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Classic Tin-Same Great Taste

Can anyone explain this baffling phenomenon re: pipe tobacco?

Hello.  I have long had a question about pipes - why are they so hard to keep lit?  I can keep a cigarette or cigar lit with almost no problem, but with pipes, it's all about constant relighting.  I don't mind relighting, it's just that the science-curious part of me is intrigued as to why pipes, specifically, don't want to stay lit.  Is it the tobacco itself, or is there something about the physics of pipe-smoking?  And no, I don't smoke goopy syrupy aromatics, only English blends.  And why can even the gentlest pipe smoking sometimes get hot, whilst I can chug away on a cigarette, and it never gets hot?  I'm intrigued by pipes, but frustrated with them at the same time.  Taking a gentle puff or two and then putting it down for several minutes keeps the pipe cool, but that's not really my idea of smoking. 


  • SeanOCDPxSeanOCDPx Member
    edited March 2016 PM
    You probably know way more about pipe smoking than me since I'm pretty new to it, but I'm going to chime in anyway, because I'm yet to have these problems.  I have chugged away on my pipe, and it only got a little warm.  Also, I usually only need to relight once or twice, if at all, and I do smoke aromatics.  I watched a couple of YouTube video which offered tips on how to pack the bowl, and tamping tips, etc.  Also, what kind of pipe are you using?.  Mine is briar, and so far it has been treating me pretty well. 
  • It doesn't sound like humectants such as propylene glycol are your problem...they are a pain in the ass and in the mouth.  You might try letting your tobacco dry out a bit before layering into your pipe, pack very loosely and tamp carefully.  "Fresh" tobacco has a bit too much moisture to burn properly and it leads to steam, multiple re-lights, more steam, tongue bite and more re-lights.  

    It's even tougher with flakes and most Virginia tobaccos.  I learned the hard way, and now I dry my Marlin Flake to an almost crispy state before even considering putting a match to it.
  • Yup some drying time is necessary with a lot of pipe tobaccos. Proper packing goes a long way as far as keeping the pipe lit too along with proper cadence of your sipping or puffing of the pipe. Drying time is going to be dependent on not just how moist the tobacco is but also the humidity in the air. I normally set about what I think I'll need for a bowl on a piece of paper or napkin a while before I'm going to go out to smoke. I have already gotten distracted and completely forgotten and found the tobacco the next day and packed it up and really it smoked just fine so don't get all worried about over drying will be just fine. Packing wise I find the 3 step the best. Fill the bowl and pack loosely,fill again pack a smidge tighter and fill again packing again just a bit tighter. The idea being if you just pack tight from the start by the time your done you've really crammed the stuff in the bottom of the bowl way too tight. I suggest you look up the breathe method or technique on YouTube it is a good technique to get your puffing cadence to where it should be and once you get used to it and use it for a while it becomes a mindless activity taking zero thought on your part.
    Smoking a pipe can be a very rewarding,enjoyable and relaxing hobby or pass time whatever you choose to call it. Just keep at it and don't be afraid to try new and different ideas and techniques and tobaccos until you find what works best for you.
  • Since I'm not a clencher, and usually smoke while doing other things, I often set my pipe aside, such as to type or turn pages of a book etc. I'm always having to relight, and I'm fine with that. It does not seem to affect the quality of my enjoyment. But on those occasions when I do focus on the smoking, I find, as the others have mentioned, that a little drying time, correct packing, and a good puffing cadence greatly decreases the need to relight.

  • Embrace the relight -- a smoke with less than 5 relights comes with time, patience, and practice. Keep at it and experiment -- check out , they have some pretty cool tips; and check out the YouTube pipe community, there are tons and tons and tons of great videos on different techniques for packing and tamping, etc.

    Relighting is all part of the process.
  • edited March 2016 PM
    Plenty of good advice before me. Air time is important although some flakes like SG1792 can be stubborn even bone dry. I like to mix it with a straight shag cut Virginia it was by accident I found that to work.

     Tamping is key to keeping the pipe lit you only want to tamp with a fetter touch to keep the amber in touch, too much tamping and your packing the ash and tobacco . 

    Some times you need to use the poker and poke a hole down through the tobacco so the amber follows to get the right air flow.

    Packing also plays into it, Pack first with a child's touch them with a lady's hand then the final layer . It also brings the flavor profiles out. 

    You can also pack your pipe by putting the tobacco in your palm, place the open end of the pipe over the tobacco and while pressing down lightly in a circular motion will fill the pipe then pack the tobacco from the sides to the center and add the crumbs on  top.

    Tobaccos also behave differently in pipes some smoke better with a narrow diameter others with a larger . Pairing tobacco with pipes is trial and failure more than successful . Sometime you do find that perfect smoke. 

