Plateaux Briar, as the name suggests, is the top part of the burl. It has a rough pebble top that can be left on for a freehand look or sanded smooth for a traditional appearance. Plateaux comes in different shapes and sizes. The custom pipe kit makers will do the best they can to match your design to the proper block. Plateaux grain tends to run straight or angled. These blocks will generally yield flame grains or an occasional straight grain. They contain generally less flaws than ebauchon, though you don’t know what a block will yield until you get into it.
Pimo offers kits, but most pipe makers will recommend obtaining a kit from a pipe maker, such as Steve Norse at Vermont Freehand, or American Smoking Pipe Co’s. (Mark Tinsky), available at The American Smoking Pipe, or from Tim West (J.H. Lowe), available at J.H.Lowe. Kits are also available from Pipe Makers Emporium, Kim Kendall at Penguin Briar.
Also see the “Alternative Woods Used For Pipe making section in “Materials and Construction”
New pipe makers may find this chart helpful. Classic Pipe Shapes, by Bill Burney:
Delrin has proven to be an excellent material for stem tenons in pipe making. It is self-lubricating, and strong. Its strength can also be a disadvantage through–should a pipe with a Delrin tenon be dropped, the shank might break instead of the tenon. Shank repairs are, of course, much more problematic then stem replacement, or repairs to a broken tenon. Another disadvantage is Delrin also limits the shape of the stem near the shank of the pipe where the Delrin is glued into the stem. This is especially problematic for saddle or 1/2 saddle stems where the design must accommodate the location of the Delrin instead of simply worrying about the air way itself. Still, Delrin is the prefered tenon material of many pipe makers, and an excellent alternative to cutting tenons into hand cut stems, or turning down the tenons on pre-molded stems.
Many pipe enthusiasts are familiar with Rick Newcombe’s writing on airflow, where he suggests that pipes with an open air flow smoke better. While not the originator of this concept, he has been its most public advocate, and duly credited with its popularization. Ken Campbell has written an article for The Pipe Collector called Airflow: The Key to Smoking Pleasure which further explores the concept.
Believing: “Damn the torpedoes, man, full speed ahead.”
- Characteristics Of Briar is a very thorough and interesting research paper in .pdf format by G. Tsoumis, N. Kezos, I Fanariotou, E. Voulgaridis, and C. Passialis documenting the various characteristics of briar.
- Curing & Treating, by Trever Talbert
- Where to Get Your Briar, by Kurt Huhn
- 100 Year Old Briar?, A small collection of information by Bill Unger.
- R.C. Hamlin has also written an interesting article on this subject of briar called The Briar Factor.
- So you think you’re a “Briar Afficionado”? This is a short but extremely informative article by Rainer Barbi available here: The Briar Saga Page 1 & The Briar Saga Page 2.
- My Visit to A Briar Sawmill, What Makes a Good Briar Pipe, The Art of Sandblasting, and Curing all excellent articles by R.D. Field.
A Cautionary Note: Because some ultra high grade pipes sell for thousands of dollars, it is tempting for the uninitiated to think they may be able to get rich making pipes, or at least make a decent living. Relatively few pipe makers make their primary living as pipe makers, and it is a very small handful of pipe makers that sell in the upper price ranges. Those that do have unusual talents or gifts and have dedicated a great deal of time developing them. Most also invest a considerable amount of money in equipment and materials. Having said this, pipe making is great fun, and very rewarding in many ways, but be careful–most pipe smokers are not addicted to tobacco, but most pipe makers are addicted to pipe making!
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