Grant Batson Joins the QB Family

The pipes looked like they were floating there.

I was walking down the lanes of the Chicago Pipe Show main room in May, 2012, with Lauren by my side. Near the table of Cornell & Diehl, there was a table with a number of drool-inducing pipe stands, with pipes held on by magnets. I won’t lie, I don’t remember much about the pipes on that table, nor do I remember much about the person behind the table.

Months later, I found the card for the artisan who created those stands and started hearing his name more and more: Grant Batson. Grant’s name wasn’t being mentioned because of his pipe stands, however, but because of his pipes. Since November, I have become enthralled with Grant’s work, gobbling up almost anything that he has to offer. I have also realized that he is an incredibly talented and kindhearted man. Even when he’s had a rough day in the workshop, I can always hear Grant smiling over the phone.

It was while in college that Grant was first introduced to pipes. “In 1995, I was in college, and thought pipe smoking would be a cool hobby.  I’m terrible with times and dates, but I do remember that one of the very first pipes I bought was during a missionary trip to Uganda.  It was a solid hand-carved pipe made exclusively from Gaboon Ebony.  I also began collecting (bordering on hoarding) pipes from ebay.  I had fun finding little gems in assortments of estate sales.”

After graduating with degrees in PR/Marketing and Spanish, Grant took his years of woodworking experience, combined it with his passion for music, and started the Batson Guitar Company with his brother, Cory. Grant and Cory not only created a successful company, but a highly innovative acoustic guitar that is extremely popular with many guitar enthusiasts.

Recently, Grant Batson changed his focus. He has turned the guitar company over to his brother and has started to hone his skills in pipe making. I was shocked to discover, after owning and being very pleased with three of his pipes, that he has only been making pipes since April, 2012. In less than a year, this man has learned the craft and has found incredible success, with his pipes being sold on some of the most esteemed high-end pipe websites around.

Though both guitars and and pipes involve woodworking, it might not seem like the most natural transition for a craftsman. When I asked Grant how guitars and pipes related, he mused that they are “very similar industries. Pipes and guitars are both ‘functional art’with huge collectibility.  The tooling for the manufacturing of these is vastly different, but both take both sides of your brain to pull off, if you know what I mean.  For me, pipe making is much more enjoyable, as the science is relatively simple.  The art portion leaves much more room for creativity.”

This room for creativity has led Grant to discover a signature shape within his first 100 pipes, even if he didn’t mean to. The blowfish is a shape that seems to be only increasing in popularity and allows for a great deal of artistic license. Grant Batson’s unique creation, however, is quite different from any other rendition that I have seen and I would imagine H.P. Lovecraft would have loved it.

He calls it a “Tormented Blowfish”. No, this is not a pipe that has many personal demons. Rather, the blowfish has more sharp edges than the typical, rounded shape, and features roughed, gnarly outlines. I find this rendition of the blowfish to be attractive and captivating, mostly because, much like the accentuated outlines in comic book art, the rusticated edges emphasize the flow of the lines that otherwise would be more difficult to appreciate.

When Grant was designing my individual TBF, he seemed ecstatic, yet anxious at the same time: ”The grain on this one makes me not want to rusticate it.” That had me a little nervous that the grain would be totally obscured, but my fears were unfounded; in actuality, I found that the rustication emphasized the splendid grain. Grant’s other last minute addition was the red stem: brilliant! I was also surprised by the incredible amount of tobacco that the bowl could hold. While smaller than my Ardor giant, the chamber is still enough to occupy me for a fortnight!

Now, the pipe might appear slightly cumbersome at first. Initially, I struggled to find the most comfortable grip, as a result of the little fin that sticks out on the side. Once I found the right hand position, however, it became a very comfortable pipe.

As a result, Grant has recently found himself overwhelmed with commissions for his Tormented Blowfish, or TBF. Grant seemed quite surprised by the shape’s recent popularity: “a good client of mine in Wisconsin, requested a blowfish that looked a little dark and evil.  So, I rusticated the edges or lines of it, stained it gray and black, added deer antler (Jim, the client, is a big hunter) as the shank ring and put a funky stem on it.  The Tormented Blowfish was born.  Since then, I’ve had more orders for the TBF than any other shape.  Crazy.”

