The mountains of scraps are not wasted but are used for
the next step. Now that the burls have been cut into blocks, it is time
to boil out the little sap that is in the wood. Once this sap is removed,
the blocks can be dried slowly without cracking. The scraps are used to
fire the boiler that the blocks are placed in.
The boiler itself is two stories high. The blocks are placed in a cage and lowered into the boiler for 24 hours.
The blocks are then sorted into ebauchon and plateaux and
then sorted again by size. They are placed in drying bins until they are
Then they are bagged in large burlap sacks, which weigh
over 200 pounds apiece, to be shipped to the pipe makers in England, Denmark,
or, in our case, the United States.
Surrounded by sacks of briar, I am picking blocks to be
shipped to the American Smoking Pipe Company.
When the blocks arrive here, they are still not ready to be made into pipes.The little drying time they have had in Greece is not enough to season them.On the average it takes about 2 years for an average block to reach the dryness (approximately 12 percent by weight) required to produce a fine smoking pipe. The only way to achieve this without cracking the block is by slow air drying. Blowing air over the blocks to speed the drying process will only result in more cracking, and using heat is even worse. They may only sit in the drying racks with occasional turning of the pile from top to bottom. Even with the utmost in care in monitoring of temperature and humidity, there will still be some cracking. If the cracks are small, it may be possible to cut the cracks out of the block or design a pipe around them. But it is not uncommon once you have started cutting to continue until you have no more block and a pile of scraps. Like the giant boiler back in Greece, we feed them to the stove in the winter- surely some of the most expensive firewood in the world!