    You may want to try just smoking half pipe full. If you need more, load another half pipe. I rarely ever smoked a pipe without several lights. Some tobaccos smoke like a champ and they are out there. Pipe smoking takes patience it also teaches.   Happy smokes!
    My knowledge is worthless if not shared and applied . "Joseph McKenna"  
  • over time u'll soon realize what works best for u. do let it dry, will burn better and minimize gurgle.
    u'll find a pipe burns better outdoor too. the quality of pipe, bore and rotation plays ther role. personally, i light 
    with the wood match most of the time. and remember..

    a cigarette is to be smoked as a cigar is to be enjoyed but a pipe is to be savoured.. 


  • Pipe's don't stay lid because the tabacco is to moist ore you pushed it in to hard or you don't smoke fast enough.... That's about it. Pipe smoking is all about the right balance. And that is very hard to find. I'm smoking for 1,5 year now and still struggling.
    Cigarettes stay lit because of the paper and cigars because of the perfect roling balance between air and tabacco.
  • I've been smoking a pipe a little more often recently, and have accepted that the first 1/4 bowl is pretty much going to be constant relights. After that I can generally speaking get it ticking over quite nicely. I also only use ultra cheapo pipes, only smoke outdoors, and my backy is old and has to be rehydrated in small amounts before use, so I'm at a disadvantage before I start :P
  • @50ft_trad - That's my experience.  One talks of the "initial false light", but I find that the first several lights are "false lights", that the tobacco continues to swell up, and that I have to re-light and keep tamping.  After about 1/4 of the bowl, the tobacco stays lit more easily, especially with regular light tamping.  The tamper, in fact, functions almost like a second lighter.  I'd rather stoke the fire that's in there rather than add more fire to the bowl, if possible.
  • Yeah, the false light stage seems to continue until you have a pretty much complete topping of ash. I have developed a method of packing which seems to work really well (for me) too. It's kind of the pack it three time rule, but with a different bias.

    Taking pinches of tobacco which would just over half fill the bowl loosely, I add two pinches and press down to the "fill line", about 1/8" or 3mm below the top of the bowl. Don't let your finger ever press deeper than that. Then put another pinch on top and press again to the same point, and continue till it feels "full". Have a test draw and ensure that the airflow has changed slightly from empty, still effortless, but fractionally slower. If it doesn't feel like it's changed I'll add another half pinch or compact slightly more, but I'm working to the same fill point throughout, and not trying to gauge different pressures.... that just happens on it's own.

    This gives me a nice layered construction in the bowl and a nice consistent smoke with loose shag tobaccos, and blends like Squadron Leader and Commonwealth mixture. Not mastered the twist or the flake yet.
  • Dry in more, pack it lighter, tamp gently.

    No.... more than that, lighter than that, and more gently.


  • BCTBCT Member

    Some latakia heavy blends are harder to keep lit initially. With these blends, a "looser" pack is helpful. Tamping at the right time and pressure goes a long way in keeping a pipe lit.

    I love the old Drucquer's blends, especially the English blends. I have noticed that Cook's #5 needs a loose pack as opposed to 805.

  • There can be many reasons for it to go out. You have to judge how to pack it correctly by how fine or long the shreds are. Also, account for how moist it is and I'd even got as far as to say you need to pack different pipes differently. It gets easier once you get the pipe fully broke in and you get a good amount of charring in it because it retains heat better and you get a more even burn  I've always had a problem with tamping it too often. Honestly, it just takes a long time to get the hang of it but it only takes practice. I had a hard time with it for at least a year before i got it down
  • Pipe smokers like to brag about the "one match light to the bottom of the bowl."

    It's not a myth, but is extremely rare.  I think I've successfully done it a handful of times... mostly with OTC American burleys in a MM cob.  I'd probably have done it more often, but I rarely smoke American OTC's as most of my favorite pipe tobacco's are moist and dense, and I dislike drying them. 

    I smoked a pipe for three years in my 20's... almost 5 years in my 30's... and picked it back up in my early 40's and have stuck with it and am almost 50 now.

    I think the main problem is smoking a pipe is making a fire burn DOWN (from a higher elevation to a lower)... physics states heat/fire rises, and trying to make it burn down is a bit difficult.

    If ya mostly smoke dry American OTC burleys this will be much easier.  If ya smoke quality European tobacco's (especially Flakes [most especially moist ones like Sam Gwaith, etc]) it's gonna be harder to keep it lit.  A lot of folks in this thread suggested that you dry yer tobacco first.  I think tobacco tastes better moist, though that makes it harder to keep it lit.

    Basically, I believe relights when smoking a pipe is normal and part of smoking a pipe.

