How to tell if a pipe has not yet been '"broken in" or it's simply a bad smoker?

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menuhin

Preferred Member
Oct 21, 2014
642
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As title.

What is "broken-in" proper? Is it just the thin layer of cake? Or more?

If a relatively new briar pipe smokes hot, or not as dry, is it related to not having been properly "broken in"?

Or is it simply a bad performer? Because some pipes smoke really well already in the few 10 bowls.

:puffpipe:

 

dmcmtk

Preferred Member
Aug 23, 2013
2,953
74
I think one way to judge that, is smoke a blend you like in a pipe that smokes it well, and the smoke it in the pipe you are "breaking in" to get a sense of the difference. Even when I've cleaned an estate pipe, and I typically take it back to bare wood, it takes a half dozen or so bowls to "break in". If a pipe just doesn't smoke well, assuming the airway, and stem internals, and tobacco chamber are clean...then it just doesn't smoke well.

 

cosmicfolklore

Preferred Member
Aug 9, 2013
18,105
441
What do you mean by "not smoke well"? Please elaborate.
That said (or asked), it takes about 30+ smokes to get any sort of real cake build up, and you also have to allow the pores inside the draft of the shank to cake over as well, at least according to Greg Pease in one of his more recent posts. Something about flavor and whatnot. But, I tend to enjoy the first few smokes in a briar the most. I love getting that full brair flavor, so that I will know more closely what the under-riding flavor of the pipe will be and what it will be adding to blends later on.

 

menuhin

Preferred Member
Oct 21, 2014
642
0
@ Dave

That's a good suggestion for testing out a pipe, like a controlled experiment.
@ cosmic
Good info about Pease's suggestion of 30+ smokes and caking over the draft hole opening.

I agree with your perspective that any given pipe has a certain way to be smoked well. And in many case, I always first suspect that the 'bad smoker' is actually myself instead of the pipe. There are so many dimensions just in the tobacco: type (species), curing method, processing method, cut, toppings or flavorings, age, etc. Smoking can be faster stronger draw vs slower gentler, deeper longer draw vs shallower shorter, with longer / frequent breaks vs other ways... Not to mention all the dimensions in a pipe, wood, age, curing, shape, draft, etc, etc.

Some pipes may have a larger tolerance while being smoked in different manners and with different tobaccos still provide decent performance; some other just may have a much smaller set of acceptable combinations.
I am not a clencher and I am not talking about the look (e.g. fills, or draft hole location 'flaws') when I use the term 'bad smoker'. I am also not (not yet...) talking about the taste effect on the smoke from the (briar) pipe itself. By not smoking well, I mean burning real hot even when I am puffing quite slow (so slow that I get a real cool smoke with some other pipes, and I mean starting to gurgle quite soon after starting a smoke and keeping on getting back quickly to gurgle after having run pipe cleaners into it, while the same tobaccos prepped in the same manner may behave quite well in some other pipes. I think bothering me are these two major factors which affect the enjoying process a lot.

 

cosmicfolklore

Preferred Member
Aug 9, 2013
18,105
441
Thanks, sometimes people will use questions as a way of bullying on here, so I am glad that you didn't take my question as a negative. I just thought that clarification on what would make a pipe a bad smoker for you would help us respond better, and you clarified that.
I'm not sure that cake and breaking in a pipe really helps much with pipes that get too hot when smoked slowly. I've never had one that did this. Would this be some weird flaw in the chamber design, like maybe a partially enclosed chamber to make the heat stay in the pipe instead of dissipating? Or, would it be wet briar, like maybe it still has oils in the wood that makes the briar more conductive of heat? I don't think that cake would help with either of those problems.
My favorite pipes are .75" to .6" diameter dublins that have just a tad less than 1/4th inch thick walls, and they deliver a very cool smoking experience. But, of course I don't push those, and I keep the cake beat back to nothing to keep the chamber diameter open, so that I can put the same amount of tobacco in there for each smoke.
My wider chamber diameter pipes I do let cake form a tad. Having a mass of .8" or larger just makes for higher combustion temperatures. But, even then, I am not sure how much it insulates the briar. It probably protects it, but does it really prevent the heat from dissipating into the wood, I don't think so.
Gurgling I believe is poor draft to chamber ratio. Having a draft dead center of the bottom of the chamber is a misconception in my opinion. Water forms as a natural part of combustion. But, it only gurgles if it has no where to go. Having a place for those droplets to fall takes care of that issue. And, like magical outlier, some pipes can be drilled dead center on the dead bottom of a chamber and never gurg a bit. But, Pease also suggested that allowing the draft to cake helps with this. I'm not sure exactly how, but when the Dark Lord of Latakia speaks, I listen, ha ha.

 

mso489

Preferred Member
Feb 21, 2013
26,209
408
I feel like one of those emotional dog trainers who says there are no bad dogs. There are bad pipes, but if the engineering is correct enough, and the materials are sound, most pipes will come along given enough time. Frankly, I most often find that many pipes, perhaps most of mine, have smoked fine from the beginning. Breaking them in has been more a matter of improving from an already good performance. And I'll agree that I enjoy the first smokes quite a bit, especially if pipes are not pre-coated. I have had a few pipes that just never settled into a comfortable zone -- a too-narrow stem that always retained pipe cleaner fluff, an unfocused draw that just didn't deliver flavor, and a few other complaints that caused me to trade the pipe. A stinger that obscured flavor. But these are four or five experiences over years and years. Usually, it's just a matter of finding the right blends and the right technique for particular pipes, a process that is more pleasure than work.

 

monty55

Preferred Member
Apr 16, 2014
662
0
Good question, listen to Cosmic.. he knows!
I had one estate pipe, from the 90's that no matter what I did, or what I smoked in it, it tasted terrible, I mean bitter nasty yuk. I did the salt alcohol treatment 4 times to it, still tasted like pooky. I finally gave up and sold it on the bay last year.
I had another brand new nosewarmer by a well known pipe maker here in the states that was soooo green and steamy that I simply could not smoke it long enough to get anywhere close to breaking it in. I sold that one too.
Like Cosmic I also like the taste of briar and how different pipe taste different. But if it is sooo green that there is practically sap in my mouth then I can't handle that.
Good luck!