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Briar Age and Pipe Age

Discussion in 'Pipes' started by Pipe Matt, Jul 1, 2013.

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  1. Pipe Matt

    Pipe Matt Member

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    My wife recently bought me a new Zavvos pipe which, according to the eBay listing, was made between 1979 and 1982. It's a new pipe; never been used. I was wondering, would the briar on that pipe have benefited much from the past 30 years or so? I know it's good to age briar blocks before they're made into a pipe, but what about after the pipe is made? Does the briar on a finished pipe still improve with age?

    Thanks. :)
     


  2. furious

    furious Junque collector

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    IMHO yes. I think that the longer it can season, the better it can become. That goes for all briar whether it is a finished piece or a rough block. And I think that pipes generally improve with age, even the not so great ones.
     
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  3. Terry292

    Terry292 Member

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    That's sort of like asking a theologian how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. I've heard arguments on both sides, and, while I'm listening to one side, I agree wholeheartedly with their conclusions. Then, I listen to the other side and am equally convinced they're right. If pinned down to a definitive stance, however, I'd have to say, I don't think the briar improves that much after the pipe is finished. While the pipe isn't actually sealed, it has had some sort of treatment which probably impedes the aging process. On the other hand, older is always better, in my opinion, so maybe I'm totally off-base.

    Have I confused you enough, yet? I think I'll stop while I'm still behind and let wiser, saner heads prevail.
     
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  4. Russell Hartman

    Russell Hartman Stay Silver

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    First and foremost I am NO expert on briar. However I had asked that question to a local pipe maker and he stated that when he has briar blocks just laying around--he doesn't oil cure, nor force the issue in kilns or equipment to expedite the drying process--he just lets them sit for as he says--a long time. From there they become pipes. How long those pipes sit prior to smoking is anyones guess. Again however he talked about the ambient humidity and such where the pipe may be at for storage. It is my opinion that thinking on this that as long as the pipes brair bowl is not totally sealed up with laquer and such--it can breath--thats important.
    A piece of briar may perhaps continue to dry to the ambient humidity around it--depends where its at. That being saida pipe that lets say had been oil cured--Dunhill, Ashton etc. that has never been smoked has had a process to try and boil out tannins and such and left to dry and then turned into a pipe. How much more moisture ANY briar could soak up or disipate along the way--well again I think it would depend on ambient air humidity? Also if the briar bowl is of such character--lets say the carver rushes the process--block was not properly cured to begin with--saps, tannins or oils if you will were not all extracted before hand---that I don't think would leave the briar like moisture( I do not know for sure about this--just my guess & opinion--NOT FACT).
    I as any always relish in getting pipes that are of the early 1900 & up that were never smoked. I have a few like that--that are brand new and were never smoked. They are currently over 30 years old and I cherish them as back up pipes and most likely will be gifts to VERY special people in years to come.
    ANYWHO---I am hoping some of our more expert folks chime in on this subject as we have some great carvers that are on PSF.
    I'm sure they can offer up real factual insight on this question. I only know what one carver told me and he says age can't hurt an unsmoked pipe thats been laying around--he chuckled and stated that when one finds a pipe like that it needs to be smoked and enjoyed--after all thats what the original carver/maker had in mind to begin with.
     
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  5. BAMAFAN

    BAMAFAN Member

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    The briar used for the more expensive pipes has usually been cured (heat, air, oil, etc.) before the pipe is made. This usually takes a few years. The briar used for the less expensive pipes usually has not been cured (or at most cured very little), it is just dried out a little and then made into pipes. So the expensive pipes would probably not benefit very much from more curing but the less expensive pipes would definitely benefit from additional curing (letting it set on the shelf for a few years). To keep from having a lot of invetory on their shelves (money tied up) pipe manufacturers make and sell the pipes with the un-cured briar.
     
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  6. Sasquatch

    Sasquatch Sales Account

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    I had the good fortune to buy an unsmoked WW2 vintage pipe, and it smokes great. I would compare it favorably to the briar that Zavvos sells, and I believe his claims about the age of his wood. It is uniformally a sort of copper/brown color, there's no variation in the moisture through the block.... (though there is moisture, always, in any block of wood).

    You can take an excellent old piece of briar and build a god-awful pipe from it though. If the drilling and stem work are inferior, the pipe will never perform well. The basic physics requirements of pipe-building must still be satisfied. When you do this and use a nice old piece of wood, the results are stellar for sure.

