For me, ‘pipe shape’ wins over ‘pipe grain’ nearly every time. Still, I thoroughly enjoy seeing beautiful grain on a Preben Holm Collector or dense birdseye on some ‘no-name’ piece. I have come across many-a-pipe that had beautiful grain with a lovely shape just begging to be released from its clunky prison. And other pieces that matched the grain perfectly to the point that very wild, wispy facets were carved on the briar. For many of these reasons, a well carved briar on the rack usually finds the admiration of others.
There are straight-grain hounds and cross grain aficionados. Some collectors drool over perfect ring-grain patterns on a sandblasted billiard or freehand. Some, like me, find the front to back linear grain of an elephant’s foot the most interesting. This last pattern looks stunning to me on a classic shape because it gives the piece so much movement and was rarely done in favor of the other patterns.
While inspecting a fresh batch of Peterson pipes today, I stumbled across something new to me: a rather unassuming Killarney 69 red bent billiard. The grain is nothing to write home about. It's rather bald with birdseye as tight as an oil puddle, though the growth rings do give it a time-warping sense of movement. What this pipe does have, though, is a comet streaking across the side. Putting my nasal snuff down to get a second opinion, I found others marveled as well. If this particularly interesting tid-bit of grain has the same regularity as the Hale-Bopp comet from 1996, someone can expect to encounter this again in 2,389 years.