The Characteristics of Briarwood
The Briar Wood or Briar Root is part of the root structure of Erica Arborea, a species of flowering plant in the heather family. The plant is recognised for its small, beautiful white flowers and specific large height – in African regions, it can grow up to 23 ft.
The main characteristics of Briarwood are its hardness, density and heat resistance, which makes it one of the best choices in terms of materials used for pipe manufacturing.
Briar Wood can be harvested when it is between 30 and 60 years old. In order to be processed first, the wood must be dried for several months and only a small part of it can be used: the “ball” situated above the surface of the soil.
The quality of briarwood can be determined by different factors:
1. The Density: If the briar root has a dense texture, it is considered as being a high-quality material. Because Erica Arborea grows in rough climates, high temperatures and little rain, the root is usually the home of many small insects and creatures that can end up creating holes in the root, making it less suitable for creating pipes and other related objects. Although the root comes with small holes, they can be filled up, but this only happens for low-quality pipes.
2. The Internal Structure: the root develops its internal fibres and grains as it grows. The growth of the fibres start from a middle point and extend to the extremities, leaving numerous options for their alignments. The highest quality briar root has three main structures:
– Straight Grain
– Flame Grain – the structure gives the grains a flaring effect
– Bird’s Eye – a structure including small, dark marks and different swirls reflecting
what appears to be a bird’s eye.
Where can it be found?
Briar Wood is mostly found in maquis shrub-land surrounding the Mediterranean Basin. The main countries providing high-quality briarwood are Italy, Greece, France and Algeria – which is also the main source for mass production of briarwood.
Moreover, it can also grow in the Canary Islands, South Tirol and some parts of Eastern Africa such as Ethiopia and Equatorial Mountains.
Briar is part of the root of Erica Arborea, a. evergreen, large shrub that needs a special climate to develop and prosper. Therefore, the root grows only in environments where It does not rain very much and it’s very warm.
What is briarwood used for?
Briar Wood is used in mass manufacturing of pipes and decorative objects. In this case, the quality of the root is not necessarily high. Due to the high demand, manufacturers choose a low-quality wood, fill the holes and mass-produce and sell the pipes.
However, those who choose to create high-quality pipes go through a slow process. The briar root is kept in a room with a high level of humidity and wetted regularly. The woodblocks are then boiled to ensure they don’t crack, then again put in a humid environment.
A thin layer of mould will start growing on the surface of the woodblocks. When the mould appears, the blocks are turned on the other side. This process is repeated during a period of up to 8 months and it is a very important step in the drying process. The blocks are now ready to be used in pipe manufacturing.
Briar Wood is used for pipes for various reasons. Firstly, for mass production, the quality of briarwood is not necessarily a problem due to the usage of fillers. However, for manufacturing high-quality pipes there is a need for high-quality briarwood, which is not easy to find, but when used, it brings additional value to the final product.
Secondly, the root is fire resistant and the internal structure is dense, but also porous. These three main characteristics make it a valuable material in the process of creation and adequate usage of pipes.
Because of its density and porous structure, the smoke resulted from briar wood made tobacco pipes is cool and dry. The moisture is absorbed by the pipe and creates a clean and satisfactory effect when using it.
Decorative objects for interior design and also jewellery are some of the other fields Briar Wood is used for. It confers an elegant look due to its creative fibres and provides a great alternative to other, harder to obtain, materials such as meerschaum.
In relation to meerschaum pipes or clay pipes, Briar Wood is a perfect alternative. Meerschaum is a great material for creating pipes, providing a cool smoke and absorbing the moisture. However, it is extremely hard to obtain, which rises the price of pipes considerably. Clay pipes are a great alternative, but the smoke is hot and they are very fragile.
Briar Wood is a great choice. Tt takes all the advantages from Meerschaum and Clay and combines them into a great smoking experience at an affordable price.