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Brigham Pipes - Long Post

Posted: Sat Oct 11, 2008 9:31 am
by Rusty
Brigham is the oldest pipe maker in Canada (from 1906). Until recently they were pretty much limited to sales in Canada. This was by their choice. Today, Brigham pipes are distributed in the US and they have a list of retailers on their corporate site.

A few years ago they had a pretty good pipe history page on their corporate site , but it has vanished. So I'll reproduce the text from that history in this post and provide a few other comments & references. I have a scanned brochure from the mid 70's and I'll provide bits of that too.

Their briar pipes were entirely made in Toronto until at least the late 80's. They were always a very popular pipe in Canada and they also trained some of Canada's artisan pipe makers eg Vesz, Trypis. They had a number of interesting virtues, including: an effective rock maple filter system, a very neutral clay bowl coating, and a huge range of classical shapes, as well as an interesting series of hand made pipes.

They're known as good smokers. I think that their smoking quality is mostly an incidental byproduct of their open draw that arises out of their filter system. They adopted a hollow hardwood Rock maple tube as a filter and it's quite large. It works quite well (Note: I'm not alone in thinking so, in addition to a whole pile of Canadians, William Serad has recently commented positively on the Brigham filter system in the Spring 2009 P&T Magazine). But the size of the filter necessitated a very large airway channel. While many other better known pipe brands suffered from constrained asthmatic airways (esp in stems) Brigham had a small cannon bore to accommodate the filters. They simply breathe well with a very open draw (with or without filter) and this made them unusual. And they will take a pipe cleaner with filter in place, though it's rarely necessary to use a pipe cleaner because the filter absorbs any free moisture.

The other curious thing is their choice of stem materials. Most of the assembled visible stem is vulcanite. However, the filter also required a rather large and extended tenon. They decided to make this out of aluminum in pipes that pre-date 2001. On American owned Brigham's the tenon has often been shortened, because in the past filters were harder to obtain in the US, so that they will not take filters (but this is very rare on Canadian owned Brigham's). The tenon is a bit odd looking, because of its length, and I sometimes suspect that some of Canada's aeronautical engineers designed it. You'll never snap a Brigham tenon by dropping the pipe. You'd have to throw it against a cement wall to shatter the bowl or crack the vulcanite parts of the stem. The tenon simply will not break. They're very resilient pipes.

A shrinking market in Canada and no export market meant that they had to downsize and then outsource. Today Brigham is a distributor rather than a manufacturer. They are a significant importer and distributor for a variety of pipe brands and many tobacco brands. As such today's Brigham has very little in common with the Brigham of the past. They outsourced all of their pipe making ops to Lorenzetti pipes in Italy starting in the 90's. It happened gradually over a few years but by the early 2000's all pipe making, finishing, and repair ops were gone. So there has been a significant break in their tradition.

It's probably a rare Canadian household that doesn't have a Brigham or two (or even a dozen!) so on eBay you're very likely to find classical Brigham pipes from the 50's through to contemporary.

Like many other old makers Brigham had a significant line of pipes with their own numbered shapes, sizes, and models. Unlike Dunhill they either didn't appreciate their own traditions, and the richness of the stampings, or outsourcing forced them to abandon it. It's hard to tell which is the case. By the early 80's there was a lot of churn in their pipe model lines and it seemed to be a time of uncertainty for them. Whatever the cause they became only a shadow of the former Brigham.

The following is Brigham's text with some of my comments and corrections in italics.


Brigham pipes have been manufactured in Canada for nearly 100 years and there have been a number of variations in terms of nomenclature. For the most part, the traditional marking system has been the 3 digit code. Pipes range (in the standard series) from the 100 series to the 700 series (ie100,200,300,400,500,600,700). This grading is an ascending scale - 100 being an entry-level pipe, the 700 series being the highest quality of briar and workmanship.

On the bottom of the pipe's bowl or side of the shank, each has a 3-digit code stamped into it. The first number denotes the series (1 to 7) and the next 2 indicate the shape number. For instance, a "456" would indicate a 400 series pipes in shape #56. A letter may follow (on older pipes) indicating bowl size (S = small, M = medium, ML = medium/large, L = large).

