How to Ream a Pipe

This article is revised and expanded from the original version published in July 2020.


How to Ream a Pipe | Daily Reader

Remember when we used to carry coins? They're quaint artifacts now, convenient for stabilizing table legs, but they used to be practical for things like parking meters and purchases. Now everything costs more than coins can cover, parking meters require credit cards, and debit cards are the preferred exchange medium. Coins are annoying and noisy; I don't think I've carried coins in years.

I mention coins because I've always heard that the proper thickness for cake in the bowl of a pipe should be about that of a dime or a nickel, and I want to talk about cake, but does anyone even use dimes anymore? So many things have become obsolete that I'm not confident everyone is any more familiar with coins than with VHS players, rotary telephones, or TV-top antennas. Many may have historical interest in such things as dimes, but perhaps they are no longer useful as a recognizable standard measurement.

Anyway, if you're unfamiliar with dimes, the cake in a pipe should be maintained at about the thickness of one or two debit cards. But before we begin slicing this cake, it might be helpful to understand what it is and how it forms.

What Is Cake And What Does It Accomplish?

Cake is the carbon buildup on the walls of a pipe's tobacco chamber. It occurs when tobacco combusts and carbon in the smoke adheres to the briar inside the bowl. The process is very gradual, but it thickens with repeated smoking.

Cake is important to the health of a briar pipe. We'll talk about other pipes later, but briar pipes are the most popular and numerous, and this discussion of cake primarily pertains to briars.

When pipes are new, they have no cake, and one might reasonably surmise that maintaining a pipe as close to its original condition as possible would be preferable, but that isn't true. It would damage the pipe to constantly sand down the tobacco chamber to bare wood. Briar is extraordinarily fire-resistant, but it's still wood and can burn. Cake protects the wood, insulating it from direct contact with fire.

Bowl Coatings

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A necessary digression is appropriate here regarding bowl coatings. Some pipe makers promote the building of cake to protect their pipes from the first smoke; they do so by applying an initial bowl coating, which varies for different pipe makers. Generally, activated charcoal is the primary ingredient, along with sodium silicate, also known as water glass, a water-soluble compound with industrial uses as a passive fire protectant. Every pipe maker who uses a bowl coating, however, develops their own recipe.

That bowl coating is basically a preliminary cake protecting the inside of the bowl during a pipe's first few uses. Some smokers like bowl coatings; others prefer to smoke slowly for the first few bowls of a new pipe and build a natural cake themselves. Friendly arguments at pipe shows can extend into the night on this subject.

Briar is extraordinarily fire-resistant, but it's still wood and can burn

Some pipe smokers who prefer a new pipe without a bowl coating accelerate natural cake by applying a thin layer of honey. The honey's stickiness attracts particles from the burning tobacco and promotes initial cake building. However, arguments against this practice insist that honey attracts larger particles and thereby builds a weaker foundation than would be found with the powdery carbon build-up that occurs on natural wood. In addition, many smokers resist the idea of burnt honey as a flavor compound in their pipes.

Burn Out

Another objection to bowl coatings is the suspicion that pipe makers use them to conceal flaws in the tobacco chamber. It would be a counterproductive strategy, however, to camouflage flaws because of the dangers they manifest. While tiny flaws tend to be superficial and safe, a larger flaw in the tobacco chamber, one that spreads under the wood, can offer a foothold for burnout, and no pipe maker wants their pipes to burn out; it would injure their reputations, future sales, and the popularity of their pipes.

Burnouts are rare, except for individuals who are too aggressive with torch lighters, which should never be used for pipes. But when they do occur, aside from user error it's most likely due to flaws that are inside the briar and invisible to the pipe maker. I've owned and smoked hundreds of pipes and experienced only one burnout. When I sent it to the pipe maker afterward, he cut into the pipe and discovered a tiny pebble inside the wall of the tobacco chamber. That minuscule piece of rock had expanded and contracted over the course of several smokes until it caused a tiny fissure in the wall of the chamber, providing an inroad for char and eventual burn-through.

...honey attracts larger particles and thereby builds a weaker foundation

It was a wild experience. First, the aroma of the pipe changed and it was obvious that the briar itself was burning. It's an unmistakable odor, not unpleasant, but not tobacco. Once it started, I couldn't put it out, and the pipe became hotter and hotter. It was like some underground coal fire run amok and it continued to burn by itself until a dark spot emerged on the outside of the bowl and spread into a catastrophic failure of the pipe.

