Milky smoke, really sharp/painful retrohales

Gideon P

Member
Member
#1
I'm wondering if this happened to anyone else and what could be the cause..

This only happened to me 3 times, in different pipes with different tobaccos, but it's a bit alarming.

Everything will be fine until a certain point where if you try to retrohale, it will be VERY sharp and almost painful, and if you take the stem out (like in an army mount or on my meer) the smoke inside the chamber will be super thick and almost milk-white.

I don't know how else to describe this anomaly. It's not hot/wet smoke, I know that because even if I let the pipe sit overnight and try to take up the bowl the following day, the first light will be painful like that, and after 2-3 tries where this smoke won't go away, I would empty the pipe and it's not wet.

It's not from overpuffing either because it happened last night, I sat the pipe down overnight, and picked it up this evening and on first light it was that sharp and milky.

Like there's a foreign object there that's burning. But on dumping out the remains I don't spot anything off.
 

Gideon P

Member
Member
#2
Could a drop of Butane cause it? The only thing I can think of is my Corona Old Boy leaked butane on it maybe? It doesn't seem to be malfunctioning or anything though. Would Butane be able to leak a drop at all since it's a gas?
 

wildcrow

Active Member
Member
#3
Someone better qualified in Physics and fluid mechanics should stop by shortly, but when you pull a lot of smoke into a space and suddenly remove the vacuum from that space, the stuff just tends to sit there on its own. Also, pipes produce more smoke when the ember is larger. More smoke definitely feels different that's less smoke in the tongue and sinus region (in my opinion).

Maybe you had a good ember and the smoke accumulation was more than you are used to. Maybe your sinus region was drier at that moment.

It isn't unusual for smoke to be so thick it's opaque.
 

RedScot

Member
Member
#6
The fact that this has happened in different pipes with different tobaccos suggests that it's not a problem with the pipe or the tobacco. There are a lot of variables in this situation, but at least we can eliminate two.
@Terminus mentioned fuzzies - does it happen after you run a cleaner through midsmoke?
Is it happening with the same type of tobacco?
Does it happen at the same time in your routine - i.e. first bowl of the day/two-thirds into the bowl/right after eating?
Does what you're drinking have an effect?
Gotta find the pattern, is I guess what I'm saying.
The smoke in the shank should be milky and thick looking if you've got a proper burn going.
 

Gideon P

Member
Member
#7
I did an experiment last time it happened, on a fresh bowl (where I didn't encounter the issue during the smoke), I started a smoke and mid way through the bowl I took out the army mount stem, the smoke was not as opaque as the 3 times I had the issue). It's definitely not due to a fresh relight being too hot, I don't know how to justify that but I know that isn't it. It continues throughout the smoke and after trying to smoke it for a few minutes with the smoke feeling... wrong (I can tell it's not normal or healthy to be retrohaling whatever is happening). So I end up dumping it, but if it was just a hot light it should go away pretty quickly and not last so long.

I wonder if it is the fuzzies. Now that I think about it it only happened on my unfiltered pipes (and so I use cleaners from time to time). But they're not really sheddy, plus if there were fuzzies in the shank, the heat of the smoke can't be hot enough to cause them to ignite, right?

edit: can't be fuzzies, because this happened once on my Peterson Deluxe System pipe and I don't use cleaners on that pipe mid-smoke, only on the draft hole if it gets clogged for some reason

@RedScot, it happened with C&D Opening Night half way through the bowl, happened with MacBaren Vintage Syrian half way through, and one more I forgot already (but it was another quality English). I also only drink water when I smoke.

The times it happened it seemed to happen about half way through the bowl, out of the blue. Even if I let it go out, wait 5 minutes, and put a lighter to it and puffed gently for one second, a lot of smoke in the shank would be produced and upon retrohaling it would hurt my nose a lot but not in a hot smoke sense, more in a sharp pain sense.

I was hoping maybe someone had run into this and would go "ah, that's a twig burning" :p

Must be something in the shank, because I do remember the first couple times it happened I tried removing 1/3 of the top of the tobacco and it would still happen. Huh.

This did give me an idea. Next time it happens, I will transfer the remaining tobacco to a different pipe and light up immediately. That would at least tell me if it's something with the pipe at the time like something in the shank maybe
 
Last edited:

Billy Ockham

Notice when you’re happy.
Patron
#9
Not to set off an undue alarms, here...but have you had a physical recently? If you notice occassional unexplained discomfort during your normal activity, it may be worth checking out. Just my half-nickel.
 

Saartan

Member
Member
#10
Could a drop of Butane cause it? The only thing I can think of is my Corona Old Boy leaked butane on it maybe? It doesn't seem to be malfunctioning or anything though. Would Butane be able to leak a drop at all since it's a gas?
I am almost certain that butane - even if any got soaked into the tobacco - would be gone the next morning. it should be pretty impossible
to actually drop into the bowl at all.

