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What Role Does Briar Play in Quality?

(67 posts)
  • Started 1 year ago by numbersix
  • Latest reply from sablebrush52
  1. numbersix

    numbersix

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    This is something I've been wondering... In the past I've read that Dunhill uses a special oil curing process and carefully aged briar. I know from smoking my one and only Dunhill that it is indeed head and shoulders above all of my other pipes so I find it hard to believe that it's all just fine woodworking that's involved in a better than average smoke.

    But when I go window shopping on the 'net I see a large number of artisan makers, some of whom command several hundreds of dollars for a pipe; yet when I research the maker, rarely do they discuss the type of briar, where it's from or the curing methods they use. It's almost as if they don't consider these things important. Which makes me wonder if they're just buying random blocks and going from there.

    So I guess my question is: are some of these expensive artisan pipes nothing more than fine craftsmanship on a piece of mediocre briar?

    "Be seeing you"


    Posted 1 year ago #
  2. rmbittner

    rmbittner

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    So I guess my question is: are some of these expensive artisan pipes nothing more than fine craftsmanship on a piece of mediocre briar?

    I'm not sure why you're saying "mediocre briar." Why don't you think it's high-quality briar? Because they don't talk about it? I'm guessing that most artisans would say that if you're paying upwards of $500 for a pipe, the high quality of the briar should be taken for granted.

    My guess is that no artisan pipe makers are actually curing their own briar. I don't think they'd have the cash flow to buy and then sit on hundreds of pounds of uncured briar for years. (Although it wouldn't surprise me if some pipemakers take extra curing steps for the cured briar they do acquire.)

    Also, think about it this way: Dunhill may be using high-quality briar, but they are, ultimately, producing a machine-made pipe, which greatly reduces manufacturing costs. So you're paying more for the briar and the brand name than you are for the actual creation of the pipe. Things are different with artisan pipemakers, who are creating a handmade product with that same high-quality wood; the price may work out the same, but the balance of where your money is going shifts from paying for a prestige brand name to paying for the actual handiwork involved.

    Make sense?

    Posted 1 year ago #
  3. mlyvers

    mlyvers

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    i have also heard that oil curing is not the best way to cure a piece of briar. i think dunhill uses this method of curing, i could be wrong here. i think you would frist drive off the water or what ever is inside the briar in order to let the wood breath while smoking. i maybe off base here. i know there are different types of briar as well. iam a novice in this area, not an expert. i would like to own a dunhill someday.

    mike.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  4. numbersix

    numbersix

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    most artisans would say that if you're paying upwards of $500 for a pipe, the high quality of the briar should be taken for granted.

    I am sure many would want me to assume that, but experience has shown that it's not something to take for granted. If an artisan spend 10-20 hours on a pipe, he may believe his pipe is worth $700 - but a maker's time doesn't always equate to a quality pipe.

    My thinking right now is that all briar is not equal and that the quality of briar likely plays as large a role as craftsmanship when it comes to smoking quality.

    So I am left wondering if some makers are simply buying a grab bag of random briar blocks of indeterminate age and if so, are these pieces of briar offering the same quality of smoke as a properly aged and cured piece of briar?

    Posted 1 year ago #
  5. rmbittner

    rmbittner

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    i have also heard that oil curing is not the best way to cure a piece of briar.

    It may not be the "best" way to cure a piece of briar -- I have no idea what the "best" method might be -- but it is an absolutely terrific way to cure a piece of briar!

    That's especially true if you smoke Virginias. In my experience, an oil-cured pipe -- Dunhill does it, Radice offers some oil-cured models as well -- really brings out the best in a Virginia-forward blend.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  6. mlyvers

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    great question sir. who knows, maybe some of our members who work in the industry will shed some light on this subject.

    mike.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  7. spartan

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    You don't think that master carvers spend the extra money on the best briar they can get their hands on?

    I don't know the facts, but I assume it's safe to expect quality from artisans whose reputations are of good standing.

    I'm interested to hear from any artisan pipe makers who may be a member on this site though.

    "I was born to lose. So I'll die to win." -Breaking Benjamin
    Posted 1 year ago #
  8. cleidophoros

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    I have no fancy artisan pipes so skipping that but how long has it been since Dunhill dropped oil curing?

    So I am left wondering if some makers are simply buying a grab bag of random briar blocks of indeterminate age and if so, are these pieces of briar offering the same quality of smoke as a properly aged and cured piece of briar.
    If that's the case logically those 2 blocks will certainly not be able to deliver the same quality.
    And I think the briar is more important than the workmanship. It's not rocket science; 1 big hole for the tobacco, 1 smaller hole for the shank and a plastic bit to stick into said hole in the shank. With the use of machinery it shouldn't be too difficult to align 2 holes.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  9. numbersix

    numbersix

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    You don't think that master carvers spend the extra money on the best briar they can get their hands on?

    I just don't know.

    If they were, I'd expect that they'd spend reams discussing how they go about doing so. Buying perfectly aged briar and what curing methods used should be a huge bragging point.

    Also, there are all kinds of artisan makers out there, some new and inexperienced, some older and more experienced, some asking hundreds, others asking thousands of dollars - and yet few (at least the few I've looked up) seem to discuss the type of briar being used.

    P.S.

    This is not meant to be an attack on artisan makers. I've heard enough experienced smokers attest to the smoking qualities of a fine artisan pipe. It's just a question I've had floating in my mind for some time.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  10. gray4lines

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    I have seen where some artisans say where they get their briar, and that it is "the best you can buy." No other detail than that really.

    But can't you just look at the grain on a pipe and determine, at least somewhat, the quality of the briar? You won't know the curing process, but the quality of the wood should be visible, right?

    Curing does make a difference, otherwise big pipe companies wouldn't be sitting on blocks that are 10 plus years old. But, I can't imagine an artisan practically wasting time on a sub-par quality or cured piece of briar. After all, it is their reputation, and if it doesn't smoke good, they're sunk.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  11. gray4lines

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    If they were, I'd expect that they'd spend reams discussing how they go about doing so. Buying perfectly aged briar and what curing methods used should be a huge bragging point.

    Maybe briar sources are guarded, almost like blasting and curing methods... Why tell everyone else exactly how to make pipes as good as you? If I found a top notch briar supplier...I'd keep it under my hat so I could keep going back

    Posted 1 year ago #
  12. briarblues

    briarblues

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    Good Day All;

    This topic has been hashed around, discussed and argued about by many over the years.

