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Grain Orientation?

(42 posts)
  • Started 2 years ago by toobfreak
  • Latest reply from pipehunter
  1. toobfreak

    toobfreak

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    I choose a briar pipe in part based on the beauty of the grain. I like a good flame grain or birds eye or both on the pipe. So all of my pipes have rather nice beautiful briar that is eye candy to look at. All of my briar pipes are old, originally bought new by me or from estates. I look at a lot of ads for new pipes though and see many of them (if they are even briar) with rather bland, featureless briar.

    Reading up on pipes recently, the one author suggested that grain orientation mattered to how the pipe smoked, believing that a vertical grain that cut along the bowl would smoke the coolest and driest, as the dark grains were like doorway openings that allowed more heat and moisture to leave the tobacco and breathe out through the walls.

    Has anyone noticed any truth to this? Has anyone found that certain grains or orientations seem to smoke better or cooler than others, or should I just keep looking to buy based on visual impact and workmanship so long as the briar is a good, old, well-aged and dense block of burl?

    And I guess that leads into a sort of long-wondered secondary question of whether you think that famous names like Dunhill and Barling, etc., actually smoke better than lesser named brands, because of more select briars they choose or because of superior craftsmanship, or is it just for the name and pride of fine ownership? Can't lesser-known or reputed pipes have just as good briar or construction? Boy, that was a lot! Sorry for the questions, but many here are obviously experts on the matter whose opinions should guide future purchases. Your thoughts and feedback are much appreciated.

    To Master Po: Is it not being able to see that makes you tire of life?
    Master Po: No! It is being able to hear!
    Posted 2 years ago #
  2. chasingembers

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    I have a fair collection of different grain orientations, and have not noticed a difference in smoking performance. I've always felt it had more to do with packing and smoking techniques.

    Straight

    Crosscut Straight

    Flame

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    -Edward Teach
    Posted 2 years ago #
  3. clickklick

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    I have the opposite opinion but it doesn't matter much. Cross grain seems to smoke cooler than straight grain in my experience. Seems that heat follows Birdseye to the sidewall more efficiently.

    Hobbyist Pipemaker - Carmette Pipes
    Posted 2 years ago #
  4. pagan

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    I really never thought about it but I agree with @chasingembers, but then Im not an Artisian

    Nowhere in the world will such a brotherly feeling of confidence be experienced as amongst those who sit together smoking their pipes
    Posted 2 years ago #
  5. alexnorth

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    To me it seems like it might make a minor difference but I'd think that Briar quality and curing plays a bigger role.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  6. sablebrush52

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    There's a bit of writing about this, mostly personal opinion so unverifiable and therefore useless. I haven't noticed any significant benefits of one grain pattern over another VS smoking characteristics. Logically I would expect none.

    Structurally, straight grains may be the weakest while mixed grain may be the strongest, according to a couple of carvers and restorers with whom I've had conversations over the years. So structural integrity might be a factor of grain orientation. That pretty pipe what you dropped $500,000 on, rather than the heart transplant you daughter needed before she died, might just turn out to be a sickly changeling.

    It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt. - Mark Twain

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    Posted 2 years ago #
  7. mso489

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    If something as subtle as the configuration of the grain had a significant affect on the smoking characteristics, the changing over to a Meerschaum, cob, or Mountain Laurel pipe (just for a few examples) should entirely change the smoking experience. And though there are certainly some differences and advantages and disadvantages to each of these, I think you can still enjoy your favorite blend in the same fundamental way in each. Something more obvious, related to physics, like the diameter and depth of the bowl, has more of an affect. I think relating grain to overall smoking characteristics is chasing shadows.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  8. pipestud

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    Reading up on pipes recently, the one author suggested that grain orientation mattered to how the pipe smoked, believing that a vertical grain that cut along the bowl would smoke the coolest and driest, as the dark grains were like doorway openings that allowed more heat and moisture to leave the tobacco and breathe out through the walls.

    I personally think the grain pattern on a smooth pipe has absolutely nothing to do with its smoking qualities. I's the quality and curing of the wood itself and the engineering of the pipe that makes a pipe smoke better or worse than any other. One of my best smoking pipes has grain that is as bald as I am and one of my worst (and expensive) smoking pipes has straight grain that will take your breath away.

    And I guess that leads into a sort of long-wondered secondary question of whether you think that famous names like Dunhill and Barling, etc., actually smoke better than lesser named brands, because of more select briars they choose or because of superior craftsmanship, or is it just for the name and pride of fine ownership? Can't lesser-known or reputed pipes have just as good briar or construction?

    That one's been beaten to death for decades. All I can say is that the better known and respected the brand, the better the odds of getting a good smoke.

