Category Archives: Pipe Smoker’s Tips & Tricks

How to make your own pipe tobacco! (well, almost…)

Ever run out of decent pipe tobacco? In a first world country, and as long as you are a functioning member of the work-to-consume-zombie-society, this should not be an issue.

An empty pipe is a sad thing and attracts spiders!

An empty pipe is a sad thing and attracts spiders!

I live in Paraguay. And my funds are limited at the moment. So importing stuff is out of the question – and Paraguay is not a pipe smoker country. Not at all. No freaking body smokes pipes here, apart from very few other Europeans and some stoners… LOL.

The heat helps – I had not smoked a pipe for almost 2 years, and hardly even missed it. But then came a day where I longed for some curly smoke… and one day later I walked into a despensa (one of the small local stores that carry almost everything, although no great selection or variety) and what did I see: TOBACCO. What the actual fuck. Never seen it before, and I’ve been living here for almost five years now…

No, not some well designed cans and pouches filled with my favorite blends – the universe was not SO kind. It provided me with a challenge: blue plastic bags, stuffed with cruelly maltreated, rather dry tobacco leaves. Roughly cured and … well, beyond saving? I decided to give it a try.

Of course this was some rather rough and tough tobacco variety, and the curing had been done in a ditch in the earth, it seemed – the locals chew that stuff, they told me. Well, at least “natural” tobacco, maybe even “organic”. I cut up some of it, and tried it… EEEEWWWWWWW. Nah, totally unsmokable.

But I remembered reading about the “old” ways – a few decades back many pipe smokers purchased raw tobacco leaves and treated and cured their own tobacco, did some blending, and happily smoked the result…

So here is my “how to make your own pipe tobacco” mini-tutorial… for those in need, or those who like to experiment.

Get some tobacco leaves, preferably mildly pre-cured and dried, but not toooo dry.

Here you see mine hanging among my tools:

two bundles of pre-cured tobacco leaves among my tools

two bundles of pre-cured tobacco leaves hanging on the wall among my tools ;-)

Well, what do we do with those poor bastards? Lets have a closer look and feel:

Dry enough? Too dry? Dirty?

Dry enough? Too dry? Dirty?

Should be dry, but not so dry they break, dirt from the curing in ditches has to be removed…

Let’s prepare them for their treatment: roughly rip them up or cut pieces, avoiding the very hard veins, so that you can make a stack that fits into a typical tobacco can (or whatever you are going to use).

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roughly cut tobacco, old empty can – almost set!

Well, still looks a bit dry, that stuff, eh? Let’s add some gravy… ;-)

I would not drink that stuff...

I would not drink that stuff…

I cooked up a solution of molasses, bit water, raisins, cinnamon, cloves and vanilla. You can add other spices, plums, booze – there are quite a few recipes out on the web… That stuff will now be applied to each and every single tobacco chunk. You can use a brush or spray it on, or briefly soak the leaves in the solution.

Spraying did not work well in my case (should have filtrated more...), so I just soaked the leaves later on.

Spraying did not work well in my case (should have filtrated more…), so I just soaked the leaves later on.

Now we pack the tin or whatever container we want to use with the wet leaves and squeeze in as many as possible – should be tightly packed. Let the tobacco rest for a couple days, up to a week. It will do a little additional fermenting (resulting in a smoother smoke), and the aromas from our “gravy” are absorbed. The place should be warm, but not too hot – here the climate is more than enough. Bit careful, esp. during weather conditions with high humidity – or you might find mold growing on your tobacco. Check it daily and see if it smells moldy or if everything is ok – if in doubt, end the process a bit earlier. If you have a bit of mold growing on it – don’t despair, you can still wash it off, we will apply HEAT enough in the next step, won’t do any harm.

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Baking the tobacco.

