Breaking in a New Pipe

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Briar Lee

Lifer
Sep 4, 2021
4,836
13,904
Humansville Missouri
Yesterday I broke in a brand new Missouri Meerschaum Freehand and was sort of surprised it got extra hot during break in like a briar usually does. There was a whiff of charring dowel rod at the bottom but not much change from a slightly sweetish cob flavor the pipe will have for life.

When a pipe gets extra hot during break in something is cooking in there.


There’s a certain per cent of water in the cellular structure of the walls. That might boil and evaporate.

But the cellular structure isn’t solid. There are tannins, resins, saps in the wood or cob.


They have to cook, and afterwards the pipe is a better heat insulator and it tastes differently, usually and hopefully better.

In long course of time the pipe may turn sour, from tars or resins from burning tobacco.

You can sometimes remove the stink but I believe that also depletes the resins that flavor the smoke just a little.

Evebtually a pipe tastes bland, and it’s worn out, good for a decorator on the desk. Don’t hold your breath until that happens.:)

It takes thousands and thousands of smokes.
 

HawkeyeLinus

Lifer
Oct 16, 2020
5,602
41,063
Iowa
I read and re-read, but didn't see a mention of cigaret tobacco, nor the type of pipe.

viktor- Any improvement? I'd add: Ignore any thing regarding a charring light- sometimes necessary, often not,.

A photo of your pipe and tobacco could be useful.
He’d referenced mixing some cigarette tobacco with the pipe tobacco in his member intro, I assume as a good way for him to transition to enjoying the pipe. He said he has a “Raw” model pipe, if so I think that’s the wood they still make them from. Hope that helps!
 
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jpmcwjr

Moderator
Staff member
May 12, 2015
24,724
27,320
Carmel Valley, CA
He’d referenced mixing some cigarette tobacco with the pipe tobacco in his member intro, I assume as a good way for him to transition to enjoying the pipe. He said he has a “Raw” model pipe, if so I think that’s the wood they still make them from. Hope that helps!
Help? Hell ya', and like totally!

Thanks.
 
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viktor

Might Stick Around
Jan 6, 2024
72
126
57
Ontario, Canada
I read and re-read, but didn't see a mention of cigaret tobacco, nor the type of pipe.

viktor- Any improvement? I'd add: Ignore any thing regarding a charring light- sometimes necessary, often not,.

A photo of your pipe and tobacco could be useful.

I think I didn't have any problem with breaking the pipe in, the pipe (a $30 Raw pipe) tasted good from the beginning. Happy to post a picture of the pipe and my home grown tobacco (a bit of cigarette tobacco added to alleviate harshness -- last year's harvest :)). I'll get some real pipe tobacco to mix in soon.

Screenshot 2024-01-09 at 10.41.19 PM.png
 

PipeIT

Lifer
Nov 14, 2020
4,453
26,765
Hawaii
If we are talking about Uncoated chambers on new pipes, they can smoke amazing from the very first bowl, but, if you smoke them to hot, you can risk cracking the chamber, or burnout. If the pipe also has thick walls, you might not ever feel/notice any heat too, to realize it is getting to hot.

With a new uncoated chamber on a pipe you care about, it’s best to smoke it slowly, and keep it cool, until developing around 1mm of a carbon layer, which serves two purposes, insulates the chamber from damage, and a cooler smoke.

1mm of Carbon, is a layer of the actual tar/resin, not just charring the inside black, and depending on the pipe, and how often smoking it, this can take months, even a year or two.

Smoking the pipe slowly also doesn’t mean trying to keep it lit with a slow cadence. Slow as in less fire/heat, barely lighting the pipe, just enough for a few sips and let the pipe cool all the way down.

So for a Break In, the most important aspect on a pipe someone cares about, is protecting an uncoated chamber until building up the carbon layer.

Some pipes just don’t smoke well until they’ve gone through this process, and some are great from the beginning, but remember if the chamber is Uncoated, then you need to carefully go this route to protect it, if you care about it.
 
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Briar Lee

Lifer
Sep 4, 2021
4,836
13,904
Humansville Missouri
If we are talking about Uncoated chambers on new pipes, they can smoke amazing from the very first bowl, but, if you smoke them to hot, you can risk cracking the chamber, or burnout. If the pipe also has thick walls, you might not ever feel/notice any heat too, to realize it is getting to hot.

With a new uncoated chamber on a pipe you care about, it’s best to smoke it slowly, and keep it cool, until developing around 1mm of a carbon layer, which serves two purposes, insulates the chamber from damage, and a cooler smoke.

1mm of Carbon, is a layer of the actual tar/resin, not just charring the inside black, and depending on the pipe, and how often smoking it, this can take months, even a year or two.

