Pipes by Mariner

Mariner Classic Pipes

Superior Qualities of Aged Briar

Pipe connoisseurs, experienced retailers and manufacturers all agree that the single factor that comes closest to guaranteeing exceptionally fine smoking characteristics in a pipe is fully dry, aged briar.

After harvesting, the briar is cut into blocks and boiled, usually in water, to remove the sap and resin. From a moisture-content standpoint, drying is complete in about six to twelve months. However, briar is a living wood that changes and improves as time passes. As the briar ages, its color deepens to a rare reddish-brown from the light birch color of most fresh wood. It becomes harder and develops a transparency that allows light to be reflected at various angles from levels slightly beneath the surface. Light dancing within the surface is what gives aged pipes and briar that rare, shimmering iridescence. It is possible to speed up the drying process, but true aging comes only with time, requiring at least five to ten years. Unfortunately for pipe lovers, economics prohibit large scale storage of briar and mass production of pipes from briar that has aged ten or more years.

History of the Mariner Classic Bowls

Occasionally an extremely old batch of briar or unfinished pipes turn up -- a G.I. buys a bag in Italy at the end of WWII to make pipes when he returns home, but the briar sits in his attic for nearly forty years; a small, third generation French manufacturer comes across several dozen bowls that were turned 50 years ago; a pipe factory closes down, selling hundreds of dozens of unfinished pipes and bowls to a retailer who spends 25 years working single-handedly at finishing the pipes, but with many remaining when he decides to retire.

All of these situations actually occurred. The last example is exactly the way the Mariner Classic bowls were born. For over 30 years, Rocco Cuttri operated a small pipe factory on Battery Street in Brooklyn. Retiring in the late 1950s, he sold thousands of unfinished bowls and pipes to Bud Ford. From these, Bud produced finished pipes sold under the Trade Winds label, stocking his Sacramento shop almost exclusively with them. When Bud retired from the pipe trade in 1982, over 100 dozen of the prime 25 year old bowls remained. These bowls were acquired by Joe Mariner.

The Mariner Classics are Born

During the 1970s and 1980s, the Mariner name became synonymous with pipes having beautiful, daring and innovative freehand designs with an unequaled mirror or satin finish. As limited production pipes, they were sold primarily by a few West Coast tobacconists famous for offering quality pipes to a discriminating clientele. Being a briar importer and a firm believer in the benefits of aged briar, Mariner has been able to produce many outstanding pipes having tight, flawless grain -- all from briar he has personally air-dried for three to six years.

For several years, Mariner was encouraged to produce standard shapes by Robert Rex, former owner of Drucquer & Sons Ltd. which became the first retail outlet for Mariner's exotic pipes in 1973. Mariner always resisted the suggestion, feeling that, with the millions of standard shapes being produced in France, Italy, England and the United States, there was nothing unique he could offer. His feelings rapidly changed when he saw the opportunity to offer pipe lovers pipes that could result from combining his expert craftsmanship and finishing techniques with beautiful, fully aged, 25-year-old bowls.

Look Closely

Examine a Mariner Classic closely; you have a rare opportunity to see the distinguishing signs of naturally-aged briar. The deep, rich color; the natural depth, contrast and iridescence of the grain and the hardness which is shown by the smooth, ripple-free finish are all hallmarks of thoroughly-aged briar.

Each pipe is individually finished by Mariner to optimize its color, grain and visual balance. All must meet his uncompromising standards. The shank may be accented by a sterling silver band, exotic rosewood ferrule or stem ring fitted to the highest-quality acrylic or German rubber stem. In addition to being signed and dated, each Classic has an individual serial number identifying the shape, number of bowls of that shape that will be produced and the pipe number. For example, 25/199 means that pipe is the 25th billiard out of 199: 10/49 means the 10th Canadian out of 49. Less than 1500 unfinished bowls exist in about eight different shapes. The aged bowls, craftsmanship of a master and limited availability come together to yield a beautiful, rare pipe with unsurpassed smoking qualities that will be a treasured addition to your pipe collection.

"With over 20 years experience in the pipe and tobacco trade I've collected and smoked the finest pipes in the world. Without a doubt, an aged briar pipe will smoke smoother, mellower and enhance the flavor and richness of your favorite tobacco. I hope you take this opportunity to prove this to yourself with a Mariner Classic. You won't be disappointed."

Robert Rex, Tobacconist (retired)
Drucquer & Sons Ltd.