Recommendations For Building A Pipe Rotation
Pipe Rotations by Truett Smith - Smokingpipes.com

When I first started smoking a pipe and encountered the phrase "pipe rotation," the vagueness and degree of personal preference confused me and incited questions. How many pipes do I need in my rotation? How often do I need to rotate those pipes? And why is rotating my pipes even important?

The inspiration behind pipe rotation is the fact that briar is an organic material that absorbs moisture from tobacco when smoked. While this feature is a benefit, allowing for dryer smokes and an impartation of the briar's natural flavor, it does necessitate rest in the same way that any absorbent material requires time to dry and return to its original state.

To facilitate this rest, many pipesmokers rotate their pipes, meaning they wait a certain amount of time after smoking a certain pipe before returning to it. Everyone's smoking schedules and habits are different and everyone's collections are different sizes, however, so the amount of time defining the rotation will vary from pipesmoker to pipesmoker.

One of the many beauties of the pipesmoking hobby is the unity of shared process in spite of differing personal preferences: We may differ in our individual packing techniques and cadences, but every pipesmoker is united in that we all engage in these processes. The same is true of pipe rotation.

Like cadence, tamping, and packing techniques, pipe rotation is often discovered through a trial and error process dictated by each pipesmoker's preferences and individual habits. In my own experience, learning what is helpful to others informs my own process, either in subtle ways or fully mimicked, both approaches having influenced my personal pipe rotation.

To answer my original questions of how many pipes I need in my rotation and how often I need to rotate them: It all depends on how many bowls you smoke per day.

For those just now exploring the world of pipesmoking, I would recommend owning a collection one pipe greater than the number of bowls you smoke per day.

A general rule of thumb I've noticed adopted by many pipesmokers is the "24 Hour Rule." In essence, it maintains that a pipe should be rested for 24 hours for every bowl smoked from it. For example, if I smoke three bowls back-to-back-to-back from the same pipe, it's accepted that the pipe should be rested three days before I smoke it again.

This "rule" has informed my personal pipe rotation, yet it lends itself well to differing schedules, allowing one to tailor it to their own preferences.

I find that most pipe rotations fall within two categories. In one, the same pipe is smoked each day throughout the rotation; in the other, a pipesmoker reaches for a new pipe after each previous bowl. Both can easily follow the "24 Hour Rule," but the time it takes to cycle through the rotation will differ.

The former allows for multiple bowls from the same pipe throughout the day, requiring several days' worth of rest time. The latter limits that to one bowl from each pipe, but each pipe only rests for one day. Then, of course, the third option is to combine these two methods into a unique rotation all its own (though I've personally tried it, and it becomes increasingly difficult to remember out of which pipes I smoked only one bowl versus those of multiple bowls. Not recommended).

Following these two approaches, the number of bowls smoked per day usually dictates how many pipes ought to be in a rotation. If you smoke between three-and-five bowls each day, then four-to-six pipes should easily accommodate a rotation according to the "24 Hour Rule."

I've found that after a pipe has rested several days, that first bowl is one of the best that pipe has ever offered.

All of this, however, is assuming that one smokes the same tobacco out of each pipe. If you're like me and have different pipes devoted to different tobacco blends (Latakia-based, Virginia-based, and Aromatic blends being the most common, though one could add Burley-based blends to that list), then the number of pipes rotated will invariably increase.

For those just now exploring the world of pipesmoking, I would recommend owning a collection one pipe greater than the number of bowls you smoke per day. This strategy should allow for an appropriate rest time, whether each pipe is smoked all day or once per day. As your palate becomes more inclined toward certain tobacco blends, then I'd suggest devoting certain pipes to certain blends and expanding your rotation from there. But for now, while you're still trying new blends, simply keep in mind the "24 Hour Rule," and enjoy the journey.

