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The following describes a bit about the beauty of pipes, and the material that comprise them.
If you are interested in the "workings" of a pipe, you may
skip right to the anatomical diagrams which follow.

The Pipe: Marriage of Nature and Man

Pipes are things of beauty. In some ways fragile, in others, durable. Always, they are the offspring of natural grace and human artistry.
Pipes are generally made of either briar, the hard knotty wood from the root-burl of the heath tree, or meerschaum, a white chalky mineral with properties like those of kilned clay.
Briar is prized by pipemakers because it is hard, porous, relatively heat resistant, easy to carve, and usually has attractive grain patterns.

Briar Pipe
with flame and straight grain

Meerschaum is less popular than briar, but is also heat resistant, porous, easy to carve, and has an attractively smooth, creamy white appearance. Meerschaum is generally easier to carve than briar, allowing meerschaum pipemakers the freedom to create elaborate smoking statuary of great complexity and beauty (see below). However, meerschaum is much more fragile than briar, a drawback for the smoker.

Meerschaum Pipe Bowl
depicting Bacchus

Regardless of the material, the general construction is basically the same from pipe to pipe.

The general parts of the pipe bowl and shank are shown below.

diagram of pipe bowl parts (pipebowl.gif)

Actually, it is only the smoking end of pipes which are made of briar or meerschaum. The stem, the section that the pipe smoker interfaces with, is usually made of more moisture-resistant substances. On briar pipes, stems are made of a hard rubber ( called "ebonite" or "vulcanite") or a durable plastic polymer (Lucite). On meerschaum pipes, the stem is made of Lucite or amber (fossilized tree sap, which is quite fragile). The pipe stem is depicted below.

diagram of pipe stem parts (pipestem.gif)

The stem and bowl are fit together by the insertion of tenon into mortise. When this occurs, the pipe is ready to start giving pleasure to its owner in the form of tastes and aromas, as well as in visions of beauty.

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This page and its graphics are Copyright 1996 by Ray Bromley