Geographic Pipe Styles: What’s On Your Rack?

One can notice like traits in pipe styles based on location. These common themes are undeniable although the reasoning behind them are certainly disputed. Part of the allure of the hobby of Pipes is exploring the many differences of all the different kinds of briars.

TobaccoPlace.Net enjoys predominately English Briars, although he has several Don Carlos and Savinelli pipes. After examining these briars, however, he noticed that they were all traditional in shape and most were medium in size.

Geographic Pipe Styles: What’s On Your Rack?

Have you ever noticed that many of your personal pipes are not only similar in shape and finish but also they tend to come from the same country? Take a quick look at your pipe rack- notice any simularities?

It is true that pipe smokers tend to have two or three shapes that are favorite but have you ever noticed that if you are a Peterson smoker, for example, that you begin to look at Dunhills or Ferndowns while a Savinelli smoker starts salivating at that new Don Carlos, Ser Jacapo, or Castello? The answer is that they are simular in style and that of course if you like small traditional pipes that you will be, in fact, drawn to small traditional pipes. And yet, they all tend to come from the same country. Why is that?

Believe it or not, there are different ideals about pipes that seem to be reflected in the country of origin! They are best described as English, Italian, and Danish pipes. Each of these styles have unique criteria that are used to judge the quality and craftsmanship of these pipes.

English Pipes:

English Pipes include Irish, Welsh, and French pipes with such names as Jobey, BC, Dunhill, Peterson, Blakemore, Ferndown, and so on. These pipes all tend to follow similar characteristics:

  • Small to medium in size
  • Traditional shapes
  • Cross-cut grain
  • Abundance of Saddle and Military bits
  • Silver Work

Tobacco is expensive in Britain so it comes as no surprise that the pipes are smaller. Have you ever seen a Dunhill group 1 or 2? They make them primarily for Britain and Europe as tobacco can be over $50-$70/lb!

Practicality is also an important issue for Brits. Small means portability and saddle bits are more comfortable while military bits are easier to clean without the worry of loose stems. As for traditional shapes, well who made them traditional?

The thinking behind cross cut grain is described as the way briar best dissipates heat. In the British mindset, heat flows through the grain and emanates out the Birdseye. In essence the whole pipe radiates heat out of the Birdseye and therefore one wants as much as possible.

Italian Pipes:

The Italian Tradition includes such formidable names as Savinelli, Radice, Castello, Caminetto, Don Carlos, and many more. Similar characteristics include:

  • Large to Huge
  • Variations on Traditonal Shapes and Freehands
  • Straight Grains
  • Lucite Stems
  • Adornment: silver to semi-precious stones

Big pipes are the hallmark of the Italian tradition and chances are if you love big pipes you have a couple! Some people claim that this is because the Italian carvers have access to better briar because of their proximity. Certainly Italy has a long tradition of expression and this seems to support the love of embellishing traditional shapes and the introduction of semi- precious stones.

The idea of straight grains comes from beauty. A clean, tight, straight grain is always preferable in displaying the quality of the briar in the Italian mindset. Straight grain seems to dissipate heat as well as cross-cut and is at least as lovely.

Danish Pipes:

Danish pipes include such powerhouses as Ben Wade, Stanwell, Neilson, Nording, Preban Holme, Wenhall, and many more. Dutch, Austrian and German carvers are often grouped together with the Danes and common attributes include:

  • Small to Large
  • Freehands!
  • Straight Grains
  • Use of Ceramics and lately Metals

The rugged landscape of Scandinavia lends well to the abundance of free form shapes that come from the Danish carvers. Unlike the Italians these freehand are often smaller and little resemble any known traditional shapes. A nice tight straight grain is always preferred and some of the best comes from here.

I think that it is unfair to group Dutch, Austrian, and German carvers here as each has distinctive styles. The Dutch craft cunning ceramic pipes, the Austrians make lovely meerschaum, and the Germans are famous for their Peasant Pipes, Briar Faces, and the Porsche Pipe: an all metal offering that uses a denicotia filter.

American Pipes:

American pipe makers really have no collective ideals as each individual craftsman pursues his own style. Noted American carvers include Tim West, Von Erck, Doe Run, Alpha and many others. Lately, however, a resurgence of freehand styles have dominated the American scene.