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Breaking and Fine Tuning your Falcon

Breaking and Fine Tuning your Falcon

Postby Falconeer » Wed Jun 08, 2011 8:18 am

Hi All,

Over the years I've had a lot of PMs and emails asking various questions about Falcons, particularly from people who've just bought one for the first time and so I put together this piece which has already been on another Forum, but which might be useful to memebers here.

Apologies that it's a long post - but fear not - this is the last of my Falcon articles so there's not 110 Chapters more to come!

Hope this is of some use

Gerry
"I don't think it matters what kind of pipe you smoke, so long as it is well broken in." - Trevor Baylis former Pipe Smoker of the Year
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Re: Breaking and Fine Tuning your Falcon

Postby Falconeer » Wed Jun 08, 2011 8:19 am

Falcons – breaking in and Fine Tuning

Hi All,

As I can attest a Falcon with minimal care will last at least 30 years and give good reliable service throughout its lifetime.

At one time there were many many metal system pipes on the go, all claiming to offer a cooler drier smoke – but in some cases at the expense of simplicity and ease of cleaning; in particular The Ronson with its labyrinthine airways, The Duncan with its need for replacement absorbing pads and the Titan with its fragile stem to say nothing of the Colibri which bore an astonishing resemblance to a Gatling gun. but the old Falcon has seen off most of its rivals; simply I think because of its very simplicity, ease of maintenance and rugged build quality.


Care in The Early Days...

Ironically while Falcons do indeed offer a cool dry smoke – until they are broken in, they can smoke hot to the point that you may not wish to touch the aluminum stem or humidome , can cast inordinate amounts of moisture for the first few smokes and taste vile until you get the bottom of the bowl caked. None of these processes last long however and here's where you lay down the foundations which will govern how good a smoker your Falcon becomes.

I regard breaking in as part of fine tuning, so to recap here's how I break in a new Falcon quickly.
I moisten the inside of the bowl with saliva, fill the bowl to 1/3rd and smoke the bowl all the way down – a crucial point to bear in mind. I repeat the 1/3rd fill for the next couple of smokes then go to ½ for the next few and then gradually work my way up the bowl.

While breaking in a new bowl I only smoke burley tobacco – I think 5 Brothers is best suited to the task but any American OTC such as Carter Hall, Prince Albert etc will do the job as will the British Burley mixture Gold Block.

Two days of this should have got rid of the “green taste” and the pipe should no longer be dripping moisture; within four days it should be turning “mellow.”

For a long life at this stage – never leave the “goo” long in the humidome ; it can impart a bad taste to the bowl and render the wooden threads more prone to damage – as soon as the pipe cools take it apart and mop it out with a tissue; also mop the bottom of the bowl and around the threads. Dry ream the inside of the bowl with a scrunched tissue and run it twisted through the smoke hole.

After a day's smoking run alcohol soaked pipe cleaners through the stem until they come out clean. If you are not going to smoke the pipe during the night – maybe even leave the bowl off overnight to let it dry thoroughly.

Towards the end of the initial break in you'll probably notice that the pipe's draw is getting more restricted or indeed the pipe is beginning to make a “”sssh- ing “ type of noise. This means the wood of the bowl has absorbed a certain amount of moisture, swollen slightly and the smoke hole now needs attention and needs to be opened out.

The ideal way is to use Falcon's own Dual Reamer, but you'll have to hunt one up on Ebay as they haven't been made for years. However if you can't lay hands on one, a sharp knife used carefully will do the job, as will sandpaper wrapped round a thin dowel. The more impatient may wish to use the Old Codger method of inserting a pair of kitchen scissors into to hole, twisting firmly and repeating from the other side – but you could end up with an out of round smoke hole or take too much wood off. Neither is fatal – in time the hole will cake up again.

Care and Fine Tuning in the Middle Years

That first widening out of the smoke hole marks for me the end of Phase One – the pipe is well on the way to being properly broken in, is tarting to perform as it should and is hopefully becoming a valued friend.