To you more veteran pipesmokers who have smoked a pipe for years but perhaps never considered rotating pipes or never understood what all the "fuss" was about it, try it out for yourself, and see if regularly rotating your pipes results in more forgiving, flavorful smokes. I've found that after a pipe has rested several days, that first bowl is one of the best that pipe has ever offered. You might be surprised at how much better your favorite blends start tasting once smoked from well-rested pipes.

Those of you who already rotate your pipes, share your wisdom in a comment below. We're all figuring this out together and can learn something new through the varied methods of shared processes.

Category:   Pipe Line
Tagged in:   Editorial Pipe Basics Pipe Culture Tips

Comments

    • Jeremy F on September 17, 2019
    • I admit to being a bit... eclectic in my rotation.
      I have a number of pipes and a selection of those are my 'workhorses'. I do a bit of strenuous work during the day and I use my workhorses during that time. I have enough of them that I never have to smoke the same pipe in that week. It is a luxury, I realize. Then there are the Corvettes and Caddilacs (or thoroughbreds, if you prefer) that make up my relaxing smoke time. I don't always get to indulge in a relaxing smoke, so these see a much wider rotation than the workhorses. I vaguely keep track of what I have smoked in the last week, but not to an exacting degree.

      ~J

    • Jeremy F on September 17, 2019
    • I will say this, since I can't figure out how to add it to my previous comment, My favorite smoke from any of these pipes comes after I have given them a thorough cleaning (usually every other month).

      ~J

    • Alain L. on September 17, 2019
    • For me it’s Cobs for aromatics, Multiple briars for the rest. Always a question of budget for your pipes stack. How much can you afford, indeed...

      Thanks for the article 👍

    • Bill M on September 18, 2019
    • I've been a pipe smoker for 30 years and I'm fortunate to have quite a few pipes of both thoroughbred and workhorse types as Jeremy termed them. Most are devoted to English blends and a few are reserved for aromatics. I generally smoke just one bowl a day so it's easy to give 'em a good rest. The exception of course is with a new pipe (currently I'm trying not to over smoke my new Radice).
      I've become rather fussy about keeping my pipes clean so I usually attend to them as soon as they cool down when the bowl is done.

    • Gus Evening on September 18, 2019
    • I tend to smoke mostly Burleys and some Vapers. I’ve lost my taste for Latakia completely, so now I have many more pipes in my rotation. I usually smoke one bowl in one pipe and switch to another pipe for the 2nd and 3rd bowl, etc. I like the article’s 24 hour rule of thumb which I have been doing without really thinking about it

    • Charles Dombek on September 21, 2019
    • I smoke a rotation of 7 Peterson systems through the week as my backbone pipes. For the evening pipes I have my “thinking” pipes that rarely see more than once a month smoking. The only issue is pipe club meetings where I smoke 3-4 pipes that I then move out of any rotation for a week or so. I mostly smoke English blends with the occasional VaPer.

    • John Steppling on September 22, 2019
    • depends on the pipe...the pipemaker...etc. And then the tobacco you smoke. I smoke mostly virgina flakes with and without perique. I had 4 dot sasienis...which i wish i still had actually....but they needed 48 hours rest. They just did. They dried slower than dunhills. And dunhills slower than many italian made pipes. Castellos or Don Carlos can almost be smoked every day I find.

    • Jeff B on September 22, 2019
    • Very cool article. I have been smoking pipes a short time 2years. Still lots to learn. I am a English Tobacco guy. So what works well for me is I have 7 Briar pipes and 7 Missouri meerschaum corn cob pipes, I may have 2or3 bowls a day everyday. So if I smoke my Boswell on a Monday then Tuesday I reach for my country gentleman and so on. I have found by doing so it keeps my rotation easy and my Briar pipes have plenty of time to rest and air out. Keep my pipes clean at end of days use. But really isn't it all just preference? Some of the elders smoke the same pipe day after day and they wouldn't change a thing right?

