"In a more elaborate and expensive process, the natural grain is preserved in pipes with a roughened appearance by subjecting the bowls at an early stage to the effects of heat and of high pressure sand-jets. The soft wood is thus removed and the hard grain stands out in bold relief. After such treatment, the bowl is both light and tough.".....Alfred H. Dunhill

The sandblasted pipe - the mis-nomed "second" of pipe-dom; with its natural character and ever unique gnarly grain patterns, from ring-grain to birds-eye peaks, seems to be of an ethereal moonscape. It is joy to the sight and pleasure to the touch. Can we not perceive and therefore appreciate more of what is there, enjoying the characteristics of grain when more of the senses are aroused? Or, is her picture more valuable than the lady herself. Whatever enticed someone, many years ago, to decide to entreat a pipe bowl to this process? Was Dunhill the first?

We have no record of any other pipemaker sandblasting briar pipes prior to Mr. Dunhill. We do know that virtually all other pipemakers since have produced pipes using this remarkable process. The older names with their special sandblasted lines: Dunhill's Shell Briar, Barling's Fossil, Sasieni's Rough Root, Charatan, Comoy, Kaywoodie, Castello, Savinelli, et al, to the 44 "newcomers" which almost all employ the process. Bill Taylor has furthered the study of curing and sandblasting with his Ashton Pipes. Perhaps no one has gone so far as to stake his reputation on the perfection of a long ago idea... and, in result, rekindling the desire for a roughened, gnarly pipe.

Grain patterns, in relief on our sandblasted bowls, are worth discussion, if only for educational purposes. We know of straight grains and birds eye and cross cut, but what about ring grain, or fish-lips (a Bill Taylor term)? We also have the notion (not unfounded) that the "deeper the blast", the better (smoking) the pipe will be.

Straight grain when sandblasted becomes a ring grain!? Fishlips occurs when there has been a pressure exerted on the wood while growing -"pushing" grain tightly together, usually in swirls. Combine characteristics such as these with a deep blast, and you get what I call gnarly wood!

What effect does sandblasting have on the smoking qualities of the pipe? It has been observed that
these "shell" pipes smoke cooler and dryer due to the increased surface area created. Does this process open the pores for increased breathing by the wood? Does "blasting away" the "soft wood" really have a physical effect on the way that the briar breathes?

As I light my gnarly old-wood Ashton, with various landscapes in miniature within my touch and
sight, I ponder...

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