Traditionally, Brigham pipes have utilized a pinning system to denote the pipe series. Brass pins in the pipe's stem are a hallmark of the classic Brigham pipe. They were originally used to secure the special Brigham tenon into the shank of the pipe, and were subsequently used to denote the quality of each pipe. This also accounts for the use of the term "dot" instead of "series" amongst most Brigham pipe smokers (ie., you may hear a pipe referred to as a "4 dot").

The dot system originally consisted of 8 separate grades as follows (from lowest to highest grade):
1 DOT - "Brigham Standard"
2 DOT - "Brigham Select"
3 DOT (star pattern) - "Brigham Exclusive"
3 DOT (vertically aligned) - "Brigham Executive"
4 DOT - "Brigham Director"
3 DOT (horizontally aligned) - "Brigham VIP"
5 DOT - "Brigham Special Grain"
6 DOT - "Brigham Straight Grain"

(R: the above grades or pinning is typical of older estate Brigham's found on eBay. This was the longest lived grading system that Brigham abandoned in favour of the simpler 7-dot system of 1980 which lasted into the 2000's. There were far more pipes produced under this system than the later 7-dot system. The stamped shape numbers consisted of 3 digit number, the first digit corresponded to the number of pins and the remaining two digits to the shape number.)

(R: Here is a small selection of Brigham's more common numbered shapes):

Pipes of this era have the Brigham patent number stamped ("CAN PAT 372982") into them beside a cursive "Brigham" logo which was much thinner than the logo of today. (R: This was true of pipes pre-1970)

In transition to the new logo adopted in the late 70s, at least two variations of a cursive "Brigham" was stamped into the pipes including two horizontally type-set fonts. The patent number appears on pipes up to approximately 1980 after which time the new logo (the logo of today minus the maple leaf) was used exclusively.

Other series were made between the 60s and 80s including a selection of hand-mades, the Valhalla and Norseman Series and others. These pipes are typically much larger than the regular series, with freehand bowls in "Scandinavian" shapes. These pipes incorporated the Brigham filter system. The Norseman were fully rusticated and marked with a "9W" followed by a number (indicating its shape) and a horizontally aligned 3-dot pattern with one larger dot in the center. The Valhalla were smooth or partially rusticated in the same shape as the Norseman pipes and with the same pinning configuration.
(R: Correction: The Valhalla's were offered in three grades (so they had three pinning configurations corresponding to grade, rather than one). Valhalla grading ran from a "Brigham VIP" 3-dot (lowest, the same as the Norseman grade) through 6-dot pinning (highest). The shape number stamping on the Valhalla's corresponded to the grades from AWn for the 3-dot (lowest) through CWn for the 6-dot (highest) with n being the specific shape style 2 through 7 inclusive that was common to both Valhalla's and Norseman.
The Norseman was offered in a single grade with 3-dot "Brigham VIP" pinning and was stamped 9Wn, with the n being the same shape indicator. The Norseman rustication varied from something like the GBD Rockroot style in the 60's and early 70's through to a "chip" rustication that is found on many standard shape Brighams and was more common in the late 70's Norseman. The Norseman also featured an attractive Black over Red (or ruddy Orange) two-toned staining that is similar to both the old Dunhill Shell's and many Upshalls.

Here's a Norseman/Valhalla shape guide from a 1976 Brigham brochure:

(R: Following is a pic of the authors pair of Norseman (middle) & a pair of Valhalla's (top & bottom) that date from 1973 (the 9W3 Norseman dates from '78). They are shape number stamped (top to bottom) CW5, 9W4, 9W3, & BW6. Note the two different rustication styles on the pair of Norseman - they effectively date each pipe):

In 1980 (approximately) , the move was made to a 7-grade dot system which simplified the pinning of pipes and made them more easily identified. This is where the 7-dot made its first appearance, and specific names for each grade done away with, as were the vertical and horizontal 3-dot pinning pattern. In higher series, a small number of interesting experimental shapes appeared including those with a carved shank resembling mountains, marked with an "s" beside or near the shape number. No catalogue of these shapes was kept, although we often come across these pipes when they are sent in for cleaning. if you have one of these pipes, it represents an era of experimentation and should be treasured.

