Flake Pipe Tobacco Preparation     September 23rd, 2009


By Bob Tate


Flakes are one of the ways that pipe tobacco is made. Flake tobacco is made by pressing tobacco under extreme pressure for a period of time forming a cube. The cube is then sliced into strips called flakes. When you smoke flake tobacco it has to be packed differently than loose cut pipe tobacco. You can not simply fill the pipe and smoke it; you have to prepare the flakes first. There are many ways that flake tobaccos can be prepared. The way that you prepare a flake will have an effect in the taste of the tobacco and the way that the tobacco burns.

The larger you leave the pieces of flake, the stronger the flavor will be and the harder it will be to get the tobacco burning. Leaving the flakes whole or in large chunks will make the tobacco burn slow. This is a good technique to use when you are going to smoke outside as the wind will have less of an effect on the tobacco. Smaller pieces will make the flavor a little lighter and the tobacco will be easier to burn. It will also burn a little quicker as well. In this article I will describe a few of the different methods on how to prepare flakes for smoking. I have also included short videos of how to do each different method. Now onto the methods!


•Fold and Stuff Method – Take a flake of tobacco and fold it in half length wise (against the grain), down the middle. Then you fold the flake in half again, but this time fold it end to end (with the grain). The flake will now be in a square shape with four layers. Now lightly stuff the prepared flake into the pipe. If there is any tobacco sticking out of the end of the pipe, pull the tobacco back out of the bowl a little and trim off the excess tobacco and re-insert the flake. Make sure to leave a little bit of space between the tobacco and the rim. Adjust the draw by gently pushing on the tobacco with your finger and light the tobacco. By leaving the flake whole it will be a little hard to get the tobacco lit and going.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/V742FlN0ToA" width="425" height="344" allowfullscreen="true" fvars="fs=1" /]


•Roll and Stuff Method– This is almost the same as the Fold and Stuff; but instead of folding the flake, you roll the flake. To do this you roll the flake length wise (with the grain) like a stick of chewing gum. You then insert the tobacco into the bowl. If the tobacco sticks out, just pull it out a bit and trim some of it off and re-insert it back into the bowl. Make sure to leave a little space between the tobacco and the rim.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/JfvtByV1w1Q" width="425" height="344" allowfullscreen="true" fvars="fs=1" /]


•Rubbing Out Method – Rubbing out a flake is pretty much how it sounds. You rub the flake between your palms so the flake breaks apart into small pieces of tobacco. You can control how much the tobacco is rubbed out this way. You can lightly rub it out or you can fully rub it out. It is up to you how large or how small you want the pieces of tobacco to be. Once the tobacco is rubbed out, you then load the pipe the same way as you would with a mixture.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/_Ux7ewE4d9o" width="425" height="344" allowfullscreen="true" fvars="fs=1" /]


•Cutting Into Cubes Method – This is a method that I read about a couple of years ago and I used it almost exclusively when I started smoking flakes and I still use it frequently now. It was posted on a forum by George Dibos AKA LatakiaLover. This method involves cutting the flakes length wise (with the grain), into 1/4 inch or so strips. You then cut the strips across (against the grain) to make 1/4 or so cubes. You then gravity fill the bowl with the cubes of tobacco and do not use any pressure to pack. Just tap the side of the bowl to settle the tobacco. Make sure that you leave a little space between the tobacco and the rim. You then light the tobacco and smoke. While you are smoking make sure that you do not tamp the ash unless the tobacco will absolutely not light again. And when you do tamp, just let the weight of the tamper crush the ash. Do not use any pressure when tamping. This is the easiest way that I know of to smoke flakes. It was my favorite method to use with flakes as a beginner.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/zpQ9EqPuB2Y" width="425" height="344" allowfullscreen="true" fvars="fs=1" /]

When I smoke flakes, I always pack the tobacco looser than I do when I smoke a loose cut mixture. The reason that I do this is that the pieces of tobacco from a flake will swell up more than a loose cut mixture when they light on fire. So packing loosely allows room for expansion and prevents the tobacco from becoming too tight while smoking.

