Getting the Most out of Your Corn Cob Pipe. Think of this as the "Cobbunist Manifesto"

Getting the most out of your Corn Cob Pipe

We offer the following tips to lengthen the life of your Missouri Meerschaum Corncob Pipe and to enrich your smoking enjoyment.

Fill the pipe bowl with layers of tobacco that are not too tightly packed. This will keep your pipe more evenly lit. One old tip is to fill your bowl three ways: First sprinkle the tobacco loosely into the bowl and pack it (or tamp it, as we smokers call it) with a child’s touch. Second sprinkle a second load into the bowl and tamp it with a woman’s touch. (Sorry ladies) Finally fill the bowl one last time and tamp it like a man. The goal here is to create enough air space to allow for an easy draw, but without gaps in the tobacco which could cause it to go out prematurely.

As you smoke use a tamp to tamp the tobacco down gently to keep the unburned tobacco in contact with the burning embers. (Yes, TAMP is both a noun and a verb.) This little trick improved the duration of my smoking enjoyment immensely, plus it added another neat tool to my smoke kit!

Drawing gently, in short puffs will help to prevent tongue bite. Tongue bite is a euphemistic way of saying the tip of your tongue will get BBQ’d! Settle the pipe in the corner of your mouth with your tongue against the mouthpiece, and try to keep your hands off the pipe. The part about the corner of the mouth isn’t so much to improve your smoking experience as much as to keep you from looking like a goofball.

After each smoke run a pipe cleaner through the stem to keep it clear of debris and to remove excess moisture from saliva and from the humid smoke generated by properly stored tobacco.

Though it looks cool in the movies, never knock your pipe against a hard surface like the sole of your shoe. Knock it instead against the palm of your hand while holding the stem firmly in the middle.

Switching, or resting your pipes frequently helps to prevent bitterness or what I like to call pipe-funk. This time-out will allow your corn cob pipe to dry out, which will not only reward you with a more pleasurable smoke, but will also lengthen its life. We suggest owning several pipes and rotating through them. Many say you should own seven pipes so that you have a fresh one each day of the week. We suggest you should own at least 31 pipes, and not just because we sell them. Honest.

It may be an old husband’s tale, but just in case it’s correct… Long-time smokers say to smoke your first bowl of tobacco in a new pipe all the way through without allowing it to go out. They say that if the first bowl goes out, the pipe will tend to go out at that same place each time you smoke it. Sounds like voodoo to me, but just in case I never smoke in the same place twice. :-)

Some say that if you enjoy an especially sweet smoke that you should try coating the inside of your new pipe with a thin layer of honey before your first smoke. This may work with briar pipes, but in the case of cobs we suggest you save your honey for your biscuits.

Well, that’s about all for now. Please stop by our eBay Store to see our entire line of unique pipes and gifts and to learn more interesting information.

Missouri Meerschaum Corn Cob Pipe Color Chart

One thing that surprises most folks who see several corn cob pipes side by side is how much the cobs naturally vary in color and texture. The accompanying photo shows several pipe shapes and finishes, but best of all it illustrates the wide range of cob coloring.

Pipe #1 is a Smooth Egg Shaped Great Dane. This pipe features a surface which is filled with plaster of Paris and then lacquered. This is our most popular finish and is the finish that was granted a US Patent in 1878 to the founder of Missouri Meerschaum.

Pipe # 2 is a Country Gentleman. The bowl is first filled, as outlined in #1, but then it was exposed to open flame and then burnished to a smooth and polished finish. Lastly it received a coat of lacquer.

Pipe #3 is a Free Hand, which is unique in that it is the only production corn cob pipe in the USA which is still completely hand turned. This pipe has undergone the same steps as the Country Gentleman, only these steps are all done by a skilled hand.

Pipe #4 is a Smooth General, which has the same finish as pipe #1. I guess I put it in the photo mostly because I like it!

Pipe # 5 and 6 is actually the same style and finish. I told you the cobs vary! These are both Natural MacArthur pipes, which have absolutely no finish at all. # 5 is about as white a cob as I have ever seen, and #6 is quite red. Folks who smoke the a Natural Bowl often claim that they smoke cooler, which makes sense seeing that the cobs surface is a bit like the fins on a radiator.

