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Pipe Smoking 101 Part Three

Slow draw at high noon.

Avoiding tongue bite is not the primary purpose of pipe smoking, but if you use the right stuff and are well packed, tongue bite will give way to the secret pleasures of pipe smoking. They must be secret since there seem to be very few pipe smokers left on the planet; relatively few at any rate.

Well packed, but slow on the draw

In my last blog I mentioned packing the pipe properly with fresh tobacco is the key to avoiding the burning sensation experienced by many novice pipe smokers. This situation does not bode well for transforming the novice into a seasoned smoker of the briar (or clay, or Meerschaum, or corn cob). The burning mouth has a tendency of turning folks away from continuing the pipe smoking practice.

So, if you are new to pipe smoking here are some suggestions to help you advance gently through the ranks so in a couple of weeks you can don the badge of Pipe Smoker Extraordinaire.

  1. Start with a small amount of fresh, moist tobacco. We will be discussing various types of tobacco in this column in the future, but for now choose a true pipe tobacco rather than a cigarette tobacco even it is labeled “pipe tobacco”.
  2. Fill the bowl loosely, then press it down with a finger or pipe tool. This should press the tobacco firmly down to about a third or half of the bowl. Be careful not to press it down so tightly that you cannot get a good draw through the stem.
  3. Refill the bowl to the top and press it down again, then repeat if necessary until the pipe bowl is full and the tobacco nice an firmly packed, with an easy draw through the stem. If you cannot draw easily, then remove the tobacco and start over. When you have the bowl properly filled,
  4. Light a match, letting the combustible tip burn off so you are burning wood. I recommend the long kitchen matches but the short ones work too. Draw on the pipe, lighting the tobacco at the top of the bowl.
  5. Tamp down the tobacco and with a second match relight the pipe.
  6. The pipe should now be ready to smoke.
  7. Try to draw slowly to keep the pipe going, but avoid smoking the pipe too fast, since this may lead to the dreaded tongue bite.
  8. As you continue to smoke the pipe, you may find it goes out. This is normal and you may wish to gently scrape out some of the ash at the top and tamp the tobacco down again before relighting.
  9. It is possible to smoke a full bowl in a standard briar pipe with a bowl depth of about an inch and a half and an inside bowl diameter of three quarters of an inch for anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour before you have exhausted the tobacco. At lot depends on the cut of the tobacco and its freshness. If you are going through an entire bowl in less than 15 minutes and your pipe has a medium size bowl as described in this paragraph, you will probably find the pipe is very hot to hold and you may be getting heat in your mouth. Slow down.

A slow smoke will give you the most enjoyment. If you are moving around or chopping wood while smoking your pipe, you will probably find the pipe won’t last as long. But if you are sitting comfortably and enjoying a leisurely smoke, the bowl should not get too hot and the tobacco should last for quite a while. If you are smoking any of our clay pipes, the amount of tobacco that will fit in the bowl will be less than what can fit in most briar pipes and the smoking time will be shorter.