My Pipe Smoking Journey

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ItsKarl

Starting to Get Obsessed
May 3, 2024
121
196
Norway
So far it seems more like a pipe dream. Just lit up my second bowl with Capstan Original Navy. That is, my second bowl ever. I recounted my very first experience in my introduction thread, here, where I used an obscene amount of matches to smoke a bowl that was, I guess, 3/4 full. Following advice from that thread, I really dried out the tobacco this time - 14 hours in a dry environment. And it was bone dry. Just half a bowl this time (an error of eye measurement). I just poured everything in via a folded paper, and ever so lightly tamped it on top. It was a very loose pack. But still, the exact same problems with lighting the bowl and keeping it lit. And eventually what was left in the bowl was too far down for my newly acquired bic to reach, so I had to resort to matches again. Lots of them.

In the end, I poured the ashes into the ashtray. In the stem it feels like I'm a wet smoker, but the bowl was bone dry, as it was yesterday. Ashes just fell out, perfectly obedient. No dottle. Unlike yesterday, however, about 50% of the remains looked unlit, whereas yesterday it had all been black ash. At least today, though, I didn't experience any of the ashy flakes entering my mouth via the stem - that had been a problem as I was nearing the end of the bowl yesterday.

At one point, half-way through, I got a nice cadence going, but it only lasted like a couple of minutes before I had to return to the constant lighting again.

I think it's almost certainly my draw that's the problem - too short and forceful is my guess. I had the best results when my sips were about as long as the ones I see cigarette smokers take.

I used the same pipe as yesterday, a brand new Peterson, straight, with a P-lip. No filter. Well, I say brand new, I actually bought it nine years ago. But it hasn't been used until yesterday.

The taste seemed more anonymous today. Yesterday it only tasted like ashtray, so I take that as an improvement. Kind of like when I first started getting my mouth used to liquor: at first I could pretty much only taste the alcohol, and by taste I mean the burning sensation. It took a few sessions before I was able to appreciate the actual flavours, and I'm willing to bet it's the same deal with smoking.

My intention for this thread is to be a journal of my exploration into my new-found hobby, documenting my mistakes and progression. Suggestions and criticisms are welcome. Hopefully it may be something other budding smokers can learn from, too.


This has turned out to be a wall of text again, so I have underlined the pertinent passages.

 
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ItsKarl

Starting to Get Obsessed
May 3, 2024
121
196
Norway
The lighter was at its heaviest setting. It had to be, what with the bowl only half full to begin with. Towards the end I did try packing it quite hard, but at that point it probably didn't make a difference. I think I'll try cube cut next (apparently that's a no pre-light tamping required thing, so I've heard), and a much fuller bowl. I'll also get one of those long fireplace lighters.

I might switch to a different pipe, too, see if that makes a difference. I have a Brog with a smaller bowl, which also has a stinger restricting the airflow somewhat - maybe that will be more forgiving of my huffing and puffing. With the Peterson, I always had to remind myself just how little it takes to get smoke from the pipe to my mouth.

I'll say one thing for matches, though: they make you conscious of just how often you're relighting.

Oh, and I got zero tongue bite the time around, by the way. Probably because the baccy was so dry.
 
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ItsKarl

Starting to Get Obsessed
May 3, 2024
121
196
Norway
Bowl three - and an epiphany!

I decided to stick with the same pipe, but try cube cut this time. Air time: 20 minutes or so. Full bowl.

At first, I had the same difficulties in keeping the pipe lit as before (but now I've got a proper lighter, dag nabbit!), though not quite as bad.

But then!

I decided to take my pipe with me on my walk over to the mail box. Beautiful day, practically summer. And as soon as I was outside, my pipe sprang to life. A very gentle breeze, and a brisk walk to get the mail invigorated both the pipe and me. I kept feeling the bowl with my hand to see if I was smoking it hot, but it was cool. Once I got back inside, though, it kind of lost its spark, grew a little hotter, but now I was probably trying to light 2/3 ash.

How about that. All my pipe wanted was for me to take it for a walk.
 

newbroom

Lifer
Jul 11, 2014
6,279
8,620
North Central Florida
You're on your way Karl! It gets better and better. 10 yrs in and I am tasting more flavor than ever!
Packing is the most critical step. I'll often jostle my tobacco, prod it, pierce it, or tamp it, whichever it seems to need, with my CSEZK tool.
You'll learn to develop the best airpath / draw in each pipe you use.
If your pipe occludes while your smoking it, don't try to suck it out or try to keep a choked pipe alive with extra sipping effort. Tongue burn is sure to follow.
When I started I was hungry for nicotine resulting in many a hot wet pipe caused by the steam that the leaf releases when pushed.
I'm learning. :sher:
 

ItsKarl

Starting to Get Obsessed
May 3, 2024
121
196
Norway
Smoking outside was almost like a cheat; it was of course the breeze that kept the embers going, and a lot of smoke that should otherwise have gone into my mouth went straight out of the chamber to please the birds. But I still feel this is a good option for a beginner smoking in a new pipe, because the constant relights on day 1 and 2 were causing my bowl to get pretty hot. This way, at least, I can build up my cake and practice my draw with minimal damage to the pipe. And now I know that I can take walks with my pipe without looking like an idiot, lighting my pipe every two steps.

