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Having Some Beginner Troubles

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  1. louiezmich

    louiezmich

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    Hello everyone,

    I am new to pipe smoking and new to the site. I recently started pipe smoking because after a year of smoking cigars I wanted to broaden my smokes to pipes as well. I really have found it very enjoyable, the concept of having different pipes for certain tobaccos and how to pack, how to smoke, how to light, not to char the rim, different styles of pipes, different tobacco names, tobacco brands and so on and so on. It all is pretty overwhelming. But just like cigars the learning and hearing what other more experienced smokers have to say is the best part for me, sucking in all their wisdom and using it for a more enjoyable smoke.

    But even with all the different YouTube videos and reading up on the forums my pipe smoking enjoyment is solely based on hope for a better smoke next time mentality. At the moment I have a pipe that came in a forty dollar gift set from pipesandcigars.com. I've smoked probably 10-15 bowls with it and every time I have the same problems. The aroma the smoke gives off is wonderful but the taste gives me tongue bite and none of the flavors anyone is saying on the tobacco reviews I read about the same kind I'm smoking. I tried packing a tighter bowl and that didn't work. I tried tamping less often but then my pipe just went out and I had to keep relighting.

    I thought its because I have a cheap pipe but I don't know. I was thinking about using the new pipe i just bought, its a very nice bent brier pipe with a rustic finish on it but I'm worried my techniques are wrong and I will burn the rim and still not get any flavor out of my pipe. I guess, since I'm babbling on, what I am asking is for someone to walk me through their smoking rituals from packing all the way to cleaning at the end of the smoke and I can ask questions from there as to what I am doing wrong.

    Thank you in advance for any help,

    Louie

    Lou
    Posted 1 year ago #
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    Anonymous

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    Well, first of all, you rock!

    the learning and hearing what other more experienced smokers have to say is the best part for me, sucking in all their wisdom and using it for a more enjoyable smoke.

    You, sir, have certainly done your homework and I commend you for that. Too many "newbies" have the hardest time having the patience to do the research and reading up that you're doing. Gratz on that!

    I've smoked probably 10-15 bowls with it and every time I have the same problems. The aroma the smoke gives off is wonderful but the taste gives me tongue bite and none of the flavors anyone is saying on the tobacco reviews I read about the same kind I'm smoking. I tried packing a tighter bowl and that didn't work. I tried tamping less often but then my pipe just went out and I had to keep relighting.

    This is probably due to proper tobacco preparation and your smoking technique.

    Do the "pinch test" -- take out a bowlful of your tobacco and place it on a sheet of paper or clean plate. Take a small pinch of it between thumb and forefinger, lift it a few inches and drop it. If it falls in a clump, it's too wet. Let it air out 10-15 minutes and try the pinch again. The tobacco is ready to smoke when the pinch drops in ribbons/pieces and hardly clumps at all. Most non-aromatics pass the "pinch test" in 10-20 minutes, some take less, some tobacco blends (particularly heavily topped aromatics) can take several hours, even a day, to dry properly.

    When it's time to pack the bowl, I use the drop-feed -- a pinch of tobacco in the bowl, tamped evenly with my index finger, repeating that until the bowl is filled and the tobacco therein is "springy" to the touch. The draw should feel like sipping soda through a straw -- if it feels like sucking on a milkshake, you packed it too tight -- if there is little or no "pull," you packed it too loose.

    Then there's lighting process. Use a match or a Zippo or a soft flame butane, taking care not to burn the rim of the pipe -- don't use a torch, it is much too hot and can damage you pipe. The charring (some call it "false") light, which basically evenly "chars" the tobacco (think of "toasting" your cigars, with more charring) is next. Once done, tamp it all lightly but evenly and perform the "true light" -- totally firing up the tobacco -- of course, you puff during both these steps.

    Now you're off, hopefully enjoying your smoke. Puff slowly. No, slowwwwly. Slower still. Don't worry if you need to relight it. this is called "cadence," and it's one of, if not the hardest thing to learn. Keep the tamping to a minimum and dump the ash about half-way in.

