I'm here at Gray Manor, back in the West Parlor (my garage), smoking some Dunhill Dark Flake in one of my treasured Neerup pipes. I just can't say enough good things about Neerup--they check all the boxes for me: looks, engineering, and that magical characteristic that I like to call "smokability." For it's part, the Dark Flake is similar to Dunhill's Flake, but is like an old friend you haven't seen in a while. He's changed a bit, has some new experiences to share, and it's a lot of fun catching up. Or to put it another way, if Dunhill Flake is your serene uncle who has a calming effect on conversation, Dark Flake is your sea dog uncle who spent some time in the merchant marines, and has a few more off-color stories to tell. But you love 'em both, and you're glad to spend some time with each of them.
Today, I want to talk about a common complaint from newer pipe smokers. "No matter what I do, my pipe just won't stay lit!" When I got started in pipe smoking some 20 years ago, I had the same lament. I came from cigar smoking, and cigars just aren't as "hands-on" as pipes tend to be. Cigars are designed to continue smoking right to the end, and as long as you take a puff every minute or so, you're good. The occasional cigar may burn unevenly, but it will burn, and keeping one lit is not usually a problem. When I switched to pipes, I had the same mindset, and got frustrated to no end that my pipe kept going out. I attributed it to some sort of failure on my part, and would increase my smoking cadence to "Ludicrous Speed." What I received for my troubles was a mouth full of lava, and a pipe that still would not stay lit!
Through the years, I've learned a few tips and tricks about the art of pipe smoking. Learning to pack your bowl in the "sweet spot" (neither too loose nor too tight), when and how to tamp, and how to navigate several other variables such as wind and humidity have all added to my success at smoking a pipe. But that doesn't mean my pipe stays lit from the charring light to the bottom of the bowl. In fact, that almost never happens without a little boost from a flame every now and then. In fact, I've had to re-light my pipe while typing this several times. And that's okay!
The bottom line is that pipe smoking is not cigar smoking. They are very different things, just as cigars and cigarettes are very different (thank God). I would think the most difficult adjustment would be had by cigarette smokers trying to switch to pipes, since cigarettes will practically burn their way to ash all by themselves, but never really get the chance to burn out because the smoker is constantly and manically pulling that ember towards its final curl of smoke.
So let's take a look at why you've come to the pipe in the first place. Is it because of the enjoyment of smoking? Or is it because you like to come to the end of things? In other words, are you enjoying the journey, or just looking for the destination? Pipe smoking has no destination aside from the relaxation it can provide, and I get there with the first puff! You have to come to pipe smoking with that mindset that the journey is the most important thing. Because the final destination is simply an empty pipe that you have to clean. Let's think about it in terms of eating. If you race through your meal, all you have to look forward to is doing the dishes, and possibly indigestion. But if you take time to chew your food, enjoy the flavors, and sometimes even set your fork down while enjoying some good conversation or a drink, the meal is much more pleasant and enjoyable. But if you're eating in a hurry, it's not nearly as nice an experience. The same with pipes: if you're constantly watching the clock and racing to the end, perhaps that's not the best time for you to have picked up your pipe in the first place.
I can't begin to explain the many ways that pipe smoking has enriched my enjoyment of life. It has been a catalyst for me to calm down, take time out daily for myself, and just enjoy the little things in life. And a pipe that goes out is also one of those little things. These days, I've come to enjoy relighting as just another part of the journey.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to re-light my pipe...
I never thought I'd make a video series like this until very recently. I simply didn't think I'd have enough to share. But when I finally decided to attempt to script out a video that covered the basics of pipe smoking, I found that one video would be too long. So the idea grew to 2 videos, then 3, then 10. Hmmm....I guess I did have a few things to share!
After careful consideration of what pieces of the pipe smoking puzzle to include without overwhelming the viewer, I'm proud to present The Pipe Nook's "How to Smoke a Pipe" video series on YouTube! I'll be releasing a video each day until the end, and I'm already a couple of days into it. If you click the image above, it will take you to the Playlist for the series, which is scheduled to wrap up on Feb 18th. But not to worry--we're getting into the meat of the pipe smoking process within a few days. There are, of course, some preliminary subjects to cover first.
