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What I wish I could tell my newbie pipe smoker self


DeathMetal.org
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If I had a time machine, like in "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure," I'd go back and tell myself:

1. Start with a cob. No tears if you destroy it or lose it, and they are great pipes to learn technique on.

2. Aim for breath-smoking. This is actually the easiest and produces the most flavor and nicotine.

3. Start with a simple Burley blend like "Carter Hall" or "Prince Albert." They light and smoke easily. Start slow.

4. No one cares about your gear, blend, or tamper except to compliment you about them. Smoke what you like, like what you smoke.

5. "Cellaring" just means hoarding stuff you like so you can enjoy it later. Aging is a bonus, but is not guaranteed to make something amazing.

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Posts: 112
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Some good points you make.

Wish I would have bought some cobs. They are great pipes and very inexpensive.

Never heard of breath-smoking. But probably won't try it, as I don't like nicotine.

I started with Holiday and Flying Dutchman. Hated them. Moved on to Amphora Rich Aromatic in the green pouch. That was very good stuff. Then was captured by Lady Latakia. Only now, 50 years down the road am I truly appreciating the simple blends like Carter Hall, Prince Albert, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Holiday in its match form. They are classics for a reason.

You're absolutely right: no one cares about the paraphernalia. It's designer crap. Most of it.

Very true. Find what you enjoy smoking and smoke it. After all, it's your hobby. Enjoy what you enjoy.

A lot of truth in your cellaring comment.

I get a laugh out of all the McClelland weeping. Don't get me wrong. I was sorry to see them close their doors. And they did so while I was on a smoking hiatus due to health reasons. Nasty move that! But 50 years ago the apocalypse hit when Elephant and Castle sold out to the Germans and they ruined the brand. Elephant and Castle was manna from God.

Tobacco blends disappear with alarming regularity. Esoterica was everywhere 20 years ago. Just try to find a tin today. Old favorites die and new favorites are born. It's a fact of life. Amphora disappeared. Douwe Egbert is gone. Now the Danes are making Amphora instead of the Dutch. And I don't think it's as good. 

And what about pipe makers? They too disappear. GBD! I love those pipes. Now I have to go estate hunting. And that's a crap shoot.

The upshot is that the only constant is change. And if it doesn't change in your lifetime, be thankful. And it's your hobby. Enjoy it for you. Not someone else.

 

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DeathMetal.org
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Good points. This "Elephant and Castle" stuff sounds like a good smoke. I would like us to be able to preserve more of the good stuff from the past, and let the not-so-great stuff fade into obscurity. I feel like a lot of knowledge is lost, most change is not good, and almost all human activities are vaingloriousness without an object. I never had old Amphora, but the packet of their dark fired Kentucky Burley blend that I had was pretty tasty. Ready-rubbed is always fun for being easy to load, smoke, and light but with some of the flavor power of flake.

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Juan José Pascual Lobo
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I never had a cob in my life. There are hard to find in Spain. Everybody says they are excellent, so I have been "forced" to order one to try. I´ll tell you.

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nach0
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cobs are my favorite for 2 reasons, the price and the humidity, almost NEVER needs a pipe cleaner during the smoke, never gurgles.

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Piplegio
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Cob pipes smoke incredibly well

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CRASHtheGREY
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Posted by: DeathMetal.org

1. Start with a cob. No tears if you destroy it or lose it, and they are great pipes to learn technique on.

2. Aim for breath-smoking. This is actually the easiest and produces the most flavor and nicotine.

3. Start with a simple Burley blend like "Carter Hall" or "Prince Albert." They light and smoke easily. Start slow.

4. No one cares about your gear, blend, or tamper except to compliment you about them. Smoke what you like, like what you smoke.

5. "Cellaring" just means hoarding stuff you like so you can enjoy it later. Aging is a bonus, but is not guaranteed to make something amazing.

My version:

Start with a cob and a briar.

Smoke slower. 

