What's the Difference Between Briar, Meerschaum, and Corn Cob Pipes?
There are several pipe materials that are predominately used in today’s pipe manufacturing. The briar pipe, made from the briar root, is the most popular material used in pipe manufacturing. However, briar wasn’t used in pipe-making until the 1800s. Before briar root, Meerschaum pipes were predominantly used by pipe smokers. Meerschaum is a mineral commonly found in Turkey and is still being made today, though it’s not as popular as briar. Corn Cob pipes originated in the 1800s, when a farmer whittled a corn cob into a pipe and smoked tobacco out of it. Although Corn cob pipes are not nearly as popular as briar, they are cheap to purchase, making them a great start for a newbie pipe smoker (Spencer, 2018). The differences between these three pipes can make a large difference in the taste and smoke you get from smoking one of these pipes.
One of the reasons briar is such a popular material in pipe making is because it’s extremely flame-resistant. This is an important quality because when you light a pipe, you don’t want it to catch fire. That would take all the fun out of it! Using briar to make pipes allows the tobacco to heat up and stay warm for a long time and not burn the wood (Woodstone Pipes, n.d.). Another reason briar is popular in pipe-making is because of its ability to absorb moisture. Since the briar root is filled with tiny pores that absorb moisture, your tobacco won’t dry out as quickly (Woodstone Pipes, n.d.). Smoking dry tobacco will result in a very short smoke because the leaves will burn much faster than if they have some moisture in them.
Briar root is also very durable. It does not break easily and can be transported without being too careful. Durability is yet another reason why briar is much more popular than other materials because they are meant to last a lifetime.
However, there is an aspect to smoking a briar pipe that isn’t applicable to the other types of pipes, and that’s wood taste. When you smoke a briar pipe, some of the wood essence can be transferred to your tobacco when you smoke it, giving it a woody flavor (Smith, 2019). If this is your thing, a briar pipe will be perfect for you. If not, you may want to take a look at the other two pipe materials.
Meerschaum pipes are made from minerals found in Turkey. These pipes were among the first pipes smoked in ancient times. Meerschaum pipes are still popular in pipe smoking circles because they offer a few characteristics that make them unique compared to briar pipes.
First, they offer a neutral flavor when smoking, rather than a woody flavor as you get with briar pipes (Smith, 2019). Since the Meerschaum gives a more “pure representation of tobacco blends,” it is best when used to try out different blends to get the true flavor (Smith, 2019). This feature is especially useful for newbie pipe smokers who haven’t found “the one” when it comes to tobacco blends.
Second, Meerschaum pipes are known for their intricate designs, due to their ability to be carved into easily (Smith, 2019). If you’re looking for an intricately designed animal or geometric pattern, the Meerschaum pipe will serve you well.
Third, Meerschaum pipes develop a patina over time, due to the aging of the mineral material (Smith, 2019). A patina occurs when the material changes color as it ages. These pipes go from bone white to brown and sometimes even orange. This feature is probably more appealing to seasoned pipe smokers who want a unique pipe that will show age over time.
Lastly, Meerschaum is lighter than briar; however, it can be more easily broken if it’s dropped. Although, the material is just as, if not more heat-resistant than briar, making it a great addition to your pipe collection. The light material of Meerschaum is also very porous, much like briar. This allows the tobacco to retain just enough moisture when smoking, so it doesn’t dry out (Smith, 2019).
For pipe smokers who want a rigorous pipe that will withstand large amounts of smoking, the Meerschaum is the way to go. A Meerschaum pipe can be smoked over and over without a lot of “rest time” in between (Smith, 2019).
One thing to note about Meerschaum pipes is that the “cake” that develops from the char due to smoking the tobacco, shouldn’t be left in the bowl. Unlike briar pipes, Meerschaums need to be fully wiped out in order to use them continuously smoke after smoke (Smith, 2019).
Corn Cob Pipes
If you know anything about rural American history, you know that corn cob pipes were especially popular with farmers back in the day. Today, however, corn cob pipes make a wonderful addition to any avid pipe smoker’s collection because it has a unique history and they’re very affordable. Corn cob pipes are also great if you want a break from your briar or Meerschaum, but still want to keep pipe smoking.
Corn cob pipes are great for these reasons: they require no breaking in time or “caking” and you can be a lot rougher with these pipes, without worrying about damage. If you’re someone who is prone to losing or breaking things, a corn cob pipe would be a great pipe for you. If you want to try new tobaccos without breaking in your pipe, a corn cob pipe will get the job done (Smokingpipes.com, 2016).
There’s no doubt that each of these pipes offers characteristics that are unique to them. When choosing a pipe, it’s always best to do your research and pick the pipe that will best suit your needs. However, whichever pipe you choose, I’m sure you’ll get a fabulous smoke.
Corn Cob Tobacco Pipes at Smokingpipes.com. (2016, April 19). Smokingpipes.com; Smokingpipes.com. https://www.smokingpipes.com/corn-cob-pipes.cfm
Smith, T. (2019, October 17). Why Smoke a Meerschaum. Smoking Pipes. Retrieved July 6, 2021, from https://www.smokingpipes.com/smokingpipesblog/single.cfm/post/why-smoke-meerschaum
Spencer, K. (2018, July 9). A Brief History of the Corn Cob Pipe. Western Fictioneers. Retrieved July 6, 2021, from https://westernfictioneers.blogspot.com/2018/07/a-brief-history-of-corncob-pipe-by-kaye.html
Woodstone Pipes. (n.d.). A Beginner's Guide to Briar Tobacco Pipes. Woodstone Pipes. Retrieved July 6, 2021, from https://www.woodstonepipes.com/blogs/news/12847853-a-beginners-guide-to-briar-tobacco-pipes