French Pipes

The French invented the modern briar pipe, and developed many of the shapes that we now think of as "British Classics." St. Claude, an old mill town with abundant water power to turn machinery, because the center of pipe making, and developed the methods and machinery which are still used today in the shaping and finishing of pipes. Briar was first found in the "Cote d'Azure" area of the French Riviera, and some burls are still collected from that region today. But huge fields of high grade briar were discovered in Algeria, then a French colony, and that variety, with its light weight and excellent thermal dispersion properties, soon became the favored wood.

After the turn of the last century, London became the center of pipe making, and many of the old French makers, notably Comoy and GBD, moved all or part of their operations there. But the trandition of pipe making continued in France. Dunhill purchased bowls from St. Claude, and imported French pipe making equipment and artisans when he began making pipes in-house. Over the years, he continued to purchase quantities of bowls from the great St. Claude houses, most notably Genod, which he used to supplement his own bowl production. Today, many of the pipes marked as Dunhills are turned in St. Claude.

So we must remind ourselves of the enormous contribution that the French made, and continue to make, in the development of the pipe.