How to properly load tobacco in a pipe?

Discussion in 'The Brown Leaf' started by Mike H, Dec 7, 2010.

  1. Mike H

    Mike H Moderator Emeritus

    I have my own method, but there is always room for improvement. Is there recommended method or technique you could point me to.
  2. It depends on what you do now. I'll give you the list of my ways. You may or may not do these, but here you go.

    The easiest for me is a layering method(either 2 or 3). Fill the bowl loosely to the top, gently tamp down. The resistance should be about the same as sucking on a straw. Repeat those steps until the bowl is full.

    I also sometimes do the Frank method of filling the bowl. Basically fill the bowl loosely to the top. Grab a pinch of tobacco, and with the top part of your thumbs press the tobacco down. Here is a video of that:

    Oh, sometimes I also put the pipe into the pouch and just cram it in the pipe.

    There are many more, but those are the 3 I generall use.
  3. jwhite

    jwhite Moderator Emeritus

    I use a couple.
    My preference with with most ribbon cut and some rubbed out flakes is the tried and true three stage method. I fill the bowl about half way and gently encourage the tobacco to the bottom of the bowl. I then fill the pipe the rest of the way and use gentle pressure with a finger or thumb to press the tobacco into the bowl in should still feel springy and have a clear draw. I then top off the bowl and using moderate pressure press level with the top of the bowl and lightly rub the surface of the tobacco with my thumb in a circular motion leveling the tobac and evening out pressure across the surface of the bowl to ensure an even burn. The biggest problem with those trying this for the first time is too much pressure, they expect the same draw one would get from a cigar or cigarette. As a result they end up with a pipe that goes out often and/or a hard lump of charcoal halfway through. It's better to go too light and adjust with your tamper during the smoke, than have to dig out charred chunks of tobacco and start over.

    When I fold and stuff flakes I have a little extra bit of kit that I like to use. I cut a 8x8 inch square of leather that I got from a craft store that I like to use for rubbing out flakes and to catch crumbs when I fold 'em. It only cost a few bucks and looks better on my desk than a paper napkin, which works just as well if I'm being honest. I begin by folding a flake in half long ways over the leather. I then tear off any extra length and set it on my little mat, you'll want it to be a little shorter than the depth of the bowl of your pipe. I then roll over the flake along it's width and continue to roll the flake between my fingers a little to loosen the flake up a bit. I keep the folded flake a little narrower than the bowl of my pipe to keep it from jamming against the sides. I gently stuff it in the pipe fold down and use my thumb to check that its seated against the bottom. I take the crumbs and sprinkle over the top as kindling and tap the side of my pipe to settle them in. I may rub out the scraps if necessary to fill the pipe. The leather is handy for putting the crumbs/rubbed out tobac either in the pipe or back in the tin/jar.

    There is also the gravity fill method, which I like to use for flakes that can rub out chunky or granular. It's also good for cube/square cut tobaccos. Just sprinkle in the tobacco a pinch at a time while tapping the side of the bowl to encourage maximum and even settling. And when level with the top of the bowl I use light pressure in a circular motion motion with my thumb to give myself a level surface for an even light.

    The key to all of the above is to take it easy, go slow, and don't use too much pressure.

    ..... Pretty sure I've heard that somewhere before.
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2010
  4. I've experimented with different packing methods and came up with my own variation of them. I just scoop some baccy up with the bowl and tap on the side to settle it and repeat until I get close to the top, then I grab one last small pinch to pack into the top while testing the draw.
    I tend to have issues following the Frank Method; the top tends to get packed too tightly and I don't get a good volume of smoke and it tends to go out often until I get halfway through the bowl. The biggest thing as stated by the other guys is not to get too much tobacco and not to pack it too tightly.
  5. RazoRock

    RazoRock Vendor

    I think I've tried most of them and funny enough I've come back to mostly using the method I was first taught...

    I mostly smoke McClelland ribbon cuts... I gravity will the bowl right to the top, then I press it down with my finger... then I gravity fill up to the top again, and press again... then I gravity fill if there is any room. After this I test the draw; 99% of the time is perfecto!:thumbup1:

    Honorable mention goes to Fred Hanna's Air Pocket method (some call it plug method)... It works great with narrow and tall chambered pipes.

    The method that never worked for me is the "Fold and Stuff" for flakes. It just caused a ton of re-lights and frustration.

    The Frank Method is fine as well but he uses a butane torch lighter which I feel is a terrible way to light tobacco. You want to light your tobacco as gently and with the least amount of heat possible, IMO.

    Another common misconception is that the entire top of the chamber has to be lit. Flavor in tobacco comes from the distillation, only a small part of the top needs to be lit; but that's a whole other discussion.