As a testament to the high quality of Grant’s work as a whole, and his Tormented Blowfish specifically, Dustin Babitzke is one of the TBF’s biggest fans. As perhaps the world’s foremost blowfish collector, and one of my closest friends, I hold Dustin’s opinions on pipes and the blowfish shape in extremely high regard. Here are his comments on Grant’s work and his own Tormented Blowfish:

When I hear the word Tormented the last thing I tend to think about is Pipe Smoking. In general, our hobby is a fairly stress free one where we go to tear ourselves away from the torment and stress of day-to-day life. So when I heard that a pipe maker I’ve had my eye on since last May had made a “Tormented Blowfish”, I had to find out what was happening.

Grant Batson came on my radar last year at the Chicago show. Todd Johnson had been telling me for months that Grant was going to be the next big carver. I was intrigued and upon meeting Grant, instantly realized that this was a guy I could get along with. He’s a heck of a guy and an amazing Luthier. He showed me a guitar he had made and I was blown away. Then he pulled out a pipe stand that instantly captured my heart (and my pocketbook). The man obviously had skill as a wood worker, but as we all know, knowing how to work with wood does not a pipe maker make. With my limited budget at the pipe show I opted to just buy the pipe stand and not purchase any of Grant’s pipes (a mistake in hindsight, but read on).

So as the months went by I kept receiving updates from Grant on new pipes he had been working on and the pipe makers he was getting training from. I watched his carving skills emerge and his eye for grain was impeccable. And then, on a fateful day in Autumn, I saw the Tormented Blowfish, a combination of sandblasted and smooth briar with a gnarly finish around the shank. I had never seen someone capture the beauty and grain of a pipe with such a fearsome and rugged look.

(Photo by Dustin Babitzke)

Being a Blowfish fanatic, I find that many makers seem to think that any old crossgrain apple can be called a Blowfish, but Grant realized that the Blowfish needs an organic look and feel that captures the spirit of Lars Ivarsson’s original concept. It should look alive and almost ready to swim out of your hand. Grant captured that perspective perfectly. I was awe struck and on the phone the next morning to Grant. Within two weeks a package arrived at my door with the Tormented Fish ready to be lit.

Before I speak of its smoking characteristics I have to mention the pipes outward beauty. Weighing in at less than 60 grams, the first thing I was surprised by was the feel in the mouth. The button was comfortable to clench, the balance was perfect, and the awkward weight I usually feel from the bowl of a Blowfish was not apparent. Both side panels of the pipe feature gorgeous birdseye so he left both smooth to showoff the grain. He then blasted the rest of the pipe with a deep blast that brought out the crossgrain on the bowl and then amazing tight birdseye rings along the shank. He finishes the shank off with a deep black stained piece of briar Plateaux that has been made to look almost burned or charred. The overall appearance is a pipe that has been through the flames of Hell and back and survived the journey. But upon lighting a new story erupted.

I packed it with one of my favorite tobaccos, Blue Mountain, and struck the charring light. The draw was perfect, not too much but little to no resistance. The engineering could not have been better if Cornelius Manz himself finished the pipe. Through an entire 1 hours and 7 minute (yes I timed it) bowlful I was transported not through Hell, but through a Nirvanic bliss that words cannot do justice. No relights, no gurgling, no nasty pipe water in the mouth, nothing to ruin the enjoyment of this sweet pipe ever emerged. At the writing of this article I’ve probably enjoyed another 50 or so smokes with a similar experience. How could a pipe maker with less than a year of pipe making under his belt do something this wonderful? He’s damn good, that’s how.

I love to buy pipes from new makers and love to chat with them on things I would do to make the pipe better. I love watching new makers emerge and improve their skills. But with Grant Batson I have no critique, I have no tips, I have no requests except put me on your commissions list right away, I’m ready for the next one. For anyone considering what Artisan Pipemakers they should be putting their “must-buy-from” list this year, Grant needs to be #1.

Here’s another reason that I — Ethan again! — would add Grant to your list: plateau. Those of you that have read a few of my pieces might know that I absolutely love plateau on a pipe. When I first started inspecting Grant’s work, I noticed that many of his pipes featured a decent section of prominent plateau.

“I love plateau,” Grant said happily. “I’m a country boy and love things rustic, raw, and real.  Whenever I’m able to leave plateau on a pipe, I do.  Not only does it look great, in my opinion, but it serves as a reminder to me of where this shiny, expensive luxury item came from: dug out of the earth by hand and thrown into a wooden wheel-barrow.”

