One day you will know
the pleasure of tranquilly puffing on your pipe, and will barely remember
the days when you started - when the pipe wouldn't stay alight, you used
more matches than tobacco, and the smoke was so hot that your tongue felt
This article will help you
and your friends who are just beginning; or would like to take up pipesmoking
but are doubtful of how to go about it; or have failed in the past.
- remember pipe tobacco doesn't contain ANY additives to assist burning.
Don't puff vigorously, the tobacco will only burn hot as a result. Simply
let it go out and re-light as often as necessary. Tobacco will burn easier
if it is rubbed out, or allowed to dry a little. THE PIPE
The Quality: Choose a pipe from a company that makes good pipes. This
will ensure that you buy a pipe that has been properly cured, giving a sweeter
taste. Curing the briar is done before sorting the bowls, and has to be
good enough for the best pipe made by the company. (Read
The taste from a pipe which still has sap and juices in the wood, and possibly
a varnished finish, can be very deterring. (Such pipes are however usually
cheaper, and the experienced pipe smoker may prefer to economise, and accept
the taste as the pipe dries out over the first couple of weeks.) The shape should be one that feels good in your hand, looks good
when you smoke it, is comfortable in your mouth, and should preferably be
a pipe with a filter. For a novice, the only real "don't" is a
pipe that is too heavy in the mouth, e.g. a large bowl on a long straight
stem. One of the best pipe shapes is a full bent which is very light on
the jaw. The Savinelli Dry System is a superb bent stem pipe with many advantages, especially for the new
pipe smoker. A sandblasted finish is generally lighter because the soft
wood on the surface has been removed, leaving the tough shell. "Filter" pipes:
Many years ago there was a common pipe expression "the cheaper the
pipe the more elaborate the filter". This was because the wood used
for cheaper pipes was not as carefully cured as it might have been. Good
pipes were made from well-cured, hard, dry, porous briar and needed no filter.
Besides, it was not possible to turn vulcanite thin enough to hold the filter
without making an overly thick shank. The technical problems have been overcome
by the introduction of flexible Teflon inserts capable of holding 6mm and
9mm filters. But that is not the only reason that there is a demand is for more and
more "filter" pipes.
The pipe is a natural filter and moisture will condense from the smoke and
deposit in the shank and mouthpiece. Many smokers, especially new smokers,
secrete excessive saliva or use the very popular "Aromatic" tobaccos
which, due to the flavouring oils, have more moisture in the smoke than
the older natural blends. This can lead to a messy pipe and the unpleasant
smoke known as a "wet smoke".
The function, therefore, of today's "filters" is to absorb moisture,
by mopping up excess juices, without spoiling the taste. These may be 6mm
or 9mm filters made of Balsa wood, or Paper rolls, or capsules containing
Meerschaum granules, Charcoal pellets, Crystals - all serving the same purpose,
to remove moisture and provide a cool dry smoke. (See also Bowl
Filters) Bearing all this in mind, the best pipe for you is the one you like.
New Pipesmokers - DON'T try to start your first pipeful, when the phone is likely
to ring, plus the doorbell, and a dozen other matters may need your
attention. Wait until you're likely to have a relaxed, comparatively
uninterrupted period, such as watching television. In time, your pipe
will relax you, but as a beginner it needs your full attention.
The ideal blend for a new smoker is one which burns easily - but not too
fast; tastes smooth - yet not too rich; has an attractive aroma - especially
for the bystander; and is satisfying to smoke, so that you won't smoke
it too fast causing it to burn hot.
We have developed Houseblends which fill the bill. No.43 Old Gold - light and mellow; . . . . No.42 Mellow Cavendish - smooth and fruity;
No.25 Cherry - slightly sweeter; . . . ..
. . No.24 Black Cavendish - smooth and plain;
Start with 50g of
the tobacco of your choice to get accustomed to your pipe and this tobacco.
Select, by your sense of smell, a blend that appeals to you. One's senses
of smell and of taste are quite closely related. Once you are settled
with your pipe (or if you're looking for a new tobacco) experiment a little
to see if you prefer any other flavour. Read "The Perfect Blend"
Keep your tobacco in any airtight container in a cool place either in
packets or loose. Use a humidrol to keep the air in the container moist,
or stick a piece of sponge to the lid and keep the sponge damp (with water).
If your tobacco has dried out, then spray it with water using a very fine
nozzle, or steam it briefly.
Although tobacco keeps better when it is moist, you may like to take out
your daily quantity and allow it to dry a little (naturally) before smoking.
