What is Briar? Why is it used for making tobacco pipes?
Briar is so widely accepted as the finest wood for making tobacco pipes because of its properties. It is actually a root wood that grows in burls (large balls of wood) underground. Briar is designed by nature to absorb moisture and nutrients from the earth. It continues its job of absorbing moisture once it is made into a pipe.
As you smoke your pipe over time, it will actually flavour your pipe maturing it into a true smoking instrument. A well smoked and maintained briar wood pipe should only improve in taste and smoking qualities with time. You may find that you like to only smoke a certain flavor of tobacco in your pipe or designate different pipes you own to different blends of tobacco.
When you smoke your pipe the moisture in the tobacco is released by the heat. This moisture forms into a flavoured resin and soaks into the pipe. Over time the resin turns into a dark insulating cake which helps keep your pipe lit as you smoke it as well as protects the briar from being scorched if it is smoked too hot.
What is a "cake"?
How do I ensure I build a good “cake"?
A trick for building up a good cake faster is to apply a thin layer of maple syrup or even wine jelly to the inner bowl wall. Do this every other smoke at least 3 times.
For a more natural method you can use water or saliva, although this will take longer you are more likely to develop the true taste of your favourite blend of tobacco if you use this method.
How do I properly pack my pipe?
How you pack your bowl plays a key role in the caking process. If the bowl is packed too tightly it will block the air passage and the tobacco will not burn properly.
If it is packed too loosely it may create hot spots and you then run the risk of scorching your bowl. We recommend two different methods on how to properly pack your pipe:
The Tried and Traditional method:
The traditional method for breaking in a new pipe is to only smoke half bowls for the first few smokes. This ensures that you start the cake at the bottom of the bowl and it will work its way up the briar walls evenly. It is old folklore that if a cake builds on the top of your briar walls before the bottom you will never get an even cake.
The Hasty Man's Method:
If you don't like the idea of smoking half bowls for the first while there is a way to build a good cake while enjoying full bowls right from the first smoke. Loosely fill your pipe's tobacco chamber with little pinches of tobacco. Then use your thumb to gently push the tobacco down and condense it to roughly one third of the bowl's depth. Repeat this until your bowl is full. Once your pipe is full run your thumb back and forth over of the surface of the tobacco to make sure there aren't any loose spots.
How do I properly light my pipe?
Once your bowl is packed, pull some air through the pipe so you know you haven't blocked the air passage. Light the bowl in a circular motion, being sure to touch the edges of the bowl with the flame of your lighter or match. This is essential for the forming of the resin cake. Don't take short quick puffs off the pipe, instead take long, even pulls-this helps to light the tobacco evenly.
The tobacco has a tendency to expand and rise after you light it. You will want to push the lit section of the tobacco back down to give the unlit tobacco a chance to catch. After doing this you will want to re-light your pipe quickly. This method is called tamping your pipe. You will find that it helps your pipe stay lit easily.
We also suggest that you leave a little tobacco at the bottom of your pipe and not smoke it right down to the bottom of the bowl. This will avoid burning the bottom of your bowl. It is better to waste a little tobacco than to burn your pipe. It is well worth the results!
How do I clean my pipe when I am done smoking it?
A well maintained smoking pipe will last a lifetime. The most important thing to do when you are done smoking your pipe is to blow forcefully into the stem (you will want to do this outside). This blows any resin inside the pipe's draft holes back into the bowl. This is great for two reasons.
The first is that it clears the air passage. Just like in your pipe's bowl, if the the resin is left in your pipe's draft holes it will create a cake which will clog your pipe over time. It is also a great way to keep all the resin in the bowl, where it is useful. Doing this is an excellent way to build a great cake on the base of your bowl, which will add years of life to your pipe. Doing this will also help develop great flavor, quicker.
The next important step is to send a pipe cleaner through the stem and into each draft hole in the bowl. The draft holes in our pipes intersect inside the bowl. Because of this reason you are not able to send the pipe cleaner right through the bowl. Instead, you must insert a pipe cleaner into each end of the passage and rotate it so that it collects any resin that did not get blown out.
This is also a good time to scrape out your bowl. The heat of the freshly smoked pipe allows for the cake to soften. You want to keep your cake roughly 1/16" thick. Do this by scraping out your bowl with a pipe tool or small pocket knife when you feel the cake is getting too thick.
Depending on how often you smoke your pipe you may only need to do this once every couple of weeks.
What can I do that will ensure the long life of my MacQueen Pipe?
Simple things you can do to ensure a great smoking pipe are:
- Do not take quick short puffs of the pipe as it increases the heat of the burn.
- Do not let your pipe get so hot that you cannot comfortably hold it against your cheek. This is a good measure you can use to tell if you are smoking your pipe too hot.
- Try to keep your pipe from getting wet. We use a fine Carnauba wax finish on our pipes so that the wood is not sealed and is able to breath. This wax can be damaged by water so try and keep it from getting wet.
- Make sure to clean your pipe after every smoke. This includes forcefully blowing through your pipe stem.