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Jan 1, 2021
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Hello, I am new to the forums and this is my first post. I made this pipe for my dad for Christmas. It was the first pipe I’ve made. I used briar for the bowl and acrylic for the stem. He has smoked it a few times and has enjoyed it thus far. I’m not a big pipe smoker and neither is he so we don’t really know how good (or bad) I did. Any how, I have a few questions. My dad makes custom knives, and I turn custom pens. Our unique thing we like to do is use historical woods. For instance, we’ve used wood from trees planted by George Washington. I know it would be highly dependent on the type of tree, but how would it be best to use this in a pipe, or would it be better to not use it at all? I was thinking mainly of using these woods as stems and sticking to briar bowls. Which leads me to my next question, what materials can be used for stems? I saw a post on Reddit saying that acrylic and vulcanite are generally the only materials used as tobacco pipe stems. I would like to use woods, as well as some horns or bones. Is there any problem with these materials?78BF7AB9-D069-4038-81F6-63224E9EFACA.jpeg
 

olkofri

Lifer
Sep 9, 2017
8,045
14,665
The Arm of Orion
There are some problems. Some woods are toxic. Wooden stems can also impart unpleasant flavours to the smoke. I've a pipe with a wooden stem and it has always tasted of burnt wood, and it IS the stem that is the culprit. I'd stick with acrylic or vulcanite; though you can also use horn.
 
Jan 1, 2021
3
0
There are some problems. Some woods are toxic. Wooden stems can also impart unpleasant flavours to the smoke. I've a pipe with a wooden stem and it has always tasted of burnt wood, and it IS the stem that is the culprit. I'd stick with acrylic or vulcanite; though you can also use horn.
Thanks for the info. Out of curiosity, what type of wood was used as the stem of that pipe?
 

mso489

Lifer
Feb 21, 2013
41,210
60,454
For durability and comfort, I'd stick with tried and true materials for stems that you stick in your mouth -- vulcanite/ebonite, acrylic, horn. My go-to home state pipe carver, Jerry Perry, Colfax, N.C., carves pipes out of Mountain Laurel, which works well; it doesn't have the grain of briar, but in most other respects, it is as good. He also works in briar and maple, and I have one of his pipes in cocobolo, though the actual carving is problematical for the respiratory irritant of the dust -- for smoking, it seems fine. Unfortunately, he is only present online as a pipe repairman. To buy his pipes, you have to attend the TAPS pipe show in April at the N.C. Fairgrounds in Raleigh, N.C., or the fair itself in October. Both the fair and pipe show are in limbo pending the suppression of Covid. That's a really inspired gift for your dad, highly distinctive.
 
Jan 1, 2021
3
0
For durability and comfort, I'd stick with tried and true materials for stems that you stick in your mouth -- vulcanite/ebonite, acrylic, horn. My go-to home state pipe carver, Jerry Perry, Colfax, N.C., carves pipes out of Mountain Laurel, which works well; it doesn't have the grain of briar, but in most other respects, it is as good. He also works in briar and maple, and I have one of his pipes in cocobolo, though the actual carving is problematical for the respiratory irritant of the dust -- for smoking, it seems fine. Unfortunately, he is only present online as a pipe repairman. To buy his pipes, you have to attend the TAPS pipe show in April at the N.C. Fairgrounds in Raleigh, N.C., or the fair itself in October. Both the fair and pipe show are in limbo pending the suppression of Covid. That's a really inspired gift for your dad, highly distinctive.
Thanks. When you say comfort do you mean comfort in the mouth or is it along the lines of taste? My main concern was that the wood stem would change the taste of the pipe tobacco. Thanks for the advice on the guy in NC. It may be worth the drive to visit that pipe show.
 

sablebrush52

The Bard Of Barlings
Jun 15, 2013
19,747
45,281
Southern Oregon
jrs457.wixsite.com
Both Kaywoodie and Barling made all wood pipes. I expect others have done so as well. the wood used for the stems was briar. Horn and bone have also been used for stems. I don't know which kind specifically.
 

FurCoat

Lifer
Sep 21, 2020
8,911
80,247
North Carolina
Vermont Freehand sells many stems in an asortment of shapes, sizes, colors and material. I would probably stay away from Bakelite as working with this material may be toxic.
 
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olkofri

Lifer
Sep 9, 2017
8,045
14,665
The Arm of Orion
Thanks for the info. Out of curiosity, what type of wood was used as the stem of that pipe?
Briar! :oops:

Yeah, colour me surprised too.

Vauen makes churchwardens with wooden stems, but they're lined with acrylic. Or would that be acrylic stems covered with briar? ? Still, when a major manufacturer has such a manufacturing procedure, you can tell the issue of wood interfering with the flavour is a real one.

