “Why?” I know plenty of people with high grade pipes in their collection who would never even consider posting pictures of them or talking about how glorious they are. They would consider such actions profoundly immodest. They smoke to accompany contemplation, to experience tranquility.

    Personally, I consider such men to be the truest of the world’s pipe smokers. Quiet, modest, contemplative, tranquil. It’s entirely possible that people who feel the need to post pictures of their latest purchases are quite the opposite of this: immodest, confrontational, vain.

    Points to ponder.

    • David M.

      Hi Ed,

      This article begins by highlighting the intolerance towards high grade smokers however I did my best to thoroughly highlight the lack of futility that is intolerance in many other areas of pipe collecting. From corn cobs to large pipes to name brand pipes to weird looking pipes to all pipes.

      I am happy that you have not seen the intolerance that some of us have and if you are surrounded by those who do not feel the need to bicker, point and criticize someone else’s purchase decisions, whatever those decisions may be, I think you have a good group of people around you.

      In terms of the people who shout out and ask others to stare at what they just bought….if that is their true intent, I agree with you 100%. If their only goal is to act like pompous assholes and show people in some degrading way what they can buy and others cannot or whatever negative association we can attach to a negative reason for their ‘shouting’, then those people do deserve the response which you are implying that they should receive. I do however believe that the point of Erwin Van Howe’s article (and I touched upon this in great detail as well) was to highlight that there are times when people simply want to share their purchase with the community, as we both know, many pipe collectors clearly do with their purchases and if someone is simply sharing, again…just as we all do, why are people assuming exactly what you just said? What if they are just sharing? Erwin’s correct point was that more often than not, when someone shares a high grade purchase, the assumption is that this person is doing it in a ‘shouting’, ‘stare at me’ and whatever other points you were making kind of way and that is simply not the case all the time.

      If the person is in fact just sharing and people are incorrectly assuming what you wrote…then there is a mild fault that is associated with that action. This is the intolerance that is unacceptable if it is based and rooted in many of the incorrect assumptions that the article highlighted.

      If you are saying that anybody who wants to share, can only do so if they are going to discuss a non-expensive pipe, well, I am not sure how that type of rule can be applied. Making rules around what someone can and cannot talk about is not very natural. If you are asking for consideration to be taken into account, I think that this consideration, especially an economic one as you mention, is unpleasant. The main reason why I think it is unpleasant is because I know there are people out there who are just sharing and they are absolutely not rubbing people’s noses in it. And it is that automatic assumption, just as a bigot applies, is quite simply not fair. Whether I can afford a Ferrari or not, does not mean that I am not able to hear or listen to other people who can. Why does my circumstance have to impact another person? As long as it is being done without malice, I want them to enjoy whatever they have the ability to. It has nothing to do with me.

      To your last point, I do agree with that. In general, there should be no need to share any pipe purchase. If we abide by that 100%, then it does go for people who bought a $50 pipe or a $500 pipe. However since we both know this does not occur and rather quite the opposite (see any forum or facebook or google+ for quick confirmation) in fact so we have to find a way for this sharing system to be equal and just as advantageous to all parties wishing to share.

      I will take your last point further and say that even if someone is acting intolerant to you and the pipes you smoke and purchase, ignoring those people and acting quiet and modest is usually the best way to go.

  4. a man is born,a man lives,a man dies, and its all vanity!

  5. Stan Foyer

    I conceive you have remarked some very interesting details , thank you for the post.

  6. Bill Schenher

    I currently run a woodworking website and am very active in that community. I just took up pipe smoking and just had to read this article.
    This type of “trolling” that happens in the blogging world is everywhere. It is just as bad in the woodworking online community as it seems it is in the pipe blogging world. Not everyone will agree with your purchase, your technique, your ideals, or just about anything else you can think of that you post. Even unwanted grammatical corrections.
    I hope to start a blog about pipe smoking too. very soon. I knew I would run into this type of thing online, you just can’t get away from the a-holes no matter what you do. Some people just feel better when they leave horrible comments and try to start arguments.
    My only suggestion for anyone is 1st ignore those comments and 2nd if possible, make all comments on your blog require approval before posting. This stops many of the other arguments that pursue.
    hope all is well and keep up the good work on the blog.

    • David M.

      Hi there Bill,
      I know the word trolling has a lot of negative connotations associated with it and I guess I see this in two ways. If the person who has a different viewpoint is bringing up valid points and/or even making an attempt to have a real discussion on the subject matter, I see that as a positive and would not call it trolling. Different view-points are wonderful and when they can be expressed in an articulate manner and there are valid points in there, then we can learn something which is obviously great. Expanding one’s knowledge comes from other ideas so in that scenario, I welcome it. If however all the person is doing is posting a comment with the pure intent to hear their own voice and is not interested in discussing, I guess I would agree with you there, that would be a troll. And yes, with that intent, it does make them feel better to act like that and whenever I personally see those type of people, I just pity them and hope that all they are experiencing is a ‘bad day’.

      All comments are definitely approved on my blog but honestly, I dont think I will ever censor a comment. Even if that comment is designed to completely undress my ideas and is intended to make me look foolish. The only way to start a discussion is by taking that first step. If that person doesn’t want to continue taking steps to enhance the discussion, that is on them. I will likely always try to engage them in conversation though, that is just how I personally operate. And plus, the main reason why I am not afraid of that scenario is because in my eyes, if someone’s intent is to make me look foolish, well, their action alone, highlights how immature and foolish they themselves are and well, I hope that is the conclusion people will make from such events.

      Long story short. I adore discussion and most especially when done with open minds that leads somewhere so all parties get to learn something new.

      Good on you for starting your own blog about pipe smoking. Since your a wood-worker as well, you might have some interesting insight into the details of the actual material we are all mesmerized with – Briar. There is so much with our hobby that is still untapped. With your own blog, you can make your own rules and do exactly as you wish which is obviously a nice perk. Thank you for your comments Bill. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts and concerns. I cant wait to see your website. Be sure to drop a mail when it launches. Thanks and My Best.

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