How to Ream a Tobacco Pipe     January 7th, 2011


By Bob Tate

Tobacco Pipe Reaming

Although this article is ultimately going to explain and show how to ream your tobacco pipes, I thought that I would first talk a little bit about cake. After all, you won’t be reaming your pipe if there is no cake to ream. Cake is the carbon build up that occurs in the chamber of tobacco pipes over time from smoking.

One of the things that I find very funny is; when a beginner pipe smoker starts smoking a pipe, they worry themselves to death trying to build a cake. They ask a lot of questions about how to quickly build a cake, try different cake building techniques, etc. And then when they finally start building a cake, they immediately start worrying themselves to death about reaming the cake out that they worked so hard to build.

I would like to tell every beginner pipe smoker this; do not worry, you will eventually build a cake in your pipe. Take your time and enjoy smoking. Do not rush it; it will happen all on its own. Likewise, do not rush to ream out that cake that took you so long to build up. Cake is an important part of pipe smoking. It helps to protect the briar by giving it a protective carbon lining, it absorbs some moisture during smoking, and it will help the tobacco taste better.

But as with everything else in life, too much of a good thing can be bad. Too much cake can cause severe and un-repairable damage to your pipe. So eventually you will have to ream the cake back to an acceptable level. How much cake you should leave in the chamber has been debated amongst pipe smokers for years, but it seems that the average consensus is to keep your cake somewhere between the thickness of a U.S. Dime and a U.S. Nickel (between 1.35 mm and 1.95 mm).

The first, and pretty much only, thing that you are going to need is a pipe reamer. There are a few different kinds of pipe reamers, but the two most popular ones are The Senior Reamer and The British Buttner. The Senior Reamer is larger and easier to use than the British Buttner. I would suggest getting both types of them if you can. The reason why I suggest getting both is that there are mainly two different shapes of tobacco chambers.

Senior Pipe Reamer

Senior Pipe Reamer

British Buttner Pipe Reamer

British Buttner Pipe Reamer


There is the “U” shaped chamber and there is the “V”, Conical, or Tapered shaped chamber. The Senior Reamer style works well with a “U” shaped chamber while the more tapered shape of the British Buttner style will work very well in the “V” shaped chambers. There are also Universal Kits that are available that have a variety of bits that attach together to fit all different shape tobacco chambers.

I do not recommend using any sort of knife to ream your pipe until you have learned how to properly ream a pipe. And even after you have become proficient at reaming, proceed with extreme caution when using a knife. Knives, even pipe knives, can damage the pipe (and yourself) badly and beyond repair.

The main thing to remember when reaming a pipe is to be patient. Like all of the other aspects of pipe smoking, patience is important. Take your time and do not rush. When you are reaming and removing the excess cake, you want to remove it in very thin layers so that it comes out looking like dust. You do not want to remove chunks of the cake. Removing it slowly and carefully will help to keep the cake even and smooth which is ideal. You do not want a patchy, uneven cake in the chamber.

Now on to the video:

[kml_flashembed movie="" width="480" height="360" allowfullscreen="true" fvars="fs=1" /]


Happy Reaming and Puffing!


Pipe reaming tools can be purchased from any of the following sponsors:




4 Responses to “How to Ream a Tobacco Pipe”

  1. cortezattic said:

    Your observation about how folks worry over building a nice cake, and once achieved, worry about removing it was amusing; and I must confess that from personal experience, it applies to veterans and novices alike. I think the video also helps smokers in all ranges of experience. To the beginner it’s a nice introduction to the tools and their use, and to others who, like me, wonder how other folks are doing it.

    Thanks for taking the time and effort to add yet one more great video to an already impressive body of work for the members of

  2. deacon said:

    Excellent instruction, Mr. Tate. I have an old Jobey that needs attention, but did not want to attempt reaming until I could see someone else do it. I will tell you it took several years to build up cake in this pipe. Now I feel more confident in giving it a try.

  3. juozapas said:

    Nice work, Thanks for the great read !!

  4. Eric said:

    Great video! I have only been using a pipe for a year now, as I built up a very nice, even cake I started to realize some day I would have to use a reamer. I wanted to know what kind to get for a beginner, your video showed me a good one to get and how to use it without being scared to do so. Right now the cake is still very thin so I don’t have to use it for quite some time, it’s just nice to know I can do it and I have the required tool.

    I will keep the video handy for other beginners and the article as well so they don’t get ream happy and kill the cake before its time.