One last point about appearance; Missouri Meerschaum originally made their stems from corn cobs, but that didn’t last for long. Cobs turned down that small had no strength, so shortly thereafter they moved on to using river reeds. This is the type of stem that Mark Twain would have found on his Missouri Meerschaum pipe. Today, if you look carefully, you’ll see that pipes #1-4 all have a wooden stem with a “cob-like” imprint. Pipes # 5 and 6 also have a wooden stem but with a “burn” mark in the center, reminiscent of the joint found on reeds or bamboo. Regardless of the stem all of our pipes feature a smooth, splinter-free plastic bit (that’s what the mouth piece of a pipe is called.) Some accommodate a filter, some do not. See the individual pipe description for this detail.

A great interview with Mark Twain

An Illustrated Monthly
edited by
Jerome K. Jerome &
Robert Barr

February 1892
Chatto & Windus,
214 Piccadilly
MR. HATTON appears to be in doubt whether Mark Twain smokes three hundred cigars a year-or a month. There is a slight difference both to tobacconist and consumer. I have been told that his annual, allowance is three thousand cigars. But it must not be thought that his devotion to tobacco stops at this trivial quantity. The cigars merely represent his dessert in the way of smoking. The solid repast of nicotine is taken by means of a corn-cob pipe. The bowl of this pipe is made from the hollowed-out cob of an ear of Indian corn. It is a very light pipe, and it colours brown as you use it, and ultimately black, so they call it in America "The Missouri Meerschaum." I was much impressed by the ingenuity with which Mark Twain fills his corn-cob pipe. The humorist is an inspired Idler. He is a lazy man, and likes to do things with the least trouble to himself. He smokes a granulated tobacco which he keeps in a long check bag made of silk and rubber. When he has finished smoking, he knocks the residue from the bowl of the pipe, takes out the stem, places it in his vest pocket, like a pencil or a stylographic pen, and throws the bowl into the bag containing the granulated tobacco. When he wishes to smoke again (this is usually five minutes later) he fishes out the bowl, which is now filled with tobacco, inserts the stern, and strikes a light. Noticing that his pipe was very-aged and black, and knowing that he was about to enter a country where corn-cob pipes are not, I asked him if he had brought a supply of pipes with him.

"Oh, no," he answered, "I never smoke a new corn-cob pipe. A new pipe irritates the throat. No corn-cob pipe is fit for anything until it has been used at least a fortnight."

"How do you manage then?" I asked. "Do you follow the example of the man with the tight boots;--wear them a couple of weeks before they can be put on?"

"No," said Mark Twain, "I always hire a cheap man--a man who doesn't amount to much, anyhow--who would be as well--or better--dead, and let him break in the pipe for me. I get him to smoke the pipe for a couple of weeks, then put in a new stem, and continue operations as long as the pipe holds together."

Mark Twain brought into France with him a huge package of boxes of cigars and tobacco which he took, personal charge of when he placed it on the deck while he lit a fresh cigar he put his foot on this package so as to be sure of its safety. He didn't appear to care what became of the rest of his luggage as long as the tobacco was safe.

"Going to smuggle that in?" I asked.

"No, sir. I'm the only man on board this steamer who has any tobacco. I will say to the Customs officer, 'Tax me what you like, but don't meddle with the tobacco.' They don't know what tobacco is in France."

Another devotee of the corn-cob pipe is Mr. Rudyard Kipling, who is even more of a connoisseur in pipes than is Mark Twain, which reminds me that Mr. Kipling interviewed Mr. Clemens, and, although the interview has been published before, I take the liberty of incorporating part of it in this symposium.

Missouri Meerschaum Corn Cob Pipe History

The Missouri Meerschaum Company is the world's oldest and largest manufacturer of cool, sweet-smelling corn cob smoking pipes and has been located in picturesque Washington, Missouri since 1869. Douglas MacArthur and George Lincoln Rockwell were perhaps the most famous smokers of this type of pipe, along with the cartoon characters Popeye and Frosty the Snowman.

Corncob pipes remain popular today because they are inexpensive and require no difficult "break-in" period like briar pipes. For these two reasons, corncob pipes are often recommended as a "Beginners pipe", but, their enjoyment is by no means limited to beginners. Corncob pipes are equally valued by both learners, and experienced smokers who simply desire a cool, clean smoke. Pipesmokers who wish to sample a wide variety of different tobaccos and blends also might keep a stock of corncobs on hand to permit them to try new flavors without "carryover" from an already-used pipe.