Grant’s appreciation of the rustic is clear in his work, but so is his experience with making musical instruments. The result must be functional just as much as it must be beautiful. “If it don’t smoke great, it ain’t a great pipe.  Grain Schmain.  And I love grain.  Shapes are fun, too, but smokability is the only real factor of importance, I think.  The stem should be comfortable and the draw should be open.” I can testify from personal experience, Grant’s opinion on the importance of engineering is clear in the smoking quality of his work.

This particular pipe that you see to the right is one that Grant made even before he made my Tormented Blowfish. It is a gorgeous sitter with a good deal of Japanese aesthetics. Slight asymmetrical, it leans to one side, as if it is attempting to burst out of its perpetual seated position.

I’ll admit, I kind of feel bad sharing this with you. Grant is a remarkable artist and I have no doubt that he will quickly become a universal name in the pipe world. Until then, however, I feel like being selfish and hiding this genius. But I can’t (dammit). If you have not checked out Grant’s work yet, I highly recommend you do and keep an eye on this guy.

How to Pair Tobacco with Other Flavors

Sitting down with your favorite tobacco and a trusted pipe is a wonderful experience. Sitting down with a good beer in a frosty mug is also a moment to savor. It’s only natural that we put the two together.

Before proceeding too far on the analysis of flavor pairings, let me explain that most scientific tests, studies, and respected papers involve pairing food and drink together. I cannot see a reason that the same analysis can be applied to the pairing of smoke and drink or food and smoke; it’s all about flavors and texture. And anyone who has smoked a good bowl of tobacco can say with absolutely certainty that tobacco has as much flavor and even body as a fine wine.

On the issue of pairing food and drink, or tobacco and drink, there are a number of different thoughts. The first and perhaps most common is that pairing food and drink is completely subjective and bogus, relying more upon the thoughts and expectations of a successful match than the flavors themselves.

This is a totally legitimate analysis, at least on its face. After all, studies have been done where people have been told that the food or drink or even water that they are having is high quality. Accordingly, the subjects raved about the superb taste, only to find out it was a $.99 microwave meal or tap water (See Penn & Teller’s “BS” for entertaining examples of this).

Even more damning of our perception of taste came from a double blind wine tasting at the University of Bordeaux. The exact same wine was served to 54 wine experts in two different bottles with two different labels: one a grand cru bottle (a highly respectable label) and the other bearing the title vin de table. The grand cru wine was reviewed a complex, balanced, and well-rounded, while the table wine was called “weak” and “flat”. Remember, the exact same wine was in both bottles. Does this mean that our impressions are entirely dependent on what we think will be good?

Yes and no.

Our mindset obviously has an impact, but it isn’t the end of it. Think of ice cream. We often add toppings, from chocolate to nuts to fruit to a little bit of salt. But would you ever add garlic? What about fish? Guacamole? Even if someone told you it would be delicious? Probably not. No matter how much someone managed to convince you that ice cream and sawdust would taste good, you’d still hate it. So taste pairings do matter, even beyond our impressions.

So, once we’ve decided that it’s worth the effort to pair a tobacco and a drink, there are still a number of philosophies to work through.

First philosophy: drink whatever drink you like. Well, that makes sense, but it’s not really worth an article of advice, is it? You didn’t need someone to tell you that. It’s like reading a self-help book that says you don’t need help. So, moving on.

The next of the major two philosophies is to pair complementary or similar flavors. To take an example, you’d pair a sweet dish with a sweet wine, a spicy Indian dish with a spicy beer. This method of pairing might help to draw out the hidden flavors or emphasize those already present. An example with tobacco might involve pairing an English “Lat-bomb” with a smoky Stout. One of my favorites is Founder’s “Breakfast Stout”. A lager and a Virginia is another classic combination, both relying heavily on the natural, sometimes subtle citrus flavors.

The other option is contrasting, where you try to pair flavors that aren’t present already. Sweet for a salty dish, mellow for a spicy dish, and so on. This, too, can help to emphasize the flavor in a different way.

Like so much in the pipe world, there isn’t a right or a wrong option, just the one that yields the best results for you.

But I’m not done! There’s more to consider when making these pairings than just flavor.

Let’s talk about body. No, not that kind of body! Everyone knows that different foods have different feelings in your mouth (called mouth-feel in the alcohol world), like a cream sauce versus a red sauce. The same is true for alcohol and tobacco. I’m sure many of you have lit up a new blend and felt it coating the inside of your mouth, resulting in a creamy, dense smoke, while others seem to release light wisps no matter how much fire is put to it.

If you’re wanting a drink to enhance the experience of your tobacco, general wisdom is that you don’t want one with a bigger body than your tobacco. So an oatmeal stout is probably not the best thing with a delicate blend, even if the flavors seem perfect on paper. The stout will simply overwhelm the smoke.

