5 Months In, I Still Have No Idea How to Pack a Pipe

Log in

SmokingPipes.com Updates

Watch for Updates Twice a Week

PipesMagazine Approved Sponsor

PipesMagazine Approved Sponsor

PipesMagazine Approved Sponsor

PipesMagazine Approved Sponsor

PipesMagazine Approved Sponsor

ThomasS

Can't Leave
Apr 30, 2024
312
3,213
51
Bayfield, WI
I have some slightly off-to-the side recommendations:

Don't smoke too soon after eating, especially if you had anything highly flavored. Tobacco is fairly subtle.

Alcohol really doesn't help. In my experience, stiffer drinks make my tongue numb to tobacco flavors pretty darn quickly - long before any alcohol buzz. A bit of whiskey is a great way to not taste my pipe anymore, and even beer or wine can make it so you only taste "smoke". And it lasts hours

IMO, minty stuff makes a pipe taste really bad for quite a while after. Beware of gum, mints, and other such things. I had some Trident Ice Breaker gum and then tried some GLP Quiet Nights... this was not a happy time.
 
Apr 2, 2024
37
138
Eastern CT
Is this across several or all pipes?

Have you given the mortise a good cleaning?
I have better luck with some pipes than others, but basically the same issue with all of them. Lately I only use 2 or 3 of them regularly to cut down on the possible variables. I clean them out after every smoke, sometimes with a little whiskey on a pipe cleaner if it needs it.
 

Piping Abe

Part of the Furniture Now
Oct 27, 2021
573
1,584
North Dakota, USA
I’m not gonna give you this BS dry the tobacco/pack looser advice. Start with a good tobacco. Get a new blend. It could very well be the blend for you. You may have one good smoke and then its crap because you dont like that blend or it is just not good at all. Half n Half, especially current versions, can be wishy washy. Find a blend you enjoy every bowl. No matter a bad pack, it should provide enjoyment. As long as your not pulling so hard that it hurts your cheeks, youll be good. I suggest C&D/GLP blends. They’ll have minimal/no biting casing and be at a good moisture level.

Every bowl I smoke is enjoyable. I look forward to smoking a pipe everyday, For flavor. Sometimes I frieght train, sometimes I go slow, its always enjoyable, because the blender knew what they were doing.

You don’t need a super clean pipe either. A pipe is like a cast iron skillet that needs to be seasoned. You’ll figure it out. Don’t give up.
 

ItsKarl

Starting to Get Obsessed
May 3, 2024
121
196
Norway
I have some slightly off-to-the side recommendations:

Don't smoke too soon after eating, especially if you had anything highly flavored. Tobacco is fairly subtle.

Alcohol really doesn't help. In my experience, stiffer drinks make my tongue numb to tobacco flavors pretty darn quickly - long before any alcohol buzz. A bit of whiskey is a great way to not taste my pipe anymore, and even beer or wine can make it so you only taste "smoke". And it lasts hours

IMO, minty stuff makes a pipe taste really bad for quite a while after. Beware of gum, mints, and other such things. I had some Trident Ice Breaker gum and then tried some GLP Quiet Nights... this was not a happy time.
I haven't really thought about it, but I think you're absolutely right that alcohol is detrimental to enjoying tobacco. However, I think tobacco can improve drinking experience, at least as far as whiskey is concerned. Normally I like smooth whiskeys, and only rarely have a hankering for the smokey stuff. I have a bottle of Islay my sister got me a couple of X-mases ago, which is like drinking the ashes from a camp fire. But I must say, pairing it with a pipe made it a lot more enjoyable.