    • Jared on September 22, 2019
    • I generally follow the 24 hour rule for my pipes, I have 6 pipes in my rotation, smoking 3-5 bowls a day. Often I will take a briar from my rotation and one of my cobs for the day and switch off, though if I'm not feeling like smoking one of my usuals I have another dozen pipes outside of my rotation to pick from. Like another commenter said I've lost my taste for latakia and mostly smoke burley and vaper, so I don't really dedicate my pipes, except for one that I exclusively smoke Virginias out of.
      - Jared

    • Rick R on September 22, 2019
    • I smoke whatever pipe I feel like, whenever I feel like smoking it. Obviously some pipes suit certain contexts or setting better than others, so I select the pipe that seems right for the context, and I smoke it. No need to overthink it.

    • Dean on September 22, 2019
    • Thank you for the information. I have wondered how long you should "rest" a pipe. I only smoke a few bowls a week, so I guess my one pipe is adequate, and does not support my desire for additional pipes.

    • Bill on September 22, 2019
    • As a over the road truck driver all my pipes work as hard as I do. I carry them in a foam liner hard case 7 pipes but have maybe 10 with me total. I cut out spacing for them works great. I smoke one pipe per day all day 12 to 14 hours up to 8 maybe 10 bowls a day. All my pipes are under $60 I've never had a high dollar pipe. I work them hard.

    • Rob B. on September 22, 2019
    • This is a heartfelt subject for us pipers. If I had my way and the money, I would have a seven day set of Petersons Sherlock Holmes. Since I do not. I went through a large batch of very Caked English. This stuff was almost impossible to keep lit but I loved it because it smoked so long. I discovered some of my pipe drawed much more faster and easier than others so I have resorted to using those for any flaked or long burning tobaccos. My other pipes are for Virginia’s that might smoke hot. My meerschaums are used for whatever I want as I was advised from one video that they can be used for any tobacco and don’t ghost
      RB

    • Bryan Webber on September 22, 2019
    • I have 3 pipes I smoke regularly, while 1 is smoked more than the others, sometimes 2-3 times a day for days on end. I had sold many that I had and dwindled my collection to these 3. I clean them everytime after a smoke with everclear and once every 2 weeks with an actual cleaner. Whichever got the deep clean gets to rest for 24hrs. Never had a problem with a bad smoke or flavor. Always one of the best smokes I've had. However, I believe the difference my 3 have over others is they are high end pipes in the more costly range. One can really tell the difference in good aged quality briar versus young briar.

    • Greg Vermeychuk on September 23, 2019
    • I usually smoke about three bowls per day. Out of the 30 or so pipes that I use, most of them fall into the "thoroughbred" category, and I divide them up based on what kind of tobacco is smoked in them. As for cleaning, I like to clean with alcohol after every smoke, after the pipe has had time to cool down and rest overnight. Scraping the bowl occurs only when the char has built up to a couple of millimeters. Never had a problem with a bad smoke, although I've tried some tobaccos that I didn't care for.

    • Jeremy F on September 23, 2019
    • I realized today that my initial post was concerning the rotation I currently have and not my initial pipe rotation build. I, like Bill M, have been smoking pipes for nearly 30 years now, but my rotation didn't start like it is currently set up. Here is a reflection on that.

      I was in the Army at the time and I wanted something that wouldn't be smashed into uselessness in my ruck when I wanted it. Dip didn't appeal to me, so I went to Briar and Bean in the Clarkesville, TN Mall to see what was available. I picked up a cob and two briar 'basket pipes' that I liked the shape and hand feel of. I didn't know at the time that I was building a rotation. All I knew was that, after I found the first basket pipe I liked, I was hooked. I wanted to buy all of the pipes I could get my hands on. The cob was picked up as a curiosity, but it got the most work. It broke in Korea on a particularly rough weekend field exercise. I still have one of the briars, but I gave the other to a buddy so he could smoke a pipe. I also didn't smoke every day back then, so my rotation had much longer to dry. I still have periods where I don't smoke every day or even for a week or month at the time, but that all depends on what work I am doing and the impact smoking would have on it. Those times grow more rare.

