We have written about the finishes of the pipes. But we have devoted little space to the raw materials with which the pipes are made.
What, then, are the pipes made of? Leaving aside the mouthpiece, almost always in ebonite or methacrylate and of which we will write later, the premise is that, in the world, there are pipes made in the most varied materials.
The choice between one and the other is almost always to be identified due to costs, yield, processing difficulties and availability. Especially in ancient times, influencing the choices of those who made the pipes was the availability of suitable material on site.
Therefore, historically, we found and often still found pipes made of terracotta, clay, sea foam (a typical mineral of the black sea area), plaster, pumpkin, corncob, various wood species (including fossil) and up to even metal alloys (especially in countries such as China and Japan …).
If, in ancient times, it was usual to make foam pipes in the upper classes and those (short-lived) in clay or plaster (widespread among sailors) in the poorer ones, today the pipes by definition (although other materials are still widespread and appreciated by fans) are made of wood.
For some time now, producers have been experimenting with the most varied essences: olive, cherry, rosewood, strawberry tree, ash, lemon and so on and so forth. But the most widespread wood in the production of the pipe, so much to become the pipe, is the Erica arborea (tree heath) root, also called “Briar root”.
The Erica arborea is an evergreen shrub typical of the Mediterranean scrub, but widespread a little throughout the Mediterranean basin, particularly on the coasts, from sea level up to heights, depending on the area, even over a thousand meters.
Generally it creates thick spots, often together with the strawberry tree, another plant of the same family, used (especially by Italian artisans) in turn to make pipes.