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 No.515. 14 April to 3 May, 2022

The Carbon Layer

Extract from The Complete Pipe Smoker – The New Pipe

Wood burns, and although briar is one of the hardest woods to be found, it is a little unreasonable to put a fire inside the bowl and expect the wood to resist the flame. However, the pipe will build, naturally, a carbon layer to line and protect the inside of the bowl.
Helping to build the Carbon layer - This will provide the final drying out and toughening process for the wood, and build the carbon layer essential to protect the wood.
At a pipesmoking contest we attended in the UK, the competitors were given brand new, top quality pipes, as part of a promotion. They filled them to the top and set off to smoke, uninterrupted, for 2 or more hours. The pipes of the winners all burnt through because the carbon layer had not been formed.

You’re building the carbon layer exactly right according to the instructions, and are really enjoying smoking your new pipe.
But the carbon layer is getting very thick = is this right?

The next step in caring for the carbon layer is “Reaming”:
The carbon layer protects your pipe - however it does not expand and contract at the same rate as the wood. If it is too thin it won't protect the wood, and the bowl may burn. If it is too thick, it may crack the wood.
Reaming trims the carbon layer evenly to the optimum thickness.

Briar has the densest, hardest grain of any known wood – which is why you can make a fire inside it and it won’t burn easily. Build up a carbon lining to insulate the bowl (or “cake the bowl” as they say in the States) and your pipe will last for many years.
Damage caused to a briar smoking pipe bowl insufficiently reamed, possibly not reamed at allBut if you don’t maintain the thickness of the carbon at about 1mm to 2mm, you can have a disaster in the making.
The carbon and wood don’t expand and contract to the same extent or at the same rate, and the carbon may crack allowing the heat of the burning tobacco to char the bowl. And not even the thickest bowl can withstand the pressure from expanding rock-hard carbon.

(Here you have the disaster.)
This is a bowl insufficiently reamed, possibly not reamed at all.

To keep the carbon layer at the optimum thickness, approximately 1,5mm (the thickness of a 5c piece) you could scrape the carbon down with your round-tipped pipe knife, but it isn’t easy to keep it even.
Rather use a reamer specially designed for the purpose, to give a smooth carbon layer of even thickness.
Reaming trims the built up carbon layer of a briar smoking pipe evenly to the optimum thickness
You need a desk or coffee table at the right height for your hands when sitting in your comfortable chair. Cover the surface with newspaper and have a dish ready to place under the pipe bowl to catch the carbon,
Then relax, take out the reamer you have chosen and get started.

The Reamer:
We offer 5 options at present:

The T-shaped Savinelli Reamer - 78-Sav444 R215.00
You can adjust it to ream a wide range of bowl sizes. Loosen the screw, adjust the blades to the desired width (there is even a mm measure) and replace the screw. It is held firm by little grooves on the cross bar. To trim the carbon, rotate the reamer in a clockwise direction.

Watchpoint: Don't dig down too hard with the reamer. This may ream more on one side than on the other. Rather rotate the reamer exerting a slight even pressure and allow the tool to do the work. Some smokers like to rotate the pipe around the reamer.

The Senior Reamer - 78-GSenior R695.00
Makes decarbonising your pipe easy and precise. The unique expanding action exerts no pressure on the bowl, yet it is tough enough for really heavy duty cleaning. The very useful shank cleaner fits most pipes.
This is the most efficient reamer we have yet found.
To use the reamer, hold the bowl of the pipe in one hand, adjust the reamer to a suitable starting width, insert it into the bowl and start rotating clockwise, maintaining a slight even pressure. When you have reamed a full layer right to the bottom of the bowl, expand the blades by twisting the knob and repeat. Continue until the carbon layer is at the correct thickness and is nice and even.
Watchpoint: The handle of the reamer is rough for a better grip; you may like to wear an old glove.

Passatore Pipe Maintenance Kit 78-J4304 R1250.00
The Senior Reamer plus several tools to aid the cleaning process.

The Pipnet and the “S” reamers
A very effective design, makes trimming the carbon cake in the bowl of your pipe simple and easy to control. It offers 4 different diameter reaming heads which are each fitted with 4 blades, and slot into the socket of the T-handle. You start reaming with the smallest head, and work your way up to the thickest.
Very precise, very easy to use.
Here is an unsolicited comment from a particularly meticulous pipe customer:
“The pipe reaming tool works like a charm and I attended to ten pipes in no time.
I actually didn’t expect the tool to perform as effortlessly as it did, and I’m thrilled with this.”

