Pipes for Beginners
At first glance, pipes
can feel like an overwhelming wave of information and uncharted territory. Here, we break it down nice and simple to help make it as seamless as possible. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. We’ve got your back friend, and have the 411 you need to get up and running in no time.
Common Types of Pipes
- Corn Cob – Cheap, yet highly effective, corn cob pipes are the perfect place to start your pipe journey. Requiring no break in period, corn cob pipes are primed and ready to go as soon as you pick one up. Great for sampling tobaccos, as you don’t have to worry about using a possibly unpleasant tobacco in your everyday pipe. Many people keep one on hand as backup, or as a travel pipe. Most are made right here in the U-S of A.
- Brylon – Developed in the 1960’s as a cheaper alternative to briar. A nylon and wood composite that is tough as nails and provides a lifetime of service.
- Briar – Is the most popular type of pipe made today. Pipe makers primarily use briar for two reasons. It is extremely resistant to fire, definitely a good thing, and its porous nature makes for a dry, cool smoke. In many cases it also happens to be pretty easy on the eyes, and tends to feature gorgeous grain patterns. Briar is harvested from the roots of the shrub tree heath, grown in the soils of the Mediterranean. This small shrub is formally referred to as Erica arborea.
- Meerschaum – Regarded as the best tasting pipe you can buy. A soft white mineral primarily harvested in Turkey, Meerschaum is a lot like soap in its natural state. This pliability allows for intricate designs and a high level of craftsmanship. It is then cured for hardening, and polished. Besides being eye-catching, meerschaum is highly functional. Its porous nature acts as a natural filter, absorbing tars and moisture. The more you smoke it, the more the meerschaum transforms from stark white to light brown, with flavors garnered from the smoke improving with time.
is uniquely cured and seasoned to create a flavor and aroma that’s typically much different than other types of smoking tobaccos. Utilizing a variety of tobacco strains, grown on nearly every continent, pipe tobaccos are normally a composition of a variety of these leaves blended in order to achieve a desired flavor and strength level. Additionally, these tobaccos are cured and/or fermented by different means to further add distinctive flavors. A smoking process is common, and the different woods used in this process each introduce their own unique characteristics. Then, some tobacco blends undergo a casing process which includes the addition of sugars and/or top flavorings to create a less harsh and/or more aromatic experience. Moisture content and the style of cut also add characteristics to the overall taste of a pipe tobacco. In short, there a millions of pipe tobacco combinations, each one crafted according to a strict recipe in order to create a desire profile and smoking experience.
Essential Pipe Tools
Packing & Lighting
- Tamper - Used to pack tobacco and ashes in your bowl. Looks like an upside nail, with a long slender body and thin, flat head.
- Reamer - Clears ‘cake’ from the inside of the bowl. Cake is completely normal and refers to carbon buildup that naturally grows over time.
- Pipe Cleaners - Thin pieces of metal wire wrapped in an absorbent material, usually cotton. Most commonly used to clean stems, pipe cleaners can also be used to clean shanks as well. Available in a variety of sizes, colors, and styles they are inexpensive and should be thrown away after using.
Learning the proper way to pack, light, and truly enjoy a pipe takes a bit of time and patience. You didn’t learn to tie your shoes the first time you tried, and the same can be said here. But once you get the hang of it, you’ll be packing a bowl in your sleep.
- First make sure your pipe is completely empty, free of any leftover scraps. Grab a fresh pinch of tobacco with your fingers and very gently push the tobacco to the bottom of the bowl. If your finger doesn’t fit, use a tamper.
- Then, take another helping of tobacco and press this down on top of the first round. This time press a little firmer in the same fashion as before.
- For the last time, take one more pinch of tobacco and press it on top of the first two firmly. Then take a draw. If little to no air draws through knock out your tobacco and start over. (Remember this takes patience) When you’re done, there should be a slight space between the tobacco and the top of the bowl.
- Light the top of the tobacco evenly, moving your hand in a circular pattern while taking gentle puffs. This will ensure all of the tobacco ignites.
- Once lit, use your tamper to carefully tamp down your initial ash to a flat even surface.
- Light the tampered tobacco once more, truly ensuring that your tobacco is well lit.
Take it slow when smoking your pipe. Many newcomers puff too fast, resulting in a hot bowl and smoke. Take your time, have patience and relax. You may have to re-light your tobacco several times throughout the course of your smoke. This is completely normal.