Also, one time I was experiencing a lot of tongue bite smoking... can't remember. But I found that eating milk chocolate as I was smoking coated my tongue with a nice protective film, and it didn't really take away from the tobacco taste. Mind you, I'm still wet behind the ears in the pipe smoking business, so there are probably lots of nuances I can't taste yet anyway.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Uguccione

JOHN72

Lifer
Sep 12, 2020
5,494
54,717
51
Spain - Europe
That's how I started. Desperate, not knowing how to pack, spitting tobacco. Until I was told here, the gravity packing technique, loose, shredded, is a good option. Tobacco folded and very tight, already requires patience and technique. To your taste, dry, crisp, or with a slight touch of moisture. Tight packing hinders the combustion action of the oxygen in the burner, and even more so when you simply bend the tobacco and do not crumble it.
 
  • Like
Reactions: kcghost

mpjetset

Starting to Get Obsessed
Too loose, too tight, beats the hell out of me. All I know is it tastes like shit 8 out of 10 times. ...SNIP ... When you smoke a pipe, does it actually taste good every time, or is it only the rare "nirvana smoke" that has a pleasant tobacco flavor? Serious question. I see the "reviewers" on youtube just chuck some tobacco in the pipe and puff away like freight trains, while waxing poetic about all the flavors they're experiencing, and I wonder if they're all just bullshitting and re-hashing the tin description....SNIP.
LOL! I just re-read this. The Emperor Has No Clothes! Uh oh, the cat's out of the bag now!

No, we really do enjoy the flavors and experience. But every pipe smoker I know paid the dues before it paid off. It's a True Religion that comes to you; you can't seize it. Your mouth will learn just by getting burned. As the involuntary mouth-to-brain takes the burn-unit triage over you will find flavor and relaxation 99%.

Actually it's not a religion after a while, it's simply something you do.

But, don't expect it to come while you "mine" for it like you're trying to make a gold strike. You may just be impatient at this point, so take a break. If you must have flavor "right now, no excuses" then cigars might be more to your liking. That's where I go when I know I'm not in a good mood or situation for a bowl, like ... kids! Cigars are kid repellents while pipes are magnets.
 
  • Like
Reactions: walkingpipeguy

AJL67

Lifer
May 26, 2022
5,501
28,082
Florida - Space Coast
Was just smoking my 100th bowl of CRF w/P in the last week, various pipes and the bowl tasted like shit ... realized i was hitting it too hard and it was too hot, put it down for a few minutes and let the ember consume itself, puffed it lightly to get it going again and back to a tasty smoke.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Piping Abe

anotherbob

Lifer
Mar 30, 2019
16,182
30,341
46
In the semi-rural NorthEastern USA
my advice is to stick with one blend until you can pack it without thinking. Packing isn't hard, it's counter intuitive. Once you have a solid idea of what is a good pack with blend x or y it's easier to get the next blend right.
I can pack my pipe while doing anything that doesn't take both hands, yet when I have a new blend getting the perfect pack takes some trial and error.
Also consider this the initiation if it didn't take dedication everyone and their mothers would be smoking pipes.
 

anotherbob

Lifer
Mar 30, 2019
16,182
30,341
46
In the semi-rural NorthEastern USA
Also something that some haven’t mentioned as much. Eventually at a certain stage of smoking throughout the bowl you may have to remove just the top layer of ash. You can accomplish this in a number of different ways. I caution you ⚠️ just to remove a small portion of this ‘top layer’ of ash by simply tapping out the bowl on a cork knocker very gently. Occasionally the excess buildup of ash (especially if you have to relight) will cause a unpleasant taste upon your relights. Once again this step is trial and error. If the pipe is smoking well keep going and don’t ash out at all. Once you get the subtle nuances it will all come together
what works for me is to just poke the top layer of ash with the pick part of the pipe tool. Seems to loosen all the ash and it will then fall out just by turning the pipe over. If it's a system pipe take the stem out and turn the stem end down so it drips the juices on the ground or ashtray and not up the stem.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Piping Abe
Apr 2, 2024
37
138
Eastern CT
what works for me is to just poke the top layer of ash with the pick part of the pipe tool. Seems to loosen all the ash and it will then fall out just by turning the pipe over. If it's a system pipe take the stem out and turn the stem end down so it drips the juices on the ground or ashtray and not up the stem.
That's one thing I've managed to figure out myself. At a certain point, I just kind of stir up the surface of the ashes and tip some out. Too much and it tastes weird, just enough and it seems to improve things.
 
