Pack Loose, Tamp Gently

The longer I smoke the more I appreciate the need to pack loose and tamp gently. I find that these are two keys to a pleasant experience. Newer pipe smokers seem to pack too tight and to maintain the tight pack by tamping with too much force. I think that’s why so many beginners give up before giving the hobby a chance.

Smokers use several packing methods. You can find many tips by Googling or by watching YouTube videos. I’ll discuss some methods eventually, but for now I simply want to emphasize the importance of packing loose. I’ve gotten to the point where I want no resistance in the draw. Some smokers say the resistance should be like drawing soda through a straw — they all say avoid anything like the resistance you get from a milkshake. But I find even soda resistance too much. I basically want none at all.

If I pack too tight I will find myself puffing with too much effort. This is no fun because pipe smoking is about relaxing. I will also have trouble keeping the pipe lit — also no fun.

It follows from this that I don’t tamp too much or too hard. All I want to do by tamping is to lower the ash back in touch with the unburnt tobacco after it has risen. I try not to use any more force than what gravity provides. Let nature do the work. I also let gravity do most of the work when I pack.

Remember, you can always tamp, but it’s hard to untamp. Err on the gentle side.

Give this a try — you’ll know if you’ve packed too loose — and see what you think.

Learning Every Day

Like many hobbies and interests, pipe smoking is something you never learn once and for all. Definitely not. I’ve been at it for some time, but I never tire of talking to pipe smokers, no matter how new they are to the endeavor. This is one reason the YouTube Pipe Community (YTPC) and the various Facebooks groups and online forums are such welcome institutions. (Another reason is that they are just fun.) Individuals may have many interesting tips to pass along about how they pack their bowls, puff, or break in and clean their pipes. I’ll talk about such things in future posts.

Any random pipe smoker, no matter his or her age, may be a source of helpful ideas. The reason for this is well established in other matters: the natural combination of imitation and innovation. The word serendipity comes to mind.

Here’s what I mean: a pipe smoker may observe another pipe smoker doing something the first had not seen or heard of before. So he tries it out: maybe he packs or breaks in his pipe differently than has been his custom, but in the process, makes a “mistake” — doesn’t imitate quite as accurately as intended — and unwittingly does something slightly different from what he had observed. Nevertheless, the accidental “innovation” has pleasant results. Viola! A new technique perhaps is born. Serendipity! There is no end to the possibilities.

So keep puffing, watching, and learning. You’re bound to enhance your pipe-smoking pleasure.