There’s also alcohol level to take into account. A light feeling yet high alcohol content drink, like vodka, might still overpower a light tobacco blend. There are a number of reasons for this. Alcohol can dull the sensitivity of your taste-buds, which would defeat the purpose of our exercise. Too much of a strong alcohol can also remove the protective coating on your tongue, leading to an increased sensation of tongue-bite. So, with a lighter blend consider a lower alcohol content beverage.

Another good thing to consider is what is known as “brightness”. This often refers to acidity, tartness, or sourness of the drink. With wine, it’s pretty obvious, with cocktails it’s often denoted by the presence of lemons or some other citrus, and hops in beer. This acidity is very good at cutting through coatings on your tongue caused by the smoke. So, if you find yourself smoking a blend that leaves a coat on your tongue, either through intense flavor or perhaps literally, as some smokers have discussed, then a bright drink might be your key to reawakening the flavor.

Another good weapon for cutting through those coatings is carbonation. I know some pipesters who put a slice of lemon in sparkling water to double up the effectiveness…but where’s the fun with no alcohol, right? So, maybe a gin and tonic with a slice of lime instead.

Again, these are all just suggestions, general theory to help guide your decision. You may find a combination that you love that goes against all conventional wisdom. Awesome! In fact, share it with us in the comments section below these piece. We’d love to hear it and share it so that more people can enjoy it, too.

Over time, we’ll be sharing some of our personal favorite things to pair with a particular tobacco, from food to drink to music. It’s our preference and maybe it will match yours. But the best pairing out there is the one you love the most.


Another Domino: Florida’s New Law

They’re at it again! Those wonderful law makers of ours who absolutely, under no circumstances cannot trust us to be adults and make adult decisions about our lives. Starting July 1st, 2013, Florida will have a fun new law that, according to the text, makes it “unlawful for a person to knowingly and willfully sell or offer for sale [or purchase or possess] at retail any drug paraphernalia described in s. 893.145(12)(a)-(c) or (g)-(m), other than a pipe that is primarily made of briar, meerschaum, clay or corn cob”.

Violate this twice and it is a felony. That means it will take away your right to vote.

Let’s break this down.

First on how this impacts pipe smokers in Florida. I am grateful that the lawmakers were smart enough to include four of the major materials of tobacco pipe. Thank you. However, those certainly aren’t the only materials. I know people who do great work making metal pipes. What about olive-wood or cherry-wood? It seems to violate the law if it is sold in a retail shop. That’s absurd.

Now, let’s look at this from the “we’re supposed to be adults” perspective. This bill bans glass, metal, stone, ceramic pipes, and water pipes (which someone could easily extend to hookahs). Let me make this very clear: it is now (well, will be in July) illegal to sell a piece of glass with two holes on opposite sides. A piece of glass with no malicious intent in its creation is now illegal to sell.

Look, I’m not here to speak out in favor of selling, buying, or partaking in illegal drugs. But something that can be used for illegal purposes should not, vicariously, become illegal to sell. I could easily purchase a glass pipe simply because I think it is pretty or even to smoke tobacco out of because I’m strange.

What do law makers honestly think this will accomplish? Certainly they cannot think that it will lessen drug use. I promise you that there are other ways to accomplish their goals.

Personally, I think it is just the first step to being able to crack down on all devices for burning a burning substance. What is to stop a law maker from suddenly asserting, “These deviants are now using meerschaum pipes for their illegal hobbies”? That would be the end of meerschaum in Florida. After all, the only reason glass pipes got banned is people used it to smoke cannabis. Therefore, if people start using meerschaum for cannabis – or if a law maker even says that they do – there could easily be an amendment to this making meerschaum or clay illegal.

This law is as dangerous as it is pointless. I will repeat a call I made a while ago. It’s fine to become angry about something that you view as injustice, but it is important to actually make your voice heard. Don’t be a silent victim.

Read it for yourself. What do you think?

World No Tobacco Day…

It’s here again! That magical time of year when people from all different stripes come together and unite around their one common passion: tobacco. Yes, May 31st, that beautiful day when we come together to celebrate…wait, that’s not right. May 31st is the day we come together to try to rid ourselves of tobacco. That’s right: World No Tobacco Day.

