Pipes come in all shapes, sizes and materials but the most popular material for today‘s pipes is briar. Briar comes from the burl of the White Heath tree, which is a small shrub plant that grows in the dry, rocky areas around the Mediterranean Sea.
Briar is the best-suited wood for pipe making because it is tough, porous and almost impossible to burn. The briar is harvested from the ground and taken to mills where skilled woodcutters using circular saws remove the soft and cracked portions of the burl, leaving only the dense, hard, tightly grained center. This is then cut into smaller blocks, called ebauchons.
After the ebauchons have been cut they are boiled in water to remove much of the briar‘s natural sap and resin. It is then dried for several years, allowing the remaining sap and resin to seep out of the wood. This curing and aging process is important to bring out briar‘s best smoking qualities. It allows the pipe to breath, absorb moisture and resins from the tobacco and helps to ensure a cool dry smoke.
After the curing and aging process, the mills sell the ebauchons to pipe makers around the world, who may elect to age the briar for several more years before shaping it into a pipe.
Pipe making involves a series of steps that are performed by both hand and machine. Usually the more handwork that goes into the construction of a pipe the more expensive it will be. After a pipe bowl has been shaped it‘s fitted with a mouthpiece, sanded, stained, polished, waxed and ready for your enjoyment.
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