Briar, where art thou?

With so many pipe makers popping up out of the wood work (pun intended), briar is becoming more expensive, and more scarce. There are not that many briar supplier, and they at times become overwhelmed with orders.  It is not uncommon for me to wait 3 to 6 months for a briar order.


When I give estimates of how long customers have to wait for a custom pipe, I usually take into account my briar supply, and the time it takes to get new briar, if needed.  However more often than not, my estimates get sabotaged by how long it takes for me to get briar.

Pipe making is not an exact science.  Many things can go wrong when I’m working on a block of wood.  Being human, mistakes are made when sanding, or cutting, or drilling.  Sometimes a piece of briar will look perfect from the outside, but when you cut into it many faults are revealed, which makes the block unusable.  One of the worst cases of unusable blocks was when I went through 6 blocks to make a pipe.  Bad blocks are just part of the pipe making process.

I hate waiting for stuff that I ordered as much as the next person, however with pipe making, waiting is sometimes unavoidable.  Making hand shaped pipes is not a quick process.  There are many steps involved, and when you have many orders to finish, the wait can be long for the customer.


In the Spotlight


The magnificent folks over at Tobacco Pipe Collectors were kind enough to do a spotlight on little ole'me.  You can read it here… TPCPS.  

Visit them, say hello, and read about other great pipe makers in our wonderful little community, along with useful pipe related events.

A huge warm and fuzzy THANK YOU, to Mike and the gang, over at TPC for all the support and attention they have sent my way.  It is truly appreciated. 

Thank you, and happy puffing.

Jarring Tobacco

Here are a few tips on how to jar and store tobacco for later enjoyment.  First off, if you jar and store it right, pipe tobacco can last decades, if not more.  With prices going up and new legislations threatening pipe tobacco, it is a good idea to buy your favorites, either in bulk or tin, and store it away.

SS 2012-07-05 at 7.13.52 PM

Ok, here we go.  First off you need tobacco to jar.  Then you need jars.  Ball jam jars work best.  Jars are cheap, so son't use old or pre used jars.  You can find a good selection of jars either at Walmart or Target.

Most old timers will tell you to wash or boil the jars, but if you buy the jars and they are shrink sealed in a carton, then you don't need to wash them, they are already super clean.  Also make sure your work surface is clean, you really don't want a piece of yesterdays fried chicken stored away for years with your precious Stonehaven tobacco.  (If you find some Stonehaven, send me some.)  : ))

Get your bulk tobacco, and depending on how much you have fill up the jars.  8 ounces of tobacco can be easily squeezed into an 16 oz jar.  Fill to the rim and then push it down until there is room to fill some more.  Keep pressing and filling the jar until it becomes a bit difficult to push the tobacco down.  Leave a half inch to 3/4 inches of room between the tobacco and the lid.  Make sure the rim of the jar is free of ANY tobacco debris.  Also make sure the sealing lip part of the lid clear of any bits.  Because if there is a tiny bit of tobacco stuck to the seal it will eventually dry up, shrink and create an air passage that will dry out your tobacco over time.

SS 2012-07-05 at 7.13.31 PM

Make sure to label the purchase date, jarring date, tobacco name, and where you got it from.  Because in 2 years when you are ready to smoke it, you will not remember what the heck is in the jar… Trust me, I know.  : |

Again, the old timers, will tell you to dip the closed jars with tobacco in to boiling water, to create a vacuum seal.  THIS IS NOT GOOD ADVISE,  you don't want a complete vacuum in the jar, because you want the tobacco to age.  It will not age without air.  Close the lids tight and store the jars in a cool, dark place.  A dark cool semi humid environment would be ideal.  But unlike cigar tobacco, pipe tobacco is very forgiving, and anything below 80º F and an above a 35% relative humidity will work fine.  Keep it dark however.  UV light can kill tobacco, and humans too.  

In a month or so, visit the jars and tighten the lids, because the rubber seal will compress initially, so you want to go in there and give them a little tightening.

Unadulterated tobaccos, and Virginia based tobaccos age very well, and last a long long time, and become even better with age.  Top cased aromatic tobaccos don't age well, and will eventually lose their casing (what gives aromatics its flavor and aroma) and become dull and a waste of time to smoke.  Latakia blends age and become more mellow, but don't store it away for too long, it will also lose a bit of its edge, but I like it mellow.  However, if sealed and stored properly, most tobaccos will last a long time.  Aromatics needs to be sealed even tighter for the casing to not evaporate.  I recently opened some jars of aromatics a few years old, and sadly they were quite flat.  They were house blends from Boswell and  Those blends are sprayed with a top casing at their place, and eventually the sprayed stuff evaporates, leaving the crap behind that is not wroth smoking.  Infused tobaccos, such as MacBarens Vanilla flake, do well, because casing is infused with pressure and the aging/curing process at the factory.

SS 2012-07-05 at 7.14.17 PM

Pressed tobaccos, such and flakes, cakes, and ropes will hold moisture better than loose tobaccos.  So don't break them apart, store it pressed.  Ziplock bags, tobacco pouches, topperwear, and tins are not good for storing.  So if you know you will not smoke an opened tin within a month, then transfer it to a jar.  Screw top tins hold moisture better than pop top tins.  If you want to store your newly purchased un-opened tins, put them in ziplock bags and store them away.  Even a vacuum sealed tin will eventually lose its seal.  What I do is buy the tins and transfer them to jars.  You have to let tinned tobacco breath anyways before you smoke it, so you kill two birds with one stone, so to speak.