Skip the codger blends and dive right into the good stuff.

No one cares. Full stop.

Cellar vast and early.

Just my opinion but definitely what I tell newbies from my experience. 

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DeathMetal.org
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I like a good number of the codger blends, but I recommend everyone experience "Old Joe Krantz" at least once for sort of a next-level codger blend. I still enjoy "Prince Albert" a great deal, since it is such a simple and rewarding smoke. You literally scoop a pipe in it, thumb-tamp, light and wander off enjoying the flavor of chocolate, rum raisin, and Burley. Good point about cellaring, although what I would say after the last ten years is "...and get a large amount of things you have really liked for a couple years." If I could go back in time, I would have rented out the kids' rooms (they'll enjoy sleeping in the garage, like a campout) and bought more "Royal Yacht."

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CRASHtheGREY
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Old Joe Krantz is fantastic.

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DeathMetal.org
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It is one of those blends I can reach for any time and be satisfied with the result.

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Deckard Cain
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My version:

1.  Don't waste money on expensive pipes, your money is best spent buying good tobacco.

2.  Don't whip out your pipe and tobacco every time you are near a group of people that you think the aroma will impress.  Pipe smoking is a private pleasure.  Learn to enjoy smoking when you are alone.

3.  A large collection of very expensive pipes can make you look like a novice.

4.  Don't bother with aromatics. (Not yet anyway) Seek advice from older pipe smokers about good high quality blends that will help you recognize quality, and the many nuances of fine tobacco.

5.  Only embark on this endeavor if you can appreciate nicotine. Ultimately that is and has always been the purpose of pipe smoking.  Low nicotine blends do not equate posturing, but what is the point after all if you don't like nicotine, and you don't understand complex tobacco? Why even start?

6.  Smoke nightcap once a week. Smoke a full bowl, and do it alone.  Don't try to rush it.  If you stick to this routine you will ultimately find yourself looking forward to it, when the flavors start to become familiar.  The finest tastes in life are acquired.  No one smokes pipe tobacco for the first time, and appreciates it fully.  Give yourself plenty of time for discovery.  

7.  If you find yourself buying or choosing clothing to match a pipe, you're doing it wrong.

8.  When you find a blend that you literally crave, buy lots of it.  Cellaring makes plenty of sense, because we don't know what the future holds. 

 

9.  Don't worry about ghosting.   Act like there is no such thing.

 

10.  Don't get too serious about packing a bowl.  Different blends May favor different methods.  If you pack your bowl too tightly, stop what you are doing and insert a pin down the center of the bowl, and move it in a small circular motion.  This will dislodge the pack enough to take fire readily.  Don't be afraid to stir a bowl when it's not burning perfectly. Don't worry about tamping a bowl if it's already burning well.  

11.  Don't bother using a zippo, it induces a bad flavor. Matches are sometimes a poor choice when you are using a stubborn tobacco.  Bic lighters give you a clean flame that could be directed to a certain area of the bowl.  They work great.  

12.  Never smoke near any person that might be offended by it.  Do not empty your bowl anywhere that the ashes will make a mess, sidewalks, decks, ect.  It is important that pipe smokers are not obnoxious.  As pipe smokers we need to keep up a certain amount of public relations, less we face legislation.  Our forefathers built an image of sophistication, intellect, and dignity.  It's our job to pass that on.

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Sir Otter
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Gotta slightly disagree with number 7.

Building fashion around your pipe usually leads to good results, but it depends where that desire is coming from. I am a younger pipe smoker, so I get plenty of funny looks, especially if I decide to smoke my pipe wearing very casual clothes like gym shorts. That seems to enhance that out of place perception people have about young pipe smokers.

 

Now, my enjoyment of the pipe comes first, but I find people are far more receptive to and sometimes intrigued by my pipe smoking when I dress up a little bit in a polo or a casual button-up. I enjoy wearing collars anyway, and dressing harmoniously with my watch, wallet, and pipe all matching the outfit. It only enhances the experience for me.

