Piping Up About Briar Pipes

in Pipe

If you are a pipe smoker, you probably know that most smoking pipes are fashioned from briar wood, whether the pipe is hand- or machine-fashioned. The reasons include briar's natural fire resistance and moisture absorbence. This wood is harvested from a small evergreen known as a tree heath, normally found in the Mediterranean Basin, Portugal, the Canary Islands, the Madeira Islands, the Cameroon and Ruwenzori mountains, and the Ethiopian highlands.

To make smoking briar pipes, the briar is cut from the root of the treee heath in one of two types of burls, the ebauchon and the plateaux. The ebauchon is drawn from the heart of the burl while the plateaux is drawn from the outer layer. Numerous sources indicate both produce high-quality briar pipes but most artisans prefer the plateaux because its grain is considered far superior in the final product.

No two briar pipes look quite alike even if they have the same basic style and shape. Among manufactured pipes there appear to be twenty-four common shapes involving both straight and bent shanks or shafts, but artisan pipemakers are far more likely to fashion individual-looking pipes because they rely on hand crafting far more than on machinery. Even some commercial pipe makers such as Dunhill, Parks Pipes, and Teipen rely on hand crafting.

Briar pipes are considered to be one of the most durable smoking pipes, but even a briar pipe can prove flawed or weak depending on the care with which it is fashioned and the smoking style of its owner. Very aggressive pipe smokers can burn a hole in the bottom of its bowl, though previously undetected imperfections in the briar can also cause this to happen even for a non-aggressive smoker.

The most common way to prevent such a burning is to smoke it gently when new to build a mixture of ash, unburned tobacco, oils, sugars, and other residues—commonly known as a cake—into the bowl wall. Other smokers prefer to use solutions of honey and water, powdered sugar and water, cigar ash and water, or even buttermilk or activated charcoal. A third way is for manufacturers to pre-treat their briar pipes for burn resistance. A fourth is for the smoker to build an even cake by alternating half-full and completely full bowlfuls of tobacco the first few times he smokes the pipe.

Briar pipes are commonly sold in smoke shops and specialty tobacconist shops, but much like cigars these and other pipes are finding an increasing number of Internet outlets for sales. Customarily, too, varieties of tobacco are sold as well, including numerous tobaccos which a pipe smoke can blend into his own singular kind. They come in almost as many varieties as there are smoking pipes.
 

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Piping Up About Briar Pipes

This article was published on 2011/12/15