The pipe maker could not have foreseen such an event and had he known about the internal flaw would never have sold the pipe. Even the most beautifully grained pipe can have fissures or sand under its pristine surfaces. Such is the nature of briar. Pipe makers can often predict the grain that's likely under the surface of a block of briar, but they do not have X-ray vision, and flaws are a natural consequence of wood growing in the arid and sandy soil necessary for briar.

Cake protects our pipes even from invisible flaws, though in unlucky scenarios, it can be powerless. The best it can do is to dramatically increase the odds of lifelong performance despite potential internal irregularities.

As for pipe-maker bowl coatings, it's up to the individual smoker whether they prefer them or not. For what it's worth, I don't care either way. I don't think they are necessary and suspect that pipe makers provide coatings to protect their pipes from the non-zero percentage of purchasers who are inexperienced and may not know they should treat a pipe gently for the first few smokes.

It was like some underground coal fire run amok

Bowl coatings are flavor-neutral these days, though there were pipes made in the last century that had some pretty foul coatings, mostly exacerbated by stains inside the bowls, which probably helped prejudice some smokers about them. Stain can taste pretty awful before it burns away (some sand it out, though dip-stained pipes are very unusual now). These days, I don't object to coatings and certainly wouldn't pass up a pipe that I liked only because of it, and I wouldn't remove a coating that was already there. Your mileage may vary. We all have different tastes, experiences, and preferences.

Why We Want Cake

How to Ream a Pipe | Daily Reader

Cake insulates and protects the briar and provides a dryer smoke by absorbing some of the moisture that naturally develops with combustion. It's said that briar absorbs moisture, and the coloration change of briar over time somewhat supports that hypothesis, but if so, it's minimal. When moisture is being absorbed, the cake is likely more responsible than the briar.

I have no scientific support for my opinion, but I suspect that when we let a pipe rest between uses for a dryer smoke, we're really allowing the cake to dry. You can feel the difference in the cake when a pipe has been smoked back-to-back for several bowls. Its moisture level is obviously elevated. It isn't mushy, but it isn't the hard carbon surface found with a rested pipe.

Tobacco contains water, and that water has to go someplace when the tobacco burns. While good flavors accrue in smoke, bad flavors distill into a tincture from hell. It can accumulate at the bottom of the tobacco chamber and hiss at us, and in the smoke channel, where it will gurgle and carry on in its own language and migrate to the lip button of a pipe, transferring by sheer hostility to the tongue. Cake will reduce the possibility of experiencing that affliction, though it doesn't bear full responsibility. Most moisture is wicked away by pipe cleaners, which should be liberally used, but cake helps, and for dire contingencies such as tobacco schmutz, redundancy is our friend.

Why It's Called Cake

The specific etymology for smoking applications behind the term is lost, but smokers possibly noted the similarities between carbon build-up and the cake of birthday parties and celebrations. Edible cake rises as it bakes, and carbon cake grows similarly with multiple bakes in the tobacco chamber. It doesn't have the consistency of cake. "Cracker" may have been a more precise term, though it doesn't crumble as easily. Maintaining culinary vocabulary, cake more resembles the hard edges of brownies in the pan, but we have to admit that cake is easier in conversation than brownie edge.

However, baking similarities are probably less responsible than the idea of compacted, caked-on, congealed matter in a hard layer, such as the creosote that cakes onto the inside of a stovepipe. The first written use of the word "cake" was in the 13th century and referred to the baking variety in a "flat or comparatively thin mass of baked dough," from the Old Norse "kaka." It wasn't until the early 1600s that the term was used to refer to a process: "to concrete into a hard mass." It's probably a coincidence that pipe smoking was becoming popular around that time and we needed a term for the carbon buildup in a tobacco chamber. But maybe not.

...when we let a pipe rest between uses for a dryer smoke, we're really allowing the cake to dry

The Danger of Too Much Cake

Too much cake is bad for us according to both physicians and pipe-repair professionals. If it becomes too thick, cake may have adverse effects. Pipes found in antique stores or flea markets can often display far too much cake. Those pipes are from a generation of smokers who didn't always maintain their pipes; pipes for many are and have been mere nicotine delivery devices, not personal items to be cared for and cherished. The remaining tobacco hoe inside those caked walls can sometimes be little more than the diameter of a pencil, and I'm not sure how the owners managed to enjoy smoking them in that condition. Pipes afflicted with excess cake such as that are often cracked, and that is perhaps the best indicator that cake should be well managed.

