Q: Marty, are the used pipes I get from you, if I ever actually put my hand in
my pocket and spring for any, clean and ready to smoke? How clean are
they and how do you do it?
A: I often tell people, and I believe my own line, that no dishware or
silverware they eat from in any restaurant is as clean as the pipes and
stems you get from me. I soak the stems in Clorox for at least an hour,
often more, as if that mattered, and then rinse them off and scrub inside
the stem and shank with shank brushes and lots of very high proof
alcohol. And don’t think that’s not tempting. I also use a secret cleaning
ingredient along with the scrubbing. It took me a while to realize that when
people kept telling me how well my used pipes smoked that it wasn’t
really me or the pipes so much as the process. What you are buying is a
pipe that has been cured by fire, as it were, and then cleaned so that all of
the pain of a break-in is gone and only the sweet taste and aroma of briar
is left. So there.
Q: Marty, I’m supporting my family and my brother-in-law’s family on
minimum wage. Would it be possible to buy a pipe from you on lay-away?
A: Why not? A sale’s a sale. Just don’t stretch the payments out until I die.
My wife may not be aware that money has already been put on the line and
my bookkeeping is always suspect.
Q: Marty, what is my recourse if one of the used pipes I buy from you
A: I’m going to take this one on a case-by-case basis. For the most part, if
a pipe has been smoked and shows no sign of over heating or burn out, it
would be hard to blame the wood. On the other hand, if the pipe has been
barely smoked, and/or you’re a known customer with no history of
burnouts in the past, of course I’m going to give you the benefit of any
doubt. Indeed, in general, I tend to lean toward preserving customers and
extending full credit for burnouts. I’m just reserving the right to say ‘no’
when it is obvious that a pipe has been abused. That’s rare. Almost as
rare as real burnouts.
Q: Marty, I'd like to see more than one photo, showing the pipe from many
angles. How come you don’t?
A: Now you guys are getting me ticked. We give a pretty good description
of the pipe we’re displaying, so that if the blind side has less good grain,
we say so. I don’t want you to get a negative surprise in the mail because
you are going to see the pipe and any secrets will be immediately
revealed. We know that and work to prevent negative experiences. We
also are, frankly, both overworked and poor. It takes time and money to
shoot from different angles.
I can tell you that after many years of selling pipes via mail (maybe longer
than anybody else now out there) there have been precious few times a
pipe has been returned. The one I remember is the guy who returned a
pipe I described as huge because it was too large. Really, I don’t try to fool
Q: Well, Marty, what about returning a pipe we decide, upon review, we
don’t like enough to want to keep?
A:That’s an easy one. Within a reasonable amount of time, pack it up
unsmoked and return it. If it’s a used pipe, I might not even know if you
smoked it once and cleaned it up properly. You’ll receive your money
back, or full credit, whichever works best for you. What’s a reasonable
amount of time? Well, a week is not at all unreasonable and two weeks
might fly because your 3rd cousin died and you had to go to Minot, N.D. for
the funeral. After that, I’d be a bit testy.
And talking about testy, we do not return your money with a smile, or with
no questions asked. Only liars or people with a mental deficiency would
even say something like that. We are constantly striving to avoid both of
those conditions. We will return it as graciously as possible, and we might
well ask questions, so as to avoid similar miscues in the future.
Q: Marty, what do you think about hidden fills in high grade pipes?
A: I think they are an abomination in the eyes of God. To hide something is
to cheat, is it not? Am I missing something about the hiding of a fact that
would otherwise decrease the value of the product? Covering up a fill in a
less expensive pipe is expected. That's why it's less expensive. In an
expensive pipe, the reasonable expectation is that the wood is clean;
there is a specific, more expensive, grade of briar for that...it's not just a
whim of how a pipe maker functions. It has been a given, for generations,
that a high grade pipe is fill free. Period. To find a fill in a high grade is to
unmask a cheat. There's no other explanation or justification and I will not
deign to listen to arguments that suggest otherwise.
Q: Well, then, Mr. Big Shot, what happens if I buy a high grade pipe from
you and detect a fill long after it's smoked (I know I can return it for no
special reasons other than not liking it right after receiving and inspecting
the pipe)? Can I return it then because otherwise you'd be complicitous in
aiding and abetting a cheat and might have to do felony time for same?
A: I guess so, now that I've painted myself into that corner. So, yes, if you
get a Chonowitsch or Bang or Balleby, or Becker from me, and it has a fill
and you discover it a year and a half later, I'll give you your money back or
credit. But, I want the pipe back in decent shape, too. Don't burn the
brother to death and then claim foul (or fill). You can also bet that any
offending pipemaker (and by the way, I don't believe for a moment that it
would be any of those named above...they were simply examples. I know
all those guys, and I believe they're well above doing something like filling
a pipe. I sure hope so) will be given a lot of publicity on my site. They won't
like what they read and hear.
Q: But Marty, what about the argument, "if you can't see it, it's not there?"
Sort of a take-off on the tree crashing in the woods and nobody is there to
hear it but the rabbits, and they ain't speaking.
A: Oh yeah, well then don't worry about that microbe in your system that
you can't see, and don't hardly worry about it killing you any time now. It's
Q: Marty, you ignorant clown, what about flaws?
A: A flaw is not a fill. All briar has flaws. I doubt there's been a perfect
(flaw free) piece of briar large enough to make a good pipe. I could be
wrong, but not by a lot. As Carlo Scotti told someone who complained of
pit marks, in his Castello, "I am a pipe maker, not God." But, go back to my
original statement; a flaw in smooth pipes is not hidden. Surface flaws are
not filled with putty, stained and sanded to look like something they are
not. And by the way, this is not going to become a forum for other people's
opinions. If you disagree with what I say, take it elsewhere. I am busy and
do not want to get bogged down in pipe arguments while the world is still
a teeming mess. When we all hit Nirvana, you can bring up this discussion
in my presence. Until then, I have the last word on this site.
Q. Marty, you keep invoking your thumb as a means of measuring the size
of the tobacco chamber. What are we geniuses and mind-readers. How
large is your thumb, anyway?
A: Using my calipers, I see that my thumb is 21mm thick, which translates
Q: Marty, what if we just don’t like you?
A: The line forms at the rear. (But be careful of my wife…she may be on
line with you, and armed.)
Pulvers' Prior Briar
P.O. Box 61146
Palo Alto, CA 94306
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