Monday, February 4, 2008

The Tyrolean: another kind of full bent

Another old scannergraph of my only Tyrolean pipe. The Tyrolean is named for its origin in the historical European region of Tyrol. An interesting design, and in this case, a hybrid for using two different kinds of wood.

All wooden parts of the stummel are briar. The only nomenclature on this pipe is on the left shank, which says "BRUYERE GARANTIE," French for "briar guarantee" or as we would say in English, "genuine briar." This one has a stem extension made of what I assume is cherrywood. The vulcanite (hard rubber) bit is permanently fixed to the stem extension.

The Tyrolean is usually adorned with brass furniture, in this case a picture of a stag. It is also customary for the Tyrolean to be equipped with a windcap. This pipe is only about 6 1/2 inches tall, but I've seen them much larger. As can be guessed from the odd round bit, this pipe is not meant to hang in one's mouth with teeth clamped firmly on the bit. It is meant to sit on the table in front of you at the biergarten, interspersing one's conversation with sips on the pipe and swigs of beer.

Another interesting part of this pipe's design is the air passage. As you can see, the bottom platform unscrews from the bowl for cleaning. The smoke is drawn through the hole in the center bottom of the bowl, and then through another hole just to the right of the bowl hole in this photo (hard to see, but it's there). This means the air is not drawn directly from the bowl. This swirling of the smoke around in the air pocket created by the bottom piece probably does help create a cooler smoke. This design also helps in catching moisture generated from the burning tobacco.

I took this photo from another angle to show the threads cut in the wood. The stem extension sticks into the shank and stays put from pressure alone.

I picked this pipe up, among some others, at an estate sale in the mid-1990s. It appeared to have been purchased (by its original owner) mostly for appearance and rarely smoked. In fact, when I bought it the stem showed no oxidation at all. As you can see in these photos, the bit now shows oxidation, which showed up almost immediately after I smoked it a couple of times. Because of the original lack of any oxidation, I might assume I was the first person ever to smoke it--which is unusual when it comes to estate pipes.

Oxidation is a problem with vulcanite stems, and is caused by saliva and sunlight. This pipe has never been exposed to any appreciable sunlight since I have owned it, so I might make another assumption that it is quite old and the quality of the vulcanite is not the same as with modern pipes. Oxidation can be cleaned and that bit can be made shiny and black again, but it will be a careful job because the bit is permanently fixed to the wooden extension. Removing oxidation is usually a simple job requiring the bit to be soaked in bleach for a few minutes, then rinsed with water, dried, buffed and waxed. A healthy layer of wax will help slow down further oxidation.

One other point I should make is that, once this pipe is lit and being smoked, it is important to avoid contacting the brass furniture with one's fingers, as that brass gets quite hot. The briar itself remains just as cool as any briar pipe should.

I'm sure I could sell this for enough to buy several old estate Kaywoodies, but because of its unusualness and its potential as a conversation piece, it will remain a part of my collection.


  1. Hi Alan,
    I have recently acquired one of the Tyrolean pipes very similar to yours. I am not a smoker nor collector but a restorer/reseller of estate pipes. I have a question
    about these and your blog is the only one Ive come across regarding this type pipe. I am wondering if there is any way to date these and a pipe maker; also my stem appears to be maybe amber (based on color)
    or bone (based on texture) would this material have been used for these pipes? I look forward your response.


  2. I don't know anything about dating them, but amber was used for pipe stems long ago. It isn't used anymore because it's quite fragile. If it is amber, I'd guess it's at least a hundred years old, and possibly quite valuable. Be very careful that you don't break it, and have it checked by someone who can verify for sure that it's amber.

  3. It's not vulcanite. It's horn. They were indeed better times.

  4. It discolors exactly like vulcanite and it smells like rubber when it warms up.

  5. Any sources for more information on Tyrolean pipes? I recently saw 3 in an antique/junk shop. Two were made of briar and what I took to be Cherry, the 3rd had a porcelain bowl. All of them were in poor condition so I didn't buy any. But got more curious about them.