I'd be more concerned with something being mixed with the tobacco.

I'll give some examples of what could be getting into the pipe:
a) mold. I've never experienced that, but if it's just a little you might not notice it right away. when filling the pipe.
b) plastic. I don't know what your're storing your tobacco in, but if there's a chance just a little bit of a rubber seal got mixed into your
tobacco, that could be it.
c) some other powder. I'm not talking about anything people sell at the black market. more like you've been taking your tobacco
pouch with you into the workshop, and while you've been working on something (like sanding or painting), some of that dust got
into your tobacco pouch.
d) a part of a real low quality pipe cleaner... does the darn thing lose hair in your pipe? I'd imagine that won't taste
too great if it caught fire.
e) bugs. I can tell you, if a bug catches fire that is a horrible taste. There are really small ones that crawl around in food
and a lot of other stuff. If you ever get one of those into your bug, you'll put that down for the day.
 

Saartan

Member
Member
#12
It's not from overpuffing either because it happened last night, I sat the pipe down overnight, and picked it up this evening and on first light it was that sharp and milky.
I have been thinking about that issue again. I really can’t help but thinking that it is most likely a object getting into your pipe.

The fact that it seems to happen at a certain time during the smoke is what puzzles me. Makes me think you might have a ritual that causes this, and I managed to come up with a plausible scenario:

Do you have animals?

Would it be possible that some small animal hair got stuck to your tamper?
 

wildcrow

Active Member
Member
#13
Think of it this way. When you burn wet wood/living plant matter, the higher water content creates a very thick smoke that stinks and burns the eyes much more so than any dry wood/plant material does. Maybe you are smoking wetter tobacco. Or maybe, your tobacco is getting wet from slight exhales through the stem and into the bowl. If that's not it, maybe you are storing your tobacco with a high relative humidity and it needs to dry.

Try this, figure out how much tobacc you need for a bowl and let it dry for 15 minutes before you load a pipe. Or you can load a pipe and set it down for a few hours. See if that helps. And if you are breathing through your stem more than normal, Cut that back too.

I clench my pipes mostly. I breathe a lot through the stem. I get the snap-crackle-pops every bowl I smoke. It's from my breath soaking the unburned tobacco under the ember.
 

Saartan

Member
Member
#14
I clench my pipes mostly. I breathe a lot through the stem. I get the snap-crackle-pops
every bowl I smoke. It's from my breath soaking the unburned tobacco under the ember.
while you're right about what you're saying, I'm not sure that's the problem.

I assume that @Gideon P has never checked, but that the smoke inside the pipe being very thick is something
that is quite common during his smokes and doesn't have anything to do with the actual problem. He might
want to check that and report back.

The times it happened it seemed to happen about half way through the bowl, out of the blue.
Everything will be fine until a certain point
These 2 posts are what I am referring to. It seems to happen all of a sudden, which must be caused by a sudden
change of condition.

I doubt it's possible for humidity to cause a sudden change in the taste and at the same time
the sting in the retrohale.

Even if I let it go out, wait 5 minutes, and put a lighter to it and puffed gently for one second,
a lot of smoke in the shank would be produced and upon retrohaling it would hurt my nose a lot but not in a hot smoke sense, more in a sharp pain sense.
I googled a little bit about tobacco bugs and found that to be quite possible, if it wasn't always happening half way though the bowl. if it was
some kind of bug that was already in the tobacco while filling the pipe, one would most likely
a) eventually see some bugs and
b) have that happen at different stages during the smoke

Would it be possible that some small animal hair got stuck to your tamper?
That's why I came up with that idea above. The object would have to get into that bowl at approximately the same time during
the smoke, therefore some kind of ritual being the cause of it. Now when I am smoking a pipe, my tampers are pretty clean to beginn
with, but as I use them, they get some humidity on them while used and ashes and my cat's hair start getting attached to it.
I usually have a paper towel where my tamper is waiting on, so I just tap it on there to clean it before using again.

I can see how something could be carried into the pipe by the use of the tamper without one noticing. A short time after that happening, it would
be heated up enough to start burning. Now if you set the pipe down to rest, it would be immediately set on fire again
when you relight the pipe, because it is on top of your tobacco.

It is all just a theory, but to me it is plausible. So my first action would be to examine the place I usually set my tamper during a smoke
for something that could cause this. It's easily done, doesn't cost a bunch of money. good place to start. If that's not it, come back and
think again.

Someone on this awesome forum (I think it was our beloved Mister Moo) once said: If you have several options that could solve
your problem, start with the easiest (and cheapest) one. you can always move to something different if that doesn't do the job.