What is a Chillum?
The shortest answer would be that a chillum is a unique type of smoking pipe that has a straight shape with a conical interior. But, upon further examination, this proves to be quite misleading.
To answer this question more thoroughly, we need to first state what a chillum is not. Modern products and technological breakthroughs in the industry have kinda blurred the line between pipes, chillums, one-hitters, and a plethora of other smoking accessories.
Chillum is not a one-hitter pipe. A one-hitter (usually called a ‘bat’ or ‘taster bat’) is a small pipe that fits into a dugout and has a bowl that’s large enough for one hit.
Chillums do not come in various shapes. The uniqueness of this piece lies in the fact that the straight shape has been preserved for centuries.
We could say that all chillums are pipes, but not all pipes are chillums. The design and shape resembles the one-hitter pipes. But the chillum holds much more herb, similar to a sherlock or any other pipe with a bowl.
History of the Chillum
Chillum, or chilam, has been used for many, many centuries in virtually all cultures of the world. The original name was the Hindi word ‘chilam’ and it originates from India, where Hindu monks used these clay pipes in ceremonies. The very word itself means ‘pipe’.
Even today, you’re unlikely to find a spiritual teacher without a chillum packed nearby. These ceremonies were always tied in with spiritual practice and the use of cannabis was a central theme.
Some say that the first evidence of chillum usage in India goes way back to the 8th century AD. Others say that this practice started somewhere in the 18th century and then spread quickly to Africa, China, and the rest of the world.
The reason for the ambiguity is that archeology has shown us that human cannabis consumption goes thousands of years back. There were hundreds of discoveries in recent years of people from all parts of the world being buried with valuables-- including ancient pipes and bongs.
The chillum hit European and American culture sometime in the 1960s. Hippies on all continents brought chillums from India and these practical smoking pipes slowly made it to shelves of modern times.
How is a Chillum Made?
Traditionally, Hindu chillums were almost always made out of clay. The clay was rolled out in a long, tapered cone shape and the inside was hollowed out. This design had a chamber with one end larger than the other and we see the same basic principle used today. The Hindu monks inserted a chillum stone inside the chamber. This stone acted as a screen or filter and would prevent ground herb from exiting the chamber.
Various wood is also used to make chillums. There’s even evidence that a lot of primitive chillums were made from animal horns. Nowadays, with the explosion of the green herb industry, chillums are made from almost any material imaginable.
Wood, stone, metal, and glass are some of the most popular materials used to make chillums. The reality is that chillums exploded in popularity in recent years because of two factors: the cannabis industry going mainstream and glass artistry going absolutely nuts in terms of creativity and demand.
Today’s glass pieces have everything you need. They’re beautiful, they’re durable, they have fantastic heat resistance, and they’re affordable. And scientific-grade borosilicate glass allowed for that to happen.
Borosilicate glass allows an artist to create a timeless piece that’s bound to last a very long time. It is heat resistant, shock resistant, and shatterproof. And because of these amazing properties, an artist can shape it into incredibly detailed forms and basically breathe life into each and every piece he makes. When the glass artists turned their attention to old school chillums, a completely new beast was born.
A Timeless Shape in Modern Times
Basically everything has changed about chillums nowadays, and yet nothing has really changed. The straight shape, the conical design, and the tapered chamber are still there.
Nowadays you can find chillums made from all kinds of materials and combinations of materials. It’s not unusual to see a piece made from glass that also has wooden or metal components. We have UV-reactive, blacklight-reactive, transparent, solid-colored, and everything in between.
A few centuries ago the monks used simple chillum stone as a filter. Today we have various mesh screens, percolators, spring-loaded mechanisms, and even ash catchers. Like I mentioned before, the lines between different smoking pipes are blurred.
Why Should I Buy a Chillum?
Chillums are perfect for anyone who appreciates a good bowl and uses a hand pipe on a regular basis. They offer you a brand new smoking experience if you’ve never tried them.
A chillum allows you to enjoy your herbs on the go. The social stigma around cannabis is still a pain in the butt. If you need a piece that’s small, subtle, and allows you to enjoy a good session incognito, a chillum might be the perfect choice.
Chillums are also extremely easy to use. If you’ve ever packed a bowl, you’ll be right at home.
They are very easy to clean. Most of the time you’ll find that soaking them will remove all sorts of impurities and is going to be the best overall method. And that’s especially true for glass and metal chillums.
And finally, most chillums are quite affordable. There’s such a huge number available and you’ll find that almost none of them will set you back a small fortune.
How to Use a Chillum
Use a Medium Grind
Aim for a medium grind. Think of it like coffee. Certain methods require different consistencies. You’ll have to experiment with this before you find that sweet spot you like most.
Maintain Good Airflow
Don’t under or over pack the chamber. Too much herb and there’s no airflow, too little herb and you’ll end up disappointed with all the ash in your mouth. Don’t be afraid to experiment.
Use a Small Lighter
When you’ve packed the chamber and are ready to light, be sure to use a small flame. If you can get your hands on some hemp wick, do it. It’s an incredible way to light up any pipe and will allow for the best flavor possible.
Freeze It First
If you have a glass or metal chillum, stick in the freezer for a couple of hours. The difference is astonishing!
Chillums are specific and will give you their best when you inhale gently and evenly. As you do this the herb will burn more evenly, slowly, and last longer.
Ash it regularly. A clean chillum is the best chillum. No ash in your mouth equals a great smoking experience.
There’s quite a bit to learn about using the chillum even though it’s really straightforward. Fortunately, the learning curve is not steep no matter which chillum you end up with.
Choosing the Right Chillum
This also means you can’t go wrong with any chillum you acquire. Choosing the right chillum depends entirely up to you and is mostly a matter of personal preference.
The first chillum I ever purchased was a simple glass chillum. And to this day I consider glass chillums to be the most versatile and most dependable. They are beautiful and come in billions of size and color variants.
They’re extremely durable, heat resistant, and easy to clean. If I were to buy a chillum for the first time, I’d go for one made from borosilicate glass.
Chillums made from wood are near the top of my list. Wooden chillums are mandatory in any collection. You can’t go wrong with wood pipes.
Similar to glass chillums, those made from metal are a great choice. Modern metal chillums are basically indestructible. It’s a relatively new territory for chillums and metal-based pipes are definitely worth your consideration.
Clay and stone chillums are a completely different thing compared to all other variants. They have that primordial sense about them, if you know what I mean.
I have to touch upon those rather unusual chillum materials like bone or bamboo. Personally, I’ve never tried either and cannot share an honest opinion. I’ve always viewed these more like trinkets than actual smoking devices.
Conclusion on Chillums
These past few years we’ve seen a real explosion in the market and fantastic acceptance of chillums among customers. It’s easy to understand why. In these busy times it’s super handy to have a beautiful pipe that’s completely travel-friendly, discreet, and offers a unique experience.
It’s only been a few years since chillums were taken seriously among manufacturers and customers and we’ve already seen fantastic innovation and creativity. The beauty in this is that chillums will never go out of style and will only get better with time.
The story of a simple conical straight pipe that stood the test of time and has now made a big comeback. Maybe it’s also a metaphysical testament to us as a species. Long ago we enjoyed chillums in every corner of the world, all while being highly spiritual and living in abundance with friends and family. It’s quite possible that history repeats itself and we live in similar times now.