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Smoking the Old Racine

April 4, 2009


It was indeed with some trepidation that I decided I would have to smoke the Racine from 1920. The pipe simply cried out for tobacco but one shouldn’t rush into these things, Firstly, the briar has been drying for nearly ninety years as a pipe. Lord knows how long the original block had. I may be up in the order of 110 years with out this piece of wood having been dampened or heated. Afraid then, that I might damage the wood in some way, I went slowly to it.

I packed the pipe loosely with mainly virginia, a little burley and latakia for flavour. I only packed the bowl to a little over half way. I decided on the virginia because I believed that the oils boiled out of the tobacco would be promptly soaked up by the dry bowl and will probably set as a ghost for a long time to come. As most tobacco blends hold a good deal of virginia anyway, this seemed the most reasonable course to follow. Gently then, and with one match poised over the bowl, I lit the pipe. It fired up straight away. Which is no surprise, I’m an old hand at lighting a pipe.

Smoking a new pipe is never a rewarding experience. One is in effect charring the wood inside the bowl and this generally imparts a harsh taste to the tobacco smoke. I tasted it here too, but it was not as unpleasant as is usual. I smoked the pipe until it died of its own accord and found nothing but ash left in the bowl. It held about an hour. The bowl was beautifully darkened inside and I could see no sign of burning. I cleaned the pipe and put her to rest in my rack.

The following evening, I tried again, packing the bowl slightly higher and repeated the gentle process that is required for break in. Smoke slow, gentle and be mindful of the temperature. Once again, it burned to ashes and the bowl took no damage. The taste was definitely better. There is a good draw on this pipe despite the somewhat restrictive size of the inner tube which effectively reduces the airway to 2 mm. I thought I may try smoking it again “sans tube” for comparison.

Since then, I have smoked two or three bowls in the pipe and it is coming along nicely. This will be a good pipe. No doubt about that. I realise that when writing about it before, I did not really describe the size or dimensions of this pipe. It was made in another era, when tobacco was perhaps less expensive. I feel this pipe was also made to impress. It has some generous proportions!

Racine1  Length = 175 mm
Bowl height = 50 mm
Bowl Diameter = 35 mm
Chamber depth = 40 mm
Chamber diameter = 23 mm
Button width = 10 mm
Airway = 3.5 mm
Inner tube airway = 2 mm

4 Comments leave one →
  1. April 4, 2009 18:12

    It must have been some experience smoking such on old pipe. Imagine the pipe carver working on it in France around 1920, looking at it and being happy with the result. He didn’t have a clue he’s was going to make you happy one day with his Racine.
    Treasure this treasure, Keith.


  2. highstump permalink
    April 5, 2009 16:24

    Very good sir!

    I was smoking a late model Savinelli while reading this and while it is a great smoke, I started wishing I had chosen one of my father’s 1940’s era Kaywoodies instead.

    Although I am curious about how the Racine would smoke without the restriction of the inner tube, it does not sound like it could be much better.


    Well, I had to try it without the tube Jim.. and it went like a thoroughbred! A lovely smoker and one that will be treasured. It will doubtless be a solid companion for many years. It continues to improve with use.

  3. Vince Delmonte permalink
    April 15, 2009 09:52

    I read your blog for a long time and should tell you that your articles always prove to be of a high value and quality for readers.

    Thank you. One does what one can.

  4. CAnn permalink
    September 28, 2010 23:51

    I ran across your article while doing a search for an old RACINE pipe I am restoring for resale. I searched incessently and found only your post mentioning the RACINE de Bruyere. Im wondering if there is anyway to get info on this pipemaker or a way to timeline the pipe itself. Any info would be greatly appreciated.

    “Racine de Bruyere” (French) is a simple stamp indicating “Briar Root”. It was used extensively in St. Claude on many of their pipes and is not exclusive to any one maker. I believe that there is a pipemaker in Italy whose name is actually Racine. However, the “Racine de Bruyere” stamp is unlikely to be connected with him. Good luck with the restoration.

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