The Norseman and Valhalla series were consolidated around this time (1980) and named the "President Series". These were divided into President A, B, C, D and E grades (A being the highest), indicated on the bowl or shank of the pipe. Both filtered and unfiltered pipes were made in this series, and a designation of 3 dots was adopted. To set them apart from the classic 3-dot configuration, one large dot and two small dots were used, with the largest dot place on the right hand side of the star pattern. Historically, the President series has been a designation given to the pipes of highest quality and workmanship, often in a freehand pattern with larger bowls. The designation has always indicated pipes of a higher grade and therefore there is considerable variety in their form.

A non-filtered pipe appeared during this area which was stamped "OLD PORT". These pipes featured an experimental aluminum tube which was small enough in diameter to regulate air flow.

As the cost of domestic production began to increase and the ability to produce pipes in the lower range became almost impossible, the "Brigham System" pipe was created. These are identified by a gold star imprinted in the pipe's stem. Manufactured in Italy to Brigham's specifications and incorporating its filter system, these entry level pipes were also stamped "Made in Italy" with "Brigham System" in a standard font.

In the late 90s, the Platinum pipe series was introduced as a non-filtered pipe. Platinum pipes were graded and pinned according to the same methods used for the 1-700 filtered series, but a silver coloured pin was used to set them apart. The first batch of these pipes was only made in the 100 and 200 series and featured a convertible system, capable of being used as a 9mm filtered pipe, or unfiltered pipe by means of a removable floc in the tenon.

In 2001, the convertible system in the Platinum series was eliminated and it was made into a unfiltered pipe. The 300 series was introduced at this time. In the same production year, the aluminum tenon also disappeared, being replaced with a composite material which was found to be more durable, lightweight and suited to smoking without a filter (when desired).

The 500-700 series was overhauled in 2002, and the first round of changes brought the first appearance of silver cuffs to the pipes, and in place of the pinning, a maple leaf surrounding the letter B was engraved on each pipe band. This series is easily distinguished from other pipes, and the pipe grade is indicated by the 3 number stamp in the pipe bowl or shank as per Brigham pipes since the earliest days. When the grain of a pipe is found to be of suitable quality, our blond stain is used to offer a very unique, stunning piece.

Re: Brigham Pipes - Long Post

Posted: Sat Oct 11, 2008 9:49 am
by wosbald
Rusty wrote:And they will take a pipe cleaner with filter in place.
How? Is there a channel down the center of the filter?

Posted: Sat Oct 11, 2008 10:01 am
by Rusty
Rusty wrote:
And they will take a pipe cleaner with filter in place.
Wos wrote:
How? Is there a channel down the center of the filter?
Oui! The filter is a tube of maple with an inside diameter of approx. 1/8". The length of the entire filter is about 3 1/4" which exceeds the length and girth of Dunhill's inner-tube. So when I say the pipe is drilled like a small cannon I'm not kidding!

Posted: Sat Oct 11, 2008 10:27 am
by Rusty
Another byproduct of their filter system is the size of the pipes. There are no pencil shanked Brigham's that also take the filters. They tend to be larger. Canadians, like Americans, typically preferred larger pipes than the classical small British equivalents. Though, historically, longer shanked shapes like the Canadian (shape #90) and Lovat (Club in 'Brighamese' - shape #19) were offered they seemed to vanish when Brigham outsourced manufacturing. They may have been too costly or too challenging to produce as filter pipes - it's anybody's guess. Brigham now offers a very restricted line of shapes that are really nothing like their old shapes.

Brigham traditionally offered the usual range of classical shapes and they were very nicely rendered. I've never seen a catalog with their entire numbered shape line represented. They offered three sizes in many shapes. Small Brigham's tended to be group 4 sized but their medium and large models ranged upwards of group 5 or 6 and lines like the Norseman & Valhalla's were usually ODA sized pipes. Group 3 and smaller pipes really never existed and I think it's because the filter made them unlikely.

Posted: Sat Oct 11, 2008 7:40 pm
by Rusty
I don't understand the appeal of very open-drawing pipes. I prefer a more traditional, moderate draw.
More traditional as in Ashton & Dunhill?

IMO Ashton pipes are open-draw. I think Dunhill pipes are too. They're both very nice - don't get me wrong.