 

I haven't really made a clear point here, but it is interesting to be a young pipe smoker. You get tons of looks, and I can imagine people with thinner skin would get a lot of anxiety from that. Dressing well with your pipe can make the experience better if you are the kind of smoker who likes to walk about like me.

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DeathMetal.org
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Hard yes on 1, 4, 5, 8, and 9. I also agree about trying to be a good citizen smoker by not leaving a mess. No point doing it anyway; I wouldn't pour my drink out on someone else's lawn for the same reason. Bics seem to work pretty well. I have no idea about the clothing choices, since that kind of sartorial excellence is beyond me anyway.

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Old Tom
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"Don't waste money on expensive pipes, your money is best spent buying good tobacco."

Absolutely agree. I would add to that statement:

  • You don't have to spend a lot of money to get a good-smoking pipe.
  • You don't need as many pipes as you try to convince yourself that you need.
  • A pipe might be pretty, but it's nothing but a paperweight without tobacco to put in it.

I started with a simple Legend cob, and I'm glad I did.

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Singed
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I love your 12th point. Gentlemen smoke pipes, act the part.

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Ithian
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Smokes will get more enjoyable the more your palate develops. Don't get disappointed if all blends seem to taste the same and pretty bland in the beginning of your journey. The more you smoke, the more you'll pick up, and the more you'll enjoy it. (This point was the most important for me to realize early on.)

Don't stick with just one type of blend (e.g. aromatics), branch out early. There are many things you might like that you don't think you would. And there are many things you'll like later that you don't like now.

Join a pipe club or find others who smoke pipe. You'll get to try a lot of different blends without having to buy them yourself. You also get to give away the ones you don't like as much. Plus, the hobby is more fun and you'll learn a lot from others.

Don't just stick with biars or cobs. Get a clay, get an inexpensive meerschaum. They all smoke different and give you a different experience.

Try to stick to some of the most popular blends in the beginning. They have the highest chance you'll end up liking them as well. It's easy to lose money on niche blends early on.

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DeathMetal.org
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This is a good point: your palate takes time to develop. Everyone goes through a period when Englishes suddenly taste "right" and make sense (just I never outgrew it). After that, you can taste a lot more, and the world of different blends and flavors opens up.

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Juan José Pascual Lobo
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The dark leaf (Syrian and Cyprus) stole my heart almost five decades ago. A few years ago I thought that I was missing out on many sensations if I didn't open my palate to other varieties, and I began to experiment with new flavors, to end up returning to my always-loved side.

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DeathMetal.org
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No favorite like an old favorite. I am still hoarding English blends I first discovered over a decade ago. They just get sweeter with time.

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Ted
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 Ted
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I’ve thought about this question on and off for the last day and it has just reminded me that I took to pipe smoking fairly smoothly. A little trial and error at first, but no real issues early on. In fact much of the trial and error was a fun part of pipe smoking. 

The question has also reminded me that pipe smoking in more recent times has become more serious with newer smokers often being overly concerned with “doing it right”. An affliction that I believe the internet has magnified in this and many other areas of life. To me, pipe smoking is a fun, relaxing and pleasurable experience. If I wasn’t relating to it that way I wouldn’t do it. This is the advice I most often encourage new smokers to keep in mind.

Now if I could go back in time and give advice to my younger self, honestly pipe smoking would not be high on my list of things I would want to talk to myself about. But there is one thing that I would, I would start cellaring tobacco products that I really liked much earlier than I did. 

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DeathMetal.org
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It's a good point. I never think of it as a "hobby," more like something I do to keep myself quiet so I can think. The nicotine, flavors, fire, fiddling with pipes, and getting run out of town by unruly Sheriffs is just a bonus.

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Stah
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1. Slower... Well, and now - more slower.