    #1 is using good briar. In that I mean a piece of briar that shows good grain and had been "cured" properly. A poorly "cured" piece of weak grained briar will not preform well, no matter whom the carver or manfuacrturer is. Conversley a well cured piece of briar, that has reasonably well done engineering, should smoke well.

    As far as Dunhill ..... granted Dunhill does make some fine smoking pipes. With the volume they produce, that should be the case. I do believe that Dunhill stopped their "oil curing" process in the late 1960's.

    On a price per piece comparisson, you can find "artisan" made pipes that are priced below the current Dunhhill prices. A Dunhill Shell in a group 4 or 5 size carries a price over $400.00. I can quickly find a number of high quality US carvers offering similar sized, hand made pipes, price well under that.

    Now if you want to compare top graded straight grain Dunhills, look what the DR's are priced at. All carry a 5 digit price tag. For well under that you can get an extremely well made straight grain, from any number of carvers, from a number of countries.

    You state that your one Dunhill smokes far better than your other pipes. Easily said, but you did not state what you are comparing the Dunhill to.

    Personally, in over 30 years as a pipe enjoyer, I have owned countless Dunhill's and to date have only had one I regret not keeping. The rest were mediocre at best. They paled when compared to my Castello's, Ruthenberg's, Roush's, Rad Davis's, Don Carlos's, Cavicchi's and on.

    Just on sheer volume alone I doubt that Dunhill has the time or staff to hand select each block of briar and probably discard as much as end up as a finished pipe. While the artisan can hand select each piece of briar and assess how to garner the best grain to match shape.

    Briar can be a cruel mistres. I'd far rather have a pipe made by the hands of a skilled artisan, as opposed to a mass produced pipe. I know that each hand made pipe took hours of a person's life to create and during the process may have had to alter their final plans, adapt and over come faults and flaws and each discarded block tears at the carvers heart.

    Regards
    BB

    Posted 1 year ago #
  13. tbradsim1

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    I have 2 very high end Artisan pipes and they suck, wet , smoke hot , is it the pipe maker, I don"t believe their work is beautiful, I believe it's the briar, their is a running joke in Italy that the Americans get the leftovers. The old cajun

    The Old Cajun
    Posted 1 year ago #
  14. samcoffeeman

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    I'm not advertising, but I did purchase a David Jones pipe and this is from his site:

    These pipes are handmade from extra quality plateau briar. I purchased a lot of briar in the early years. Thus I have maintained briar stocks far beyond my immediate needs. This means that I do not have to wonder about the provenance of my wood. My briar is stored in a controlled environment for several years, then brought into the shop for final curing 5 to 7 years before use.

    I do like the pipe, however I have not smoked it enough to judge its overall smoking quality just yet. However it does not smoke wet or hot so far.

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,
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    that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness
    Posted 1 year ago #
  15. mlyvers

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    i have a savenlli autograph that smokes eveybit as good as my charatans make supreme s-100. i also have a achilles favorite "sea coral capri". all smoke great.

    mike.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  16. numbersix

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    I'd far rather have a pipe made by the hands of a skilled artisan, as opposed to a mass produced pipe.

    Bear in mind, this is not a discussion on whether or not Dunhill's are better than artisan pipes. And it's not an attack on artisan pipes. I am just curious if most artisans are really offering quality briar?

    I don't doubt that some (perhaps many) are, but at the same time, I just don't know for sure.

    And another important point is that not all artisans are equal. I see some lesser experienced artisan makers (i.e. carving for only a 4-5 years) still commanding big dollars with no mention on briar. It's in those cases that I wonder if all one is getting a pretty pipe.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  17. numbersix

    numbersix

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    I'm not advertising, but I did purchase a David Jones pipe and this is from his site:

    These pipes are handmade from extra quality plateau briar. I purchased a lot of briar in the early years. Thus I have maintained briar stocks far beyond my immediate needs. This means that I do not have to wonder about the provenance of my wood. My briar is stored in a controlled environment for several years, then brought into the shop for final curing 5 to 7 years before use.

    Nice. This is the type of info I would expect from a quality maker.

    I have 2 very high end Artisan pipes and they suck, wet , smoke hot , is it the pipe maker, I don"t believe their work is beautiful, I believe it's the briar, their is a running joke in Italy that the Americans get the leftovers. The old cajun

    This is precisely my fear with some makers...

    Posted 1 year ago #
  18. mlyvers

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    iam not sure numbersix. who knows? i do know i have english and italian made pipes, and they smoke very well. this would include charatan and savinelli. i supose the pipes iam referring to are mass produced. sorry for the confusion here sir.

    mike.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  19. mthanded

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    I would think that briar, like any other wood is graded based on age, grain, size, etc. Based on the grade of the briar, pipe makers base which style or product line they will make with that particular piece. I would also assume that the artisans buy only the top grade briar so they can command the higher prices.

    I'm no expert either but putting a dunhill next to a basket pipe shows the difference in the wood even though both are briar pipes.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  20. mlyvers

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    of course we all know that charatans are no longer made. however they are very good pipes. excuse my stupidity.

    mike.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  21. briarblues

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    Numbersix

    I understand your questions.

    Dunhill and many other factory brands buy briar by the bags. Thousands of blocks at a time.

    Many artisan carvers go to source and hand select the blocks they purchase. There are ways in which a carver can "tell" if a piece of briar is better than the piece beside it. By weight, sound as they knock the blocks together, and I have even heard by taste. Grain shown is what catches the carvers eyes, but even the finest straight grains, that are heavy, and have a dull "thud" when knocked together will be discarded. Where do you think the carvers discards at the seller go? To the large manufacturers.

    Some carvers purchase briar from a seller based at the mill. They let the seller know the grades and sizes they want and also may return blocks that do not meet what their requirments are, or blocks that carry large fualts or have cracked during shipping.

    Any brand or carver has the potential for creating a poor smoking pipe. Also any might create an incredible smoking pipe. But without top quality well cured briar, greatness is not possible. Yes flukes do happen, with poorly grained basket pipes, but not often.

    There is far more to the end product than we think. Many things come into play as to why a pipe smokes well or poorly. I have onwed pipes that just would not smoke well, with my favorite blends, but switching to a different style of tobacco, they just sang!

    When I am looking to acquire a pipe I look at the carver or brands "track record". Ok my history with that brand or carver. If I have had "poor luck" then the chances of that carver or brand getting my money is doubtful. If my luck has been favorable OR reports from friends on favorable luck, the chances are good.

