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pipesbywhitney

What Kind of Briar?

Let's start a new thread to discuss briar - the types and their proper names, qualities, etc.

For instance:

Algerian Briar is supposed to be the lightest and most porous of the briars used in pipes. Much sought after. Used by Kaywoodie in the mid-20th Century, Tracey Mincer in his Custom-bilts, etc. Edward's Pipes has never used anything but Algerian Briar.

Grecian Briar apparently comes from Greece and some show preference for that.

I've heard of Corsican Briar but never smoked it that I know of although I could have unknowingly.

Manzanita, or Mission Briar, that is the same biologically supposedly as the Heath root briar and was used during WWII when the war cut off briar supplies from Algeria and the Med.

I've seen and smoked what some call Italian Briar but find it denser and heavier than other briars.

And there's the Mediterranean Briar I see used by the old Shalom Pipe Co. - a Dr. G sibling - and I think in the production of Dr. Gs.

Just what is "Mediterranean Briar?" Wouldn't all of the above with the exception of Manzanita be Mediterranean geographically? What qualities can all you different smokers attribute to the different briars?

Just what kind of briar is used in our Dr. Gs?

It's open for discussion ... Dave Whitney
Puffin'Away

I've also heard of Tuscan, Calabrian and Liguria briar.  Doesn't Dr. G use Algerian Briar?
LokoMac8

Re: What Kind of Briar?

pipesbywhitney wrote:
Let's start a new thread to discuss briar - the types and their proper names, qualities, etc.


Almost -- No, that's EVERYTHING, I know about briar, TED told me as he furnished information for our webpage.  Could be, through this discussion, we may need to refine or add more info.  Otherwise, the info currently on the webpage may answer some questions:

http://www.drgrabow-pipe-info.com/briar_ted09aa

I also plan on adding a bit about Mountain Laurel and Mission Briar as well.  Mike Leverette was the one that got me interested in that subject.  I am pretty sure that Dr. Grabow's pipes stamped "WEST COAST BRIAR" were of the "Mission Briar" category -- and they may have been made after the war.  We SUSPECT that the Dr. Grabow war years pipes with the plastic bands and cleaners were made of "Mountain Laurel".  Maybe ALL of David Lavietes' D&P Pipeworks pipes were made of "Mountain Laurel".  --RJ--
Puffin'Away

Mountain Laurel

I believe my old Character is Mountain Laurel.



ozark southpaw

Uh,most of my Grabows say they are "imported briar",some say "deluxe Bruyere". I would think that back when they were make making DG's by the zillion that they had several sources of briar--all Med. briar since that where it comes from. Be kinda nice to know just which area the briar in a particular DG came from.
ted

Re: What Kind of Briar?

LokoMac8 wrote:
pipesbywhitney wrote:
Let's start a new thread to discuss briar - the types and their proper names, qualities, etc.


Almost -- No, that's EVERYTHING, I know about briar, TED told me as he furnished information for our webpage.  Could be, through this discussion, we may need to refine or add more info.  Otherwise, the info currently on the webpage may answer some questions:

http://www.drgrabow-pipe-info.com/briar_ted09aa

I also plan on adding a bit about Mountain Laurel and Mission Briar as well.  Mike Leverette was the one that got me interested in that subject.  I am pretty sure that Dr. Grabow's pipes stamped "WEST COAST BRIAR" were of the "Mission Briar" category -- and they may have been made after the war.  We SUSPECT that the Dr. Grabow war years pipes with the plastic bands and cleaners were made of "Mountain Laurel".  Maybe ALL of David Lavietes' D&P Pipeworks pipes were made of "Mountain Laurel".  --RJ--


I re-read my epistle about briar on your site, and still agree with it.

From 1964 till today Grabow and KYM were either the largest or second largest pipe manufacturers in the world. The biggest...by far....fish in a small pond. Both companies bought from the same briarwood mills and had quite a bit of  "clout" within the industry. Suppliers wanted desperately to have one of the companies as their customer.

Most mills were represented by a "broker" whose responsibility it was to sell their briar......Never, not once, were we contacted by anyone selling Algerian briar.

I think the term "Algerian briar" comes from the 1930's when the Nazi's and Fascists were in control of the exports from Europe. Briarwood from Europe was shipped to North Africa....Algeria...and trans-shipped to America. The sacks were labeled Algeria so they could get through US Customs.

I've always heard that the French briar was the best, but the supply was limited and was over harvested years ago. It does take 100 years to grow a usable burl.

I think the Worlds Best Briar is from Greece. Burls are bigger and the forests are more pristine.