Cake expands and contracts with heating and cooling at a different rate from briar — much like the pebble in the pipe I lost to burnout — and when overly thick cake expands, it can crack the bowl. Briar is very tough, but it can't withstand repeated expansion and contraction at the level accompanied by excessive cake.

The actual smoking properties are also affected. Pipe makers choose the diameter of their tobacco chambers for a reason: good performance. When a chamber's diameter is reduced by 20-30% or more, the tobacco burns differently and is harder to keep lit and enjoy. The tobacco mouthfeel that a pipe delivers is drastically undermined. Minimal cake preserves the chamber dimensions and proportions that pipe makers have developed for optimal smoking experiences.

Before and During Cake Buildup

Some care should be employed even before the cake reaches the point where it needs reaming. It isn't difficult, though, and is easily integrated into normal smoking routines. Following each smoke, after running the usual pipe cleaner through the pipe, fold it over and swab out the bowl, removing excess particulate and leaving only the carbon that is securely adhered.

If it becomes too thick, cake may have adverse effects

For a slightly more thorough approach, insert a paper towel and twist it, cleaning the inside of the bowl, or employ a chamber brush, which provides a thorough cleaning of the cake's surface. These steps help remove leftover tobacco fragments, smooth the surface of the cake, and slow the buildup over time. By swabbing the bowl, it's less likely that the existing cake will be uneven and develop missing chunks on its surface, and it will maintain better hardness. The smoother the cake, the more even the heat exchange and the more gradual the carbon buildup.

Cake's thickening is a relatively slow process, though it can creep up on us. When I started smoking pipes, it seemed like it took forever for cake to build, but now I'm mildly irritated when I see it's time to ream a pipe yet again. Most often, I first notice a difference in the pipe's performance and upon examination realize that it's because the cake has become too thick.

It also used to feel like a bowl of tobacco lasted much longer than it does now, but I don't know if that's because time is accelerating or my impatience is decreasing. However, even when the perception of time has changed, the need for keeping cake at the proper thickness has not.

Meerschaums, Clays, and Corn Cobs

How to Ream a Pipe | Daily Reader

It may also be noted here that cake is not something we need in meerschaum or clay pipes. Both of these mediums are very fireproof, unlike wood, and insulation is unnecessary. Clays and Meerschaums are also subject to damage from overly thick cake, just as briar is, and for the same reasons: expansion and contraction.

Cake is good for woods other than briar, like apple, olivewood, pear, or cherrywood, but if it isn't wood, cake is generally best avoided by keeping the bowl clean. Cake doesn't tend to stick as easily to non-wood materials so wiping out the bowls after each smoke should suffice. That doesn't mean that cake can't form on non-wood surfaces, though. I know I have to scrape the foot of my tamper occasionally to keep carbon from building. I've never seen an advantage in a tamper with a dime's thickness of cake.

By swabbing the bowl, it's less likely that the existing cake will be uneven and develop missing chunks

Meerschaums and Clays may be fire resistant, but they are still relatively fragile, as you know if you've dropped one on concrete. When cake does build in these pipes, reaming tools should be avoided. They risk chipping the material. Sandpaper around 600 grit works well. Coarser sandpaper can damage the tobacco chamber, leaving scratches or worse.

Corn Cobs are another matter. Their cost is so reasonable as to make them almost disposable, though anyone who has built a relationship with a great-smoking Cob would argue that inherent value lies not with the price but with the experiences provided. Some smokers like cake in their Cobs, others do not. Corn Cobs are in some ways more resilient even than briar and can withstand some expansion, but only up to a point. For those who like cake in their Cobs, it's best to keep it trimmed, as with a briar.

Cake-Removing Tools

Removing cake the right way requires tools. Our grandfathers used pocket knives, butter knives, horseshoe nails, or anything convenient, and simple knives can work well, but there are dangers. A sharp, pointed pocket knife risks damaging the walls and floor of the tobacco chamber. A gouge in the briar where combustion occurs can lead to char around that gouge and the potential for further and deeper damage. So blunt instruments are safer.

A pipe knife like the Brigham, 4th Generation, John Aylesbury, or Joseph Rodgers is, for pipe purposes, superior to a regular pocket knife. All of these knives have blunt rather than sharp tips and blades that are less sharp than those of pocket knives. They have the advantage of reaching into the bottom of most tobacco chambers, though that part of a chamber requires less reaming — unless the pipe is over-smoked at the heel, which in itself risks damage.