The cobs used for these pipes are grown exclusively for use by Missouri Meerschaum, and were developed for them by the University of Missouri! Following the proper curing time, they are transformed by dedicated and skilled craftsmen into genuine Missouri Meerschaums.

It is our honest belief that there is no substitute for quality and excellence. With cheap import pipes now on the market we are especially conscious of that fact, so we chose to partner with the world wide leader in quality corn cob pipes. We pledge that we will continue to provide you with the finest corn cob pipes, the finest packaging, and our commitment to service. We welcome and value your business.

Want to know more? Read on…

In 1869 a Dutch immigrant woodworker named Henry first began production of the corn cob pipe. Legend has it that a local farmer whittled a pipe out of corn cob and liked it so much he asked Henry to try turning some on his lathe. The farmer was well-pleased with his pipes so Henry made a few more and put them for sale in his shop. They proved to be such a fast selling item that soon Henry spent more time making pipes for his customers than working with wood. Soon Henry went into full time production of corn cob pipes. In 1907 Henry’s company became the Missouri Meerschaum Company.

The word Meerschaum is taken from a German word that means "sea foam". It is a Turkish clay used in high grade pipes. Henry likened his light, porous pipes and their cool smoke to that of the more expensive meerschaum pipes and coined the name "Missouri Meerschaum" for his pipes. Henry and a chemist friend devised an innovative system of applying a plaster-based substance to the outside of the corn cob bowls to make a smoother, more presentable pipe. In 1878, Henry was granted a US patent for this process. (You can find this patent for sale in our ebay store)

A nationwide distribution system was established for the sale of his pipes. Other pipe firms also developed; by 1925 there were as many as a dozen corn cob pipe companies in Franklin County, most of them in Washington. Today, Missouri Meerschaum stands alone as the first and only surviving piece of the living history. These gentle pipes are smoked and loved all over the world as well as being used as souvenirs, often imprinted with the name of the city, business or event.

The factory is located on the corner of Front and Cedar streets overlooking the Missouri River and one block from the Amtrak station. The three story brick building that houses the factory dates to the 1880's. A corn cob pipe museum is located next to the office, accessible from Cedar Street.

About 50 employees work Monday through Friday year round to make the nearly 5000 pipes per day for use in every U.S. state and several foreign countries.

A corn cob pipe can't be made without first growing the corn. When the company began production in the 1860's the by-product of any field corn was usable raw material for the making of corn cob pipes. However, over the years through hybridization, the corn has been modified to produce smaller cobs. It was up to the corn cob pipe industry to develop a corn that produced a bigger cob. This job was given to the University of Missouri, who perfected the corn seed that is used today. Missouri Meerschaum owns about 150 acres that is used for growing corn. Sometimes additional acreage is contracted with local farmers.

After the corn is harvested, it is stored in outdoor bins until it can be shelled. The corn shelling is done with a vintage sheller, as the new combines used in modern corn farming is designed to break up the cobs as the ears are torn from the stalk. The cobs are stored in the third floor of the factory for two years. Proper aging makes the cobs harder and dryer.

Production begins when the cobs are loaded into the chutes that carry them to the lowest level of the factory where they are sawed into pipe lengths and sorted by size. The size determines which type of pipe it will become. After being turned, the tobacco hole is bored in the bowl. Some of the better pipes are bored all the way through and a wood plug is inserted into the bottom of the bowl. Then the cobs go to one of several turning machines. Each machine produces a different shape. A few of the better pipes such as the “MacArthur” and the “Free-Hands” are hand turned on a lathe. This requires some serious old-world craftsmanship skills.

The next step is "filling" which is the applying of plaster of Paris to the surface of the bowl. The bowls are allowed to dry for a day before the next process, which is "white scouring" or sanding of the bowl to make it smooth. Bowls that will be used for less expensive pipes are varnished in a concrete mixer (seriously!) and spread out on wire racks to dry.

The better pipe bowls are placed on spindles that rotate through a spray booth where they are coated with lacquer. After the bowls are dry, the assembly begins.

The wood stems are printed with ink so they appear to be made from a cob. A metal ferrule is hammered onto the stem then the stem is glued and tapped into the bowl. The bowls are patched around the stem and any small irregularities in the cob are patched. Finally the pipes are ready for packaging and shipping to you... so what are you waiting for? Order yours today!

