This afternoon, I was reading William Goldring’s The Pipe Book: A History and How to (1973), which briefly recounts the history of each historical type of pipe and explains how to make a similar one using a few, simple tools.
In the section on making a briar pipe, the author suggests using a saw to remove the initial waste from the briar block. He remarks:
Briar is a very hard wood, as you have undoubtedly discovered, and this precludes the use of an ordinary wood saw. Instead, a hacksaw must be used to make these and all subsequent cuts.
If by “ordinary wood saw,” he means a dull one, he is undoubtedly right. However, briar is no harder than some of our native hardwoods, and is often softer than hard maple or hickory. It seems Goldring had no idea that hand saws could be–or should be–sharpened, so he found the disposable blades of the hack saw more effective on the briar.
A sharp hand saw cuts briar very easily, in fact. It’s a pity that misinformation like this got into print, but it’s doubly a pity that Goldring evidently never had the pleasure of using a sharpened hand saw. I think he would have enjoyed it.