Breaking It In
Like any product that sees frequent usage, pipes need to be broken in. Your first dozen or bowls shouldn’t be filled completely, only a third or two-thirds or so to the top. Each bowl should be smoked all the way to the bottom. This helps to create a protective carbon layer at the bottom to prevent your briar pipe wood from burning. Remember that your first few smoking sessions will produce a warmer, shaper smoke than later on. Don’t be turned-off; the “bite” subsides after a subsequent uses.
The right filling helps to ensure that your pipe doesn’t unlit while you’re smoking, which can be very annoying. To achieve this, fill your tobacco looser in the bottom and harder towards the top. For more moistened tobacco, you should go looser, but not to lose, or the light will indeed go out. As you’re smoking, you should stuff the tobacco with a pipe pick every so often to keep the flame strong. Movement helps.
For lighting, you may use either a gas lighter or a match. For newcomers, it’s best to go with the latter, as the circular motion needed for burning the tobacco evenly can cause accidental burns due to the flame.
Some people prefer to let the light die out before re-lighting; others light continually. It’s up to you.
Unlike cigarettes, pipes should be smoked calmly and slowly, never in a rushed manner. Pipes are designed to deliver cool, tasty smoke. If you try to smoke it like you’re on a five minute break, you’ll wind up with smoke too hot for comfort as well as some wear and tear on the actual product.
A good way to avoid acidification in your pipe is by smoking the tobacco all the way down, each time. Most smoke channels can be opened with pipetools and then dried off with paper. To polish off the inside, run a pipe cleaner through the inside, all the way to the mouthpiece.
Every now and again,the carbon layer in the pipe needs to be trimmed. You can do this with a special knife or profiler available at any tobacco shop. The tool should be about 1 mm in thickness. The layer at the end should be uniform.
The coolest-and-drying process is actually beneficial to a pipe’s quality, so it’s good to have several pipes. That way, you can allow one to sit for a good amount of time, days even, while you use another.
Some people prefer certain blends to others, and for different reasons and desires. There are lots of blends, aromas, and varieties of each out there, but generally, it’s a good idea to start with pure tobaccos, as they serve as a good introduction to all the basics.
Design is perhaps the most important factor when choosing a pipe, at least for most people. Obviously, if you don’t like how your pipe looks, no amount of quality will make you enjoy it. However, keep in mind that appearance can be shallow, and that a cheap, beautiful pipe isn’t necessarily all that functional. Be sure to ask—or look for—information on the mechanical pros and cons.