    FWIW I am now at a stage in which I am less than patient. I allow a brand or carver one and on occasion two chances. If the purchases fail to meet my expectations, the potential for a third attempt is less than zero.

    No carver that has any will to have a long career can afford to sell poor quality, unless they are creating basket pipes and knocking them out by the dozen per day. However the manufacturers with volume and slick marketing can.

    I have been fortunate enough to get to know a number of carvers. I have yet to meet a single one that will not be willing to try and correct an issue with a pipe. If the pipe you bought smokes wet or hot, they do want to know. Most will even try and correct the issue, if possible. Try that with a large manufacturer.

    Regards
    BB

    Posted 1 year ago #
  22. cigrmaster

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    I know for a fact that many of the top artisans hand pick their briar from the best available sources. There are many different price levels for briar and the guys making the better pipes pay top dollar for their briar. There are suppliers who develop relationships with the artisans and they will get the pick of the litter so to speak and that is one reason as to why an artisan pipe will smoke better than a factory made one. Some people are paying over 100.00 for one piece of briar some guys are paying 60.00, factories might pay 5 or 10. There are so many different levels of briar. Some artisans age their briar for years before carving it, that is expensive but it is another reason they are producing better smoking pipes.

    If you were an artisan would you be advertising your best briar sources so that the competition for the best briar was even more than it is now? Now some people will talk up their briar, for example the guy who owns Upshall brags about how they use 100 year old Grecian briar, some believe this many do not. Another guy talks about his 60 year old Red Algerian Briar, some think it is bullshit, others do not. Julius Vesz brags about his dead root briar so there are artisans talking about briar but most do not.

    Harris
    Posted 1 year ago #
  23. hfearly

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    You can see in a documentary how Savinelli has a giant warehouse where yhey age and hand select their briar blocks.

    Personally, I'd define briar quality by a number of characteristics:

    1) Location from where in the burl the block was cut, because it directly impacts
    2) Wood density (high quality pipes are amazingly lightweight even in group 4 and 5 sizes!)
    3) Wood hardness
    4) Wood cleanliness (absence of sandpits, knots, stones, ...)
    5) Graining (how close together, depth, straightness)
    6) Curing (high quality briar is virtually free of resins and tannins)

    Given that the price range at the source (burl cutters) for a briar block can range from 10$ for a low quality block to 60$ for a really nice straight grained plateaux, I don't consider it surprising that a higher quality pipe is more expensive. Even more so as finding a hidden flaw in an expensive block so it has to be thrown out really hits the profit margins a hel lot more than screwing up a 10$ block.

    Suffering from a serious case of "EPARD", also known as the Estate Pipe Acquisition and Restoration Disorder.
    Posted 1 year ago #
  24. numbersix

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    Thanks for the responses BB, Cigrmaster and hfearly... All appreciated.

    I would rather see an artisan at least make mention of the briar being used than to say nothing at all. But your responses make me think that the better artisans do indeed take that into consideration.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  25. puffy

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    Does price equate to quality.I doubt that this question will ever have a definite answer.Let me ask it this way.Does a pipe that costs $800 really smoke enough better than a $200 pipe to make it worth the higher price? Do some pipe makers get the extra money for their pipes based just on their name and the fact that some folks just want to say that they have one of their pipes? Is some briar better than other briar? Do some pipe makers have a better way to cure briar than others? I don't have the answers to these questions.In the end money determines when I buy a pipe,and how much I pay for it.Let me end by saying that I have two Dunhills.I love the way they smoke.

    Life's most valuable treasure is..Love
    Posted 1 year ago #
  26. salewis

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    This whole discussion regarding the "quality" of briar of the volume pipe companies versus the private carvers has appeared in this web site as well as in others sites that I frequent. The simple truth is that the higher the ratings of the manufacture or private pipe carver the higher the average for scoring a better smoking pipe. Is it the quality of the briar, age, curing process or selection techniques? Probably all or most of these are critical. Another, probably the most important consideration is pipe engineering. In summary I believe that the higher the cost of the pipe the greater the chance of having a good smoker due to all or most of the attributes listed above. However, I am sure that many members have the same experience as I have had that some high prices pipes (over $350) smoke considerably worse than other pipes under $100.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  27. flyguy

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    Puffy wrote:

    Does price equate to quality.I doubt that this question will ever have a definite answer.Let me ask it this way.Does a pipe that costs $800 really smoke enough better than a $200 pipe to make it worth the higher price? Do some pipe makers get the extra money for their pipes based just on their name and the fact that some folks just want to say that they have one of their pipes? Is some briar better than other briar? Do some pipe makers have a better way to cure briar than others? I don't have the answers to these questions.In the end money determines when I buy a pipe,and how much I pay for it...

    These are the questions I have. The only thing I really care about is that the pipe smokes well. I'll spend $600 for a pipe if it will give me a $600 smoking experience. I have no interest, at the present time, collecting pipes simply for resale value or prestige. My simple question: "Is the Emperor really wearing clothes?"
    If he doesn't, I'll concentrate on buying $40-$200 pipes. Presently, I don't have enough experience or pipe savvy to render a judgment.

    “Apples for walking, and a pipe for sitting.”
    ― Samwise Gamgee
    Posted 1 year ago #
  28. pitchfork

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    I know of several makers who talk about the supply of briar they have on hand and where they sourced it. David Jones, mentioned above, would be one. Andrew Marks in Vermont would be another. Here, Elliott Nachwalter talks about the individual block of briar from which the pipe was made:

    i have been working on this piece for many years. it began as a specimen briar block that i discovered while traveling around italy. after considering shaping the heel of the pipe to reveal the birds eye, i finally decided to leave the natural plateaux.

    http://www.pipestudio.com/en107.html

    I'm sure there are others as well who talk about their briar source, either on hand, or where they acquire new blocks.

    Posted 1 year ago #
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    For a while now, I've just been buying old pipes.

    Dunhill? Sure, 1967 or earlier, thanks. Ashton, one of my favorites! -- gotta be one of Bill's, 1980's only, please. Charatan? Yep, make those pre-Lane era. Petersons -- newest one is hallmarked 1979. Certain Willmer, Ferndown, Astley pipes caught my attention and was fortunate enough to acquire; I've no old Comoy yet, but you get the idea.

    I've leaned mostly English, but some of the older Italians have made it into my rack too -- this twin-bore, that Giubileo d'Oro. I might eventually get around to some older Danish pipes at some point. The only American pipes I own are R.C.Sands, plus older factory pipes -- a few Kaywoodie, Dr. Grabow and a couple MM cobs I all bought new around 40 years ago.

