How to Prepare Rope Tobacco

Preparing Rope Tobacco at

Beginner and veteran pipe smokers alike have always wanted to try their hand, or pipe rather, at rope tobaccos. One of the oldest forms of processing the leaf, rope tobacco is formed mostly by hand with various different processes contributing along the way. In the end, the tobaccos are twisted together to form a thick rope or lanyard that can either be bitten off and chewed or simply smoked in your pipe of choice. While chewing your favorite rope can be quite enjoyable, this post will focus on preparing your tobacco for smoking. So how do you do it? Well, here's 5 simple steps to get you started.

1. Find a Sharp Knife or Cigar Cutter.

First off, you'll need some rope tobacco. For this post we chose some Gawith, Hoggarth & Co. Brown Irish X Unsliced and Happy (Brown) Bogie Unsliced — two of my favorites, though most any ropes in the G.H. & Co. lineup are quite enjoyable. Once you've acquired your rope tobacco, remove it from the container and place it on a flat surface. You’ll need a sharp blade to cut the thick, tightly bound cord. While a sharp knife will do the trick, using a cigar cutter may give you more precision and a finer cut, as most ropes are about as thick as a cigar — allowing you to simply run the end through the cutter and slice away.

2. Cut as finely as possible.

After you’ve chosen your knife or cigar cutter, it’s time to slice and dice. If you’re using a knife, place the edge along the end of the rope and carefully cut the tobacco into fine coins, making sure to avoid forcing the blade. Avoid using a serrated knife (or the serrated portion of a partially-serrated blade), as this will tend to catch and tear the leaf up rather than make a smooth, even cut. If using a cigar cutter, run the end through the cutter and slice it off as finely as possible, making sure to keep your fingers away from the blades. The end result should be a few thin coins that can later be rubbed out or folded. It’s important to only cut as much as you think you'll use, otherwise your tobacco may dry out quicker than you’d prefer.

Preparing Rope Tobacco at

3. Rub it out or fold.

Once you have your coins laid out, it’s time to prepare that tobacco for packing. You can either rub out all the coins vigorously until you’re left with a nice shag, or simply fold a few and stack. You can also cut the coins into cubes and layer them later in your pipe. You should experiment with it a little to find your preferred smoke. Many folks here at SPC suggest combining two or more of the methods. Simply rub out a coin or two, and fold the rest — layering them sandwich style (shag, coin, shag) into your pipe.

4. Dry it out.

Preparing Rope Tobacco at Smokingpipes.comRope tobacco is, by nature, quite moist — one of the reasons why it ages so well. That being said, you’ll need to give your tobacco an ample amount of drying time to ensure a cool, even smoke. Simply set aside your rubbed out shag or coins and let them dry for at least 10 minutes. More time might be required depending on personal preference and moisture levels. Again, it's important to remember to only dry out what you're going to smoke. Try to avoid drying out the whole rope, as this can leave the rest of your tobacco dry and difficult to cut in the future. When Ted smokes his twists, he keeps about four inches of rope in a tobacco pouch. Before the rope can reach a point where it's too dry for a good cut, he's usually already smoked it. The pouch, while not a great solution for long-term tobacco storage, keeps the rope at a perfect moisture level: not too dry, and not too moist.

5. Pack your pipe.

Now that you’ve cut your rope, rubbed it out, and let it dry for some time, you can finally start enjoying it. If you’re folding your coins, make sure to leave enough room for the tobacco to expand in your bowl, so as to prevent any overheating. If you rubbed it out, pack it like you would a rubbed out flake. One thing to keep in mind with packing, however, is that it greatly depends on the tobacco’s moisture level. If your rope is still very moist, consider packing lightly or drying it out some more. If it’s crispy and dry, and rubbed out into a shag, try packing it a little tighter. Most of us will settle on a happy medium after a few bowls of experimentation.

So there you have it: 5 easy steps to preparing rope tobacco. Curious about how to prepare other types of tobacco? Check out our video on slicing and dicing plug tobaccos. Have your own tips and methods for dealing with rope? Feel free to share them in the comment section below! We’re always happy to learn new tricks, so go ahead and share your story.

Preparing Rope Tobacco at

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Tagged in:   Gawith and Hoggarth Tips Tobacco


    • Thomas P on August 26, 2014
    • FWIW, I have a whole stack of single razor blades as a result of having some glass fish tanks and a desire to remove algae buildup. I've found that for cutting rope and plug, these razor blades work quite well. I just cut on top of newspaper or paper towel, and if I want to rub it out, I cheat with a couple quick bursts in a coffee grinder. Hardly even seems like work, doing it that way, and I can still have the coins or flake effect if I'm in the mood to fold.

    • Andrew W on August 27, 2014
    • Thanks for sharing, Thomas! I bet the coffee grinder does make things a bit easier. Just out of curiosity, are you able to cut fairly fine coins or flakes using the razor blade?

    • pacman357 on August 27, 2014
    • The grinder does make quick and easy work of sliced rope, flake, etc. I can't claim to have discovered the idea, I just followed another guy's lead. The razor blade does, in fact, make slicing fairly fine coins, and I've smoked some rope that way. Burns very nicely. Just be sure you get a blade that only has one sharp side. I suspect a light pair of gloves might help anyone with tender hands/skin, too.