2. Stock up on supplies: there will be no your favourite Three Nuns vaper in just a year, Murray tobaccos in ten years. Real Dunhill and Peterson will disappear from market in fifteen years, Syrian Latakia - in twenty years. 

3. Take a closer look on small batches and in-house blends every time you can. You'll find some real masterpieces. Then - see #2.

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Antonius Blok
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I would say: you are going to hear some people say that smoking a pipe requires a lot of learning time, that it is an art, that you have to take many things into account... It's not that big of a deal, try the advice of people with more experience, but check to see if they work for you, because maybe your own method will work better. What does require more time is grasping the ingredients of a mixture or discovering the type of mixture you like best. There is only one way: try many different tobaccos and gradually discover which ones you like the most. There is a kind of law in all this: taste changes in a surprising way, so at first do not buy many tins of the same tobacco because you think it is the best up to that moment. A few months later you may have to use them as fertilizer for the plants. Related to this, it is also very possible that a tobacco that you don't like at first will later become a favorite. So, don't judge a tobacco until you've smoked at least one tin. Lastly, regarding these tips that I give you, trust but verify...

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Well, I cant say that I ever thought about matching my clothes with pipes so Im ok on Number 7.

 

Slow down is the best advice.  The first round I had with a pipe over a decade ago I dont think I really appreciated it.  Maybe that is why I stopped.  This time I taste so much more than I did when I was younger.  Maybe its that Im moving slower...who knows. 

 

Also, I let other people over influence what I smoked.  Frankly, I dont think I experimented enough and I ended up smoking what people said was good.  Yes, it was good quality but it didnt really turn my crank.  So smoke what you like and if someone else thinks its dog poo...well, there is more left for you.

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Singed
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7.  If you find yourself buying or choosing clothing to match a pipe, you're doing it wrong.

I would recommend an intervention in this instance, certainly some counselling.

 

My advice to my early-smoking self would be:

-slow down

-learn to identify tobaccos types, Burley, Latakia, Oriental, Virginia

- buy a daily driver, not a sports car: a cob, a briar, a meerschaum. All can be excellent pipes without breaking the bank.

-mason jars: even for your pouch tobaccos good storage keeps good tobacco.

-a comfortable chair. Find yourself as a piper before you take it out on the town.

 

I did none of these things and ruined pipes, tobaccos, my bank account. Hard Knocks do not smoke well.

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DeathMetal.org
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I agree heartily on the pipe advice. A pipe should be a good friend, and it may be battered and not have a brand name, but if it smokes well it is a friend indeed.

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CINEMA
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I'm new to the forum community here, but I've been a pipe smoker for 6 years or so...I tend to have a bit different a suggestion for new pipe-smokers, when it comes to starting on COBs. I had the opposite experience than most, where I purchased 3 or 4 early on, with a cheap Grabow briar too (added to my rotation). Add to those early pipes cheap tobacco, and my experience was very negative.

Those inexpensive pipes taught me to burn fast & hot, not a great mouth-feel at all (due to uncomfortable stems). I was ignorant to keeping my smoking process cool, and I assumed pipes were just disposable 1-2 month consumables at that price-point. It was not until moving to a $200 or so hand-made Radice that I truly fell in love with the hobby. That first nice quality pipe taught me so much more than those early COBs, because I simply wanted to match my process & preparation with the higher quality smoke that pipe deserved, etc...etc... I was more conscientious of packing, lighting, tamping, & caring for the act of smoking at that point. 

If I could talk to my beginner self, I'd say - sure, COBs are wonderful for learning, but get a ONE quality (subjective to price, shape, & more...) to make the committment a larger, hopefully more promising learning experience too. ...just my 2 cents though. 🙂 ...I'd recommend basic Virginias (or VA/PERs) early on too) rather than cherry aromatics to my early self too. I tried way too hard to get into Ori/Lat English blends that were far too complex for me.

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Lee
 Lee
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Welcome to the forum! 😊

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Relight
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Welcome to the forum. 

Further introduce yourself in the new member intro thread, if you care to. 

