Thumbs up for pipes!

Thumbs up for pipes!

The fact is, Squire, the moment a man takes to a pipe, he becomes a philosopher. It’s the poor man’s friend; it calms the mind, soothes the temper, and makes a man patient under difficulties. It has made more good men, good husbands, kind masters, indulgent fathers, than any other blessed thing on this universal earth.

So, let’s continue our step-by-step guide on pipe smoking. You’ve now chosen your pipe, and you’ve now chosen your tobacco.

3) Load your pipe with your chosen tobacco. To do this, take a pinch of tobacco, and while gently holding your pipe, trickle strands of tobacco into the bowl of the pipe until it is filled to the top. Then begins the tamping process: use your pipe tool (if you have one–if not, a simple nail with a broad head, or even a finger will work) and gently compress the tobacco. For pipes that have bowls with straight sides, you need to tamp gently until the tobacco half fills the bowl. For those with tapered bowls, aim for more like two thirds full. The tobacco in the bowl should have a very springy, almost soft consistency. After this, you will repeat the process of loading and tamping until the pipe is almost full. Some say to load over the brim, but I don’t; as it heats up it expands, and such things could either scorch your pipe, or the sparks and lit tobacco will fall out the top and burn holes in your pants/shirt, and that would be bad. I ruined one of my favorite blazers that way. Next, Put the pipe to your lips and take a test draw. The resistance should be minimal, like sucking on a straw. If there is any more than this, dump out the tobacco and start reloading your pipe over again. You need an easy draw for your pipe, otherwise you’ll be huffing and puffing to no good use.

4) Light your Pipe. Fair warning, you will almost certainly need to relight your pipe multiple times. Eventually with practice, you might be able to smoke a whole bowl without relighting every time you smoke, but that generally takes years of practice (I still can’t always manage it). This is a complex process. First off, the ‘charring’ light (also called the ‘false’ light), the purpose of which is to expel any extra moisture from the tobacco and prepare a nice even bed for the ‘true’ light. To do this, light your match or lighter (I have no preference for either, and both work fine) and then apply it to the tobacco, moving it in a circular motion around the entire surface of the tobacco. Puff lightly a few times–DO NOT INHALE–simply to let air through. Let this light go out, then comes the true light. Relight your match of lighter and apply it to the tobacco, moving it in a circular motion around the entire surface of the tobacco. While doing this, take a series of shallow puffs on the pipe. This time the tobacco should not unravel and puff up as it did before. Extinguish your source of fire, sit back, relax and enjoy your pipe.

5) Smoke! Pipe smoking does not entale inhilation of the smoke. Instead, think of it as being simular to a wine tasting; you bring it into the mouth, enjoy the flavor, and expel the smoke thereby. If you puff too fast, the heat will cause tonguebite. Again, the key is slowness, and luxuriousness, in a sense. This is something that will likely take between 20-40 minutes at least, and can last longer. (I have a pipe I use for long drives that I typically can make last an hour) I also reccomend having a drink with your pipe; and this could be anything: water, coffee, a cocktail, or wine.

(Me being also the Arizona Wine Monk http://azwinemonk.com/, I prefer a good glass of wine with my pipe. Tannic reds tend to go best for latakia/perique blends, lighter reds or roses often go well with aromatics. I find I rarely drink whites when smoking a pipe, unless they’re intense dessert whites like maderias. Whiskey is also nice, too, if you have a good sippin’ whiskey.)

At the first sign of moisture coming through the stem of the pipe, stick a pipe cleaner into the stem and let it absorb any condensation in order to ensure that the pipe does not sour; the best way to discern moisture is if you hear a sucking sound–like that you get when you suck up the last bit of drink via a straw. The other way to deal with this is to put it down–said moisture will also trickle into the bowl where the coal is, and it will evaporate. Also, in general be sure not to let your pipe get too hot–this will affect the flavor and taste of the tobacco, and also could potentially affect you–tonguebite and whatnot. If it gets too hot, put the pipe down for a moment; or even let it go out and restart.

6) Clean your pipe. This is a bit of a process; I thought about doing this as a seperate entry, but I’d hate to leave anyone hanging.

You can generally tell when a pipe is done when the flavor becomes entirely ashy. Some people like to let their tobacco burn all the way to the bottom to create what is called a cake; I don’t, but that’s your call, and I’ve heard many arguements for or against cake. The cake is a layer of carbon deposits on the side and bottom of your pipe bowl. (I’ve heard you should NEVER do that for meershaum, and only wood and briar pipes, though.) Note: You should let your wood and briar pipes rest a day between smokes. Meershaum doesn’t need to rest, though; and corncobs are cheap, so you can build up a collection of about 50 corncobs for the price of one meershaum. (I have very little experience with meershaum, but I’ve decided that’s what my next pipe will be).

Wait until the ashes in the pipe are cool to begin cleaning. (I always forget to do that, oops) The first step is to shake up the ash, or what’s called the “dottle.” (new scrabble word!) Taking the bowl of the pipe (it should be cool now) in your hand, you will cover the bowl and shake the ash around to loosen it and distribute it around the bowl of the pipe. If you want to build up a cake, rub the ash into the walls of the bowl with your finger. If not, or after what’s left after the cake-construction process, dump the remnants out. If you don’t want cake, you can use the spoon-shaped tool on a pipe tool (if you have what I affectionately call the pipe multi-tool), to scrape away the carbon.

Next, you’ll want to run a pipe cleaner through the stem. Push until you can just see the end at the bottom of the bowl. Repeat this process a few times, alternating by gently blowing through the stem to clear any loosened ash. I generally remove the stem after I do this, and if you like, you can leave a pipe cleaner in there to absorb any extra moisture. After all the ashes and stem has been removed, polish your briar or wood pipe with a soft cloth. It’ll keep it shiny.

Lastly, every two months or so, you’ll want to give your pipe a good thourough cleaning with some sort of alcohol–everclear or isopropol. To start, remove the stem from the bowl and lay the two pieces out on a paper towel. Moistening a bristle cleaner with alcohol, run it through the stem from the tenon end to the mouthpiece. Doing this should result in a lot of brownish black gunk on the cleaner. Alternate with a dry pipe cleaner. Continue this process until you can run a bristle cleaner through the pipe so it comes out the same color it went in.

And now you are ready to start smoking a pipe and take on the world.

(The quote is by Sam Slick, from The Clockmaker.)