Breaking in your new pipe is a crucial step in making a sweet tasting, long lasting pipe. It takes time, patience and skill. But it is an investment whose rewards will be reaped many fold.
The goal when breaking in a pipe is to develop a uniform cake around the wall of the entire smoking chamber or smoke hole. The cake is actually a carbon deposit left by the smoked tobacco rather than charred wood. The cake serves to insulate the briar and reduces the possibility of burning out your new pipe.
The cake also sweetens the pipe, since the carbon is formed from the sugars in the tobacco. The sweet cake absorbs the flavour of the briar and the result of smoking a pipe with a well formed cake is a mellow, sweet smoke. However, you can have too much cake which is discussed later.
The second and most important step is to fill the pipe only one-quarter full. Light the partial pipeful evenly. Tamp down the burning tobacco and again light the tobacco evenly.
Smoke the pipe slowly and completely. Taking long, slow draws will help to form a good, even cake. It is important to smoke the pipe to the bottom to establish the cake all the way to the bottom. The cake at the bottom of the bowl is the most difficult to develop and this is why such care must be taken in the breaking in process.
After smoking a few pipefuls at one-quarter, move up to smoking at one-half full, then several at three-quarters. Allow the pipe to cool after each smoker and after a few pipefuls remove the residue from the bottom of the bowl. This must be done very carefully so as not to disturb the cake which you have obtained with your efforts. The purpose of gradually increasing the tobacco level is twofold – first, it will help form an even cake from the bottom to the top of the bowl and second, it ensures that the new pipe will not become overheated and burn out before it has a thick enough cake.