    Nothing wrong with artisan pipes -- there's certainly some, how do I put this, romance to them -- and, I would think, a nice warm fuzzy from supporting a domestic artist -- sort of the way Americans felt about unions up until 5-10 years ago.

    There's certainly good reason to appreciate and own pipes made by this artisan, that one, these three. To each his/her own. One thing I am certain of, my old pipes (except the KW, MM, Dr.G) are hand made from choice pieces of properly cured very old wood and deliver all that I expect and more.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  30. flyguy

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    rothnh wrote:

    There's certainly good reason to appreciate and own pipes made by this artisan, that one, these three. To each his/her own. One thing I am certain of, my old pipes (except the KW, MM, Dr.G) are hand made from choice pieces of properly cured very old wood and deliver all that I expect and more.

    This is why I follow this forum; to learn. I have never smoked pipes of the quality you mention. When I do, I hope to share in the experience. When I complete my cellar, I will turn to the more knowledgeable pipe collectors in this forum for wisdom on which pipes to buy to complete my collection.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  31. cigrmaster

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    I can state through experience that not all artisan pipes smoke the same and that some are much better than others. Price does not guarantee you will get a great pipe. Many artisans over charge in my opinion and they produce pipes that are not worth the money again in my opinion. I believe that some artisans charge based on their name and get away with making average pipes for stupid money.

    I have smoked artisan pipes from the following.

    Rad Davis
    Brian Ruthenberg
    Bruce Weaver
    Mike Butera
    Scott Thile
    Jody Davis
    Steve Morrissete
    BST aka Sasquatch
    Hans Neilson aka Former
    Rainer Barbi
    Kurt Balleby
    Peter Matzhold
    Reiner
    Tom Spanu
    Viprati ( pretty sure he does all his own work)
    Upshall ( Barry Jones is said to do all his own work)

    Out of all of these Rad Davis in my opinion makes the best smokers, I buy pipes to smoke, the fact that his blast work is fantastic and he makes some great looking pipes is a bonus. It is why I now own 13 of his pipes with more coming. Every single one smokes great and his pricing is by far the fairest of anyone on my list. The most I have spent on a brand new Rad is 450.00, the least I have spent is 200.00 for an estate. That 200.00 estate Rad smokes as good as the 450.00 brand new pipe, but no where near as good looking. There are pipes on that list that would today retail for 1200.00 plus, back( 2000) when they were new a few retailed for 700- 800.00. I have sold all of my European artisan pipes and only buy No American artisan pipes. To my tastes they are better and the ones I buy are much lower in price. A new Former blasted pipe is over 800.00 in most cases and I don't think they smoke as good as my American artisan pipes.

    You can buy great artisan made pipes for 250.00 and under quite often. All of my estate artisan pipes except the Butera and Jody Davis were under the 250.00 price point and the lowest was the Morrissete at 139 delivered. Now of course my tastes may not be yours, what I love in a pipe may not be the same thing you love. Everyone's tastes are so different that people should always buy what they like and not what someone says they should like. I do think that some No American artisans are over priced like the Danes and others, but generally speaking they are priced lower than many artisans from other countries.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  32. foggymountain

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    Six: I agree with what you are suggesting. Most briar is not aged and cured properly, even by artisanal carvers. You can tell it in the taste of the smoke. Some pipes, probably Petersons, age on the job. Dunhills are said to be aged at least 60 years before use. That is probably why they break in so fast. I believe that very aged briar is somewhat drier. It breaks in and colors more quickly because it's dried waterpassages are more open. I don't know how Dunhill gets 60 year briar and would appreciate any info. As far as their having discontinued oil curing, I don't think so because the current pipes and those from 60 years ago taste the same. Also I think some of the prices quoted above are too high. I have found a source for Plateau briar for $3-5 a block, probably unaged.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  33. peckinpahhombre

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    their is a running joke in Italy that the Americans get the leftovers.

    I do think there my be a glint of truth in Old Cajun's wry statement. If someone said I had $200 to spend on a new pipe, there is no question I would choose an italian pipe (such as a Moretti). On average (let me emphasize again: on average), my experience has been that Italian pipes smoke better than non-italian pipes. I think a likely reason for this is the quality of the briar.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  34. User has not uploaded an avatar

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    my experience has been that Italian pipes smoke better than non-italian pipes. I think a likely reason for this is the quality of the briar.

    It's the Italian olive oil in the curing process, sprinkled with fresh oregano and Sicilian sea salt.

    Well I thought it was funny.

    Anyway, there's some truth to this; the reasoning is that the Italians have better access to the wood, and have a lot more choice, hand selected briar stocked up that's not touched until it's 40 years , 50 years, or older. Being second, third and fourth generation pipe makers can't hurt, either.

    Today's artisans, try as they may, have selections paltry by comparison compared to say, Becker, Costello, Ashton, Dunhill, etc. It just is what it is, folks.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  35. pitchfork

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    Wow, Harris, you have a lot of experience with a wide range of artisan pipes. Would you care to elaborate further on whose pipes you like best and why? I'm not surprised you list Rad Davis as the best smokers and the best value, but I'd be curious if you could say more about some of the others. The pipe world is a small world and I'm sure you wouldn't want to hurt anyone's feelings, but if you could rank a few more in your top 5 or 6, I'm all ears.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  36. bigvan

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    I think this is a great conversation. Some of the carvers I've met have told me that they select their blocks from the supplier, some carvers buy from other carvers.

    Unlike Harris, I doubt I can pick just one as being a favorite. But I can give you a few.

    Jeff Gracik - a master. Expensive, but he's one of the best in the world.
    Scott Thile and Joe Nelson - also master class, but not everyone knows it yet.
    Abe Herbaugh - rookie of the year.
    Andy Peterson - most bang for the buck.
    Wayne Teipen and Nate King - based on their work, both are certifiably insane. I honestly think their brains work differently than the rest of ours. Must be something about living in Indiana.

    I own pipes from the North American carvers listed below and can recommend any of them.

