This has been a question that some beginners face in the world of pipe tobacco. There is no real science or measure behind packing a pipe, regardless of shape of size. It's actually more of an art. You improve with experience. What there is, however, is the right way to enjoy your pipe.
Here are the steps to doing so:
Step 1: Having a Clean Pipe
The shank and stem (pieces that connect the bowl to the lip that goes in your mouth) need to be clear of any any major ash or char buildup. After smoking a pipe, it will build up a black cake inside the bowl's chamber. This is good. Do not scrape this off. Lightly scrape off only excess ash and char.
Step 2: Ensure Your Tobacco is Good
This is done by picking up the tobacco in your thumb and two forefingers. It should clump and and slowly fall apart. If it breaks apart, that means it's too dry. If it stays clumped and doesn't fall apart, then you got a moist problem, and the portion be used should be set out a little while to dry before smoking.
Step 3: Correctly Packing
If this is not done properly, there will not be a nicely smooth and enjoyable puff. Too tight and it will be hard to pull from. Too loose and it'll burn too hot and cause what is known as "tongue bite." Not enjoyable. A good rule of thumb is the "3 hand shake" rule.
- Your first fill of the bowl is somewhat loose, and you tamp it down with the force of shaking a small child's hand.
- You fill it again, and tamp it down with the force of shaking a lady's hand.
- Fill it a third time, and tamp it down with the force of shaking a gentleman's hand.
The more times you fill the bowl, the tighter you tamp it down. This lessens air pockets between the pieces of tobacco, and helps the ember remain lit as it travels from one piece of tobacco to another. Don't tamp it too tight or you won't be able to pull as easily from the pipe. The tobacco should have some give to it.
Your initial light will be your char light. Don't expect it to stay. You should tamp your tobacco down again a little after your char light, as heat will cause the tobacco to expand. Your second light should take, and if tamped nicely, should stay lit for most of your smoke. New smokers may find they have to light their pipes a few times before reaching the end, but with experience, you will need to relight it less often.