"Seasoning" Unfinished, Factory Second Briar Pipes?

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Pazuzu93

Junior Member
Feb 16, 2020
98
169
Dallas, TX
EDIT: Fixed Capitalization in Title (See Rule 9) - Bob

Hi all,

I've been a cob smoker for a while. Recently got curious about briars, but didn't want to spend a ton. A seller on eBay sells unfinished, factory second briar pipes very cheaply. Figuring I could do any sanding/finishing work myself, and customize them to my preference, I ordered some.

They came rough and with small pits in the wood, which doesn't bother me. Sanded the bowl and the bit on one of them to a nice satin-smooth surface, applied some mineral oil to the outside of the briar, and once it dried, lit it up.

I packed it full of some year+-old Carter Hall, which seemed to have dried a bit. Tasted nice and sweet to begin with, but a third of the way through the bowl, I started getting ashy liquid coming up the stem, and it tasted horrible.

I assumed that the briar was dry enough, but now I'm thinking that it may need to be dried further, at a very low temp in the oven perhaps, so that it will become more absorbent. I have never had moisture problems like this in any of my cobs. Is it a wood-seasoning issue or a tobacco issue? Like I said though, the Carter Hall seemed drier than when I opened the pouch.

Expertise and expertise greatly appreciated.

(Photo shows the one I finished next to an identical, unfinished pipe)
 

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whsergent

Senior Member
Jan 8, 2020
379
1,266
Briar isnt very absorbent. The briar in those pipes may not be well cured, i think most pipe manufactuerers these days rely on coatings to hide flaws.

If i had those i would smoke about 5 or 6 half bowls to get a little cake started and then smoke as usual.

The first few bowls in a bare briar pipe can taste a little off so soldier on :)

A layer of cake will absorb some moisture and give you more optimal combustion conditions.

I have seen recommended that breaking in a briar pipe you start with half bowls, then "smoke the hell out of it" for about a week, let it rest a few days and then put it into your rotation. Presumably this sort of routine was the last step in curing the briar.
 
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Pazuzu93

Junior Member
Feb 16, 2020
98
169
Dallas, TX
Briar isnt very absorbent. The briar in those pipes may not be well cured, i think most pipe manufactuerers these days rely on coatings to hide flaws.

If i had those i would smoke about 5 or 6 half bowls to get a little cake started and then smoke as usual.

The first few bowls in a bare briar pipe can taste a little off so soldier on :)

A layer of cake will absorb some moisture and give you more optimal combustion conditions.

I have seen recommended that breaking in a briar pipe you start with half bowls, then "smoke the hell out of it" for about a week, let it rest a few days and then put it into your rotation. Presumably this sort of routine was the last step in curing the briar.
Sounds like a plan. As a noob in the realm of briar, it was a weird experience for me and left me wondering why I should even bother venturing away from cobs. But I like variety, so I'll stick with it. Thanks.
 

mso489

Preferred Member
Feb 21, 2013
29,434
8,880
I'm a bit puzzled. I have four or five pipes I bought new and unfinished with reasonably clear briar, sanded with no, or inconspicuous fills. These are Savinelli and Peterson pipes. The oldest have developed an absolutely inspiring deep walnut-stain-like finish, deep and resonant. The younger ones are coming along nicely and just look well used. Yours requiring sanding strike me as less complete in the sanding and smoothing department, and perhaps more raw in terms of aging the briar. I'd sand them and polish them, not adding any wax or liquid, and age them for a year or two, and see if they come along. Smoking color into an unfinished pipe is one of the great pleasures of the "hobby," and I hate to have you miss it by starting with the wrong briar. I hope the show gets back on the road for you and your pipes.
 

Pazuzu93

Junior Member
Feb 16, 2020
98
169
Dallas, TX
I'm a bit puzzled. I have four or five pipes I bought new and unfinished with reasonably clear briar, sanded with no, or inconspicuous fills. These are Savinelli and Peterson pipes. The oldest have developed an absolutely inspiring deep walnut-stain-like finish, deep and resonant. The younger ones are coming along nicely and just look well used. Yours requiring sanding strike me as less complete in the sanding and smoothing department, and perhaps more raw in terms of aging the briar. I'd sand them and polish them, not adding any wax or liquid, and age them for a year or two, and see if they come along. Smoking color into an unfinished pipe is one of the great pleasures of the "hobby," and I hate to have you miss it by starting with the wrong briar. I hope the show gets back on the road for you and your pipes.
That's what I was thinking - that the briar wasn't well dried or cured. Thought about putting them in an airtight container with a moisture absorber, or perhaps putting them in the oven at 100-120 degrees or so for a few hours to dry them out, without overheating the wood.

They are sold as raw seconds from an unknown factory, but seem pretty solid in terms of construction. Only flaws I can find are the pits. I plan on leaving at least one raw and just sanded and burnished, but no oil or wax. Might rusticate the most pitted one.

I just didn't expect to get such a wet smoke with dry tobacco, and I am not a clencher, so no saliva-down-the-stem issues.

Edited to fix an autocorrect-related spelling issue.
 

whsergent

Senior Member
Jan 8, 2020
379
1,266
That's what I was thinking - that the briar wasn't well dried or cured. Thought about putting them in an airtight container with a moisture absorber, or perhaps putting them in the oven at 100-120 degrees or so for a few hours to dry them out, without overheating the wood.

They are sold as raw seconds from an unknown factory, but seem pretty solid in terms of construction. Only flaws I can find are the pits. I plan on leaving at least one raw and just sanded and burnished, but no oil or wax. Might rusticate the most pitted one.

I just didn't expect to get such a wet smoke with dry tobacco, and I am not a clencher, so no saliva-down-the-stem issues.

