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The Art of Pipe Smoking (1 Viewer)


Senior Member
[an]I realised recently that, despite having joined a writing forum, I have never actually posted any writing, restricting myself instead to spamming the lounge and occasionally being nasty about people's poetry. In order to rectify this, I present the following article for your amusement and edification.[/an]

The Art of Pipe SmokingBeing a Dissertation on the Subject of the Appropriate Measures to Employ for the Purposes of Enjoying a Really Good Smoke, with Anecdotes Concerning the Author’s Experience

I first began smoking tobacco soon after buying a hash pipe from a sex/bong shop in Edinburgh. About a foot long, and rather ornate, this pipe was a most hilarious contrivance - fashioned expertly from metal and wood, the stem was made of several short sections which could be unscrewed, thus allowing one to adjust the length. At first I used this pipe only for its intended purpose, but then I was struck by the terrible scourge of ‘not having any weed’. Responsible for the creation of thousands of tobacco smokers every year, ‘not having any weed’ had already turned many of my closest friends into dirty rolly smokers, and after I purchased my first pack of Clan pipe tobacco it seemed that I too was soon to succumb to the terrible lure of the brown leaf.

When you find yourself in possession of a pipe and no small quantity of an appropriate tobacco, the first thing that one needs to do is pack it. He who truly seeks a glorious smoke should pack in three stages, for although the famed one-stage-just-cram-it-in-there method has its merits, it does not make for a true quality experience. In the first stage, you loosely but firmly fill your bowl with tobacco, and then pack it down to about halfway. In the second stage, you fill the remaining half of the bowl, loosely but firmly, as before, and then pack it down to three-quarters of the height of the bowl. The third and last stage involves filling those last few millimetres with tobacco, in the same way that I have described for the previous two stages.

There were many problems to be overcome at first, not least the fact that I was smoking tobacco in a hash pipe. It was some time later, after several of my dirty rolly smoking friends had taken up the pipe habit, that I was able to purchase a proper tobacco pipe for myself. It was a great day, and I christened it by chain smoking all night whilst sitting in a temporary gazebo in a friend’s garden. It was only later that I was to learn that smoking a single pipe more than once a day is bad for it, but until this time I was reckless to the point of foolishness.

If you followed my above directions, you should now be thinking about lighting your pipe, but be warned: it is not the simplistic affair that lighting a cigarette is. For those who wish for a well lit and fulfilling pipe, pay close attention to the details of the two stages that I am about to unfold. Light your match or Zippo (disposable lighters are discouraged as being insufficiently cool) and hold the flame over the bowl of your pipe. Breathe in through the stem as you steadily move the flame around the bowl, but do not work too hard on this first stage, as you will focus on getting a good long term light going later. After lighting and puffing on your pipe for about a dozen seconds, you should notice that the top layer of the tobacco has turned to ash and has begun to protrude from the top of the bowl. At this point use your finger to tamp down the ash and then get ready for the second stage. The second stage is much like the first stage except that you aim to draw the flame deeper into the bowl and the layer of ash that you built up during the first stage should prevent the tobacco from expanding again and protruding from the bowl.

Of course, I did not start smoking my pipe with the necessary skills, and it was only after reading a piece similar to this (although, perhaps, not that similar) that I learned how to pack, light and smoke a pipe successfully enough to reduce an entire bowl to ash without the requirement of a relight. I had been saved from my ignorance by a friend’s discovery of a pipe smoking guide on the internet written by a certain ‘Uncle Bob’, and it was at his metaphorical knee that I learned the three stages of packing and two stages of lighting. I had already been tutored in the correct method of smoking by a friend, having at first smoked my pipe as I would a joint, dragging hard on it and inhaling a big lungful of smoke.