There were many older pipes (including old Barlings, GBD, Comoy's, Peterson p-lip) that have considerably more constrained draw than either Ashton or Dunhill. So it depends what one thinks is traditional. Many older pipes have poor draw. Or maybe your 'moderate' is my 'open' in the bigger arena of pipes! I've done a lot of measuring and head scratching on this.

The perception of 'openness' depends on a number of factors:
- the size of the airway i.e. it's diameter,
- the length of the airway, longer airways have more resistance
- bends in the airway, i.e. each bend contributes more resistance.

It's a stereotype but often true that bigger pipes work better with larger airways. In any case most pipe smokers know when the draw feels right on a pipe.

It's not hard to find old classic 'London-made' GBD's with 3/32" stem airways. I have a Colossus that has this exact configuration and yes it has lousy draw. By comparison your Ashton's all have 9/64" stem airways. The smallest airway on numbered Dunhill's is the top part of the stem airway which is 7/64" (the rest of it's airway in 5/32"). The Brigham filter is about 1/8" .i.d., which puts it in the same ballpark as both Dunhill & Ashton in terms of draw. I have all three so I can happily tell you that the numbers are backed up by experience.

Both Brigham and Dunhill pipes have good draw as a byproduct of their designs. It may not have been intentional but they benefit nevertheless.

Of course if one insists on pulling any and all filters, tubes etc then the Brigham is too open for most.

Posted: Sat Oct 11, 2008 8:16 pm
by wosbald
Rusty wrote:It's not hard to find old classic 'London-made' GBD's with 3/32" stem airways. I have a Colossus that has this exact configuration and yes it has lousy draw.
I've got an old silver GBD London, Colossus 9643 that I was just smoking the other day. It's got an inch-wide chamber and yes, the draw is tight by today's standards. But I just love that pipe, and it smokes just as well as any perfectly engineered pipe.

I don't mean to be combattive, but I personally just don't believe the "engineering" explanation for what makes a good pipe. I think that a lot of people nowadays sell excellent pipes (citing them as poor smoking pipes) long before they've learned to work the pipes.

Posted: Sat Oct 11, 2008 9:41 pm
by wosbald
wosbald wrote:+JMJ+
Rusty wrote:It's not hard to find old classic 'London-made' GBD's with 3/32" stem airways. I have a Colossus that has this exact configuration and yes it has lousy draw.
I've got an old silver GBD London, Colossus 9643 that I was just smoking the other day. It's got an inch-wide chamber and yes, the draw is tight by today's standards.
I just checked it and, yup, it is 3/32" in the stem.

Posted: Sat Oct 11, 2008 9:51 pm
by Rusty
Interesting! And mine is a 9643 too!

I understand what you're saying and I agree. If the pipe smokes well then it doesn't matter how it's drilled. Engineering fact yields to smoking experience. However, it sure would be nice to understand 'why' they work when they work. That's the head scratching.

So... what do you smoke in it?

Posted: Sat Oct 11, 2008 10:04 pm
by wosbald
Rusty wrote:Interesting! And mine is a 9643 too!

I understand what you're saying and I agree. If the pipe smokes well then it doesn't matter how it's drilled. Engineering fact yields to smoking experience. However, it sure would be nice to understand 'why' they work when they work. That's the head scratching.

So... what do you smoke in it?
Full englishes or full balkans. I was smoking some Odyssey in it last week and some British Woods a couple of days ago.

Posted: Sat Oct 11, 2008 10:12 pm
by Rusty
Full englishes or full balkans. I was smoking some Odyssey in it last week and some British Woods a couple of days ago.
OK... thank you. I'll give that a try.
I really love the shape of the 9643. Mine is a nice Prehistoric with a lovely blast. I have an old Charatan Banker and the shape is somewhat similar. The Banker does wonderful things with Va's and/or Burley. So I'll switch gears and try Odyssey or maybe some McClelland Oriental #12 in the GBD.

How can this possibly be combative? Great stuff, Wos.

Posted: Sun Oct 12, 2008 2:29 am
by A_Morley
I have considered buying a Brigham pipe. I like the look of them and I like Canada. I must say, though, that a largely mistrust filter/system pipes, if only because of the difficulty in cleaning that they present.

