How to Season a Tobacco Pipe

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A briar tobacco pipe (the kind made with a briarwood bowl) makes a delightful smoke, but you must break it in; this is called seasoning, which prepares the wooden bowl for continuous use. Seasoning puts a protective layer (called "dottle") of carbon inside of the bowl, which keeps the wood from burning, drying out and cracking. Tobacconists differ on whether clay and meerschaum pipes need to be seasoned, but briar pipes always must be.

Things You'll Need

  • Pipe cleaners
  • Pipe reamer
  • Smoke your new pipe two times a day, at most, for the first week or two weeks.

  • Fill your pipe between one-third and half full for the first six to eight smokes. Fill it loosely, and tamp the tobacco down lightly after you light it.

  • Light your pipe quickly, being certain not to burn the wood. The black layer on the inside of a seasoned pipe is carbon buildup, not charring. Hold the flame over the center of the bowl, and draw quickly.

  • Smoke the tobacco gently, without big puffs, while it is seasoning. Again, you want to build the dottle; once the pipe is seasoned, you can take a rich mouthful.

  • Allow the pipe to cool completely between smokes. If the bowl becomes hot to hold, rather than just warm, the tobacco is burning too hot and could crack the wood or burn it. Tamp out the tobacco immediately, and turn out the tobacco (that is, empty the pipe).

  • Smoke your pipe at your leisure, after a week or two, but always let it cool completely between bowls.

  • Use a reamer to keep the dottle no more than 1 mm thick, and use pipe cleaners to remove the dottle from the stem. But do not ream your pipe down to the bare wood; otherwise, you must season it anew.

  • Buy a "rotation" of pipes. Inveterate pipe smokers keep a rotation--for example, seven pipes--smoking one on a given day, or switching from one smoke to the next. This ensures that a good pipe has a longer life.

Tips & Warnings

  • Don't spare the pipe cleaners; use enough on the stem that they come out completely clean. Pipe cleaners are cheap; pipes are expensive.
  • A briarwood pipe is more durable than a meerschaum, which is carved from a white mineral. A veteran pipe smoker usually enjoys his meerschaums at home and his briars on the go.
  • Do not attempt to season your pipe faster by smoking it more often; this will simply burn out your pipe.

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