    Don't worry much about your cheap pipe, your new pipe, or any pipe. I still smoke my very first pipe, which was free, and is more than 40 years old. I would get a couple MM cobs though, as 4-5 pipes is a good start on having a rotation -- pipes need to rest to dry properly between smokes.

    Don't get discouraged! You are already 'way ahead on the n00b curve now -- you have patience, you researched a lot (and even more important, you enjoy the homework and are not afraid to do it!) Pipe smoking is not easy -- as you know, it's not like cigarettes where you light it up, inhale and less than a week later, when you stop coughing your lungs out, you've "mastered" cigarette smoking. 40+ years into it and I am still learning new things about pipes, pipe tobaccos and pipe smoking all the time.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  3. louiezmich

    louiezmich

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    Wow thank you so much, really that helped a lot. I didn't think that "Springy" was the consistency I was looking for. I see people on YouTube and such puffing and puffing and puffing so much on their pipe and I followed this method. Could me doing this cause the tobacco to burn too hot causing less and less flavor to come out of the tobacco? I imagine so since that's how it is with cigars too.

    Also I am starting to get a little bit of black on the rim of my first pipe. It this just from causal wear from the match being close to the rim? Or am I ruining my pipe slowly without me knowing it. And two more questions (For now...sorry for all the questions I'm just eager to learn) when I do the "official light" do i want to burn the tobacco until i get a nice big cherry in the center? Because when I do this the tongue bite is harsh,

    also I bought a $35 bent rustic pipe from a local tobacco shop (supposed to be the best in Illinois besides Chicago) do you think that was a good buy? Or could I have done better on eBay? Sorry for all the questions hopefully I can get some of these answered.

    Posted 1 year ago #
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    see people on YouTube and such puffing and puffing and puffing so much on their pipe and I followed this method. Could me doing this cause the tobacco to burn too hot causing less and less flavor to come out of the tobacco? I imagine so since that's how it is with cigars too.

    Exactly. With cigars, if I'm taking a draw more than once every 30 second or so, I am smoking too fast and by doing that, I am not enjoying that cigar nearly as much. It's even more true with pipes, although slow sips are de rigueur, and 30 seconds between draws is too long, you get the idea!

    I am starting to get a little bit of black on the rim of my first pipe. It this just from causal wear from the match being close to the rim? Or am I ruining my pipe slowly without me knowing it.

    We try to avoid that but this happens (saliva on the finger and tracing it around the rim before lighting helps mitigate it some). You're using a match (which is least hot and best flame for a pipe) which helps. Most of it is likely tobacco tar -- some spit on a paper towel and rubbing the rim when cleaning the pipe usually helps. In any case, it's not a big deal. Your pipe(s) will look used after 10-12 bowls anyway -- as long as you don't burn the hell out of the briar, a little char on the rim can be expected.

    when I do the "official light" do i want to burn the tobacco until i get a nice big cherry in the center? Because when I do this the tongue bite is harsh,

    No. You just want to get a good even light. This comes with practice, puff slowly and don't worry if it goes out, just tamp it gently and relight it. That tongue bite is burn, excess heat -- too hot -- not good for you or your pipe.

    I bought a $35 bent rustic pipe from a local tobacco shop (supposed to be the best in Illinois besides Chicago) do you think that was a good buy? Or could I have done better on eBay?

    We call those "basket pipes." An inexpensive "burner" (slang for a pipe). You're fine with that, give those two briars a chance. Get those two cobs for your rotation. Slow down. While pipes in the long run are cheaper to smoke than cigars, good quality new briar pipes are expensive, starting out in the $50 to $100 range. Break in those four pipes and, while puffing away, learn as much as you can about pipes -- which are good brands, what style(s) you like most, and probably most important, learn your prices. I buy restored estate pipes now, very few new (one in the last year). I personally don't like the eBay B.S., some puffers love eBay, I don't. I patronize the reputable restored estate pipe vendors, many of which are PM Forum sponsors and pay half (or less) of what my pipes sell for new.