Also, and this may also be a reason Vauen does what it does, a smooth bore is easier to clean and it doesn't splinter: it can even be washed. Yeah, with water in the sink.
 

olkofri

Lifer
Sep 9, 2017
8,045
14,665
The Arm of Orion
Thanks. When you say comfort do you mean comfort in the mouth or is it along the lines of taste? My main concern was that the wood stem would change the taste of the pipe tobacco. Thanks for the advice on the guy in NC. It may be worth the drive to visit that pipe show.
Well, I'm not MSO nor am I speaking for him, but since you ask I will add this: comfort in the mouth normally relates to clenchability and durability (i.e. resistance against tooth marks and/or being bitten through). It might also relate to agreeability with the mucosae of lips and mouth: I've noticed that whenever I smoke that churchwarden with the wooden stem I end up with a mild irritation of the lips, which is, well, irritating (pun intended).
 

shermnatman

Lifer
Jan 25, 2019
1,030
4,862
Philadelphia Suburbs, Pennsylvania
One thing's sure:

Neither the Native Americans, ancient Egyptians, Chinese, and Turks, nor any of the rest, had access to modern mass-production materials, such as: vulcanite, acrylic, et al.

I suppose since even Moses pre-dates Baklite, he too was forced to used the natural materials available to him; perhaps something like a ram's horn for the whole pipe, or a hollow reed stuck into a hunk of cypress - who knows?

If I knew about woods in general - which I do not - I would find it fascinating to research - with the aid of the on-staff knowledgeable academics who are learned in cultural anthropology - at my nearest museum, and learn from them exactly what all the original 'Olde Gaurd' from around the world used in their pipe-making endeavors throughout history; and start my research into material selection there.

But hey, I'm geeky like that. - Sherm Natman

Oh, and Tanner... Welcome to the Forum!
 
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ashdigger

Lifer
Jul 30, 2016
11,381
70,076
60
Vegas Baby!!!
Vermont Freehand sells many stems in an asortment of shapes, sizes, colors and material. I would probably stay away from Bakelite as working with this material may be toxic.
I have plenty of pipes with Bakelite stems. There are some reported issues with old (early 1900’s) rods but not newer stock.

It’s like my asbestos pipe, what can be wrong with that? ?
 
May 3, 2010
6,427
1,476
Las Vegas, NV
I really like Bakelite because of the unique colors it can come in.

Typically most carvers use black ebonite/vulcanite stems on their pipes. They're the most comfortable when clenching if you ask most long time pipe smokers.

I have an Old Dominion cob that has a wooden dowel as a stem. I don't smoke it too often. Can't recall if it imparted a different flavor or not. I do recall it wasn't as comfortable as the ebonite/vulcanite/acrylic/Bakelite which is why I haven't smoked it too often.
 

sasquatch

Lifer
Jul 16, 2012
1,687
2,880
The "why vulcanite" or "why acrylic" question is answered exactly the same as "why briar" and the answer is, it's the best if you value durability, comfort, and a certain look. If you don't, then many other things can stand in. But just as the miracle of the linoleum floor meant that housewives no longer had to care for hardwood... everything is at the expense of something else. Lots of these "hobbit" type pipes use ash stems. Reeds can also be used (often being already hollow inside). But if you are putting hours and hours into a pipe to try to make something nice and sell it, don't re-invent the wheel, would be my advice. There IS a market for historical replicas, clays, all kinds of stuff. But joe pipe smoker generally is happy with a very ordinary setup, and joe pipesmoker buys lots of pipes.
 
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Chasing Embers

Captain of the Black Frigate
Nov 12, 2014
43,399
109,163
Oh, so not briar. Gotcha!

You know, I'm starting to think that my MacQueen's stem is also not briar, maybe ash. :cry:
I've never seen a briar block big enough to carve a stem larger that nine or ten inches.
 

Chasing Embers

Captain of the Black Frigate
Nov 12, 2014
43,399
109,163
No way any of those hobbit type pipes have briar stems. I have a block of briar 10" long, but I'm not cutting stems from it.
That's about as big a pre cut block as I've ever seen. Full burls used to be available but man they were expensive.
 

FurCoat

Lifer
Sep 21, 2020
8,911
80,247
North Carolina
I have plenty of pipes with Bakelite stems. There are some reported issues with old (early 1900’s) rods but not newer stock.

It’s like my asbestos pipe, what can be wrong with that? ?
I agree. My Albertson has a Bakelite and I smoke it regularly. I believe a dust mask would be prudent if someone was sanding on one to create a new stem. But hey, I'm old enough to have replaced my fair share of asbestos brake shoes and I seem to be fine. Banging the drum, blowing out the brakes and never a mask. A wonder some of us survived...lol.
 
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