Sandblast/Rusticated Vs. Smooth: Is A Sandblast/Rusticated Pipe Inferior Briar?

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carolinachurchwarden

Preferred Member
May 9, 2018
1,682
2
Raleigh, NC
I've been curious about this, but have yet to find a definitive answer to this lingering question for me. I know some carvers can and will use rustication and sandblasting to hide slight defects in the briar. Not all of them do. Personally I just prefer the feel of a sandblast or rusticated pipe in my hand. I'm a textural person. Smooth pipe finishes are beautiful and mostly do not carry any flaws to be seen at all and always seem to be higher quality briar. So, if a higher grade briar has a smooth finish, would it smoke any better or have any better parameters than a briar that has a sandblast or rustication finish? That's not to say that the highest grade briar an artisan carves can't be sandblasted or rusticated, but not many are. Just curious to know. Thoughts?

 

chasingembers

Preferred Member
Nov 12, 2014
15,953
799
So, if a higher grade briar has a smooth finish, would it smoke any better or have any better parameters than a briar that has a sandblast or rustication finish?
Nope

 

voorhees

Preferred Member
May 30, 2012
3,584
102
Gonadistan
I like both aspects of smooth and blasted finishes. I think birds eye is best captured in a smooth pipe, but I think a ring grain looks better on a blasted pipe.

 

hoosierpipeguy

Preferred Member
Jan 28, 2018
2,027
159
From an aesthetic perspective, a smooth straight grain or birdseye is preferred by many. Finding a piece of briar with great grain and no flaws is difficult. That's why you see the grading by many pipe carvers/manufacturers with the higher grade smooth pipes costing the most. It's a simple matter of the economical math. It may take 5 to 10 blocks of hand picked briar (or more) to find one that is flawless and has the grain to become a higher grade smooth pipe. It is possible if not likely 9 out of 10 if not all 10 blocks could be made into a suitable pipe with a rusticated finish.
From a smoking quality perspective, I happen to think the blasted or rusticated finish provides a cooler smoke. There's more surface area to dissipate the heat. Of course, there's some positive placebo affect in smoking a smooth pipe with beautiful grain and a flawless finish.
I have a Larrysson Sequoia finished pipe that looks gorgeous to me and smokes unbelievably cool. It has never gotten close to being too hot to hold. It is a very large piece of briar. I can't image how many hand picked blocks of briar it would take to have made that same pipe into a flawless high grade straight grain. I don't have a photo of my Larryson Sequoia handy but below is one of his blasts I have which is a good example.


 

cigrmaster

Preferred Member
May 26, 2012
13,668
679
United States
I learned through experience that you cannot smoke grain. My Fiammata Castello did not smoke better than my Sea Rocks. I love the looks of birdseye and straight grain but I refuse to pay the tab unless I can steal one on the estate market. I also really enjoy the looks of a great blast and most of my pipes fall into that category.
Mark, great looking pipes.

 

jpmcwjr

Preferred Member
May 12, 2015
13,883
810
Monterey Peninsula
So, if a higher grade briar has a smooth finish, would it smoke any better or have any better parameters than a briar that has a sandblast or rustication finish?
No.
Yes! If "better" includes the notion that the pipe is extra pleasing-looks, heft, feel, heat dissipation, finish, shape, etc.—and that makes the overall experience better than another pipe.

 

oldgeezersmoker

Preferred Member
Oct 7, 2016
1,149
29
"We all know the roughs smoke better than the smooths." Franco Coppo to a friend of mine who was visiting Cantu circa 2000.
I agree, but there is an old saying "You also smoke with your eyes" so I do love the few smooth ones I own.

 

thomasw

Preferred Member
Dec 5, 2016
863
1
Mark, could you explain this notion about surface area dissipating more heat on sandblasted and rusticated pipes?
...I happen to think the blasted or rusticated finish provides a cooler smoke. There's more surface area to dissipate the heat.
All other things being equal, I prefer the aesthetics of a smooth, but there's no doubt in my mind: rusticated and sandblasts are usually easier to maintain and keep the rims pristine. But I do not understand the heat dissipation being better on non-smooths.
Respectfully,
TW

 

carolinachurchwarden

Preferred Member
May 9, 2018
1,682
2
Raleigh, NC
Yes! If "better" includes the notion that the pipe is extra pleasing-looks, heft, feel, heat dissipation, finish, shape, etc.—and that makes the overall experience better than another pipe.
This was more or less what I meant, but even then, it can be slightly subjective. Depends on the person, but I was meaning sort of, in general, do any of the flaws that may be present in a pipe that isn't smooth, cause said pipe to not smoke as well as one without those flaws.
But I do not understand the heat dissipation being better on non-smooths.
I would think that all the extra surface area created by the sandblasting/rustication would mean that the surface exposed to the air outside the pipe has a better chance of dissipating heat than a completely smooth surface. Sort of the way a radiator distributes heat to a room during the heat transfer process. More surface area = more heat transfer to the surrounding air.

 

alexnc

Preferred Member
Oct 25, 2015
606
12
That makes sense, not sure I generate enough heat to matter. I do love my smooths, but I really like a nice ring grain maybe even more.

