How to Pack Flake Tobacco

Today we're talking about flake tobacco and specifically how to pack it properly into a pipe. We've discussed packing ribbon tobacco, but flake tobacco adds one extra step to that process. Now some — especially beginners — might wonder why exactly we should smoke flake tobacco or why we would even want to when we can simply rely on ribbons and avoid any extra steps in the packing process. The simple answer is: flavor.

Why Flake Tobaccos: Flavor

Flake tobaccos manifest their own flavor profiles, even when composed of the same tobaccos and with the same component ratios as ribbon-cut blends. That's simply due to the process, which involves pressing the tobacco under high pressure for a long period until it sticks together in a large block that's then sliced into flakes. That pressure changes the characteristics of the tobacco, changes the flavor profile slightly, and provides an environment that enhances aging. Most pipe smokers find that their flake-cut blends, or their plugs or other cuts that have been placed under pressure, age significantly better than ribbon-cut tobaccos.

How to Prepare Flake Tobacco for Smoking

1. Rub out the Flakes

How to Prepare Flake Tobacco for Smoking, rub out the flakes

So today we're talking about how to pack flake-cut tobacco. As mentioned, it basically involves just one additional step from packing ribbon-cut tobacco, and this method is called the rub-out method. There's also the fold-and-stuff method, which we won't be covering today, but the rub-out method is when we simply rub out the flake and then pack it as we would a ribbon cut.

I'll demonstrate. I have a pretty small pipe here, and plenty of flakes, so I'm going to portion off about two-thirds of one of these flakes. The next step is to crumble it up in your hand and rub it out until it's loose and looks like a standard ribbon cut.

The way I rub out a flake is pretty straightforward. I simply crush it in my hands, sometimes going in circles to loosen it up, and then place it on the table, pinching it a little bit more to break it up. At this point, you're going to have to judge if this is enough tobacco for you, and you might have to rub out a little bit more. You may not use all of this but you can put it back in the jar or tin or whatever.

2. Check Moisture Level

You also want to judge the moisture level of the tobacco after you've rubbed it out. This feels very good to me, so I'm ready to pack and light it, but if you find it to be a little on the moist side, you may want to set it aside for a couple of minutes to dry. It's also generally beneficial to aerate the tobacco and let it breathe for a little, but I'm going to pack this right now.

3. Employ Gravity Feeding

How to Prepare Flake Tobacco for Smoking, rub out the flakes

I'll use the same method here as I did in the "How To Pack Ribbon-Cut Tobacco" video. The "gravity method," as it's called, is simply sprinkling the tobacco into the bowl and applying a little bit of pressure just to even out the tobacco. Once I feel resistance though, I stop. One thing we always want to do is check the airway. We want to avoid excessive resistance, and in this case, we're good.

4. Repeat Filling Technique with Gradually Increased Pressure

Then I repeat the process, pushing it down, this time a little tighter with a little bit more pressure, and check the airway. Still good. And then add the last little bit. I could have rubbed out a little bit more tobacco in this specific instance, but it's all good. In this final step, I'm going to apply the most pressure compared to previous fills, but I'm still not pile-driving it; I'm not trying to force it down to the bottom of the chamber. I just want to create multiple layers of density to help with the combustion of the tobacco.

5. Recheck Airflow and Light the Tobacco

One final check: Airway is good. Now we're ready to light. You'll notice the tobacco rises up after you've lit it, so I'm just going to tamp it down, get it a little bit more even. It's okay if the ember goes out — We're not worried about that right now, we're just worried about priming the tobacco and the pipe for the best possible smoke.

6. Relight, Enjoy, and Check Tobacco Resources

One more light and we're good to go. You may want to check out the Smokingpipes tobacco locator tool on the website to find our entire selection of flake tobaccos. Try some new blends today with this method. Let us know what you think, and let us know in the comments if you have any specific methods that you've developed over the years. Thanks for tuning in, and we'll see you next time.

Category:   Tobacco Talk
Tagged in:   Pipe Culture SPC-University Tips


    • Lori Gregor on July 7, 2023
    • Thank you Truett for this well thought-out video. It will benefit all pipe smokers, new and old. I love referring customers to our wonderful Blogs! Enjoy life my friend - Lori

    • Steven L Pullar on July 9, 2023
    • I was intimidated a bit by flake and cake tobacco until curiosity got the better of me. A whole new world opened for me. Do not worry about doing it wrong, just follow the excellent advice on this blog and give it a try. The FLAVOR, wow!

    • Blake on July 9, 2023
    • Yep, when you rub out the flakes you can "feel" the moisture level. Then when pipe is loaded, I often lightly skim the surface of the tobacco, and know by "feel" if it is right for lighting.

    • Tim on July 9, 2023
    • Truett: Can we get and RGT x SPC collab? If not, at least release some SPC merch that’s geared towards a younger crowd.

    • Andy B on July 9, 2023
    • 90 percent of what I smoke is flake and plug tobacco, I find them to be much more flavourable while smoking than their ribbon cut counteparts...Fold & Stuff is my preferred method of preperation but with a little of it well rubbed out for kindling....just enough to top the bowl off with to aid lighting

    • Emery J. on July 12, 2023
    • Great video for beginners and similar to MuttonChop Piper's series. On another note, when might you review and discuss Captain Earle's blends which are crumble cakes. I have really taken to the crumble cake cuts.

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