a new pipe
A new pipe requires proper breaking in to
avoid damage. With normal smoking, a layer of carbon gradually builds
up in the tobacco chamber. This layer protects the briar against
the heat of the burning tobacco like firebrick in a wood stove.
This is the method you will read on most
sites. Before first filling your new pipe, apply a thin layer of
honey (some use water) to the entire tobacco chamber with your finger.
Its high sugar content will hasten the desired build-up of carbon.
I have read on the forum that using water
mixed with tobacco ash to make a paste works well this seems sensible
and this is the method I am using.
Some recommend filling your pipe half for
the first few smokes to start building the cake forming to the bottom
of the bowl. Filling the pipe to the top will work just the same
as long as it is smoked as gently as possible. Pay close attention
to avoid overheating your pipe.
Filling your pipe
A bowl of tobacco that burns evenly without going out
can only be obtained by careful packing.
Pack the tobacco into the bowl in thirds. First fill
the bowl to the top loosely, then gently press it down to about
half full leaving plenty of spring in the tobacco. Repeat this
procedure, pressing more firmly in the upper two thirds of the
bowl. There should be some spring left when the bowl is full.
The draw should be consistent and steady. If the tobacco is not
packed tightly enough, it will burn too quickly, overheating the
pipe and likely burning your tongue (tongue bite) . Empty the
bowl and repack it using a more firm pack and vise versa for a
bowl to tightly packed.
I do not fill my pipe completely so when lighting I will
not chance burn the top of the bowl.
Lighting your pipe
Carefully apply the flame in a circular motion over the
whole surface of the tobacco while taking long slow puffs. Completely
light the top portion of the tobacco, being sure to keep the pipe
bowl upright. Tamp down the burning embers gently into the unburned
portion of the tobacco. At this point re-lighting is necessary
to get a thorough and even burn of your tobacco. If
your pipe happens to extinguish, we suggest gently tamping down
any ash before relighting.
Smoking your pipe
Smoke your pipe gently and evenly. Puffing too vigorously
will burn your tongue and may cause damage to the bowl from overheating.
If the bowl becomes too hot, let your pipe go out and cool off
before re-lighting. If your pipe appears to be
going out, place two fingers over the top of the bowl while you
draw. This will help localize the draft, reviving the smoke.
Avoiding Pipe Burnout
One of the least common, but often irreparable problems
of the pipe is the dreaded Burnout. Nothing is more disheartening
to a smoker than to finally find the shape and finish that caught
your eye, spend the time to properly break the pipe in only to
have a hole burn through on the bowl. What causes the demise of
a carefully crafted smoking instrument and what can be done to
As you may already be aware, briar pipes are made from
a root burl of the White Heath Tree (erica arborea) of which the
best is found in the rough terrain surrounding the Mediterranean
Sea. This burl is one of the hardest woods known because it is
subjected to one of the harshest terrains and must be very hardy
to survive. Like any natural product, however, the briar can develop
imperfections during its growth. Premiere pipe wood is over 75
years old and that is an awful long period of time to remain absolutely
perfect. Most flaws such as sand pits (where sand becomes imbedded
in the wood) or cracks that develop during curing are discovered
during the manufacturing and finishing stages and those bowls
are sold as seconds or discarded. Sometimes, a flaw is hidden
so deep in the wood that it is not detected when the pipe is being
made. This leaves a soft spot that may burn through rather than
develop a cake. those bowls are sold as seconds or discarded.
Sometimes, a flaw is hidden so deep in the wood that it is not
detected when the pipe is being made. This leaves a soft spot
that may burn through rather than develop a cake. Burnouts
can be spotted early in a smoking pipe’s life by the development
of an area darkening more quickly than the rest of the bowl. This
dark patch indicates that the heat from the burning tobacco is
coming through more intensely in that one spot. If this happens
early enough, the pipe can be replaced. If it is not caught in
time, the result will be a black hole that cannot be remedied
by warranty or repair. All that is left is a somber burial in
the backyard beside the leg lamp and the mighty oak.
Some precautions against these horrid
Break in your pipe gently. Many people smoke their pipe
from the get go like it is a furnace designed to heat a 4 cubic
meter area. Smoke the first dozen or so bowls slowly, not letting
the bowl heat up too much. If you cannot hold it against your
cheek (your choice of cheek), than you are risking burnout. Stop
smoking the pipe and let it cool.