Some smokers like cake in their Cobs, others do not

The tool used by our professional restoration team here at Smokingpipes is simple and inexpensive but ingenious. The Low Country Reamer is basically an oyster knife, and it reams well and also reaches admirably to the bottom, even for V-shaped chambers. Using the same tools as professionals is an attractive proposition, but we should remember that professionals have developed techniques and muscle memory that we amateurs are unlikely to replicate.

The area around the smoke hole is one of the most delicate parts of a pipe, particularly in terms of excess heat applied as a smoker reaches the end of a bowl of tobacco. Because tobacco at the bottom of a bowl tends to absorb the moisture resulting from combustion in the upper layers, more heat is necessary to keep it burning, and protective cake builds very slowly at the heel, if at all. Many used pipes have developed thick cake in the upper two-thirds of the bowl, with little cake at the bottom of the chamber. That inconsistency contributes to the danger that cake imposes on a pipe, with the top half expanding at a different rate than the bottom. Thinner cake throughout reduces that inconsistency and produces less stress on the briar.

There is no perfect tool for cake removal, however, and with a pipe knife, it's difficult to maintain consistent cake thickness, although, with practice and a steady hand, it's of course achievable. For ease of use, however, other tools are available, like the Brigham Pipe Reamer and the Neerup Chamber Reamer, both of which have blades on two sides that provide more consistency. Tsuge has similar options of differing widths. The Brigham has the advantage of being adjustable, however, which is convenient, as any collection of pipes will tend to have chambers of differing widths.

There also exist T-handle reamer sets with multiple varying widths for any contingency. These include the Pipnet reamer set, my personal favorite, and the Dunhill Professional Pipe Reamer Set. I've used the Pipenet set for many years and recommend it. I'd probably like the Dunhill set too, but it's a substantial investment.

...protective cake builds very slowly at the heel

Perhaps the most historically popular reamer is the Senior Pipe Reamer, which has been around for decades. The advantage of the Senior Reamer is its infinite adjustability. A turn of the knob at the end gradually expands the three double-sided blades to whatever width is necessary. It also has an internally housed, manual drill bit for clearing the shank, which is convenient, but only on rare occasions, in my experience. I own a Senior Reamer and find it useful on occasion, but more often use the Pipenet because it's easier, faster, and performs a cleaner job on the floor of the tobacco chamber.

Necessary Supplies

How to Ream a Pipe | Daily Reader

Aside from whatever reaming tool is used, newspaper, clean cloths, and/or paper towels, an ashtray or other receptacle, and pipe cleaners will be necessary. A penlight is also helpful to check the interior of the bowl.

You may be tempted to perform the task in a bathtub, which you'll be using afterward anyway, as the fine carbon powder resulting from the process will get everywhere. It's messy, no matter what tools you use. At the least, spread out some newspapers on your work surface, have some rags or paper towels at the ready, and be prepared for cleanup. It will get under your fingernails, it will darken the creases in your hands, and in my case, it almost always makes it into my beard, hair, and eyebrows. But reaming is essential, and it's one of the necessary rituals of pipe smoking.

The Reaming Process

Some may choose to insert a pipe cleaner in the smoke channel to block it from carbon dust, but the pipe will need to be cleaned afterward anyway, and blowing through it will remove dust, though it will scatter it everywhere in the room. A little Everclear on a pipe cleaner after reaming will remove any residual carbon.

It's best to ream a pipe gradually, rather than aggressively, so the adjustability of multi-bladed reamers is a benefit. It's just more difficult to perform with a pipe knife, which should probably be left for minor touch-ups between thorough reamings. Chunks of burned tobacco that stubbornly stick to the chamber walls after a smoke can be easily removed with a knife. For our purposes in describing the process, we'll assume the use of a multi-blade reamer rather than a single-bladed tool.

Necessary Patience

How to Ream a Pipe | Daily Reader

Reaming should be a slow and gradual process. If cake is over-thick and we immediately apply a reamer size that will reduce it to its final best thickness, there's a good possibility that we'll tear chunks from the cake and leave an uneven surface, allowing more heat to reach the briar at the cake's low spots. I personally most often use the Pipnet Pipe Reamer system, which provides four different widths: 17 mm, 19 mm, 21 mm, and 23 mm, each with four blades. It's necessary to start small and work up to the larger diameters using minimal pressure and force. With each diameter, turn the reamer until there is no further reduction in cake, then move on to the next. With a Senior Reamer, gradually increase the diameter when no further pressure is felt.