    Last edited: Dec 10, 2010
  6. The frank method works just as well with a soft flame lighter.
  7. I'm rubbish at packing which is probably why i need to light about 10 times and then end up wasting half a bowl......

    Method,fill to top, push about half way down, fill to top again then push about a quarter way down then fill again to top with loose tobacco....... I'm going to assume I'm doing it wrong?
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2010
  8. Maybe...maybe not. Just like wetshaving change one veriable at a time to see what gives you the best results. Try filling the pipe less tightly, expecially the tobacco at the bottom, when you draw in through the pipe the resistence should be like sucking through a straw. If that doesn't help, try drying your tobacco more. If that doesn't help it could be you are puffing too slowly.
  9. jwhite

    jwhite Moderator Emeritus

    +1 on pressure and moisture especially.

    Most of the time you can't get bowl to lite and stay lit it's packing too tightly. While a couple of relights are common, you don't want so many that its frustrating. When Derrick says it should feel like sucking through a straw he's not talking about a milkshake. It should have a fairly open draw, much more free than a cigar. Moist tobac can pack too tightly and particularly tobac with a lot of PG will smoke goopy and can be rough towards the middle of the bowl. One more consideration is tamping. You can get over zealous with the tamper and compress the tobacco on a bowl that started off well. An easy trick to get a good draw when starting is to insert a pipe cleaner through to the bottom of the bowl. Pack thoughtfully and remove the pipe cleaner. This will keep tobac from getting pressed into the heel of the bowl restricting the air way. Once you get a feel for it you won't need the cleaner, you'll know immediately if the bowl is packed to your preferences before ever putting flame to bowl.
  10. Thanks for the tips guys, i'll try that and see if it improves things.
  11. I have some Irish flake. I'll have to give the fold method a try. Not sure I understand it though. What I have is cut into flats from a single plug. I usually just rub one over a paper towel and fill the pipe with the 3 step method.

    I have used the Frank method with mixed results. My biggest problem is I don't smoke enough. Since my wife moved into the truck (currently working as an over the road truck driver) with me 3 months ago I haven't had a single bowl.
  12. jwhite

    jwhite Moderator Emeritus

    Very good video, and the method that I use. I would add that the Mac Baren flake in the video separates very easily, for dense flakes like Irish I would spend a little more time rolling the folded flake between the fingers to lossen it up. Also be sure not too stuff the tobac to tight it looks like he is cramming it in there but a practiced hand can look a little brisk, and he was probably slowing himself down for the video.
  13. Holy, I didn't realize there were so many different ways. I just remember the layered fill tamp, fill tamp, ect method I read on here once and that worked well for me.
  14. The key to all this is to have a gradient of density - looser at bottom than top. In the good old days I usually loaded the pipe from a pouch. I would scoop from the pouch, then lightly tamp with finger, repeat this until the bowl was about 2/3 full then i would press the last bit against the side of the bowl as I topped it off. this gave a nice gradient. Then light with a match, drawing the flame down into the bowl-the amount of suction to do this gave a nice light-then draw a few more times, tamp again with light quick touch to avoid burning your finger and draw deeply a few times-if it wasn't a good light I would use another match quickly, passing it in a circular pattern over the bowl will sucking. This gave a very nice a light and rarely needed a relight. If you sense the tobacco going out just tamp with finger lightly while drawing and it relights itself.
  15. Whatever method you employ, ensure that your draw is very open feeling.
    I find that if I spend more time lighting and building a coal on the top, I don't have to relight.

    Then again, I expect to relight at least once. These days, even that happens occasionally but the days of relighting 4, 5, 6 times are over. I also tend to the bowl by lightly tamping the coal down. Otherwise it will burn itself out.

    Another big reason bowls go out is because people smoke it too fast. Moisture collects on the bottom, soaks upward through the tabac extinguishing the coal. Even with bone dry tabac, I can smoke too fast in the winter and the moisture condenses at the bottom of the bowl. Gurgling is a sure sign of smoking too fast and or overly wet tabac. toss a pipe cleaner down the stem and soak up the juice and slow down.

    Enjoy. I love smoking my pipes in the winter.
  16. finally something I know a little about! of course YMMV

    first it depends on type of tobacco.. va,vap, lat or aero (I know other's exit), cut and moisture.
    va/vap's - need to be packed very loose as in gravity filled and a lite tap on the side of the pipe or they tend to burn hot.
    lat's - I usually go with the frank method or a loose version of franks if it's not dry.
    aero's - I generally go a liitle tighter on the gravity fill method as it seems aero's want to burn on the hot side and are usually kind of damp.

    this is very general for your avg bowl type/size.. odd shapes, over/under sized bowls, churchwardens, etc you will need to experiment with what you plan to smoke from them.

    as for relights.. go easy on the tamping no need to pack it down just crush the ash a little and helps if you are inhaling as you tamp this will keep it burning.

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