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Wooden pipes have been the biggest tradition in pipe making in Czech Republic. Every large annual farmer’s market had pipes for sale. They were usually made by local artists from nearby available materials. The most commonly used wood was from the Alder and Red Ash; however Walnut, Birch, Plum, Pear and Lime-tree were used as well. The founders of the pipe-making tradition in Prosec were Anton Pesina and Philip Svec, who started the mass production of pipes. Initially pipes were made on hand-driven treading lathe, and later on machinery with electric power.
Nowadays, the production of quality pipes is localized to four main areas around the world, which are made mainly for export. Italy is the largest producer, and has a large selection of products and abundant regional resources. The largest company is Savinelli from Milan, established in 1876. The advantage of this company is a wide variety of shapes that are slightly different from classical English shapes.
The second largest producers are in France, mainly in the southern town of Saint-Claude, where there is a whole line of known companies that have been making pipes for decades. French pipes were very popular before and after the First World War. At the beginning of the 20th century, many English men smoked only these French pipes.
The thirst largest area of pipe-making is Great Britain and Ireland, where we could hardly imagine an Englishmen without a pipe. It was these Englishmen who made the short classic pipes so popular around the world. English pipes stand out for their quality, and despite their conservative shapes are still much sought after.
A wooden pipe for tobacco smoking typically consists of a small chamber (the bowl) for the combustion range from the very simple machine-made briar pipe to highly-prized handmade and artful implements created by renowned pipe makers which are often very expensive collector’s items while others are carved atypically giving them a native appeal.
Wooden Pipe Materials & Care
The bowls of tobacco pipes are commonly made of briar, corncob, meerschaum, and clay. Less common are cherry wood, olivewood, maple, mesquite, and oak. Generally a dense-grained wood is ideal. Minerals such as calamite and soapstone have also been used. Pipe bowls are frequently carved with a great deal of artistry. The native pipes frequently come with an additional piece attached to the bowl of the smoking pipe, a snuff cover. This cover allows the user to not only travel with a packed pipe but snuff out their tobacco by simply covering the bowl. Some snuff covers also have a light hole in which the tobacco user can smoke through making windy days or an occasional puff simple.
With care, a wooden pipe can last a very long time without burning out. However, due to aggressive (hot) smoking, imperfections in the wood, or bad luck, a hole can be burned in the tobacco chamber of the pipe. It is important to build up a “cake” on the walls of the bowl to insulate the wood and thereby prevent burnout. This “cake” is a mixture of ash, unburned tobacco, oils, sugars, and other residue. While a cake may build without any intention to do so, a common practice is to encourage a cake to build quickly when the pipe is new. A common technique for this is to alternate a half-bowl and a full-bowl for the first several times a pipe is used. Prior to this, a paste or liquid may be applied to the inside of the bowl. The ingredients usually consist of one or more of the following: water, honey, sour cream, buttermilk, powdered sugar, activated charcoal, and cigar ash. The resultant product is spread around the inside of the bowl and allowed to dry. Many modern briar pipes come pre-treated but native pipes will most likely not be.
The ash and the last bits of unburned tobacco needs to be cleaned out with a pipe tool, a pipe cleaner is run through the airway of the stem and shank to remove any moisture, ash, and other residue before setting it aside to cool and dry.
A cake of ash eventually develops inside the bowl. This is generally considered desirable for controlling overall heat. However, if it becomes too thick, it may expand faster than the bowl of the pipe itself when heated, cracking the bowl. Before reaching this point, it needs to be scraped down with a reamer. It is generally recommended to keep the cake at approximately the thickness of an American dime (about 1/20th of an inch or 1.5 mm), though sometimes the cake is removed entirely as part of efforts to eliminate off flavors or aromas.