Covering Bowl With Fingers While Drawing.

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New member
May 18, 2013
When I was watching The Hobbit I noticed that Bilbo covered the bowl of his pipe with his middle and index finger while drawing. I tried it and it seemed to have a more flavorful draw and I was wondering if anyone knew anything about this technique. Does it help somehow, or is it just my imagination?



Apr 21, 2013
I also noticed that when watching The Hobbit. I wasn't sure if Peter Jackson put that in there to draw attention to the fact that Bilbo was smoking a pipe, or if it indeed was part of his pipe smoking technique.


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Preferred Member
Mar 22, 2011
I've done this to keep a dying pipe going, but it's never created a "more flavorful draw". At least none that I've noticed.



Preferred Member
May 17, 2011
Northern New Jersey
It's called the "carburator effect", much like when a wind cap is used. Both restrict oxygen to the burning ember and serve to lower the combustion temperature of the bowl. Essentially its a damping down of the flame. In a sense this is what happens when you gently use a tamper. By slightly compressing the air spaces between the tobacco in the bowl, you are effectively lowering the combustion temperature. The cooler the smoulder the more flavorful the smoke. It's the opposite in metallurgy and blacksmithing, where more oxygen is needed to up the temperature of the fire.



Preferred Member
May 5, 2009
I do it a lot to keep the bowl going. It's a reflex I don't even know I'm doing it. I also have a habit of inspecting and lightly blowing on the ember of a cigar. Probably not a sophisticated technique but a bad(?) habit 8O



Preferred Member
May 3, 2010
Las Vegas, NV
This technique is usually applied when smoking outside on a windy day or when the ember seems to be going out. I've never really noticed an increase in flavor when doing it though.



Preferred Member
Apr 17, 2013
I do this and it seems to help get a dying pipe going again, as others have mentioned. I don't know why? On the one hand, it seems to me that restricting the air flow should make the pipe go out. But it seems just the opposite. I've not made any measurements, but have done it enough that I believe the effect is real and not just my imagination.
I do notice that I seem to get more smoke, and hence, more flavor, when I cover my pipe with my fingers.
Possibly, it is a heat transfer problem. Drawing air through the pipe provides oxygen for combustion. But, it also cools the burning ember. For combustion to continue, the temperature needs to be above a certain level (don't know the minimum combustion temperature for tobacco?). So, drawing in air gives oxygen for combustion, but also cools the pipe, which will tend to make it go out? Perhaps, when restricted by your fingers, one gets enough oxygen but limits the cooling, so that the ember heats more, rather than less and burns better?
I'm guessing here and haven't thought about the problem in great detail. Perhaps someone else knows the real answer?



Sep 24, 2012
I just posted this a few weeks ago. Nice movie to enjoy smoking your pipe. Taping the top of the bowl with your fingers while puffing can help keep the pipe lit.



Oct 27, 2012
What I believe is happening when one covers the bowl leaving a smaller opening for air to pass is that the velocity of the air increases across the ember. The draw pressure is the same so the volume of air going through the bowl is equal to the volume when the bowl is wide open. The partial covering of the bowl while drawing would increase the velocity of the air through the smaller opening, but in my opinion does not decrease the volume of air. I believe the higher velocity across the ember is what increases the heat of the ember. If one covers the bowl partially or completely while not drawing in through the stem then the result would less O2 to the ember and therefore a cooler ember. Our lungs are able to draw with sufficient pressure to overcome the resistance of a smaller opening when the bowl is partially covered. Again, the only effect is a higher velocity of air through the opening. The volume remains constant at the same draw pressure. I hope I made sense out of this.



Preferred Member
Aug 14, 2012
If you cover the bowl with a flat metal surface and just lift one side the smallest amount, you can revive most dying bowls.



Preferred Member
Dec 14, 2009
Birmingham, AL
Tamping while puffing is a technique that will revive a dying ember as well.

And, used to great effect in "Slow Smoke" competitions.




Jan 22, 2013
I've done it too. I had no idea of all the engineering concept that go to explaining it. For me I get a bigger puff of smoke, but then it will go out soon afterwards.



Senior Member
May 7, 2012
I do this too to get a dying ember to reignite. I don't know why it works but it does a lot of the time. Interestingly, in The Hobbit, it appears that Bilbo is towards the end of his pipe when he does it as if he's trying to get every last bit of tobacco. That seems to be when the technique works the best for me too. I also do it to keep a pipe cool when it's windy. Like daveinlax, I do it as a reflex and don't typically realize I'm doing it.



Preferred Member
Jan 23, 2012
Do it all the time, helps keep the tobacco hot and burning, and I get a good drag on it. The same goes with using something flat on top just long enough to get it going good and strong. Works for me.



Preferred Member
Jan 10, 2013
I do it as well, with a thumb over the bowl. I used to remember my great grandpa doing it a lot, never knew why until I started smoking a pipe though. It does get a dying bowl going again.



Preferred Member
May 26, 2012
United States
I began using this technique in the 70's but with a different kind of pipe. When I began pipe smoking I instinctively began doing it and it works great. Way easier than reaching for a tamper.



Preferred Member
Nov 19, 2009
Chicago, IL
I am soooo credulous! Kashmir's explanation accounts for the increased flavor, but

dlattim helps to understand why dying embers can be revived using the technique.

Both explanations, in varying degrees, may account for Lawrence's observation and slow smoking experience.
I do it mostly to restore the smoke volume, not to improve the flavor.



Preferred Member
Dec 28, 2012
+1 Harris I'll mostly do it outside if the wind kicks up, or need to charge up the core. I'll also admit to using my index finger to tamp a char light most of the time lols.

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