    • pacman357 on August 27, 2014
    • Um...just to be clear, that's me. Didn't realize I had posted before selecting a handle. --Tom :)

    • Andrew W on August 28, 2014
    • Awesome! Thanks, Tom for telling us a little more about your technique. Good advice about the gloves.

    • John Higgins on November 21, 2015
    • Find some good tobbacco.

    • Elton Weaver, Jr. on December 28, 2015
    • Love that Gawith Hoggarth

    • Rich Vendegna on March 8, 2016
    • My first choice for preparing rope tobacco is to use a sharp scissors You can cut it fine or leave it more course. The G&H blends I've tried are super good.

    • Adam O'Neill on March 9, 2016
    • @Rich Vendegna We're glad you enjoy them!

    • Bryan Webber on June 4, 2016
    • I have some 4yr old Black Irish XX that I can't wait to try. Its just been in my cellar while I've been waiting on the right moment. I think it will be this weekend since we're flooded in here in Houston. I bought one of those herb grinders for this specific task.

    • Adam O'Neill on June 5, 2016
    • @Bryan Webber Let us know how that grinder goes.

    • Daedalus on July 8, 2016
    • While both methods of smoking ropes that are cut to coins, or smoking them when coins are rubbed to shag are quite enjoyable, i tried a different one, which, to my taste, saves the flavour and aroma better, however it takes a little longer for tobacco to be prepared. Try cutting a part from your rope that is a bit longer than the height of your pipes' chamber(i just insert the end of the rope to the pipe and leave 0,5 cm of rope above, then cut it). Then, take the part out, and pommel the part for it to have at least some "air tunnels" within - consider it a very small cigar, which you will smoke without using your pipe - this helps. Then, put it in your pipe and press it lightly - given that the chambers diameter is wider than the ropes part(which is most likely the case), you will pack your pipe with a rope to its upper level. Keep in mind that using this method you might have to dry the ropes part out for a little longer time, but that depends on your taste. Also, this seems to "enhance" the nicotine level - brown bogie might make you dizzy if not smoked slowly.

    • Adam O'Neill on July 8, 2016
    • @Daedalus We're going to have to give this a try, though "might make you dizzy" seems like the understatement of the year :)

    • Daedalus on July 9, 2016
    • @Adam O'Neill - well, feel free to share the impressions and don't have your stomach empty before smoking that then :)

    • Adam O'Neill on July 14, 2016
    • @Daedalus Haha, sounds like sound advice.

    • Capt Chaos on October 12, 2016
    • I recently returned to my pipe, mostly cobs but I have several briar's . I am currently smoking Dunhill and G.L.Pease . I have enjoyed navy roll and was digging around in one of my old humidor's and found some King B twist , I used to chew , long story short this stuff is 17 years old I promptly trimmed off several coins and stuffed my cob....WoW it was suprisingly good I guess the aging helped..but had a strong nicotine nicotine has never been a problem for me as when I chewed this twist I never spit...just wondering if anyone else has tried smoking aged King B twist...???

    • J.Paycheck on February 28, 2017
    • Great looking Hibben knife, do you know the model name?

    • Glen on May 6, 2017
    • I have a pair of garden secateurs for cutting my ropes and plugs.

    • Adam O'Neill on May 9, 2017
    • @Glen Whatever gets the job done my friend.

    • John S on September 13, 2017
    • I bought a mini food processor for some of my flake tobaccos. I cut off a plug, and then rubbed it out into leaf form and put it in the food processor for a few whirls. The result was some chopped (but not minced) leaf. I have packed a bowl with medium tightness, and I will let the pipe sit for a day. I find that the process of packing and leaving for a day helps remove moisture while allowing the tobacco to "settle" in the bowl. I haven't smoked the rope yet, but I will surely eat a hearty meal before taking on the nicotine bomb. I am also using a pipe that has a bowl size about equivalent to a Dunhill group 3. Will report back - if I survive the experiment!

    • Adam O'Neill on September 14, 2017
    • @John S Please do, John. And good luck!

    • dan paradis on May 28, 2019
    • years ago, i smoked pipes. am now back into it. i used to smoke FLYING DUTCHMAN. imagine my surprise when i was told it isn't made anymore. is this really true? if so, would you know of another tobacco of the caliber of the dutchman? please research this for me,please?

    • dan paradis on May 28, 2019
    • i'll try the circled word again but, my computer won't let me .

    • Cassie D on May 29, 2019
    • @Dan Paradis No worries, your comments came through so it looks like your computer submitted the circled word. Unfortunately, the news you heard is true, Flying Dutchman is no longer in production. Sutliff has released a Flying Dutchman Match, I recommend giving that a try. Based on the original components of Flying Dutchman, you may also enjoy Amphora Original. I'll attach the links to these below so you can take a look!

      Sutliff: Flying Dutchman Match:

      Amphora: Original Blend 1.75oz:

    • Bill Cook on November 15, 2020
    • Looking at the July 2016 comment from Daedalus , I am reminded of something that is stuck in my memory from 1967, when I was working in downtown Houston in the summer, between law school semesters. I parked my car a long ways from the building where I worked, every morning early I would walk past this old man sitting outside a business, pleasantly smoking his pipe. He had a small cigar stuck into the pipe. I’ve often thought of this and the pleasure that I saw on his face as I passed and we nodded it at each other every morning. Pleasant memory

    • Jian W on November 10, 2022
    • 出新货的时候能够得到及时的通知并且能够购回来品尝!

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