Grain Orientation?

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toobfreak

Preferred Member
Dec 19, 2016
1,365
1
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.

 

chasingembers

Preferred Member
Nov 12, 2014
21,527
15,702
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


 

clickklick

Preferred Member
May 5, 2014
1,662
27
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.

 

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alexnorth

Preferred Member
Apr 7, 2015
602
0
To me it seems like it might make a minor difference but I'd think that Briar quality and curing plays a bigger role.

 

sablebrush52

Preferred Member
Jun 15, 2013
10,894
4,915
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.

 

mso489

Preferred Member
Feb 21, 2013
30,097
11,231
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.

 

pipestud

Preferred Member
Dec 6, 2012
1,869
716
Robinson, TX.
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.

 

sasquatch

Preferred Member
Jul 16, 2012
1,081
315
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.

 

chasingembers

Preferred Member
Nov 12, 2014
21,527
15,702
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

 

mayfair70

Preferred Member
Sep 14, 2015
1,968
0
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. :twisted: :rofl:

 

saltedplug

Preferred Member
Aug 20, 2013
3,322
606
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.

 

saltedplug

Preferred Member
Aug 20, 2013
3,322
606
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.

 

sasquatch

Preferred Member
Jul 16, 2012
1,081
315
Sure, technique is one of the biggest factors in pipe smoking, and enjoying any given pipe.

 

sablebrush52

Preferred Member
Jun 15, 2013
10,894
4,915
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

 

mawnansmiff

Preferred Member
Oct 14, 2015
5,210
945
Sunny Cornwall, UK.
"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 :puffy:
Regards,
Jay.

 

jpmcwjr

Preferred Member
May 12, 2015
16,344
7,044
Monterey Peninsula
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!!

 

mawnansmiff

Preferred Member
Oct 14, 2015
5,210
945
Sunny Cornwall, UK.
"But anything for science!!"
The forum owes you so much John, what an adventurous chap you are :clap:
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 :crazy:
Regards,
Jay.

 

jpmcwjr

Preferred Member
May 12, 2015
16,344
7,044
Monterey Peninsula
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!

 
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