As with removing a stem from a pipe, it's best to maintain consistency regarding the direction of reaming, either clockwise or counterclockwise, but not back and forth. The cake is less likely to tear and chip with rotation in the same direction.

One irritating factor is that reaming can be high-pitched and loud, even without much force, though the Senior Reamer is quieter than the Pipenet. It sounds like a small animal in agonizing distress and pierces walls, so warn your family beforehand lest they come running to see if you're being attacked by a herd of screaming goats.

It's messy, no matter what tools you use

Even with the disadvantage of the ear-piercing screech of reaming with a Pipenet, I find it the easiest and fastest method, though it too can tear chunks from the cake and leave an uneven surface, no matter how gradually and carefully I try to work. I've also found that it's difficult to keep the smoke hole centered in the cake, and I often drift to the side and risk hitting raw briar, so diligent oversight is required and slightly more pressure along the thicker side is necessary.

I don't know about you, but I find that cake builds faster on the near side of the chamber over the smoke hole, perhaps because of the airflow that accompanies the necessary engineering of pipes, with the exception of Calabashes, which have smoke holes centered in the bottom of the chamber. It takes some hand stamina with a Pipnet to exert more pressure on one side than another to reduce cake where it's uneven.

The Floor of the Chamber

Neither the Senior Reamer nor the Pipnet is able to reach the bottom of V-shaped chambers, so a blunt-tipped pipe knife can clean up any flakes of tobacco lodged in the minimal cake at the heel, though the LowCountry reamer is superior because of its more angled tip. Always be especially careful around the smoke hole and try to maintain its original condition as best you can. Any carving away at the smoke hole, either from charring or over-reaming, can change the pipe's smoking characteristics and leave it more susceptible to heat damage.

It's necessary to start small and work up to the larger diameters

One method for near-perfect reaming is labor-intensive and very messy: Sandpaper. Wrap some 400-600-grit sandpaper around wooden dowels of appropriate diameters, and sand the cake around the sides. Sandpaper is less likely to tear chunks from the cake, and is easier for re-orienting a chamber to the center of the bowl with a 360-degree consistent cake width. It doesn't reach the chamber floor any better than the other tools mentioned here — less so, actually — but as stated, the bottom of the chamber rarely needs any reaming, and just a few swipes of folded sandpaper can easily clear any protrusions at the heel.

But again, be careful around the smoke hole. Wrapping the sandpaper around a finger provides tactile feedback that is superior to a dowel, but a dowel will provide more consistency.

Once the cake is at an acceptable width, examine the tobacco chamber for any defects in the surface. Clean the pipe by swabbing out the bowl and smoke channel, and the chore is done. The result should be a pipe that smokes better and will last far into the future.

Sandpaper is less likely to tear chunks from the cake

Reaming is necessary and beneficial maintenance. It can be messy, but not excessively so if preparations are made and the procedure is accomplished appropriately. It's a ritual, and all pipe smokers like ritual to some extent or we wouldn't be pipe smokers. The satisfaction of a well-reamed pipe is well worth the effort and can be easily accomplished when approached with patience and common sense.

Comments

    • Mark S on July 9, 2020
    • Reaming is fun. The first one or two times you do it.Reamers, I have tried them all. Oddly, after 50 years of experience with reaming pipes of all sizes and shapes, I have settled on the inexpensive Buttner-style tool (which you call Brigham). It's quick and amazingly versatile, and leaves a nice even smooth cake. And it's not much larger than the Czech tool, so I it take along on travel and vacations.But does it work on all pipes? Well, it seems to in my case. So much so that all my others reamers are at the bottom of a box, but I can't remember exactly where.

    • BRYAN WEBBER on July 10, 2020
    • I've used the modified oyster knife to ream my favorite briars but switched to the sandpaper method on the dowel. It is indeed messy but it works the absolute best for me.

    • Ron F on July 11, 2020
    • I own 2 different pipe knives with the round tips, but I was not happy with the results. I'm now using a small battery-powered Dremel on low speed with a small sandpaper drum bit, barely touching the inside of the chamber. Yes, it's risky, and possibly dangerous, but so far I've had excellent results on briar and very old and overly caked meerschaum pipes.

