People have been making clay pipes for thousands of years.
But I don’t know if they’ve been making pipe screens out of clay for any length of time, because I’ve never seen any other screens like the ones I make. I started making these many years ago, when I was still a young potter. I saw that lots of people were using pipes with metal mesh screens, and that seemed pretty unhealthy to me. Smoking isn’t the healthiest activity, of course, but why make it worse by inhaling dangerous metals?
Well, I thought, maybe the heat doesn’t vaporize the metal. Then I noticed that shops were selling these metal screens in packets of 50.
“Why so many?” I asked.
“Because they burn up and have to be replaced frequently.”
I make these little porcelain screens by hand, pierce them with 5 holes, and fire them to very high temperatures, much higher than anyone is ever going to achieve in a pipe bowl. They will never burn out, or release any metals or other substances during use. High-fired porcelain is a remarkably inert substance– bottles made of similar clays are used to store extremely volatile and dangerous chemicals, because porcelain and stoneware are so non-reactive.
The screens can be cleaned by leaving them in a mild solvent for a day or two. A little dish of vodka will do it. All my pipes come with two screens, so that while one is in use, the other can be cleaned. With a little care, these screens should last a lifetime. And using these safer screens might help make that lifetime a little longer.
By the way, this little bowl is available on my Etsy site: