Pipes Magazine » Pipe Smoking Basics & Beginner Questions

Search Forums  
   
Tags:   

Are Wood Stems Better Than Plastic Stems

(39 posts)
  • Started 5 years ago by naturesmokes
  • Latest reply from neverbend
  1. User has not uploaded an avatar

    naturesmokes

    New Member
    Joined: Jul 2014
    Posts: 1

    offline

    Login to Send PM

    So I'm very new to pipe smoking and my absolute favorite time to smoke is when I'm out in the woods or on my back porch. Which hense the username. So I currently have 2 pipes. A 10 dollar corn cob and a decent briar pipe. One thing that really bothers me about my pipe is the fact that the stem is plastic. It would be cool to smoke out of a pipe with all natural materials. I've read that wood stems, the best being briar, filter out the bad tastes in tobacco smoke and alot of the moisture. Now if this is true, than why is it so hard to find pipes with wood stems? My favorite pipe tobacco is the Frog Morton blends tho

    Posted 5 years ago #
  2. settersbrace

    settersbrace

    Preferred Member
    Joined: Mar 2014
    Posts: 1,622

    offline

    Login to Send PM

    The closest briar pipe that I believe you are going to find that offers the most wood for smoke to travel through would be a Canadian or Lumberman shape. All conventional tobacco pipes have stems made of Vulcanite or Acrylic with the cob pipes being the exception as their stems are plastic. There may well be an artisan out there that incorporates wooden stems or bits into their pipes but I don't know of any. Welcome to the forums!

    De gustibus et cloribus non disputandum.
    'There is no arguing about tastes and colours.'
    Posted 5 years ago #
  3. yaddy306

    yaddy306

    Preferred Member
    Joined: Aug 2013
    Posts: 1,217

    offline

    Login to Send PM

    Vulcanized rubber is natural.
    What's the problem?

    Posted 5 years ago #
  4. wayneteipen

    wayneteipen

    Senior Member
    Joined: May 2012
    Posts: 416

    offline

    Login to Send PM

    I hear some pipemaker's are making stems out of briar these days. Ask misterlowercase.

    Posted 5 years ago #
  5. misterlowercase

    misterlowercase

    Member
    Joined: May 2012
    Posts: 4,542

    offline

    Login to Send PM


    Indeed!

    Wayne has been making me an allbriar billiard that I'm very excited about.

    He has a way with making stems ultra-comfortable, a perfect bit with a perfect button, and I can't wait to see how he weaved his magic with this briar stem!

    I'll be posting a full thread about it when it arrives, but here's a couple of photos he sent me the other day to induce my drooling
    --- I'm an eager beaver!


    Posted 5 years ago #
  6. jimbo44

    jimbo44

    Junior Member
    Joined: Aug 2010
    Posts: 63

    offline

    Login to Send PM

    Vulcanite and acrylic are arguably more "chew proof".

    Chris Askwith has made a few with briar stems though for careful smokers:

    Posted 5 years ago #
  7. misterlowercase

    misterlowercase

    Member
    Joined: May 2012
    Posts: 4,542

    offline

    Login to Send PM


    Hey Jimbo!

    Love that Askwith!

    I think you're right about the "chew proof" aspect,
    I've had a Genod allbriar for a couple of months now and the wood stem is suprisingly soft (and extremely comfortable to me) and the clenching indents come right off the bat, thankfully I'm not a chewer!

    I've never been able to understand what the chewers are doing?
    I've seen some old estates that look as if they were doggie toys!

    Posted 5 years ago #
  8. User has not uploaded an avatar

    wilson

    Preferred Member
    Joined: Apr 2013
    Posts: 752

    offline

    Login to Send PM

    Old Dominion cobs have bamboo stems -- no vulcanite, acrylic or other plastics. Although not briar, this might satisfy your wish to have all natural materials?

    Posted 5 years ago #
  9. bigvan

    bigvan

    Preferred Member
    Joined: Mar 2011
    Posts: 2,316

    offline

    Login to Send PM

    Regarding the original post, "I've read that wood stems, the best being briar, filter out the bad tastes in tobacco smoke and alot of the moisture." Personally, I don't think that good quality tobacco has any "bad tastes", which is why I smoke it in the first place.

    Just my opinion, but moisture in the stem is more about the engineering of the pipe and the technique of the smoker than it is about the materials used. But Brigham pipes has made its reputation on using an inner sleeve of rock maple, which it claims to do the very thing you describe. If you'd like to give it a try, I'd recommend a Brigham over an all-wood stemmed pipe. They're less expensive and FAR more hygenic.

    But if this is another rationalization for wood-stemmed "hobbit pipes" (which seem to crop up every few weeks), I doubt anything I say will persuade you, so light up your prop pipe, head out to the woods and have a good time!

    Posted 5 years ago #
  10. mso489

    mso489

    Preferred Member
    Joined: Feb 2013
    Posts: 26,287

    offline

    Login to Send PM

    +1 on Old Dominion cobs. Wood stems are a pleasant idea, but I think they would not be durable and
    would tend to show wear and get pretty ragged. Vulcanite is "natural," more or less. Old Dominion cobs
    have bamboo stems and are fine smoking pipes. One or two would supplement any rotation, and being
    bamboo, I think they are durable.

    Posted 5 years ago #
  11. pipesinperu

    dublinesque

    Member
    Joined: Apr 2014
    Posts: 202

    offline

    Login to Send PM

    @misterlowercase Gorgeous-looking pipe there from Mr. Teipen! Be sure to report back to us once you get it.

    Posted 5 years ago #
  12. misterlowercase

    misterlowercase

    Member
    Joined: May 2012
    Posts: 4,542

    offline

    Login to Send PM

    If you really want one, you can get one of these brand new Genod pipes for an affordable price...
    site sponsors SmokersHaven and Cup O Joes both have them in stock.
    They have old timey style stems though, orific as they call 'em, meaning round,
    I sanded mine down, making it more of an oval shape...

    ...or you can keep an eye out for a midcentury American pipe, like a Kaywoodie,
    I put a variety of photos in this old thread...
    :
    http://pipesmagazine.com/forums/topic/where-the-heck-can-i-find-a-completely-wooden-pipe
    :


    Tom Eltang will make one for you too!

    They showed up in old British pipe catalogs too, from BBB and Loewe, and probably others, and might have actually been first made in France, along with bone stems, which is another option you have, or amber for that matter, but as said above, if you have a vulcanite stem it is natural rubber for the most part.

    Posted 5 years ago #
  13. settersbrace

    settersbrace

    Preferred Member
    Joined: Mar 2014
    Posts: 1,622

    offline

    Login to Send PM

    Goes to show that rarely does a day go by here that you can't learn something new. Those all briar pipes are amazing.

    Posted 5 years ago #
  14. User has not uploaded an avatar

    necron99

    Member
    Joined: Mar 2014
    Posts: 287

    offline

    Login to Send PM

    An age old question of epic veniality, whether it is better to gnaw the splintery naturalness of briar burl, or to clench the pliable and eternally land fills synthetic polymer. The answer my friend and good sir is a matter a introspect. So search your feelings and the labyrinth of your internal universe.

    If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there'd be a shortage of sand
    Milton Freidman
    Posted 5 years ago #
  15. lraisch

    lraisch

    Member
    Joined: Jul 2011
    Posts: 105

    offline

    Login to Send PM

    An interesting idea, but it seems to me that the wood, being permeable would absorb saliva and become soft and foul.

    Posted 5 years ago #
  16. wayneteipen

    wayneteipen

    Senior Member
    Joined: May 2012
    Posts: 416

    offline

    Login to Send PM

    There's a lot of anecdotal opinions on briar stems being shared. I'd love to hear from someone with first hand experience with them. The bowls of our pipes are made out of the same material so it stands to reason that a briar stem would be no less sanitary given that they are cared for in the same manner that we care for our other pipes. The fact that briar is a softer material is a valid concern whose pitfalls are easily avoided with a little extra care. There are also things that can be done in the making of the stem to make it more resistant to bite marks and saliva on the external surfaces. Briar stems aren't a new thing. It's been used as stem material for many years. I am genuinely interested to hear some first hand experiences of the pros and cons. This is a topic in our hobby that hasn't been discussed much.

    Posted 5 years ago #
  17. natibo

    natibo

    Preferred Member
    Joined: Nov 2013
    Posts: 649

    offline

    Login to Send PM

    People used to get stems made from horn. Don't know if anyone does that anymore. Probably made everyone horny.

    Bo
    Posted 5 years ago #
  18. cosmicfolklore

    Cosmic

    Preferred Member
    Joined: Aug 2013
    Posts: 18,205

    offline

    Login to Send PM

    I have a bulldog that I made with moose antler that I enjoy. It's soft enough on the teeth, but I can already tell that I'm removing tiny layers when I clench. I have one in horn that I don't smoke often. I just used natural cow horn. It feels good. It seems durable, but it has an ever faint barnyard odor to it. I also have boxes of early 20thc amber stems, but they are made from a mixture of tree resin and a plastic made from milk. So, it being natural isn't my issue as much as how dang hard they are to clean since they will dissolve in alcahol.

    Overall, I prefer vulcanized rubber. No, it's not a naturally occurring material, but I prefer an awesome smoking experience, as opposed to following some granola ideal of natural. Just my opinion.

    Michael
    Posted 5 years ago #
  19. misterlowercase

    misterlowercase

    Member
    Joined: May 2012
    Posts: 4,542

    offline

    Login to Send PM

    I'm also a little surprised about some of the opinions regarding briar stems.

    But the same thing goes for acrylic vs. vulcanite, so here we are.

    My only experience comes from the Genod allbriar which I've only had for 3 months,
    I actually love it and I don't experience any negative aspect with the stem at all.

    One of the most common ailments I've seen besides dental damage, is a slight discoloration in the briar,
    and that's just an aesthetic issue and completely dependent upon the reaction from an individuals saliva,
    some people have some strong stout spit it seems!
    (that phenomena also occurs with vulcanite)

    I think a briar stem will have no problems with longevity either,
    look at the stems on these 60 year old pipes,
    http://www.worthpoint.com/inventory/search?query=allbriar+pipe&categoryurl=
    and most of them look better than vulcanite stems of a comparable age!

    Some people are just bad on buttons regardless of what they're made of,
    like this estate:

    Here's another nice oldie,
    an unsmoked Wally Frank estate that was sold by Smokers Haven,

    I don't really see any cons,
    but that's just me.

    I'd never heard of A. Beck, but found one of his pipes on worthpoint,
    the blurb is from pipedia.org
    Aaron Beck created exceptionally fine pipes since the mid 1950's in Queens, New York. The hallmark of his work was his unique ability to combine bits of wood and other materials in a kind of sandwich manner to stems and / or shanks that added a very special dimension to the smoking instrument.
    Here's an allbriar that he made:

    ...and another Tom Eltang,
    just found this one while looking thru worthpoint,
    you rarely see a sandblasted allbriar,
    there are only a very few that've been made I think...

    Chris Askwith has made one,

    This wild Todd Johnson is a nifty eskimo variant,

    What's really rare or scarce is a full-on allbriar in the traditional shapes,
    they made them in the old old days, but they hardly ever surface on the collector market,
    this one is a Seadog and it was made in France,

    Posted 5 years ago #
  20. misterlowercase

    misterlowercase

    Member
    Joined: May 2012
    Posts: 4,542

    offline

    Login to Send PM

    Anybody else with experience smoking an allbriar?

    Or thoughts about them?

    What do you think?

    Posted 5 years ago #
  21. misterlowercase

    misterlowercase

    Member
    Joined: May 2012
    Posts: 4,542

    offline

    Login to Send PM

    Found a couple more blasted allbriars...

    Eltang

    Todd Johnson

    Posted 5 years ago #
  22. snagstangl

    snagstangl

    Preferred Member
    Joined: Jul 2013
    Posts: 1,162

    offline

    Login to Send PM

    LHS made a briar stemed pipe as well. I also have a wally frank with a removable briar stem and a vulcanite tennon, that I have to clean up now, just to test it out.

    Posted 5 years ago #
  23. antbauers

    antbauers

    Preferred Member
    Joined: Jul 2013
    Posts: 741

    offline

    Login to Send PM

    Those are some great looking pipes. I know what kind of pipe I will be on the hunt for now.

    Posted 5 years ago #
  24. natibo

    natibo

    Preferred Member
    Joined: Nov 2013
    Posts: 649

    offline

    Login to Send PM

    It would be cool to smoke out of a pipe with all natural materials.

    As far as i know, all stems (vulcanite, acrylic, horn, wood, etc.) are manufactured by the native spoecies from this [planet made from materials found on this planet. How is that not natural?

    Posted 5 years ago #
  25. cigrmaster

    cigrmaster

    Preferred Member
    Joined: May 2012
    Posts: 13,857

    offline

    Login to Send PM

    I love my high quality German Vulcanite stems above all others. They are the softest on my teeth and I have no issues keeping them nice. The older sulphur laden british vulcanite while even softer than the German stuff is such a pain in the ass due to oxidization that they are not with bothering for me. I have 2 pipes that have acrylic stems and the only reason I bought one of them is because I have always wanted a Castello Collection Occhio di Pernice and the other one was the first pipe I ever owned( my Savinelli) and I did not know any better back then. I do own one pipe that has horn for a stem and honestly I am not a big fan. It is a Trevor Talbert Ligne Bertagne and while it is a great smoker, I had to have Zack trim it down because it was so uncomfortable.

    Here is the Talbert with the horn.

    For my tastes the comfort of the stem is a huge factor in how I enjoy my pipes, if the stem is not comfy, I don't like the pipe as much.

    Harris
    Posted 5 years ago #
  26. misterlowercase

    misterlowercase

    Member
    Joined: May 2012
    Posts: 4,542

    offline

    Login to Send PM

    That Collector grade LB is a stunner!

    Thanks for talking about the horn bit also, I've always been interested because I've read that Talbert cuts those horn stems thick because he thinks they're brittle otherwise, but he's gotta cover his ass against over-zealous chompers, so I guess he does 'em thick for added security and longevity.

    The older sulphur laden british vulcanite while even softer than the German stuff is such a pain in the ass due to oxidization...

    LOL
    ...so true,
    it's a drag really,
    I was sitting outside once with an older Britbriar and I literally watched as the damn stem went brown right in front of my eyes!
    I wasn't even in direct sunlight.

    For my tastes the comfort of the stem is a huge factor in how I enjoy my pipes, if the stem is not comfy, I don't like the pipe as much.

    I agree 100%

    Posted 5 years ago #
  27. trevert

    Trever Talbert

    Member
    Joined: Oct 2009
    Posts: 116

    offline

    Login to Send PM

    If you've had that stem filed down, be VERY careful about bite-through. I made that mistake years ago with those very same horn stems by filling them down thinner because I wanted them flat, and every one of them collapsed on me within a week to a month. The horn material is just brittle by nature, and when it's wet it becomes badly fragile. I normally hold my pipes in hand rather than bite, and I *still* managed to ruin the several stems that I'd filed thinner. So, be cautioned... I learned fast that they were thick for a reason.

    Posted 5 years ago #
  28. neverbend

    neverbend

    Member
    Joined: Apr 2014
    Posts: 237

    offline

    Login to Send PM

    If you've had that stem filed down, be VERY careful about bite-through. I made that mistake years ago with those very same horn stems by filling them down thinner because I wanted them flat, and every one of them collapsed on me within a week to a month. The horn material is just brittle by nature, and when it's wet it becomes badly fragile. I normally hold my pipes in hand rather than bite, and I *still* managed to ruin the several stems that I'd filed thinner. So, be cautioned... I learned fast that they were thick for a reason.

    True of other materials and stems. It may be thick for a reason.

    Posted 5 years ago #
  29. trevert

    Trever Talbert

    Member
    Joined: Oct 2009
    Posts: 116

    offline

    Login to Send PM

    I was just talking about this with pipemaker David Huber over the weekend, at Pipe & Pint. There's this trend among high grade collectors to think that ultra-thin bits = craftsmanship, and that a 1mm thin bit somehow represents the mark of a high grade pipe. This makes me wince whenever I see them, because I've been doing this for longer than 2 years and what I see are bits that just won't last... Any biting at all and they'll start to bend or pierce or collapse down the road, and on top of that, the fact that they're usually ebonite cut this way means they'll inevitably fade and need to be compounded back to a gloss, which will gradually remove surface and risk collapsing the bit every time it's done. Basically, I regard ultra-thin bits as ticking time bombs - Nice to look at when new, but ill-suited for ten years of regular use.

    Posted 5 years ago #
  30. misterlowercase

    misterlowercase

    Member
    Joined: May 2012
    Posts: 4,542

    offline

    Login to Send PM

    I must admit that I like thin bits,
    but damn, 1mm?
    Are they really being made that ultrathin?

    From looking at the chart that N.A. Roan made up, I wooda thot there was sumsorta close-to-universal consensus on the limits of what would be comfortable yet still durable...

    ...it would seem like 3mm and below would be a total dangerzone as far as longevity and durability is concerned.

    Posted 5 years ago #
  31. trevert

    Trever Talbert

    Member
    Joined: Oct 2009
    Posts: 116

    offline

    Login to Send PM

    I must admit that I like thin bits,
    but damn, 1mm?
    Are they really being made that ultrathin?

    Nah, I was exaggerating, but I've seen a lot that were dangerously thin for longterm function, IMO. That chart is a little nuts because it's trying to quantify something that's handcut and that will vary from pipe to pipe and stem to stem. Pick three random pipes and you'll likely get three different sets of measurements. I don't work mine to numbers at all, I just work them to what feels "right" to me. I've been doing this a long time and so I'm able to pretty reliably do matching stems without using any calipers, but I'm sure they're not micro-exact matches. I actually think it's pretty funny how consistent they are, though, in that I can grab a stem I did 6 years ago and put the bit next to one done today, both without any measuring instruments, and they'll be close to identical.

    Also, sometimes you just want the stem to vary a bit with the pipe. A really lightweight, elegant pipe calls for a very thin cut bit, while something big and heavy needs a thicker stem for the bite and bigger buttons for leverage. Trying to say, "X makes stems that are Y size" is a mistake because the needs of the specific pipe itself are the prime factor in designing what size the stem should be.

    Posted 5 years ago #
  32. misterlowercase

    misterlowercase

    Member
    Joined: May 2012
    Posts: 4,542

    offline

    Login to Send PM

    Good point,
    that makes complete and total sense.

    Posted 5 years ago #
  33. wayneteipen

    wayneteipen

    Senior Member
    Joined: May 2012
    Posts: 416

    offline

    Login to Send PM

    Unlike Trevor, I do take measurements for consistency although I agree that the stem, bit and button dimensions should match the size and style of the pipe. Most large pipes look silly with a small button and thin stem and vice versa.

    Posted 5 years ago #
  34. neverbend

    neverbend

    Member
    Joined: Apr 2014
    Posts: 237

    offline

    Login to Send PM

    Also, sometimes you just want the stem to vary a bit with the pipe.