Inspired by my success today, I went and ordered two more pipes as a reward. One Stanwell H. C. Andersen, and one corn cob. Because why not.
 

ItsKarl

Starting to Get Obsessed
May 3, 2024
121
196
Norway
Right, bowl 4 and 5 yesterday afternoon and evening. A note on the taste in the last paragraph, which I think may be useful for other new smokers like myself.

Bowl 4
, straight Virginia in my unsmoked Mr. Brog 78 Indiana. Air time: 20 minutes worked well last time, so did the same this time around. Lightly packed the chamber 3/4 full. The diameter of this pipe's chamber is significantly less than that of my Peterson, by about 4mm.

I think it went rather well. It's the same pattern of frequent relights at the beginning, nice cadence in the middle and frequent relights towards the end, but it seems the middle stretch gets longer every time (ie., fewer relights at start and finish).

This pipe has a fishtail mouthpiece (my Peterson has a P-lip), and I noticed my tongue kept getting in the way. The fishtail also meant the smoke that entered would come directly onto my tongue, but I experienced no tongue bite.

At the end of the mid period, with the good cadence, air flow became restricted. I thought maybe ash or tobacco had clogged the draft hole, so I tried loosening things up with the poker, but it didn't work. What I discovered afterwards upon cleaning, however, was that the stinger had gotten clogged by some ash. The stem itself was very clean, which I also attribute to the stinger.

There was no dottle at all, the chamber was perfectly dry and just some very loose ash (and partly smoked tobacco) that I could pour into the ashtray.

Bowl 5: back to my Peterson, and this time Sørensen Mixture that had just arrived. This is a very aromatic blend, and it smells absolutely delicious. The wife loved it, too. I was afraid she'd react with a grumpy "hmph", but her face lit up when she caught the first whiff.

Sørensen Mixture is a blend of black Cavendish, bright Virginia and Burley, with flavouring of honey and vanilla. It was distinctly moist to the touch upon opening the tin, so I aired it 30-40 minutes - but on reflection I should have aired it longer, as it was still a tad moist. This time I packed a full bowl, but it was a bit harder going than the Virginia. More relights needed, even during the "good" middle part. I found that long sips as I lit it got it going the best.

Part of the reasons for the more frequent relights was that the pipe started to burn a bit hot sometimes. Never unbearably hot, but just hot enough for me to worry, so I left it to cool when that happened. Which, of course, meant a new relight a minute or two later.

The bowl lasted me a good 90 minutes or more, and I was pleased to find a wet dottle at the bottom when I was done.

Didn't really notice any tongue bite, but actually some palate bite, probably owing to the P-lip which directs the smoke towards the palate.

Now for the taste. While I can most assuredly tell the difference between the smell of the Capstan Original Navy and the Sørensen Mixture, they both nevertheless tasted the same. Just generic... smoke. I got none of that beautiful flavouring from the Sørensen as I was smoking it, which is not a problem with the mixture as it is their most popular brand. There were two or three moments in the latter part of my Sørensen bowl that I could, very briefly, taste something very good - not with my tongue, but with my palate, way back in my mouth. This being just my 5th bowl ever, however, I think my taste buds are still adjusting. Or it could be my technique. I do not inhale, and maybe I need to open more of my oral cavity to the smoke, giving it more room to play. When drinking through a straw, one has a more closed-off oral cavity as the uvula comes down to block the oral access to the airways. When yawning, the palate is raised, and the oral cavity is fully open. Maybe this is something I need to work on.
 
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Sigmund

Lifer
Sep 17, 2023
2,092
19,117
France
I had a smiliar problem for a while. The other key was how to tamp. Dont mash your tobacco in the center. Gently push inwards from the edges. Feed the fire, dont stomp it out. Do it gently and somewhat often. It is frustrated but you will soon get where you only require a few relights per pipe. Its not a contest but I know it does get frustrating when it persistenly goes out. Try to conceptualize the ember in the pipe and feed it accordingly. It needs air and fuel at the right times.
 
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ItsKarl

Starting to Get Obsessed
May 3, 2024
121
196
Norway
Yes, I remembered you saying that in my introduction thread, so I tried tamping just the way you said. I am not yet experienced enough to get a consistent glowing mat on top, however - it's a bit here and there. But I have noticed slight improvements with my lighting, tamping, and draw. The breath method helps fuel the embers, and that's the main method I'm using once I get the fire going.
 

Manawydan

Starting to Get Obsessed
Apr 24, 2024
212
1,334
Southern California, US
It sounds like you are making good progress! Experience is the best teacher overall.

I was excited to start collecting tobaccos and pipes with all my enthusiasm for starting to smoke a pipe and ended up with several different pipes fairly quickly. I have learned for myself that switching pipes every day or two has made the initial learning process more challenging. Different bowl shapes, briar, stems, etc... a lot of variables to juggle when the basic act of pipe smoking is already a bit fiddly. Stick with it! You'll get there.
 