If you run out of room, get more jars.  Don't do what I did… he he he!  Just kidding, don't eat tobacco, you will die.  Or, you can send me what you don't want, I will store it with my 40 other jars.  ; ) 

Well, that is about it really.  If I missed anything... Que sera sera!    Happy puffin!   -Alex  

Black Cherry Wood


Black cherry wood (Prunus Serotina). What is cherry wood… you ask?  Well, believe it or not cherries come from a tree.  And there are several kinds of cherry wood, black cherry, red cherry, and white cherry.  But the most common cherry wood used for pipe making is black cherry wood.

Basically one can make a pipe from any hard wood, but not all of them taste good, and some or toxic.  And not all of them can withstand heat.  Cherry wood on the other hand tastes great, once dried, and can take a decent amount of heat;  Not as much as briar, but it can take heat.


Cherry wood is about half as dense as briar, and has very beautiful grain.  Since its less dense it is lighter, much lighter than briar, therefore bigger pipes made with cherry wood are more comfortable to hold in the mouth.  And smaller pipes are feather weight.  Cherry wood is also easier to carve and sand, and is easier to work with. 

So, what are the disadvantages of cherry wood?  For one, it is a less denser wood, and can not take as much heat as briar, so it is more prone to burn out, if not properly broken in.  Also cherry wood has bigger pores, which can suck in more of the tars and other chemicals, which over time can give the pipe a sour taste;  But this happens to briar too, however at a slower rate.  Either way if you keep your pipe clean and have proper cake build up, then you don't have to worry about it for a long time.


Initially, cherry wood pipes have to be smoked cooler and must be properly broken in, in order to extend the pipes life.  It is recommended to break in a cherry wood pipe with a cooler burning non aromatic tobaccos.  Start with half a bowl, for the first 7 smokes, then move to 3/4 of a bowl for the next 7 smokes, and then fill it to about a 1/4 from the rim, for the next 7.  After that if a proper cake has formed, then you can smoke your pipe as you would a broken in briar.

Just like you would never smoke a briar pipe hot, you should not smoke a cherry wood pipe hot.  If it heats up, let it rest for  5 minutes.  And don't puff as fast.  Also smoking in the wind, will cause your pipe to heat up, and it might cause a burn out.  Burn out is when the tobacco embers burn through the wall of the bowl from one side to the other.

Hope this helped a few…


Thank You!

SS 2012-07-05 at 6.41.56 PM

I wanted to take this opportunity to thank the great folks that have purchased my pipes.  I much appreciated the fact that you folks put your trust in my skills and have purchased a pipe. 

As you may have read, I have been carving pipes off and on for a few years, but only recently I have decided to go at it full force, and make them available for sale.

I whole heartedly love making pipes.  And although I am not at a level that I can quit my day job and do pipes full time, one day I hope to do so.  And by purchasing my pipes you have pushed me a step  closer to realizing my goals.

Again, I thank you.  And I hope that my pipes will bring you years of flavorful and relaxed smoking.


Me and pipes...

I have never been a cigarette smoker or any other kind of smoker, ever.  But pipes and pipe tobacco sparked my interest about 3 years ago at a family BBQ.  The father of a family friend was visiting from Europe, and was at the BBQ.  After dinner he took out his little leather pipe pouch and prepared his pipe for smoking with outmost care.  When he lit the pipe, my entire childhood, and my old family flashed right before my eyes.  It was great!


A bit of back history… My uncle and my grandfather used to smoke pipe, and I was around the smell and room note of pipe tobacco most of the day.  To me it smelled like a bakery slash candy shop rolled into one.

Since then, every time I smell aromatic pipe tobacco it reminds me of my childhood, and the good times.

So like many other pipe beginners I got myself a corn cob pipe and some Captain Black, but I did not smoke it right away.  In the first few month I was just smelling the tobacco bag.  The aroma was incredible.  Towards the end of the two months I mustered the courage to light up….  I hated it!  

I must mention that in those first few months I was so into it that I had purchased about a 100 tins of the most popular tobaccos, according to YouTube, and Tobacco Reviews, and about 15 mid prices Savinelli briar pipes.  All without even lighting up first to see if I liked it.  Needless to say I was panicking that I had spent the money on a hobby that I was not going to enjoy.

So, I tried to sell the tobacco and the pipes.  But to my dismay no one wanted to buy it, something having to do with "tobacco taxes" and a license to sell tobacco.  


Anyhow… A few more months passed, and I though I will give it a go again to see if anything changed.  So I tried Captain Black again and it was utterly disgusting.  But I did not give up, I tried a few bulk aromatics, and it was not as bad.  I had read articles and watched videos on how beginners should not try heavy English and Latakia blends until they are more used to pipe smoking, but I did not care and jumped right into it.  I loved it!  The smell of Latakia was like burning tires at first, and the 8 ounces of Larry's blend I had purchased 4 month prior was so stinky to me that I had double bagged and sealed it in a mason jar.

Lo and behold, latakia smelled and tasted great.  It was huge relief that I did have to throw away all that great tobacco.

Well since then, I have amassed over 50 purchased pipes, 45 or so pipes that I made, and over 200 tins of tobacco, and maybe around 30 pounds of bulk blends.  Loving every minute of it.

Happy puffin, and don't forget to buy a pipe, or two.

; )

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