We will now “bake” the tobacco – this will help the aromas to “stick”, and dry off some of the excess moisture.  You can use an oven at low/medium temperature, or put a stone in a cooking pot, place the tin on that and heat it on stove top (just opened the lid so you can see more ;-) ) How long depends a bit how and how generously you applied the gravy earlier…

After the baking the tobacco will still be quite wet, but if you squeeze it, no liquid should come out.

Baking done. Ready for cutting.

Baking done. Ready for cutting.

Now comes the cutting. There are little machines (you can find a tobacco cutter on Amazon) for that where you get a more precise cut and it is easier to keep the chosen width – but some scissors will do just fine, good for your fine motor skills ;-)

I cut mine quite rough. You can grab 2-3 chunks of tobacco, roll them up, and then cut – more efficient than cutting every single leaf, and easier to grab, since the tobacco is still very wet and soft.

Almost looks like pipe tobacco now...

Almost looks like pipe tobacco now…

Almost done. Let the result dry off naturally until it is just right for the pipe. Tuna can strictly optional.

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And then – enjoy a very …. errrmm…. “authentic” smoke!

Weeeelll - this is clearly NOT my favorite blend, but... wellllll.... it is smokable...

Weeeelll – this is clearly NOT my favorite blend, but… wellllll…. it is smokable…

The quality of the smoke will be determined by a lot of factors – from the type of tobacco you purchased and your “gravy” recipe, to the fermentation and baking process. I had very smokable results – and some that were not so great, LOL

In any case: with a good strong coffee and some sugar cane booze this “almost self made” tobacco ain’t that bad anymore…  Have fun experimenting!

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P.S.: pretty cheap the whole thing – I paid about 1 Dollar for the bag of tobacco (with quite a few leaves in it), plus the ingredients for the gravy etc. I had 3-4 tins of tobacco for 3 bucks… ;-)

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Plumbing: how to repair a cracked pipe the easy way…

Late 2003 at the  Rhine-Rhone-Channel in France - this pipe has been through a lot with me...

Late 2003 at the Rhine-Rhone-Channel in France – this pipe has been through a lot with me…

Repairing a smoking pipe that has taken a serious hit can be a daunting task – and freaking expensive.

Ever happened to you that a beloved piece of briar of yours broke or cracked – but you were not ready to part with it?

Happened to me a while back. A wonderful Stanwell cornucopia pipe that I really like and that has been with me a loooong time cracked. Booohooo.

It had survived my hobo-travel years, but some day in a suitcase or whatever the pressure must have been too high: the wood cracked where the stem is inserted. And no matter how careful I would twist the stem in – it was loose and still the crack would slowly widen…

I live in Paraguay at the moment – not exactly a pipe smoker nation. You don’t even get pipe tobacco anywhere. Let alone find some skillful pipe maker who would repair this poor thingy.

So she sat there in the reindeer leather pouch that reminds me of long lonely travels in northern Scandinavia and waited for better days…

A week ago or so I did some plumbing at the hut of my girlfriend – installed an outdoor shower (we south-hemispherians have summer now), so I had to fix some plastic pipes and a garden hose – and suddenly I had a revelation: HOSE CLAMPS!!! YUS!!!!

The small ones looked exactly right (the ones that go for less than five bucks for a pack of 10 pieces on Amazon…).

And indeed: perfect fit.

Fit it around the cracked wooden part, inserted the stem, then carefully tightened the clamp until the crack was closed and the stem was not loose any more. Done.

Bandaged the cracked stem with a simple hose clamp... :)

Bandaged the cracked stem with a simple hose clamp… :)

Looks a bit funny, but hey – it works. :)

Good as new :)

Good as new :)

Of course you can have your favorite pipe maker professionally mend such a crack or fix it with a custom-made ring of platinum – if you have a craftsman nearby and the necessary change in your pocket.

But as you see: a bit of improvisation and very cheap material can go a long way and save your beloved old pipe just as well.

If you have done similar stuff with one of your pipes – please share in the comments, would love to hear of your exploits ;-)

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