These are just a few of the ways to prepare flake tobacco and I hope that these tips will help you enjoy flakes a little more or get you into trying flakes if you haven’t tried them yet. If you haven’t tried smoking flakes before, you must give it a try because you are missing out on some truly great tobaccos. With these methods, you no longer have an excuse for not trying them or smoking them more often.

Happy Puffing!




23 Responses to “Flake Pipe Tobacco Preparation”

  1. Michael said:

    Thanks for this Bob. I’ve been patiently waiting for this, and you explained the procedures very well, and the videos helped even more. As you may remember, I was asking what I was doing wrong when all I could get by rubbing out, was small balls of tobacco, and just knew this wasn’t right.

    Thanks again!


  2. python said:

    I remember your post about having problems preparing flakes.
    I hope this helps you enjoy flakes a little more.

  3. Michael said:

    Also - on another note… What about something like Bullseye Flake that is sliced like coins? And what do you do with the little “chocolate” looking dot in the middle?

  4. python said:

    I have never smoked coin flake tobacco. Some of the people that have smoked it have rubbed it out and some stack a few of the coins on top of each other and load them into the bowl.

    Hopefully some of those who have smoked the coins will respond and explain how they do it.

  5. mate said:

    Only two i have experience with is, Copes Escudo and MacBaren roll Cake

    Way my Dad showed me is basically rub lightly 1 disc at a time to loosen and then stuff.

    I think that 3 Nuns, had smaller disc and those were just stuffed into pipe.

    The thing with these flake and coins, was that they were used by sailors that needed to store baccy under not ideal conditions, but more important would be that they would burn well in windy conditions (as you mentioned earlier). As a sailor, I can tell you that regular tobacco cuts would burn very fast and hot, probably causing burnout’s in your pipes

    I think that for armchair use they need a lot of working, to enjoy an effortless smoke

    ps I recently wanted to add a little spice to one of the flakes I had chopped up SG Navy Flake, so I cut up some Escudo, and I really like the way the two combined sets of granules smoked. Escudo like the SG Flake Blends can be really hard to keep lit

    As a segway, someone once told me Escudo is great way to colour a meerschaum quickly

  6. mate said:

    See Michael is a Polite Patient Member, unlike that pushy Mate guy

  7. mate said:

    A suggested Name for the #4 Method could be the “Charles Manson” or “Jack the Ripper”

  8. Kevin said:

    Just tried the fold & stuff method with SQ Bracken Flake accompanied by a Starbucks Doubleshot Espresso. I’m on my 2nd espresso actually, plus the Bracken Flake … I caught a little buzz here, lol.

  9. Kevin said:

    The fold & stuff method works pretty good, but I am having one side not wanting to burn. There’s like a hill of solid tobacco on one side of the bowl.

  10. python said:

    Kevin Said: The fold & stuff method works pretty good, but I am having one side not wanting to burn. There’s like a hill of solid tobacco on one side of the bowl.
    That is one of the problems that I had when trying that method as well. It takes time to learn how to properly smoke flakes when leaving them whole. But it is the quickest way to load your pipe with flake tobacco.

    One thing to remember is that you have to get the surface of the tobacco as level as you can and then during the initial light, make sure that you get an even burn across the entire surface of the tobacco. It might take a few tries, so let the pipe cool a little bit in between lights until you get a good, even light.

  11. mate said:

    Kevin this should help

    Here are some more views on Flakes & Coins


  12. Kevin said:

    There is a lot of great info on that site.

    My favorite part was this:

    “Make sure to smoke all the way down the bowl: the last half-inch or so is the climax of the symphony. Pack 1/2 bowls or use a smaller pipe bowl to make sure you get the orgasm.”

    Now I need some tissues.

