Engineers' Hookah

For one of my earliest serious projects in the machine shop, I decided to try to reimagine the hookah as a piece of industrial hardware - an engineer’s hookah. I had wanted a hookah for some time, but was turned off by the questionable materials used in commercially available hookahs, and didn’t particularly like the typical baroque aesthetic.

I set myself three primary objectives in this project: 1) to use safe, inert materials throughout the entire hookah, 2) to make the hookah modular, so I could attach flowmeters/chillers/etc. later on, and 3) to maintain an appropriate “engineering” aesthetic. Requirements 1 and 3 drove my materials selection: cast iron for the bowl, stainless steel for the body of the hookah, Pyrex lab glassware for the vase. Requirement 2 caused some frustration initially as I learned about the nuances of gas-tight connections, but also enabled me to use my hookah as an experimental apparatus for multiple class projects (still one of my greatest academic achievements), including in the development of three different flowmeters.

I don’t smoke hookah any more, but I still keep my hookah around. My friends and I got a lot of enjoyment out of it in college, and it’s not bad looking as a piece of sculpture either. Most of all, though, it’s a reminder of how much I continue to learn as I progress in my engineering career. Aspects of the build that were challenging at the time (welding the neck joint; tapping the 2” ID in the base collar) are now dramatically easier, either because my skills in the shop have improved, or because I now know better ways to go about doing them. If I was going to design an engineer’s hookah again, it would look very different to say the least. However, I’m still pretty proud of what my freshman-year self was able to pull together.


I’ve linked design files for this project below, more for historical value than any particular technical merit (I did all of my CAD work in SketchUp, because I hadn’t yet heard of SolidWorks!) If you’re interested in learning more, please contact me.