The Ultimate "My Pipe Won't Stay Lit!" Thread

Discussion in 'Need Pipe Smoking Advice? Ask an Old Fart!' started by Mister Moo, Oct 8, 2012.

  1. Mister Moo

    Mister Moo Stay Calm - Press On Moderator

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    Inability to keep a pipe lit seems to be the #1 problem for newguys. There is good news and bad news.

    The good news! Einstein could smoke a pipe and you can smoke a pipe. I am thick-headed but I still figured it out. I couldn't keep a pipe lit to save my life when I got serious about pipe tobacco. It was definitely harder than keeping a cigar lit and, for me, quite frustrating. Now, I routinely smoke a pipe to ash (or nearly to ash) without much attention to relighting after an initial light, charring, tamp and relight. Yeah, so sure, there are a few relights now and again depending on tobacco moisture, the specific pipe, flake vs. ribbon and how much attention I'm paying - but lets just say "frustrating" relights are a thing of the past.

    The bad news! Hah. There isn't any. It just takes a while to learn the ropes. Here are Old Fart Top Tips to make relighting frustration a thing of the past.

    1. Don't sweat it for, say, a year. There is a learning curve.
    2. A definition of "crazy" is doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different outcome. If you constantly have relighting hassles change something.
    3. There is great wisdom in starting out with a Missouri Meerschaum Legend and a tub of Carter Hall. Virtually all Old Farts employ or respect this combo. This benchmark creates a clear common language to troubleshoot problems. If you smoke 10 different pipes with 10 different tobaccos we can try, but; if you start out with Prince Albert or Sir Walter Raleigh or Carter Hall or Half&Half in a Missouri Meerschaum Legend we know exactly what you're talking about.
    4. Get your tobacco right. Most tobacco comes three ways - too wet, too dry and just right. Test tobacco with a pinch. If it crumbles it's too dry. If it flattens it's too wet. If it flattens and springs back it's problably just right.
    5. Got a new briar? Many new pipesmokers do. Here's the deal. The bottom half will be harder to keep dry (and burning) than that of a caked, broken-in, pipe. See #1, above. Give it some time and, definitely, smoke only half-bowls to lessen the moisture soaking into the heel of the pipe. Too much moisture will prevent the pipe from burning nicely. A wet pipe will encourage a newguy to relight, without hope of joy, over and over.
    6. Hint of moisture in your pipe mid-smoke? You can swab out a pipestem with a pipecleaner mid-smoke. You don't need to wait until the pipe is kaput to swab it.
    7. It's all in the fill. Fill your pipe half- to 3/4 full evenly, don't "pack" it. Whatever fill method you use, don't restrict the draw to more than a light resistance - like sipping on a straw. If your pipe gets "packed" you will suck your cheeks off, burn your tongue and your pipe will keep going out; don't even think about poking holes in this kind of wad with a pipe tool - it's a wasted effort. If the draw becomes too free, tamp very lightly to encourage continued burning. There is a balance between proper filling, sipping on lit tobacco and tamping. It is like sliding down a razorblade if you're inexperienced. A little attention to this balance will sort it out soon enough.
    8. When you light a pipe, don't pussyfoot. Light the darn thing all the way across the top of the pipe. If, on a first light, the tobacco fluffs up and quickly goes out, that's normal. Tamp gently and relight thoroughly. If the pipe won't stay lit reread 1-7.

    Old Farts? Your thoughts?
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  2. dwaugh

    dwaugh Moderator Moderator

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    Nice post Moo. I often still have trouble keeping a pipe lit... I'm slowly getting better. One thing I am curious about is "cadence". A cig or cigar certainly stays lit, at least for me, with very little puffing. How often would you say you need to puff on a pipe to keep it going?
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  3. Mister Moo

    Mister Moo Stay Calm - Press On Moderator

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    Not often enough to get my pipe hotter than I can comfortably hold. Little sips maybe two or three/minute; big puffs once a minute or two or three. I routinely have pipes die out, unpuffed, in less than five minutes and, less routinely, can revive them in five-10 minutes. Seems like the post office is my gauge for the good burn. I am often in there for five-1o minutes and, about half the time, I can restore a pipe by puffing alone.
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  4. dwaugh

    dwaugh Moderator Moderator

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    Wow, I have a lot to learn, I think in 30 seconds my pipe would be out most of the time...
  5. Mister Moo

    Mister Moo Stay Calm - Press On Moderator

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    OK - the 10-minute pipe on ice happens but, like I said, not that often. Still, 30-seconds seems like a fast croak to me.

    :)
  6. jpberg

    jpberg Moderator Moderator

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    Well said, Moo.
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  7. Goat

    Goat Active Member

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    My pipe's usually stay lit fairly well. I'm a slow sipping type of smoker. I average probably 3 to 4 re-lites per pipe, but that's mainly because I'm not a clencher and just sip on it slowly. I don't really pay attention to it, if it goes out I re-lite it. I don't see my 3 to 4 re-lites as a problem or source of frustration for me. I would rather re-lite multiple times than suffer from tongue bit because I was trying to not let it go out. I just keep my zippo and a can of fuel handy.
  8. jdto

    jdto Good day, eh!