    Abe Herbaugh – Augusta, WV
    http://www.herbaughpipes.com

    Adam Remington – Tucson, AZ (relocating soon to Nashville, TN)
    http://www.remingtonpipes.com

    Andrew Marks – Cornwall, VT
    http://www.andrewmarkspipemaker.com

    Andy Petersen – Davenport, IA
    http://www.quadcitypipes.com

    Dr. Bob Keyes – Vermont
    http://www.drbobpipes.com

    Bob Oakley – Erie, PA
    http://www.boboakleypipes.com

    Bob Swanson – Fort Lauderdale, FL
    http://www.perrywhitepipes.com

    Brad Pohlman – Jacksonville, OR
    http://www.pohlmannpipes.com

    Brian Ruthenberg – Ft. Gratiot, MI
    http://www.briarart.com

    Bruce Weaver – Nashville, TN
    http://www.baweaverpipes.com

    Charles Cole – Thayne, WY
    http://www.colepipes.com

    Elliot Nachwalter – Arlington, VT
    http://www.pipestudio.com

    Eric Heberling – Phoenix, AZ
    http://www.ejhpipes.com

    Grant Batson – Nashville, TN
    http://www.gbatsonpipes.com

    Jack Howell – Pittsburgh, PA
    http://www. jwh.fastmail.fm

    Jeff Gracik – San Diego, CA
    http://www.jalanpipes.com

    Jody Davis – Yuma, AZ
    http://www.jodydavispipes.com

    Joe Nelson - Fond du Lac, WI
    http://www.oldnelliepipes.com

    John Crosby – Indianapolis, IN
    http://www.crosbypipes.com

    Larry Roush – Toledo, OH
    http://www.roushpipes.com

    Paul Hubbart – Cornwall, England (ex pat American)
    http://www.larryssonpipes.com

    Mark Tinsky – Wolf Creek, MT
    http://www.amsmoke.com

    Michael Parks - Bowmanville, Ontario
    http://www.parkspipes.com

    Rad Davis – Foley, AL
    http://www.raddavispipes.com

    Roswitha Anderson – Columbus, OH
    http://www.pipesandpleasures.com

    Russ Cook – central MI
    http://www.pipesbyrusscook.com

    Ryan Alden – Rowlett, TX
    http://www.aldenpipes.com

    Scott Thile – Murray, KY
    http://www.sethilepipes.com

    Simeon Turner – Denver, CO
    http://www.turnerpipes.com

    Stephen Downie - Surrey, British Columbia
    http://www.downiepipes.com

    Thomas James – Pittsburgh, PA
    http://www.thomasjamespipes.com

    Todd Johnson – Nashville, TN
    http://www.todd-m-johnson.com

    Posted 1 year ago #
  37. lonestar

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    Interesting questions ! A lot of what has been said here is true and false at the same time. So much of it is subjective.
    Without naming names, there are highly respected pipe makers who say as soon as a block is dry, it is ready to turn. That may be just one year or less after processing.
    Other makers swear it must be aged for 3 years, 10 years, 60 years (usually however old their briar happens to be is whats best )
    Some makers have one specific briar mill, and everything they use comes from that cutter alone.
    Some makers (and some great ones at that) buy a little from several different mills.
    Its is tough to say one briar mill is much better than others. There are only a handful of mills left, and most of them have been cutting briar for generations, so they pretty much all know what they are doing.
    As far as quality goes, thats really something you pay for. If you buy cheap briar, you get cheap briar. If you spend more money, you get better stuff. How much more you pay, and how much better the briar is, is as subjective as how much better an $800 pipe is than a $200 pipe.
    There is no doubt briar from different mills/regions has different properties, but it goes back to being subjective to the end user. What is perfectly suited to your taste/pace/style/body chemistry/blends/climate may not be as perfect for someone else.
    I think craftsmanship is as much of the equation as the briar. If either one is lacking, the pipe will not be as good.
    I have a good supply of Algerian briar which is what I mainly use. I like it and it seems to be a winner with my customers. I also have Italian briar and some very old Greek briar, and its good stuff too. Whether one or the other is better is subjective in the end.
    Briarblues has given some great info. If you buy two pipes from a particular artist and they both let you down, whatever briar or engineering they use is probably not suited for your style. If you're like Harris and every Rad Davis pipe you own just sings, then you have found your go to guy for new pipes. Despite all of the differences between pipemakers, there is generally a consistency with *most* pipes from an individual company/artist.
    I want to repeat what Briarblue said about a "Dud" from a particular pipemaker. Most every pipe maker out there (even very high end guys) want to hear from a customer that isnt happy and try to make it right.
    So after all of this ,I guess the answer to your question is most artisan pipemakers dont dive into details about briar because its a given they are using the highest quality wood they can source. Most of the guys who mention it do so because theres something outside of the norm about their briar (80 years old, "dead root", oil cured, whatever).
    I dont know you numbersix, so I have to ask the question what other brands are you comparing your Dunhill too ?

    Posted 1 year ago #
  38. hfearly

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    Bigvan great collection of Artisans. I've been looking for something like this for ages!

    Posted 1 year ago #
  39. pitchfork

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    bigvan,

    Thanks for that. I'm only surprised that you don't own an Adam Davidson pipe -- another one of those oddball Hoosiers (I'm one, too).

    What do you think of Andrew Marks's pipes? He uses some really well aged briar and his shaping is just plain weird and quirky. How do his pipes smoke? I used to live in Vermont, am an avid collector of Nachwalter pipes, and I've long been curious about Marks.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  40. numbersix

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    Lonestar - I appreciate your perspective.

    I dont know you numbersix, so I have to ask the question what other brands are you comparing your Dunhill too ?

    My pipes are still what I consider to be solid, dependable pipes: L'Anatras, Mastro De Paja, Stanwells, Savinelli, a 1930s Hardcastle (a superb smoker btw) and others. All fine smokers IMHO, but definitely not at the level of my Dunhill.

    Also, FWIW, my Dunhill is a 2001. I realize some believe the later models are not nearly as good as older models, but from my own experience and especially Foggy Mountain (who owns numerous Dunhills from all eras), Dunhill appears to be still using the tried and true methods. I cannot imagine a pipe being any better than this. It's is extremely lightweight (even tho it's an ODB) - quite possibly the lightest in my collection. The fit and finish is perfect and it offers a cool, dry smoke every time.

    Like nsfisher says, if I could, I'd smoke it exclusively.

    @pitchfork

    bigvan, Thanks for that.

    +1

    Posted 1 year ago #
  41. mlyvers

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    i love my charatans and savinelli pipes. i supose that i have no artisan pipes, this is great info. thanks too you guys for all the information. you guys are great.

    mike.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  42. sasquatch

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    What is "good briar"?

    Good briar from one point of view is briar that smokes good, isn't prone to warping, cracking, etc. On another point of view, we might say that all the briar we buy we would expect to be "good" in that way, and that what we are really saying when we talk about "good" briar is that it has nice grain and isn't full of bugs, cracks, stones, etc.