Tool - This must have 3 instruments: A blunt-tipped knife-blade or
scoop to empty the bowl; a pick to clear the shank; a tamper to press
down the tobacco. Pipe Cleaners - Ordinary thin; extra long or extra thick; tapered
(do not pull right through thin-stemmed pipes); bristle for periodic scrubbing. Pouch - (optional) can be zip, stud, companion or roll-up (synthetic
or leather); but it must seal up fairly airtight, and have a synthetic
or rubberised lining. In dry weather, use a clay/aluminium humidrol to
keep the air in the pouch moist, and thus the tobacco fresh. (If you use
a piece of potato, apple or orange peel, don't let it go mouldy). Reamer - (optional) to keep the carbon layer at the optimum thickness. Pipe Lighter - (optional) with a directional flame to make lighting
easier. By angling the flame directly onto the tobacco it reduces the
risk of burning the inside of the bowl.Gas lighters for pipes and cigars are clean and odourless. The flint mechanism is less sensitive to dust, and
is more reliable than most electronic systems. (Read "Lighting
Up") FILLING AND SMOKING
Filling: Blow through the stem to make sure it is clear. If it isn't,
use a pipe cleaner or the pick of your pipe tool to clear it. Feed the
tobacco into the bowl, pinch at a time. Press down and check the draw
- it must be firm but not too tight. To start with you may have to test
the draw with each pinch but in time it will be second nature to pack
it just right for you. If you have filled the pipe, but it doesn't draw
comfortably, empty it out and start again. It won't smoke well if it burns
Loosen the top of the tobacco slightly so that it will accept the igniting flame readily. Apply the flame (from a slow-burning match or a pipe lighter) to the surface of the tobacco, while drawing steadily to draw the flame down into the bowl, moving the flame from side to side over the whole surface so that all the tobacco at the top of the bowl is charred. Be careful not to burn the sides of the bowl. After a puff or two the tobacco usually goes out. Tamp down, tease the surface, and relight in the same way. You will probably have to repeat this several times before you have finished the bowlful of tobacco.
(After the first lighting, the full, unsmoked pipe may be left for up
to 12 hours before smoking. It settles down and smokes beautifully. Try
it and see if it suits you.) Smoking: Don't rush it, puffing furiously. Smoking should be an
extension of breathing, gentle and rhythmical giving a cool smoke, good
for the pipe and for the tongue. The majority of pipesmokers do not inhale,
the taste is all in the mouth. Of course you will also enjoy the fine
aroma of the smoke. If the pipe goes out, gently tap off the loose ash
and relight, but don't refill a warm pipe, use another pipe and let the
old one rest and dry out.
It isn't necessary to smoke solidly for hours. Stop when you're satisfied,
put the pipe down, and it will go out naturally. When you're ready for
another smoke, relight the pipe, or start another pipeful if you prefer.
THE NEW PIPE
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.
to build the Carbon layer:
1. Before packing the tobacco, moisten the inside of the bowl with a drop
of water, or saliva. Alcohol, honey or molasses will aid the formation
of the carbon layer, but they burn rather hot, bad for the pipe and you.
2. The carbon layer should reach right to the base of the bowl, so fill
the pipe one-quarter to one-third full for the first smoke. Smoke it quietly
and smoothly, as close to the bottom as you can. Don't smoke outdoors
or in a draught. Read "Smoking
3. Over the next 6-8 smokes gradually fill the pipe a little more each
time, moistening the inside before packing, and smoking as far down as
possible. Clean gently so as not to disturb the carbon. 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 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 they had not been gently "broken
in". Meerschaum and clay pipes do not need a carbon layer, just fill
up and smoke - but as with all pipes they should improve with smoking.
Read more about Meerschaum.
CARE - The three things that most shorten the life of your pipe are 1. Saturation by tars and juices. Your pipe is a natural filter - the distance between the bowl and the lip cools the smoke; tars and
juices condense out and deposit on the walls of the shank and mouthpiece,
and in the heel of the bowl. Excess moisture can be collected using an
absorbent filter, but in any case some will soak into the wood. Between
smokes place a pipe cleaner in the stem and rest the pipe vertically,
bowl down, in a pipe rack or stand. Have a few pipes and smoke them in
rotation, so that they will have time to dry out properly. Periodically
clean the inside of the shank and the heel of the bowl. Bristle cleaners
and a solvent (eg Savinelli Pipe Clean) are very good for this periodic
Oxidation makes the mouthpiece go dull, even green, and it tastes very
bitter. Polish the mouthpiece with Mouthpiece Polish, and the outside
of the bowl with Bowl Polish Cream. Obsidian Oil can help prevent oxidation. Google it and see what you think.
can have your pipe reamed, cleaned and sweetened for a moderate cost
- it comes back like new, but still "broken in" and ready
Burning out or cracking. The carbon layer protects your pipe - however it does not expand and contract at the same rate as the wood.
