Are you getting into pipes and tobacco for the first time? Pipe smoking is very different from smoking a cigar, and you’ll need to learn some new skills. You also might have some questions – these are some of the more common ones among new pipe smokers.
1.What pipe tools do I absolutely need?
You cannot effectively smoke a pipe or maintain a light without a tamper. This is the only pipe tool that you absolutely need. However, for cleaning out the bowl and stem, a pick and reamer are helpful. Most pipe tools come with all three. A knife is also helpful for cutting rope, flake and plug tobacco. It’s also helpful to keep pipe accessories like pipe filters and pipe cleaners on hand.
2.How do I pack a pipe?
There are many methods to pack a pipe, but the easiest way is as follows. Loosely fill your bowl up to the brim, then tamp down about halfway to two-thirds of the way. Fill it up again, and tamp down until the bowl is about ¾ of the way full. You may top it off if you like, but this is unnecessary. As long as the tobacco is tamped down, but still slightly springy, and you can draw evenly through the stem, you should be able to get a light.
3.Are matches or a lighter better?
Neither is better, and unpracticed hands may scorch the rim of a pipe’s bowl with either. Just be sure to let the sulfur of the match head burn off before applying it to the tobacco. Avoid torch lighters, as these will scorch both the tobacco and the rim of the bowl; pipe-lighting is for the realm of soft flame lighters.
4.Can I use a Zippo to light my pipe?
You actually can use a Zippo to light your pipe, and Zippo makes specific lighters for doing so. Older naphtha formulas tend to impart a flavor to the tobacco, but modern blends are nearly clean and leave almost no flavor, especially if you allow the flame to burn for a few seconds before applying it to the tobacco.
5.What happens if my pipe goes out while I’m smoking?
It’s actually a common occurrence for a pipe to go out while smoking, and some smokers consider it normal. Simply tamp down the remaining tobacco as though you were lighting it for the first time and follow the same process to light it as you did the first time.
6.Is there a “best” type of pipe?
There is no best type of tobacco smoking pipe, only what you prefer. However, pipes with longer stems tend to cool the smoke better than shorter, smaller pipes, and larger bowls help to absorb and disperse heat.
Also, remember that corn cob and briar wood pipes need to be broken in, whereas meerschaum and clay pipes require no break-in period.
7.At what humidity level should my tobacco be stored?
It’s best to store your pipe tobacco in a cool location, away from the light, in a sealed container at about 70% humidity. There are special humidifying discs you can use for this, which will help prevent it from drying out and deteriorating.
8.How can I tell if my tobacco is too dry?
For the most part, you can tell if your tobacco is too dry simply by touching it. Dry tobacco will feel crisp, almost brittle when you pinch it, whereas fresh, properly humidified tobacco will be somewhat springy, and will not feel as though it will crack or break. When you pinch it, it will clump together slightly for a moment or two, before slowly unraveling.
Do you still have questions about pipes and tobacco, or are you looking at getting into this archaic-but-resurging hobby that presents you with a wealth of avenues for relaxation, collection and enjoyment? Seek out the advice of the experts at Rocky’s Cigars.
Located in Syracuse. New York and online at RockysCigars.com, Rocky’s Cigars has been a trusted supplier of cigars, pipes and tobacco for several decades. Hit them up with your questions, or reach them at