    If your B&M is a good one, spend some time there. Buy pipe cleaners, an ounce of tobacco, something, and ask questions. A good local tobacconist is worth their weight in gold, cherish them. If they sell estate pipes, check 'em out, ask more questions -- useful down the road and who knows, you might find a treasure they'll put aside for you with a small deposit.

    Lastly, please remember -- the hardest thing to learn in pipe smoking is patience -- patience touches every aspect of the hobby. Just take your time, take it all in, and enjoy!

    Posted 1 year ago #
  5. louiezmich

    louiezmich

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    okay will do and thanks a lot. I was feeling a little intimidated with everyone and their fancy $200+ dollar pipes that I thought I couldn't enjoy the ones I currently have. I'll just break in the two briars with an occasional cob, smoke slow, learn and enjoy the art of pipe smoking. Thanks again

    Posted 1 year ago #
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    Anonymous

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    You're more than welcome.

    Do let us know how you're doing and feel free to ask questions.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  7. mikephillips

    mikephillips

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    Listen to Roth, he knows his stuff. And don't go worrying that you can't afford $200 for a pipe. Some of my best smokers cost me less than $20, one of them less than $10...unfortunately I just chewed through the stem on that one today.

    Anyway, it's not about the case you piss away on it, it's about the pleasure it gives you, and that doesn't cost much to achieve.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  8. nsfisher

    nsfisher

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    Welcome aboard mate. Not much I can add here, it's pretty much covered, except..... enjoy

    If at first you don't succeed, have another bowl.
    Posted 1 year ago #
  9. joshwolftree

    joshwolftree

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    welcome to the forum, looks like the question are covered better than I could answer em. Keep trying you'll get that aha moment.

    The true measure of a mans worth is how he chooses to chance his mortality
    Junior Member of the Black Bloods
    Posted 1 year ago #
  10. plet

    plet

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    Welcome to the forum

    I don't smoke as often as I would like to so it has taking some time for me to build up a good technique. My latest leap forward has been to dump out the ash half way through the bowl and limit tamping to a minimum, as rothnh suggests.

    Lot's of good advice in this thread. Happy puffing.

    I have a weak spot for Billard-, Canadian-, Liverpol- and Poker-style pipes from Comoy and Dunhill...
    Posted 1 year ago #
  11. ohin3

    ohin3

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    pinch test, pack till tight but springy, smoke slow, tamp often with no more force than what gravity provides and you are definitely improving your odds of having a good smoke. It does take a while to master this art. My smokes are all good at this point but I still have the occasional sub par smoke and the occasional "perfect smoke" every now and then. Never worry that you your pipe is too cheap. I have never spent $200.00 on a pipe in 15 years and I seem to enjoy smoking just fine. Good luck on your journey in to this obsessive hobby and keep us posted.

    Cheers.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  12. louiezmich

    louiezmich

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    Thanks a lot everyone I hope everyone is this helpful all the time, this is great learning from all of you.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  13. jah76

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    Welcome to the forum!

    Everyone else gave you some great advice. For myself working on my tobacco prep method and packing method was one of the biggest improvements I needed to make. It really opened up a lot of enjoyment in the hobby for me. And I STILL screw it up now and then. Practice and play around with it.

    If you screw the pooch on it, don't be afraid to repack it or put it down and come back in an hour when it's dried out a bit. Don't be too hard on yourself when you hear about guys smoking everything down to a "fine white ash" and "all the way to the bottom". You'll get there. A few months ago I was dumping out half filled bowls of unburnt tobacco all the time. I just couldn't seem to smoke it past mid point. Working on my prep and packing worked wonders and I STILL look forward to learning more.

    This hobby is about you and what you get out of it. Hope to see you around!

