Other than packing properly, lighting can be one of the more difficult things for new pipe smokers to get right. A lot depends on the method and the tools that you choose, and in some cases the habits you develop when you’re starting out. Mostly, pipe smokers use wood matches (paper matches from gas stations or convenience stores should never be used), butane lighters, or liquid fuel lighters. All three will invariably get the job done, but there are pros and cons of both. The second part of it is the actual method of lighting the tobacco. We’ll touch on everything below, so let’s get to it!
Source of Flame
– Wooden matches have been the go-to of pipe smokers for ages. Even today, many prefer to use this most basic tool. The Reason? They impart probably the least amount of negative flavor. The key is to make sure you let all the head burn off first; do this by waiting a few seconds after striking.
– Second are Butane lighters. A “softer” flame, like on a candle, is the goal, not necessarily a torch-style lighter. These impart very very little flavor into the tobacco, and are the second more popular method. Torch lighters can char the tobacco and the rim of the pipe, so use theses only if you’re prepared for both.
– Lastly, liquid fuel. Basically dominated by Zippo, this is a lighter probably sparked by a flint and wheel that burns a wick soaked in fuel from a cotton reservoir. Many people say that this imparts a negative flavor from the fuel, while others contest that letting the flame burn for a few seconds negates the effect.
Light it Up
The majority of pipe smokers light the pipe twice: once with a “charring light” and then again after that light has extinguished and been tamped. This is done by packing the pipe rather loosely, lighting the tobacco on top by moving the flame slowly in a circle around the bowl and drawing very slowly. After a slight ash has developed and then the light is out, tamp the remaining and light it again using the same method though drawing somewhat heavier. This should carry you through the rest of the bowl, though you may need to light again at some point.
In the course of your smoking, you’ll develop your own preferences for packing and lighting, but using one of the combustibles in this guide, and the lighting method described above will get you well on your way to being a pipe smoking champ in no time. Don’t be concerned if you need to re-light the pipe several times, as that is just part of the pipe smoking experience.