 

sablebrush52

Preferred Member
Jun 15, 2013
9,714
367
Whether a briar is a smooth or is textured through rustication or blast has little to do with grade. Briar is wood, and like all wood is subject to variations, including the size, number and density of pits in it that show up during cutting and shaping. Very high grade briar may or may not have exquisite grain when cut and shaped.
I'll use my favorite pipe maker, Barling, as an example. They harvested their own wood in Algeria and carried out their own aging, milling, cutting and shaping. They had a very good idea what they were looking for in the wood they wanted to use to make their pipes. Barling was committed to the production of flawless smooth pipes. If a pipe developed a pit during final shaping it went through a "cut down" to attempt to remove the pit without departing from the model's shape pattern. If that pipe had too many flaws to be a perfect smooth after an attempt at a "cut down" but was otherwise remarkable for the grain that it had, they would re-carve it and rusticate it to create what is referred to as a Quaint - same grade of briar. If the pipe was judged to look potentially better if it was sandblasted, then the pipe was sandblasted - same grade of briar. The grade of the wood had nothing to do with how it was finished.

 

raevans

Member
Apr 20, 2013
271
3
I have always been under the impression that a sandblasted or rusticated pipe has some sort of flaw or imperfection. (If it didn't, it would be a smooth). It also falls into what the carver, seller, artisan, can get for the product. For example, if Dunhill made a pipe that had beautiful grain, but had a small pit on the side, would they be able to get $400.00 for it? Probably not, but the same pipe could be sandblasted and presto, Dunhill gets their $400.00. It may not be a pit, it could be that the briar has a bare spot on it or some other quality may be lacking that would make it impractical to create a smooth pipe and get top dollar for it. As far as smoking quality between a smooth and a sandblast, I haven't noticed any difference. Some pipes smoke really well and other not so well.

 

carolinachurchwarden

Preferred Member
May 9, 2018
1,682
2
Raleigh, NC
The grade of the wood had nothing to do with how it was finished.
Makes sense, but do the imperfections that cause that pipe to have to be rusticated or sandblasted affect the way that pipe smokes? That's what I'm after. Let's use the one of the highest grades used then for Barling. Let's say two pipes rolled through, both graded as "Special", yet during that carving phase, one of them shows those very same imperfections you just mentioned, causing it to be finished in any other manner than smooth. Will that smooth pipe smoke better, worse or the same, in your opinion as the one that contained the flaws?
EDIT: Also, say they're being made into the exact same model, gotta remember my scientific process here.

 

chasingembers

Preferred Member
Nov 12, 2014
15,953
799
I originally commissioned this pipe as sandblasted, but after Bruce Weaver saw the grain, he couldn't bring himself to do it. I was there, and couldn't have agreed more, though I often wonder what kind of texture is hiding underneath. Almost as a rule, I usually only buy blasts.


 

olkofri

Preferred Member
Sep 9, 2017
2,327
179
Unless the sandblasting process creates fins like these

"the ability of a roughly finished pipe to disperse heat compared with that of a smoothly finished pipe of the same shape is negligible"**.
___________

**Ehwa, Carl, The Book of Pipes & Tobacco (New York: Random House, 1974), 130.

 

chasingembers

Preferred Member
Nov 12, 2014
15,953
799
Here's that one's family shot. It's third from the left, but out of the collection you can see which finish I prefer. :wink:


 

sasquatch

Preferred Member
Jul 16, 2012
979
22
Briar is treacherous stuff, and perfect smooths are rare. Some process had to be invented to enable the use of physically imperfect briar - fills and paint in some cases, rustication being more common.
Sandblasting as regards pipes was as far as I can tell invented by Dunhill while trying to find a way to hack the hard case or ... wait for it... "shell" on the pipe after oil treatment.
So. Yeah, only a few guys would take a perfect smooth and blast it - Cooke is probably one, and rightly so!
So judged one way, yes, all pipes that are not smooths are less perfect briar - could be same grade at the mill but some little defect of grain or pitting or whatever leads it to be blasted. But as smooth pipes generally merit a higher dollar figure, pipe makers keep what they can as smooths. But that's not to say that you should expect a rusticated or blasted pipe to fall apart - obviously there's a limit to what you can blast or carve away too (and the idea that sandblasting a pipe miraculously fixes bad briar is nonsense - it makes every problem worse and also creates new problems... blasting requires a pretty good block!).
As to the pipe smoking vastly differently because it's rusticated or blasted or not.... I can't imagine why. I can imagine a pipe made from Greek briar tasting just a little different than a pipe made from Italian, but I wouldn't expect the outside of the pipe to have a huge effect on how it smokes - I do not use my pipe as a heat-sink - rather, I try to use the briar as an insulator - I think of a good pipe as being like a thermos, containing what little heat I need to burn the tobacco.

 

sablebrush52

Preferred Member
Jun 15, 2013
9,714
367
Makes sense, but do the imperfections that cause that pipe to have to be rusticated or sandblasted affect the way that pipe smokes? That's what I'm after. Let's use the one of the highest grades used then for Barling. Let's say two pipes rolled through, both graded as "Special", yet during that carving phase, one of them shows those very same imperfections you just mentioned, causing it to be finished in any other manner than smooth. Will that smooth pipe smoke better, worse or the same, in your opinion as the one that contained the flaws?
In my experience, pits don't affect the smoking qualities any more than does grain. You can't smoke pits is as true as you can't smoke grain. It's more about the briar being of good quality, processed properly, drilled properly and fitted with a stem properly. What affects your smoke is much more about the internal than the external. Sort of like life.