Guide to Pipe Shapes

Guide to Pipe Shapes

Pipes and pipe smoking are making a comeback after some time in the background. The enjoyment of a good pipe at a sidewalk cafe, the aroma of a good blend and being present to the experience of holding a handcrafted, artisan pipe is unlike any other. Pipe smokers and retailers form a community of enthusiasts who not only enjoy finely designed products but also delight in the conversation and friendships it brings. Learn more about pipe shapes as it relates to enhancing the experience of smoking, including some more popular brands on the market.

A Brief History

John Rolfe had the inspiration to plant tobacco seed from Trinidad in Virginia in 1612. The first crop of tobacco found favor at court back in England and became popular there with over a ton of tobacco being shipped to London between 1616-1617. By 1620, some 40,000 lbs of tobacco made its way across the Atlantic where much of it was ‘drunk’ from the smoke of a pipe. Some 3,000 years prior, Native American tribes smoked pipes in the Mississippi Valley area of the United States. Ancient relic pipes found were adorned with animals and other decorative markings. Early English and European pipes were made of clay for the most part and were simple, long stemmed pipes known today as the ‘clay tavern pipe.’ Clay pipes were fragile and broke frequently with meerschaum making an appearance in the early 1700’s to help fortify and fashion pipes into more sturdy products. 

Pipes Taking Shape

More shapes and variations exist than can possibly be listed but there are some common, classic designs to be on the look for when check out pipe shapes. Two broad categories include straight and curved pipes with variations within these two categories. In today’s pipe world, shapes are thought of in terms of class English and Danish shapes with freehand shapes coming into form as well, so to speak. The classic English shapes held sway for several hundred years until early 1950’s when in Denmark pipe makers experimented with new shapes to create artistic expression into the forms and styles. The following are three types, two English and one Danish, that are popular among pipe smokers though every individual will have his or her preference as to what is desired.


A well-known shape that is a favorite among smoking enthusiasts for several decades, the unique bowl shape is quite easily distinguishable from most every other shape. The bowl of a Bulldog consists of two cones adjoined at the bases, the top cone being abbreviated at the chamber and bottom cone blending into the shank. A hallmark almost always found on a Bulldog is one or more thin grooves cut into the circumference of the bowl. Each groove is usually slightly less than the width of a toothpick. The stem of a Bulldog is also diamond-shaped, with both tapered and saddle-bit stems being equally acceptable. 


Thanks to the movie series Lord of the Rings, the Churchwarden pipe has come back into popularity among smokers. The origins date back to before Tolkien’s books were ever penned. Churchwarden pipes made a debut in Europe thanks to the Austrian cavalry who brought them to England and France during the Napoleonic Wars. A primary advantage of the pipe is the distance between bowl and bit. Churchwardens have a stem that can reach nine inches in length or more. The smoke must travel a great distance which gives it more time to cool for what smokers perceive as a more pleasurable feel to the experience. Churchwardens typically provide for a shorter smoke. Typically referred to as ‘reading pipes,’ the extended length prevents the bowl from obstructing a reader’s view and provides a great conversation piece with others who take interest in the long stem and shape of the pipe.


The Egg is a beautiful pipe made famous by Danish pipe makers. A well done Egg is created out of sheer artistry and tend to find their way onto the shelves of high-end pipe collectors. The Egg’s bowl is usually about the size of a large hen’s egg with a transition between bowl and shank one of the most graceful to behold on standard pipes in production today. A Danish made Egg usually features a long slightly bent shank which gradually flares until it reaches the stem. Produced by pipe makers worldwide, Eggs remain very popular among pipe enthusiasts which can be smooth, sandblasted or rusticated.

If you are interested in any of the above mentioned pipe styles or have another one in mind, check out our website for more information on pipe styles, brand and other accessories to help you create a collection or get one started. 

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