Apr 2, 2024
37
138
Eastern CT
Since the party line here is "dry more and pack looser," I tried that--again. I've been sticking with Half and Half to narrow things down, since that was my last enjoyable smoke. Got it as dry as I could by leaving it spread out on a paper plate overnight. It's not crispy, but dry to the touch and doesn't clump or stick together at all when pinched together. Sprinkled some into the pipe, and tamped it down just enough to get more in, until the tiniest barely perceptible amount of resistance began to show up on the draw. Smoked it very slowly and gently, just barely keeping it going and making a tiny amount of smoke. But like every other time I've tried this, the flavor is just washed out. It's like drinking club soda, with an astringent bite that dries my mouth out. In case it still was packed too tight, I tried twice more, with a looser pack each time, which made it worse each time. The last one was barely more than gravity filled. At that point, it's impossible to draw on it at all without it burning too fast and hot.

Again, it's not that it's bad every time. Just most of the time. I've had some good ones, but NONE of the good smokes I've had were achieved by taking bone dry tobacco and sprinkling it into the pipe like new fallen snow. If anyone says they get good results by smoking that way, I honestly don't believe you.
I’m not gonna give you this BS dry the tobacco/pack looser advice. Start with a good tobacco. Get a new blend. It could very well be the blend for you. You may have one good smoke and then its crap because you dont like that blend or it is just not good at all. Half n Half, especially current versions, can be wishy washy. Find a blend you enjoy every bowl. No matter a bad pack, it should provide enjoyment. As long as your not pulling so hard that it hurts your cheeks, youll be good. I suggest C&D/GLP blends. They’ll have minimal/no biting casing and be at a good moisture level.

Every bowl I smoke is enjoyable. I look forward to smoking a pipe everyday, For flavor. Sometimes I frieght train, sometimes I go slow, its always enjoyable, because the blender knew what they were doing.

You don’t need a super clean pipe either. A pipe is like a cast iron skillet that needs to be seasoned. You’ll figure it out. Don’t give up.
I have had great, though seemingly impossible to repeat, experiences from the tobacco I have, but I'll try some others. What's a few more ounces at this point. When I can get them going right, codgery burley-heavy blends are my favorite. Half and Half, Classic Burley Kake, and P&C's Carter Hall match have been my go-to's lately. I've had at least 1 enjoyable smoke with each of them, a few with the Burley Kake. I think the only C&D I have is some Autumn Evening that I haven't tried yet. As for pipes, I've been sticking to a couple Nording Keystone pipes with the filter stones, and a couple small cobs, which are the ones that I've had the best results with so far.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Piping Abe

Ryan

Part of the Furniture Now
Sep 30, 2021
599
4,638
Noblesville Indiana USA
Since the party line here is "dry more and pack looser," I tried that--again. I've been sticking with Half and Half to narrow things down, since that was my last enjoyable smoke. Got it as dry as I could by leaving it spread out on a paper plate overnight. It's not crispy, but dry to the touch and doesn't clump or stick together at all when pinched together. Sprinkled some into the pipe, and tamped it down just enough to get more in, until the tiniest barely perceptible amount of resistance began to show up on the draw. Smoked it very slowly and gently, just barely keeping it going and making a tiny amount of smoke. But like every other time I've tried this, the flavor is just washed out. It's like drinking club soda, with an astringent bite that dries my mouth out. In case it still was packed too tight, I tried twice more, with a looser pack each time, which made it worse each time. The last one was barely more than gravity filled. At that point, it's impossible to draw on it at all without it burning too fast and hot.

Again, it's not that it's bad every time. Just most of the time. I've had some good ones, but NONE of the good smokes I've had were achieved by taking bone dry tobacco and sprinkling it into the pipe like new fallen snow. If anyone says they get good results by smoking that way, I honestly don't believe you.

