If you want to learn how to pack and light a tobacco pipe, you’re probably either overly or under-intimidated. If you belong to the former category, don’t fret, because it’s not as complicated the enthusiasts with whom you’ve spoken make it seem. If you belong to the latter category, with little exposure to the tobacco scene, take note: learning to pack your tobacco properly is a skill in itself, not just a simple action. If you don’t pack your pipe correctly, you’ll be left with dottle at the end of the smoke, or a pipe that’s too difficult to pull, to re-light, or to clean.
For your own enjoyment, you should learn to do it the correct way. Now that you’ve taken to researching the proper methods, you’re well on your way to pipe-smoking bliss. Here’s what you’ll need to start learning:
- A pipe
- Some tobacco
- A tamper of some sort
- A flame
- Pipe cleaners
Before each smoke, sure your pipe is free from obstructions and leftover residue. Ash builds up remarkably quickly. Run a pipe cleaner through the stem gently to force out any remaining gunk on the inside. A clean chamber is important, because it doesn’t take much to clog to the point of obstruction.
Prepare the Tobacco for Smoking
Remove a small pinch from your tin or pouch, lay it out on a flat surface, and pick apart any clumps. Get a feel for its moisture content: It should feel only the slightest bit damp. If it feels too moist, let the pipe sit out for at least a few minutes. After drying, the tobacco will be much easier to handle.
Fill the Pipe
Trickle strands of tobacco into the bowl until it’s filled the brim almost to the top, with just a little room for the tobacco fo fluff upward when you begin smoking it. You will likely feel an the urge to push the tobacco down with your thumb half-way through this action; avoid doing this, as it will only cause more clumps to form, which will only undo much of your prep-work.
Compress the Tobacco
As well as your fingers, you can use a tamper, a pipe-nail, or something similar to do this. Bowls with straight sides should only be filled about halfway, and two-thirds for tapered bowls. Do a test run, too, by taking take the pipe to your lips and take a few draws. If you’re feeling too much resistance, dump and start over.
Tobacco Pipe Lighting Procedures
Lighting the pipe is a much more straightforward operation, because you simply need an open flame. Applying a flame to the tobacco and move it in circular motions around the whole surface of the tobacco will ensure that it burns evenly as well as expel any extra moisture before you go in for the real smoke.
While tamp the tobacco back down, it might be useful to twist or spin the tamp in a circular motion again, similar to how you used the lighter. Just don’t go overboard; simply return the tobacco to the level it was before, so that you can perform the same lighting motion, again with circles.
While you do this, puff. The tobacco shouldn’t unravel.
The following methods aren’t the only methods, but they can help you find a process that feels right. Your best method for packing a pipe depends on what tobacco you desire, as well as some other personal preferences.