Updated: May 6, 2020
Pipes have been used to smoke tobacco and other herbal materials for many years. Once commonly made from wood or metal, the past twenty or so years have seen pipe sellers move mostly to blown glass.
The primary reason for the switch to glass as a material for pipe making is that glass does not alter the taste of the material being smoked, unlike the burning of wood or the heating of a metallic material. These days taste is a bigger issue than it was back in the day.
Yes, I remember "back in the day:" I think we were just coming out of the stone age when I first started using a pipe. Ok, so a slight exaggeration, but still I remember a time before glass pipes.
Back to my point, today there are so many different varieties (strains) of herbs to choose from each with their own distinct flavors. Taste now becomes a large part of the smoking experience. Glass does not affect the taste of the herb you are smoking, so you can fully enjoy the flavor of your favorite variety.
Another reason for the switch to glass pipes is that the design, shape, and color spectrum is limited only by the glass blower’s imagination. There is a glass pipe out there for every individual taste and budget.
Glassblowers are artisans who create some incredible works of art. As the end-user you have a fully functional piece of art to enjoy your smoking experience with.
So we have talked about some of the pros of using glass as a medium for pipe production, let's go over some of the cons. First off - and probably the biggest issue with glass - is that it breaks. Yes, this is a fact of life that applies to everything made from glass. Of course, it seems to matter more when your pipe hits the floor and shatters into 100 pieces. Never a good feeling. Clearly, if the pipe were made from wood or metal, it would have a much greater chance of surviving the fall. So, longevity is an issue with any glass pipe; however, just like with everything else, you get what you pay for. A good glass pipe will have some thickness to it so that it will be heavier and stronger. It will also cost more.
Another major drawback to using glass pipes, and this is what kept me from using one for so long, is the fact that a typical metal screen (like the ones we used to use back in the day) never fits in the bowl properly. Of course, putting a metal screen in a glass bowl sort of defeats one of the reasons you use glass in the first place: taste! The result of this is you typically do not use a screen in your glass pipe, and you end up sucking ash and resin through the mouthpiece opening. YUCK! They have names out there for this, like “Scooby Snacks” and other such affectionate terms for what is truly very disgusting.
As I said, this is what kept me from switching over to glass for a long time. Even once converted to glass, the "Scooby Snacks" were still a big problem for me. I could not understand why, at this late stage of human development, we had not fixed this problem yet. I mean come on, we can land a remote-control car on Mars and then actually drive it around, so surely we can stop ash coming through a pipe stem!
Alas, people have tried. They came out with glass screens they called “Stars” which basically sit in the opening of the bowl and clogged up the pipe, and they didn’t do anything to keep the ash and resign from coming through the stem and into your mouth. Another failed attempt by humankind to fix this problem came in the way of the “Ash Catcher” This was a part of the pipe itself and was blown into the stem of the pipe to catch the ash from coming through the mouthpiece. If successful the stem would catch the ash and resin, but the resulting clogging would make the pipe useless. These were exceedingly difficult to clean and never really caught on as a solution.
So finally, there is a solution to this problem that actually works. A redesigned screen that fits into the mouthpiece opening instead of the bowl. It is called an Ash Hole Screen, and it really does solve the "Scooby Snack" dilemma!
So now you can enjoy all the benefits of your glass pipe, without the drawbacks. Once you try your pipe with an Ash Hole Screen, you will never want to use it again without one.
Glass is the way to go when it comes to pipes in my opinion, but the pipe needs to have an Ash Hole Screen for it to be a complete solution.