Although Barling pioneered the process of lining the bowls of briar pipes with block meerschaum as early as 1905, by the 1930's this practice had been adopted by most of the top London pipe making houses, including Dunhill, GBD, Loewe and BBB. It was not a mere affectation or fad--when combined with briar, meerschaum provides one of the coolest and dries smokes possible because of its great capacity to absorb the moisture generated by the combustion process, while adding no flavor of its own.
Here is one of the nicest examples of this type of pipe I have seen. Barling has chosen to use a first rate block of briar, cut by hand to reveal considerable straight grain on both sides of the bowl. The shape is a fine rendering of the classic billiard, with a slight forward cant to the bowl, a rather thin and elegant shank, and a long, handcut taper bit of equal length. I find the proportions especially pleasing. The color is rich, the execution superb, and the condition first rate. This pipe was obviously intended as a high-end piece in its time, and remains so today.
This is, in my estimation, perhaps the most perfect classical billiard I have every seen, in the sense that is difficult to see how it could be improved. Note the slightly forward cant of the beautifully shaped bowl, how it is cleanly articulated from the tubular shank, how the shape is completed by the handcut German vulcanite taper bit, and how the proportions are everywhere harmonious. As if that were not enough, it is carved from a striking piece of old Algerian briar, showing so-called angel-hair straight grain all around the bowl. It comes with the original chamois sleeve that Barling supplied with their best pipes.
...und mal so ein typisches Säckchen für die Pfeife aus der zeit:
It is unusual to see a cross-cut Barling with so much birdseye: either Barling cut with the grain to create the Specials, Straight Grains, and Guinea grains, or they made mixed grain pipes. In addition, it has the quiet beauty of cut and proportion that makes this marque so special, together of course with the old Algerian briar that assures first rate smoking properties. The pipe is in very good condition, apart from a missing Barling cross and a slightly overbuffed lip, for which proper adjustment has been made.
Barling c. 1950 "Guinea Grain" EXEXEL Billiard with original box
An eminently collectible and exceedingly rare Barling, beautifully grained, expertly executed (no doubt by hand) and carefully preserved with its original box and sleeve. A very rare opportunity from one of the world's great Barling collectors. It isn't cheap, but it isn't chopped liver either.
Barling c. 1950 "Special" Oval Shanked Billiard EXEXEL
This pipe presents something of a puzzle. It's cut with Barling's usual skill and refinement, with a very large, carefully shaped bowl on a tapered oval shank, and with a handcut taper bit that further extends and completes the shape. The grain on one side is first rate, with a combination of straight grain and birdseye. It is this that justifies the "Special" grade. On the other side, the grain is considerably weaker, with a largely grain-free zone towards the heel. To Barling's credit, no effort was made to conceal with weakness with stain or sandblasting. Evidently, Mr. Barling was proud of the pipe, even giving it a high grade. I suspect he was right: it remains a striking piece, and one that should smoke brilliantly. It has an excellent handcut replacement bit from the great Rich Lewis of Minneapolis.
Barling c. 1950 EXEXEL Fossil Pencil Shank Billiard--Unsmoked!
I received this pipe from a gentleman whose collection of Barlings is widely regarded as the best in the world. He is selling it not because it is anything less than top notch, and of surpassing rarity, but because he simply cannot bring himself to smoke any pipe for the first time. I would note only that the blast is particularly deep and craggy, the bowl thick-walled and of generous capacity, and the overall quality of execution beyond criticism. Moreover, it comes with the original box and sleeve. It is a jewel.
A generously sized billiard, cut across the grain of the fine old Algerian briar to reveal a field of birdseye on the side of the bowl. So dense are the birdseyes on the opposite side that the wood appears almost grainless--but Barling would never have stooped to such a practice. The shape is very appealing, with the large bowl canted forward on an tapered oval shank, and a fine taper bit. Excellent condition.
Barling c. 1950 Ye Olde Wood EXEXEL Oval-Shanked Billiard
It's puzzling why this excellent cross-grained classic taper bit billiard, whose generous bowl is covered with especially dense birdseye, was not graded at least as a "Special" and perhaps even the rare "Birdseye" designation. It's proportions and cut are especially refined, and it needed no stain whatsoever. The slightly weak nomenclature aside, it's in remarkable condition in all regards.
The Barling "Giant" has been christened as such by collectors, not by the factory. It is fair to say that it stands at the pinnacle of collectibility, especially as a fossil, of which very few indeed were produced. What makes it rare and desirable is not its sheer size, which is usually comparable to an EXEXEL, but the fact that is was custom made at the request of a particular customer, and lacks a shape number: this because the custom shapes were always one-off, and never appeared in the normal line. This example is striking because of the stunning blast, which is unusually deep and complex, reminiscent of per-War Dunhills; and because it has a rather tall but still beautifully shaped billiard bowl, which stands just on the threshold of a "stack" but without the rather extreme appearances that this shape sometimes has. It is fitted with one of Barling's notably comfortable saddle bits.
Condition of this pipe is outstanding in all regards. The briar appears virtually unsmoked, and has an unusual beveled inner rim. The stem is original, and while remnants of the Barling cross remain, the registration number was lost in action. It should provide enormous smoking pleasure to its new owner, especially because it is priced quite aggressively compared to those few others that have hit the market recently.