Smoking has been part of human civilization since 5000 BC, when it was practiced during shamanistic rituals. The traditional form of smoking is through a pipe made from materials such as stone, clay, wood, corn cobs, glass or metal.
Native American culture has a rich history of pipe smoking that dates back before the arrival of Europeans. A variety of herbs are considered sacred among indigenous tribes. Tobacco, for example, is smoked ceremonially. Shamans would smoke tobacco, cedar, sage or sweet, depending on the type of ritual being conducted. Smoking during certain ceremonies occasionally involved leaves or herbs with some hallucinogenic properties. This aided indigenous peoples to pursue access to the spirit world while in their trance. Arabs as well as Indian traders travelled with cannabis on the same routes where they traded opium and other commodities.
Pipe smoking has been part of covenants, treaties and peace agreements, thus giving rise to the term “peace pipe.” Various types of pipes came into popularity as cultures began to influence one another. Among these variations are hookahs, which originated in the Middle East, along with a number of other designs that have recently gained popularity among recreational cannabis smokers. Cigarettes may have dominated the market for decades, but for some, pipe smoking is still the most dignified or classy way to enjoy a puff with a conversation.
Author Mark Twain loved to smoke, and he was known to keep his corn cob pipe on hand. Albert Einstein’s is another who loved the occasional smoke, reportedly having said, “I believe that pipe smoking contributes to a somewhat calm and objective judgment in all human affairs.” And who could overlook the classic storybook favorite Sherlock Holmes, who would obsess over a seemingly unsolvable mystery with his trademark briar pipe?
Terry Harlow has been creating works of art from stone for about five years. His pipes give you the feel of a shaman in the process of a divining rite, or a village chief addressing his subjects. Terry has found a passion and has dedicated time and effort to produce some of the most unique pipes you could ever find. “I have been carving stone pipes full time since 2013. Paleolithic Pipes is the banner I work under, when attending cannabis conventions and shows throughout New England. The brand name originated from my fascination with the Paleolithic period and the human creativity it took to produce prehistoric stone tools,” he says.
Terry’s passion for pipemaking started one afternoon at a friend’s place. “[My] college friend Bob Ross and his son, Emery, got me started one afternoon, at their bed and breakfast in Bellows Falls, Vermont. Bob had set aside some stone pieces from an old Vermont soapstone sink. I went home with six or seven chunks, and by week’s end, I had carved a set of workable pipes. Over the following years, I took several courses with Sandy Cline, a Canadian soapstone sculptor, and refined my techniques and finishing.” This effort led to him starting what is now Paleolithic Pipes.
Terry has built a shop behind his home. He can carve five to seven pieces a day. He utilizes various sources for quality stone. With annual visits to Pierres Steatite Inc. in Quebec, Terry selects the best-quality soapstone he can find. He also gets his supply from eBay and is currently working on sourcing exotic stone from Pakistan.
Soapstone, or steatite, is a type of metamorphic rock composed predominantly of talc with magnesium and chlorite. It is formed by heat and pressure with fluid influx but not totally melted. Thus, it is soft enough to be carved but durable enough to resist heat. This type of stone is perfect for making smoking pipes. It can be carved easily with hand tools and comes out with a neat finish when polished. With these qualities of soapstone, Terry can enjoy experimenting with various creative designs.
Materials are a lot easier to come by right now, because they can be ordered from long distances. In addition to pipemaking, Paleolithic Pipes produces stone joints and incense holders.
Carving facsimiles of traditional stone pipes has helped Terry a lot in perfecting his craft. His workshop’s privacy, offering a unique closeness with nature, has been very conducive to his creative process. Terry also offers annual stone pipe-carving workshops, in Bellows Falls,
Vermont, to share his craft.
Terry likes to preserve the nobility of the pipe-smoking tradition by means of good business ethics and customer service. Sometimes, the value of a man’s craft is reflected in the satisfaction of the people to whom he offers it. He aims to further good customer relationships and, of course, the satisfaction of a great pipe-smoking experience. He concludes, “Traditionally, stone pipes were used to seal agreements between individuals, extended families, tribes and other groups.
Paleolithic Pipes continues this tradition with face-to-face sales and building relationships with customers. Currently, I make approximately five finished pipes a day. Going forward, I will produce fewer, but more elaborately carved pipes. I enjoy the solitude and concentration I have by carving in my workshop (with my three dogs as constant
companions) and will continue to do for the foreseeable future.”
To learn more, visit paleopipes.com.