The original Swiss Pipnet Reamer 78-J4201 R1895.00
A sturdy handle holds a reaming head having 4 thick carbon steel blades.
The heads are available in 4 sizes: 17mm, 19mm, 21mm, 23mm which suit most bowl sizes.
A successful copy – the “S” Reamer 78-J4211 R495.00
Slightly shorter handle, diameters 16,5mm 18,5mm 20mm 22,5mm.
Ideal if you ream your bowl before the carbon is too thick.

Watchpoint when reaming:
Make sure you leave a little carbon/cake (about 1mm) on the walls of the bowl, to protect the wood.

Finally - reaming is most successful if done reasonably regularly, and if you allow a bit of time.
Don't overexert yourself - allow the tool to do the work.
It is a job that is well suited to being performed while listening to some good music or radio or audio book, or casually watching TV - NOT a Cup Final.

To make sure you can enjoy the best from your pipe - we offer as our next special:

25% off all Reamers
Normal prices from R215.00 to R1895.00 

Valid April 21 – May 11, 2022

A time spent while listening to your choice of music (or audio book), comfortably reaming your pipes with a tool perfectly designed for the task – a pleasantly relaxing time.

It’s the little things that make the difference.

Gillian Wesley
 No.515. 14 April to 3 May, 2022

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No.516 May 5-18, 2022

“Box-pressed cigars”

All this fuss about box-pressed cigars is just talk.
Or is it?

Discussion - what exactly is meant by a box-pressed cigar?
This covers a range of cigars having a squared shape rather than the round format.
Can be achieved in different ways.

Next – why did box pressed cigars originate:
Saving money by squeezing fresh, relatively soft cigars into a smaller box to save on shipping?
Preventing damage that might be caused by cigars rolling around in the box?
An attempt to stop a cigar from rolling off the table?
Who can tell?

When did they become more widely available and popular?
During the cigar boom of the 1990s, Padron offered a 1964 Anniversary Series cigar in box-pressed format.
It was originally a limited edition, but the shape fascinated cigar smokers and soon became associated with the best cigars from Padron.
Other cigar manufacturers jumped on the bandwagon and continued this successful trend.

How are box-pressed cigars made:Box-pressed cigars

Most commonly, they are rolled in the classic round shape, then boxed when fresh:

Gently press the sides of each cigar to make it fit;
Attach the lids, pile several boxes on top of each other, apply pressure to flatten the tops of the cigars;
And there you have it - a square shape, usually with slightly rounded corners.


Box-pressed cigarsFor a more squared off shape, “Tank pressing” is needed.

Before boxing, compress the individual cigars between wooden slats for a period;
Rotate regularly to ensure even pressure on all four sides;
Take care that the pressure doesn’t cause the wrappers to split.

You’ll have almost 90° corners, but it’s a lot of hard work.

PS We still have a few left of the pressed Oliva Serie V Melanio Figurado
Oliva Serie V Melanio Figurado

Cigar Aficionado Cigar of the Year 2014, Cigar of the Week Feb.2022

Whatever the reason, whichever the method – they are here to stay and aficionados on both sides of the discussion have made various points
A square cigar has a little air around it when in my mouth – this makes for a cooler, slower-burning smoke;
A round cigar fits more comfortably into my mouth;
The pressure needed to form the squared off cigar condenses the tobacco leaves, developing the flavour so that the cigars are often a little richer, the aroma more intense;
A round cigar has the original flavour designed by the blender, many of the top cigars are packed to remain round;
The square shape encourages a slower, more even draw, doesn’t go out as easily, and is less likely to clog;
The round cigar feels and looks more traditional .

The round cigar

In fact, which is better is a very subjective decision – try both to see which you prefer.
Easier said than done!
Very few cigars are offered in both the round and the square format.

This brings us to:

Montecristo 129mm x Ring 42
Available as Montecristo No.4 in boxes, pressed, or as Petit Tubos, round.

Montecristo Petit Tubos  Cigar Aficionado No.25 in 2006, Rating 90; 90 in 2014
Cigar Aficionado: “So what if this is the same thing as Cuba’s largest production cigar, the ubiquitous Montecristo No. 4? We have found more often than not in recent years that the bread and- butter smoke of Cuba is of very good to outstanding quality, even if it is made in dozens of factories on the island. Throw it in a tube and you are ready for a night out on the town, without having to take your cigar case. The smoke delivers a mild yet flavorful tobacco character and it’s quick and easy thanks to its petit corona size.”

