Comparing the pros and cons of a joint, chillum, hand-pipe, sherlock, and gandalf.
Hand pipes come in all shapes and sizes. Why choose a Sherlock versus a Gandalf? Or a spoon-shaped pipe versus chillum? Besides the aesthetics or the size of the pipe in your hand, the shape of the pipe has a lot to do with the quality of the smoke.
The most important factor is the distance from the heat source to your mouth. The further the heat source from your mouth, the cooler the smoke, and as a result, smoother and less harmful to your mouth, throat, and lungs. And by safer, I mean less carcinogenic impact. Many studies have shown that even drinking hot tea increases the likelihood of mouth and throat cancers, so heat is a huge factor in how damaging combustion gases (smoke) are to your body. Now keep in mind no smoke is good for your health or 100% safe. Anytime you are combusting plant materials and gases, you are releasing chemicals and heat, which damage the tissues they come in contact with; like the mouth, throat, and lungs. Combining these volatile compounds with heat = no bueno.
I don't mean to be a downer but smoking just isn't good for you. So if you're going to smoke, you might as well understand the science behind the safest ways to do it.
Here's a breakdown of the variety of different pipes and how far they place the heat source from your mouth:
- A spliff, a joint, or anything that's rolled put the heat source about the same distance from your mouth as a chillum, 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 inches; however, as you smoke more of the cigarette, the heat source gets closer to your mouth and eventually about an inch away.
- A chillum is about 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 inches from bowl to mouth.
- The standard spoon pipe is about 3 to 4 inches from bowl to mouth.
- The Sherlock can be deceiving, as the human brain has a hard time judging distance when it's not in a straight line. If you were to straighten a Sherlock out, even a small one, you'll see that the heat source is actually 8 to 10 inches away from bowl to mouth.
- Gandalfs come in a variety of sizes ranging from 9 to 16 inches or even longer.
Looking at the simple breakdown of the distance from the heat source to the mouth, you can see that Sherlock and Gandalf pipes put the heat source the furthest away, allowing the smoke to cool down as it travels, making it safer for your mouth, throat, and lungs. This doesn't mean that smoking out of a Sherlock or a Gandalf has no carcinogenic impact; it just means that in considering the temperature of the smoke, they are a better option than say a chillum or a standard spoon pipe. Obviously, the worst of the options, as you can see in the image, is a joint or a cigarette.
So far, we only have covered the length of the pipe. How about girth? And what about other shapes? Do they make a difference? Sometimes you’ll notice a small ballooned-out section right before where the pipe meets your lips. What's the point of that? Many of these shape differences are purely aesthetic. However, some shapes can help capture the hot ashes before they fly into your mouth. A larger cavity can slow the progression of solid objects, like embers, allowing them to fall into the cavity. What we do know is that high temperatures, whether from smoke or liquid, have been correlated to increases in mouth and throat cancers.
The last thing to talk about is the carb. The carb is an additional hole near the front of the pipe. By lifting your finger off of the carb you can allow cool smoke to enter the main chamber and ultimately your mouth. Typically this is done to clear the main chamber of lingering smoke as you come to the end of your hit. However, you can also allow a small amount of air in as you smoke, by slightly lifting your finger off of the carb. As your bowl of herbs turns into ash, you can lift your finger off of the carb so the ashes don't snap into your pipe or mouth.
This doesn't prevent me from using a pipe or a chillum to smoke occasionally. I also love to smoke a joint. However, if I'm going to smoke out of a pipe, I'll often choose a Sherlock or Gandalf as my primary choice. If I'm hiking or I want something compact and I know that I won't be smoking regularly out of a pipe, I'll use a chillum or a small spoon. When I'm at home and I'm smoking throughout the day, I'll use the vaporizer which doesn't produce smoke at all and captures the vapors in a bag allowing time to cool down. We'll get into vaporizers in a different post.
Besides pipe aesthetics, these are the other considerations you should keep in mind when choosing what kind of pipe to buy. Let me know what you think and if you have any other questions about pipe shapes the effects they produce.
So these are the differences between the variety of pipe shapes.