Every year on May 31st, the World Health Organization (WHO) promotes World No Tobacco Day, a day where it encourages everyone to abstain from all forms of tobacco use for 24 hours. Why, you might ask? To draw attention to the “widespread prevalence of tobacco use and to the negative health effects of using tobacco products” (Euronews) and to attempt to limit the advertisement for tobacco. The WHO says that it wants to eliminate tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship, or TAPS.

Among the reasons the WHO says that TAPS should be banned is second-hand smoke, evidence that lowering advertising reduces consumption, and the amount of deaths related to tobacco. I, however, have a problem with World No Tobacco Day, go figure.

Tobacco products currently lead to an approximated 5.4 million deaths annually worldwide. In 2011, however, the WHO also said that alcohol leads to around 2.5 million deaths each year. If 5.4 million gets tobacco a full day, 2.5 million should at least get half a day from the WHO where they encourage everyone to give up the sauce and try to prevent all advertisement and promotion on the part of alcohol companies. Oh, wait. That doesn’t happen.

Budweiser is one of the largest sponsors of sporting events in the world, but I haven’t heard a peep out of the WHO about stopping them from doing so. After all, if Budweiser weren’t able to sponsor anything, NASCAR would disappear…hey, I’m starting to like this idea.

It is frighteningly hypocritical for the WHO to say that tobacco is evil and must be snuffed out while happily sipping on their cosmos after a long day at work. Sure, many people say that second-hand smoke is what makes the difference. But what about drunk driving? Both second-hand smoke and drunk driving impact someone other than the user. Here’s the difference: inhaling second-hand smoke might have a negative repercussion one day; getting his by a drunk driver will have a negative repercussion today.

I am in no way encouraging banning alcohol advertisements or alcohol itself. After all, we tried doing that once. It worked wonderfully, only creating an underground crime scene and not reducing alcohol consumption by any significant margin.

Where are the people jumping in to support World No Alcohol Day? Where are the people crying foul when they see Budweiser advertised at their local ballpark? You want to know where they are? They’re drinking a beer. They’re drinking a beer responsibly because they are intelligent enough to see that there is a difference between alcohol abuse and alcohol consumption.

We are all, I would assume, against drunk driving and using alcohol enough to cause permanent damage and becoming dependent on it. But we also see the value of moderation and the difference between taking twelve shots at a bar and drinking a glass of wine with your wife.

That is the same difference between smoking three packs a day and enjoying the occasional cigar or pipe or even cigarette. Moderation.

Personally, though, I don’t care if you choose to take twelve shots at a bar or smoke three packs a day. Just don’t drive after you do it and don’t blow it in my face. Other than that, it’s your life. You’re an adult and I am going to treat you like one. I only ask that you afford me the same respect.

Back to Basics IV: How to Pack a Pipe

So, you’ve picked out your first pipe, tobacco, and you even know a little bit about the stem material. Now…how the hell do you get the tobacco in there?

Like so many things, we sometimes like to make packing a pipe more complicated than it needs to be. After all, part of the fun of pipes is the ritual and the best rituals tend to be a little over the top.

Before talking about my four favorite methods, a couple of caveats:

  1. These are not the only ways to pack a pipe.
  2. These might not even be the best ways to pack a pipe. The best way is the way that works for you.
  3. Keep experimenting. Some of these methods are relatively new, so never assume that there isn’t more to be discovered.

With that said, it is also important to keep one thing in mind that are widely agreed upon:Packing lighter is often packing better. When the pack is too tight, there isn’t enough oxygen for the flame to breathe and continue burning through the entirety of the bowl. Too light, however, means that the pipe might burn hot or there might not be enough tobacco touching for the flame to pass from one piece to the next. Springy, but not loose.

On to the methods! (All of these are intended for ribbon, shag, or rubbed out flakes)

Gravity Fill or Three Step Pack

  1. Drizzle tobacco into your empty pipe until tobacco reaches the top of the bowl.
  2. Push the tobacco down lightly using a tamper or your finger until it fills about 1/3 of the bowl. This tamp should be very light, some say like you would “shake a baby’s hand” as a way of remembering.
  3. Repeat the drizzling until the tobacco reaches the top.
  4. Again, tamp down the tobacco, this time until about 2/3 of the pipe is filled. This time, use a little more force, “like you should shake a lady’s hand”.
  5. Drizzle more tobacco.
  6. Tamp down the tobacco a little firmer still, like you were “shaking a man’s hand”. Keep in mind not to pack too tightly.

If this is done correctly, you should end up with a fully packed pipe. This is hands down the most common method of filling a pipe. That doesn’t mean it’s the best, it just means the most common.

