Briar and the Pipemaker

In the Fall of 2003, immersed in my graduate studies, I set out to craft my own pipe.  I’d been smoking pipes for a few months, and as I learned more and more about them, I began to develop preferences.  The problem was that the preferences that I developed were represented in pipes that were quite a bit out of the budget of this graduate student.

So, I did what many of you may have done, I decided to try my hand at making a pipe for myself.  At the time there were scant resources available to the aspiring briar craftsman.  But, I dug in and learned what I could, even calling up the few active pipemakers whose work I had discovered.  When it came time to buy the supplies, all I knew was that some blocks were bigger than others and that their shapes fell into a few categories.  My limited research taught me that plateau blocks were always better than cross-cut blocks.  Factories mostly used the cross-cut pieces, while the high-priced artists who worked in briar used only the finest plateau.  So, my mind was made up; I would buy two plateau blocks–the cheapest two that I could find.

I’ve learned a thing or two about the material since that first order, and wanted to share some of it with you.  The video below is about briar, the various shapes and cuts in which it is available to purchase, and what to look for when you are selecting briar for your next project.  Pipe enthusiasts and collectors may gain insight into the challenges that face the artisan, and the aspiring pipe maker may find some nuggets of information that will prove useful as he or she selects briar for the next project.

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