To cake or not to cake?

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64alex

Senior Member
May 10, 2016
447
113
After having used corn cob and then clay (Lepeltier) pipes I am going to break in my first briar one. I understand pretty well all the break in process for briars but I have one question. I understand the carbonization layer is what is protecting the pipe from burning and that that layer should not be removed at all. But what about the cake, is it useful at all? If for cake we define that layer of tobacco residual building up in the bowl I am not sure it has any protective value and as a matter of fact I see it more detrimental particularly with regard to ghosting. In other words I am thinking there is no need for caking at all and I am thinking to clean the bowl with a wet cloth every time or even running under water (once cooled down to avoid cracking) and keep it cake free but just with intact carbonization layer. Am I right or am I doing something wrong doing so? Any experience with avoiding caking?

 

aldecaker

Preferred Member
Feb 13, 2015
4,408
23
I'm not much of a cake builder, myself. To me, it tends to make the pipe taste ashy after a while. The thin, hard carbon layer is ideal for me; I wipe out after each smoke, but I just use a dry, twisted up paper towel.

 

cortezattic

Preferred Member
Nov 19, 2009
15,151
7,598
Chicago, IL
I think using water would be inadvisable. I scrape the walls of the bowl with a pipe knife after every smoke just to clear whatever is sticking to it. I then brush it with a used pipe cleaner that has been folded in half for strength. Periodically I crumble a sheet of printer paper until it's crinkly and relatively soft, then I stuff it into the bowl and use it as a reamer. As a result, the bowl maintains a nice hard, thin layer of insulating crud.
I do wonder, on occasion, why some veteran pipers keep a thick layer of cake in their pipes (which, by the way, reduces the bowl capacity). Perhaps the thick cake enhances the flavor in some way that I fail to appreciate.

 

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jpmcwjr

Preferred Member
May 12, 2015
16,322
6,971
Monterey Peninsula
Using water is the way to go!! Running hot water through the chamber and out the airway removes all kind of deposits- tars, tobacco bits and importantly, ash. I know it's not popular, and some folks are jelly-kneed at the thought of water touching their briar, but we wouldn't have briar if it weren't for water!
Been doing this now for three years with no adverse effect, and plenty of bonuses: Haven't had to salt and alcohol treat any pipe since. And I can smoke it right after drying the chamber with a paper towel, though I usually wait for all the moisture from the rinse to evaporate. Naturally, pipe cleaner in the airway right after and removed, Q-tip in the mortise every now and then.

 

oldgeezersmoker

Preferred Member
Oct 7, 2016
1,737
1,640
I don't go to extremes, just fluff out the bowl with a doubled up used pipe cleaner. I don't see any issues with using water as suggested, but I have never had a ghosting problem of any great significance. But I think that is due as much to keeping the shank, stem and mortise scrupulously clean.

 

warren

Preferred Member
Sep 13, 2013
7,891
1,338
I go with cake. Further, I have pipes I've smoked for more than fifty years and they smoke fine, have never turned "sour." I'd never heard of salt and alcohol until I stumbled onto this site. I keep the cake thin, by eyeballing it, as was suggested many years ago by an old smoker. The cake is scraped with pocket knife or, if I'm doing a Sunday cleaning (cake care, alcohol soaked swabbing of the airway, and a quick buff with a handkerchief) of pipes smoked during the previous week, a three bladed reamer as required.
Water? I smoke in the rain and snow with no problems. I suppose a bath/shower and good toweling off shouldn't hurt a "cakeless" bowl.

 

mso489

Preferred Member
Feb 21, 2013
30,043
11,009
I do like aldecaker. Works great. Pipes I've had for nearing forty years are still smoking fine, have never caked, and best of all have never been reamed. A lot of pipe smokers like to build cake, find it enjoyable and part of the experience. I don't say not to; I'm just saying, this other way of going is fine. It's your choice. Works fine.