    Can it be this simple?

    Here's three blocks from three different suppliers: They happen to be Greek, Spanish, and Italian, clockwise from the top. Perfect crosscut birdseye, and two excellent plateaus.

    These blocks don't smoke identically, they have subtle differences in flavor, but they all smoke great, dead dry, and taste fine. If you wanted to do a high contrast finish, you'd probably pick the lightest block because it's going to do that sort of thing better than the darker blocks.

    Everything pictured is over ten years old here.

    You can see variations in grain density, grain uniformity, color, block density etc. Does one make a better pipe than the other? Arguably not.

    Pipe makers buy blocks from certain vendors because they find that they have few failures, don't waste a ton of time on bad pieces, have happy customers over and over again, so these buying loyalties are built up over time. It's not even that one supplier is better in every way, it's that it works for that particular maker in terms of supply ease, value, quality, etc.

    I think we get more and better blocks now than ever - there's more demand (more $$) for the nicer looking blocks than there used to be (in 1920 no one cared), and they command a premium. But there's lots of really excellent briar around.

    People talking about 100 year old blocks are full of crap - no one stores wood for that long - where's the profit? The plants are around 50 years old when the blocks are cut - the cutters say they are not big enough before that. Asked about "dead root", one cutter told me that his field-men would laugh at him if he asked for that. "Sure there's dead one, but always, ALWAYS they are full of insects and cracks. We pass them by for sure."

    Want some nice blocks? They don't, and never did, come any better than this.

    Do all my blocks look like this? Hell no.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  43. wcannoy

    Walt Cannoy

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    I do not expound on the source of my briar publicly because 95% of my customers don't care and the details would just confuse the other 5%.

    That said, in my experience, the quality of the briar and curing process accounts for about half of the smoking properties of the pipe. Getting those two holes to line up accounts for the the other half.(Which apparently some people think can be accomplished by a trained monkey... If I had a dollar for every hour spent trying to figure out if a 5/32 draft hole will smoke better than 1/8 or 11/64, or determining the perfect chamber profile for the tobacco to burn down properly, the best airway taper going into the thin profile of the bit, or the optimum amount of flare to the slot at the button end of the stem... I wouldn't need to sell pipes!)

    There are exceptions to every rule in this, a process with too many variables to imagine.

    Those exceptions aside, a piece of poor quality briar which had been poorly engineered into a pipe will deliver an awful smoking experience. The same poor quality briar with proper engineering will deliver a mediocre to acceptable smoking experience.

    A properly cured piece of briar with poor engineering will produce a poor, maybe sometimes mediocre, smoke. A properly cured piece of briar with proper engineering will be a fine smoking pipe.

    A properly cured block of briar with average grain, engineered and drilled properly to provide this fine smoking experience is worth maybe $100 before being shaped, sanded, finished and stamped. That's what you're paying for a great tasting pipe. $100.

    Want a beautiful straight grain pipe? That block costs $60 to $80 (at least that's what I paid to the cutter in person when hand selecting briar). Of course, in most cases, pipemakers need to eat too, so they have to run a business, not a charity. That $60 block becomes an asset valued at, let's say, just $90 on the extremely low end.

    Now the maker, if he is quick and proficient, spends eight hours shaping, cutting a stem, sanding, staining, buffing and waxing to make this chunk of briar look good. Also, lets pay this highly skilled artisan a paltry $10 per hour. Assuming he was also quick and proficient at drilling the briar and stem stock correctly the first time, we'll add an hour for that. So nine hours making this pipe (I've never made one that quick), at $10 per hour is $90, plus the value of the briar at $90, is a $180 pipe. I'll be nice to the pipe buyer and not even consider the cost of shop rent, consumables, electricity, tools and equipment, web hosting, blah blah blah!

    Now I have to actualy sell enough pipes to sustain this business, so I have to offer my pipes through retailers. Well, guess what? I need to make at least $180 on the pipe at this point, and the industry standard wholesale rate is 50%. That makes this a $360 pipe at retail now (no matter whose name is on it), plus shipping :roll:, and the maker is still struggling to buy dinner.

    The pipe smoking world is full of folks who question the value of artisan pipes in general. In the mean time, pipemakers are living it up in their mansions and polishing the paint on their exotic sports cars... or not. It's not as easy as you think. Most of these guys who have been working hard for years, working slowly and meticulously, to earn a reputation for their work, and can command higher prices for their pipes. Well, you bet your ass that pipe is worth it.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  44. numbersix

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    @Sasquatch and @wcannoy

    Really good to hear your perspectives.

    I do not expound on the source of my briar publicly because 95% of my customers don't care and the details would just confuse the other 5%.

    Personally, I don't want to know your exact source, but I would be hesitant to buy from an artisan who makes no mention of the importance of good briar and curing methods (as well as providing an explanation of what they believe qualifies as "good briar" - not all artisans agree on this point).

    As you and other makers have stated, it does make a big difference in the quality of the smoke - so why skip over it?

    Artisan pipes are very expensive for most pipe smokers, and while I am quite sure pipe makers not living the "lifestyles of the rich and famous", for me to plunk down that much cash, I'd want to be sure I am getting more than just a pretty pipe.

    p.s

    FWIW I am in marketing by trade. In my business, to sell a product, every positive aspect of that product needs to be sang from the rafters. Even the tiniest attributes need to be mentioned. So if a pipemaker goes out of his or her way to find the very best briar, it's imperative to make a point of it.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  45. wcannoy

    Walt Cannoy

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    FWIW I am in marketing by trade. In my business, to sell a product, every positive aspect of that product needs to be sang from the rafters. Even the tiniest attributes need to be mentioned.

    That's part of the problem. There have been so many briar myths perpetuated by manufacturers, artisans, and collectors, nothing holds water anymore. If I say I get my briar from Greece, some people will see it as a positive, some will see it as a negative. The same if I say that I oil cure my briar.

    I can say that I go out of my way to find the very best briar and it might be true, it might not, but I know if I hear that again from another maker, I think I'll puke!

    Posted 1 year ago #
  46. sasquatch

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    Dunno about you Walt, but I buy ONLY the finest Mediterranean briar. Nothing else will do.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  47. wcannoy

    Walt Cannoy

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    Dunno about you Walt, but I buy ONLY the finest Mediterranean briar. Nothing else will do.

    Mediterranean huh? I gotta try me some of that! This Baltic stuff I've been getting is crap!

    Posted 1 year ago #
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    Dunhill appears to be still using the tried and true methods.