  • Yeah, re-lights are part of the process. I usually do 2-3 depending if I'm smoking by myself or with others. I've done the one match bowl many times before, but I don't enjoy it as much because it takes too much work. If I smoke with friends I tend to relight more often as I don't pay attention as much to my pipe.

    As far as moisture content, it depends on the brand of tobacco. You don't want pipe tobacco to be super moist and you don't want it bone dry. Somewhere in the middle is where you want to aim. Certain tobaccos are best at certain moisture levels. That depends on the cut of the tobacco whether it's plug, flake, cube, ribbon, etc as well as what type of leaf is in the tobacco. Blends with latakia I tend to like on the drier side, it it's too moist it tastes funny to me. Broken flake and ribbon without latakia I tend to like on the moister side. That is something you will have to experiment with. Each person is different.
  • I couldn't disagree more @Psicko and @moemojo . If I have to relight a pipe, it means I've done something wrong. I've been a daily smoker for 6+ years and I rarely need to relight.  I usually go for in house blends instead of the tinned tobaccos because of the huge price difference in price. I have a few shops around my house that carries dozens of blends they make in store and sometimes I even doctor them up to my own tastes. My suggestion, pack it looser and tamp less. 

  • Even if it's not technically stopped burning, I often stop, tamp LIGHTLY, then rilight, just to get it burning more evenly. Yeah, can do one match, but matches aren't THAT expensive. What's wrong with using a few of them?
  • I do the same if it's started to falter. I prefer that to puffing to getting it going again.
  • MarkMMarkM Member
    edited July 2016 PM
    @JakartaBoy @50ft_trad When it's not wanting to stay lit, I take the pick on my pipe tool and lightly stir up the very top layer of white ash, then empty out the ash simply by inverting the pipe and letting whatever ash wants to fall out fall out, followed by the lightest of tamps, and that seems to make the next light just fine.  I've gotten to where I really don't worry about it going it out now and then, since I'm not interested in chain-smoking a whole bowlful of tobacco at one go in the first place.  The fact that I can set a pipe down and come back to it later is actually something I like about pipe-smoking, as opposed to wondering "hmm, do I have time for this cigarette?".  Also, pipe tobacco can be re-lit, even after several hours, without having that oily, "off" taste that a cigar can have when it's re-lit after having been allowed to go out and go cold.
  • @MarkM I agree, I can do the one match bowl, but I think it takes away from the experience if that makes sense. Blends without latakia can be left longer. Heavy later blends do not lend well to being left and smoked later. With some va blends I think they can taste better if left for awhile. That is called the delayed gratification technique or dgt for short
  • I have had a different troubling phenomenon a couple of times lately. Maybe someone can throw in some insight on this one....

    (apologies for the thread jack, but I figure this question probably belongs here)

    I've been slowing my smoking right down, but a couple of times on ribbon cuts, I've been suffering from a partial burn in the bowl. The coal has travelled down through the tobacco, and has left scorched but unburnt tobacco all around the wall of the bowl. The thickness of the unburnt tobacco has been up to maybe 1/4 of the bowl diameter.

    Other clues:
    The tobacco around the wall has been quite dense, OR has possibly stuck to the side wall (?), such that a light tamp doesn't move it - but the pipe was (as always) not densely packed. I have to ash the pipe and either firmly tamp, or pick the tobacco from the side wall and then tamp. It won't relight properly without doing this.

    When this causes the pipe to stall, the peripheral tobacco is still about 3/4 full, but the bottom of the centre cavity about 1/3 bowl full ..... and even though the pipe has been smoked very slowly and gently, with minimal smoke produced when I take a puff, the centre area seems to have burnt very quickly. Too quickly. Like after 15 minutes or so.

    Tobaccos this has happened with include Commonwealth Mixture, Squadron Leader, and SG 2013 Ltd Ed (a crossover aro/English). I have had a similar effect with rubbed out flake once or twice too, but that was more like one side of the bowl rather than central.

    This has happened in cob, hardwood, and briar.

    Any thoughts? Too wet? Too dry? Packed too loose (maybe a void)? Packed unevenly? Total mystery?

    I don't seem to be doing anything differently between getting this result, and getting between a very pleasant 1 and 1.1/2 hours with a 19x35mm bowl. And it only seems to be once every 4 or 5 bowls that I'll suffer this.

    It's almost like most of the pipe is burning properly, but just one part of it is burning too fast. Rather fruatrating
  • @50ft_trad My best guess is packed too loose.
  • Thanks @Zanaspus :)

    I know I'm trying to be very economical with my tobacco use due to limited funds, but maybe I'm being just a little too stingy with the leaf. I'm certainly getting the right "bounce" in the tobacco at the start, buy I'll pay a little more attention to the packing density mid-bowl, and see if that makes a difference.

    If anyone else has any other ideas, please shout up :-bd
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