    Pipestud
    Posted 2 years ago #
  9. sasquatch

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    The pipe....

    is the stem.

    Sorry. You don't smoke grain. I sought for years. I've smoked it all guys, Algerian, Spanish, Italian, Greek.. old and new. Oil cured.

    Of all the crap to think is affecting your smoke, the grain orientation on the pipe would be least. Maybe after what brand of pipecleaner you used last time.

    Airway Uber Alles.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  10. sablebrush52

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    Airway Uber Alles.

    True that. And a comfortable bit.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  11. chasingembers

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    Of all the crap to think is affecting your smoke, the grain orientation on the pipe would be least. Maybe after what brand of pipecleaner you used last time.

    Yup, good airflow is a pipesmoker's best friend

    Posted 2 years ago #
  12. mayfair70

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    I have to agree on individual pipe construction as being key via stem, airway, etc. From what I have read, the individual cells of briar root are very short as compared to other woods where long, wicking structures for moisture transport are the rule. Broadly, this would indicate consistent properties across the wood regardless of grain orientation. However, individual specimens, climate effects, and regional varietal differences may cause exceptions. I also suspect certain carvers practice deviant magic of some kind to make great pipes out of any briar. I'm looking at YOU Clickklick.

    The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made. -Groucho Marx
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    Posted 2 years ago #
  13. saltedplug

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    I've also seen this question discussed on the forums, and sable brush's words that smokers conclusions are "personal opinion so unverifiable and therefore useless" ably describes my conclusions, ditto bowl geometry, resting pipes, pipes smoking cooler due to thick walls or long stems, etc. I'll elaborate when I'm ready to have internet rotten vegetables thrown at me.

    Pipe smokers run thoughtful, so its part of the territory to think about all of its aspects.

    I smoke slowly a time or two every decade but nonetheless believe that doing so, in a cadence, is the one area of pipe smoking that though little visited yields the greatest benefits.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  14. saltedplug

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    I've also seen this question discussed on the forums, and sable brush's words that smokers conclusions are "personal opinion so unverifiable and therefore useless" ably describes my conclusions, ditto bowl geometry, resting pipes, pipes smoking cooler due to thick walls or long stems, etc. I'll elaborate when I'm ready to have internet rotten vegetables thrown at me.

    Pipe smokers run thoughtful, so its part of the territory to think about all of its aspects.

    I smoke slowly a time or two every decade but nonetheless believe that doing so, in a cadence, is the one area of pipe smoking that though little visited yields the greatest benefits.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  15. sasquatch

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    Sure, technique is one of the biggest factors in pipe smoking, and enjoying any given pipe.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  16. sablebrush52

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    There are a lot of beliefs in the pipe smoking community that make no logical sense. For example, there's the thing about the briar imparting a taste to the blend. While I can understand this during the breaking in process, when the raw chamber surfaces are contacting burning embers, how does this happen once a carbon layer has formed? Isn't the point of a carbon layer that it acts as an insulator?

    Next there's the notion that some smokers cherish, that the tobacco colors a briar from the inside out. Cross sectioned pipes reveal that staining barely penetrates the briar even after many years of use. Maybe heat is a factor, but isn't it more logical to assume that smoke blowing over the outer surface of the bowl, finger oil, and dust are more likely to cause the effect? Also, what those cross sectioned bowls reveal is the damage done by smoking too hot.

    I do believe in letting a pipe dry out for the sake of the shank/stem fit and to help prevent splits in the shank. Can't hurt. But I've smoked any number of bowls in a pipe during the course of one day, with no ill effects. I think that it's more a question of proper moisture levels in the tobacco, along with a slow cadence leading to lower temperatures, that has more of an effect on the pipe than the number of bowls. So I guess I got my beliefs as well.

    Myths have been a topic of conversation here before. Myths, Misconceptions, and Other Fooey

    Posted 2 years ago #
  17. mawnansmiff

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    "Cross grain seems to smoke cooler than straight grain in my experience."

    Clickklick, so in a blind smoke you would be able to determine the orientation of the grain of the pipe bowl?

    I find that somewhat hard to swallow...excuse the pun

    Regards,

    Jay.

    ...take up thy stethoscope and walk...
    Posted 2 years ago #
  18. jpmcwjr

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    Well. I have conducted an experiment to put this to rest: I have smoked a straight grain vertically and horizontally for four days and find no difference, about 30 bowls each way. Only difference is the odd looks I get when the pipe is smoked sideways. And when hot embers fall on my trousers when horizontal. But anything for science!!

    I know that you believe you understood what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.
    Posted 2 years ago #
  19. mawnansmiff

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    "But anything for science!!"