“Friends of Habanos” comments:
“I like the tubos more than the no.4. They’re a tad richer, deeper, stronger. Just better IMO.”
“Tubos have deeper aromas and age slower and, they are round. I like round. the cedar slide adds flavors too. “

Montecristo No. 4 Cigar Aficionado Rating 91 in 2021
In boxes, lightly pressed, Cuba’s largest production cigar, the Montecristo No. 4.
Cigar Aficionado: “We have found more often than not in recent years that the bread and butter smoke of Cuba is of very good to outstanding quality, even if it is made in dozens of factories on the island”.Despite being mass produced, the quality of the No. 4 is very high.

“Cigar Obsession” comments:
“Firm draw but plenty of smoke. Super long finish in the mouth, Quite complex, sweet yet spicy - creamy in texture and flavour.”
Other comments:
“Smooth – more than one would expect from a small cigar. And gets smoother and richer as smoked.
Packs a lot of flavour.” “Perfect construction. Stays consistently good through out. 40-50mins”

We have put together a Selection pack of Montecristo No. 4 square, and Petit Tubos round, and a squared Romeo y Julieta to make up the three:

Montecristo No.4, Box-pressed
Montecristo Petit Tubos
Romeo y Julieta Mille Fleurs, Box-pressed
From 12 May 2022 - 25 only

Is the difference between round and box-pressed apparent?
Consider strength of taste, burning quality, aroma.
Which do you prefer?

Gillian Wesley
 No.516 May 5-18, 2022

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 No.517  19 May to 1 June, 2022

System Pipes - A cool dry smoke

Colin Wesley always said that this is the aim for the Pipesmoker – “a cool dry smoke”.

The difficulty – many of today’s tobacco blends include some artificial flavouring, a little aromatic oil which provides an attractive aroma for the room, and more particularly for the smoker since “taste” is closely linked to smell.
The result – as the tobacco is smoked some of the natural moisture in the leaf will condense, and so will the aromatic oils and any other juices.
The pipe is a natural filter - Gravity sends some of this condensate to the base of the bowl forming the soggy dottle. The rest deposits in the shank and mouthpiece.

The pipe is doing its job!

So maybe the smoke is dry (and hopefully cool) but the pipe is a mess!
The most successful way to prevent this mess, or at least to collect it in one place for later cleaning – has been through the System pipes, with a trap in the shank.
Particularly the Savinelli Dry System, the Marca Dry and the Keyser pipe.
Since a bent pipe shape can very effectively use gravity to collect the condensate in the shank trap, many such System pipes are bent.

But what if you prefer a straight pipe?
Well, the Keyser offers straight shapes – including quite a nice billiard.
But maybe something a little less pricey is what you’re looking for?

Enter Eric Nording, engineer, and his Keystone pipe.

Nording Pipe cross section

  • The bowl is of excellent quality briar, available in 4 finishes.
  • Well-priced, since pieces of briar this shape and size aren’t normally of use to briar pipe manufacturers.
  • Dry! Any condensation ends up in the trap under the bowl where you have the option to add Keystone lava pellets to mop it up. The bowl chamber is well-proportioned at 17mm diameter and 32mm deep.

The bowl chamber

  • Economical - no tobacco wastage since it can burn away completely,
  • The base (mouthpiece, shank, and bowl chamber) is constructed of black high impact polycarbonate: difficult to break, easy to clean.

The chamber can be filled with highly absorbent Keystones (natural tasteless volcanic clay pellets),
ensuring a cool, dry, smoke, right down to the last shred of tobacco.

We have just received our 6th shipment of Keystone pipes and we know they will be as well-appreciated as the previous shipments.
That’s Erik Nording - the Engineer!

Now for Erik Nording the Artist –
the shipment also contained four Nording Freehands!

Their inspiration
Plateau wood used for the Freehand Pipes

Erik exclusively uses plateau wood for the Freehand Pipes, the outer part of the briar block where you find the most beautiful texture and appearance of the wood.
When carving a freehand pipe, he tries as much as possible to follow the grain, making creative choices when he has to deal with natural defects within the wood.
He has probably produced more freehand pipes than any other pipe-maker.