Smoking the pipe slowly also doesn’t mean trying to keep it lit with a slow cadence. Slow as in less fire/heat, barely lighting the pipe, just enough for a few sips and let the pipe cool all the way down.

So for a Break In, the most important aspect on a pipe someone cares about, is protecting an uncoated chamber until building up the carbon layer.

Some pipes just don’t smoke well until they’ve gone through this process, and some are great from the beginning, but remember if the chamber is Uncoated, then you need to carefully go this route to protect it, if you care about it.

The above is the best description of break in I’ve ever read.

The only thing I could add is, a dab of honey in the first bowl never hurt one breaking it in.

Neither does stripping all the varnish or shellac from old factory pipes that came that way.
 
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kbussell

Might Stick Around
Jan 8, 2024
71
144
58
Highlands Ranch, CO
The above is the best description of break in I’ve ever read.

The only thing I could add is, a dab of honey in the first bowl never hurt one breaking it in.

Neither does stripping all the varnish or shellac from old factory pipes that came that way.
Hi,
I have a new morta churchwarden, and I understand that morta does not need to be broken-in (?). Would you still dab it with honey?
I also have a new Savinelli 606... do I just rub a dab of honey in the chamber and proceed, packing the bowl to 1/3 at the start to begin building a good base cake?
Thank you,
Kris
 
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Sigmund

Lifer
Sep 17, 2023
1,479
12,598
France
I don’t use the paper towel to prevent cake. I use it to get the big lose junk off the sides. My thinking is that it helps build a more solid cake rather than one full of chunks and tar. I could be wrong but it does no harm to have a clean pipe.
 

PipeIT

Lifer
Nov 14, 2020
4,453
26,765
Hawaii
Breaking in pipes is one of the pipe forum myths Load it and smoke it..

@Briar Lee, here’s some more good info.

@pepperandjack look at my previous reply.

pepperandjack, just so you know me a little, since it is true, it’s hard to tell between fact and fiction online sometimes, however, when I’m making posts on the forum, for a lot of important topics, I am making my comments based on professional information from professionals in the industry.

It just so happens, on this topic of breaking in pipes, a couple of years ago, I personally reached out to Jose Rubio, a highly respected artisan carver in Spain, and Mimmo the most respected, and the biggest name in the world as a briar cutter.

Jose Rubio personally told me in an email, what I stated over a 1mm carbon layer.

Mimmo personally told me, that breaking in a pipe is a good thing, along these same lines. But also, depending on the pipe and smoker, a pipe could smoke ok without any carbon build up, but it really depends on that pipe, and the experience of the smoker too.

The truth is, we can actually say, in the world of pipes, there isn’t a right or wrong, but rather it’s simply a personal preference, by what you choose to do.

The information I always share, is about those of us who care as pipe lovers, who respect our pipes, and want to give them the best care, in hopes we will also achieve optimal results. :)
 
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Briar Lee

Lifer
Sep 4, 2021
4,836
13,904
Humansville Missouri
Hi,
I have a new morta churchwarden, and I understand that morta does not need to be broken-in (?). Would you still dab it with honey?
I also have a new Savinelli 606... do I just rub a dab of honey in the chamber and proceed, packing the bowl to 1/3 at the start to begin building a good base cake?
Thank you,
Kris

The honey used is a tiny dab on the fingertip and spread thin on the bowl.

Honey is one and a half times sweeter than sugar.

It takes the place of the one millimeter of resin you’re seeking.

It cannot hurt a damned thing, and it tastes sweet.
 
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Briar Lee

Lifer
Sep 4, 2021
4,836
13,904
Humansville Missouri
@Briar Lee, here’s some more good info.

@pepperandjack look at my previous reply.

pepperandjack, just so you know me a little, since it is true, it’s hard to tell between fact and fiction online sometimes, however, when I’m making posts on the forum, for a lot of important topics, I am making my comments based on professional information from professionals in the industry.

It just so happens, on this topic of breaking in pipes, a couple of years ago, I personally reached out to Jose Rubio, a highly respected artisan carver in Spain, and Mimmo the most respected, and the biggest name in the world as a briar cutter.

Jose Rubio personally told me in an email, what I stated over a 1mm carbon layer.

Mimmo personally told me, that breaking in a pipe is a good thing, along these same lines. But also, depending on the pipe and smoker, a pipe could smoke ok without any carbon build up, but it really depends on that pipe, and the experience of the smoker too.

The truth is, we can actually say, in the world of pipes, there isn’t a right or wrong, but rather it’s simply a personal preference, by what you choose to do.

