So, you’ve decided to take up pipe smoking. It’s not hard to understand why this practice has endured over the centuries. For many, it’s a relaxing pastime and favorite way to unwind at the end of a long day. Others may even see it as a sacred ritual and cultural connection to previous generations. Or perhaps you’re just attracted to the inviting aroma of premium pipe tobacco. Whatever the reason for your interest, you’ll want to make sure you know how to prepare and smoke your pipe correctly.
Smoking a tobacco pipe may seem simple enough, but it’s actually a multi-stage process that takes some time and practice to get just right. Knowing how to properly smoke a pipe will ensure you enjoy the best possible experience, from maximizing the flavor and aroma to preventing the pipe from going out too frequently. If you’re a pipe smoking beginner, use this guide as an introduction to the correct process. It contains a step-by-step overview of how to pack and light your pipe, as well as tips for smoking it like a pro.
What You’ll Need
Before you begin, make sure you have these basic pipe smoking supplies. There are some other more advanced tools that experienced pipe smokers may use, but we recommend that beginners start with these essentials.
- Pipe: None of this is possible without a pipe, of course. Pipes are available in a variety of shapes, sizes, and styles, all of which can have an impact on your smoking experience. Beginners may want to start with a basic corn cob pipe to familiarize themselves with the process. Over time, you’ll likely experiment with other types of pipes to determine which you like best. We offer a selection of high-quality, carefully crafted pipes from respected brands like Savinelli and Corleone.
- Tobacco: Pipe tobacco comes in a wide range of flavors, aromas, and strengths. If you have access to an experienced tobacconist, consult with them to decide which tobacco you might enjoy the most. Feel free to contact us for recommendations from our experts.
- Lighter: Rather than a standard lighter, you should use one specifically designed for lighting a pipe. Pipe lighters are fueled by butane and produce a soft flame over a wider area. The flame typically jets from the side of the lighter. (For the sake of comparison, a cigar lighter creates a hotter, more aggressive flame at the top.)
- Pipe Tools: There are several small tools used to help pack, smoke, and empty the pipe. One of the most important is the tamper, a blunt instrument used to pack the tobacco tightly in the pipe bowl. Other tools include a pick and reamer. You may want to invest in a Czech tool, a convenient three-in-one device that includes all of these pipe tools. We’ll discuss it in more detail in the next section.
- Pipe Cleaners: They’re not just for arts and crafts. You should clean out your pipe with pipe cleaners every time you smoke.
A Czech tool is great for pipe smoking beginners because it includes a tamper, pick, and reamer all in one device.
- Tamper: A tamper is shaped like a small dowel or the top of a nail. Its flat end is used to pack tobacco down into the bowl of the pipe, as well as crushing the ash together to make it easier to relight.
- Pick: This narrow pin or rod clears the shank or stem of the pipe from debris. It can also be used to air out tobacco that has been packed too tightly.
- Reamer: Used to scrape ash and unburned tobacco off the sides and bottom of the pipe, a reamer looks like a flat spoon or dull knife blade.
There are multiple Czech tools to choose from, such as the Savinelli Coin Pipe Companion. You’ll definitely want to add one to your collection if you plan to pick up pipe smoking as a hobby.
When you have all the necessary tools and supplies, it’s time to prepare your pipe for smoking.
How to Pack Your Pipe
Packing a pipe refers to the process of loading the bowl with tobacco. Doing so correctly ensures the pipe provides a smooth, satisfying draw. It may take a few tries to get it just right, but following these steps will help you get the hang of it:
Loosely fill the pipe bowl with tobacco up to the top of the rim. Then tamp it down with a pipe tamper, your thumb, or forefinger. Your pipe should be about half-way to two-thirds filled depending on the shape of the chamber.
Repeat the first step. After you’ve tamped down the tobacco, the chamber should be three-quarters filled.
Repeat one last time. When you’re done, the pipe should be snugly packed to just below its rim.
Note: After each step, put the pipe to your mouth and take a test draw. If you sense the draw is too tight or suspect blockage at the draft hole, dump out the tobacco and start over.
How to Light Your Pipe
Once your pipe is packed, you’re ready to light it and begin smoking. Light your pipe by carefully performing these steps:
Put the button between your lips and apply the flame in a circular motion across the entire surface area of the tobacco while puffing shallowly on the pipe. This move is called the charring light or false light.
After the false light, take a moment to gently tamp the charred tobacco back down. Then light again, this time in the center of the bowl, puffing as you go.
Note: It might take you a few lights to get the pipe going. That’s just the way it goes sometimes.
If Your Pipe Keeps Going Out
You may have packed the pipe too tightly if it frequently goes out while smoking. If that’s the case, dump it out and start over. On the other hand, the pipe tobacco might be too wet. The desired moisture level of a tobacco blend is a matter of personal preference.
You’ll have to do some experimenting to learn what works best for you. You may even find that some of your favorite blends need to sit out and dry before they’re packed. That’s just part of the personal art of pipe smoking that can’t be learned online.
Puff Your Pipe Gently and Steadily
Puff your pipe slowly and steadily. That said, you’ll find your own smoking cadence with experience. This is another aspect of the art that is learned and highly personal. Keep in mind that some blends are going to smoke perfectly all the way down to the bottom of the bowl. But others may begin to taste harsh, acrid, or just plain nasty by the time you get to the bottom quarter of the bowl. If you find you’re having to relight over and over again toward the end of a bowl, it usually means you’re done, whether you’ve smoked every last bit of the tobacco or not.
(Pipe) Cake Is Good
Breaking in a pipe means smoking it until you understand how it smokes. Every pipe is different, and every pipe takes time to get to know. As you learn your pipe by smoking it, the tobacco chamber will slowly develop a thin layer of carbon residue called cake, which acts to protect the chamber and season your pipe.
Be Nice: Don’t Bang Your Pipe
Be gentle with your pipe. Don’t bang it against hard stuff. If you have to beat your pipe against another object to get some tobacco out of it, do it gently and hold it by the bowl rather than the shank or mouthpiece.
Pipes Love Pipe Cleaners
Run a pipe cleaner through your pipe after a smoke to keep it clean. Do this regularly and the pipe won’t taste nasty later. You can also run a pipe cleaner through the pipe while you’re smoking to collect the unwanted moisture that might accumulate during a smoke. (Yes, that happens.)
Become a Seasoned Pipe Smoker In No Time!
Smoking a pipe may seem daunting to a newcomer, but it really does get easier with patience and repetition. Packing, lighting, and smoking your own pipe can be a very relaxing and rewarding experience. Done properly, you’ll enjoy your smoke from the first puff to the last.