In continuing my exploration into pipe making it was only a matter of time before I took aim at sinking my saws and other instrument of mass destruction into a seemingly pristine piece of plateau briar. Now one must understood the each and every piece of briar has its own unique and distinctive qualities that set it aside from the next. These distinctions give each piece of briar its character and grain patterns but also give rise to the dreaded flaws that haunt and perplex all pipe makers. Up to this point I have been mostly spared from the cursed flaws in the ebachuans that I have worked with but fate was soon to play his ill-gotten hand when I dropped the cash for some premium briar plateaus. When I cut into plateau number one I instantly discovered a large hole nearly an inch in diameter near the edge of the piece, thinking that this gargantuan flaw would quickly play out I cut a bit further into the chunk of briar only to discover it continued on, and on, and on. Plateau number one, after being reduced to nearly nothing, was tossed to the scrap pile. That makes me 0 for 1.
Number two started out quite differently. After getting around its odd dimensions to start with, everything seemed to fall nicely into place. I had picked a large green swirly Lucite stem and began to shape a jumbo freehand dublin. All was well until the final bits of shaping were taking place and then slowly, a few, so very small voids began to open in the wood as the tiny flaws pushed their ways to the surface of my sure to be master piece. The more I sanded the more feverishly they worked their way center stage to star on the surface of my precious hunk of briar. But not to give up without a fight I trudged on sanding and reworking till all but the most stubborn flaws had all but disappeared. That being said a strong plateau of briar is not one to be shown up and still had a few surprises of its own! As I began to do the final stages of sanding a large crater of a flaw emerged right smack dab in the middle of the gloriously glowing flamed straight grain. The size and placement led me to scout out it path and after a light bit of sanding in the bore there it stood, shooting straight through to the other side of the bowl. Now it was not nearly as pronounced on the inside but still it was there. I at this point almost tossed it the scrap pile but due to its good grains and well being almost completed, I finished it. Now a good formed cake inside the bowl from some thoughtful, gentle smoking could very well make a enough amends that it would be a good long time smoker…. but the fact remains that there does indeed exist a heart breaking flaw straight through the bowl of the briar. But never fear, for my father has valiantly offered to take possession of said pipe and with kid gloves give it a suitable home. What a man. So it’s off to face the next plateau directly in the eyes and sand it into submission.