All pipe smokers can confirm that they will never forget the moment when they first smoked a pipe. They invariably remember the way it tasted and felt, and very often they recall the difficulty they had in packing the tobacco pipe and puffing on it. It is true that good pipe smokers are made, not born. There is inevitably a learning curve; a time for the smokers to find their feet and learn how to make the most of their pipe. We are therefore going to discuss the basics of smoking a pipe in the right way in order to avoid being put off from the start.
As a beginner, you’re almost certain to start smoking by using a new tobacco pipe. However, don’t rush to pack the bowl and then puff on the tobacco pipe like a chimney. Pipe smoking is an art that demands respect, lingering over the pipe to ensure maximum pleasure. Briar pipes work best when the bowl is covered by a ‘cake,’ which is a fine layer of carbon deposits. This deposit builds up naturally as a result of the combustion of tobacco in the bowl. You therefore need to build up a cake to get the most out of your pipe.
Breaking in a pipe involves building up a cake through the formation of carbon deposits. This means that small quantities of tobacco must be smoked, adding more tobacco throughout the pipe. This is known as the ‘rule of thirds.’
Start by filling the bowl to one third and smoke the tobacco until no more remains. Repeat this five or six times, filling the bowl to one third each time. Then smoke six more pipes, filling the bowl to two thirds. Finally, fill the bowl up completely.
The aim of the rule of thirds is to prepare the wood that forms the bowl. If you fill the bowl entirely when it is first used, you run the risk of burning the briar.
Once the cake has been deposited, it requires close attention to maintain the ideal thickness of one to two millimeters. For more information on how to use your pipe correctly, I firmly recommend that you refer to my article dedicated to maintaining a tobacco pipe.
It is every bit as important to pay close attention to the way in which the bowl is filled. If the tobacco is incorrectly packed (either packed too closely or not enough) this can detract from the pleasure of smoking the pipe and can be quite unpleasant.
A certain degree of skill in filling the bowl is required in order to gain maximum benefit from your smoking pipe. First and foremost, you need to be sure that your choice of tobacco suits the size of the bowl. A fast burning tobacco should be used for bowls with thicker walls.
Be careful, as the amount of tamping required depends on the cut of the tobacco. If the tobacco is too loose, the mixture will be consumed too quickly. This means that the bowl itself may be burnt, giving the smoke an unpleasant taste or even burning your tongue. If you tamp the tobacco too firmly, the air may not pass over the tobacco (or only do so with difficulty), increasing moisture in the pipe. If this happens, do not puff harder in an attempt to revive the fire. Just use the tip of your pipe cleaner, inserting it into the bowl as far as the draft hole and pushing back and forth. Tamp down the tobacco lightly once again and you will be able to enjoy the taste!
If a cake has formed in the bowl of your tobacco pipe, and if it is properly filled, all that remains is to puff on your pipe in the correct way. Puffing is not complicated in itself, but it does require a certain amount of control. Don’t forget that pipe smoking is an opportunity to savor the moment and relax; pipe smoking is not like cigarette smoking where you smoke like a chimney during your coffee break!
If you puff on your pipe too hard, the smoke will become burning. This is an extremely unpleasant sensation and can cause tingling on the tongue as well as burning the bowl of the pipe. Puff gently and regularly. Good smoking technique necessitates a good technique in filling the bowl as a prerequisite.
Bear in mind that your puffing technique also depends on your surroundings. A tobacco pipe will heat up more quickly outdoors on a windy day than if you are at home in your smoking chamber.
Also be sure not to grip the mouthpiece too tightly in your teeth. If you grip the mouthpiece too tightly, you will produce more saliva, increasing the humidity within the pipe itself and therefore producing more “pipe juice.” If, in addition, your mixture is too tightly packed within the bowl then you will puff harder to avoid the smoke, increasing the moisture in your pipe even further.
That’s it; you have now mastered the basics of pipe smoking. However, we still haven’t talked about lighting your tobacco, which depends to a certain extent on your preferences for matches, Zippo lighters for pipes, or classic firelighters. Always bear in mind that you will need something practical so that you can light your pipe regularly without burning either your fingers or your pipe!
Finally, be careful, because you should always let your tobacco pipe cool down before using it again.
Now that you have managed to smoke, and enjoy your first smoking pipe as it is meant to be enjoyed, all that remains is to maintain your pipe in the correct way. Don’t hesitate to read my article on maintaining a tobacco pipe to enjoy the taste and pleasure of pipe smoking to the full.