There is a reason for the different pressures in packing. By having one layer packed more firmly than the previous, it actually continues to pack down the previous layer, meaning that, by the end, you should have three layers of tobacco that are fairly evenly packed. This means that if you packed the first layer too tight, you will end up with the bottom layer tighter than the other two, which will result in a tougher draw and a less pleasant smoke.

The Frank Method

This method, though I’m sure it had been used previously by someone, gained fame from Achim Frank, apparently for competitive use. It is, however, wonderful for everyday pipe smoking and, for me at least, requires fewer relights than the previously mentioned method.

The basic premise is this. You follow step one from about, drizzling tobacco into the bowl until it reaches the lip, but you don’t push it down. Instead, you then form a plug of tobacco that is gently, but firmly, packed into the top of the bowl using your thumbs. The tobacco is pressed in from the sides of the plug, not forced in from the top; it is massaged into the bowl.

While it might appear, at first, to make the draw impossibly tight, due to the large wad of tobacco loaded into the top, this is not the case. You have, in fact, created a loosely packed area at the bottom of the bowl, followed by a tightly packed layer. This is the same goal as in the Gravity Fill Method, just achieved differently.

While a picture might be worth a thousand words, this series of videos by Mr. Frank himself is even better. Below you will find a link to the first of three videos. They are lengthy, but thorough. I will say one thing, however: I cannot recommend strongly enough against using a torch lighter for your pipes. It makes the tobacco hotter and runs a very high risk of scorching the top of your pipe, which is not a fun experience at all.

Frank Method, Part I

The Air Pocket Method

Fred Hanna has many claims to fame: he’s an incredibly intelligent and well-spoken member of the pipe community, has written countless articles, and has advocated the value of moderation. Perhaps more than anything is his advocacy of the Air Pocket Method, which is extremely similar to the Frank Method with a few differences.

1. Create a plug of tobacco using your thumb, index, and middle finger.

2. Without filling the bottom of the bowl with any tobacco, place the plug on top of the bowl and hold in place with your other thumb.

3. Firmly push the tobacco into the bowl, making sure not to put put pressure on the center of it.

4. Once a decent amount of the plug is into the bowl, start “screwing” the plug into the bowl as you push it down. This serves to entangle the tobacco further, purportedly making it easier for the burning embers to ignate more tobacco strands.

To make this a true air pocket method, you need to make sure not to have tobacco in the bottom half of the bowl. This empty half is the “air pocket” from which it gets its name.

    The Palm Pack

    This one is pretty new to me, but I am falling more and more in love with it. It follows a similar principle to The Frank Method and The Air Pocket Method, but the actual means of packing the pipe is unique, bizarre, and strangely effective.

    1. (Optional) Drizzle in a small layer of tobacco into the bowl. This can be skipped to simulated the effect of the Air Pocket Method. I choose to do it for no other reason than I am used to it.
    2. Loosen a fair amount of tobacco (enough to fill the rest of your pipe and a little bit more for safety’s sake) and rest it in the palm of your non-dominant hand.
    3. Take your pipe in your other hand and turn it, bowl-side down, on top of the tobacco.
    4. Now move your pipe around on your hand in a circular motion whenever there is tobacco. No need to do this quickly; take your time. If done while applying a slight amount of pressure, you will notice less and less tobacco in your hand as it is being loaded into the pipe. Do this long enough until you see that enough tobacco is missing from your hand. Return the remainder to the tin/bag/jar (waste not, want not).
    5. Now gently push down on the tobacco in the bowl. This is not to actually pack down the tobacco more, but just to make sure it is not overflowing.
    6. Take a test draw. If done correctly, you might be amazed to find that it is packed damn near perfectly.

    This method has delivered fantastic results for me. I’ve shown it to a few of my friends and witnessed nothing but utter shock on their faces when they take a test draw to find the perfect resistance.

    Beware: This method is not good for people with sweaty hands. The reason should be obvious.

    For all of these methods, and every method, in fact, it is important to remember a few keys:

    • The draw prior to lighting the pipe should have only a slight resistance. If there is too much difficulty drawing, dump out and start again. There’s no shame in that.
    • Some people like to add a little bit more loose tobacco on top after the final step to encourage an easy lighting.
    • Experiment. Experiment. Experiment. There is a missing element to all of these methods and that is you. You have to learn what is right for you or it won’t be right at all. Theory is great, but if it doesn’t work in practice, who cares?

    So, what’s your favorite method? What have you found works best for you?