Selecting Your Pipe

Selecting your pipe is a very personal affair. The pipe must, first of all, fit your personality and character. It should also en­hance your appearance, and provide you with the comfort, con­fidence, and satisfaction to which every pipe smoker is entitled. When selecting a pipe, regard it as the old friend it will become, as something you will be living with for many years. Once you’ve decided on the pipe style that suits you best, you will want to make sure that the pipe is of good quality and cor­rectly priced. Judging the merits of a pipe requires a certain knowledge of pipe manufacture, a familiarity with briarwood, and a smattering of background in the economics of the pipe in­dustry. This chapter will serve as a general guide to briar pipe selec­tion. It is designed to help you choose a quality briar, and to tell you how much you should pay for it. It would also be a good idea to glance at Chapter Seven, “How Briar Pipes Are Made,” before actually choosing your pipe. FLAWS AND WHAT THEY MEAN To make certain that you get the best pipe for your money, select a reliable pipe dealer who sells the product of a well-known pipe-maker. In this way, you can be assured of a quality pipe, since the manufacturer’s reputation depends on the excellence of the pipe bearing his name. Because briar is a product of nature, imperfections occasion­ally occur in the burl. The skilled pipe maker eliminates or min­imizes such flaws, however, through careful selection of briar block and hand-finishing of the bowl. These minute imperfections in no way affect the smoking quality of the pipe, and painstaking hand-finishing makes the flaws invisible to the naked eye. Thus, pipes which may at first seem identical may vary sharply in cost, one selling for ten dollars and the other for only three. The reason for the wide difference is usually that the less expensive pipe has an imperfection or two, while the other pipe may have no visible faults at all. A pipe with a crack penetrating the entire bowl would be use­less, and no reputable pipe maker would allow it to carry his name. Neither you nor anyone else would want it at any price. However, a good pipe with one or more minute surface imperfections, rendered invisible to the naked eye, will give you as fine a smoke for as long a time as a perfect pipe. Finally, you may run across an outstanding specimen, a pipe with beautiful grain, and not a visible defect inside or outside the bowl. Imperfections originate in the briar burl when the growth of the burl is interrupted in some way. One kind of defect may be caused by a strong wind that bends or twists the plant so that its roots grow in an abnormal manner. This, in turn, may form small air pockets, partially open or completely enclosed . . . and invisible unless the pipe-maker’s cutting blade happens to slice through Continue Reading