If it is too thick, it may crack the wood. If it is too thin it won't
protect the wood, and the pipe may burn. Keep the carbon layer at the
optimum thickness, approximately 1,5mm (the thickness of a 5c piece) using
a reamer specially designed for the purpose, to give a smooth carbon layer
of even thickness. A round tipped knife will also do, but it may be difficult
to keep the carbon even. 3. Damaged pipes - most commonly: bitten through
mouthpieces (old age), a hole in the bottom of the bowl or in the mouthpiece,
or a broken mouthpiece.
A hole in the bowlof the pipe is usually caused by one
of two things:
a. Scraping out the bowl with a sharp pointed tool. Rather use a round-tipped
knife or tool.
b. The wire in the middle of a pipe cleaner is hard and strong. If you
are too enthusiastic when you clean out the shank with the pipe cleaner,
you could drill a hole in the bowl. Be aware, especially with bent pipes,
and don't dig and twist the pipe cleaner too hard into the base of the
bowl. A hole in the mouthpiece: Forcing a cleaner especially through
a very bent mouthpiece, can cause wear and form a hole. Ease the pipe
cleaner through. Use an extra thin cleaner if necessary. The mouthpiece: When you have finished smoking, empty your
pipe. Don't remove the mouthpiece from the shank until it has cooled down,
as the peg may be soft or swollen, and you may break it or crack the shank.
To empty the pipe, it is traditional to "knock it out" even
though this could be bad for the pipe. Soften the blow by holding the
pipe at the heel of the bowl, not by the stem, to avoid breaking the stem;
and where possible knock against a soft surface eg. a cork knocker, rather
than a hard glass or ceramic ashtray, or the nearest wall. The peg of
the mouthpiece is the most vulnerable point. Always hold close to the
join when removing or replacing the mouthpiece, and be careful when sitting
down with the pipe in your pocket. Also, vulcanite doesn't expand and
contract at the same rate as wood, with the result that after years of
happy smoking, or soon after you're bought your pipe (or even before it
is sold), the peg suddenly doesn't fit. Too tight - you may crack
the wood. Too loose - and the bowl may fall off.
If your pipe is damaged it can be repaired at a moderate cost, especially
with the price of replacing it with one of equivalent quality.
better than cure: In order
to remove a mouthpiece which is too tight,
place the whole pipe in a plastic bag, seal it, and put it in the freezer
overnight. Remove the bag, and holding both mouthpiece and shank close
to the join, gently twist and pull until the mouthpiece comes out.
(If it is still too tight, return to freezer and try again later. We have
left a pipe in the freezer for 3 weeks, with no ill-effects.)
Leave the mouthpiece and shank apart for two or three hours, pencil the
peg and then test. The mouthpiece may fit straight away, or it may be
necessary to file or scrape the peg until it fits. Rub the peg with a Silicone cloth or a
pencil again to lubricate the joint. If the mouthpiece is too loose (not 6mm or 9mm filter pipes), set
up two cups of water, one cold, one boiling. Dip the peg only, first in
the hot water for about 10 seconds, then in the cold for the same time,
then test the fit. Repeat until the peg fits the shank. Remember to rub
the peg with a Silicone cloth or a pencil to lubricate the joint. If the mouthpiece is very loose (not 6mm or 9mm filter pipes),
it may be necessary to heat the peg above (not in) a flame until it is
slightly soft. Then gently press the mouthpiece vertically down on a hard
surface, and hold this position until the mouthpiece is cool. Test, trim
if necessary, and Silicone or pencil the peg to lubricate. Caution: If you press too hard or at even a slight angle
from the vertical, the peg may break
WATCHPOINT 1 A most important word of warning about filter pipes: Filter pipes must be smoked with either the filter or an adapter (usually supplied with the pipe).
Smoking without the filter (or adapter), even once, will allow moisture to condense in the empty space and seep into the shank, causing it to swell. This will result in a cracked shank, or a loose mouthpiece which is very difficult to remedy. If this happens to you, take it in to your nearest Wesley’s for an opinion. The Tenon/Peg is tougher than the wood!
Keep it clean so it won’t stick. Occasionally wipe it with a silicone cloth, or pencil it, so it slides easily. Have a look at the Gallery Because of the metal band, Savinelli Dry System pipes are excluded from this warning
WATCHPOINT 2 Because it is glued into the mouth piece (not part of it) the Teflon peg may occasionally work loose and remain stuck in the shank. This is fairly easy to fix – use pliers to pull it out of the shank, and follow the instructions of one of those excellent 2-part glues to re-stick it into the mouthpiece - and don’t use too much glue or the overflow may prevent the mouthpiece from fitting flush. Not a DIY person? Bring it back to the shop and we’ll do it for you. Just needs a while to dry.
branch of Wesley's will be happy to help you with any adjustments
to the fit of your mouthpiece of your pipe, at no charge unless it needs
to be sent for repair.
hesitate to contact us if you have any questions
- Your smoking pleasure is our business.
Colin Wesley (Originally written Sept.1969; updated Nov.2002, extended 2008)