What is Briar Wood for Tobacco Pipes?

briarwood pipe

Briar wood is one of the most popular choices of material to make tobacco pipes from. We explore why this type of wood is so good for pipes and if you should choose a briar wood pipe for your tobacco smoking endeavours.

What is Briar Wood?

Briar wood comes from the root of the Erica Arborea, or tree heather, a type of flowering shrub that is native to the Mediterranean.

The part of the tree heather that is used for briar wood pipes is known as burlwood and can be found amongst the roots. These roots are dug out by hand, and the wood is cut into smaller blocks to be used to create pipes.

In the past, this process would have killed the plant, but now, briar wood can be harvested without destroying it.

One Erica Arborea plant can only produce around 4.5kg of burl, which can create between six and twelve pipes.

Why is Briar Wood Used for Tobacco Pipes?

Briar wood is the most commonly used material for tobacco pipes, implying that it has many benefits that make it ideal for use as a smoking pipe. This is the case, as briar wood is a very durable wood, with great heat resistance, making it fantastic for a smoking pipe. In fact, briar wood is capable of withstanding heat of up to 371 degrees Celsius.

Briar wood is naturally porous, which allows it to absorb the oils and moisture that are produced when tobacco is burned in it. This helps to keep the smoke cool and dry, making for a more pleasant smoking experience.

How Are Briar Wood Pipes Made?

Blocks of briar wood are submerged in boiling water, which removes any resin and sap that are found within the wood. The blocks of wood are then put into a large kiln, where they dry. The wood is left to age in the kiln for at least a year.

Once the wood is dried and aged, the wood is carved into the desired pipe shape, with a stem added to smoke through.

Quality of Briar Wood Pipes

While briar wood is one of the best and most popular materials for tobacco pipes, it does have a few factors to be wary of if you’re looking for a top-quality smoking pipe.

Briar wood often has tiny air pockets, which can be filled with dirt and small stones while it grows underground. These holes won’t be noticed until carving has begun, so some cheaper briar wood pipes, and those made by machines will have fills in them.

As such, a briar wood pipe with no fills visible tends to be an indicator of high-quality briar wood. Other signs of good quality briar wood include having a tight uniform grain, and a wood pattern that contains both straight and swirly grains.

Alternative Tobacco Pipe Materials

If a briar wood pipe isn’t for you, then what other types of pipe can you look for? When tobacco was first introduced to the UK, clay pipes were created and became one of the earliest types to be used. Since then, tobacco pipes have been refined to get the best flavour and smoking experience.

Meerschaum is a star material for pipe making. It’s a more expensive material, but it is easier to carve into intricate designs than briar wood. They are lightweight, and produce cool, smooth smoke.

A cheaper material for pipes, and one that is more popular in the United States, is the corn cob. Corn cob pipes, also known as cobs, are simply made from dried and hollowed out corn cobs with a stem attached.

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