Posted: Sun Oct 12, 2008 11:22 am
by Rusty
I must say, though, that a largely mistrust filter/system pipes, if only because of the difficulty in cleaning that they present.
I'm with you on this. Filters, condensers, stingers, they're not only not required, but they usually try to fix problems that the makers inflict on themselves. However, there are little pockets of pipe making practice in the world that are interesting and Brigham was one of these.

The industry is dieing and if we're interested in a style of pipes then it might be best to indulge the urge to try them sooner rather than miss them. Brigham is a fair example. They really don't exist as pipe makers any more. Find a nice lightly used example of a Canadian made Brigham on eBay in a shape that you like and try it that way - inexpensive. The new production from Lorenzetti seems to be an imitation of real Brigham's and I think they lack something for this reason.

The whole cleaning thing is true of almost any filter other than Brigham's. Brigham's just work well. And they don't seem to rob the flavour from the smoke. They're reusable, resilient, and well made. Rinse them under the tap and let them dry. Periodically drop them in a glass of dilute alcohol and the tars & smoke byproducts dissolve - good as new, almost. The filters can last a very long time. I only toss them after they're tattered and black beyond all help.

There are two old Canadian brands that are very worthwhile. Brigham is one and the Blatter Bros are the other. One is Toronto, the other Montreal. And like the cities they're very different. Blatter pipes (no filters) are excellent - don't miss those either. At some point I'll post on the Blatter pipes too.

Posted: Sun Oct 12, 2008 12:17 pm
by A_Morley
Rusty wrote: At some point I'll post on the Blatter pipes too.
Thanks for that, in advance. Afrer having read this post on Brighams, I was reminded of how much I had always wanted to try a Blatter Bros. pipe.

Posted: Mon Oct 13, 2008 12:41 pm
by wosbald
Rusty wrote:.I really love the shape of the 9643. Mine is a nice Prehistoric with a lovely blast. I have an old Charatan Banker and the shape is somewhat similar. The Banker does wonderful things with Va's and/or Burley.
The following is just my 2ยข, but I've come to these conclusions through both the common wisdom as well as extensive experimentation. Keeping the following conclusions in mind has served me well in facilitating my choice of an appropriate pipe for both the blend and the occasion.

It seems a bit counterintuitive to put easy burn tobaccos like VA or Burley in a wide chamber. Wide chambers enhance burning due to the broader spacing of leaves in the ember. With all that exposure to air, difficult burning tobaccos like latakia take to flame quickly and stay lit with ease. That's why, IMO, we rarely see latakia flakes. It's just more counterintuitive. Of course, I love Blakeney's Latakia Flake, but it, admittedly, does have a somewhat troublesome burn. The exception would be a krumble kake like Penzance where everything is chopped so finely, that burning in a small pipe is very easy. This may help in explaining the uber-popularity of Penzance, especially among those preferring smaller gauge chambers.

Since I do enjoy something like Odyssey in a narrow gauge chamber, I am, of course, not always against being counterintuitive. Narrowl gauge chambers are the best for dissecting the flavor profile and nuances in a particular blend. But since such blends are not particularly top-heavy in the nuance department, the ease of burn in a wide gauge chamber makes their enjoyment the simplest when ease of smoking is the goal. But, yes, if one is willing to put in the effort, latakia blends can be great in virtually any kind of chamber.

But, also, since wide chambers tend to broaden the flavor and reduce nuance, putting easy burn tobaccos like VA in them has always seemed to rob VAs of their unique qualities, IMO. In a wide bowl, VAs taste to me like sweet/sour air. And Burleys don't have a lot of nuance, so they can take a medium gauge chamber with ease. But excessively large chambers just seems to make them burn too fast and taste like ash to me.

Though they can easily burn hot, narrow chambers slow the burn and preserve subtlety by reducing the exposure to air. Plus, they are great for uneven tobacco types like broken flakes since their narrow diameter reduces holds the ember together and encourages even burning. Packing broken flake in a wide chamber usually results in a very haphazard burn.

Again, that's just how I see it. But it's always worked for me.

Posted: Tue Oct 14, 2008 7:56 am
by adauria
Rusty, perhaps you can help me out.

I have an estate Brigham I got last year. It a great smoker. I have dedicated it to Burleys.

