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Still another little thought to ponder about briar vs. engineering.

Discussion in 'Pipes' started by Russell Hartman, Nov 8, 2012.

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  1. Russell Hartman

    Russell Hartman Stay Silver

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    Another thought---you know folks who will tell you that one must have that special pipe--you know the one---made out of that mysterious mega year old briar that perhaps doesn't exist. My questionis a simple one to debate. Do you feel that the age of the briar along with good engineering is a great attribute. Lets just say--the carver has taken care of the briar block--its been properly cured, and such. NOW granted I know quality briar, and quality engineering go hand in hand, BUT----what say you on the idea of aged briar verses engineering-----just another though to ponder, and debate.
     
  2. jpberg

    jpberg Moderator Moderator

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    My short answer is a poorly engineered pipe is a poor pipe, regardless of the briar. My longer answer will have to wait, but suffice to say that if you have good engineering and execution, the characteristics of the briar will make additional positive or negative differences.
     
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  3. N3M0

    N3M0 Active Member

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    I second both jpberg's short and "long" (but still short) answer.

    Bad engineer = bad pipe period, regardless of what's it's made of IMHO.

    Exceptional engineering is just that much more exceptional with exceptional material.
     
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  4. Sasquatch

    Sasquatch Sales Account

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    As far as I can tell, really old briar smokes a little differently than super fresh stuff. But I've also cut pipes from wood that was REALLY fresh, relatively speaking, and had guys with good solid collections say that the pipe performed brilliantly, so I think I'll lean on the quality of the block/quality of the boil/cure over outright age.
     
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  5. furious

    furious Junque collector

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    I have been thinking about this for a long time. I notice many subtle differences when smoking old growth briar--whether it be from Barling, Dunhill, Sasieni, what have you. So, I would say the age of the block has something to do with it. And not just the age at curing--we must factor in all the years of further air curing as a finished pipe. Also, and perhaps more importantly, is the curing method itself. Barling air cured, Dunhill oil cured, Sasieni used convection ovens, etc. This, too, had significant impacts to taste. So there is one side of the coin.

    The other side is engineering. I have had several pipes with fairly poor airways and large tenon gaps smoke surprisingly well, but generally, if the engineering is off, the smoke will be less than optimal. The pipe may smoke ok or even fairly well, but it will never reach its full potential.
     
  6. Spillproof

    Spillproof Mostly Harmless Moderator

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    Well, I have carved "40-year dried" Algerian briar, and wet/green stuff from Greece.

    The 40-Year Dried Algerian briar was dry. It was also crap (full of fissures and boogers).

    The wet/green stuff from Greece dried eventually, and was lovely.


    Now maybe it's the fools that I give the pipes, but no one has said "This is the worst tasting POS I've ever smoked" about the new stuff, or conversely, exclaimed the unprecedented virtues of the "old" stuff.

    The pipes I make are pre-drilled by pro's, with some modifications by me, but are more similar than different regarding mechanics.

    So...
    ???
     
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  7. BradNTX

    BradNTX Well-Known Member

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    It makes sense that an aged piece of wood will have less oils or sap that influence tobacco taste. The question to me is, at what point is aging optimal, and when is it just persona? Is there any benefit to aging a block 20 years verses 7, or 5 years?

    Otherwise, I agree with Todd's point- Engineering is king. An off drill airway that results in gurgles is a terrible thing.
     
  8. Sasquatch

    Sasquatch Sales Account

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    It "makes sense" on one hand, and on the other, it totally doesn't. Where to these oils and tannins etc go? God, briar just doesn't let things move through it like "normal" wood. The wood will surface oxydize, and brown up, like many woods (cherry for example). But it's not like it's leaking vast quantities of toxic fumes into the air or something. So I kinda don't "get it" as regards what having a block sit for 20 years is supposed to do.

    And the truth is, no pipe company ever did. The specify "50 to 100 year old briar" and all that means, all it's EVER meant, is that the plant it got cut from was 50 to 100 years. Ask a cutter about that, and they say "Sure. Of course. The plant isn't big enough until then to get pipes from, so of course we cut the older plants." No pipe manufacturer has ever sat on briar blocks for 50 years before cutting them.

    I'll take a good boil, and a nice slow dry (so the block doesn't crack) over some random "old" briar that I know nothing about.


    All that said, the stuff I buy out of greece that IS very old, is very nice smoking wood. :beck:
     
  9. cigrmaster

    cigrmaster Member

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    You need great briar and great craftsmanship to make a great pipe. If the briar is great but the craftsmanship is no good, then the pipe will suck. I had a pipe where the airway was too small and the pipe smoked like crap. I took a drill bit and opened it up and now it smokes great. It didn't matter how good the briar was and I would have never known if was any good unless I opened it up. Now conversely if the briar is for crap, no amount of craftsmanship will make it a great smoker. I think that many people unfortunately start with a basket pipe made from crap briar and their first experience is not a good one because of this.
     
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