I was talking with Dencappo yesterday and have no idea whether he was going to post this, but in any event I've beat him to it so hard luck son.
So here are my Top Ten Tips (including one or two old chestnuts) to aid in your pipesmoking experience. Hopefully they'll stop noobs getting tongue bitten and turning back to ciggies; who knows.
1. Dry tobacco slightly before loading your pipe. Don't let it get too dry (like biscuits) but just let it breath for 20 mins or so. Few baccies won't benefit from a little air time. Try several different drying times, or none at all. Whatever suits you but at least TRY the drying method.
2. You've all heard the expression "packing your pipe". Forget you ever heard it. One of the biggest noob faults is wedging tobacco into your pot and practically standing on it to "get it in there". Wrong. Compacted baccy is difficult to light, keep lit, and it WILL produce scalding steam which won't help increase your smoking pleasure. Plus the fact you'll have to suck like an Electrolux to get any smoke, creating horrifically high temperatures and blowing your eardrums.
You'll see a thousand different ways of filling your pipe on the interwebz from the Franke method to the screw method, from the three pinch method (compress like a child, woman and finally a man) to the scoop method and the air pocket method. Ignore them all. Simply drop your baccy into the bowl, tap the sides and then top up. Add enough finger pressure to keep it in and for it to stay there when you move the pipe about. If you invert your pipe and tap the side of the bowl it should fall out. Always fill looser than you would imagine. Trust me on this one.
3. Light the stuff by covering the surface of the baccy with your flame. This is called the "charring light". The tobacco will expand and curl up. Continue to smoke for 30 seconds or so, then tamp gently. Very gently. Relight and enjoy.
4. Tamping: Never forget you are lightly tamping the ash, not the tobacco. You're aiming to provide a sealing cover of ash which helps the baccy underneath to burn cleanly. Most noobs over-tamp and end up compressing the baccy in the bowl, thus ruining the efforts previously made when lightly filling the pipe. Eric has a great video showing you that the weight of the tamper is all you need; no downward pressure. it's tamping, not stamping.
5. Lightly sip the smoke from the pipe. Over-smoking is a sin. You will go to Hell. The baccy tastes like shit and gets red hot as you attempt those big billowy smoke clouds. With light loading and gentle but regular sipping you'll get that satisfying mouthful of creamy rich smoke whatever you're smoking.
6. Run a pipe cleaner through the pipe as you smoke. A couple of times per smoke is all you need to negate the need for a thorough strip down to clean it. Another tip from Eric, but tougher with bents or system pipes. Some pipes will always need taking apart for a clean. Only do it once the pipe has cooled, but try to avoid it at all if you can. Edit: Some of the following replies suggest that I'm saying you should never break down a pipe. I'm not saying that at all - I'm saying that it probably isn't as necessary as you imagine it is.
7. Some baccies will flavour or "ghost" your pipe almost beyond redemption. Keep separate pipes for baccies like Condor or 1792, infamous for their ability to hang around long after you've gone. If you're a purist you may keep separate pipes for different types of baccy: a couple for English Blends; a couple for VA's; some for Burlys. You get the picture. If you don't mind a bit of a latakia taste to your virginias then don't bother. Just remember you won't be smoking the tobacco as designed by the blender. That would be a shame, and also explains why we all have loads of pipes. You can tell your wife that I told you this. She doesn't know where I live.
8. Take it slowly. Anyone who tries to rush a pipe has really missed the point. Pipe smokers are legendary for their laid-back attitudes and abilities to ponder on an argument to the point where anyone who talks to them may think they've gone into a coma. This should be encouraged in an era when no one has time for anyone else.
9. Resting your pipe. Why? It's possible to smoke one pipe for months with regular pipe cleaner treatment as above. Eric's proved it, and I followed up on the same experiment with great results. Having said that, always allow your pipe to cool before re-filling. A hot bowl is a pain and it doesn't do the pipe any good. Edit: I live in England where we tend not to suffer the range of temperatures found across the States or in places like Iraq. Burning out a pipe is near impossible here. Not so some hotter countries.
10. Don't be afraid of relights. The average pipe smoker is going to relight a pipe several times throughout a session. This is normal. You are not a failure if you relight every 5 minutes, although you may want to "pack" your pipe even lighter and dryer next time.
Remember our forefathers didn't know about all of the new-fangled ways in which a pipe can be filled and smoked. But smoke they did, and as far as I can tell they loved it. Matt and I have adopted all of the above and I know he'll back me on this. It will transform your smoking experience.
Footnote: I was going to sell a beautiful Brigham three dot half-bent billiard. We didn't really get along. By re-thinking my smoking style and adopting my own advice it's now a perfect smoker. I'm smoking it now with some Butternut Burly with some added perique. Just for fun. Lovely.
"The pipe draws wisdom from the lips of the philosopher, and shuts up the mouth of the foolish; it generates a style of conversation, contemplative, thoughtful, benevolent, and unaffected..."
-William Makepeace Thackeray, from The Social Pipe
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