    Posted 1 year ago #
  14. mctrav

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    The veterans here have invaluable knowledge and are always willing to help out, embrace this awesome site and enjoy the ride, I have.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  15. 05venturer

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    welcome to the club louiezmich
    I will add my 2 cents worth in that you can't go wrong picking up a Grab bag of MM Cobs, you get 10 cobs for about $30 and it will give you a great rotation starting out. I am pretty much a Cob smoker exclusively other than a couple briars on occasion. Pretty tough for me to find a better smoking pipe than a cob, virtually zero break in time an a great cool smoker. Country Gentleman is my new fave.

    Kent

    Posted 1 year ago #
  16. louiezmich

    louiezmich

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    you can't go wrong picking up a Grab bag of MM Cobs, you get 10 cobs for about $30 and it will give you a great rotation starting out.

    Where did you find this "grab bag" of cobs. I would like to try them out since they are made in USA and give that classic pipe smoking look.

    Country Gentleman is my new fave.

    Ill have to check it out for sure!

    Posted 1 year ago #
  17. jah76

    jah76

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    Sponser on the left

    They just redid their site too.

    I have a Country Gentlemen and LBF and Haddo's Delight always taste good out of it.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  18. yadan

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    Welcome to the forum and enjoy your new pipe adventures!

    "I'm always easy to please since I'm always satisfied with the very best." - Oscar Wilde
    Posted 1 year ago #
  19. sothron

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    You've received some great advice here, and from pipe smokers far more experienced than I. However, I will add my .02 for what it's worth.

    I would strongly suggest looking at estate pipes, as Roth briefly suggested above. In almost all cases, you'll get much more pipe for your money, and in many cases they will be of better quality than what is commonly available today. Furtherm and more importantly, they will already be broken in and likely have a nicely developed cake (or at least be free of the bowl coatings used so often today). I've found that these bowl coatings can impart strange, unpleasant flavors to the smoke. New pipes take awhile to break in and the breaking in period further complicates the already difficult process of learning to smoke a pipe. Had I known this when I first took up the pipe 'full time' a dew years back, I would have saved myself a lot of frustration and a little bit of money. There are many outstanding estate pipes from a all of top pipe makers available from a number of reputable dealers in the sub-$100 range that will arrive clean, sanitized, and smoke outstandlingy right out of the gate.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  20. bigvan

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    Here’s another opinion to consider.

    Yes, cobs are cheap (and cob seconds are even cheaper) and they have their fans. But given a cob’s less than sturdy bit, a shank that extend into the bowl, a draft hole well above the bottom of the bowl and the non-uniform draft chamber, I can’t recommend them as a “starter pipe” because I don’t think they will give you the best experience. Again, just an opinion.

    I agree that estates could be the way to go. But rather than taking blind guesses on ebay, I recommend you look at the estates section of a reputable online retailer like smokingpipes.com. These pipes have been professionally cleaned and sterilized and you have a huge variety to choose from, which will help ensure that you end up with the right pipe for you.

    As for tobacco, do your research and don’t settle for the cheapest blend you can find. As Jud has said so succinctly, buy the best quality tobacco you can afford. Personally I’ve never had the need to dry out my tobacco; not once in 25 years of pipe smoking, so I can’t comment on methods or recommended drying times.

    I’ve always believed that if it’s too hot, slow down. A medium sized bowl should take you about 45 minutes to finish and a larger bowl should take over an hour. When in doubt, slow down.

    Good luck, and let us know how it goes.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  21. tbradsim1

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    Good Advice Big Van, listen to the man he has a lot of knowledge The old cajun

    The Old Cajun
    Posted 1 year ago #
  22. rlunderhill

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    Remember, everything gets easier with experience. The more time passes, the better you get at it.