    The forum owes you so much John, what an adventurous chap you are

    I'm reminded of the chap I saw on TV many moons ago who swore blind he could tell what type of music (classical, jazz, rock etc) was on a vinyl record by simply 'reading' the grooves

    Regards,

    Jay.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  20. jpmcwjr

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    That's nothing, Jay! I know a guy who can sense by holding a hard drive what music it holds, as well as any PWs therein.

    I suppose for the gullible, I should note that sometimes I make statements that (I believe) are clearly preposterous, without smileys or other disclaimers.

    Though, now, come to think on it, maybe that chap could! Though I prefer to read the label, or if none, play the record. I bet he couldn't name the artist, though!

    Posted 2 years ago #
  21. theloniousmonkfish

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    Ready for bed.....

    ... the debate over grain orientation and smoking characteristics.

    "whether you think that famous names like Dunhill and Barling, etc., actually smoke better than lesser named
    brands, because of more select briars they choose or because of superior craftsmanship"

    Dunhill has used all manner of Briar over the years, it's the stem. Barling stems are really nice too in my experience.

    "there's the notion that some smokers cherish, that the tobacco colors a briar from the inside out"

    How do these things get started? I've cut up numerous heavily smoked pipes, Briar is a HARD wood, sliced off pieces and never seen any deep staining, all superficial.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  22. jerwynn

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    Honestly, my grain has been disoriented for so long, I don't know which end is up. I DO know which end to put the tobacco in though... after much trial and error... heh heh...

    jpm, any video of that scientific experiment?? Betchya it would be funnier than heck!!!

    “Deep peace of the running wave to you.
 Deep peace of the flowing air to you.
 Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.
 Deep peace of the shining stars to you.
    Deep peace of the infinite peace to you." - Fiona Macleod
    Posted 2 years ago #
  23. beehive

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    I think the only thing grain orientation has any effect on is how sturdy a pipe would be. I imagine a grain running along a shank would be less likely to break during a drop than grain that runs across the shank. Sort of like when splitting wood with an axe?

    Posted 2 years ago #
  24. sasquatch

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    Even then, briar is so dense and so twisty that the times I've seen it break, it has not run with the grain the way other woods do. It's more like breaking a piece of stone off.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  25. toobfreak

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    I thought I read somewhere by one of the 'pipe experts' in his book that he claimed that a vertical grain actually made for a drier, cooler smoke, but I see no evidence of that in my pipes as they have all kinds of grain, and no one here really seems to see it either, so I will just chalk it off as more bloviating by the author (probably Hacker).

    Posted 2 years ago #
  26. cosmicfolklore

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    :::sigh::: ...define "better" and "lesser." I will spare the long-winded response that I have made in the past on this very subject, over and over... But, it is my belief that each pipe is it's own puzzle, no better, no worse, and it is the smoker's job to figure out how best to smoke the pipe. Failing that, the pipe becomes a lesser quality pipe to offset the blame from the smoker to the object, in rhetoric only. But, depending on what and how we smoke, is directly related to how easy it is for a smoker to adjust to a certain pipe.
    So, IMO, quality is subjective, and the smoker has all of the responsibility in whether or not the pipe can be smoked to satisfaction.
    This will explain why some find that bad smokers for one, are great smokers for others; and vica versa.

    Are there a bad pipes? Yes, if the two holes don't meet up, making it impossible to smoke, and bad tasting briar. Other than that, the rest is subjective... and banter to make the issue objective is just mental masturbation.

    Michael
    Posted 2 years ago #
  27. toobfreak

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    it is my belief that each pipe is it's own puzzle, no better, no worse, and it is the smoker's job to figure out how best to smoke the pipe

    Michael, I think you've hit it right on the head rather brilliantly! I believe that as well--- that each pipe is its own perfect solution to something, and the challenge now is for the smoker to find what smokes best in it and how. Thank you.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  28. sablebrush52

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    So, after nearly nearly 45 years of pipe smoking I have concluded the following:

    1. Grain is nice for esthetics, indicative of where in the burl the block comes from, and is otherwise pretty immaterial to how well the pipe smokes. The chamber/airway drilling and the bit/slot are more relevant.

    2. Pipe smoking is roughly 75% technique and 25% equipment.

    3. Pipe smokers love myth and folklore, and will stick to their illogical beliefs despite any and all evidence to the contrary. It's part of the fun. Were it different, places like fora wouldn't exist.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  29. blendtobac

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    A similar disconnect exists about smooth vs. rustic vs. sandblast. Can grain orientation or exterior finish have an impact on the smoking characteristics? If it does, it most likely is so small as to be imperceptible. The quality and aging of the wood and the engineering will have a greater influence, but the packing method and smoking technique are far more influential on the experience, IMHO.