Opinions are mine, with some insight. For what it's worth.....twd
woodbutcher

Just a little side note on the briar subject.
My hobby (other than pipe smoking) is woodcarving.  I was surprised that none of my carving books gave any information for briar (wood density, hardness, etc.).  When I asked about that lack of data on a woodcarving forum I belong to, I was told that the reason is because briar (erica arborea) is a "shrub", not a "tree".  If it can't be classified as a "hardwood" or "softwood", it just doesn't get listed.
To me, that's bizarre.  A rose by any other name...etc..
Dan
steverino

Just for what it's worth, I have 5 DG pipes with me today.  A Viscount, a Silver Duke and a Commodore all say "imported briar", a Continental Starfire has no reference to briar and a Linkman's Dr. Grabow 4989 says "Italian briar".  I also have with me a Kaywoodie Signet that says "imported briar".
LokoMac8

steverino wrote:
Just for what it's worth, I have 5 DG pipes with me today.  A Viscount, a Silver Duke and a Commodore all say "imported briar", a Continental Starfire has no reference to briar and a Linkman's Dr. Grabow 4989 says "Italian briar".  I also have with me a Kaywoodie Signet that says "imported briar".


I don't know why, or if it is what made them "special", but all the older Dr. Grabow SPECIALs are stamped "Italian Briar", as if that meant something at the time as opposed to "Imported Bruyere".  I halfway believe that "SPECIAL ITALIAN BRIAR" was all one stamp.

Since most briar WAS imported, I wonder if it was a law or something that it had to be stamped that on pipes made in the USA?  Or was it just something that made the pipe SEEM special to attract more sales?  --RJ--
pipesbywhitney

LokoMac8 wrote:
steverino wrote:
Just for what it's worth, I have 5 DG pipes with me today.  A Viscount, a Silver Duke and a Commodore all say "imported briar", a Continental Starfire has no reference to briar and a Linkman's Dr. Grabow 4989 says "Italian briar".  I also have with me a Kaywoodie Signet that says "imported briar".


I don't know why, or if it is what made them "special", but all the older Dr. Grabow SPECIALs are stamped "Italian Briar", as if that meant something at the time as opposed to "Imported Bruyere".  I halfway believe that "SPECIAL ITALIAN BRIAR" was all one stamp.

Since most briar WAS imported, I wonder if it was a law or something that it had to be stamped that on pipes made in the USA?  Or was it just something that made the pipe SEEM special to attract more sales?  --RJ--
I've always wondered the same thing. Why are U.S. made pipes stamped "Imported Briar"? I know it helps in getting some provenance on old pipes, but was it required or a sales gimmick.

Could use some enlightenment on this ...

Dave Whitney
ted

Don't mean to be "snippant", but what would you stamp them?...

Ethiopian Briar? Libian Briar, Albanian Briar,...If you were a manufacturer and weren't certain where ONE piece of briar came from....IMPORTED BRIAR  seems to work............Forgive me.....ted
drbridges

I argue that "Imported Briar" didn't mean anything to pipe customers until WWII, when no one in the U.S. could get it, and U.S. makers began using domestic briar. And that is when they began stamping.

Would be curious to research shipping costs. I suspect very little bulk briar was imported in the early 20th Century, and most U.S. makers worked in other materials. Likely finished briar pipes were imported.
pipesbywhitney

Briar?

Whoa, whoa, whoa! Maybe I stirred a bowl of stink by bringing up this briar topic what with "snips" and "arguments," etc.

I am getting enlightened though. It is news to me that pipe makers did not, or do not, know exactly where the briar they use comes from since they buy it through brokers and other intermediaries.

While the "Imported Briar" stamp makes sense following the WWII years where substitutes like Manzanita, Mission Briar, etc., were used it really doesn't make that much sense any more.

I can buy Ted's explanation that Algerian Briar was labeled as such because of the pre-WWII restrictions that forced the export of it through Algeria instead of the European mainland, but why does the use of it linger on?

Just stamping a pipe "Briar" these days would seem to do.

Don't mean to stir anymore rough edges with all of this ... my apologies!

Dave Whitney
ted

Dave, Absolutely no problem. This group has opinions and aren't afraid to express them. It makes for good exchanges. I enjoy it.

I do believe that there probably was a time when US pipe makers knew exactly where their briar came from and could, with a degree of certainty, stamp their pipes with its country.

If briar from Europe was trans-shipped through Algeria then the makers could have stamped the pipes "Algerian Briar"....ted
drbridges

Dave, my back ain't up. I said "argue" but maybe "propose" "suggest" or "guess" would have worked better. It is my idea that "imported briar" became an issue after the appearance of alternatives in 1940 +/- several years. I encourage everyone to shoot at my idea, if they can back it up.

