This article is part three of a three-part series.
Voting with your dollar by choosing American-made pipes really goes a long way, far beyond simply supporting an American glass blower. Local pipe shops play a major role in the grassroots glass movement. When folks buy from local shops, the money stays inside the USA and is reinvested in the industry. This in turn helps push artistic and functional development and innovation further.
If you look at the history of smoking pipe technology, American glass blowers and lamp workers who experiment and try new things developed a huge majority of the innovations. For example, there was a time when raw borosilicate glass was only available in 12 colors. Now, with all of the experimentation and pioneering done in the U.S., there are now over 500 glass colors available in the market from a variety of companies. American pipe makers also are inventing a ton of original glass-working techniques, unique pipe shapes and designs, new percolator types, heating elements, and more. Here is a short list of a few notable innovations with U.S. origins:
- Gold and silver fuming technique (discovered and developed by glass legend Bob Snodgrass)
- New seal techniques
- Heating elements like ‘nails’ and ‘bangers’ and other accessories for concentrates
- Percolator designs
- Faberge egg design
- Klein bottle design
- Glycerin coil cooling sections, made popular by Illadelph
- Use of electroforming as a glass pipe decoration
- Designing mufti-faceted art forms using natural crystals
- Other mixed media pipes, such as the works of Bandhu Dunham and others
In the mass-produced glass industry, there is no incentive for pioneering new technologies and designs. Instead, the focus is on copying whatever is in demand at that time. Many designs you see artists coming up with – such as Liquid Sci’s Juice Box design – are blatantly mimicked and produced by the thousands, and then sold for a fraction of the value (many of these coming from overseas). Many times a new original design is revealed by an artist and is ripped off within a couple days. When artist intends to create a very limited quantity of his design to keep it somewhat rare and exclusive, it sucks that people copy it within days. Of course, real glass connoisseurs will know the difference between the original and the import, and will still recognize the exclusivity of the limited series.
Imported glass pipes are the winner, if you are looking at price and price alone. Foreign pipe manufacturers have one single goal in mind – low cost – and they do achieve that goal. Many of the shortcuts they take do pay off, and they are able to produce pipes in bulk at a fraction of the going retail price. They even have to ship the products across the Pacific Ocean and they are the most inexpensive wholesale pipes available to many headshops or gas stations who sell them.
Imported pipes are often so cheap that retailers can easily quadruple the price while still having much lower prices than any American glass retailer can.
We also would like to take a moment to debunk a myth that you have to spend hundreds of dollars for a fancy American-made pipe. This is simply not true. Many American pipe-makers spend much of their time and effort on ‘production’ pipes , which are pipes that are meant to prioritize ‘function’ over ‘form’. These glass pipes are also referred to as “scientific glass”. These pipes are bang-for-your buck pipes that function very well and are simply lacking the fancy colors, line-work, and other decorative bells and whistles. These pieces are priced to sell, and often are made to help put food on the glass blower’s table. Contrary to what many folks believe, there are American-made glass pipes in all price ranges; you can get spoons, steamrollers, concentrate rigs, and water pipes in the $10-$100 price range.
One reason this myth has taken hold is that many American-made glass pipes are priced in the 4- to 5- figure range; some pipes even go for more than $100K. These are generally known as ‘heady’ glass pipes, as opposed to ‘production’ or ‘scientific’ glass pipes. These pipes are not intended for your average smoker. They are mainly for collectors, whether they be fine art collectors, glass art connoisseurs, or any stoner who just wants an especially unique and high-end functional family heirloom. Read more about heady glass pipes in our blog article here.
Even if you find a seemingly sturdy Chinese pipe that is made with thick glass, how do you know it was annealed properly? How do you know if it was made from pure borosilicate glass? Moreover, even if you wash the glass dust out of it, there is no guarantee it will not crack around the mouthpiece the first, or the second, or the fifty-seventh time you put your lips to it. There is no telling when it will fail.
Clearly, imported pipes are not only inferior in form and function, but are a potential health risk as well. CupboardGlassPipes.com is proud to offer a huge selection of American-made glass that covers all price ranges. Many of our pipes are priced to compete with imported pipes. The Cupboard is especially proud to operate in an area where a dozen other stores are selling bottom-line imports to unwitting newbies. We do not blame these innocent customers, of course. You have to start somewhere. We do care at The Cupboard. We love to teach and help educate all of our customers who are new or old to the industry about all of the innovations and changes that happened over the last 50 years. This is why we aim to educate folks about the industry and we do not want to see anyone wasting their hard-earned money on poor investments. We want the American pipe industry, and the community and culture that surrounds it, to continue to expand and prosper. We encourage everyone to raise the awareness on this subject.
Thanks for reading! Please feel free to leave any questions or comments below!