    Posted 1 year ago #
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    instymp

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    +1 everyone, specially
    "I agree that estates could be the way to go. But rather than taking blind guesses on ebay, I recommend you look at the estates section of a reputable online retailer like smokingpipes.com. These pipes have been professionally cleaned and sterilized and you have a huge variety to choose from, which will help ensure that you end up with the right pipe for you."
    Until you know what you are doing. I bought & resold a bunch because I didn't know what I was doing & still don't when it comes to all the pipes out there & what I really like.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  24. portascat

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    Remember, too, that "taste" is about 75% an olfactory experience. As well, personal body chemistry has some influence on how specific tobaccos "taste" or effect us.

    Like booze, cars, and women what I like or enjoy may not be your cup of tea at all. Lots of Virginia fans here on the forum. I smoke a lot of tobaccos that have Virginia blended in, but a "straight" Virginia tastes a lot like, to me, a cigarette. No real flavor, a lot of bite, and I have yet to attempt more than a few minutes of a bowl of any of it. Something about it doesn't agree with me at all. I don't detect any of the nuances or subtleties of it. But many do, and therefore the reviews and descriptions mean something to them.

    As far as estate pipe buying goes, stick with a proven element as a beginner. For example, an Adjustomatic Dr. Grabow. Very nice factory made pipes that smoke better than the filter style. Shouldn't run you more than about $30 to the house off of Ebay. Find an auction with pics and make sure the stem isn't chewed up and it doesn't look totally dogged out. Remember that mechanically a pipe can be in great condition, and look cosmetically "bad". It is easier to fix the cosmetic than mechanical, and if you are learning to smoke the mechanical is more important than the cosmetic.

    "To seek freedom is the only driving force I know. Freedom to fly off into that infinity out there."
    Posted 1 year ago #
  25. louiezmich

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    I just wanted to do a bit of an update for everyone here who has graciously helped me out.

    So I went to my local smoke shop that is fairly close to my college. I walked in and explained to the nice gentleman that I was new to pipe smoking and wanted to take up the hobby, but have been having some trouble really getting a grasp of the whole smoking concept to the pipe. He walked me through everything that everyone has already said on the forum but having someone actually show me in person really sped up the learning process for me. So we packed the pipe together and for the first time a actually saw what everyone was talking about, the tobacco sprang up on the charring light. So I tamped it down, making sure the whole time to make notice that the tobacco still had spring to it. I then proceeded to do the final lighting of the pipe and I have to say that for the first time I actually enjoyed a smoke. I really started to taste more than a burnt tobacco taste. I walked around the shop and just kept sampling numerous tobaccos that he had blended himself and really was able to enjoy myself.

    Now with that I still had some problems, at time I had some gurgling...I don't know what that means or is so if someone could help I would appreciate it. I also got tongue bite pretty bad and I can still feel it today so I need to work on that, and I had to relight a lot. But like anything I have a lot to work on but I finally am able to enjoy something that I am begging to become passionate about. The man there at 8 to 8 cigars also invited me to join the Chicago Pipe Club meeting later this month and asked me to become a member, so that was exciting and just an overall great experience.

    Thank you everyone for your help and I know that it's only going to get better from here. I know I have a lot to work on, but regardless I am a happy man at the moment.

    Thanks everyone and I will talk and ask questions soon I'm sure.

    Louie

    Posted 1 year ago #
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    Happy to hear you have such a great tobacconist and that you enjoyed your visit to his shop!

    The gurgling is partly due to technique and partly due to the tobacco likely being too moist. The tongue bite/burn is also likely from the tobacco being too moist. Many pipe tobaccos and almost all aromatics take time to dry properly before packing and smoking.

    It's also great that you've been welcomed so well and I think joining the Chicago Pipe Club is a great idea -- I'm sure you'll enjoy it and learn a lot!

    Just remember, it takes patience -- that and understanding there's a lot to learn -- you're on your way, Louie! Congratulations d00d

    Posted 1 year ago #
  27. allan

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    Joining a pipe club is a great idea. You'll meet other members who clearly are fellow enthusiasts and will enjoy helping you experience nuances of other tobaccos you may not have tried yet

    Good luck

    Allan

    Allan
    Posted 1 year ago #

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