      ~J

    • George M on September 24, 2019
    • I've always known the rule to be 2 days. Well, more completely: At first, I'd heard 2 days. Then, 1-2 days. Then, 2 days or more (ideally), but at least 24 hours.

      Living in a state w/ very humid not-winter months, I certainly understand the 2-days-or-more version of the rule.

      Of course, this assumes you have enough pipes for that window. Otherwise, there's the 4-hour rule. Yet another rule. Though,I've never heard of smoking 3-5 bowls out of a pipe before resting it, you'll likely have to resort to that until you have enough pipes.

      I have the luxury of amassing an embarrassingly large collection of pipes; which I'd excused by the simple fact that it takes a long time for my pipes to dry in the humidity I must deal with and with my still relatively poor skill at packing and smoking.

      At any rate, I try to keep at least 2 days between smokes of a pipe, but I make my final decision based on how the cake feels: the least tacky bowl usually wins.

    • Astrocomical on September 24, 2019
    • When I first started smoking pipes I was disappointed you had to buy several pipes. I thought you could buy just one and smoke it for a lifetime.

      That said, I am now looking for pipes like that. I heard meerschaum pipes can be smoked every day just let it cool between smokes and give it an occasional rest of maybe several days after several days of smoking.

      So that means I really need 2 or 3 pipes. There are a lot of briar pipes I like in the $200 dollar range but I don't want to spend thousands of dollars just so it can be smoked every 2 or 3 days of pipe rotation. Too much money and fuss about pipes.

      I just want one or two GOOD ones. Or I just might turn to owning a dozen corncob pipes instead or maybe two $200 meerschaum pipes.

    • Eric A on September 27, 2019
    • I usually carry 2-3 pipes with me in my pipe bag. What I have found is it is dependent on the individual pipe. I have some pipes that I know I can smoke numerous bowls over a week with no problem, before having to put them aside for cleaning and rest. While others have to be cleaned and rested after just one day.

    • Tony Suvie on September 29, 2019
    • Rotation? I smoke about 3-5or so bowls a day usually. I find I can get away with two bowls from the same pipe before I run some pipe cleaners through it then leave it alone at least a full day or so just because. I have work horses that catch hell and some nicer ones that don’t even get out of the house. They are treated with more respect. I live in a beach resort town so humidity is a factor. I can usually stick my pinky into a bowl and tell if it needs more rest time. Yeah it’s so humid I must be careful when reaming my pipes as it’s nothing for cake to chunk off on me. Oh well so much for fussiness. I am primarily a burley smoker and burley cakes thick and heavy in my experience over the past 40 some years. If things get really ‘sticky’ I’ll give my cobs hell for a couple few days just to give briars an extra break, I guess you could call that a type of rotation?
      That’s my take on the subject anyway. Thanks for letting me share.

    • Jack Gillespie+ on December 29, 2019
    • I rarely smoke more that one bowl at a time and go several days between smokes. I always carry a pipe bag with me that carries two or three pipes. I've settled into really only smoking one blend (Sutliff's 504C) -- I try others but always come back to it after only a bowl or two of other blends -- so I don't really have pipes dedicated to certain blend types. I can count on one hand how may times I've had more than one bowl in the same pipe during the day.

      As I said, I have a bag that carries two or three pipes. So I generally smoke one bowl, and if I'm going to smoke another bowl, I change pipes. When I get home, I put the ones I've smoked back on the rack and add another one or two to the bag.

      Certainly, I have some pipes that are smoked more than others (I'm looking at a churchwarden right now that I haven't smoked in several months) but, generally speaking, all the pipes get smoked and rotated with several days in between each smoke.

    • Gus Kund on June 30, 2020
    • As George Banks showed us in Marry Poppins
      all you need is 3 pipes for perfect rotation. one day on 2 days rest !
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VDDVoI8mD0Y

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