If when the bowl was brand new you'd looked down it you'd have noticed that the main cavity is shaped like a gentle “U” and at the base of the “U” the wood was formed into a round channel fitting round the aluminium centre plug of the Humidome.

The transition in shape is abrupt and this needs addressing otherwise as the pipe cake s up you'll find it no longer smokes dry to the last shred of tobacco and instead you are left with a plug of dottle that sits in the hole refusing to relight and generally being mutinous.

With a thin bladed sharp knife or model makers file you want to start smoothing this ridge down to form a gentle slope – don't take off too much – it's just a gentle slope you need and you will never have the dottle programme.

If you like stronger tobaccos like Condor or indeed like to smoke your tobacco Brit style moist straight from the pack now is also the time to start paying attention to the bottom of the bowl where it sits into the humidome and to those patented 4 point start threads – and once again its time to ply your friend with strong drink!

Over time that bottom of the bowl can pick up a good layer of solidified or very sticky goo which can make you think the pipe is haunted by a particularly virulent ghost – but it can easily be exorcised by regular wiping of the bottom of the bowl with an alcohol soaked cloth.

The threads can be similarly affected and can also pick up fibres from your cleaning tissue both of which can lead to leakage around the thread area or even damage to the threads themselves. I keep an old soft toothbrush for use on the threads and it does the trick just fine.

Paying attention to these points greatly helps longevity and a long and productive working life as does taking care always to ensure that the threads are aligned before attempting to refit the bowl – especially if you have only one or two Falcons in heavy service.

If looks are important...

To some people how a pipe looks is more important than it is to others. I don't mind the odd ding, or scorch marks round the rim but I hate the look of a pipe that's gone dull and ratty looking.

Other than restricting an anodised Extra or coated International to house duties only or always carrying it in a soft pipe glove, there's not much you can do to stop such pipes showing wear over the years but the silver finished Alcos, Brentfords and Standard Falcons respond well to having their aluminium polished with any metal polish of your choice – my own favourite is Dura Glit Wadding – once or twice a year.

Back up until around the 1980s Falcons bowl both smooth and rustic were quite heavily waxed and polished to quite a shiny finish which resisted finger marks and didn't go dull whereas the modern ones have quite a different finish which quickly mattes down and shows any fills and tool marks as well as looking ( to my eyes anyway ) scruffy and down at heel.

There are different ways to handle this – if you have a buffing machine and are willing to put on a Carnuba Wax finish great, if you prefer a softer finish you could go down the oil finish route or if you like an aged patina effect with a soft lustre you can take the Old Codger's path and resort to boot polish – black used on a red finished wood over time produces an superb look I think.

And no...it doesn't taste or smell when the pipe is lit!

All you have to do is remove the bowl, take a tiny amount of polish on a finger end and work it into the wood, leave it for five minutes or so to harden and then polish it off with a soft brush. Do this very night for around a couple of weeks until you notice a slight stickiness developing and thereafter don't put any more polish on just brush the bowl vigorously with your brush each night and within a year as the wood darkens with use you'll have the old style finish.

How to Kill Your Falcon

Doing any of the following is likely to prove fatal for your Falcon:

Attempting to take off, mop out and refit a bowl cross threaded, usually while under the affluence of incahol!

Attempting to remove the mouthpiece from a Standard Extra or Brentford pipe – only Alcos and Falcon Internationals have a removable mouthpiece.

Attempting to buff out tooth marks on the mouthpiece – the mouthpiece is Nylon not Vulcanite or Ebonite and it does not respond well to this treatment!

The good news on this last point is that Falcon will replace the mouthpiece and centre tube for £10.00 ( as of 2010 ) should you be tempted to try this.........

...and so all I can add is – many Happy Years with your Falcon!....Oh yes and if you want beter quality, better looking bowls E Bay is a must!

Gerry
"I don't think it matters what kind of pipe you smoke, so long as it is well broken in." - Trevor Baylis former Pipe Smoker of the Year
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Re: Breaking and Fine Tuning your Falcon

Postby ScotsJim » Wed Jun 08, 2011 9:59 am

Great article Gerry. Cheers.