If you have managed the first two actions, you now have a well packed, well lit pipe on your hands and no idea what to do with it. All your previous lessons are for naught if you are unable to master successfully keeping the pipe alight and maximising the pipe smoking experience. Be still, and allow my instructions to unfold. Hold the bowl of the pipe in your main hand, and navigate the bit into the side of your mouth and beyond your teeth. Now you are ready to puff. Draw smoke into your mouth and then expel it from the opposite side of your mouth to where the pipe has been inserted. Repeat several times until the pipe is going well and then remove it from your mouth. Inhale the smoke that is still in your mouth from the puffing, wait a beat, and then exhale. Your expertise and comfort with this method will increase over time, but it should eventually become entirely natural to you, and you will laugh at your first, bumbling steps in pipe smoking. There is only one last part of the art of pipe smoking to reveal, and it is a very simple concept – that of tamping. When you have been smoking your pipe for a little while, a loose structure of ash will be filling the top part of the bowl. Poke this down onto the main body of the tobacco, trying to avoid burning your thumb. Tamping is an essential part of keeping a pipe alight.

These, then, are the core principals by which a budding pipe smoker must live, but there is more to learn. Most must be gained through experience, but a few points I will discuss here. Firstly, do not take your pipe apart whilst it is hot, for it will loosen its tight fit. Secondly, clean your pipe regularly (with pipe cleaners – yes, that is what they are actually for, they were not originally designed for making toys for the children). Thirdly, you will occasionally encounter a foul, bitter moisture coming up the stem of the pipe whilst you smoke. As soon as you detect this, tap the bit against the palm of your hand. You should observe some nasty yellow liquid appearing on your palm, liquid that was previously spoiling your fine pipe. Wipe this on your trousers, sock or the nearest bystander.

I will leave you with a final thought upon the pipe, which is that you will often get an absolutely huge head rush from smoking it. This feeling is hard to reconcile with the idea of kindly, innocent, twinkly-eyed old men firing up the briar, but it is not so odd once you consider a few things. Firstly, old men are never innocent. Secondly, the twinkle is in fact tears, their eyes watering from the awe inspiring hit that they just received. Thirdly and lastly, old men are kindly because they do not just smoke tobacco in their pipe. If you need further translation for that, when you see them in the street they are probably heading down to the newsagents to buy a Mars bar and a packet of crisps.

ms. vodka

i believe this entire piece would read better if the first line were:

I first began smoking hash soon after buying sex from a bong shop in Edinburgh.

but that is merely my humble opinion.

furthermore, your application has been forwarded to the Stash and you should receive notification in regard to your employment shortly.


Senior Member
i have dabbled with pipe tobacco off and on for 5 years. figured i would grow old with it, learn all i need to know along the way. no sir, not so. your piece is cool. informitive. i actually just picked up cavendish for the first time, and its better than the borkum riff stuff i have. anyhoo! nice to see this type of article, good show! thanks


Senior Member
Nicely done piece; haveing been a cigar smoker for the past fifteen years and an occasional pipe smoker for the past five, I really enjoyed it.


Senior Member
Another pipe smoker here. Although I don't subscribe to the one-smoke-a-day-on-a-pipe-theory, I thoroughly enjoyed the read. Thanks for posting.


Senior Member
Heh, that's funny. Well done. This piece could easily have been very dry, but the anecdotal humor gives it life.

I have a bit of pipe smoking experience as well, but not from sm--

Well, I've said enough.

I would have liked to have read in it more info about pipes in general, as well as types/brands of tobacco (being a 'dirty rolly smoker' who'd be willing to convert in the future, if not simply quit altogether), but perhaps that is beyond the scope of this piece.


Senior Member
Whilst I can't be bothered to phrase such information in an interesting manner, I can tell you that Clan and Davidoff are both good brands of tobacco, but that for preference I buy loose tobacco from a specialist tobacconists. I prefer aromatics personally - flavoured tobaccos such as 'Sweet Peach' or 'Coffee Caramel'.

The majority of pipes you will see are billiards - a slightly rounded briar bowl, with a short shank (the wooden bit coming off the bowl) and a long stem (the black bit that makes up most of the length of a pipe). If you want to look like you're an extra from Lord of the Rings, and, let's face it, who doesn't, the churchwarden is for you. Unlike most pipes, it is not named for the shape of its bowl but rather for the very long stem, often reaching a foot.