Distinguished gentlemen of old smoked pipes as they pondered life, relaxed in the evening, or studied in their libraries. While smoking pipes have long since fallen out of favor for more convenient forms of smoking, it is a luxury that many men still enjoy today. Today, I am going to show you the basics of smoking a pipe as well as some tips I learned through trial and error.
Why Smoke a Pipe?
If you’ve never smoked a pipe before, you’re in for a treat. Not much beats relaxing on the front porch in the evening, smoking a pipe, and listening to the sounds of nature as the scents of the pipe tobacco waft through the air.
Smoking a pipe stands out more than cigarettes. Smoke a cigarette on a bar patio and nobody blinks an eye. Start puffing on a pipe and people take notice. Talk about a great conversation starter. You really sell the look if you’re dressed to the nines and are rocking a full beard.
Where to Start
You will need three basic items to embark upon your journey of smoking pipes. Luckily, not a whole lot of money needs to be dropped when you’re first testing the waters. Let’s go over the basics:
- A Pipe – Most tobacco stores will sell a very basic pipe for beginners that won’t cost you an arm and a leg. My first pipe was a corn-cob pipe that only cost me $5. The pipe I use now cost me $30.
- Tobacco – Tobacco also runs pretty cheap, even the flavored tobaccos. My last bag of tobacco cost me around $2-3 for an ounce. An ounce of tobacco might not sound like much, but it goes a long way. An couple of ounces will last you for quite a few smoking sessions.
- A Lighter – I prefer wooden matches but any style of lighter will suffice. I would suggest not using the butane lighters where the flame is like a little blowtorch. More on that later.
Packing the Tobacco
Packing the tobacco into the pipe is a relatively simple matter, but requires a little trial and error to determine how tight you like your tobacco leaves in the pipe. The difference this will make is how long your pipe session lasts and how often you need to pull (inhale) on the pipe.
A loosely packed pipe won’t last very long, but it doesn’t require you to puff on it as often while a tightly packed pipe will last you much longer but will go out rather quickly if you aren’t puffing on it every minute or so.
To pack the pipe, simply take a pinch of tobacco, put it into the pipe, and lightly press it down with your thumb or finger. Repeat the process until the tobacco is nearly level with the pipe rim. You want the tobacco pressed down enough to where it won’t fall out if you hold the pipe upside down, but not so packed that you can’t pull air through the pipe.
Before lighting your pipe, take a few test pulls to make sure you can still pull in air. I usually tip the pipe to the side to assist with the lighting process. I don’t have much luck lighting the pipe upright like they do in the movies. Whatever works best for you is perfectly dandy.
Smoking Your Pipe
I prefer to smoke the pipe “cold” as it allows you to more fully enjoy the flavors of the tobacco. Smoking the pipe “cold” is a term I came up with through personal trial and error. It basically means not puffing the pipe too often or hard so the heat inside the pipe stays at a lower temperature. If you smoke the pipe too fast, the tobacco gets too hot and it ruins the flavor. You’ll wind up with a burnt tobacco taste in your mouth. Remember, this isn’t a race. Pipes are meant to be savored and enjoyed. If you’re finishing a pipe off in 10-15 minutes, you’re probably going too fast. This is also why I avoid the blowtorch style lighters for lighting pipes; it’s too easy to burn the tobacco.
I have a few random thoughts that didn’t quite fit in any other section, but are still relevant to this post.
- It’s hard to go wrong with a cherry-flavored tobacco. My personal favorite is Maraschino Cherry. It is sweet with a tart aftertaste and a wonderful aroma that nearby people will enjoy (unless they’re stuck-up prudes that scoff anytime someone lights up a cigarette).
- Be sure to clean your pipe regularly. Most modern pipes have a plastic piece that pulls off the actual pipe. After I smoke, I rinse it thoroughly under hot water and allow it to dry out before putting it back on the pipe. For the main bowl, I scrape it out with a used match. You can be more thorough and use an old toothbrush or something similar, but I haven’t noticed any decrease in quality with my method. Be sure to have some pipe cleaners to get the inside of the pipe.
- Don’t wash anything with soap! Just use hot water for the plastic and no water for the pipe itself.
- Do not inhale the pipe tobacco into your lungs. You will get sick and your friends will laugh at you. You’re only supposed to enjoy the flavor of the tobacco.
- It’s ok if you have to relight the pipe throughout your smoking session. The pipe going out doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing anything wrong.
Well gentlemen, I hope you enjoyed this little how-to on smoking pipes for beginners. If you give it a shot, leave a comment below telling us how your first time smoking a pipe was. If you’ve smoked before and have any tips for others, please add them below.