The short answer is that it steamrolls you, but there are a couple of different theories on the origin of this pipe’s name. The shape of a steam roller is not a new concept; it’s quite an ancient one. Only recently has western culture rebranded this type of pipe into a steam roller. The truth is piped very similarly to those that have existed worldwide for thousands of years. After all, it’s a simple and direct way to smoke just about any plant.
Native American tribes all over North America often used wooden versions of these in all kinds of rituals and ceremonies. The pies were often referred to as ‘peace pipes’ in their languages because of their frequent use for sealing peace treaties. Some people swear that it was named a steam roller in our modern days because of the literal way it is smoked. There are two main theories on where this more recent name came from.
When smoking one of these, the goal is to build up a nice full chamber of smoke and inhale a huge volume at once. Compared to the slow and steady hits of a classic little spoon glass pipe usually used for smoking herb, the effect of that big hit steamrolls unsuspecting victims. I’ve seen so many people be way overconfident and try to take too much smoke at once, then end up coughing out a lung, or worse, throwing up.
The other commonly defended theory is that the simple name comes from a shape similar to the exhaust pipe of an actual steam roller. You know those big machines with the heavy cylinders to smooth out pavement and stuff? Ya, those. If you ever look at the exhaust pipe on one of those bad boys, you’ll see what I’m talking about. Either way, the legitimate origin of the name is pretty unimportant; regardless of which, the theory tells you exactly what to expect.