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ItsKarl

Starting to Get Obsessed
May 3, 2024
121
196
Norway
Two more bowls today, one of which was my hitherto unsmoked Vauen Shire - and what a wonderful pipe that is!

Seriously, I love my Shire pipe. It's the Hugg model, and the great benefit of that pipe is that I can look directly down into the chamber while puffing on it. That helped me light it properly, and it also helped me to gauge how much to draw. It was so easy, hardly any relights at all. Made me feel like a seasoned smoker. Charred light, then true light, and off I went. I feel I smoked a bit faster than I ought to, but I hardly had any build-up of heat. Two or three times, towards the end, it felt warm enough that I thought I should slow down a bit. I had packed it about 4/5 full, and used more than an hour to smoke it all, so I couldn't have been all that fast, overall. The fact that I always held it in my hand meant my teeth were not involved at all, and I freely moved the mouthpiece to various corners of my mouth, and could draw towards the front or back of my mouth as I felt like. There are nuances that I can't quite grasp yet, but moving the mouthpiece around made me aware of them.

I had enough dried tobacco left over afterwards that I filled one of my other pipes, the Brog with the narrow chamber, about half full. I had the damnedest time getting it going compared to the Vauen, with frequent relights at first before I finally got it going. It told me two things: 1, the ease I had with the Vauen was not because my technique had improved, and 2: what a wonderful pipe the Vauen is!

No dottle in either pipe, as I was smoking the Capstan Original Navy. It has consistently smoked dry in my pipes. From both pipes, I poured a fine, pulverised black ash into the ashtray afterwards. Nothing else to scoop out.

Smoking these two pipes back to back showed me another thing: the difference in flavour from a near-empty pipe, to the fresh flavour of a newly lit pipe. The latter tasting much better, of course.

I was unable to blow smoke ships with the Shire pipe, though. I might have to return it. 🤔

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ItsKarl

Starting to Get Obsessed
May 3, 2024
121
196
Norway
Ok, so here's an update so far.

I've improved a great deal in all areas - I can't really say I've done anything different, I've just gotten gradually better at everything.

One thing, though, is that if I've been smoking a lot I notice my tongue and palate are a bit sore, as if I've burned myself a bit. Even though I haven't experienced any burning sensation while smoking.

I have also increased my stock of tobacco, and now have six blends to choose from. They are as follows:

Capstan Original Navy Cut
Sørensen Mixture (black Cavendish, bright Virginia, Burley - vanilla and honey flavouring)
Sørensen Flake (dark Virginia, dark fires*, Kentucky, Perique)
SG Squadron Leader
Chacom No. 5
Borkum Riff Original

Now, I know Borkum Riff has many poopooers and nay-sayers here, but I want to sample the old timer blends, and Borkum Riff looked like it had a good composition to me. And now that I have received it, smelled it, smoked it, I am not ashamed to say I like it. So all you poopooers, I can tell you where you can stick your poopoo.

*That's what it says on Sørensen's own website. Maybe they mean dark fired Kentucky, or dark fired something else and then Kentucky. I am not remotely familiar enough with tobacco to tell by smell or taste. Smells a little funky, but not in a bad way.

The Squadron Leader and Chacom No. 5 are my two English blends, and the latter of the two is the only one I haven't tried yet. It's apparently a solid notch up in strength from the Squadron Leader (not that I've noticed any nicotine kick so far), so I'm saving it up for a lazy Sunday. Hey, that's tomorrow! They both smell like they're made of the same stuff, though with different notes. Sort of like lapsang souchong, which I love.

I am really liking my cob pipe so far, but without the filter it came with the stem is really draughty, and I've got to be careful not to draw any sooty bits through it. Towards the end of the bowl, I also struggle to keep the smoke cool. When I feel warm smoke enter my mouth, I can alleviate the problem by drawing in cool air from outside the pipe at the same time.

So far I mostly hold the pipe in my hand rather than clench it, primarily because I like to monitor how hot it gets, but also I don't particularly like clenching yet, except for how it looks. I do think this helps keep gurgling to a minimum (I almost never experience it), because I notice I salivate a lot more while clenching. And while the pipe is out of my mouth, it is exposed only to dry air from both ends, meaning there can be a bit of a through-draught.

I keep cleaning my pipes thoroughly after each smoke, including the chamber. This will no doubt mean it'll take longer for my briars to build any cake, and my aunt (who smoked the pipe eons ago) scoffed at this. She insisted that the cake helps bring out more flavours of the tobacco - but then she always stuck to the same blend. I, on the other hand, am still in the process of sampling several different blends, and want as little ghosting as possible. Not that I'd be able to tell at this nascent stage.

I am starting to taste the difference between blends more and more, but still it's more in the aftertaste. The Sørensen Mixture also leaves the most agreeable scent to my pipes after I clean them.

And best of all: the Wife Approval Factor is high for all of the aforementioned blends. So far, she has liked all of them, and it's not just because she loves me. Yes, even the Borkum Riff, which I enjoyed after a good tenderloin last night - she says it smells like Christmas.

So at the moment, life is good. puffy