Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Review: Asheville Marble Pipes

The bowl of green herbs you see here is NOT marijuana. Let’s be clear about that. It’s a mix of raspberry leaf, catnip and one or two other legal substances, a blend I put together to test two hand-carved pipes from Asheville Marble Pipes.

These pipes could be used to smoke other substances, such as the one being legalized in many states, but not mine yet.

Herbal smoking blends are very popular though, and in different combinations are touted as having a variety of effects, such as relaxation or improving digestion. A tobacco pipe wouldn’t be suitable for that kind of smoking material, but the marble pipes are perfect.

The pipemaker, Gene, provided two for this review: a large marble pipe, which retails on his site for $50, and the $40 small marble pipe.

I was immediately struck by the heft of both of these pipes. They are finished smooth, well-balanced and attractive.

I started trying out the large one first because the small one, shaped something like the planet killer from “The Doomsday Machine” episode of Star Trek, didn’t make sense to me.

Smoking the large marble pipe might not look much different from smoking a tobacco pipe, but it calls for different techniques. You can’t pack the herbs tight like you would tobacco; add a pinch or two to the bowl, loosely packed.

Lighting the material is easy, and the handmade pipe has a very nice and easy draw; that is, the smoke travels from the bowl to your mouth with little effort.

The small pipe continued to baffle me, so I finally asked Gene how to use it. His reply was, let’s say, not all that illuminating: “I do it like a bat but seen folks do it chillum style.

However, “chillum style” gave me a search term to use, and I found a few helpful videos and websites and learned that basically you just keep it vertical the whole time you’re smoking it. Once I got the hang of it, I found it easy and enjoyable. The small pipe has a small mesh screen over the draw hole to help keep embers from falling through and burning your mouth.

Overall, both pipes are comfortable to use, and the quality of the carving is unquestionable.

I have to admit, though, I am not really a fan of smoking herbs. I have smoked tobacco pipes off and on, but I’ve found herbs to be harsh.  I tried to inhale rather than keep the smoke in my mouth as I would pipe tobacco - once.  The sudden feeling of impending death discouraged a second try!

Any authentic medicinal effect they may have can come just as effectively using them to make a tea. For people who do enjoy smoking herbs, though, Asheville Marble Pipes are an excellent means to do so.

Ashville Marble Pipes makes several other items, including cutting boards, cheese trays, beer tap handles (if ever I get an in-house beer tap, I'll be back for these), a water pipe and the “stonebone,” which is exactly what you are probably thinking it is.

Some items are available on the company’s website, others through its Etsy store. The company also offers made-to-order items. 

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