The Proto Pipe: A Must Have for Any Time-Traveling Seafarer
I’ll be honest with you, the first time I saw a Proto Pipe, I thought it was a miniature telescope or perhaps a brass derringer. Turned out it was neither, but instead a true all-in-one smoking experience: stash space, poker, bowl, and mouthpiece. Not only does that, but it also completely disassembles for easy storage (not that it takes up much space to begin with.) College-freshman me was instantly envious of this spy pipe and wanted one.
The Proto Pipe design dates back to the 60s and hails from Willits, California. The original pipes had leather instead of rubber around the mouthpiece and didn’t feature a closable lid (the height of convenience for you young whippersnappers these days) and had nine holes instead of the five in the present (knockoff) model. Yes, sadly these original handmade beauties are no longer manufactured with the true Proto-Pipe name, though imitators still exist and are sold. Phil Jergenson, the original designer and owner of the Proto Pipe company, sold it over 25 years ago.
These pseudo-Protos will run you anywhere from $29-40 bucks depending on where you get them, but if you’re an outdoorsy type or someone who likes to smoke on the go and doesn’t want to risk breaking glass out in the world this piece is a pretty worthwhile investment. If you’re an absolute purist Phil went on to create an improved pipe design that dealt with a couple of issues encountered with the original Proto Pipe that you can buy if you’re willing to spend a bit more. They run around $69-80 bucks, still the same rudimentary concept, but with a few extra bells and whistles to entice those with the scratch to spare. Aptly named the “Mendo Pipe,” these are made in Mendocino, California and with solar power to boot.
Well, its overall aesthetics seem as good a place as any to start. The compact design, brass construction and ingenious mechanics are a gnarly mixture of steampunk, old-school naval, and James Bond. On top of that, the stash piece can hold up to five bowls worth of grounds and easily screws into the pipe to keep all your necessities together. Also, due to it being made of brass, it collects resins more actively than a glass piece would, and they’re typically easier to collect. It’s tough to beat a piece that keeps everything together for you.
As with any kind of combustion, the material it occurs in effects the overall outcome. That being said, a metal pipe will have a distinct taste after use and will contribute to the eventual overall taste of your smoking experience. In my research I’ve come across stories of them being difficult to clean and take apart for cleaning, but that was about the only bad thing I gleaned. And as an inverse to my closing statement for “pros”, everything that is contained as all in one runs the risk of being quickly much more difficult or even impossible to use if a piece goes missing. Luckily, they’re all available for reorder.
From everything I’ve read and experienced, it seems like these pipes are classics that last a long time. Most people attested that they’d had theirs for ten years or more and would highly recommend them. If you’re about to head out for several months at sea or travel back in time to fight haunted robots, or just want a cool looking piece that maximizes efficiency and convenience this is for you.
- Seymour Glass