    +1

    Neil’s list gives you an idea of tolerances but no hand maker can intentionally duplicate these figures without a lot of wasted effort. If the button is too high it can feel intrusive in the mouth and too low and it may not feel secure.

    It comes down to, do you smoke with the pipe in your mouth (I don’t care for the word clench but it is descriptive) or do you exclusively hand hold.

    Button shape can determine where your teeth imprint. Flat inside walls of the button usually force the smoker to bite onto the button for purchase while a rounded inside wall tends to put the teeth pressure more on the stem. I prefer the latter.

    As far as thick / thin, it has to be the smoke hole diameter plus (approximately) two (2) times the thickness of the tolerance of the materials used. Too thin and it may not hold up to the initial bite pressure.

    The best button/stem maker I’ve ever seen was Massimo Palazzi when he was with Ser Jacopo through the early 1990s (now of L’Anatra). The buttons were a refined smoothed ridge on both sides that placed your teeth directly on the stem and he also achieved some really thin tolerances that have held up for 30 years to my clenching. The few L’Anatras that I’ve seen don’t show this quality of stem/button work. I imagine that Massimo makes the bowls now so different hands, different result.

    Wooden stems of any kind present several problems even for hand holders. The residual taste (ghost) is burned away when in the bowl but a wooden stem will retain that flavor and you’ll have to retort the pipe many times to remove it. It’s the same problem as too much moisture in the mortise that can retain a persistent taste. Clenching a wooden stem is just silly. Test it out with your dog, he’ll gladly chew it and deposit a nice load of bacteria and possibly breach or crimp the smoke hole. Wooden stems get dull fast and buffing them will misshapen them.

    Posted 5 years ago #
  35. cigrmaster

    cigrmaster

    Preferred Member
    Joined: May 2012
    Posts: 13,857

    offline

    Login to Send PM

    Trevor, Zack told me he filed it down a very small amount( because he knows how brittle horn can be) and it was enough so it now fits my teeth just fine. The pipe is light enough that I don't have to clench it hard at all. One of the reasons I smoke pipes that are mostly under 50 grams is so I don't have to bite hard on my stems. My vulcanite stems barely show any teeth marks if at all. I really do love the pipe and have been smoking it almost every other day. It is definitely a great flake pipe as it burns extremely cool and dry.

    Posted 5 years ago #
  36. trevert

    Trever Talbert

    Member
    Joined: Oct 2009
    Posts: 116

    offline

    Login to Send PM

    That's cool. Just, you know, BE CAREFUL. I never can tell whether a pipe is going to end up with a hand-holder or with a guy who likes to gnaw the entire button end off of the the stem...

    Posted 5 years ago #
  37. neverbend

    neverbend

    Member
    Joined: Apr 2014
    Posts: 237

    offline

    Login to Send PM

    ...I never can tell whether a pipe is going to end up with a hand-holder or with a guy who likes to gnaw the entire button end off of the the stem...

    It would be helpful to new smokers if experienced smokers mentioned their smoking style (clench or hold) on the many topics where this makes a difference (like this thread).

    Posted 5 years ago #
  38. misterlowercase

    misterlowercase

    Member
    Joined: May 2012
    Posts: 4,542

    offline

    Login to Send PM

    I'm a 50/50 guy - half the time clenching, half the time holding.

    I'm not really an experienced smoker though,
    Robert Young is definitely experienced and I envy the ease of his laidback natural clenching,
    like, wow.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9eMf6tOPmqg

    Posted 5 years ago #
  39. neverbend

    neverbend

    Member
    Joined: Apr 2014
    Posts: 237

    offline

    Login to Send PM

    I'm a 50/50 guy - half the time clenching, half the time holding.

    Thanks mr. lowercase.

    I'm a dedicated clencher.

    Posted 5 years ago #

Reply

You must log in to post.

 

 

    Back To Top  | Back to Forum Home Page

   Members Online Now
   donjgiles, geopiper, alaskanpiper, the85boro, mikey517, cfreud, burleyboy, georged, haparnold, pepesdad1