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Know Your Knives: The Smoker’s Knife

Image courtesy Pipesandcigars.com

Not every knife out there is a hunting knife, EDC, or fixed tactical blade. Some knives are much more specialized than the knives most of us are familiar with, and this Smoker’s Knife is an excellent example. Like me, you may have seen one and never known what it was. At first glance it might seem like some Victorian gentleman’s embryonic Leatherman with a folding blade and a folding probe, and what might be a very small hammer at one end. This would be a clever guess, and that’s exactly what I thought when I bought one of these at a garage sale thirty years ago. I didn’t know what: I’ve never smoked, my dad has never smoked, and only one of his friends ever smoked a pipe even in the 1970s.

Some years later I saw a finer example in an antique shop, and the knife’s name pretty much explained everything. The blade is for cutting the ends of cigars (and cutting pipe tobacco if needed) and the spike is for piercing the end of a cigar before smoking it. The miniature hammer is a tamp, to pack down the tobacco in your favorite Meerschaum.

Just like smoking itself, smoker’s knives were once much more common than they are now. Knives like this are still manufactured as specialty tools, and this plain model costs about nine bucks.

 

Discussion

7 responses to ‘Know Your Knives: The Smoker’s Knife

  1. I’ve seen them in smoker shops that cater to pipe and cigar smokers. Never figured out which end the spike went in though.

  2. This is a pipe smokers knife. The blade is used to cut plug or rope tobacco, and the point is rounded off so it can be used to ream out the cake (the insulating layer of carbon that lines and protects the walls of your pipe), though this isn’t recommended, due to the risk of damaging your pipe. The spike is used to pick out dottle (the unburned bits of tobacco left in the bottom of the pipe after smoking) or to loosen packed tobacco in your pipe bowl, and the flat end is used to tamp down the ashes when smoking.

    • Hey Mason, I’ve used a rounded tip pipe knife to scrape down the cake in my pipes for over 30 years without causing damage. Ss with the use of any knife, one must pay attention to what they’re doing.

  3. My grandfather had one for his pipes. He must have had 40+ pipes of Briar-wood, as well as a large selection of Meerschaum pipes. His study was strictly off limits to children, that being, me and my brother. We dared not step a toe into his pipe sanctum sanctorum. It was the only place grandmother would let him smoke his pipes. A dozen wooden revolving pipe stands held the objects of his affection. Glass jars with hermetic lids lined the shelves next to his desk. Sterling pipe knives sat in a tray on his desk, probably thank you gifts from the smoke shop for his many years of pipe and tobacco patronage. I have a slightly damaged one that his greedy eldest son, my uncle, left after cleaning out all the pipes when granddad died. I’m told the hand-carved Meerschaums were worth a good bit of money, and are much sought after by pipe collectors. Probably the only reason my uncle took them all.

  4. I knew a guy in the Army, back in the early 80s, who collected and smoked Meerschaum pipes, and he had a knife just like this, as well as a folding Case knife that he had everywhere he went. Seeing this makes me wonder whatever happened to him. Too many years, too many miles.

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