Corncob pipes, which bring back memories of simpler times, have been made by hand for over a hundred years. Traditionally popular in the South and among farmers, many pipe enthusiasts use corncob pipes because of the smoking experience. Here's how to make a corncob pipe:
Materials and supplies:
Fresh ear of corn
- Prepare the ear of corn. Start with a fresh ear of corn, since it will be firmer. Look for one that is at least two inches thick, with a thick pith. Cut several ears in half to look at the cross-sections. Now, cut off a length that will work for your pipe. You can carve just the bowl from the cob (in which case an inch or two should be fine) or the entire pipe, including the stem, which will require at least half the corncob. Then, use a knife to cut off the kernels. You can leave on some of the kernels, which gives a more natural appearance.
- Dry the corncob. Now, let the corncob dry. This requires patience, as it can be a lengthy process. Dry it in an oven around 100 or 120 degrees for ten to twelve hours, or let it dry naturally for several days. The drier it is, the easier it will be to make a corncob pipe, and the better the pipe will work. You might want to dry several ears of corn in case you make a mistake when carving the first one.
- Carve the pipe. Use a small knife, such as a pocketknife, to start hollowing out the center of the bowl and making the stem of the pipe. Keep the diameter of the bowl small enough so that the walls do not become too thin. A pipe with thin walls will mean that the corncob pipe will be hotter in your hand while you're smoking. Carve down the pipe stem to the desired width and thickness, and then carefully hollow it out using a small knife, a drill, or a piece of thick wire that has been heated over a flame. If you are carving only the bowl from the corncob, you'll need something else to use as a stem. Cut a small hole in the side of the bowl to insert the stem.
- Sand the cob. If you are making a corncob pipe with the kernels removed, sand down the cob, giving a smooth surface which can be enhanced with varnish.
- Finish fashioning the pipe. Blow through the hollowed-out stem to clear out debris. Then fashion the mouthpiece.
- Smoke. The first time you smoke a corncob pipe, any pith in the bowl will be burned, and the pipe will be seasoned. A new pipe is harder to keep lit, but after only a few smokes the pipe should be ready for use.
Your first corncob pipe may not look like you're expecting, but it should still work. With practice, you can become an expert at carving pipes from corncobs. Making a corncob pipe is an activity that dates back more than a century. It is considered a very traditional way to smoke.