Civil War battlefield excavations turn up clay pipes, not briar. I suspect briar pipes were quite rare in the U.S. during the 19th century, and perhaps into the early 20th century.

I don't want to step on anyone's feelings here, but briar is actually just a root from a trashy worthless shrub growing in a desolate region of the world. Involves a lot more work than gathering meerschaum for example. An entire enterprise and shipping network had to evolve to make briar even approach profitability. I would love to know more about its history.
ted

Thanks Dr. B.....ted
drbridges

You're welcome, ted.

And while Dave and I are inviting discussions, I'll throw in another of my ideas. What involvement did the Jewish and Italian mob play in M. Linkman & Co. in Chicago? It seems to me the organization had their hands in any and everything that made a profit in Chicago. Someone should look into it. Could be a fun research project.

Same thing re HL&T in NY, which had its own mob activity.
ted

Whew!.....Didn't want to get into that, but there are some stories there......ted
drbridges

I have several Chicago and NY "Mob" books on my wish list @ Amazon. They've been there for almost a year. It is one of those things I hope to "get around to it" someday. Especially as we gather the names of the corporate directors.

Oops, I lied. Just checked. Apparently I deleted the mob books from my Amazon wish list at some time.
pipesbywhitney

The Mob?

Now that opens up a lot of possibilities. Was organized crime involved in the briar business? It might have been a logical connection during WWII when getting briar into and out of countries was a difficult situation. You have to remember that the Roosevelt Administration made accommodations with some of crime bosses in the New York area to keep the longshoremen working and goods flowing into and out of the country. Organized crime has been involved in a lot of import businesses. Why wouldn't it make sense that at some point they got involved in briar trade and even the Chicago pipe making scene? Dave Whitney
LokoMac8

drbridges wrote:
I argue that "Imported Briar" didn't mean anything to pipe customers until WWII, when no one in the U.S. could get it, and U.S. makers began using domestic briar. And that is when they began stamping.

Would be curious to research shipping costs. I suspect very little bulk briar was imported in the early 20th Century, and most U.S. makers worked in other materials. Likely finished briar pipes were imported.


Actually, briar designation stamping predated WWII by a long shot -- first to come to mind is "French Briar", MLC's "Italian Briar", Dr. Grabow's "Special" Italian Briar and "Imported Briar" used by manufacturer's other than MLC/Linkman/Dr. Grabow that I have seen, but don't keep up with.  Not sure what D&P really meant with their stamping -- basically the only "name" found on some of their pipes, of "GENUINE BRIAR"

As early, and perhaps earlier, "IMPORTED" was a tag often used to sort of boost the appeal of products from tea to clothing to fine china.  I know it is used extensively in 1890s advertising.  Seems that items "imported" from their specialized countries of origin had a better appeal than something domestic.  During times of war, this didn't seem to be the case as people preferred to be more "patriotic" and not do so much business with countries in the area of conflict, particularly if those countries were friendly to the "enemy" or thought to be friendly toward them.

Of course, during WWII and after, several companies like Kaywoodie made sure to highlight that they were still or again using fine, quality "imported briar".  True enough, it seems "Imported Briar" stamping became more universal in the era of WWII, but then so did "Made in USA".  Like all things in the pipe making world, it seems if ONE manufacturer starts something, then all the others will follow suite in one way or another.  No one one-ups someone else without some sort of response from the "competitors".

I hope everyone keeps up the discussion and continues to look into this subject.  It's very interesting and enlightening.  It's also a subject that ties into all pipe making and countries of origin and sale.  --RJ--
LokoMac8

drbridges wrote:
Civil War battlefield excavations turn up clay pipes, not briar. I suspect briar pipes were quite rare in the U.S. during the 19th century, and perhaps into the early 20th century.


That is true -- and availability and affordability through merchants would have been rare beyond the larger cities.  Old briar pipes are found in early Sears Mail Order catalogs, but those weren't around at the time.  I imagine wood pipes were made from everything from cherry, maple and whatever, and few of those are going to survive in the ground.  Most may have been "home-made".  A lot of clay pipes are found in the Jamestown area and the colonies as well.  --RJ--
UncleShakey

It's been my understanding that they bought briar from different places.  Wherever the price was right.  They dealt in what would be seconds.  This means a piece that might need a fill.  They either rusticated it or like a couple I have made a very small fill.  This allowed them to make a pipe made of quality briar at a lower price that we could afford.  I am very thankful to them.
    If I'm wrong someone please correct me.  SWMBO says I'm always that way.
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