The pipe is undoubtedly a simple, no-frills smoking device: generally comprising just a couple of materials (Briar and Ebonite), this is more than adequate to ensure that it is functional and long-lasting. However, it would be interesting to try to examine more closely our “briar” in order to identify the essential features (that is to say, those present in any pipe) that constitute and characterise it.
BOWL: This is the front part of the pipe, which is where the much discussed and sought-after grain is developed. Its shape may vary, and together with the shank contributes to defining the model (in some cases the stem will also have this function). The bowl and shank are usually turned together from a single block (apart from some exceptions).
Inside the bowl is the tobacco chamber, which holds the tobacco ready to be lit. The chamber’s walls may be left untreated in their natural state (the briar is visible) or else coated with a layer of charcoal (called “waterglass”) which will help the bowl build up a “cake”.
SHANK: This is the middle part that joins the bowl to the stem. It may be straight or more or less bent, with variable designs according to the type of model. Inside the shank there is a draught-hole that runs the whole length of the pipe starting from the base of the bowl. Its purpose is to transport the smoke of the lit tobacco to the palate of the smoker.
In reverse Calabash pipes, the shank has a different structure as it contains within also an expansion chamber designed to cool down the smoke before it reaches the palate.
MORTISE: This is usually located at the end of the shank and is where the stem is mounted. The mortise may be cylindrical or conical in shape (such as in the “army” mount) and in some cases is reinforced with a metal shank cap or “olive”.
TENON: This is the “peg” part of the stem, and it is fitted into the mortise to ensure that the pipe is correctly assembled.
In most cases the tenon is an integral part of the stem and is turned on it, while the exception is the so-called “unbreakable tenon”, which is usually in Teflon and has the feature of withstanding accidental drops and everyday use. Moreover, Teflon is quite soft and is not subject to excessive expansion, enabling the pipe to be taken apart while still hot. For the record, we should also mention the now obsolete threaded tenons whose use was restricted to stems in horn and amber.
Inside the tenon there may be a disposable filter in some models designed with this function (generally in balsa or activated charcoal measuring 6 or 9mm) or a metal condenser filter.
Special mention should be made of Dunhill’s famous “Inner Tube”, a small, metal tube mounted on the tenon that runs the length of the shank into the base of the bowl. Its original purpose was to prevent tar build-up in the draught-hole. This is an expedient from another era, designed to make up for the lack of pipe cleaners.
In some special cases the mortise and tenon may invert their positions, which is the case for “pencil” pipes. In these particular pipes, due to an extremely slim shank and thus more subject to wear and breakage, the tenon, (usually made of steel) is already inserted in the briar, while the mortise is to be found in the stem.
STEM: The pipe ends in the stem and the latter may vary in shape and be more or less bent. It is normally in Ebonite (vulcanised rubber and sulphur), Acrylic or Cumberland. In some cases, its shape contributes actively to determining the model of the pipe. A draught-hole also runs the length of the inner part of the stem.
At one end of the stem is the above-mentioned tenon tightly fitted into the mortise, which ensures continuous flow of smoke through the draught-hole running through the length of the pipe from the bowl to the lip (the tip of the mouthpiece through which the smoker puffs on his pipe).