If you’re interested in learning about the fine, gentlemanly art of pipe smoking, then I must say, congratulation. This is a leisure that men and women of stature and elegance have practiced for centuries. You can feel a connectedness to the pipe smokers of the past from the very first bowl. It is a complex, sensory experience that may be enjoyed in quiet seclusion or in the company of good friends. Pipe smoking is an art that yields lasting enjoyment and camaraderie. Let’s look at the supplies you will need to get started.
Pipe Smoking Supplies
Pipe – I would suggest a corn cob pipe, more specifically a Missouri Meerschaum. This company is the first and oldest to offer corn cob pipes, and that speaks volumes to the quality of their products. These pipes are lightweight, and give a cool, clean smoke. They will ensure that you experience all of the different flavors of your tobacco. A good corn cob from Missouri Meerschaum will only cost you $6 to $10.
Pipe tool – This isn’t absolutely necessary, but I find them to be useful when I smoke. I recommend the small multi-tool that comes with a tamper, a pick and a spoon, often called a Czech tool. The most important component for the beginner is the tamper. This comes in handy when you’re packing tobacco into the pipe bowl, and keeping the tobacco lit throughout your smoke.
Pipe cleaners – No these aren’t just for crafting with your kids, they are as the name implies, for cleaning pipes. It’s important to use these little guys to clean your pipe stem and shank in between smokes. They are also helpful in clearing out moisture that can accumulate in the stem during your smoke.
Matches – I prefer matches to a lighter, just because I find something satisfying in striking a wooden match. These can be either paper or wooden, it’s really up to you. If you prefer a lighter, Zippo makes a handy pipe lighter that will keep you from burning your fingers off.
Tobacco – This is where the fun really begins. There are hundreds of unique blends from many different manufacturers and small, artisan blenders. For the beginning pipe smoker, I would recommend a popular blend such as Lane Limited’s 1-Q or MacBaren’s Scottish Blend.
Packing Your Pipe Bowl
Once you have all of your supplies, you are ready to have your first smoke. One of the most important things to remember as a pipe smoker is to go slow. Smoking a pipe is a leisurely activity, not a race to be won or some unpleasant task to be checked off. Your tobacco will go out, probably more than once, but that’s okay and completely normal. Just re-light your pipe and continue your smoke.
The first thing you must do is fill the bowl with tobacco. Take a pinch of tobacco from your tin or pouch and lay it out on a flat surface. Loosen the tobacco up a bit, and gently fill the bowl to the top. Now that you have filled the bowl with tobacco, compress it about half way down with your finger or tamper. Now, you need to fill the bowl back up, and compress it until the bowl is about three quarters full. Finally, fill the bowl up to the top once more with loose tobacco and compress it to just under the rim. Once you are done packing your bowl, check the draw of your pipe by pulling air into your mouth through the stem. If the draw is difficult, remove the tobacco and start the packing process over from the beginning.
Lighting and Smoking Your Pipe
Now it’s time to light your tobacco. You want to have your matches or lighter ready along with your tamper. Using your match or lighter, light the tobacco in a slow circular motion, while drawing air in through the stem. This will pull the flame down into the bowl and make sure you get an even light. This is called the false light. With your tamper, lightly tamp down the tobacco down below the rim of the bowl. Now you need to light the tobacco a second time. This is called the true light. Repeat the same procedure as before with your match or lighter and gently tamp the tobacco down again. Now you have a strong and even light for your smoking session.
When you draw air through your stem, take long, slow pulls. This helps keep the tobacco from burning too hot, which can cause a stinging sensation in your mouth called tongue bite. Smoking too quickly can also damage your pipe if it gets too hot. This is why it is important to go slow. Talk and discuss amongst your friends, or take stock in the events of the day letting your pipe go out from time to time. As you continue your pipe smoking hobby, you will develop a rhythm and pace that feels natural.
There is more to learn and experience as a pipe smoker and over time you develop your own preferences and tastes, but I hope this information can help get you started. Always remember to try and make this experience your own. Explore new tobacco blends, expand your pipe collection, and consider joining our pipe smoking community. We want everyone to experience all that pipe smoking has to offer, by introducing new tobacco blends each month.
Image courtesy of Northern Gentleman. Check out their Buffalo Hide Pipe Pouch and their other leather goods.