Tools of the Trade: All the Toys for Enjoyable Smoking!

Have you ever noticed the tools that professional use in their chosen line of work? A chef has knives, pots and pans, cutting boards, measuring cups, place settings and all kinds of food items. A handyman has a tool belt, screw drivers, hammers, tape measures, nails & screws and wood and metal to work with. A doctor has a stethoscope, reflex hammer, tongue depressors, and all kinds of medications to make you well. You get my drift…all professions and hobbieshave “tools of the trade”.

Pipe and cigar smokers are no different. The amount of “stuff” we acquire and use for the enjoyment of smoking pipes and cigars is staggering. Many times these items don’t come cheaply either. Each of us has our favorite cigar cutter, pipe packer, leather pouch or ashtray…I know I do.

Let’s begin our analysis with cigar smokers. I had always thought that smoking cigars didn’t require much in the way of “toys”. Boy, was I ever wrong. Of course, you have to have the critical component…the cigar. Now, I’m going to get into what I smoke or what others smoke…just choose the stick you like, whatever brand, shape or size it is.

The next essential item is the cutter. There is three basic types; guillotine, punch and “V” cutter. The decision which style of cutter to use is an individual choice; there are pros and cons to all three styles. Whichever you choice, make sure you don’t damage the cigar in the process of cutting. There nothing worse than having a cigar unravel due as a result of a bad cut.

Cutters can be plain and simple or very elegant; this means that the price range can run from $1.98 to several hundred dollars or more. I’ve found that the mid-range cutters work pretty well. These cost around $25 to $65 and made by a variety of manufactures.

Once you have acquired the cigar and cutter, you have to have a whole host of other items to make your cigar smoking experience great. Buying and storing cigars requires a humidor. Humidors can either be cheap or very expensive. When I first started to smoke cigars, all I used was a Tupperware container and that worked pretty for the short-term. However, if you’re going to purchase large quantities, having a good quality humidor is absolutely necessary.

If you travel by train, plan or automobile, you’ll find storing a small (or large) quantity of cigars will require some sort of leather, wood or plastic cigar case. Once again, these items can be as simple as a wood or leather case

cigar cutter

One of my favorite cigar cutters from Xikar

that will store and protect a few cigars. These work really well for overnight or weekend trips. However, if you’re planning on an extended vacation or business trip, you might need a travel humidor that will hold 5 to 65 cigars. These travel humidors are airtight, watertight, and crushproof….and are perfect for airline travel. You certainly don’t want to disappoint your golf buddies with damaged cigars!

The final items that are required for that perfect smoke can provide the smoker with unique and special options. Cigar holders used to be a social necessity and seem to be experiencing resurgence in popularity. They can be made from wood or meerschaum and come in various sizes to accommodate small to large cigars.

And of course, the last but not least important item is the ashtray. Ashtrays are very collectable and come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, colors and materials. They can be as simple as plastic or as elegant as cut crystal. Ashtrays that seem to be very popular are those that display the logo or manufacture name on them…everyone loves to see their favorite brand displayed on a ceramic ashtray.

So, as you can see, even being a cigar smoker requires all sorts of “stuff”. While not all of these items are necessary to have a pleasurable smoking experience, they certainly do make it better.

If you think cigar smokers acquire a lot of stuff…wait until to hear about the paraphernalia pipe smokers accumulate. If you’re a “hard core” pipe smoker, you’ll need to buy a fly fishing vest that has about 200 pockets. These vests actually come in pretty handy at a pipe show. However, you’ll have to be very careful not to overfill the pockets or you’ll risk being pulled the floor due to all the extra weight of pipes, tobaccos, packer tools, show pins, pipe cleaners and lighters. I’ve seen some guys that have so much stuff in their vest pocket, they look like a pregnant Kangaroo.

pipe clearners

Can never have too many pipe cleaners

I’ve never met another pipe smoker (including myself) that has not acquired a ton of pipe gear. You can never have enough pipe packer, pipe cleaners, filters, tobacco pouches & jars, racks & stands, lighters, ashtray and of course pipes. It’s been said that if you own a pipe, you’re a pipe smoker, but if own more than one, you’re a collector.

I have to admit that one of the most prolific items I accumulate is pipe packing tools. They seem to replicate like rabbits in my storage boxes. I have acquired all types of pipe packers…wood, metal, bone, antler, pewter, etc. However, the packers I prefer using are those that I make myself from 5/8” hardwood dowel. They are easy to make, cheap to replace if lost and are fun to give away to friends.

Pipe cleaners…what more can I say? You can never have enough…I buy 10 or 12 bundles at a time. They might be a minor item in the grand scheme of things, they are essential for continuous enjoyable smoking. I keep ample supplies on my desk, in the glove compartment of my truck, and my smoking table in the living room.

For the pipe smoker who likes to keep his/her clean, there is a variety of polishes and wipes. I’ve never used these products much. I have a buffing and polishing wheel in my workshop, which provides me with a means of keeping my pipes and stems clean and looking good.

A group of paraphernalia that just about every pipe smoker has excess of is tobacco pouches, jars, stands and racks. I can’t visit Garage Sales or Auctions without seeing (and buying) these items…even though I don’t need them. It’s like the condition PAD (pipe acquisition disorder)…you buy items you don’t have a need for. In my defense, I have used these “odds and ends items” often over the years and change racks and stands just to keep things interesting.

I generally don’t use porches and jars to store my pipe tobaccos. I prefer using the original tin or Zip Lock bags for short and long term storage. Not only do these containers work well, but have the original label or I apply one.

pipe ashtrays

Ashtrays are always essential

There are a couple of areas of overlap with cigar and pipe smokers. Ashtrays and lighters…both of these items are essential for both types of smokers. You have to have fire and place to put the ash, no matter if you smoke a cigar, pipe or both. I have several ashtrays around the house and make use of lighters, especially when driving or outside.

The other crossover area is literature. Every smoker I know makes every effort to read and collect various publications, such as books, magazines and even web articles. There are many Facebook and forums that focus on pipe and cigar smokers. These are excellent sources of information and support.

Wrapping up, whether you’re a cigar or pipe smoker there is an abundance of paraphernalia that can be collected. Some of these trappings can be very useful, while others items not so much. I’ve spent the better part of the last 30 years collecting these items. While it’s a heck of a lot of fun…it can get overwhelming when you begin to run of storage space.

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