It is in the finishes of these pipes that his artistry shows.
You have seen on our website the Signature Series, the Grain Series, the Harmony Series, the Briar Line, and more.
Of course they have all sold out – beautifully cured, beautifully finished and very well priced.

Nording Matte Brown Freehand pipe

But now we have the Matte Brown series:
The briar has a rich, medium brown base coat, with a deeper stain following and highlighting the grain. The matt satin finish is so smooth you can’t help feeling it.
Complemented in three of the pipes by a variegated brown mouthpiece.
The fourth pipe looks stunning with a true amber colour mouthpiece.


No filter option – but if you find you have too much moisture in the base of the bowl, just drop in a few Keystone Pellets before packing the tobacco.

The light weight * The incredible feel of the smooth carved curves of the briar * The smoking quality
These are what you will appreciate when you own a Nording Freehand.

Having whet your appetite, we feel it would only be fair to offer you the opportunity to own one of these unique pipes without breaking the bank -

We offer less 25% on
Nording Matte Brown Freehands (4 pipes only)  R3100.00
Nording Keystone for a very cool, dry smoke  R750.00

Valid May 26 to June 8, 2022

In fact Erik Nording is an Engineer, an Artist, and above all – a Pipeman.
Pipes are his passion and his hobby.
The pipes he produces are beautiful, excellent value, and always fit for purpose –
                 a pathway to the pleasures of pipesmoking.

Enjoy your pipe smoking pastime!

Gillian Wesley
 No.517  19 May to 1 June, 2022

You can read previous articles from “Across the Counter” in The Archives Library.Top

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No.518 June 2 - 15, 2022

The Bad news –
for lovers of Cohiba cigars

Cuba has decided that Cohiba cigars will now be priced in accordance with the prices on the Hong Kong market – the most expensive market in the cigar world.
And Trinidad cigars too, when you can get them.

The rationale of Habanos S.A. (the marketing arm of Cubatobacco) is twofold:

  • Supply and demand – they just can’t produce sufficient Cohiba and Trinidad cigars;
  • Luxury brands – as such, Cohiba and Trinidad can stand much higher prices.

Minimum prices have been set worldwide.
The larger Cohiba cigars will sell for around $100 each.

For example, to celebrate 55 years since being founded, Cohiba launched a new cigar - Cohiba 55 Aniversario Edición Limitada 2021 – 150mm x Ring 57, the thickest cigar made by Cuba. On May 14, 2022, Phoenicia Trading A.A. launched the cigar in their duty-free store in Beirut. The price is in the order of $300 – more than three time the price of a Cohiba Esplendido.

The South African importer has had to increase the prices of Cohiba cigars.
Many of the new prices are double what they were in April – here are examples of some singles prices
Cohiba Siglo 1            From R336.00 to R676.00 per cigar
Cohiba Robusto          From R678.00 to R1595.00 per cigar (just over $100)
We still have some stock at the old prices, but any new stock we buy will bear the increases.

The other Cuban cigars we are able to buy (supplies are very limited) are about the same price as in April, or very slightly up.
Cigar Aficionado writes:
“So what does this mean for retailers? “A huge change to the cigar world,” says one European shop owner, who wishes to remain anonymous. “New World cigars are going to become even more popular” the vendor says, referring to non-Cuban brands.”
We have just had a small promotion of non-Cuban brands, and they nearly all sold out.
A sign of things to come?

On a different though related subject, some Good news for your cigar cutter:

You may be noticing that your cigar cutter is not working as well as when it was new:

  • Difficult to cut a clean slice, the ends of the cut are shredding.
  • Keeps sticking as you try to use it. This happens as oils from the cigar leaf build up on the blades.

You don’t have to throw it away yet! It may just need a good cleaning.

You need: Cotton swab

  • Cotton swabs available from most pharmacies;
  • Rubbing alcohol (USA); here you ask for Surgical Spirits at your chemist;
  • Graphite lubricant – I bought some online from S A Lock. “The benefit of using graphite (rather than oil) is that the graphite leaves no sticky residue that may attract dust. This is because the lubricating properties of graphite lie in its weak covalent bonds that allow the layers of graphite to “slide” on top of one another with very little resistance.”
      • Aluminium foil

Method (as they say in recipes)

1. Dip the tip of the swab into the Surgical Spirits and wipe the blades repeatedly until the swab stays clean.
2. If you like, squirt a little graphite lubricant onto the moving parts. This is very good for scissors and other pivotal cutters.
3. Use a dry swab or cloth to wipe the blades clean after you’ve finished – you don’t want anything to deposit onto your cigars.
4. Smooth the rough edges of the blade:

