Pipe Smoking 101: For the Beginner

Begin by purchasing a pipe that you like. This is the key to enjoying pipe smoking. A quality pipe such as a Bari, Peterson, Nording, GBD and Stanwell are all good choices. Plan on spending $30-$75 for a new pipe. Most tobacco shops are willing to bargain on price, and often have sales.

Don't overlook Estate Pipes. In many cases these pipes are in excellent shape and will cost less than new pipes. The term "Estate Pipe" refers to pipes that have been owned and smoked before. Tobacco shops who handle Estate Pipes clean and repair pipes they have purchased from previous owners, so don't get the idea that these pipe are dirty and unclean. These pipes represent a good value for the beginner. A nice Estate Pipe will cost between $15 and $75 (or more depending on age, condition and collectability).

Jim's Tips on Inspecting Estate Pipes reviews the finer points of inspecting an estate pipe prior to purchase.

What you need, to smoke a pipe at the Pipes Digest Web Page is another good place to read more about how to get started.

There are many more estate pipe dealers and sellers on the Internet. Go to Pipes.org to view a list of personal and commercial estate pipe dealers.

Rethinking the Packing of a Pipe Frank Method The "Frank Method" was presented in May 2004 at the Chicagoland Pipe Show. The New York Pipe Club would like to thank Herr Achim Frank for this marvelous technique..


How To Begin:

Beginners should start with an aromatic blend. Such as Amphora Regular, or a similar light aromatic Burley/Virginia blend. Keep the pouch tightly sealed to keep it fresh. Experiment with different blends until you find one you like. It's always nice to get a tobacco that your wife or girlfriend likes, so get her input. English blends tend to be much more full flavored and not the best for beginners. Due to their fuller flavor and aroma English Blends are generally not the favoriate with the woman.

Also get a package of cleaners and lots of wooden matches (or a butane ligther) and a pipe tool (with a tamper, reamer, and scraper). Aromatic blends tend to smoke "wet" so a good supply of pipe cleaners will be necessary. The term "wet" means that you might hear a gurgling sound. This comes from saliva and the condensation of the moisture from the burning tobacco.

Lets move on to the matter of packing and lighting. Pack the tobacco a bit at a time, about 1/3 of the bowl at a time. You want to have it slightly springy, neither to loose or tight. It should be easy to draw through. Use the reamer to loosen if it's too tight. For a new pipe, coat the inside of the bowl with honey. This will help develop a layer of "cake" (carbon) and will also provide a sweeter smoke.

Light your match or butane lighter and hold it horizontally over the bowl, puffing and moving the match in a circular motion over the tobacco until it is alight. Avoid burning the edge of the bowl when you light up. After a little while, the tobacco may go out. If so, tamp it down a little and re-light. If there's a lot of ash in the bowl, empty it out without knocking the pipe, then tamp and re-light. You may only get several good puffs from each light, which is OK. Unlike a cigar, re-lighting does not create a bad taste.

You may find the pipe getting a little juicy as you smoke. To avoid this, try to keep your mouth as dry as possible. If the pipe does get juicy, run a cleaner down it to clear it out. Let the pipe cleaner sit for a moment and withdraw. However, don't take the stem off the pipe while it's still hot, as this will eventually cause the stem to get loose or even break.

Try to puff rhythmically. If the pipe gets too hot, or if your tongue gets "bitten", slow down, or lay the pipe down and let it cool. If the pipe goes out a lot, speed up your pace. Before too long you'll find a good rhythm.

Try to smoke your pipe all the way down, as long as the taste is pleasant. This helps build up an even layer of "cake" (carbon) inside the bowl. When you're done, clean all the dottle (ashes and unburned tobacco) out of the bowl with the reamer. Avoid banging your pipe on the ashtray, as this can damage the pipe. Insert a pipe cleaner into the cooled pipe until the next time you smoke it. This will absorb any leftover juice and help keep it clean.

"Break-in" refers to the initial carbonization of the bowl. Many new pipes now come with pre-carbonized bowls that don't require a break-in period. I'd recommend such a pipe for a beginner. However, it's desirable to maintain a 1-2 millimeter layer of cake for a cool, even smoke.

If your pipe smokes sour or gurgles, if there's a lot of goo inside the stem, or if the cake is very thick, it's time for a cleaning. This usually will have to be done every 5-10 smokes. First, use the knife blade of the pipe tool to scrape the cake to the proper thickness. Then use the reamer to get any heavy goo out of the wood part of the air hole of the stummel (the wood part of the pipe). Dip a pipe cleaner in the pipe sweetner, and run it through the stem; repeat with fresh cleaners until they come out clean. Repeat with the stummel air hole; be careful not to get any cleaner on the outside of the pipe, as this harms the finish. After cleaning, let the pipe rest a few hours before smoking it again, to give the sweetner a chance to dry out.

Lastly, enjoy! Pipe smoking should be a pleasurable and relaxing pastime. Don't smoke if you don't feel like it.


This Web Page was designed by Jim Murray Please feel free to contact me with your comments.

Back to Jim's Home Page