    Now, the other side of the argument. I've bought briar from a cutter which about 6 months old and dripping wet. Cut a stummel, let it dry enough so that if I put a stem on it the thing might still fit the next day (shrinks as it dries), and basically fired the pipe up immediately after that - as fresh as you could imagine. The result? Perfectly decent smoker.

    Old briar seems to move a little less with humidity changes than new wood, it's like it's sort of crusty and locked in position or something. But in terms of smoking... I'm just as happy with well boiled "fresh" briar as anything else. I have the ability to buy from almost anyone in the world, and where I get my wood now is a cutter who is friendly, who cares to send me nice looking blocks, and whose briar basically tastes like nothing at all. My relationship with him is more important than whether the wood is 6 months or 50 years aged. Other guys might not agree, but that's where I'm at.
     
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  7. SouthBound

    SouthBound Active Member

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    Aw, what the hell do you know, anyway?
     
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  8. Sasquatch

    Sasquatch Sales Account

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    Depends who you ask. Don't ask Mrs Squatch.
     
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  9. jpberg

    jpberg Moderator Moderator

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    Some people get "old wood" religion, and that's fine, but I fear I must be a Squatch shill, and agree. The wood, whether it be cured (by whatever means) for 5 minutes or 50 years has to get turned into a pipe by somebody.

    My only half arsed answer to the OP would be that it sure hasn't gotten any worse with age.
     
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  10. DGErwin11

    DGErwin11 Moderator Moderator

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    I don't know nuthin. I just buy briar from whomever the big footed pipe guru tells me to.
     
  11. Pipe Matt

    Pipe Matt Member

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    Thanks guys. :)
     
  12. ruffinogold

    ruffinogold Ruffinogold-Mayor, I.R.G.E.--At Large. Mayor

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    I'm not sure what process would hamper aging , as has been said . Keep in mind that before a pipe maker gets a block , that it's cured out a lot by whatever company the maker gets his briar from overseas . From the maker , the briar can be cured from air [ so air cant hurt if it's been sitting unless in was in a super humid environment ] , oil etc .... If it's been sitting , it cant hurt .
     
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  13. Malcontent

    Malcontent Active Member

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    I have a few questions for the briar gurus: In wood working, boiled linseed oil and tung oil are frequently used. Tung oil, in particular, polymerizes over time and gives a fairly water resistant property to the wood. What type of oil is used when boiling briar? Is the purpose of boiling briar just to drive off the moisture and replace it with oil? Or is it just to slow down the drying of the briar so that it doesn't check or split? Is the oil volatile enough to evaporate over time after boiling? Maybe the builder of our wonderful POYs, Bill, would be able to answer some of these questions.
     
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  14. ruffinogold

    ruffinogold Ruffinogold-Mayor, I.R.G.E.--At Large. Mayor

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    I think , in general , any oil curing is done by the pipe maker or pipe making company . The briar suppliers boil the briar in order to get out tannins , that if they didn't , you wouldn't like to smoke the pipe cause the tannins are a bitch
     
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  15. BAMAFAN

    BAMAFAN Member

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    Right, as the oil evaporates from the briar it takes the tannins and other undesirable stuff with it. This shortens the curing time.
     
  16. ruffinogold

    ruffinogold Ruffinogold-Mayor, I.R.G.E.--At Large. Mayor

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    It might be a different oil , actually I don't remember what the suppliers boil the briar in .. but if they use oil , then why would makers oil cure their briar and why wouldn't all briar be oil cured , thus making oil cured not such a rare thing , which it is always said to be . If so , it's probably a different kind of oil used in the removal of tannins ... or hell , it could be a majority water if theyre boiling . I'd have to reread my bookmarks cause I don't remember
     
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  17. ruffinogold

    ruffinogold Ruffinogold-Mayor, I.R.G.E.--At Large. Mayor

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    I'm thinking they use water or mostly water ... I only say this cause I'm getting a picture of a video I watched of a harvesting / curing company in Italy, and from what I see in my head , it looked like water . Water eveaporates faster than any oil , though not as fast as a solvent [ which would not be used for sure ] .. but I think the video showed the water after they had boiled the briar to show the color change and whatnot . I don't trust my brain 100 % though ... as it's pretty scary in there
     
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  18. Sasquatch

    Sasquatch Sales Account

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    I think the oil cure pushes water out of the stummel, replaces it with oil, and kind of hardens the whole pipe off. In the experimenting I did, I could not find any residue "in" the leftover oil or exudate... what came out of the stummels was identical to the oil that went in. So I think the boil (in water) is doing the cleaning.

    Here's the dunhill patent:

    http://www.folloder.com/pdf/1341418.pdf
     
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