Briar pipe care. Breaking-in. Glossary. Stem tip.

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Many folks have asked about breaking-in a briar pipe and caring for it. This guide was written as a basic introduction. There are many resources on the net discussing every aspect in great detail.

Food for thought for those that bite heavily on stems:
Pop down to the local hardware shop and get a very short piece of clear plastic hose or tubing to slide over the end of your stem. Much easier than trying to find a pipe repairer in Australia these days, cheaper too.


Otherwise known as bruyere. Traditionally sourced from the root of a Heath tree.

The char which forms inside the bowl. It is important to the smoking quality. Most seasoned smokers agree that 1/16” is about the ideal thickness for cake. The carbon lining should be uniform throughout the bowl. If the cake is excessive, use a pipe tool or reamer before it assists in cracking your bowl.

The last bit of unsmoked or partly smoked tobacco in the bottom of the bowl. Have as little as possible to help cake form evenly from top to bottom.

The grain of a briar pipe may be quite varied. The choice is claimed to be a matter of aesthetics, not smoking quality. Beautifully grained pipes should not be lacquered, but hand-rubbed.

A pipe tool designed for reducing the amount of carbon in the bowl. Unlike a pocket knife, a reamer will not have a pointy end which is a common cause of bowl damage.

The straight or angled part of the pipe formed in one piece with the bowl which joins the stem.

An instrument for pressing down the tobacco in the pipe bowl. Useful when relighting and the tobacco is still too hot for finger tamping. Formerly called a stopple. Stopples were usually made of clay, while modern tampers are usually metal.

Tongue bite.
Irritation of the tongue, usually caused by smoking tobacco that is too wet or puffing too hard.



To season a new pipe it should be smoked slowly for a few weeks until a carbon layer has formed.
Keep it out of the wind, just relax at home. Your patience now will benefit you later.

With care, a pipe will last for many years and improve with age.
A pipe for every day of the week is desirable but not necessary.
Heavy smokers in particular should have more than one pipe.

Every pipe needs a rest and drying/cooling period.
Pipes should be alternated every 4-6 pipefuls.
A pipe which is still warm should not be refilled.
A lower quality briar will be more porous and susceptible to absorbing goo, particularly if not rested.

Filling your pipe becomes a personal skill.
Break up some tobacco in the palm of one hand and feed into the bowl evenly.
This means not too tight nor too loose. Do not leave air gaps between layers of tobacco.
It is the air gaps that are heated by the burning tobacco that causes a pipe to smoke hot.

Packing a pipe too tight also causes the pipe to smoke hot and as you draw harder it creates saliva and makes the pipe smoke wet.

Don't puff and blow.
The tobacco should burn at a leisurely rate while the bowl becomes pleasantly warm. It is all in the way you pack your pipe that makes it smoke cool and delightful.

The bowl will acquire a black carbon lining inside.
The ideal thickness is approximately 1.5mm or 1/16”.
If the carbon lining becomes excessive, it will crack the bowl.
The carbon lining should be reduced with a pipe tool as necessary.
The stem should be cleaned as frequently as necessary by running a cotton pipe cleaner through until clean. Sharp instruments such as knives are likely to damage your pipe.

The quickest way to shorten the life of your pipe is mistreatment and abuse..

NEVER pull stem out... always twist stem out gently.
NEVER push stem in... always twist stem in gently.
NEVER knock your pipe against anything... to empty your pipe use a pipe tool!

Laws of expansion and contraction are at play too, especially if you are a hot smoker. This will be noticeable when your stem doesn't easily refit your shank.

Disclaimer: Smoking is a health hazard. I do know people that enjoy their pipe without tobacco.

Enjoy in good health


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