Pipe Smoker Advice

Buying a gift

If you are buying the pipe as a gift for a pipe smoker take a look at or photograph their existing pipes this will tell you all you need to know about what type of pipe you should be buying for them as you will often find the individual will look to replace like with like. If you need help send us a photo and we can recommend options.

There are those whose pipe collection is made up of several different shapes, sizes and finishes and in this scenario, they will probably be looking for something different and usually very specific for example a large brandy bowl, smooth finish, filtered with Plip. These details are all crucial take a note and again if you need help send us an email or gives us a ring and we will help you find what you are looking for.

The key thing for you is to set a budget and buy the best quality pipe you can for the budget. Buyers quite often fall into the trap, particularly when buying for special occasions, to focus on the cost of the pipe rather than the type of pipe the individual will enjoy. If the individual enjoys a Falcon pipe at around £30.00 there is little or no point in buying them a Dunhill at £3000.00 – they will simply never relax or enjoy the pipe.  

Choosing a first pipe.

The single most important thing in choosing a pipe is that you feel comfortable and yet excited by the shape, style, weight, size, mouthpiece and finish. Often the pipe will choose you rather than you choosing the pipe.

A word of caution here in that you will need to learn how to smoke a pipe  – there is a minimum two year apprenticeship and many will argue is more like a life learning experience –  it is not like smoking a cigarette or cigar and not everyone has the time or the inclination to learn the art of pipe smoking. You can and will make mistakes some of which could destroy the pipe so before you start looking set a budget which you are comfortable with in the knowledge of the potential risks.

I would always recommend that you start off with a budget pipe and when you find yourself enjoying the experience then purchase a better-quality pipe and continue the journey.

Regardless of whether it is a first pipe or a new style of pipe you will be faced with tens of thousands of pipes which are as unique and individual as you are. Some basic planning will save a lot of time in terms of selecting the pipe for you. I have listed some of the points which may help you below

  • What shape of pipe are you looking for is it say a churchwarden a poker pipe, a bent or straight apple bowl?
  • What finish are you looking for – smooth, rustic, stained, painted, sandblasted or?
  • What style are you looking for – silver or nickel mount, no mount, a Cumberland or amber stem or?
  • What size, weight and shape of bowl are you looking for – small, medium, XL, tall, squat, apple, billiard or?
  • What type of mouthpiece – Plip, fishtail, acrylic, vulcanite, bamboo or?
  • What type of system – Filtered or unfiltered, 9mm,6mm?
  • What brand – Peterson, Falcon Dr Plum or? 

Choosing a pipe, is despite all this not a complicated process – you will know it when you see it.

Breaking in a new pipe

Always break in a new pipe regardless of the bowl has been pre carbonised or not. For the first few smokes only fill the bowl to half full and gradually build up to a full bowl over the next few smokes. This will allow for a gradual build up of carbon without stressing the briar. There are a few old wife’s tales about adding whisky or honey to the bowl to help the build up of carbon on a new pipe, but this is not necessary. If you use a cherry tobacco for the first few smokes this will invariably lead to some ghosting with the cherry flavour tainting other blends for quite a while.

Ideally let the carbon layer build up to approximately 1mm before putting anything sharper than a spoon into the bowl.

Maintaining your pipe

Regularly use a tapered pipe cleaner using the narrow end first to clean away any moisture from the pipe stem and shank of the pipe this will prevent any significant build up of tar in the stem and shank. If there is a build-up of tar use a bristle pipe cleaner to remove the build-up.

The bowl and stem should be regularly wiped down with a wet tissue to prevent staining and any build-up of dirt.

If it is a filter pipe, then change the filter regularly particularly when the filter appears wet when removed. The stem and shank should be regularly cleaned with a tapered pipe cleaner regardless of whether the filter needs change or not.

Some tobaccos will leave a tarry glop in the bottom of the bowl and this should be removed using the spoon on a three in one tool and never use anything sharper than a spoon to remove the gunk.

The carbon layer on the inside of the bowl should be monitored and regularly reamed out to 1mm thickness to prevent the bowl from cracking.

The key to maintaining you pipe is to regular rest your pipe at least every seven days, by smoking another pipe for a few days to let the original pipe rest and recover this will significantly extend the working life of the pipe.

Things not to do.

Never take a filter out of a pipe and continue to smoke it – the tobacco will burn hot and the pipe will eventually burn out. If you don’t want to use a filter buy a reducer which will control the airflow and prevent any damage.

Never use a pen knife or any sharp object including paperclips on the inside of the bowl for any reason because if the carbon layer is pierced the pipe will burn out. If a pipe has a fault it will generally burn out within one or two full smokes. If it burns out after a year or at any other time, then it is generally because the carbon layer has been pierced and is not an issue with the quality of the briar.

Never tap a pipe out on a hard surface sooner or later it will snap.

Never try and force a pipe cleaner through a stem – if it breaks then your only option is to have a new stem made.

Never smoke a pipe whilst driving a car with the windows down as this will cause the pipe to overheat and you run a high risk of burning the pipe out.

Never let the carbon layer build up beyond 2mm as you run the risk of cracking the pipe

Never use a multiflame turbo lighter with a pipe – yes, they are good in the wind, but they will burn the pipe from the top down.

Finally, please, please, please never use the excuse that you have been smoking a pipe for the last fifty years and this has never happened before, so it is therefore a fault with the pipe.

Selecting a tobacco blend to enjoy

Pipe tobaccos come in a range of different cuts, blends and flavours and like wine it is very much a question of personal choice. Some pipe smokers will only smoke one blend of tobacco ever, some will smoke different tobaccos at different times of the year and others will smoke a different bend in the morning, a different blend in the afternoon and a different blend in the evening. The secret is again to find a blend that you can relax with and enjoy. 

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