Refurbished Briar Burl Pipe

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Project by Mainiac Matt posted 05-26-2017 02:06 AM 737 views 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch

20 years ago I salvaged three very old grungy Briar burl pipes thinking that they might be worth refurbishing. Yesterday I attempted to do so.

Scraping out the petrified cake of carbon and tobacco proved difficult but by using a small sanding drum on the drill press I got the bowl cleaned out nicely. The rim was badly charred so I hand sanded it down to bare wood. This didn’t take long as the Briar burl is actually very soft and porous.

I thought the stem was a lost cause as it was plugged with hardened tar and had gross white calcified crusty stuff on the exterior. But I tried sanding this off and discovered that vulcanized rubber is very easy to work and I was able to polish it to a high gloss with wet dry sand paper and micro mesh.

I cleaned up the outside of the stummel with lacquer thinner, but you have to use a non-toxic solvent on the innerds so you don’t poison yourself. A little research revealed that Everclear (white lightning) is ideal for this, but is not available in Mainiac land, so the closest I could get from my current inventory was 95 proof Gin. This worked quite well and with a fist full of pipe cleaners and Q-tips I got it very clean and sterilized.

A coat of Tung oil on the exterior really popped the burl figure and a little wax made the stem shine. I’ll need to let the pipe dry out a few days before testing but I’m very pleased with the way it looks.

Just out of curiosity. I checked eBay and similar estate pipes that don’t look nearly as good appear to be going for up to $30. Not to bad for a nasty 50+ year old relic salvaged from the basement.

-- Pine is fine, but Oak's no joke!

8 comments so far

View rodneywt1180b's profile


158 posts in 293 days

#1 posted 05-26-2017 02:11 AM

I like vintage/estate pipes. You did a nice job of cleaning that one up.
Enjoy it!

-- Rodney, Centralia, WA, USA

View Monte Pittman's profile (online now)

Monte Pittman

28192 posts in 2245 days

#2 posted 05-26-2017 03:14 AM

Really nice job fixing them up.

-- Mother Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View CFrye's profile


10042 posts in 1747 days

#3 posted 05-26-2017 07:20 AM

Beautifully restored, Matt. Do you know the history of the pipe (to whom it belonged)? Are the others in better or worse shape? Thanks for sharing.

-- God bless, Candy

View Mainiac Matt 's profile

Mainiac Matt

7667 posts in 2236 days

#4 posted 05-26-2017 12:48 PM


We rented a one bedroom house as our “newlywed bungalow” from a 99 year old widower who was in a nursing home. Arnold was quite the character and told us many a good story, as he had been in the house since building it in the early 1920s and let’s just say he wasn’t one to throw things away. The grandson was handling his affairs and reduced our rent in exchange for us clearing out the old furniture and junk.

I saved some of the cooler items, like WWII gas ration cards, old hunting licenses…. and these pipes. Rumor was that when Arnold went into a nursing home, they found quite a bit of money that his late wife had stashed all around the house and once we found a tin can with old $1 silver certificates in it (which we gave to the grandson).

Arnold was a retired machinist and these were his pipes. The one I refinished has a very tiny air vent hole precisely drilled at a steep angle in the side of the stem so you can cover it with your finger to vary the draw on the pipe.

I’ll remember Arnold every time I handle it.

-- Pine is fine, but Oak's no joke!

View EricTwice's profile


230 posts in 440 days

#5 posted 05-26-2017 12:56 PM

Reminds me of the one’s my dad used to smoke.

well done

-- nice recovery, They should pay extra for that mistake, Eric E.

View helluvawreck's profile


30164 posts in 2774 days

#6 posted 05-26-2017 01:31 PM

This pipe is a nice piece of work.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. Henry David Thoreau

View Mainiac Matt 's profile

Mainiac Matt

7667 posts in 2236 days

#7 posted 05-26-2017 07:09 PM

After working with the briar root burls I think I get why it is favored for use in pipes. It’s very open in it’s structure and appears to have many little air pockets. This would make it conduct heat poorly, which is desirable to not burn one’s pinkies.

That and it looks attractive. Apparently, you can only get the right type of briar root on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and Greece, Algeria and Israel appear to the most common sources.

I think the same is true of the corn cob pipes. Lot’s of air space, so poor heat conduction.

Complaints I’ve read about hardwood pipes are that they get too hot.

Looky who the poster boy was for these pipes…

-- Pine is fine, but Oak's no joke!

View Roger's profile


20904 posts in 2711 days

#8 posted 06-04-2017 01:08 PM

Looks like a fine smoker

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed.

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