    • KevinM on July 11, 2020
    • Here’s another vote for sandpaper. I’ve noticed on estate pipe ads the comment, “chamber is over-reamed.” You can be sure the previous owner used some brand of hardware.

    • Carson on July 12, 2020
    • I use the spey blade on one or the other of my old Schrade Uncle Henry stockman pocket knives to shave down the cake inside my pipes (most of which I inherited from my grandfather fifty years ago). It's a slow process to do carefully, but meditative in much the same way as smoking them is. I hadn't used these knives in years, so now I've placed them in the box dedicated to my pipe supplies for all future cake shaving, plug cutting, and other tobacco relayed duties. I've had them for as long as I've had my grandfather's pipes, so to me they are all like an heirloom treasure boxed together.

    • Tom S. on July 12, 2020
    • I've had the Senior Reamer for ten years, when I started getting arthritis in my hands, thus it's a godsend. Nowadays, that's all I use; not like the "good-old days. ;~(

    • Tom S. on July 12, 2020
    • I've had the Senior Reamer for ten years, when I started getting arthritis in my hands, thus it's a godsend. Nowadays, that's all I use; not like the "good-old days. ;~(

    • Tom S. on July 12, 2020
    • I've had the Senior Reamer for ten years, when I started getting arthritis in my hands, thus it's a godsend. Nowadays, that's all I use; not like the "good-old days. ;~(

    • Tom S. on July 12, 2020
    • I've had the Senior Reamer for ten years, when I started getting arthritis in my hands, thus it's a godsend. Nowadays, that's all I use; not like the "good-old days. ;~(

    • Tom S. on July 12, 2020
    • I've had the Senior Reamer for ten years, when I started getting arthritis in my hands, thus it's a godsend. Nowadays, that's all I use; not like the "good-old days. ;~(

    • Blake Culhane on July 13, 2020
    • Been smoking pipes since 1962. Never had problems with cake using a Senior Reamer, or whatever the brand name is. Use on a stone cold pipe only, unless you like the author Georges Herment theory of chipping the cake down to that gummy (when warm) layer underneath it all. He used just an ordinary pocket knife for this, i.e. just happily chipping away, removing chunks. I personally like a lot of cake, as long as it's even and about 1/8".

    • Gran Scala on July 16, 2020
    • Good article about a difficult topic.I enjoyed your reference, at the start of your article, to a dime being obsolete in this era. At the end of your piece you talked about "spreading a newspaper on your work surface". What's a newspaper... some ancient pipe tool?

    • Chuck Stanion on July 17, 2020
    • Gran Scala: Haha! That's a terrific point! And I now wonder: What do people with birds line their cages with these days? Do we now need to buy rolls of butcher paper to fill the jobs that used to be left to old newspapers? We can't ream pipes over or line birdcages with iPads, after all.

    • Mark on July 21, 2020
    • Informative article as usual, with the occasional Stanion touch of humor. I have used the same four bladed reamer for years, but I don’t know what kind it is and can’t even remember where I got it. Where I live must be different because there are stores I go to, especially small, mostly immigrant, family run businesses, that only accept cash. Not only that, but I still get a newspaper delivered every morning, so I suppose I am a dinosaur. Oh well, at least I am writing this on an iPad.

    • Dave on June 6, 2021
    • I was using the paper towel after each smoke to keep the cake in check. Now I use shotgun chamber brushes a 20 ga and 12 ga fit all my pipes. They are very soft brass and work great. Not regular shotgun barrel ones MTC YMMVG

    • Joel Penazzo on October 1, 2021
    • And the hardest is on meerschaum!! (Excuse my language mistakes I m French)

    • Joel Penazzo on October 1, 2021
    • The hardest is on meerschaum!!(Excuse my language mistakes I m French

    • Ven on June 27, 2022
    • Cash is one of your few remaining freedoms - if you don't use it, they will take it away. Then every single thing you buy or sell will be tracked by the government. How willing you are to hand over all your freedoms to a corrupt government for the convenience it brings you."Those willing to trade their freedom for security deserve neither."

    • JoeD on August 15, 2022
    • I use the PipNet Reamer and it works very well on most of my pipes. I recently bought a Savinelli Bent Dublin, my first truly conical bowl, and I'm dreading figuring out how to ream that one when the time comes. I have a Peterson system second quality pipe that I've had for a long time, and the bottom of the bowl tapers such that the smoke hole is more of a trench. Should I assume that's excess cake buildup and try to flatten it out? Or, is that likely why the pipe was a second quality in the first place? It smokes great as it is, but I wonder.