The information I always share, is about those of us who care as pipe lovers, who respect our pipes, and want to give them the best care, in hopes we will also achieve optimal results. :)

Last year I bought about fifty used pipes that averaged about $25 each.

And the lion’s share, all but a tiny portion, had been smoked. I always strip every trace of varnish and all the cake, every atom of it, off the pipe.

(Soap and water and Everclear and Obsidian Oil are our friends)

The bottom of the bowl on almost all my used pipes has never been smoked.

That’s the hardest and nastiest part to break in so people don’t.

The tighter grained briar is the easier it forms that one millimeter of resin and by far the easier they are to clean up the higher grade the briar.

Yes, we want that tiny film of resin but it is the heat that cooks and toasts and breaks in the briar. Heat changes something the same way it cooks beans or roasts coffee. I can taste exactly where the pipe hadn’t been smoked as I smoke my used pipes the first time, and when I pass that point invariably the pipe gets a bit hotter and sweats until the briar gets fully cured by the heat.

Once fully broken once, a pipe never needs another break in when taken down to bare briar.

Why Mimmo is a household name among us pipe lovers is good, old, tightly grained, well cured and seasoned briar just tastes better, which is why we smoke only Mediterranean briar, and why our grandfathers insisted on it. The best briar is not only prettier it tastes better, smokes cooler, gets less hot to hold, absorbs less nastiness, and gets better and better with use for an extremely long number of smokes.

Mimmo has no access to the two to four hundred year old burls in Greece or Albania Kaywoodie wrote about and took photographs of nor can he go high up in the Atlas Mountains of Algeria that Carl Weber and Dunhill described to harvest the finest ancient smoking briar ever known to man.

But the Mimmos of eighty and ninety years ago did. The game hasn’t changed a bit. The best of the best of the oldest briar found in Algeria smokes only fractionally better than the best left today, and the newer briar smokes milder, and sweeter.

All that ancient briar did the best compared to today can do was to color red. Why I can’t explain, but here’s what I’m describing.

IMG_6647.jpeg
IMG_6737.jpeg

And since the demand for briar today is an astonishing one hundred times less Mimmo can be and is a lot pickier and more careful about what he selects and sells.

The last little bit of curing and seasoning is done by the smoker, during break in.
 
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jpmcwjr

Moderator
Staff member
May 12, 2015
24,724
27,320
Carmel Valley, CA
I don’t use the paper towel to prevent cake. I use it to get the big lose junk off the sides. My thinking is that it helps build a more solid cake rather than one full of chunks and tar. I could be wrong but it does no harm to have a clean pipe.
Yes, that helps too. I run a knife around the chamber, being careful not to dig into the cake/wall.

Folks in a rush to build cake coat the chamber in ash. This results in crappy cake: soft, crumbly, and no frosting at all. :)
 

jpmcwjr

Moderator
Staff member
May 12, 2015
24,724
27,320
Carmel Valley, CA
You've broken them in, just not formally! At least by my definition: Smoking it until it tastes just right! Any where from 1-25 smokes. I've done both the formal break in (partial bowls) but in all cases, smoked carefully to not let the bowl take on a lot of heat early on.
 

PipeIT

Lifer
Nov 14, 2020
4,453
26,765
Hawaii
@Briar Lee

It’s to bad J. Alan wasn’t a member here, expertise like his, would surely benefit posts like these...

I’m not so sure, when it comes to briar, it can easily be explained away, on density, grains, so called quality, etc., as to what will turn out better, because a lot of people have smoked, and still do smoke pipes, that aren’t much to look at, grain, or beauty wise, that are good smokers, good breaking in, and build a nice carbon layer.

Have you read the article, ‘The Myth of Brand and Maker in Pipesmoking’, by Dr. Fred Hanna?


I certainly understand how many of these can be so called good factors, but it’s also true, there are a lot of variables at play here.

Location grown, soil, weather, age, curing process, then once the briar has been sold to a carver, what if anything have they done, as for how it was stored/aged, etc...

It does seem, given an understanding of everything that is required for good briar, in the hands of a good carver will yield good results, but we’ve also read stories of many so called good name pipes, at expensive prices, that didn’t smoke so great too.
 
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Annaresti Red

Starting to Get Obsessed
Jan 20, 2021
257
1,257
Concord, CA
www.tobaccoreviews.com
Best breaking in process...smoke it.
I agree. I have tried all of the above and none.

I like the results I got in one pipe with honey, but I had to undo it in another and start over. Now, I don't much pay attention other than to try to smoke a few half bowls in a new pipe to completion before using them fully and regularly- only because I am notoriously ending my smoke early due to kids or cats or work. So I often don't get much cake if I don't.
 
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