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    I appreciate the thread, Moo. I have some pipe and tobacco combinations that see me relighting 10 or more times per bowl, which probably means I've done something wrong in the preparation stages. I am going to make an effort to pay attention to what I am doing and see if I can figure it out.
  9. Kiowapipe

    Kiowapipe Active Member

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    Nice post, Moo.
    Pretty obscure quiz, but with this crew I'm sure someone will get it. I cheated my way to the answer.
    On the matter of relights, I think you've said most of what needs to be said. For the newcomer, patience and practice are the key and experimentation the only requirement.
    I think no-relight-resurrection after ten minutes without a puff is a pretty significant feat. Two or three minutes is routinely doable for me but any longer than that would be noteworthy. Would you say you can do that with most pipes or only with larger pipes?
    I tend to smoke more steadily but at lower volume- one ribbon at a time for me. I usually end up with fewer discrete puffs and more of an even negative pressure which is just enough to keep a wisp of smoke from escaping the top of the bowl. For me, that seems to be where the flavor lives.
    For the newb, though, I think proper filling and proper moisture are perhaps more important than cadence.
    I also like your idea of using cob+OTC as a baseline. PA in a cob practically smokes itself and is a good point of reference. It's also super cheap to allow for more experimentation and the occasional mis-packed mission abort.
  10. 5H4N3

    5H4N3 Living the dream!

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    Great post Mr. Moo!

    One more piece of good news, once you figure it out, it's like riding a bicycle, you never forget.
    I have recently come back to the pipe after 10+ years tobacco free, and until I started reading the posts on this board, I had forgotten about those frustrating times 20 some years ago, when I was fumbling around trying to find the right combination. We didn't have the internet, and a wealth of information at your fingertips back in those days, you just had to figure it out.
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  11. Jussto

    Jussto Active Member

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    Great post Moo! I think you've given a pretty concise set of troubleshooting tips!

    (I am still a long way from a 10 minute resurrection, and I relight most often because I forget to puff on the darned pipe while I'm doing something else!)
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  12. Goat

    Goat Active Member

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    How about a "I can't keep my zippo full" thread?
    :xd:
  13. dmkerr

    dmkerr Moderator Moderator

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    Mine goes out with some regularity, as I'm usually multi-tasking. As long as the bowl is packed properly, relights aren't a big concern.

    Moo's post is spot on. I especially like #1. There is a definite learning curve. Loading the pipe properly is probably the toughest thing to do. I don't know about all the other old farts but I still load one wrong once in awhile. The good news is that you can just unload it and reload.
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  14. FlatbushPaul

    FlatbushPaul Cellar is in a bunker in an undisclosed location!

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    Great post! It took me awhile to "get it right". Number 7, for me, was the most important one. Finding out how to pack my pipe was the most important aspect. After that everything else fell into place.

    Thank you Mister Moo!
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  15. Mister Moo

    Mister Moo Stay Calm - Press On Moderator

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    I usually am, too. It's great when it happens, though. I never thought about it enough to decide which pipe, which tobacco or which-whatever makes it happen. I just do the "p-p-p-p-p-p-p-p" thing, get a little smoke going and go on.
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  16. conroygc

    conroygc Member

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    Great thread, thanks for typing it up. 8 months in and I can barely keep any of my pipes lit, ever. It's always a surprise when something goes right. But I constantly tweak my method each time, and its gotten better. Not as frustrating as it used to be. Hell, when I smoke 1792 I still have to relight every three minutes or so. But I'll get it. That's probably why I don't reach for my cigars anymore. Too easy. ;)

    edit: There is only one thing that frustrates me. I've learned not to do this, but it happens occasionally. If the tobacco is too wet, I have to puff like mad to keep it going, and all the flavor goes away. It really bums me out when that happens.
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  17. Waino

    Waino Lords humble cuckoo

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    #4 is for me. Fresh and wet SG is not a problem but greed is.
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  18. Mister Moo

    Mister Moo Stay Calm - Press On Moderator

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    Leave us agree flake tobacco can be much harder to smoke than ribbon or shag cut. And further, leave us agree, that 1792 is a first among equals when you discuss degrees of difficulty. Hardly a good place for starters. (I started with Escudo and wouldn't quit til I finally got it right. Took a year.)

    I love me some flake tobacco and I love 1792 but, if you want the max flavor that stuff will need to be a bit on the moist side and bendy like car upholstery leather. It sure lights and burns easier if you dry it out a good bit but, with that, a lot of the flavor nuances evaporate.
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  19. conroygc

    conroygc Member

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    Good advice, thank you. My tin of 1792 is almost gone. I'll shortly buy another for 'experimentation and practice' purposes. Even a frustrating smoke is better than....well, most anything else I have to do during the day.
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  20. Mister Moo

    Mister Moo Stay Calm - Press On Moderator

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    Leave out two flakes for an hour or so until they crack when you bend them in half. Crumble, fill lightly, tamp gently, light, tamp gently, relight with authority. Puff for 40-minutes at least.