Pack your bowl properly and light it evenly. The tobacco
should be firm, and yet retain some spring when pressed. Lighting
should be done in a two-stage process. A charring light is completed
by moving, in a circular motion, a wooden match or butane (NEVER
A TORCH) flame over the tobacco. You should be drawing the flame
into the tobacco by a gently puffing five to six times. Tamp down
the ash and repeat the lighting a second time. With an even light,
the tobacco will not over heat one side of the bowl reducing the
risk of the black hole.
Avoid smoking where there is going to be a breeze. Unknown
to many pipe smokers is the fact that when there is a breeze over
top of the bowl, it actually increases the combustion of the tobacco
much the same as a bellows would in a blacksmith’s fire.
This causes a corresponding rise in temperature that contributes
to burnout. This can be avoided by using a pipe cover that covers
the tobacco chamber and reduces the breeze. Simply, it is not
a good idea not to smoke outside when it is windy.
Be careful when you ream out the cake in your pipe. The
cake acts like a firewall between the heat of the burning tobacco
and the wood surface of briar. The cake should be at least the
thickness of a dime or 1 – 2mm. If the cake gets uneven,
then the heat comes through unevenly. Conversely, when the cake
gets too thick, then the bowl could crack allowing the heat to
have direct contact with the inside of the briar. The reaming
tool itself could also dig into the wood causing a spot where
the combustion would cause further damage. The catchword here
is ‘Caution’. Watch your cake and do not ream zealously.
Keep in mind that most pipe manufacturers will no longer
guarantee their pipes past three months. Burnout threats may happen
so watch out for the signs. Above all, smoke gently and respect
your pipe. Treat it well, and you will be able to leave it to
your Grandchildren (freshened it first).
Pipe makers’ various
This was a very interesting post on the
forum that I though would get lost there so I added it here. It
is a great read for pipe making enthusiasts!
Posted by Mike Leverette
at the smokers forums
On several of the forum’s post, pipes
of different woods have been mentioned, applewood, rosewood, ebony,
etc. Among the many woods I have used for making pipes, besides
the ever popular Briar wood (Erica arborea), are various tree woods,
1. Maple (Acer) – Maple has been used
for many years here in the States and I have used both Sugar and
Red Maples. Some of these get pretty hard for my hand tools but
still makes a nice pipe.
2. Cherry (Prunus) – Well everyone
is familiar with Cherrywood pipes, so I will just say that Cherry
allows one to carve some great figurals.
3. Black Walnut (Juglans nigra) – Other
than briar, this is the wood I like to work with for its workability
and excellent finishes one can achieve. Black Walnut does have rather
large pores that allows tobacco juices to reach the exterior fairly
4. Oak (Quercus) – Most American oaks
are what I call brittle, they split to easily when making a cut
and like Black Walnut, but only more so, it has large pores. Thus
I am not to crazy about it for pipes.
5. Olive (Olea) – Great wood for pipes.
Back in the early seventies, I decided to go into the pipe making
business and looked around for an unusual wood to catch peoples
interest until I could build up a stock of my briars. I thought
of Olive wood and checked many tobacconists but none who I was familiar
with had never heard of Olive wood pipes. Yes this could be it so
I wrote several countries for suppliers of Olive wood, Greece, Israel,
etc and never received an answer. Two years later all of the tobacconists,
whom I had check with before, were carrying Olive wood pipes from
both Greece and Israel. Oh well, At least I gave them some ideas.
6. Rosewood (Dalbergia) – I think this
is a good wood for pipes.
7. Manzanita (Arctostaphylia manzanita) –
Here in the States this wood was used during the Second World War.
I have ordered this wood from two different suppliers and as of
yet I have not received one that did not have many drying cracks,
certainly not a piece large enough for a pipe.
8. Hickory (Carya) – It is okay but
I do not like to use it.
9. Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia) – Since their leaves
are poisonous, I am leery of making pipes from this one though it
like Manzanita was used quite a bit for pipes during the war years.
10. Mahogany (Swietenia mahogani) –
Mahogany is a rapid growing tree and as such sucks up many gallons
of water a day along with a quantity of silica particles, so though
I have made pipes from Mahogany I am leery of it as well, you know
silicosis. Of course if you do not inhale ---!
I have never used bog oak simply because I have never tried obtaining
any. I do like Trevors Morta (bog oak) pipes.
Well how about it pipe makers, what are some of the woods you use?
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