March 27, 2005

Tim Fuller: Pawlonia


Tim Fuller continues to experiment with exotic woods for pipe making, and I'm a happy soul willing to try the odd pipe. Of course, not all wood is suitable for pipes. There is the sad story of black palm, which has beautiful color and grain but generally cracks after three or four smokes. And then there are improbable success stories:


When I first held a Tim Fuller pawlonia pipe, I thought: balsa. To say that pawlonia is light is an understatement. If pawlonia were any lighter, it would be stuck to the ceiling. Fortunately, the stem gives it a little weight, so it is easy to hold by hand.

But who would think that anything so light could be a smoking pipe? Fortunately, Tim gave it a try.

Pawlonia doesn't have as striking a grain as briar, but it does have character. The pawlonia pipe below has been smoked maybe forty times, and it is slowly becoming darker. (When new, the wood has a light cream color.)

Pawlonia by Tim Fuller

I broke in the pipe by using only a third of a bowl of tobacco. To my surprise, the pawlonia smoked very well from the beginning. The only danger - at the outset - was to linger over a smoke too long. Once I smelled burning wood toward the end of a smoke, so I dumped the tobacco. That was within the first ten smokes of the pipe. Such a burning aroma did not reoccur.

What I cannot say with certainty is whether it is forming a cake, whether the inner bowl walls are becoming charred, or whether a combination of both is occurring. The tobacco chamber isn't becoming larger, the inner walls are all intact, and so I assume that it is likely forming a cake. (I've noticed that nonbriar pipes don't form a cake as quickly as briar does.)

My conclusion is that pawlonia shows incredible promise as a pipe wood. Imagine a pipe as large as you could wish but weighing less than an ounce! That's pawlonia!

(And if anyone is wondering, I've no financial stake in TCFuller pipes. Tim and I just exchange a lot of email, and maybe one day we'll be in the same state and share drinks.)  

Tim Fuller pipe pages 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12   |   TCFuller Pipes site

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