I have had great, though seemingly impossible to repeat, experiences from the tobacco I have, but I'll try some others. What's a few more ounces at this point. When I can get them going right, codgery burley-heavy blends are my favorite. Half and Half, Classic Burley Kake, and P&C's Carter Hall match have been my go-to's lately. I've had at least 1 enjoyable smoke with each of them, a few with the Burley Kake. I think the only C&D I have is some Autumn Evening that I haven't tried yet. As for pipes, I've been sticking to a couple Nording Keystone pipes with the filter stones, and a couple small cobs, which are the ones that I've had the best results with so far.
Early on, Classic Burley Kake was one of my favorites not just because it tasted good, but because I found it easy to load and smoke. You will probably find some other blends that work well for you. It will eventually get easier. Your ratio of good/bad smokes will keep improving.
 
  • Like
Reactions: walkingpipeguy

newbroom

Lifer
Jul 11, 2014
6,279
8,620
North Central Florida
I agree with the idea of having one blend be your trainer blend. I also suggest it be ANYTHING other than Half 'n Half, the one blend of all that I have most trouble with.
My first learning blend, which I smoked in addition to sampling many others, was Sir Walter Raleigh, which is an easy loading cube cut burley codger blend.
 

pantsBoots

Lifer
Jul 21, 2020
2,209
7,980
Terra Firma
Too loose, too tight, beats the hell out of me. All I know is it tastes like shit 8 out of 10 times. The other 1 or 2 out of 10, it's extremely enjoyable and relaxing, but I can't repeat it consistently. I've thought I had it figured out 3 or 4 times, only to have my next smoke taste like a garbage fire again, with the same pipe and tobacco and doing my best to pack it the same way.

For example, the first time I tried Half and Half I hated it. A few months later, I tried it again. It was amazing. I could taste the burley. I could taste the virginia. Wasn't too wet, wasn't too hot. I've tried it 5 or 6 times since then, and it's been terrible every time.

When you smoke a pipe, does it actually taste good every time, or is it only the rare "nirvana smoke" that has a pleasant tobacco flavor? Serious question. I see the "reviewers" on youtube just chuck some tobacco in the pipe and puff away like freight trains, while waxing poetic about all the flavors they're experiencing, and I wonder if they're all just bullshitting and re-hashing the tin description.

If it was bad every time, I'd conclude that pipe smoking is gross and you guys are all nuts. But the rare good one keeps me chasing the dragon. I've watched all the videos, read all the forum advice, tried all the methods, including "just put it in the pipe." What gives? You gotta tell me the secret. I've bought 15 pipes and a couple pounds of tobacco, and now I'm addicted (to the hobby, not the nicotine). I don't want to cut my losses yet.

I'm 4 years in and I'm still a beginner. Drying is important depending on the blend, ambient humidity, and personal preference - you must experiment to lock in on these. Also, it took awhile to come across these 2 techniques, but they were game-changers.

1: This video. It is still my preferred way to pack ribbon tobacco and be assured a good smoke most of the time:

2: For flake, coin, and plug tobaccos, I cube cut them on a cutting board with an Ulu knife, approximately 1/4" x 1/4" pieces, drop into the pipe, light tap with the hand, then some smaller detritus on top, whether left over from cutting, or cutting the cubes into smaller tinder to lay atop.

It is an art, akin to learning how to roll a cigarette. Good luck
 

LeafErikson

Lifer
Dec 7, 2021
2,048
17,775
Oregon
My first learning blend, which I smoked in addition to sampling many others, was Sir Walter Raleigh, which is an easy loading cube cut burley codger blend.
SWR Regular used to be almost the only tobacco I smoked. It was very easy to pack, light, and tasted great. Scandinavian tobacco group has changed something the blend and it now irritates my mouth. It’s unfortunate. I do still enjoy SWR aromatic which is absolutely fantastic.