Why is Briar the Wood of Choice?

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sparrowhawk

Preferred Member
Jul 24, 2013
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Strange that after 4 years of smoking, I've never asked this question, but just why is the briar the wood of choice for making pipes? Is it because it is especially heat resistant (and what makes it so?), other reasons?

 

anthonyrosenthal74

Preferred Member
Jan 8, 2013
7,306
3
It's a very dense, hard, heat resistant wood. It doesn't give off toxic fumes when burning. And it looks fantastic.
Edit to add: I've always thought it was quite dense, but as Duane said above, I've heard it's quite porous. Is it possible for it to be both?

 

sablebrush52

Preferred Member
Jun 15, 2013
9,598
87
Is it because it is especially heat resistant (and what makes it so?)
The silicate content in the wood provides heat resistance. Briar varies both in density and porousness.

 

misterrogers

Senior Member
May 16, 2011
348
0
Ohio
Before the discovery of briar, cherry wood was used sometimes. Alfred Dunhill in "The Pipe Book" said this about it.
Cherry-wood has many of the required qualities, and is especially sweet-smoking, even for the first, but the interior of the bowl will never carbonize well and the wood lends itself only to a rough shaping.
He goes on to mention a few other woods.
A certain amount of Australian Myall-wood is used in France and some hard "Congo wood" at Vienna, but neither of these is widely popular. In Germany, before the coming the meerschaum, the wooden pipes carved by the peasents of the Black Forest had a consierable vogue. These were made from close-grained and gnarled root of the dwarf-oak, the wood being hard enough to resist fire, and the charring very slowly. Such a use of a root anticipates the wooden briar, as does, in a cruder fashion, the countryman's gorse-root pipe...
 

mortonbriar

Preferred Member
Oct 25, 2013
915
7
Briar is also a burl, growing above ground on the roots of the tree. It grows on the coast of the Mediterranean for 40-100 years before being harvested, which means 40-100 years of being sandblasted and exposed to hot dry climate which is a good way to encourage a piece of wood to become fire retardant. The fact that it is a burl also means the grain is circular, that means less weak points than a straight grained piece of wood (imagine pipe snapping easily between bowl and shank if grain is vertical).

 

mso489

Preferred Member
Feb 21, 2013
25,907
78
Maple, Mountain Laurel, Olive, Stawberry, Meerschaum, Morta, corn cobs, clay, Cocobolo and many other materials do a pretty good job as pipe stummels. I won't mention Brylon here; that's another post. But briar is just about ideal. You may like something else better, but for most of us, even those who enjoy the various other options, briar is the king.