    Actually, my Dunhills are all artisan pipes. All Dunhills made before 1968 were crafted by a single craftsman, from selection of the wood wood, to the final polish of the stummel.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  49. samcoffeeman

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    Sounds like I should be wary about an artisan pipe maker who sells his work for under $200. I like my David Jones, but I can tell that he didn't spend too much time on it. I think he is rusticating his pipes to pump some extra out and selling for lower prices. I like the overall appearance of the pipe and it is a moderate to good smoker, but the details aren't great. One of these days when i get some extra cash flow I'm going to start my american collection. I'd also like to have a wood shop. You guys know any pipemakers in PA/NJ/Del who might take me as apprentice?

    Posted 1 year ago #
  50. wcannoy

    Walt Cannoy

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    Sounds like I should be wary about an artisan pipe maker who sells his work for under $200

    Nah... Only the ones who sell for under $200 and don't work a second job!

    Posted 1 year ago #
  51. romeowood

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    @wcannoy--that is the best and most concise perspective on the issue yet, to my mind.

    To address the original post, Dunhill was a master of marketing hyperbole very early on in the game. To that end, oil-curing does have merit as a process, as does well-aged briar. To delve into the mechanics of wood, one must realise it's a substance that is always alive--it is hygromorphic, which means that it changes its shape on the cellular level in response to atmospheric conditions (moisture, pressure, and heat). From a woodworking perspective, well-aged wood is a must; the requirements for different woods and applications vary greatly. Wood for construction purposes is often kiln-dried, cased or even used "green"--think how many times you've seen 2x4s that looked like a wet noodle at your local lumber yard. Furniture grade wood is ideally at an 8-12% RH (dependent upon species), and slow-cured, being dried and re-wetted over many years in a controlled manner--I've gone out of my way to source cyprus that was nearly 100 years old, for example, but figure 8-15 years for high grade examples (think Ethan Allen and above). I've done work for Roman Thomas (we made some of the president's office furniture) using 80 year old "true" mahogany. Burl wood is admittedly something I know woefully little of, aside from the basics of candling, or selection. Burl, owing to its nature of being tightly-packed and non-linear grain, really does take decades to properly cure, to come to reasonable equilibrium with the environment. Add to that the end-user requirements of being constantly exposed to extremes of heat and moisture, while maintaining structural integrity. The logic of oil-curing to release tannin and moisture makes sense to me, but is it better? I can't say definitively, and I doubt anyone really could other than owing to their personal preference.

    Now, that being said, I think the ultimate consideration comes down to how the manufacturer, be it artisan or factory, utilizes that piece of wood, and how its displayed. Wcannoy makes the case for pricing, and it's spot on. Dunhill's greatest advantage is volume and history--and yes, they can afford to sit on thousands of blocks for decades. I recall reading somewhere (and take this with a grain of salt til I can cite the source) that during the period they were absorbing many smaller manufacturers they acquired vast tons of aged briar. Also consider that for an artisan to keep food in the pantry, the cost of living at the point of origin is a serious factor.

    Take as an example Paolo Becker or Ser Jacopo, two marques that in my opinion exhibit the highest attention to actually using the wood to best effect. Grain patterns are always thoughtfully aligned, shaping is always deliberate, if sometimes a bit extraordinary, and draught mechanics are always dead on. The end result is a pipe that is always (let's give them the benefit of 99.5% of the time) a good smoker. Paolo particularly excels with briar and in his experiments with other material, to note bog oak (or morta) and strawberry wood, which he has pioneered. Is it worth paying the going rate for these pipes? I consider them a bargain.

    However, this is just my two cents' worth, and if the going gets tough I might have to ask you for that two cents back some day.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  52. wcannoy

    Walt Cannoy

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    Burl, owing to its nature of being tightly-packed and non-linear grain, really does take decades to properly cure, to come to reasonable equilibrium with the environment.

    Let's not confuse what is commonly considered burl wood, that is abnormal growths on the trunks of trees, with briar burl, a normal formation of the root system of erica arborea. The grain of a briar burl is much more uniform and linear, or rather radial, than other common burl woods, and its composition as a functional part of the root system lends itself to curing relatively quickly. Add that to the fact that the wood is cut into blocks that average only a couple of inches wide in all directions, and...

    Well, I'm sorry, I've got to let the cat out of the bag...

    Pertaining specificaly to cut blocks of briar burl, after about twenty-four months of sitting aroung curing, the law of diminishing returns begins to set in. There is no appreciable difference between briar blocks that have been curing for two years and those that have been curing for twenty years. I know it's a hard pill to swallow, especially for those who swear by their old briar. Boy the emperor sure loves his new clothes!

    I've seen pipemakers brag about the lot of tightly grained briar that just arrived from the mill. A week later, they are bragging over photos of the beautiful straight grained pipes that the lot is yielding. Another week or two, and their satisfied customers are bragging about how well those new $500 pipes smoke. And you know what? They really do smoke well.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  53. sasquatch

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    That's because it's not inferior Baltic (or even worse North Sea) Briar.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  54. wcannoy

    Walt Cannoy

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    That's because it's not inferior Baltic (or even worse North Sea) Briar.

    SAS, don't make me come over there!

    Posted 1 year ago #
  55. romeowood

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    Thank you for the edification, wcannoy-- my experience is solely from the use of burl as pertains to furniture use and the like. I did haggle for a piece of pink ivory burl one time, and I know it was 20+ years before I got my paws on it--and it still needed plenty of curing afterward. Do you know if briar is apportioned into blocks immediately after harvest, or after an initial cure? In other words, is it the blocks that are aged or the entire burl and then the blocks?

    Posted 1 year ago #
  56. sasquatch

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    It's harvested, kept wet, brought to the cutters, cut into blocks, then boiled, then dried (some) then shipped.

    Lookee here:

    http://acutabovebriar4.blogspot.ca/p/raw-materials-and-processing.html

    Posted 1 year ago #
  57. sasquatch

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    PS Walt does this mean the deal we struck on the Dead Root North Sea blocks is off? I can't let them go for a penny less.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  58. wcannoy

    Walt Cannoy

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    It's harvested, kept wet, brought to the cutters, cut into blocks, then boiled, then dried (some) then shipped.

    Lookee here:

    http://acutabovebriar4.blogspot.ca/p/raw-materials-and-processing.html

    Yep. Everything on this page is consistent with all the mills I know of. Some of them cut right away, some store the burls under burlap and wet them regularly until cutting. The blocks are boiled thoroughly, and allowed to dry/cure (that page stated six months, longer for some cutters), all before they even leave the mill!

