How to Light a Pipe

Smoking a pipe can be a leisurely, satisfying affair. Many beginning smokers pack their pipes too tight, which can result in clogging and uneven burning. For a clean and pleasant smoking experience, you will need to learn how to properly pack and light a pipe. Once the pipe is packed:



Lighting a Tobacco Pipe

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    Choose your fire. Use a wooden match or pipe lighter. Pipe lighters are made specifically for tobacco pipes, and should not alter the taste of the tobacco. If using a match, strike it and let it burn for a few seconds to get the sulfur off.

    • Be wary of lighters that are not specifically designed for tobacco pipes. Some pipe enthusiasts claim that the butane from the lighter subtly impacts the flavor of the tobacco itself.
    • Strike a wooden match against the emery strip along the package. Allow the sulfur to burn off the tip before applying it to the pipe. A wooden match will not impart a taste of lighter fluid.[1]
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    Perform a “false light.” Char the top of the tobacco, but do not light it completely yet. Hold the flame just above the tobacco at a skimming distance. Draw your breath in using a half a dozen steady puffs. Move the flame in a circle to reach all of the tobacco.[2]

    • This “charring light” aims to burn the tobacco slightly, but not to light it completely.
    • Don’t breathe the smoke into your lungs. Puff steadily and slowly to avoid a sharp “tongue bite.” Pipe tobacco is generally stronger and more flavorful than the tobacco used in cigarettes.[3]
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    Keep charring and puffing. Once the pipe is evenly lit, this is the “true light.” You are now ready to settle into the smoking session. Keep puffing periodically to make sure that the pipe stays lit. The bowl should stay lit for at least 5-15 minutes once it is properly burning.

    • Keep air flowing through the tobacco. If you don’t want to inhale so often, try exhaling gently into the pipe. The air should stoke the pipe fire from within and send a thin wisp of smoke trailing up out of the bowl.[4]
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    Relight the pipe, if necessary. You may need to relight your pipe several times over the course of the smoking session. Use the same steady, circular motion with your match.[5]

    • Tamp the tobacco down lightly to remove the charred top when the light goes out. The removal of ash from tamping will allow the pipe to burn more evenly.



Packing a Tobacco Pipe

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    Start with a clean and empty pipe. If it is dirty, then run a pipe cleaner through the stem. Then, turn the pipe over and dump out the debris, or “dottle,” into an ashtray. Finally, blow through the pipe to clear it out completely.
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    Pinch some tobacco. Spread it on a layer of clean paper. Break up clumps and check that it isn’t moist.[6]

    • If it is moist, leave it spread across the paper to dry out for 10 minutes to an hour.
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    Pack the bowl. Dangle loose strands of tobacco into the bowl of your pipe. Continue to do so, bit by bit, until it reaches the top of the bowl.
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    Tamp the bowl of the pipe down with a tamper. Buy a tamper from a tobacconist or an online retailer. Press gently when you tamp the tobacco.

    • Avoid touching the tobacco with your hands. The finger oils and force can clump the tobacco together.
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    Check the tobacco level. If your pipe has straight sides, it should now fill half the bowl. If it has graduated sides, it should be two-thirds full.
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    Put the pipe to your mouth. Draw your breath in. If it is difficult to draw air through, the bowl is packed too tight. The tobacco should be soft and springy, rather than clumpy, when it is packed.
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    Add more tobacco in small strands until the bowl is slightly overfull. Tamp down the tobacco slightly more than you did the first time. Still use gentle pressure.
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    Draw on the pipe again. You may need to draw more breath than last time. However, air should still come through the pipe. If air doesn’t come through, then the bowl is packed too tight. Start over.
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    Drop a few more strands into the bowl. Tamp down gently. Your bowl should be full and ready to light.



Preparing to Smoke

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    Buy a pipe. If you’re just getting started, consider buying a cheap corncob pipe. Blown glass pipes are common for smoking marijuana and other non-tobacco plants.
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    Smoke respectfully. Just like cigarettes, pipe tobacco can pollute indoor air and spread harmful secondhand smoke. Light the pipe at least 30 feet (9m) from the entrance of a public space. If you can .

    • If it is a windy day, then pack your pipe inside and bring it outdoors to smoke.
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    Take your time. Enjoy the smoke. Set aside 20 minutes to smoke your first pipe full of tobacco.[7]

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