Most Popular Posts

  • Pipe Tobacco Storage
    :   By Bob Tate A lot of pipers wonder if and how they can store their pipe tobacco. There are ways to store your tobacco and it will last for years and if done properly, it will allow the ... 36 comment(s) | 70 view(s) per day

  • Flake Pipe Tobacco Preparation
    :   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 ... 23 comment(s) | 31 view(s) per day

  • How to Rehydrate Pipe Tobacco - Rehydrating Pipe Tobacco
    :   By Bob Tate If you store your pipe tobacco properly, it should not dry out. But I am sure that it has happened to us all at one time or another. We open a tin, pouch, or baggie to smoke... 16 comment(s) | 30 view(s) per day

  • English Blends and Latakia Blends - One and the Same?
    :   By Bob Tate Some of you may know from reading my articles, reviews, and from discussions in our forums, that I normally use the term ‘Latakia Blend(s)’ and not ‘English Blend(s)... 17 comment(s) | 25 view(s) per day

  • Tobacco Pipe Packing Methods - Part 1
    :   By Bob Tate [Editors Note: Be sure to read Part Two of this article, Tobacco Pipe Packing Methods - Part 2 (With Videos), to see instructional videos on how to perform these methods.] ... 10 comment(s) | 25 view(s) per day

  • A Few Pipe Lighter Reviews
    :   By Bob Tate When it comes to lighting your pipe, there are always discussions about what is the best thing to use. There is the famous debate about lighters VS matches. Because whether ... 31 comment(s) | 24 view(s) per day

  • Pipe Smoking Tips
    :   By Bob Tate When I first started smoking a pipe, I had no mentor to talk to and nobody to show me tips on how to make pipe smoking more enjoyable. I had to learn a lot on my own from re... 14 comment(s) | 17 view(s) per day

  • Routine Tobacco Pipe Cleaning (With Videos)
    :   By Bob Tate *Editors Note: These cleaning instructions are for use on wood pipes such as Brair, Olive, Cherry, etc. It is not recommended to clean Meerschaum pipes using these instructions.... 27 comment(s) | 17 view(s) per day

  • How to Ream a Tobacco Pipe
    :   By Bob Tate Although this article is ultimately going to explain and show how to ream your tobacco pipes, I thought that I would first talk a little bit about cake. After all, you won... 4 comment(s) | 16 view(s) per day

  • Tobacco Pipe Packing Methods - Part 2 (Videos)
    :   By Bob Tate This is a companion piece to my article, Tobacco Pipe Packing Methods. I apologize that it took me so long to get this piece up, but here it is. It is the video tutorials on... 6 comment(s) | 14 view(s) per day

  • Dunhill My Mixture 965 - Pipe Tobacco Reviews
    :   By Bob Tate The tin aroma of this blend is a strong, sweet and smoky tobacco smell with a light hint of spice to it. It smells very good. The moisture content is good for smoking right ... 5 comment(s) | 14 view(s) per day

  • Dunhill Early Morning Pipe - Pipe Tobacco Reviews
    :   By Bob Tate *Editors Note/Correction: I have to make a correction to this review. After further investigation, I have found out from Orlik that this blend does contain Latakia. Here ... 15 comment(s) | 13 view(s) per day

  • Dedicating Tobacco Pipes to Pipe Tobacco Blends
    :   By Bob Tate To dedicate or not to dedicate? That is a question that is asked frequently by pipe smokers. Before I give my answer to this question, I would like to explain a few things. ... 14 comment(s) | 12 view(s) per day

  • Interview with Greg Pease of G.L. Pease Tobacco - Part 1
    :   By Bob Tate Greg Pease is the owner of G.L. Pease, Intl. Greg began blending pipe tobacco over 30 years ago and in 1998 left his regular job of 18 years to pursue tobacco blending full ti... 10 comment(s) | 11 view(s) per day

  • The Mystery of Balkan Blends
    :   By Bob Tate Balkan Blend. That term is very mysterious. Is there really such a thing? If there is, what is it? What distinguishes a blend as a Balkan Blend? These and many other questio... 22 comment(s) | 11 view(s) per day

  • Reading Between The Lines - Pipe Smoking Tips
    :   By Bob Tate I would like to talk a little about the information that novice pipers will come across. The reason that I named this article “Reading Between the Lines”, is because I w... 15 comment(s) | 9 view(s) per day