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 reading, online message boards, asking questions at B&Ms, and experimenting. I thought that I would share some of the tips that I have acquired with all of you. Most of these tips are more for the beginners, but maybe a few of them will help out some of the more seasoned pipe smokers as well.
First let’s start at the beginning.
•Make sure that your pipe is cleaned from your previous smoke before loading and packing fresh tobacco.
Make sure that there is no old dottle (un-burnt tobacco and ash) blocking the draft hole that would prevent a good draw.
•Use Less Tobacco Than You Think You Need
Here is one that most people might not think about and took me awhile to learn. It sounds pretty simple, but sometimes the simple things are overlooked.
I had a tendency to use too much tobacco when I was a beginner and tried to cram it all into the bowl. Using too much tobacco will cause for a tight pack making the tobacco hard to draw and will cause an un-pleasurable smoking experience. Use less tobacco when packing, you can always smoke another bowl if you want more.
•Pack Looser Than You Think You Need To
The rule of the thumb for packing is; when the draw feels like you are drinking liquid through a straw, it is about right. When I fill my pipe, I like to pack it a tad bit looser than that. It is easier to tighten the tobacco during smoking than it is to loosen it up.
•Always Check the Draw of the Pipe Before Lighting
If the draw is too tight, dump the bowl and start over. That way you won’t be wasting any tobacco. If you light the tobacco and then the draw is too tight, you will end up having to dump the bowl and wasting the tobacco because it has already started burning.
•Always leave at least 1/8 of an inch (I prefer closer to 1/4 of an inch) of space from the top of the tobacco to the rim.
This will allow for some rising of the tobacco when you light it without the burning tobacco touching the rim of the bowl. It will also allow you to focus the flame into the bowl onto the tobacco. Doing this will protect the rim of your pipe and keep it looking good for years to come.
•Perform a Charring Light
This one is kind of debatable, some people do it and some don’t. I have tried it both ways and I have always had better results by doing a charring light. A charring light is when you char the tobacco first before lighting it. To do this you place the flame onto the tobacco and take a couple of light puffs and stop. This will char the tobacco and allow for an even light across the surface of the tobacco. Then lightly tamp down the ashes, and I do mean lightly. Do not use any pressure. Let the weight of the tamper do the work, all you want to do is crush the ash and level off the surface of tobacco. I often get the best results when I perform 3 to 5 charring lights. I do this to get the whole surface of the tobacco charred. I then proceed to fully light the tobacco.
•Fully Light the Tobacco
To fully light the tobacco, take about 3 slow long puffs while the flame above the tobacco. You want to draw the flame down into the tobacco. Remove the flame and take about a 3 second break. Repeat this procedure until the entire surface of the tobacco is glowing red. I do it this way to avoid the tobacco from becoming too hot. Remember that overheating the pipe is the major cause of pipe damage. Don’t be in a rush to light it, take your time and keep it cool. You will enjoy the smoke much more. If the smoke is becoming hot, set the pipe down to cool and then re-light it.
•Tamp Less Frequently and With Less Pressure
When you tamp too often and with too much pressure, you are tightening the tobacco. This will cause the draw to get tighter and is one of the major causes for a less enjoyable smoke. If I have to re-light the pipe during smoking, I always try to light it without tamping. If it won’t light then I use the tamper and using no pressure, just the weight of the tamper, crush the ashes down and then re-light.
The only time that I use any pressure when tamping is if I have to tighten up the draw, and then I only use very light pressure.
Every so often you will have to level off the surface of the tobacco. When you do this, it will require a little pressure. Just make sure to use just enough pressure to get the job done. Always start light and apply more if needed.
These are a few of my tips and I hope that they will be useful for some of you and I hope that you will post some of your tips in the comments below.