Refurbished Briar Burl Pipe

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Project by Mainiac Matt posted 05-26-2017 02:06 AM 1105 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.

-- I yam what I yam and that's all what I yam

8 comments so far

View rodneywt1180b's profile


179 posts in 624 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

Monte Pittman

30147 posts in 2576 days

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

Really nice job fixing them up.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View CFrye's profile


10547 posts in 2078 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

8614 posts in 2567 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.

-- I yam what I yam and that's all what I yam

View EricTwice's profile


248 posts in 771 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


32086 posts in 3105 days

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

This pipe is a nice piece of work.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View Mainiac Matt 's profile

Mainiac Matt

8614 posts in 2567 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…

-- I yam what I yam and that's all what I yam

View Roger's profile


20965 posts in 3042 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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