So, what topics will be covered? Here's the syllabus:
Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: Choosing Your First Pipe
Part 3: Choosing Your First Tobacco
Part 4: Pipe Smoking Tools
Part 5: Preparing Your Tobacco
Part 6: How to Pack Your Pipe
Part 7: The Charring Light
Part 8: Tamping
Part 9: The True Light
Part 10: Cadence and Temperature Control
Part 11: Relights
Part 12: Fixing a Tight Draw
Part 13: Fixing Pipe Gurgle
Part 14: In the Chuff
Part 15: When Do I Stop?
Part 16: Emptying and Cleaning Your Pipe
Part 17: Breaking in Your Pipes
Part 18: Types of Tobacco Blends
Part 19: Flake Preparation
Part 20: Types of Tobacco Cuts
Part 21: Resting Your Pipes
Part 22: Deep Cleaning Your Pipes
Part 23: Anatomy of a Pipe
Part 24: Tobacco Storage
Part 25: Conclusion
I've planned this series to give you just what you need to get started smoking, then return to some less essential, but certainly important concepts and aspects of pipe smoking. I'm of course no expert at all of these subjects, but I have at least cursory knowledge enough to speak to all of them, and I do feel they are all important. There is of course more to learn that what is covered here, should you decide pipe smoking is something you wish to pursue, but I wanted to keep this series down to a manageable size.
There is a companion piece to this series: A 1-page handout that I wrote in blog form some time back. You can find the link to that in the description box of any of the videos, as well as by searching through the "Pipe Smoking Tips" section of my Blog page. I sincerely hope this "How To" video series helps many to be less frustrated as they learn the pipe smoking process, and to find as much enjoyment in pipe smoking as I do!
Keep 'em lit,
I recently posted a video on my YouTube channel in regards to this subject, so I figured I'd make an accompanying blog. The concept of a 7-Day Pipe Rotation is one held by more than a few pipe smokers. However, some would say it's an excuse by collectors to buy more pipes! Others may even say it was fabricated by pipe manufacturer's to sell more pipes. Is it optimal to rest a pipe for seven days to allow it to completely dry out after each smoke? Well, sure. Do I put it into practice? Well...sometimes.
My weekly pipe rotation consists of the pipes I keep on the table in front of me where I smoke the most often, here in what I lovingly refer to as the West Parlor at Gray Manor (which is really my garage & Man Cave). There are usually about a dozen pipes out here, and when I finish smoking a pipe, I run a couple of pipe cleaners through the stem, shank, and bowl to get out the "leftovers" and any excess moisture. Then I'll let it sit for at least a day. That's bare minimum in my book. Since I usually smoke 2 to 3 bowls in any given day, or about 21 smokes each week, I'm able to let each pipe rest for at least that minimum threshold fairly easily.
Do I think you need a pipe for each bowl you plan to smoke in a week? Well, perhaps I'm not the right person to ask that question. The seller part of me says, "Sure! Better safe than sorry!" And the collector in me says, "why so few??" However, my pragmatic side says it's not strictly necessary. But the 7-Day Pipe Rotation concept is a good guideline, and quite the enabler for new pipe smokers who appreciate the pipe as both an instrument of enjoyment and an interesting collectible. So with that in mind, here are a few tips to get you started with a 7-Day Pipe Rotation on a budget!
First, let's just assume that you already have at least one pipe...most likely two or three. If that's the case, feel free to adjust the following recommendations by reducing the number of pipes you need to reach seven, and possibly to include a moderately priced pipe or two from Big Ben, Savinelli, or Stanwell. Because of the constraints of this project, you'll just have to hold off on a Neerup! But for the purposes of this exercise, here are two lists for a beginning 7-Day Pipe rotation in the $100 and $200 ranges, respectively. Keep in mind that these are all personal recommendations that I carry here at The Pipe Nook, and that I personally smoke!