It has a single whitish dot on the side of the stem. It also has a cursive Brigham logo on the bottom of the shank with a patent number ("can pat"), but no other marking, numbers, dots, or logos. I believe it can take a filter, but that's moot since I never use one. It a fairly large bowl half bent... not sure how you'd describe the shape. The finish is oddly rusticated - It's like an alligator pattern hand carved in the wood (not really... but it kind of resembles scales or something). The stem has a metal tenon, but I don't see anything like "pins" in there.

Anyway, from what I am reading this seems to be pre-1980 standard model, but there is no 3-digit number. Any idea on when this pipe might date from and what series it is?



Posted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 1:03 am
by Rusty

The one dot probably occurred in the most significant numbers. The shape number is often in a smaller font and was sometimes very lightly stamped so it may be hard to find. It should be a standard shape. Also it may not necessarily be located next to the 'Brigham' script so search carefully. It should be a three digit number beginning with '1' and it will be stamped in a smooth area or at the edge of a smooth panel. The "whitish" dot colour sounds a bit odd because they were brass pins (dots) that originally served as grade indicators as well as a mechanical part of the stem in very early pipes. Rub the dot with some rough cloth and see if it shines to brass or to something else. If it's something other than brass then it might indicate much earlier. The patent number usually means late 60's, maybe very early 70's, at the latest, but it doesn't rule out a much earlier date. No maple leaf stamp or anything like that?
Does the stamping look like the stamp pics I posted here: ... 2&start=30

There was variation in rustication styles so I doubt that it was done by machine. I believe that the variation indicates hand work. Surprisingly there are a small number of distinctive styles that are probably traceable to specific pipe makers. A few years ago I saw a Philip Trypis (older Canadian pipe maker) hand made pipe and it was rusticated exactly the same as the rustication on one of my Brighams. It was really obvious that this was his style. And yes he worked at Brigham at the time that my pipe was made. So I'm very interested in seeing both a pic of the stamping and a pic of the rustication too.

The aluminum tenon has an opening of about 6mm which can work with large pipes but it's probably the most open draw that one ever sees. Some Americans (who didn't have filters) cut the aluminum back so it might not take a filter any more. The filter is good and probably worth trying anyway. Knox Cigar carries them and I believe Iwan Ries does too. Though any pipe store can order them.

Any of the shapes in the late 60's catalog (on Keene's site) look right?

Posted: Mon Oct 20, 2008 8:24 am
by adauria
Hi Rusty,

I couldn't find any other markings nor could I find it in that catalog. Strange... Here are some pics. Let me know what you think:






Posted: Mon Oct 20, 2008 8:59 am
by Rusty
OK. It's a Brigham Sportsman in a Calabash shape (Brigham called it a Calabriar) and if you could find a shape # stamp it would read 147. I'm fairly confident of this - there really wasn't a lot of variation around that particular shape. The aluminum tenon on yours has been cut back so it will no longer seat a Brigham filter. This is not uncommon in American owned Brigham's. It's probably from the 60's to very early 70's. AFAIK that line is no longer made.

Every year going back many many years Toronto has a major show for outdoor sports - hunting, fishing, etc etc.

For many years Brigham always had a booth at the show and they sold pipes in the 'Sportsman' model in all shapes and lines. ... series.htm

Brigham says that only 3-5 dots were Sportsman but that's not true. One can find Sportsman on the estate market in everything from 1-dot's like yours through Norseman dot configurations at least.

Posted: Mon Oct 20, 2008 9:26 am
by Rusty
Here's a shape page from a 1976 Brigham brochure.


Brigham did stratify shapes into basic groups and the Calabriar was not usually available in a one dot. However, all things that can happen do and maybe they produced it for the Sportsmen show. The other alternative is that the stem is a replacement with the original having more dots. Possible, because the aluminum tenon on yours looks like an after sale construction. But the more conservative hypothesis is still to go with it being a 1-dot with the stem being a modified Brigham stem.

Assuming that it really was a 1-dot then at the time it was purchased in the early 70's it would have been priced at CAD $9.95.

Posted: Mon Oct 20, 2008 9:26 am
by adauria
Awesome info Rusty! Thanks for the analysis. I had been wondering how old this pipe was. I got off eBay with another non-Brigham estate deal.