    PS Walt does this mean the deal we struck on the Dead Root North Sea blocks is off? I can't let them go for a penny less.

    Heck, the "Dead Root North Sea" blocks are worth their weight in gold for the romanticised marketing blurb alone! Throw in some "petrified bog oak" and "fossilized siberian mammoth ivory" and we're good to go!

    Posted 1 year ago #
  59. cigrmaster

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    pitchfork, I list Rad as my favorite for a few reasons:
    1.Never need a pipe cleaner to soak up moisture
    2. Lightweight pipes that are good sized bowls i.e group 5 bowls that weigh in the 40 gram range.
    3. Most comfortable stems I have ever owned
    4. Through the design of the pipes, these things smoke themselves practically. Wide open airways and it makes the tobacco taste great.
    5. Ease of break in. I have never had pipes that broke in this easily.

    In regards to other favorites, all of my American artisan pipes smoke better for me than any other of the artisans mentioned, and they are extremely close to my Rads. I rate the Rad's a touch higher because of the stem work and his ability to make a light pipe. All of my American pipes never need a pipe cleaner for excess moisture, that is a big thing for me especially because I live in the humidity of Florida. All of these other American pipes smoke cool and dry and are very comfortable, the stem work these guys are doing is awesome.

    In terms of the other artisans I would rate Former next then Barbi. Both made great pipes and I enjoyed smoking them.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  60. pitchfork

    pitchfork

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    Thanks very lots, Harris. That sums things up nicely. I've been keeping my powder dry for a while now (and just sold some pipes from my collection), so maybe it's time to look for my first pipe from Rad.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  61. cigrmaster

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    pitchfork, my pleasure. I know you will enjoy a pipe from Rad.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  62. pruss

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    I'm necrobumping this thread. Don't tell my wife.

    I've been chatting with some of you, and others, about the impact of the age of the briar on the finished smoking qualities of the pipe. It's a good thing I'm social and enjoy real dialogue, because it looks like many of you covered this turf last year.

    Thanks to all the posters above (Walt, Sasquatch and Romeowood in particular) for your thoughts.

    Here is what I'm taking away from the dialogue...
    1) Age of the burl at time of harvest will have impact on burl size, and also grain formation, but environmental factors will have as much impact on grain formation and hardness of the burl.
    2) Age of the block after harvest, curing, blocking and drying is really limited to a couple of years (Thanks for spelling that out for me Walt).
    3) Age of the burl, method of curing and time spent drying all impact the finished smoking qualities of the pipe but smoking quality is equally influenced by drilling & engineering.

    I've spoken to friends, recently, who are on the hunt for early 20th century Dunhill, Comoy, Sasieni and Barling pipes in the hopes to being able to discern/explore the difference in 'aged briar' versus the 'green briar' being used today. I hunt those pipes too, but unless they are NOS I'm going to suggest that the century(ish) of use will have as great an impact on smoking quality as the age of the briar, curing and drying ever did...

    Further, that given everything listed above buying a high grade pipe made yesterday by a respected artisan carver will return the same potential for a high quality smoking experience as did the new purchase of a Barling in 1914.

    $0.05 in the bucket.

    -- Pat


    If this is coffee, then please-bring me some tea. But if this is tea, please bring me some coffee.
    ~Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)
    Posted 1 month ago #
  63. User has not uploaded an avatar

    gigger48

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    In summary, buy from a maker that you trust and get rid of the pipes that you don't like. Reputation is based on performance. When carvers such as Teddy Knudsen travel to Italy to handpick their briar, they are stating that there are quality differences. Chonowitsch used to say that one third of his briar became firewood because of imperfections, and he bought the most expensive briar available. I cannot distinguish between Sardinian and Calabrian briar but sometimes can recognize Grecian briar as I smoke. Whoever does the curing is a very important person in the process. Logically, Spanu, who harvests his own briar on his own land, would seem to have an advantage. I can tell you that his pipes are rock hard and smoke very well.

    Posted 1 month ago #
  64. mso489

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    Occasionally in a mid-level pipe, most of my stable, I have encountered what seems to be a high
    grade briar. A Johs handmade blast Dublin and a machine made Britainnia both have notably
    lightweight briar that seems better/longer cured that most of what I encounter. It's something to
    consider when shopping for pipes below the pricier level.

    Posted 1 month ago #
  65. huntertrw

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    Regarding oil-curing of briar, below is a link to United States Patent No. 1,341,418 filed by Alfred Dunhill on October 14, 1918, and granted on May 25, 1920. It describes his curing process, and may be of interest to some of you.

    United States Patent No. 1,341,418

    Posted 1 month ago #
  66. zack24

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    I cannot distinguish between Sardinian and Calabrian briar but sometimes can recognize Grecian briar as I smoke.

    I'm not sure anyone can...The problem is that most cutters in the Med buy burls from a variety of sources depending on availability and price. I only use Calabrian briar- comes from a 3rd generation cutter who only uses briar from that region. Greta and I were fortunate enough to spend a couple of nights with him and his family last summer...and those relationships really do make a difference in the quality of the wood you get. The other key to dealing with many of the cutters is if you don't speak Italian, you have a tough time doing business with them....- (I can only order drinks and flirt in Italian, fortunately, Greta is fluent).

    Posted 1 month ago #
  67. sablebrush52

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    What a terrific and illuminating thread! One of the things that I noticed is the confusion about maker's statements concerning the use of "100 year old" briar. The age didn't refer to seasoning. That was a matter of a few years. Nor did it refer to length of storage. All these stories about companies deliberately sitting on raw stock for 50-60 years as a normal part of the manufacturing process are just stories.

    The age claim referred to the assumed length of time that the tumor was growing in the ground before being harvested. So when you're looking for 100 year old briar, buying a pipe made in 1914 is beside the point. It's nothing to do with when the pipe was made. It's about how long the wood was growing in the ground before it was harvested. Once it's out of the ground, that's it. Done. Finito. It ain't gonna grow no more, no more. From there on it's about processing what is there. BTW, Barling did not claim to use 100 year old, or older, wood. They stated that the particular wood that they harvested for use was at its best from between 80 and 120 years of age.
    Rainer Barbi wrote that superannuated briar was actually useless for making pipes because it's capillary system would have shrunk, reducing it's heat dispersion capability. He favored briar that had been growing for 35-60 years.

    It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt. - Mark Twain
    Posted 1 month ago #

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