$100 Pipe Rotation
-A Chris Morgan Bones Pipe or Rossi Vittoria (Both Briars at the $40 mark)
-A Mr. Brog Pear Wood Pipe ($25 to $30)
-Three Missouri Meershaum Corn Cob Pipes in the $4 to $7 Range ($21 at most)
-Two Missouri Meerschaum Pipes in the $8 to $10 Range ($20 at most)
$200 Pipe Rotation
-A Chris Morgan Bones Briar Pipe ($40)
-A Rossi Briar Pipe ($39 to $60)
-A Savinelli Series III Unfinished Briar Pipe ($55)
-A Mr. Brog Pear Wood Pipe ($25 to $30)
-Any 3 Missouri Meerschaum Corn Cob Pipes amounting to $25 to $40
As you can see, there are choices to be made to custom fit these lists to your particular tastes. They both include at least one of the three pipe bowl materials that I would recommend for a newer pipe smoker (Briar, Pear, and Cob). Keep in mind that these prices reflect the time of this writing, and may change over time. Also, note that starting with a variety of 7 Briar Pipes would be significantly more expensive, effectively doubling the cost. But cobs and pear wood pipes are wonderful smokers, so don't be afraid to give 'em a go--you may be pleasantly surprised!
Of course if you have never smoked a pipe before and are just looking to kick the tires a bit, I wouldn't recommend investing in a 7-Day Rotation just yet. I would suggest you start with any one of the pipes listed here, and that you not spend more than $60 on your first pipe. This allows for two things. First, if you decide it's not for you, then you're not out a bunch of money. And second, you won't feel the need to sell the pipe to get back your money, which would allow you to come back and give pipe smoking another go in the months or years to come. It took me quite some time before I "got it," but I'm so glad I stuck with it! Patience has never been one of my strongsuits, but pipe smoking has helped me greatly with that particular viture these past few years.
Well, this was a fun little exercise, and one that helped me recall the excitement and joys of working towards the very beginnings of my own pipe collection! I hope you've picked up an idea or two, and that pipe smoking can be as much a source of enjoyment for you as it is for me!
Keep 'em lit,
I've been a member of the YTPC, or YouTube Pipe Community, longer than the Pipe Nook has been around. I discovered the YTPC while I was looking for tips on various pipe-related topics, and it can't be understated how important the YTPC has been in my pipe-smoking journey. But for whatever reason, I haven't shared my channel here on The Pipe Nook yet. Well, today seems like a good time to fix that!
As I mentioned in my long-winded introduction Blog several months ago, about 3 years ago, I was ready to "put up or shut up" when it came to pipe smoking. I had tried off again, on again to smoke a pipe for nearly 20 years, but just never got the hang of it. I can't tell you how frustrating it was for me to burn my tongue, fight keeping my pipe lit, etc. So in desperation, I did a YouTube search, and found Jayson Dagner's video on how to smoke a pipe. I was amazed at how easy it could really be if you took your time and learned how to do it! Then I noticed on the "related videos" sidebar that others were also making Pipe related videos, and many of them were commenting on each other's videos. I soon discovered this "YouTube Pipe Community," and jumped in! Since there wasn't a pipe club anywhere near me, the YTPC became my "Virtual Pipe Club."
I've made many videos, gained a good bit of subscribers, and met many friends through the YTPC. If you haven't discovered this group of pipe smoking enthusiasts, click the image above to check out my channel, and look for those who comment on my videos...many of them have pipe smoking channels of their own!
One special mention: When I launched The Pipe Nook, I was given a lot of early support from members of the YTPC. The Pipe Nook would not be what it is today if not for the encouragement and support of those people. So I want to take the time here to thank each and every one of you in the YTPC who have helped me along the way. It means so much to me!
So, if you found The Pipe Nook elsewhere and would like to put a face and an actual person with this humble web store, check out my channel, and don't forget to comment. I love the interaction as much as I love the pipe smoking and pipe collecting hobby itself.
Keep 'em lit,
It truly is a great time to be a pipe smoker! There has been a resurgence in recent years of the tobacco blending art, and many new blends have hit the scene. Not only that, but many blends that haven't been produced in years, sometimes decades, are making a return to the scene! Gone are the days of choosing one blend and smoking it for 80 years; as with pipes, there are literally HUNDREDS of choices.
I always recommend trying at least one of the following 5 blend types to help you figure out what types of tobaccos you like. Some of my recommendations are a bit muddled because of the inclusion of other tobacco types, but I feel these blends are good starting points.
1. Aromatics - This is the blend type that I think is most associated with pipe smoking, and thoughts of grandpa. I would recommend starting with a simple flavoring, like Vanilla. You can branch out into Chocolates, Rums, Whiskeys, Cherries, and other Fruit Essences from there.