After using for some time, the edges of the blade will start to develop rough edges. These are imperfections known as burrs, and the process of removing them is called deburring. Technically deburring doesn’t “sharpen” the blade, doesn’t remove any material. It smooths the rough edges.
Roll a tube of some aluminium foil and cut repeatedly all the way down its length. Afterwards, you should get a much cleaner cut on your cigar!
Do tell me how it works for your cutter.
This process is used by Paper crafters to sharpen the punches they use.
Click this link to see a crafter at work:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zuS4AAqdWJM
Works on your cheap cutters as well as on your expensive models.

The complete 4 step process should save you having to buy a new cutter.
The money you save may eventually buy you a Cohiba Robusto – new price R1595.00 per cigar.

Too late!! I’ve already thrown the cutter away.
Use our next offer to replace your cutter at a better price, and knowing you will be able to keep it cutting well for some time to come:

From June 9 – 22, 2022
25% off any cigar cutter or punch
(except the couple at already reduced prices)
Prices from R70.00 to R3990.00 (Dunhill White Spot)

Maybe an old favourite cigar cutter has been buried in a cupboard – too good to just throw away?
Bring it out and back to life – in just 10-15 minutes.

And the Cohiba?
Buy it for a special occasion when you can really enjoy the nuances – it is still a great cigar and worth the price.
A future blog will talk about “tasting” a cigar the experience, not just the chemical analysis.

Gillian Wesley
No.518 June 2 - 15, 2022

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No.519. 16-29 June, 2022

A thing of beauty ….

 That was one of the attractions of your new pipe.

Next time you reach for your pipe, take a good look at it.
Is it shining back at you?
Does it have a healthy glow?

The inside of your pipe has been cleaned and reamed to give you a good smoke, but what about the outside?
As the pipe matures it starts to show signs of wear:

  • The mouthpiece tastes bitter when oxidised – soap and water only seem to make it worse.
  • The briar bowl is starting to look dull and tired.

This is the final stage of caring for your pipe.

To see what can be done look at these pipes prior to, and post, refurbishing

Pipe Restoration - After Pipe Restoration - Before

I’m sure that you’ll agree that these refurbished pipes look stunning (warts and all).

You can restore the finish of your mature pipes with a little time and effort.

The vulcanite (ebonite) mouthpiece:
Has it started to oxidise – it’s dull and greeny-grey, especially on the lip?
If yes, then now you know why the taste is bitter.
Remove the oxidation from the mouthpiece with a mild abrasive (Dunhill Pipe Mouthpiece Restorative Polish or Savinelli Stem Polish  or Jeweller's Rouge). You’ll need a coarse cloth and a long dose of elbow grease (perfect for that next rugby game).
If very dull and green, a buffing wheel is a big help - remove the mouthpiece to prevent accidental breakage. Take care not to buff too hard on one spot - the vulcanite may burn. If the logo is stamped on the mouthpiece it will possibly disappear.

The Briar Bowl:
Couldn’t some of the pipes in your collection do with a little spit and polish?
Are they looking dull and lifeless?
Restore them to life with Savinelli Bowl Polish or Dunhill Pipe Bowl Polish, applied with a soft cloth and elbow grease (or buffing wheel - gently).
Your senses of sight and touch will appreciate this exercise, and seeing the brand name or shape number may conjure up the memory of where and when you acquired each old pal.

The finishing touch:
Dunhill Silicone Pipe Care Cloth protects your pipe with an invisible film of silicone wax. Rub lightly over the surface of the bowl and mouthpiece after cleaning and polishing.
If the tenon is clean give it a rub too. It will slide more easily in and out of the shank.

Full Pipe Maintenance kits are available from both Savinelli and Dunhill

Tip: If you’re really serious about renewing your pipe click here for detailed instructions from a master.

Restore the finish of your pipes with our next special offer:

25% off Polishes, Silicone Cloth, Maintenance Kits
Normal prices from R110.00 to R895.00
Valid 16 June to July 6, 2022

Your pipes will be as beautiful as when they were new - only the dents will remain as a reminder of past pleasures, a joy forever.

Gillian Wesley
No.519. 16-29 June, 2022

You can read previous articles from “Across the Counter” in The Archives Library.Top