As a newbie smoker, you probably zeroed-in on the price point of pieces to choose your first water pipe. After a few broken low-end pipes, or seeing your friends’ pipes oddly shatter during a session, you’ve discovered that not all pipes are made equally. As with any type of merchandise, cheaper items usually are only cheaper up front and end up costing you more in the long run. Take shoes for example. You can buy a cheap pair for work every six months, or you can invest in a quality pair that will last you five years. The upfront cost stings a little bit, but you’re really saving in the end by avoiding frequent replacements. The same goes for water pipes. There are several factors that determine the quality of the piece, and they’re not too difficult to spot once you know what you’re looking for.
American Made vs. Imported
Although imported glass is often less expensive than American-made glass, the quality is usually far inferior to the unique and carefully crafted pieces made by in-country artists. While it’s true that you might find a high-quality imported pipe and a poorly constructed American pipe, we’ve just been in the business long enough to know who to trust as far as consistent quality goes. On all product pages, you will find the exact location where each piece was constructed. Most of our products come from American artists, but you may see the occasional imported piece. Rest assured, all imported pieces have been properly vetted, as we only allow the best constructed pieces to exchange our hands.
Another sign of a quality piece is the type of glass it’s constructed from. Borosilicate and quartz are the most durable types of glass for pipe making. Quartz is technically pure silica, while Borosilicate has a high silica content. Since quartz is quite thick and expensive, it is mostly reserved for smaller dry hand pipes such as spoons. These types of glass are used for pipes because they are chemically inert, won’t affect the taste of the smoke, and can tolerate high levels of heat. Any glass that doesn’t tolerate heat well, like Soda-lime-silica, should be avoided. Don’t be afraid to ask your vendor what type of glass a piece is made from.
Quality pieces will have uniform thickness all around, even for beaker-bottom pipes and others that aren’t just a straight tube. Of course, added artwork will cause the glass to be thicker in those areas, but the main body of the pipe should still be uniform in thickness. Thin spots are weak spots, and will be more susceptible to breaking in those areas if dropped or mishandled. Special areas of concern when it comes to glass thickness are at the joints. If they seem thin, loose, or abnormally rough, it’s best to avoid the piece altogether. Joints are the most common parts to break on a water pipe, so they shouldn’t be overlooked when choosing a new piece.
While it’s normal for there to be slight imperfections in a hand-made piece, there are some imperfections that can cause a piece to break more easily and are red-flags for any potential buyers. One of these imperfections is scratches. An abnormal amount of scratches indicates that the job was rushed and may not be as high of quality. Many artists toss their pieces that suffer too many scratches during the construction process, so this normally won’t be an issue if bought from a local artist. Another imperfection to watch out for is bubbles. Bubbles can show up in joints and other places where two pieces of glass have been welded together. A couple of small bubbles are nothing to worry about, but larger bubbles and lots of bubbles will weaken the glass in those areas. Truly superb pieces will have no bubbles at the welds.
Carbs on Hand Pipes
For hand pipes specifically, the carb diameter should be larger than the diameter of the hole at the bottom of the bowl. Smaller carb holes will make it harder to clear, while larger carbs provide more airflow through the piece to clear the smoke easier. Quality hand pipes will ensure that the carb hole is larger than the hole in the bowl.
Glass is a delicate material, but well-made designs aren’t always as fragile as their cheaply made counterparts. When it comes to glass, quality should be the number one factor when deciding which piece you pick up next. If you’re going to invest in a water pipe, it may as well be one you can get the most use out of.