Pipe Light or Die
So you’ve just spent a bundle on a new pipe. You wrestled long and hard with the decision to part with such hard-earned money over a piece of wood and rubber (or plastic; and maybe some silver or horn too), and now that it’s yours you’ve only done as much as stare at it longingly. The pipe’s been in your possession now for several weeks, and you’ve only managed, after painstakingly careful consideration and a few hundred visits to your favorite online tobacco review site, to determine which blend you’ll choose for the pipe's maiden voyage, and what time of day it will be, and which chair you’ll be sitting in the very moment you light up the treasured briar for the very first time. But alas, you have still yet to actually smoke the pipe. You want the occasion to be a special one. After all, it’s an expensive pipe and you don’t want to go and blow your first experience with it on accident - or even worse, damage the prized briar itself.
I’ll tell you right now, the less often you light your pipe the better. If you want your precious new smoking instrument to remain pristine for a long, long time, there’s about a hundred million different tips, suggestions, home remedies, folk songs, and mnemonic devices hanging around every corner of every chat room, message board, or community forum related to pipe care dos and don’ts that’ll steer you into some routine or another, ranging from the sound to the more-than-semi-laughable. Much of the information available to be found along these arteries of the internet is entertaining. Much more of it is hokum repeated by neophytes. Some of this data is plenty helpful, if not entirely overwhelming to the freshly initiated pipe smoker who’s still trying to keep straight the difference between terms like ‘casing’, ‘topping’ and ‘flavoring’. But the simple, common-sense solution to pipe longevity is to keep your relights down.
1.The wetter the tobacco, the hotter it needs to be to combust. Smoking wet tobacco not only increases the amount of times you’re exposing the rim and tobacco chamber of your pipe to fire, it’s also a simple recipe for keeping your pipe super-hot all the time. Probably not a great idea. Try drying out your tobacco some first. Or if you like the moist stuff, keep it out of your Bo Nordh.
2.Only use a torch lighter (like the kind you’ll use when lighting your cigar) on a pipe you’d like to destroy as rapidly as possible. Bic lighters, with their large, unwieldy flames aren’t much better. A Bic might not damage the chamber, but it will ugly-up a pipe’s rim something fierce over time. Butane pipe lighters, like the legendary Old Boy, are terrific. But yes, as you might expect, once its sulfur head has burned off, a match, which burns at around 700 degrees Celsius (nearly 1,300 degrees cooler than a butane lighter) is the best source of fire you can use to light up a pipe, what with its highly governable and relatively gentle flame.
3.Consider your tamper and tamping technique. By tamping around the sides of your pipe's bowl with a small, preferably concave shaped tamper, you'll keep the embers towards the center of the chamber and away from the briar walls. Also, in doing this, you’ll avoid tamping straight down on the tobacco, which is likely to snuff out the cherry, which increases the need for a relight.
I don’t recommend that you start keeping track of how many times you’ve ever lit a particular pipe. That’s just crazy. The notion of keeping one’s relights to a minimum is really more about preventing excessively exposing your pipe to unnecessary fire and heat. You know, the stuff that will kill anything made of wood, even a wood as hardy as briar, after a while. You can of course take this advice or not; smoke your pipes however you like. After all, it’s your special new pipe and you can treat it however you like. But a little simple advice can go quite a way to ensuring you'll be able to enjoy it all the more, and for all the longer.
We’ve got an outstanding update pick together for this Monday. You’ll find new cigars from Romeo & Julieta and Quorum, a couple dozen fresh estate pipes, and new works from the likes of Pete Prevost (whose work is going up on Smokingpipes.com for the very first time this evening), Benni Jorgensen, Tsuge, Radice, Castello, Savinelli, Sebastien Beo, Butz-Choquin, Peterson, and Vauen. And don’t miss our introduction of Fred Hanna’s new book The Perfect Smoke.
Ted Swearingen: Vice President, General Manager