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sparrowhawk

Lifer
Jul 24, 2013
2,941
220
Exactly what does Breaking in a pipe mean? I have a new Irish Harp I'm "breaking in"--is that meant to reduce the chamber heat, keep it from overheating?
 

mso489

Lifer
Feb 21, 2013
41,210
60,542
I take breaking in to mean developing the carbon layer inside the chamber to prevent developing any kind of burnout. This happens fairly naturally for experienced smokers who don't puff excessively. New pipe smokers have to pay a little more attention and may choose to smoke partial bowls to get the lower part of the chamber protected with a carbon layer. A carbon layer doesn't necessarily mean building cake. A number of us members wipe out the bowl with a paper towel after each smoke to prevent a build-up. But this is all to suit the individual taste. For many, cake building is one of the joys of pipe smoking. Get the pipe started right and you can do it your way.
 

Epip Oc'Cabot

Can't Leave
Oct 11, 2019
450
1,217
This is meant only SLIGHTLY tongue-in-cheek......

To me..... “breaking in” a pipe simply means I am getting used to how IT functions and is a relatively subjective experience. If the pipe works and functions like most of my other pipes...... I say it was an easy and quick “breaking-in” period. If the pipe behaves atypically in some fashion that leads me to need to learn something to wrangle it in to shape.... or if I have to fuss with my routine to get good results...... then I say the pipe was hard to “break in”. But in the bigger scheme it is really all about me learning to smoke the damn thing in a way that is enjoyable for me. ?
 

sparrowhawk

Lifer
Jul 24, 2013
2,941
220
I take breaking in to mean developing the carbon layer inside the chamber to prevent developing any kind of burnout. This happens fairly naturally for experienced smokers who don't puff excessively. New pipe smokers have to pay a little more attention and may choose to smoke partial bowls to get the lower part of the chamber protected with a carbon layer. A carbon layer doesn't necessarily mean building cake. A number of us members wipe out the bowl with a paper towel after each smoke to prevent a build-up. But this is all to suit the individual taste. For many, cake building is one of the joys of pipe smoking. Get the pipe started right and you can do it your way.
I have picked up your habit of wiping out the chamber with a set paper towel long ago. Given what others said below, it appears I'v never experienced a problem breaking in a new pipes--the current new 106 Irish Harp is a great smoker.
 

OzPiper

Lifer
Nov 30, 2020
6,210
33,778
71
Sydney, Australia
One of the advantages of estate pipes is that someone has already done that job for you ?

I have had only one new pipe (no bowl coating) that had a problem - a light-coloured morta (younger, softer material ??). It developed a couple of small burn spots after a couple of smokes. Luckily I have a fairly acute sense of smell, and the "burning wood odour" alerted me to the problem before too much damage was done. A layer or two of pipe mud, and more care in smoking and it's all good now.
 

Chasing Embers

Captain of the Black Frigate
Nov 12, 2014
44,056
112,292
So bowl coatings don't do anything for "breaking in" ? Sounds like they would make it harder to break In if they were coated. Correct assumption?
I've not noticed a difference either way. The coating layer is so thin that the heat of the ember still carbonizes the wood of the chamber.
 
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Reactions: OzPiper
May 2, 2020
4,664
23,776
Louisiana
What I consider “breaking in” is just getting a few bowls through it to help get out any funky tastes that come from the production process, like errant stain in the chamber, or those damned chamber coatings, which could potentially have an “off” taste. With meerschaum and cob, I’d call it that period when the material is still soaking up tars and oils, and certain tobaccos taste a little lighter on flavor than normal. In other words, “breaking in” is just the pipe getting some use until flavors are consistent.
“Breaking in,” as a set of active processes done by the smoker, is ceremonial hokum in my experience. If you know how to smoke a pipe properly, so that you’re not going to burn the chamber, there’s little else that can be done other than to just smoke the damn thing. I’ve not found any special process to make a bit of difference. Everything else comes down to pipe construction, briar quality, and drilling. It’s either going to be a turd or it’s not.

Anyhow, I mean no offense to anyone that has a special break-in process. This is just my opinion and my experiences on it. Do what makes you happy. ?
 
Jan 28, 2018
13,439
144,465
67
Sarasota, FL
It means load it with tobacco and smoke it. Cake will build over time. Old school of thought was coat the bowl with honey, moisten the bowl, smoke 1/3 bowl fulls until the bottom of the bowl has cake, then 2/3, then full. I'm sure many people still follow that tradition and nothing is wrong with it. None of those steps harm the pipe in any way. Many people, myself included, now just load the pipe up from the first bowl and smoke. I've had problems with 2 pipes in my lifetime using this approach and both had huge voids right under the surface of the inner bowl. I don't think any steps short of coating the interior with pipe mud would have prevented it. And I'm glad they showed up early, I was able to get a replacement pipe from the carver.
 
For me, there’s no such thing as breaking in…. the pipe. I agree more with the poster who said that it was more about the smoker, getting used to the pipe.

Most briar has been dried to hell and back, and so I don’t agree with the oils thing. Besides, I wouldn’t want to lose to briar, warmed wood aromas. My oldest pipes still have that aroma. YMMV
 

mso489

Lifer
Feb 21, 2013
41,210
60,542
I give extra credit for pipes that come with no chamber coating. It gives the experienced pipe smoker credit for knowing how to smoke a pipe. On the other hand, I'm grateful for any mishaps I was spared early in pipe smoking by having the coatings prevent burnouts, which would have put me off pipes. I've never had any rank flavors or other problems with coatings, so I don't bother to sand them out.
 

Bushido

Might Stick Around
Jul 31, 2020
86
128
I’ve always assumed that breaking in has three aspects. 1) carbonizing the bowl. 2) burning off any stains or oils in the surface of the bowl. 3) The heat of smoking removing moisture or oils from near the surface of the briar. I’ve heard many pipe smokers talk about pipes that took a long time and suddenly became good smokers. Maybe they are just getting used to it, or maybe the pipe is changing due to the application of heat to the briar. I assume this is why some makers do things like oil curing, although maybe thats just marketing hype. I had a Savinelli Autograph that for a long time gave no flavor no matter what I smoked. I almost gave up on it, but after many bowls, it was great. I personally like the romantic notion that there is some black magic involved breaking in and bonding with a new pipe. Reminds me of when I got a new baseball glove as a kid, rubbed it with oil, ball in pocket, and slept with it under my mattress.