  13. mate said:

    Michael, the dot in the middle would usually be Perique in Escudo, and MacBarens Roll Cake

    I may be wrong, but I understand Roll Cake no longer uses Perique, expensive and dwindling supply

  14. mate said:

    Try this, I find it working great.. I was trying to get the results of Broken Flake

    I used SG Balkan Flake (bulk), the slices are at least twice as long as the SG Tins

    Cut the flake into 1\ to 1.25\, into a bowl. Knead using very little pressure. You don’t want to create clumps.


    I intend to try this instead of kneading as a labour saving device and to get what I think will be more realistic broken flakes, consistency.

    After cutting, but before kneading. Put some in plastic bag or container in Carolyn’s car for 1 - 3 days.

    She knows every pot hole by heart and hardly ever misses one.


    This we will call the Jeffrey Dahmer Method

  15. Michael said:

    Thanks for your input Mate. The dot in the center of the Bullseye flake is Cavendish. It’s not at all like tobacco though. It’s kind of like the consistency of a chocolate chip. That may explain the reason I seen to be getting little pills of wadded tobacco. It may be acting like mud when crumbling the flake?

    ~ Michael

  16. [...] and 1/4 inch chunks at it’s finest. That’s ok, as it smokes fine. I even tried the fold & stuff method and that worked well [...]

  17. [...] the tobacco’s. Also, smoking it slow brings out the nice sweet Virginia flavor. 2) Try the Fold & Stuff method instead of rubbing it out. I did it both ways, and the Fold & Stuff, packed a little loosely [...]

  18. [...] moist out of the tin and some drying time is recommended. I took a few of the broken flake pieces, fully rubbed them out, loaded my pipe, and proceeded to the charring [...]

  19. jimbo said:

    I don’t understand how the cutting method can be called “the easiest way” to smoke flakes/slices. For one thing, you have to have another tool… scissors or a knife to do the cutting. Plus, unlike the fold-and-stuff method, you have to have a “work bench” surface to prepare it on. I consider this to be too much ado with no real benefits over the other methods. I’ll stick with rubbing out the slices between my hands. :-)

    And then, there’s “tough” broken flakes like Dark Star. A spice/coffee mill or food processor I have found necessary to break them up enough for smoking.

  20. Bob said:

    Jimbo, I said that it is the easiest way to SMOKE the flake, not the easiest way to PREPARE the flake :-) .

    I really meant that part for beginners that are new to flakes.
    A lot of beginners to flakes have problems with most of the methods at first. When you are a beginner, the Rubbing Out Method will sometimes leave large chunks of tobacco that are hard to burn until the smoker gets the hang of how to rub it out.
    That is why I said that the Cube Cut Method works the best for smoking when you are first starting out with flakes. Once you get the cube cut started smoking, it is relatively easy to keep going and most always burns all the way to ash leaving no large unburnt chunks of tobacco. I never use this method anymore as I opt to either rub it out or fold and stuff.
    I had almost given up on flakes when I was a beginner because of the difficulties that I was having getting a good burn and a good smoke from them. When I learned of the cube cut method, it peaked my interest in flakes again and it got me smoking them with ease and over time I learned how to enjoy flakes using the other techniques.
    The coffee/spice grinder is a great idea for preparing flakes. I have never tried it, but from what I hear; I couple of pulses of it will chop up the tobacco nicely.

  21. jimbo said:


    I understand now. I guess I had it easy: I think the first flake I tried was Penzance (a process called “krumble kake”) which was very easy to prepare by rubbing. On the opposite end is Dark Star, which I mentioned above, as to the extremes I go to to smoke that tasty flake.

  22. [...] into flakes and then prepare the flakes. [To see how to prepare flake tobacco, see my article: Flake Pipe Tobacco Preparation] Explaining how to properly cut plug tobacco is quite difficult to do in the written word, but I [...]

  23. nabottle said:

    Great, now I’m not worries when I get my first flake in the mail. Thanks, Bob.



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