How to Ream a Tobacco Pipe


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:

Happy Reaming and Puffing!

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