Seasoning/Breaking In A New Pipe

I commend and recommend unto thee the tidbits, tips, and trivia on the art of pipesmanship as laid out in glorious splendor to the left of this text. Take some time at this moment to read through them.

You will find therein some things that are true, and others that are not true but have the not unimportant virtue that they are popular opinion. This second virtue often counts for more than the former. As an ensample of the latter, many would say that a quiet wife is the best wife. I, swimming against the mainstream, have always preferred that my wife speak to me.

It was the habit of our fathers to coat their bowls with honey before running a new pipe through its paces. And although we honor our fathers, we also remember that they loved to smoke Prince Albert and cherry aromatics. We stand on the shoulders of great men in order to surpass them and their achievements. It's what our fathers would have wanted.

Building up a cake and reaming one's pipe out are indeed important. But how best to go about it?

How to build a cake. Although several methods float around out there like so many half-formed smoke rings, only one method is like unto the proud ship puffed out by Gandalf upon Bilbo's stoop: straight, and pure, and beautiful. Also it's not like Gandalf's ship in that it's simple.

The best way to season and cake one's pipe is simply to smoke it. If you smoke aromatics, I suggest that you reserve certain pipes particularly for aromatics. If you wish (I generally don't do this) you may separate further by orientals or virginia periques, etc. Pack your new pipe with whatever tobacco it is destined to carry and start smoking. The first several bowls on any pipe will not be as delicious as is ideal, but in short order you'll be building up a cake and on your way. Shenanigans with honey or even liquor are, in my view, unnecessary and ineffective, although they're certainly not harmful to the pipe. Building up a cake = smoking it for a little while.

When to ream. Like the man said in the advertisement, "If your little finger won't fit in the bowl, it's time to ream." Of course, with the current fashion for bigger bowls, that might not be quite true anymore. With some of the pipes sought today, a man could have a way-overcaked pipe and still be able to fit his thumb in the bowl. But we'll stick to the little finger rule of thumb anyway. And, of course, beside the finger test, there's the eye test: is it looking ugly and crusty?

I generally take an Alton Brown approach to life and to pipe smoking. That is, I despise unitaskers, machines that can only be used to perform one task. One unitasker I do recommend, however, is a pipe reaming kit, such as this one. Reborn Pipes recommends the brand Pipnet, but I can't find any online as of publication.

With the reaming tool one simply inserts the reamer of proper size into the bowl and twists a few times. However, the beauty of pipe smoking is that it is what we make of it. Many's the time, for example, that I've tamped or cleared a clog with a narrow twig, because I always have a pipe but forget my pipe tool if it's not attached to my head or my keys. So it is with the reamer. One may use a pocket knife. The drawback of the knife is that it might be difficult to get into the curved bottom of the bowl, but it will definitely do in a pinch. Some pipe tools come equipped with reamers, and in dire straits one might even use the spade tool on one's Czech pipe tool.

The most important thing when reaming is to attempt to leave a little bit of caking, like the man in the advert said: "Go easy--you can have your cake and smoke it too." Don't start shaving wood off the inside of the bowl.

Conclusion. That it's no big deal. Build a cake by smoking. If you only smoke once a week, that might take a while, so maybe you'll want to try the honey thing. But there's no need. As for reaming, it's a thing, and you should do it. I smoke every day, so that my favorite pipes probably get smoked a half-dozen times a week. Even so, I usually only need to ream once a year, perhaps less.

And of course, clean your pipes often. Like, more than I do. But that's another post.