2. Natural Virginias - From the lighter grassy/hay-like Virginias, to the medium-bodied bread notes, to the heavily aged plum-like or vinegary Dark Virginias, there's a wide spectrum of flavors here, but all share the most notable sweetness of the Virginia leaf, which has the most natural sugar content of any type of tobacco. Virginia based blends also seem to age the best in general, and are often found in flake form.
5. Perique Blends - Ah, Perique...my favorite. It can add that little something extra to so many different kinds of blends. Depending upon the types and proportions of the other tobaccos with which it is blended, it can be soothing or spicy. Many consider that it provides a dark fruit or aged flavor, which makes sense considering it undergoes a long anaerobic aging process. True Perique is only available from the St. James Parish of Louisiana.
Other “condimental” tobaccos (of which I also consider Latakia and Perique) to consider as you learn what you like are the deep flavors of Dark-Fired Kentucky (Mac Baren HH Old Dark Fired, Peterson Irish Flake), the robust taste of Cigar Leaf (Cornell & Diehl Gray Ghost, GL Pease Key Largo), and the crisp and somewhat exotic tang of Orientals (Dunhill Standard Mixture, Savinelli Brunello Flake). As I've found my own personal tastes, I've gravitated more towards blends that include some sort of mixture of Burleys, Virginias, Perique and Dark-Fired...but that's just me. You may find that your taste in pipe tobacco is completely different from mine! If you enjoy smoking, I thoroughly believe there's something for everyone in the realm of pipe tobacco.
I could include many more, but that's plenty enough to get you started down the yellow brick road that eventually branches in so many directions, you may never reach the Wizard of Oz! But that's kind of the point with Pipe Smoking...the journey is much more important than the destination.
Since I opened The Pipe Nook, I've had inquiries from many who don't yet smoke pipes, in regards to how to get into the hobby. While pipe smoking for me is the most enjoyable form of smoking, I have to admit that there is certainly a learning curve! I made many attempts along the way before I finally discovered the secrets to pipe smoking success. Below, you will find some basic tips to get you started on your pipe smoking journey. If you're already a pipe smoker, this information is fantastic for sharing with friends. Look for the link below to save the contents of this blog as a handy one-page reference!
Things you'll need
1. Pack your pipe to about 75% full, to allow space at the top for the lit tobacco to "bloom." Most people recommend a 3-Step packing method, but sometimes I only need to do this twice. Here are some guidelines:
2. Don't pack so tightly that a test puff feels like a milkshake, or so loosely that it feels like no resistance at all. You want it to feel like sipping water or soda through a straw.
3. For the First light, take sips (not gulps) and move the flame around until the top of the tobacco is evenly lit. It will most likely bloom up and go out quickly. This is known as the "false light."
4. Once out, tamp the tobacco gently and uniformly. This is the “cake” or burning surface that you'll use to get your true light.
5. Light a second time the same way as the first. You should be on your way, but it sometimes takes a third light to really get going.
6. Tamp gently along the way whenever the top gets looser. Once you've smoked for a while, the top will get moderately "fluffy" with ash; gently upturn your bowl and tap the loose ash in an ashtray. A coffee tin or any similar metal or wooden container will work.
7. Take gentle sips and enjoy the taste of the tobacco. Congratulations, you're smoking a pipe!
If your tobacco is moist, leave it out to let it dry a bit. Moist tobacco causes too much hot vapor in the smoke, a large contributor to what is known as "tongue bite."
Don't fight to keep it lit! You'll only frustrate yourself and burn your tongue. If the smoke tastes too hot, let the pipe cool down for a bit. If it goes out, just tamp and relight. Take your time, be patient. Pipe smoking is about relieving stress and enjoying the moment.
Don't inhale! It's not a cigarette, and shouldn't be treated as though the point were to get a fix.
Learning a cadence that keeps the pipe lit better for you, yet doesn't make the smoke too hot to enjoy, is a knack only learned with time and experience. Your cadence won't be what another pipe smoker's cadence is, so don't compare. Just learn what works best for you!
If you don't like the first tobacco you've tried, don't give up: There are literally HUNDREDS of blends to choose from. I always recommend trying at least one of the following 5 blends before throwing in the towel: An Aromatic, a natural Virginia, a natural Burley, a Latakia Blend, and a Perique Blend.
That's it! Of course, pipe smoking is a nuanced and highly personal activity that you will get better at over time. But these general tips are all you need to get you on your way!
Click Below to Download these tips as a quick one-page reference!
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