    • Brian L on May 12, 2024
    • Any recommendations on practicing? As a new pipe smoker and over $100 a pop for a decent pipe, I’m a bit scared to try any of this on them as the ‘threat’ of damage seems high. Paying an expert seems safer (yes, even though that eventually costs more than a new pipe).

    • dadoninetails on May 12, 2024
    • Chuck - nice revised article - excellent! I am with you on being younger and waiting on cake, but now, older, cake forms fast! I have the Senior Reamer and the Low Country oyster knife. Both work well, but the oyster knife requires a delicate touch. The Pipnet looks good though!

    • DistrictXBill on May 12, 2024
    • This great article is full of thoughtful advice. Several thoughts--I agree with the T-Handled Pipnet set. Mine is a Savinelli-branded set I got off eBay some years ago. I've used both the Senior and Brigham modality reamers and find them lacking in function; the Brigham style seemed--too flexy, as it were. Second, honey can be helpful with both new and estate pipes. Just not alone. My 'secret sauce"? A slurry of honey, water and scotch (suppose you could use bourbon or rye). Apply a moderately thin coat to the walls and heel (stick a pipe cleaner through the shank e to keep the hole open) and let the pipe sit for about 48 hours. I usually use a milder English blend with higher sugar content tobaccos for the first dozen or so bowls.I should add two disclaimers: Works well for me and IMHO/YMMVGood smoking to all...

    • Joseph Kirkland on May 12, 2024
    • Chuck, KUDOS on another fine article. I’m one of the seniors: 65 years on and off with pipes. I had a first cheap reamer that resembled jr high compass. It was difficult to keep straight. Then, I bought a fine reamer, a Kleen Ream Pipe Tool, very much your Senior Reamer. That was over 50 years ago. Now I use a Pipe net reamer. With careful use, an excellent tool. I guess it’s age, but cake buildup seems quicker. I have begun reaming regularly when cleaning a pipe and using Clean & Cure and many pipe cleaners. This practice seems to minimize chunking the cake. Each of us has to refine our process to work for us. Thank you for guiding us to better smoking pleasures and protecting our valuable pipes.

    • Mark on May 12, 2024
    • While reading the comments after reading this thorough and informative article again, I discovered to my surprise a comment I’d written myself four years ago. Everything I said then still goes. I still carry cash, both coins and bills, as well as credit and debit cards, still go to stores that are cash only, or only take cards for purchases over a certain amount; still get a newspaper every morning. I also still receive over the air television using an antenna since I am unwilling to pay the extortionate prices of cable or satellite. I recommend, like another commenter, that maintaining cash is important. Not only is it good for times and places where only cash works—some stores, not to mention in emergencies when cards won’t work, or private purchases between individuals, or at things like flea markets or garage sales—but there are indeed forces in federal government that want to digitize the dollar, which would have enormously negative consequences for everyone. Finally, the pipe reamer I’ve used for many years is not any of those mentioned, but I suppose is most like the Brigham. It is “T” shaped with four blades. Looks old. It says on it: “ATMOS FOLDING PIPE REAMER, ATMOS PRODUCTS CO. NEW YORK 11, N.Y.” Anyone know anything about it?

    • Steven Dahout on May 12, 2024
    • Adhesive-backed 220 on a dowel with a bullet shaped end gives me excellent control when grooming the cake. Reamers tend to dig in and break out chunks at random.

    • Pipeman on May 12, 2024
    • I use a small pocket machinists ruler, the small, somewhat flexible 6” version as my reamer. It’s flexible enough not to dig in much, the graduated markings just abrasive enough to gently remove a very thin layer of cake, and the end is rounded so as not to mess up the bottom of the bowl. Works like a charm, and cheap.

    • DAVE SOMMER on May 13, 2024
    • CHUCK,I ONLY HAVE A FEW WORDS FOR YOU THIS TIME. "THANK YOU" FOR THE UPDATED ARTICALE. I REALIZED I WAS DOING ALL WRONG. NOW WITH THE "NEW AND IMPROVED" METHODS MY PIPES ARE CLEANER AND SMOKE A LOT BETTER. SO AGAIN "THANKS MY FRIEND FOR THE UPDATE. DAVE

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