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Thoughts on oil cured briar??????????

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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    The paper I read spoke of mineral, and or vegatable oil used to "steep" the briar in. Dunhill spoke of leaving the briar slightly rough to only "slightly" polished. It says how he believes this brings out the grain, or "acentuating"--or allows a stand out in relief thus giving it an elegant appearance. All without interfeing with the smoking qualities of the pipe. He then goes onto say he stored the blocks for a month, or so to allow the oil to be absorbed into the "fibers" of the wood. He spoke of "steeping" the blocks in olive oil for several weeks. He then applies heat(patent#2157 of 1918). He goes onto describe plugging, and heating, and such. I guess over all I wonder just how long this effect remains with the pipe after say smoking it for years----lets say you pick up an old estate from the 1940's---been laying around unkept in a old box in an attic---a person finds it--and says---lets clean this beast up, and smoke it. I just wonder if the oil curing verses a fella boiling, and such is any better than one chosen method. I printed out that patent application, but for the life of me cannot relocate the darn thing on the web to save my life.
     
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  2. Alan Dye

    Alan Dye Member

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    I have ferndowns, ashtons, and dunhills, all ostensibly oil cured. I also have a lot of hand carves that were not oil cured. IMHO the value of the oil cure is in the initial break-in period for the most part. It seems to mitigate the initial bitterness before you build cake. They tend to smoke great from day one. The others, require some breaking in, usually half a dozen smokes before things get good. Often, that first smoke in a new non-oil-cured pipe is, to me at least, unpleasant.

    On the non-cured ones, after the first smoke, I muddle the remaining ash with the tamper into a fine powder, and using my index finger while the pipe is still warm and damp, I work the ash into the sides and heel of the pipe as much as possible before blowing out the pipe and putting it in the rack. This seems to reduce the time it takes to build up enough cake to stop tasting wood.

    After about 6 times however, I start rolling a paper towel into a cigar shape and reaming out the ash after each smoke. It builds a very slow, very hard cake, that doesn't have to be ground out much. My theory on cake (probably fightin' words to some) is that it is overrated. Once you have enough ash in there to protect the briar, the rest is of little use.
     
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  3. Alan Dye

    Alan Dye Member

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    I suspect the majority of the oil curing is mineral oil. Vegetable based oils like olive tend to go rancid with time unless they have been denatured. This would not be a good thing in a pipe. Mineral oil can be many years old and still have no taste or smell, and is safe for human consumption. Once upon a time, it was considered a useful laxative.
    Haven't sat down and thought about my regularity post ferndown break-in... :startl:
     
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  4. Stonewall

    Stonewall Active Member

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    Three Wiley's and one Edwards. All smoke like a dream!
     
  5. afiaowo

    afiaowo Member

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    I've spoken with Randy Wiley who oils his graded pipes. He said the same thing as to the reason he oils. He apprenticed at a company that oiled their stuff. He also mentioned that the oiling process pushes the tannins out of the briar.
     
  6. Sasquatch

    Sasquatch Sales Account

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    Okay.

    I think.... I think I agree with just about everything everyone has said here. MY results were inconsistent. But the idea of oil curing is to render a TOTALLY consistent finish product - all pipes tasting and behaving the same.

    The idea is that you somehow replace some horrible tasting tannins/sap with something pleasant, or at least seal it away. I boiled a stummel in oil for about 6 hours once, and tasted the oil. It tasted like.... oil. No difference in color or taste that I could determine, so it wasn't leaching much out of the wood in that time. However, I buy blocks that are theoretically quite clean in this regard, having been boiled and dried once already.

    The taste in smoking is noticeable, at least for awhile. I kind of think that oil cured pipes maybe absorb a little less, act a little less like a filter, than an air-cured pipe. But that's truly about it. I have a Dunnie, a Wiley, and a Radice, and the Radice for outright smoking might be the best of 'em. And I have pipes that I know were not oil cured that I think out perform these, with certain blends.

    So I think at this stage of the game, it's a preference thing. Some guys work real hard at it and perfect a process that lends their pipes at the very least a slightly recognizeable flavor, if not outright gains in the smoking department. I wrecked some really nice stummels fooling around with it, and gave up. The identical process yielded one pipe that stunk, and another that was terrific.

    Radice gave it up - obviously people weren't flocking to the brand because of it, and you'd think that if it was THAT much better, people would drop "ordinary" pipes and get oil cured ones.

    I recently was looking at Ashtons and thinking "Huh, maybe I should grab one of these." and then I went and bought a Savinelli Autograph, cuz you give me that old Italian wood and I'll put it up against the oil-cure any day. If the Ashton were the shape of the Sav I bought..... I would have bought the Ashton.

    I just bought a 60 dollar pipe out of greece, and it was made 30 years ago. There's nothing fancy about it, no magic at all. Just a stem and a bowl, and it smokes crazy, crazy good, because the briar was treated correctly after it was cut, and then it sat awhile.

    So if it pleases you to purchase an oil cured pipe, or hunt down that unsmoked Dunhill from 1936.... God, go do it. This IS part of the fun! But don't be disappointed if it's just a pipe after all.
     
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  7. SouthBound

    SouthBound Active Member

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    To think of all the time and mental effort I've spent chasing that 1936 Dunhill.

    You dream wrecker!!!
     
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  8. Stonewall

    Stonewall Active Member

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    I'm not chasing anything anymore since I got an end table...
     
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  9. cigrmaster

    cigrmaster Member

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    I have an Ashton and 2 Ferndowns and honestly I could not say I tasted anything special in the beginning. In regards to their ease of breaking in, I did not see anything that would make me think oil curing helps in that process. In fact my new Rad Davis pipes with naked bowls broke in faster. Now that all of them have a nice cake and are smoking great, if someone blind folded me and ask me to pick out the oil cured pipes, I would fail miserably. I have read that people can pick out a nutty type flavor in the beginning, but that wears off after 30 or so bowls. It is definitely an interesting topic for discussion. I am sure there are old timers with vast experience with Ashtons and Dunhill's who could give much more detailed opinions. Someone go grab an old British guy at the pub and drag his ass in here so we can ask him questions.
     
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