Regards,
Jim
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Re: Breaking and Fine Tuning your Falcon

Postby DrMax » Mon Jun 13, 2011 8:38 am

Interesting post, as always Gerry. I have a standard Falcon and while I enjoy its smoking qualities very much, I always find about ten mins down the bowl the draw will tighten up and the bowl will need removing and the humidome mopping out as it will be dripping with baccy juice. At this point I also run a pipe cleaner tip around the smoke hole without disturbing the baccy above. After screwing the bowl back on the pipe will smoke brilliantly to the bottom, leaving no dottle without any further problem. Dont know why this happens, but it always does! The bowls I use are well caked (not too thick) and broken in. Apart from this 'characteristic' i love my Falcon and it sees regular use.
Andy.


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Re: Breaking and Fine Tuning your Falcon

Postby Falconeer » Mon Jun 13, 2011 8:45 am

Hi All,

can't say I have had that problem and I smoke tobacco Brit style - moist and straight out of the pack, but....

I wonder about two or three things though - which bowl is it you are using?; in my personal experience Dublin's seem to cast more moisture than any other shape. I wonder if the smoke hole maybe need widening out a bit? If cake builds up at the bottom of the bowl you can get some clogging and be left with a wet plug in there at the end of a bowlful - I taper this cake at the bottom onto a smooth U shape with a small sharp knife.

Best meantime

Gerry
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Re: Breaking and Fine Tuning your Falcon

Postby ScotsJim » Mon Jun 13, 2011 9:05 am

I don't have that problem either, and I also smoke Brit Style.

I think that some people are just wet smokers. I heard this term bandied around among older smokers ( my grandfather included ) way back years ago. It would seem that, however good the pipe make or design, some people just smoke wetter than others. My grandfather did describe his smoking style as wet.

As a youth, I can still recall my grandfather ( this was before he started on the Falcon pipes ) smoking his old briar pipe by the fireside, and the intermittent hiss caused by his occasional spitting into the coal fire. When he switched to smoking Falcons I didn't see him spit again.

My father-in-law also describes himself as a wet smoker. I bought him a Falcon pipe for Xmas two years back ( not knowing that he'd already tried them, and already owned two ) but he still smokes wet, though I've never seen him spitting.

Guess some folk are made that way.

Regards,
Jim
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Re: Breaking and Fine Tuning your Falcon

Postby DrMax » Mon Jun 13, 2011 9:18 am

I only have two bowls, a genoa (my favourite) and a billiard. Both equally smoked and both do the same thing. I will however take a closer look at the smoke holes and maybe give them a dilligent widening. Despite this minor issue, I still think my Falcon is a great smoker with one of the most comfortable mouthpieces of all my pipes.
Andy.


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Re: Breaking and Fine Tuning your Falcon

Postby Falconeer » Mon Jun 13, 2011 12:17 pm

Hope it helps Dr Max!

Gerry
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Re: Breaking and Fine Tuning your Falcon

Postby Cobking » Wed Jun 15, 2011 10:10 pm

Gerry,
Youve done such a great job over several posts talking about Falcons I picked up a couple about 3 months ago...I have to say Im glad I did...they are great smokers and easy to take care of...thats why I carry one in my truck along with my cobs...Have you ever considered writing a book with your collected smoking history...I would by it right away lol.
Happy puffing
Bob
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Re: Breaking and Fine Tuning your Falcon

Postby eric » Thu Jun 16, 2011 12:08 am

Gerry thanks for posting that. I am interested in knowing how much you round out the bottom of the bowl. How much material are you removing?
Eric

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Re: Breaking and Fine Tuning your Falcon

Postby Falconeer » Thu Jun 16, 2011 9:44 am

Hi All,

Eric – as I write I have a brand new unsmoked Falcon Rustic Apple bowl in front of me; the bowl interior is rounded towards the bottom but then drops abruptly into a channel which I have just measured and found to be 1/2” deep.

This channel with it's abrupt shape change I have found can cause plugs of wet dottle once the pipe is smoked in and some carbon had built up.