I generally wouldn't recommend straight VAs and VaPers (especially flakes) to new pipe smokers. But, recently I've come to love Sutliff Stoved VA. It's naturally sweet, burns exceptionally well and is nearly impossible to screw up. I'd advise newbies to skip the run of the mill aromatics in favor of something like that. 

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Juan José Pascual Lobo
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Welcome from Spain!

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Ted
 Ted
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Hello and welcome!

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Relight
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I'd tell me to buy fewer pipes that cost at least twice as much. Instead of $75 estates, I'd buy artisan pipes or higher end estate pipes like Castellos. 

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pipozzo volante
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I made a deal with myself: only buy an estate pipe if I find it on a flea market and it's worth the quality and low price. Save the money to buy once a great pipe every 2 or more years.

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pipozzo volante
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Fun topic! Personally I'm quite happy with my beginnings and I look at those disastrous first smokes with kind eyes. An awful but economic pipe, Borkum Riff, burning tongue, my first flake that I didn't know how to pack and thought:"Da hell is wrong with this tobacco?!".

It's because of these bad experiences that I started visiting the two pipe shops in my town (lucky me to have this option) and started asking questions and being guided by older smokers and most of all these two tobacconists who made of pipe smoking their life-commitment.

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pipozzo volante
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As for cellaring, I think it's like with wine: maybe it'll be excellent, better, memorable, maybe not, maybe it'll be undrinkable.

I like doin' it, I feel like I'm pleasing the Hobbit that lives in me 🤣 

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Juan José Pascual Lobo
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I think cellaring was discussed in this forum, but basically.

1,- Tobacco experiments changes to better in the tin, especially during the first six months after packed.

After the first six months, changes continue but at slower speed, and depending on the varietal.

2,- Not all tobaccos age the same. The higher content in sugar, the longer they will benefit from cellaring.

So, Virginia can have almost an eternal life and Orientals and Latakia are less recommended for long time cellaring. In my experience as a Latakia / Oriental smoker, these blends reach the optimum point from 1 and 1/2 to 6-6 years, after that age, latakia softens and the blend gains complexity. I have smoked very old straight Virginia blends (Capstan blue and Best Brown Flake) and time makes them sublime.

Sometime ago, an American website offered for sale three year aged Capstan Blue.

Cellaring tobacco is less demanding than wine cellaring. Just avoid too warm or too cold temperatures, avoid frequent temperature changes, extrange odors. (Don't store tobacco in the same place you keep your house painting stuff or your car maintenance products), look for a quiet dark place.

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Rene12
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Don't buy a bunch of cheap briars, stick with cobs and save up for a few good briars instead. 

Don't give up on a blend untill you've smoked it at least 20 times.

Stay away from 9mm filter pipes, they don't smoke well without the filter and even worse with it. ( I don't mean to offend people who do enjoy filters, it's just me talking to my newbie self) 

Smoke slowly.

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Relight
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I'm down with all these. 

The more I've thought about this topic the more I think the most valuable lesson I'd have me learn earlier is "don't worry about relights".  In my quest to keep a pipe lit I made a lot of bad experiences for myself.

Trying to "smoke slow" while attempting to avoid relights had me all confused. 

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Ted
 Ted
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That is an excellent point. That’s probably the most frequent goal and point of frustration I’ve heard from new smokers. It’s common to believe and pushed by some that you’re supposed to be able to light your pipe once or twice and smoke the whole thing. Then it gets associated with the quality of one’s smoking experience. Neither of which is remotely true. When I first started smoking a pipe, the only people who were serious about not re-lighting their pipes were people who participated in smoking contests. Nobody else I knew payed a lot of attention to it. 

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nach0
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This tip would saved me from the first tongue bites for sure!

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khiddy
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Username checks out.

🤣

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Erik
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 Erik
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If I wrote a letter to my new-piping self, it would only go, about, oh, six months back. 😕 

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