Types of Tobacco Pipes | Meerschaum, Briar & Corncob
Lesson 14: Types of Pipes
Cobcorn – A great beginner pipe; if you decide pipe smoking is not for you, you haven’t spent a lot of money. Actually made from corncob, it is easily cared for, very durable, and disposable. Eventually they wear out but you can always buy another one for about $5.
Briar – This is the closely grained burl joint between the stem and roots of the Heath tree, which grows in rocky slopes on the hillsides of Mediterranean countries. This burl is very tough, close-grained, and porous. It will not crack when exposed to heat. Good briar is hard to find, as the larger shrubs take a very long time to mature. The most suitable root may be 80 to 100 years old, and the finest pipe briar may be from a shrub that is over 200 years old.
The easiest way to tell if you have a well-aged briar is by the weight. A pipe that is made with well-aged briar will be very light in weight. If you hold two similar pipes together by the stem, the lighter, more balanced pipe will inevitably be made with older briar. Many of the very inexpensive drugstore pipes, like Dr. Grabow, are made with very young or flawed briar. Many of these cheaper pipes rely on filters to keep the smoke cool. A properly aged briar does not need a filter because the briar is extremely porous. Briar pipes are rated by the purity of the grain. A perfectly straight grain or Birdseye grain (little tight grained swirls), will command a very steep price. These pipes are purely for aesthetics and prized by collectors. They do not smoke any differently than a less-than-perfect grain. You can also save a considerable amount of money if you are not concerned with grain quality.
If you really want to find a good pipe for a bargain, you might want to opt for a sandblast briar. The briar used for these pipes have flaws in them such as very ugly grain or little holes in the wood. These pipes are then sandblasted into a rough grain. Sandblasted pipes are extremely porous and smoke very cool. Briar pipes are also sold as seconds. The tiny holes or imperfections in these pipes are filled with putty and then stained. Many of these pipes can be purchased for $5 to $20. If perfect, these pipes would sell for considerably more money.
Meerschaum – Composed of the fossilized shells of tiny sea creatures that fell to the ocean floor millions of years ago, the highest quality meerschaum is found in only one place in the world: Eskisehir, in central Turkey. Many meerschaum pipes are hand carved into works of art. The meerschaum pipe gives the tobacco a very unique, cool smoking flavor. It absorbs far more moisture than a briar pipe. The pipe starts out pearl-white and eventually becomes a beautiful deep-brown color as it breaks in. This is one of the most appealing features of this type of pipe. Meerschaum pipes are a prized addition to many smokers’ collections.
Other Less Popular Types of Pipes
Calabash – Gourd
Hookah – Water Pipe
Clay – Clay pottery pipe
Pipe sweetener – Dissolves built-up gum and tar while leaving a fresh aroma in the bowl stem and mouthpiece.
Pipe tool – A spoon, pick, and tamper all contained in a metal holder.
Pipe reamer – A tool for smoothing out the “cake,” which is the hardened tobacco build-up that accumulates in a pipe. If the cake gets too thick, the bowl may crack. This tool will trim the cake down to a desired size. A rule of thumb is to trim it down to about the thickness of a nickel. Never completely remove the cake, as it protects the pipe and makes it smoke cooler.
Pipe rack – A storage place for your pipes. After smoking your pipe, clean it with a pipe cleaner and place it in the rack with the stem facing up so the saliva can properly drain out of the pipe. It is always a good idea to have several pipes so they can have time to properly dry out. Having several pipes will also prolong the life of each pipe by not burning out the bowl from excessive heat.
Humidor – Anything cheap and airtight. Tupperware or mason jars work great. Misting it with a spray bottle can easily restore dry pipe tobacco.