Edited to fix an autocorrect-related spelling issue.
You would expose them to more heat just smoking them.
If you dont stain or sand them and just smoke them they will color nicely and then you can decide if you want to wax them to make them shiny.
 

anotherbob

Preferred Member
EDIT: Fixed Capitalization in Title (See Rule 9) - Bob

Hi all,

I've been a cob smoker for a while. Recently got curious about briars, but didn't want to spend a ton. A seller on eBay sells unfinished, factory second briar pipes very cheaply. Figuring I could do any sanding/finishing work myself, and customize them to my preference, I ordered some.

They came rough and with small pits in the wood, which doesn't bother me. Sanded the bowl and the bit on one of them to a nice satin-smooth surface, applied some mineral oil to the outside of the briar, and once it dried, lit it up.

I packed it full of some year+-old Carter Hall, which seemed to have dried a bit. Tasted nice and sweet to begin with, but a third of the way through the bowl, I started getting ashy liquid coming up the stem, and it tasted horrible.

I assumed that the briar was dry enough, but now I'm thinking that it may need to be dried further, at a very low temp in the oven perhaps, so that it will become more absorbent. I have never had moisture problems like this in any of my cobs. Is it a wood-seasoning issue or a tobacco issue? Like I said though, the Carter Hall seemed drier than when I opened the pouch.

Expertise and expertise greatly appreciated.

(Photo shows the one I finished next to an identical, unfinished pipe)
first thought yeah that sounds like what happens when you go from cobs to briar. Briar smokes wetter and hotter compared to cobs. I can get that "ashy liquid" by not running a pipe cleaner through the briar every once in a few smokes.
 

ThreeRivers

New member
Feb 15, 2020
10
27
42
N Florida
Sounds like you have one of the French briar seconds from the 60s-70s. I bought a few some years back from a seller in TX to use as beater pipes. Had the same issue of wet smokes until they had broken in and cured .

Charles
 

Pazuzu93

Junior Member
Feb 16, 2020
98
169
Dallas, TX
Sounds like you have one of the French briar seconds from the 60s-70s. I bought a few some years back from a seller in TX to use as beater pipes. Had the same issue of wet smokes until they had broken in and cured .

Charles
Yep, the guy ships from San Marcos. He claims that these are Italian (but personally I don't really care where they were made). Probably has several sources.

That'd be kinda cool if they're vintage make from the golden era of pipe smoking, though I would think the wood would be well-cured after a few decades of storage.

Looks like I'll have to smoke really dry stuff until I get a cake started. I knew that this sack of Smoker's Pride Rich Taste would come in handy.

Edit to fix an autocorrect issue.
 

Pazuzu93

Junior Member
Feb 16, 2020
98
169
Dallas, TX
first thought yeah that sounds like what happens when you go from cobs to briar. Briar smokes wetter and hotter compared to cobs. I can get that "ashy liquid" by not running a pipe cleaner through the briar every once in a few smokes.
Weird, man. I expected briar to be an objectively better smoke, the way it's hyped. Now I see that proper break-in, maintenance, and technique are required to achieve that.

Starting on cobs versus briar seems to be like learning to drive a automatic versus a manual, respectively.
 

ThreeRivers

New member
Feb 15, 2020
10
27
42
N Florida
Yep, the guy ships from San Marcos. He claims that these are Italian (but personally I don't really care where they were made). Probably has several sources.

That'd be kinda cool if they're vintage make from the golden era of pipe smoking, though I would think the wood would be well-cured after a few decades of storage.

Looks like I'll have to smoke really dry stuff until I get a cake started. I knew that this sack of Smoker's Pride Rich Taste would come in handy.

Even though these pipes are aged, they're still raw wood, so very porous. The unfinished pipes(savinelli, molina)I've seen, still had an outer finish of carnuba wax to seal them. And the break in dynamic between the two were very different. YMMV though.

Charles
 

jpmcwjr

Preferred Member
May 12, 2015
16,109
6,515
Monterey Peninsula
It's possible. I do have a fast cadence because I detest relighting more than once or twice, so I often make the mistake of puffing away to keep it burning.

It was smoking cool and sweet at first, and the toby was pretty dry,so I thought I'd be alright, but I guess I'll have to slow down and dry it more.
Sounds like a plan.

One tip: Don't leave mineral oil on "to dry". Wipe it right down. The wood will absorb a bit, and help color, but you don't want a build up of oils on the surface. At least, I don't!
 

Pazuzu93

Junior Member
Feb 16, 2020
98
169
Dallas, TX
Sounds like a plan.

One tip: Don't leave mineral oil on "to dry". Wipe it right down. The wood will absorb a bit, and help color, but you don't want a build up of oils on the surface. At least, I don't!
Good advice. I should clarify that I applied a very sparing amount and only let it soak in for 10 minutes or so before wiping it down.
 

anotherbob

Preferred Member
Weird, man. I expected briar to be an objectively better smoke, the way it's hyped. Now I see that proper break-in, maintenance, and technique are required to achieve that.

Starting on cobs versus briar seems to be like learning to drive a automatic versus a manual, respectively.
briars are great. But they're not like cobs precisely. And switching between the two can at first cause some confusion. Though a big part of what makes briar great is how durable it is compared to clay (including meer for the fun of it) or cobs. They take much more abuse. And they're great for smoking however cobs really are easier to handle at first.
 

Pazuzu93

Junior Member
Feb 16, 2020
98
169
Dallas, TX
I think I might have figured it out. I think part of the foul taste I'm getting might be butane from my shitty Bic lighter.
Bitter, acrid taste at first, which devolves into a gross metallic flavor like sucking on a dirty penny. Butane, or a tobacco related issue?
 

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