 

anthonyrosenthal74

Preferred Member
Jan 8, 2013
7,489
684
I normally corkscrew some paper towel in the bowl after every smoke to keep my pipes pretty much cake free. However, I'm actually currently trying to build some cake in a few of my pipes as an experiment, to try an find out the positives and negatives for myself.

 

cortezattic

Preferred Member
Nov 19, 2009
15,151
7,598
Chicago, IL
Come to think of it, water is in the stem and bottom of the bowl every time you smoke a pipe.

So, if jpmcwjr has been doing it for the better part of 3yrs. that's good enough for me.

 

cranseiron

Preferred Member
May 17, 2013
576
2
Biloxi, MS
I tried the hot water rinse after it was suggested by jpm. It does a fine job of cleaning the gunk out as he states above and I've experienced no adverse effects. I too, am not a cake builder, but have no argument against it.

 

toobfreak

Preferred Member
Dec 19, 2016
1,365
1
It always seems to be the people building cake that have a problem. They see a crack, dent or mark in the cake and they are all in a tizzy. Never had any such problem keeping it down to a thin carbonized layer. After doing the usual scrape and a damp wipe with a paper towel, I run my finger in there to see if it comes out clean. I figure whatever remains on the bowl wall after that deserves to stay there at that point and it always feels nice, hard and smooth.

 

didimauw

Moderator
Staff member
Jul 28, 2013
4,509
3,428
30
WI
I believe a pipe doesn't smoke good until there's already a nickel worth of cake.

 

beefeater33

Preferred Member
Apr 14, 2014
2,599
207
Central Ohio
I think, if you only smoke one blend in a pipe (Didi- I'm thinkin of you... ) then a good cake is desirable. A good cake will make your smoke taste MUCH better, but if you switch up blends............. all bets are off........... :puffy:

 

didache

Senior Member
Feb 11, 2017
481
2
London, England
This puzzles me a little. I was 'brought up' to believe that a cake is a good and desirable thing provided you keep it trimmed to a moderate thickness. Indeed, the development of a thin cake is, to me, part of the process of breaking in a pipe.
To each their own I guess!

 

cosmicfolklore

Preferred Member
Aug 9, 2013
19,954
5,557
Outer Space
I rinse with water occasionally, as JPMC.. suggested. It works. But, most of the time a wadded paper towels reams it out after every smoke. I'm not a caker. But, I did find a bulldog On a stump that I had left out last week in the garden. It smelled clean and fresh, and was ready to be smoked right away. Water does seem to keep them clean smelling. But, still, even with regular paper towel reaming and washing, they get cake. Cake happens.

 

mawnansmiff

Preferred Member
Oct 14, 2015
5,188
894
Sunny Cornwall, UK.
I use a British Buttner reamer after every ten or so smokes. That keeps the cake to an absolute minimum whilst maintaining the roundness of the bowl which is something that a pocket knife in untrained hands might not be able to achieve.
Also I will second John's use of warm water in the bowl and shank. If sufficiently dried before smoking again there will be no problems in so doing.
Regards,
Jay.

 

toobfreak

Preferred Member
Dec 19, 2016
1,365
1
Thick cake is supposed to build up stress and break your pipe. I see some people running major cake here. Anyone ever have a pipe crack from too much cake?

 

cosmicfolklore

Preferred Member
Aug 9, 2013
19,954
5,557
Outer Space
Toob, I've seen broken pipes with too much cake in antique stores. But, that's not why I don't like cake. I just want as mich tobacco as possible in my bowls, and also cake just adds that tar flavor to my smokes. I'd rather just have the aromas come from the tobacco and the briar. But, everyone is different. Some people like that tar.

 

mawnansmiff

Preferred Member
Oct 14, 2015
5,188
894
Sunny Cornwall, UK.
"Anyone ever have a pipe crack from too much cake?"
When I was buying collections of estate pipes to refurbish I came upon at least three pipes that were cracked and all three were so badly caked one would have had difficulty in putting a pencil into the bowl!
Regards,
Jay.

 
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