A MESSAGE FOR BOONVILLE from Mince Pie by Christopher Darlington Morley

When corncob pipes went up from a nickel to six cents, smoking traditions tottered. That was a year or more ago, but one can still recall the indignation written on the faces of nicotine-soaked gaffers who had been buying cobs at a jitney ever since Washington used one to keep warm at Valley Forge. It was the supreme test of our determination to win the war: the price of Missouri meerschaums went up 20 per cent and there was no insurrection.

Yesterday we went out to buy our annual corncob, and were agreeably surprised to learn that the price is still six cents; but our friend the tobacconist said that it may go up again soon. We took the treasure, gleaming yellow with fresh varnish, back to our kennel, and we are smoking it as we set down these words. A corncob is sadly hot and raw until it is well sooted, but the ultimate flavor is worth persecution.

The corncob pipes we always buy come from Boonville, Mo., and we don't see why we shouldn't blow a little whiff of affection and gratitude toward that excellent town. Moreover, Boonville celebrated its centennial recently: it was founded in 1818. If the map is to be believed, it is on the southern bank of the Missouri River, which is there spanned by a very fine bridge; it is reached by two railroads (Missouri Pacific and M., K. and T.) and stands on a bluff 100 feet above the water. According to the two works of reference nearest to our desk, its population is either 4252 or 4377. Perhaps the former census omits the 125 men of the town who are so benighted as to smoke briars or clays.

Delightful town of Boonville, seat of Cooper County, you are well named. How great a boon you have conferred upon a troubled world! Long after more ambitious towns have faded in the memory of man your quiet and soothing gift to humanity will make your name blessed. I like to imagine your shady streets, drowsing in the summer sun, and the rural philosophers sitting on the verandas of your hotels or on the benches of Harley Park ("comprising fifteen acres"—New International Encyclopedia), looking out across the brown river and puffing clouds of sweet gray reek. Down by the livery stable on Main street (there must be a livery stable on Main street) I can see the old creaky, cane-bottomed chairs (with seats punctured by too much philosophy) tilted against the sycamore trees, ready for the afternoon gossip and shag tobacco. I can imagine the small boys of Boonville fishing for catfish from the piers of the bridge or bathing down by the steamboat dock (if there is one), and yearning for the day when they, too, will be grown up and old enough to smoke corncobs.

What is the subtle magic of a corncob pipe? It is never as sweet or as mellow as a well-seasoned briar, and yet it has a fascination all its own. It is equally dear to those who work hard and those who loaf with intensity. When you put your nose to the blackened mouth of the hot cob its odor is quite different from that fragrance of the crusted wooden bowl. There is a faint bitterness in it, a sour, plaintive aroma. It is a pipe that seems to call aloud for the accompaniment of beer and earnest argument on factional political matters. It is also the pipe for solitary vigils of hard and concentrated work. It is the pipe that a man keeps in the drawer of his desk for savage hours of extra toil after the stenographer has powdered her nose and gone home.

A corncob pipe is a humble badge of philosophy, an evidence of tolerance and even humor. It requires patience and good cheer, for it is slow to "break in." Those who meditate bestial and brutal designs against the weak and innocent do not smoke it. Probably Hindenburg never saw one. Missouri's reputation for incredulity may be due to the corncob habit. One who is accustomed to consider an argument over a burning nest of tobacco, with the smoke fuming upward in a placid haze, will not accept any dogma too immediately.

There is a singular affinity among those who smoke corncobs. A Missouri meerschaum whose bowl is browned and whose fiber stem is frayed and stringy with biting betrays a meditative and reasonable owner. He will have pondered all aspects of life and be equally ready to denounce any of them, but without bitterness. If you see a man on a street corner smoking a cob it will be safe to ask him to watch the baby a minute while you slip around the corner. You would even be safe in asking him to lend you a five. He will be safe, too, because he won't have it.

Think, therefore, of the charm of a town where corncob pipes are the chief industry. Think of them stacked up in bright yellow piles in the warehouse. Think of the warm sun and the wholesome sweetness of broad acres that have grown into the pith of the cob. Think of the bright-eyed Missouri maidens who have turned and scooped and varnished and packed them. Think of the airy streets and wide pavements of Boonville, and the corner drug stores with their shining soda fountains and grape-juice bottles. Think of sitting out on that bluff on a warm evening, watching the broad shimmer of the river slipping down from the sunset, and smoking a serene pipe while the local flappers walk in the coolness wearing crisp, swaying gingham dresses. That's the kind of town we like to think about.