Looking down my two year old regularly used Northumberland Apple and measuring it I find I have taken off just under 1/8” while gently curving the bottom of the bowl into that channel – over time of course I will also have slightly widened the smoke hole.

I've a very narrow bladed pocket knife that I tend to do it with, working from the outside bottom of the bowl, but I also have a Falcon Dual Reamer which can be used and the job finished off with sandpaper wrapped round a thin dowel.

You know, I've been doing this on eye and by auto pilot for so long I've never measured this before!

Best as ever

Gerry
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Re: Breaking and Fine Tuning your Falcon

Postby DrMax » Sat Jun 25, 2011 5:12 pm

Following the gentle expanding of the smoke hole, using a small sharp pen knife, I'm pleased to report a completely dry trouble free smoke from my Falcon! Hardly any wood removed at all, but obviously enough to make all the difference.
Andy.


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Re: Breaking and Fine Tuning your Falcon

Postby acaciavet » Sat Jun 25, 2011 8:37 pm

Dog Gone it Gerry I am going to have to get a Falcon now.

Up Spirits
Chuck
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Re: Breaking and Fine Tuning your Falcon

Postby ScotsJim » Sat Jun 25, 2011 9:40 pm

acaciavet wrote:Dog Gone it Gerry I am going to have to get a Falcon now.

Up Spirits
Chuck


PM me your address Chuck. I've got four Falcon Internationals and a Falcon Standard. I can spare you one :)

Regards,
Jim
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Re: Breaking and Fine Tuning your Falcon

Postby Falconeer » Sat Jun 25, 2011 10:05 pm

Jim - Chuck's the finest trading partner you'll ever meet - he's 100% pure gold and has access to the Indian Reservations! Ooops I forgot he likes St Bruno!!!

Best to you both

Gerry
Last edited by Falconeer on Sun Jun 26, 2011 9:28 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Breaking and Fine Tuning your Falcon

Postby acaciavet » Sat Jun 25, 2011 11:49 pm

Falconeer wrote:Jim - Chuck's the finest trading partner you'll ever meet - he's 100% pure gold and has access to the indian Reservations! Ooops I forgot he likes St Bruno!!!

Best to you both

Gerry


Gerry
Yes I do and condor also.When you are ready let me know.That Carreys Privat stock went down well also.

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Re: Breaking and Fine Tuning your Falcon

Postby NCDuke » Mon Jun 27, 2011 2:10 am

Damn, I thought my PAD died down... Now i'm going to have to try a Falcon..
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Re: Breaking and Fine Tuning your Falcon

Postby ScotsJim » Mon Jun 27, 2011 9:35 am

Falconeer wrote:Jim - Chuck's the finest trading partner you'll ever meet - he's 100% pure gold and has access to the Indian Reservations!


I wasn't really looking to trade. The offer was out of the kindness of my black little heart. Having said that, I never refuse free tobacco, unless it's aros :)

Falconeer wrote: Ooops I forgot he likes St Bruno!!!


I like to think that Iam openhearted enough to forgive him that :lol:

Regards,
Jim
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Re: Breaking and Fine Tuning your Falcon

Postby acaciavet » Mon Jun 27, 2011 6:52 pm

ScotsJim wrote:
Falconeer wrote:Jim - Chuck's the finest trading partner you'll ever meet - he's 100% pure gold and has access to the Indian Reservations!


I wasn't really looking to trade. The offer was out of the kindness of my black little heart. Having said that, I never refuse free tobacco, unless it's aros :)

Falconeer wrote: Ooops I forgot he likes St Bruno!!!


I like to think that Iam openhearted enough to forgive him that :lol:

Regards,
Jim


This trade is going to be A challenge ! No Lat and no Aero :o .You in to Virginias or Burleys? I am all out of Bruno :lol:
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Re: Breaking and Fine Tuning your Falcon

Postby NCDuke » Mon Jun 27, 2011 7:52 pm

[/quote]

This trade is going to be A challenge ! No Lat and no Aero :o .You in to Virginias or Burleys? I am all out of Bruno :lol:[/quote]


:lol: :lol: I don't know he might enjoy it a second round through...
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