    Russ

    Posted 2 years ago #
  30. jpmcwjr

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    My lesser experience, but ever-so-inquiring mind, agrees totally with Jesse and Russ.

    In addition, Mr. Toobfreak, you search hard enough and you'll find an "expert" opinion on any aspect of pipe smoking and maintainance, including the truly bizarre and unscientific.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  31. cosmicfolklore

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    Ummm, wait jpmcwjr, was that a second-hand slap in the face? Ha ha, by putting down toobfreak for agreeing with me? If not, your post didn't make much sense to me.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  32. toobfreak

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    Well, that said, if I read the grain thing where I think I saw it, it was in one of the most highly read and recommended pipe books of all time and he stated the grain issue as though it was a well-established "fact." ITMT, now I'm trying to come to grips with a recently bought cob--- first smokes with it seem to be embarrassing some of my longest treasured traditional pipes!

    Posted 2 years ago #
  33. cosmicfolklore

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    Toob, while we all enjoy reading the pipe books, using them like gospel in debates is frowned upon. They are merely one guy's ramblings, which is entertaining, but that is pretty much all there is to them. They make great fodder for mental masturbation with friends, but there is no gospel or science to any of it.
    But, I do enjoy reading them. Everyone likes to exercise their mental muscles occasionally. But, if you do it too often you'll go blind.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  34. jpmcwjr

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    Ummm, wait jpmcwjr, was that a second-hand slap in the face? Ha ha, by putting down toobfreak for agreeing with me? If not, your post didn't make much sense to me.

    Hell no! First, it wasn't a put down of Toobs, nor anything to do with whether you and he are in agreement or not. I hope that in the few occasions I've slapped someone it's been clear and direct!

    Peace and light!

    John

    Posted 2 years ago #
  35. toobfreak

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    Toob, while we all enjoy reading the pipe books, using them like gospel in debates is frowned upon. They are merely one guy's ramblings,

    Gottcha. I didn't mean to sound like I was taking the guy verbatim, but HE sure sounds like he takes himself seriously, like there was no question about it! Like you could maybe look it up in Wiki. Kind of the reason for asking here, because I disagreed with many things he said, and I figured you folks would know!

    Posted 2 years ago #
  36. sablebrush52

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    Given the emphatic nature of the described writing I suspect I know who the author is. Books are great for information, provided one doesn't take anything in them as as TRUTH. They are, as Cosmic says, one person's opinion. In the pipe world, opinions abound. If I find a consensus from a number of sources I'm more likely to give it credence.

    Of course, when I proclaim anything, it IS truth!!

    Posted 2 years ago #
  37. rx2man

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    While I am sure what sablebrush says is true 75/25 I did read somewhere that as clickklick said the horizontal grain is the cooler pipe. I of course cannot find that information now......

    Posted 2 years ago #
  38. theloniousmonkfish

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    Cross grain smokes cooler, straight grain smokes drier. It's always been that way...

    Posted 2 years ago #
  39. jpmcwjr

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    Monk- is there not a smiley missing??

    Posted 2 years ago #
  40. disinformatique

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    I agree with Sasquatch here, without a properly engineered stem a pipe is just paperweight.

    Chris

    Albert Einstein was once quoted as saying, “I believe that pipe smoking contributes to a somewhat calm and objective judgment in all human affairs.” One of the reasons behind this statement is that pipe smoking is meant to be a slow leisurely activity. It takes patience to smoke a pipe. Unlike cigarettes and cigars, there is a certain amount of technique to smoking a pipe. Where cigars and cigarettes can just be picked up, lit and puffed on, pipes require the development of a technique in order to get the best smoking experience.
    Posted 2 years ago #
  41. theloniousmonkfish

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    "Monk- is there not a smiley missing??"

    Why does it got to be missing? Could just be out having a smoke or doing smiley stuff...

    Also, yes, everyone who said the stem is right. Get a well made stem for one of your pipes with improperly oriented grain and stop suffering. Or for 50 bucks I'll orient the grain however you want...

    Posted 2 years ago #
  42. pipehunter

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    There is NO relationship between grain orientation and smoking qualities, at least as far as I can tell. And the work of some of my favorite pipe makers seems to back that up. Ingo Garbe, who is certainly one of the greatest carvers of traditional pipes doesn't grade his pipes. But in determining his price (which might be a proxy for grade) considers the shape and execution only. A number of other top carvers have stated that their grades are based solely on grain (usually with straight grain being the pinnacle) but that they believe there is no effect on the smoking quality.

    That said, I'm a bit fan of birdseye grain. So maybe I have some bias vs. the pricing of straight grain.

    Posted 2 years ago #

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