Advice for Pipe Smokers

If you are considering taking up pipe smoking or are looking to buy a pipe for a loved one as a gift, you may be slightly over-awed by the incredible array of options available to you. Here is a simple guide to choosing the perfect pipe and how to build and fill it for the perfect smoking experience.

How to Choose a Pipe

There are a number of deciding factors that need to be considered when choosing which pipe is the perfect fit for yourself or the loved one that you are buying on behalf of. Some of these factors have significant effect on the smoking experience whilst some are merely aesthetic.


One of the first things that smokers will notice about a new pipe is the size and the weight – with many believing that a larger pipe creates a more satisfying experience. Furthermore, a larger pipe can create a smoother and cooler smoking experience as the smoke has more time to cool down.

However if you take your pipe with you wherever you go, then it may be prudent to invest in a smaller pipe. Furthermore, the more petite the smoker, the more inclined they may be to invest in a smaller pipe for fear of being dwarfed.

Bent vs Straight Pipes

The choice between bent and straight pipes is a similar decision to pipe size with the vast majority of pipe smokers agreeing that bent pipes produce a cooler smoking experience. Because the length of the pipe is larger due to the bend of the pipe, the smoke has further to travel and the opportunity to cool down.

However, many people enjoy the appearance of the straight pipe due to the traditional appearance many of them exhibit – they were particularly popular at parties at the turn of the 20th century.

Building and Smoking a Pipe

So, you’ve invested in a pipe with mental images of yourself puffing away like a modern day Sherlock Holmes but then realise you have a pipe, you have tobacco but no idea how to turn this into an excellent smoking experience. Here is a short step by step guide to building and smoking the pipe.

1 – It is important to prepare your pipe specially for the first smoker – think of it as easing the pipe into use. Pack the tobacco into the pipe bowl very tightly so it is about half full.
2 – Avoid using cheap matches or petrol lighters to light the pipe, use a high quality match for greatest efficacy.
3 – Make sure that you light the top layer of tobacco in one movement – this process is called charring. Whilst doing this, take a long and smooth draw on the pipe. Then smooth the tobacco and repeat the process.
4 – Do not be concerned if the pipe goes out – many smokers prefer to let their pipe go out to be re-lit before each draw that they take.
5 – When preparing a bowl for the second time. Sprinkle your tobacco in layers until it is ¾ full and not as tightly packed as the initial smoke.
6 – Repeat the lighting process.
7 – Make sure that you always empty the bowl after smoking. This ensures that moisture and ash will not react when left to sit. If possible, use a pipe cleaner to clear any residue from the pipe after every use.

Maintaining/Cleaning a Pipe
A high quality pipe should be seen as an investment and a piece of kit that you can keep and enjoy for a significant length of time. Caring properly for and cleaning your pipe can help increase its longevity ensuring that you have a highly enjoying smoking device for a longer period of time.

Always empty the bowl after use and ensure that there is no ash or moisture left. This can react if left together which could have a negative effect on the health of the pipe and quality of future smokes. Also try to run a pipe cleaner through the pipe after every use. Avoid using solvents and cleaning fluids on your pipe where possible as this could have a negative effect.

Where possible, leave your pipe to rest for a couple of days after every use. Naturally this may not be possible if you only own one pipe and enjoy smoking it every day. Everyday use of a single pipe could lead to bitter tastes being produced.

Pipe Shapes

The Billiard
A simple straight shank with a bowl set at a 90 degree angle. The bowl is very cylindrical composed of straight sides.

The Apple
The Apple has similar shank to The Billiard with a simple, apple shaped bowl. It is widely thought that The Apple is more comfortable to hold because of this.

The Dublin
A tapered bowl makes The Dublin slightly different to The Billiard and brilliantly popular.

The Bulldog
Like its stocky namesake, The Bulldog is a robust number with a straight shaped and diamond-bowl. Two grooves around the bowl help with cooling, leading to a smooth smoke.

Bent Rhodesian
This bent pipe has incredibly thick walls and a shallow, diamond-shaped bowl.

Bent Bulldog
Naturally similar to The Bulldog but with a bent shank.

With the deep, exaggerated, tapered bowl and bent stem, The Calabash is probably the most popular and common pipe shape.

Bent Apple
The Bent Apple is almost identical to The Apple but with a slight bend in the stem.

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